Shankara and Mind

In his comments on the post ‘SamAdhi Again (Part 2)‘, Venkat said: “Dayananda has nothing useful to say about realisation. All of his statements are his mundane interpretations that don’t reconcile to anything that the great masters from Gaudapada and Sankara have said.”

And “Could you provide a couple of quotes from Sankara to support your Dayananda comment:
“Therefore, the knowledge is that I am thoughtfree (nirvikalpa) in spite of the experience of vikalpa . . . mithyA is not a problem – it is useful; mind is useful and that is all there is to it””

This attitude was also supported by Shishya in his comment on the same post: “I think Venkat put it very well.”

Accordingly, I have collected together a number of quotations that support the contention that only knowledge (and not action or samAdhi etc.) produces enlightenment; that ‘enlightenment’ is nothing other than Self-knowledge arising in the mind; and that the mind continues after enlightenment. These quotations demonstrate that those readers who have been criticising Swami Dayananda and his followers have been doing so unjustly.


A. Bhagavad Gita bhASya


“(Similarly) the same Self, which is in reality beyond all changes of state, is called ‘enlightened’ on account of discriminative knowledge separating the Self from the not-self, even though such knowledge is only a modification of the mind and illusory in character (and implies no real change of state).


“Moreover that monk (i.e. man of realization) is then called a man of steady wisdom; when his mind is unperturbed; when his mind is unperturbed by the sorrows that come on the physical or other planes; …and has gone beyond attachment, fear and anger.

and BG 2.55 says that a stitha praj~na is a man who drives away all desires that crop up in the mind. Continue reading

Q. 418 – When enlightenment occurs

Q: “You cannot experience brahman. But everything you experience is brahman (since brahman is all there is).”

1. Are both assertions true?

2. My understanding (based on both being true) is that you cannot experience brahman directly, but you are always experiencing it indirectly via vyavahara/mithya objects. Very much like Plato’s cave and Kant’s phenomena/numina, you experience shadows/phenomena … not the dinge-an-sich/numina which casts the shadows. 

My Advaita is rusty (shoving vyavahara and mithya together into vyavahara/mithya is probably not kosher) … but is the gist of my understanding right? Continue reading

Q.412 Definition of ‘Enlightenment’

Q: In your writings you use quite often the word ‘Enlightenment’. In ‘Back to the truth: 5000 years of Advaita’ you give the following definition of “Enlightenment”:

“Enlightenment is a sudden recognition that non-duality is, has always been, and will always be the reality of our experience”

and further you explain:

“[…] it refers to the transition from the position of believing oneself to be a person – body, mind etc. as described earlier – to the position of knowing, that there is only the non-dual Self […]”

This is probably a pretty good definition, however the words ‘recognition’ and ‘knowledge’ here can be easily misunderstood.

‘Knowledge’, in the view of most people, including most of the spiritual aspirants, is a kind of intellectual knowledge or insight. As a result these people hearing the Advaitic non-dual doctrine usually just add to their ideas a new one: ‘I am non-dual Self, I am Brahman’, thinking that this is the required knowledge (or recognition) they have missed so far and that this is the Enlightenment.

Moreover, the term ‘Enlightenment’ is used by many religious/spiritual traditions/movements and is differently defined/interpreted by them; in fact there is a wide range of interpretations/definitions of the word ‘Enlightenment’. Further, many claim that there are stages of ‘Enlightenment’, saying that that there can be a deep or shallow enlightenment, full or partial.

Advaita defines ‘knowledge’ or ‘true knowledge’ differently and according to Advaita such an intellectual knowledge or mental recognition of non-dual truth is not the true knowledge at all. So such an ‘Enlightenment’ has relatively little value in Advaita spiritual system, being seen just as an intellectual understanding of the non-dual truth. From this point there is still a long way to the authentic realization of the truth, called ‘true knowledge’.

Taking all that into account I am rather against using the term ‘Enlightenment’ in the context of authentic Advaita teaching. In my view it doesn’t bring much clarity, confusing many. Why not use original Advaitin terms, which are meaningful, concrete, almost free of misconceptions and leave little room for interpretations?

Would you please explain if the term ‘Enlightenment’ has any origin in traditional Advaitic texts? Which ones, please give the exact examples. What is the original Sanskrit word which is translated into English as ‘Enlightenment’? Continue reading

Tattvabodha – Part 25

Part 25 of the commentary by Dr. VIshnu Bapat on Shankara’s Tattvabodha.This is a key work which introduces all of the key concepts of Advaita in a systematic manner.

The commentary is based upon those by several other authors, together with the audio lectures of Swami Paramarthananda. It includes word-by-word breakdown of the Sanskrit shloka-s so should be of interest to everyone, from complete beginners to advanced students.

