Specifically: if reincarnation is not actually true and is just a part of adhyaropa-apavada — then why study Advaita at all when the probability of enlightenment is so low! Seems like life efforts would be better spent then trying to maximize ephemeral happiness.
The only way I can rationalize the practical utility of advaita is to accept that reincarnation is true in vyavaharika — that its a natural law, like gravity. Is that a fair understanding or is reincarnation truly just a teaching tool?
A: Where did you get the view that the probability of enlightenment is low? I know that this is implied in a few places in the scriptures but I rather think the point there is to ensure that only those who genuinely have mumukShutva pursue these ideas. If you are merely ‘interested’, you are going to lose that interest sooner or later and return to seeking the usual gratifications of empirical life. One of the seekers in the Upanishads is ecstatic when he is told that he ‘only’ has to live another few thousand lives before gaining enlightenment!
I believe that one of the main reasons that people today think that it is extremely ‘rare’ is their notion that there is ‘intellectual’ understanding that comes relatively easily and then there is experiential understanding that is extremely difficult to acquire. This is wrong! It is the erroneous understanding in the mind that keeps us in saMsAra and the correct understanding in the mind that frees us. It is perfectly possible to gain Self-knowledge in a single lifetime if you have the determination to do so. Obviously the best way is to find a qualified teacher. Then maybe years would be enough. If you have to read books and discuss with other seekers, it could take decades – especially if you read the wrong books!
As regards reincarnation, I wouldn’t worry about that too much. Whilst you really believe that the empirical world is real, then karma and reincarnation make sense. Without them, the ‘lawful’ nature of the universe appears to break down. The ‘good’ apparently suffer while the ‘evil’ triumph. Just look upon it as a mechanism that science is unable to explain or even believe. As I said in that other question, read the book by Muni Narayana Prasad if you want to understand more.
Martin. In this seeming world of so-called saṃsāra (or vyavahāra) language and understanding, is there an entity or entities that understand, judge, etc.?
Neo-Advaitin. This is simply ‘life’. ‘Being’ appears to talk to ‘Being’ about things that ‘Being’ already knows (and need no reminding). It is just ‘playing’.
Since there is never an actual central ‘self,’ there could be no separate entity that asks a question or makes a reply. There is no separate entity that asks or answers. It is simply Life answering Itself.
But it seems that you don’t get this, or are not able to discuss it without going back into concepts and the need to find the correct label to assign, whether that is ‘nihilism’, ‘Advaita Vedanta’, ‘spontaneously self-realized’, ‘abhāsa’, etc. I suggest you drop all that, all those presumed ‘things you know.’ Freedom lies in the unknowing, the moment-by-moment un-nameable, not in the knowledge, information, and labels that the ‘mind’ thinks it has gathered. Who is the ‘you’ called ‘Martin’ writing this question?
(K3.31 – K.32) Everything that we perceive, we perceive through the senses; everything that we ‘know’, we know through the mind. Consciousness functions through the mind – the concept known as chidAbhAsa, explained in Appendix 3. When the mind is inactive – for example, in deep sleep or under anesthetic – we are conscious of nothing. It is the mind that effectively imposes duality on the non-dual. We see the forms and, by naming them, it is as if we create separate things where there is really only brahman. Once this apparent duality is imposed, all of the negative emotions of desire, fear, attachment, anger and the rest follow. It is the mistaking of the really non-dual as dual that brings into existence all of our problems, which Advaita summarizes as saMsAra.
Having recognized that it is the mind that is the effective source of our problems, it is only natural to conclude that, by somehow ‘getting rid of’ the mind, we will solve those problems. This is the concept called manonAsha, which found favor with Ramana Maharshi in particular, who is claimed to have stated that this should be the aim of the seeker. (manas refers to mind in general; nAsha means loss, destruction, annihilation, death.) Once we have ‘destroyed the mind’, it is said, there will be no more duality.
