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 →
NDM: What would you say are the odds of someone being “enlightened” also becoming a Jivanmukta?
Ramesam Vemuri: Advaita holds that everyone is already a Jivanmukta. Some scriptures unequivocally declare that the mind is most important. If it knows clearly that it is unbound, it is free. If it thinks it is bound, it is in bondage!
And incidentally, the Advaita teaching does not say one “becomes” a Jivanmukta. The teaching is that “You are That.” It is not to ‘become’ but just to ‘be.’
Enlightenment or the first glimpses of ‘realization’ may entitle one to be called as a Jivanmukta. But to be unceasingly in/as brahman, one has to overcome several of the distractions that the mind keeps posing.
NDM: The one question that really interests me is what someone can do about their vAsanA-s if they are enlightened, but still have problems with them? Continue reading →
NDM: What about an energetic shift? Does this also take place?
Ramesam Vemuri: A particular individual may call his experience as an ‘energetic shift’ and only he can tell what those terms signify. Most people may figuratively express “realization” as a change in perspective, a sort of re-orientating, rather than as anything extra-ordinary or dramatic.
NDM: So if the understanding isn’t crystal clear, are you saying this is the reason why one may not become a Jivanmukta?
Ramesam Vemuri: That is true. Absolute clarity without even a speck of confusion or doubt on the teaching (shall we call the “theory”?) of Advaita is a must and is the primary step. Lack of clarity or misunderstanding can lead one astray into pursuit of false mental states, fancy expectations and may even result in unhealthy minds or dead ends.
NDM: What is the difference with simply being enlightenment in the advaitin sense, knowing one is Brahman, infinite, eternal non-dual awareness and so on and being a Jivanmukta?
Ramesam Vemuri: The first and foremost thing is the knowing of information “I am brahman.” This has to be understood by the mind intellectually. It is the shravaNa (Listening) phase. Next is to assimilate it and internalize it to the extent that no doubt remains in one’s mind about the Truth of that statement. This is the manana (Reflection) phase. After being firmly convinced and free of doubts, one needs to continuously stay with it as brahman (not become brahman but be brahman). This is the nididhyAsana (Contemplation and Meditation) phase. Jivanmukta is one who unwaveringly and unbrokenly abides as brahman.
NDM: Why would one person become enlightened and get the added benefits of bliss, no aversions, fears, desires and being a Jivanmukta, while another may not? Is this grace, karma, or because of one’s practice or some other factors involved?
Ramesam Vemuri: If one continues to mistake the rope as snake or the understanding is only superficial, his understanding is obviously incomplete. Continue reading →
NDM: When you say: “The most basic point to remember is that in order to talk in terms of vAsanA-s and so on, one has to first believe in the ‘reality’ of the existence of a cause, an effect and a relationship between them.Looked at from the position of a Jivanmukta, there are no different entities, one as a cause and another as an effect and a formula expressing a relationship between them. The entire thing is One. And that is the only Truth. Not so many different things and their inter-relationships which are all imaginary.”
So are you saying that the Jivanmutkta no longer acknowledges that there is an empirical relationship of cause and effect on this relative level. (samvriti-satya or vyâvahârika-satya)
That they only recognize or acknowledge the absolute perspective? (pâramârthika-satya). That they in fact deny that a relative level even exists like some of the neo advaitins do.
Ramesam Vemuri: The terminology of Absolute Truth, transactional reality and dream-like reality and stories around them are inventions for appeasing a seeking mind. They have as much value, meaning and significance as the conversations and technologies of a dream experience have in the wakeful world. You may dip into a river and next thing suddenly be flying over a mountain peak in a dream. You could do so in the dream because you possessed that technology in your dream. But what relevance has it in the wakeful world? Similarly, the terminologies and classifications and theories used in the wakeful world carry no meaning or relevance to a Jivanmukta. Continue reading →
NDM: When you say: “Who and what for does one set these standards? Are the standards not highly contextual, local, artificial and subjective? Does qualifying anything – vAsanA-s or actions – based on such purely judgmental aspects have any holiness? A society’s imposition of rules and regulations, howsoever high may be the value and whatsoever may be the morality and nobility, does not have Absoluteness. They may have a societal sanction but lack intrinsic Sanctity. Who to say right or wrong or good or bad? Things just exist. Nothing is positive or negative until a ‘thought’ interferes.”
But what about dharma? The natural laws of the universe or God as some would call it. Some vAsanA-s violate dharma, others do not. Such as a vAsanA for smoking cigarettes like Nisargadatta had, is an unhealthy vAsanA but it’s only going to injure his lungs at most. Someone like the American guru Adi Da had extreme vAsanA-s such as having sexual relationships with his students, physically and psychologically exploiting and abusing them. How does dharma play into this equation?