Part 25 concludes the description of a jIvanmukta and asks what is the benefit of removal of ignorance.

There is a hyperlinked Contents List, which is updated as each new part is published.

Tattvabodha – Part 24

Part 24 of the commentary by Dr. VIshnu Bapat on Shankara’s Tattvabodha.This is a key work which introduces all of the key concepts of Advaita in a systematic manner.

The commentary is based upon those by several other authors, together with the audio lectures of Swami Paramarthananda. It includes word-by-word breakdown of the Sanskrit shloka-s so should be of interest to everyone, from complete beginners to advanced students.

Part 24 asks how we become ‘liberated’ and begins the description of a jIvanmukta.

There is a hyperlinked Contents List, which is updated as each new part is published.

Q.384 – Dark night of the soul

Q: Please help me.I had a temporary glimpse of reality around 15 months ago by following 8 fold path. I tried to penetrate the question of suffering and learned that everything wants to come into Equilibrium (a known chemistry fact) due to which my thought trains stopped and I got an instant realization of something called reality. After that, I experienced I am a silent witness and not mind, body, ego, etc.

This faded away after some time and now I am in mental anguish and turmoil. I don’t know what is happening in my mind but it is disturbed or in what people call the “Dark night of soul”. Every joy is lost now; I get angry easily and have feelings of despair from something. Maybe it is because I didn’t discipline my mind with ethics before starting this practice for enlightenment. Please save me now. Whatever is going on in my head, save me from it. I don’t know how to complete surrender unto reality and may be this is due to the hold of ego. Please help!

A (Dennis): The teaching tradition of Advaita is all about Self-knowledge. You listen to the teaching from a qualified teacher (ideally) or read about it and discuss it (less good). You ask questions about it to resolve your doubts. Eventually, you realize that what is being said is true and that is that. In theory!

The problem is that you need a clear, self-controlled mind and some trust in the teacher, the ability to discriminate and so on. These ‘skills’ are not really a part of Advaita – they are mostly lifted from Patanjali’s Yoga system. If you have no mental discipline along these lines, you are never going to be able to assimilate the teaching. You need at least a medium level of attainment. With that you can take on board the knowledge and then continue your practices until you reap all the other benefits (peace of mind, fearlessness and so on).

From what you say, I would advise that you forget about Self-knowledge for a while and concentrate on acquiring the mental skills. Meditation is invaluable. And, if you have no religious-type outlook (praying to a god and so on), then the practices of karma yoga are the other main route – doing what is in front of you because it needs doing, ignoring desires and not expecting any results. And so on!

I do not know anything about Buddhist methods so cannot really comment. I would forget about ‘dark nights’. The main thing to remember, even if you don’t yet believe it, is that the world is not absolutely real. Your body, mind and everything else have empirical reality only, depending ultimately on Consciousness, which is the only reality. And you are That.

Vision Of Truth (sad darshanam) – Part 20


avIkshya tanmAnasikekshaNam syAt

na drashTuranyaH paramo hi tasya

vIkshA svamUle pravilIya niShThA—22


yadIshituH vIkshaNam = that (which)vision of Ishvara as an object; IkshitAram = Atma, the observer; avIkshya = not recognizing; tanmAnasikekshaNam syAt = will be a mental projection; drashTuranyaH paramaH na = No supreme other than seer; hi = indeed; tasya vIkshA = his vision; svamUle niShThA = abidance in one’s own nature; pravilIya = having resolved.


That vision of Ishvara (as an object), which is, without recognizing the observer Atma, is only a mental projection. There indeed is no supreme other than the seer. His vision is the abidance in one’s own nature having resolved the triad.


As long as Ishvara is considered as an entity separate from oneself, so long misery continues. Vision of Ishvara as an object, is merely a mental projection. If one has a vision, it is something other, external to him, meaning, the form of the vision has a beginning outside of him. Hence, there is a limited form to the Ishvara seen in a vision. Such an Ishvara is finite. How is that vision of any help?