This is effectively Part 6 1/2 of 10 in the pratibandha series. It follows on from the heading of “The ‘mixture of Atman and mind’”. Apologies for the misleading and changing part numbers. This is the result of writing ‘as I go’ rather than completing the entire topic first.
This theory was mentioned briefly above in 2b, when bhAmatI and vivaraNa were discussed in the context of sources for mistaken views of Advaita. AbhAsa translates as ‘fallacious appearance’ and it is effectively the term that is used to describe this ‘mixture’ of Consciousness and intellect. Shankara addresses this in his upadesha sAhasrI, principally in chapter 18 ‘tat tvam asi’. The following analysis is with the help of Ref. 211.
As the chapter heading indicates, the topic is the mahAvAkya and how the knowledge of its truth is all that we need in order to gain enlightenment. We are already free and always have been, so once we realize this, there is nothing more that needs to be done. The idea that, after gaining ‘merely intellectual knowledge’ from shravaNa, we have somehow to gain ‘direct experience’ of Brahman before we are liberated, is called prasa~NkhyAna vAda. This is discussed and rejected in detail below, under the topic of ‘meditation’ but in this chapter Shankara introduces an objector who has these notions and the subsequent arguments are relevant to this topic of pratibandha-s. Continue reading →
This is a term, which I had not encountered before, coined by Fort in Ref. 200. He uses it to refer to those teachers and texts that incorporate elements of sAMkhya and yoga philosophy into their supposedly Advaitic teaching. This applies to texts such as yogavAsiShTha and jIvanmukti viveka, as was already indicated in the discussion on vidyAraNya above. There are also 20 of the later, minor Upanishads that relate to Yoga (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoga_Upanishads) and there is a danger of referring to these to support ideas that are actually alien to traditional Advaita. These ideas are characterized by the notion that Self-knowledge gained through the usual route has to be supplemented by something else before liberation is achieved. Typically, this might be samAdhi or destruction of ego/mind, as discussed above (and below) but even ideas from other traditions might be incorporated. The yogavAsiShTha also has much emphasis on the ‘illusory’ nature of the world. The j~nAnI acts or does not act without any attachment, according to circumstances.
Rather than prArabdha, yogic Advaita tends to refer to vAsanA-s as being the key ‘obstruction’ to mokSha. While we have them, we are bound to the body; once they are purified, we are freed from saMsAra. When destroyed, we gain videha mukti. Continue reading →
NDM: R.D. Laing said “True sanity entails in one way or another the dissolution of the normal ego, that false self competently adjusted to our alienated social reality… and through this death a rebirth and the eventual re-establishment of a new kind of ego-functioning, the ego now being the servant of the divine, no longer its betrayer.”
In the west, when this happens it is referred to as when an ego collapses, fragments, or disintegrates and when the shadow and archetypal contents flood in from the personal and collective unconscious causing psychosis, or a psychotic break from reality.
In the east, its considered Self-realization or God-realization, seeing the face of God, Shiva and so on?
How do you make the distinction between a psychotic break like this here and a satori or awakening experience?
Ramesam Vemuri: Any of the psychological phenomena, hallucinations, lack of control, inability to filter diverse and dissonant signals coming to the brain (schizophrenia) are all related to the activity of the mind. So also visions etc. These have a clear signature in the brain. Orgasmic or epiphany states are also clearly seen in the activity of different cortical regions (see: Pleasure of Sex vs. Bliss of Self in Brain Scans, Religion Demystified, 2008, p: 86-88).
NDM: Ok, what about the belief in karma? Reincarnation? Whatever the incorporeal essence is that some believe transmigrates.
It is known in different spiritual traditions; “the most sacred body” (wujud al-aqdas) and “supracelestial body” (jism asli haqiqi) in Sufism, “the diamond body” in Taoism and Vajrayana, “the light body” or “rainbow body” in Tibetan Buddhism, “the body of bliss” in Kriya Yoga, and “the immortal body” (soma athanaton) in Hermeticism.