Ramesam Vemuri: ‘Dharma’ to me in the context of Advaita is synonymous to brahman, undefinable, ungraspable. The Sanskrit word for the “Natural Laws of the Universe or God” is ‘niyati.’ Thus these two words are not the same for me. Continue reading →
NDM: When you say “he clearly understands the falsity of the cause-effect relationship and other such mechanisms and patterns conceived by the mind,” are you also referring to saMskAra-s and vAsanA-s and can you please explain what these are?
Ramesam Vemuri: That is right. Jivanmukta understands the unreality of samskAra-s and vAsanA-s too.
Let us see what these words stand for.
samskAra-s and vAsanA-s are the learned behaviors. If I wish ‘Good Morning’ to Mr. X, my samskAra (culture) expects an appropriate response from him. If I run away in disgust at the sight of a rotting carcass giving off unbearable stink or if a baby cries with fear on seeing a dark scary spider, it is as per the blueprint (vAsanA-s) of the learned behavior stored in the genes. Continue reading →
[John LeKay, Artist and Editor-Owner of the Non-duality Magazine (NDM) did a lengthy Interview (in two stages) almost a decade ago (July – August 2010) on the broad topic of Jivanmukta and Jivanmukti. The Conversation is not readily available now at the NDM Website (which is under renovation). John has, therefore, kindly permitted its republication and Dennis Waite, has very graciously consented to host the Interview as a Series of Posts at Advaita Vision Website because of the relevance of the topic even today. (A few words are tweaked here and there for better readability).]
NDM: Can you please tell me how you became interested in Jivanmukti?
Ramesam Vemuri: It is rather difficult to mark a specific date or relate my interest (in Advaita and Jivanmukti) to a particular event; it happened as a process of nature and nurture in the general atmosphere of Indian cultural milieu I grew up in. Perhaps it was smeared on to my brain cells even when I was a young boy! I was born and brought up in a family steeped in philosophy (my father was a Theosophist and author of several philosophical works). I had been fortunate to be exposed to Mr. J. Krishnamurti’s talks early in life (even before I could fathom their full import). Both these situations could be the triggers for my interest in Jivanmukti.
Q: Brief scenario: While walking I notice the floor is wet. I decide to walk carefully because I fear I might slip and fall otherwise.
I could think that the entire situation takes place within Consciousness (Jnana) , all of it is in fact Consciousness (Jnana) alone. That would mean that the fear of slipping and falling, and the decision made to walk carefully (or even the decision not to walk carefully) are also Consciounsess (Jnana). Am I correct here or do I depart from Consciousness each time I make a decision and execute it etc as in that scenario ?
If “yes”, why? If “no”, why ?
A (Dennis): Floors, walking, slipping, deciding etc. are all mithyA – they are not real IN THEMSELVES. Their substratum – Consciousness – is the only reality. But neither are they unreal. From the standpoint of Stephen, in the world, they are real. so walk with care!
Swami Dayananda often referred to the story of the sage running from a rogue elephant. Here is how Krishnan Sugavanam told it:
“I remember a story which once Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati narrated. There was a King in whose court there were a number of preceptors from various philosophies, including one from Advaita. The King was very close to the Advaitin and the other philosophers were looking for the first opportunity to prove the Advaitin wrong. One day, when the King and his retinue were walking in a forest, suddenly there appeared a wild
elephant. The Advaitin was the first one to take off and run for cover.
Later, when all of them assembled in the King’s court, preceptors of other philosophies wasted no time in grasping the opportunity to point out to the King, that though the Advaitin taught everything was “Mithya”, he was the first one to run on seeing the wild elephant – and they asked “Why would the Advaitin run on seeing the wild Mithya elephant?” The Advaitin queried them back calmly “yes I did run – but who said my running was Satyam – it was also Mithya”. :-)” Continue reading →
Analogy of the Rope and the Snake
This example originates from the commentaries of gaudapAda on the mANDUkyaupaniShad. Seeing a rope in the dark, it is mistaken for a snake – an error or adhyAsa. We mistakenly superimpose the image of an illusory snake onto the real rope. In just such a way we superimpose the illusion of objects etc. upon the one Atman .
If there is total dark, we would not see the rope so could not imagine it to be a snake. Hence ‘ignorance is bliss’, as in deep sleep – there can be no error. Similarly, if there is total light we see the rope clearly – in complete knowledge, we know everything to be brahman. Knowledge is also bliss! The error occurs only in partial light or when the eyes are defective. Then there is partial knowledge; we know that some ‘thing’ exists. This part, that is not covered by darkness or hidden by ignorance is called the ‘general part’ and is ‘uncovered’ or ‘real’. That the ‘thing’ is actually a rope is hidden because of the inadequate light or knowledge. This specific feature of the thing, that it is a rope, is called the ‘particular part’ and is covered. In place of the covered part, the mind substitutes or ‘projects’ something of its own, namely the snake. Continue reading →