Continue reading

adhikArah – fitness

Verses 795 – 818, Chapter 39,  in sarva vedAnta siddhAnta sAra sangrahah (The Essence of Entire Vedanta Theory in Brief) of Shankaracharya deal with adhikArah of the spiritual aspirant.  Though the word “adhikArah”  has several meanings like authority, right, privilege, position, prerogative &c &c, it is taken in this context to denote fitness or eligibility of the seeker. IMHO, “acuity” of the intellect is more important. Selected verses quoted here:

अध्यारोपापवादक्रममनुसरता देशिकेनात्र वेत्रा वाक्यार्धे बोध्यमाने सति सपदि सतः  शुद्धबुद्धेरमुष्य ।

नित्यानन्दाद्वितीयं निरुपममलं यत्परं तत्वमेकम् तद् ब्रह्मैवाहमस्मीत्युदयति  परमाखण्डताकारवृत्तिः ॥   — 797

(Meaning:  No sooner the meaning of the mahAvAkya (‘That thou art’) is made known to the aspirant by the teacher, who follows the method of superimposition and of negation, than there arises in the man of pure intellect that supreme mental modification which  knows no change, and he realizes: “I am that Brahman who is of the nature of eternal Happiness, Non-dual, incomprehensible, untainted, the One Supreme Reality.”)
अखण्डाकारवृत्तिः सा चिदाभाससमन्विता ।
आत्माभिन्नं परं ब्रह्म विषयीकृत्य केवलम् ॥                   —  798
(Meaning:  The  indivisible pure Consciousness makes Itself manifest in all that It reflects upon. It permeates everything. Because brahman is not other than Atman, it follows that it is only by means of brahman that the veil of avidya is lifted.)
श्रुत्योदितस्ततो ब्रह्म ज्ञेयं बुद्धयैव सूक्ष्मया ।
प्रज्ञामान्द्यं भवेद्येषां तेषां  न श्रुतिमात्रत: ॥                  —  808
(Meaning: brahman should, therefore, be known by the acute intellect. But those persons, whose understanding is limited, cannot directly attain that mental attitude merely by listening to what the shruti says. Such persons should recollect in mind what the shruti says and meditate upon it.)
स्यादखण्डाकारवृत्तिर्विना तु मननादिना
श्रवणान्मननाद्ध्यानातात्पर्येण निरन्तरम् ॥                      — 809
(Meaning: It is only by constantly listening to and reflecting on as well as by meditating upon what the shruti says, that the intellect becomes endowed with the power of ascertaining that which is subtle. It is only then that the Reality is known.)
बुद्धे: सूक्ष्मत्वमायाति ततो वस्तूपलभ्यते ।
मन्दप्रज्ञावतां तस्मात्करणीयं पुनः पुनः ॥                         — 810

(Meaning: That supreme reality is attained only by means of the sharp intellect. Those who are lacking in intellectual sharpness should therefore repeatedly do (hear and meditate over what the shruti says in order to attain the True Knowledge.))

What is Death – part 6 and final (metaphysics or spirituality – non- duality)




‘There is doubt concerning a man who has departed. Some say, “He is”, and others say, “He is not”. Taught by you [Yama, god of death], I would know this. This is the third of my boons’.

‘Do not, do not insist: release me from this’…. Choose a hundred years, sons and grand sons… elephants, gold, horses… Naciketas, enter a great realm of desires: I will make you the enjoyer of your desires… but do not ask me about dying’.

Naciketas, the young seeker, will have none of that.

‘Since you, Death, tell me it is not easily understood, and no one else can be found who can teach this as you can, there is no boon to equal this’.


‘Yama continues: ‘The wise one [inner self] is not born, nor does it die. [Hidden in all beings] it is not from anywhere, nor was it anyone. Unborn, everlasting, eternal, primeval, it is not slain when the body is slain.’  Continue reading

Q.348 – Temporary Realization

Q: 2 or 3 years ago I had a profound realization of the truth of advaita which stayed with me for many months. I fear that I have lost it forever. Do you think that it can come back?

A (Shuka): If you think you lost it, please understand you never had it in the first place, even for the 2-3 months that you think you had it. For, Advaita is not an experience, it is an understanding. The classical example used to illustrate this is a story about ten boys who cross a river. When the ten arrive on the further shore, one of them counts but nine in the group, obviously neglecting to include himself. A passer-by, noticing the consternation of the boys, counts them and finds all ten present; verbal testimony immediately dispels the previous ignorance. Once the boy has realized he is the ‘missing’ tenth person, he can never lose himself thereafter, for the truth is ‘he was never lost’. So also, it was always Advaita, however, due to ignorance which results in wrong identification with one’s body-mind-sense-complex, a person is lost. On being pointed out by the śāstra (scriptures) through a guru (teacher) that his real nature is indeed different from what he has been thinking, he gets the knowledge of his original nature, that he was ever free. All this problem is caused because of the usage of the phrase self-realization instead of self-knowledge. If you are serious about your pursuit, study from a sampradāyavit, a traditionalist, who knows how to handle the words of the śāstra, and employs the prakriyā (methodology) as a teaching tool rather than as a system; all and sundries will only compound the confusion. My best wishes to you. Continue reading