Karana-Sarira – causal body, subtle body, Jiva, “Atman” and “Purusha” in Vedanta. Budhuta, Linga Sharira in Theosophy. Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophical teachings usually referred to the Etheric and Astral Bodies. American Indians and indigenous peoples from around the world refer to this as aspirit, animism, or guide.
Others like James Hillman call this psyche. These are the various ethereal bodies that some believe contain samskAra-s, or sin and so on? Do you believe that such an ethereal essence or a thing exists?
What are all these various traditions talking about or pointing to exactly? Continue reading →
[NDM: Also what about this sensitive money issue that seems to hit a raw nerve when ever it’s raised.
Is there anything right or wrong with doing this? Is there anything right or wrong with making a few , rupee’s on this ancient non dual teaching? What is your take on this controversial and almost taboo question?]
Ramesam Vemuri: First of all no question need be a taboo. If a particular doubt posits itself as a stumbling block, well, it should be attended to.
The ancient Indian system advises a student to redeem his indebtedness to the teacher by rendering service, by payment in kind or cash or in the absence of any other means of repaying, by passing on the wisdom obtained by him to others after taking Guru’s permission. This obviously shows the necessity of some accepted social structural norm to preserve and propagate the knowledge to others. Does this mean that the ‘wisdom’ is on sale or available for prostitution by the highest bidder? Moreover, a seeker had to be eligible to receive the wisdom, the most important criterion being his single minded unswerving devotion for liberation in exclusion to any other desire (including food, clothing, wealth, status etc.).
The ancient sages foresaw a danger also in throwing open the knowledge for one and all because it can be detrimental to the very health of the individual and the society, if it is misunderstood and/or incompletely understood. Continue reading →
NDM:So without a teacher/guru of some kind, how does one navigate a path through this non-dual jungle? How did you do this without falling into all the traps like getting stuck in the absolute, or only seeing half the picture and the other pitfalls?
Ramesam Vemuri:: Non-duality is not the jungle. Non-duality is clarity. Information on it, about it and around it is the jungle!
One of the derivative meanings for the Sanskrit word Guru is, as you may have known: “the dispeller (ru) of darkness (gu).” In the ancient times when knowledge is transmitted through oral tradition, a human Guru (dispeller of darkness or ignorance) was necessarily required because the Guru was the only information source. Each Guru developed, used and expanded certain terminology to explain the Truth as realized by that Guru to a lineage of his disciples.
Fast forward to the present day. We have now multimedia storage devices as information resources and satellite communication technologies for its dissemination. These do dilute the mandatory requirement of a human Guru (dispeller of ignorance).
The more important question is how do we manage with the information ‘overload’ and distinguish the grain from the chaff. Continue reading →
NDM: Did you ever formally study traditional Advaita Vedanta?
Ramesam Vemuri: I should at the outset say that other than as a matter, perhaps, of curiosity, me or what I did is utterly inconsequential; it need not to be considered important. I never studied Advaita formally under a Guru-sishyasampradAya (tradition) nor did I pursue any particular teacher or Ashram. In fact, I feel repulsed to “follow” any organized system that upfront demands obsequious obeisance, dictates a belief structure, creates a hope and promises a distant carrot.
My spiritual inquiry, if I may use that term, has been more like the pursuit of research in science – define the problem as it arises, do a literature search, then investigate, check and cross check to the extent possible and so on. In this process I was exposed to Zen, a wide variety of teachers in Advaita (from traditional to Direct path to Neo) and also bits and pieces of other systems. Undoubtedly there is a greater influence of Advaitic thought of the ancient Indian texts on me simply because they are some of the finest philosophical texts based on logic and were also the more readily accessible resources for me. I am truly indebted to each one of them and also to the innumerable people who helped me in arriving at a clear understanding.
NDM: Is there any particular method or study out of all these various ways that clicked with you over the others? Continue reading →