Okay, here is your starter for 10 – your time starts now! (If you’re not familiar with this phrase, it relates to the quiz show ‘University challenge’, which was on British television for many years.)
The question is: how many states of consciousness are there?
I can almost see your mind tripping up and reading that question again. Surely, you will say, there are three states of consciousness – waking, dreaming and deep sleep. What can I possibly mean by querying this? Well, actually, depending upon how you answer this question, the number of states of consciousness could be two, three or five (or 4 ½) or you could argue that the very question is misconceived!
It is true that most of the scriptures refer to 3 states. If you have read my book ‘A-U-M: Awakening to Reality’, you will know that it refers to jAgrat, svapna and suShupti. These three states are mithyA and the reality underlying them is called turIya. In the tattva bodha (attributed to Shankara), the question is asked: avasthAtrayaM kim? – What are the three states? Admittedly, this is a somewhat leading question but the answer is given: jAgratsvapnasuShuptyavasthAH – they are the waking, dream and deep sleep states. And it goes on to explain each in turn. Continue reading →
Q: Are there major differences between the lineage of Swami Sivanda and Ramakrishna Paramahamsa? If i want to study the traditional vedanta which teachings/teachers would you recommend?
A (Dennis): If you want ‘traditional’, steer clear of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda etc – they are ‘neo-Vedantins’ and diverge significantly in some respects. Sivananda I do not know so much about (except his Brahmasutra commentary is very good). I think his lineage may introduce elements of Yoga philosophy. I suggest you go for Swami Dayananda and disciples – you can’t go far wrong there!
Q: The only real question that matters “Who am I?” is also the major issue for the Ramakrishna lineage. Is their approach less truthful, and if so in what sense?
A: The bottom line of many systems may be the same. (Indeed, MUST be the same for any valid system, of course). It is how they guide the seeker to that understanding that is important. But, for neo-Vedanta, attaining nirvikalpa samAdhi is attaining mokSha. This cannot be true (says the traditionalist) because NS is an experience in time. We are already free, perfect and complete; the problem is that we do not know it.
Q: A quote from Nisargadatta: HOW CAN WORDS EXPLAIN THAT FROM WHICH WORDS ORIGINATE? Then what about all the spoken or written words from the Vedanta teachers?
A: It is not possible to speak about reality. All objectification is simply name applied to form. If you have ‘Book of One’ 2nd edition, read ‘Description of the Self’, P. 249. You lead up to it, using adhyAropa-apavAda and ultimately make the intuitive leap as in bhAga-tyAga-lakShaNa. You know what brahman is because you are That.
The fear most commonly experienced is the thought that I will end with the death of my physical body. Such a thought equating the ending of the “I” with the ending of the gross body indicates clearly the persisting misidentification of “I” with the body. It is the separate self which feels that it will disappear with the disappearance of the body. The cure for it is the recognition of the fact that the true “I” that I am, as Advaita teaches, is neither born nor will die; “I” is eternal, ageless, and imperishable (Bhagavad-Gita II-20). One who has really understood the Advaitic message abides as the true “I.” ‘To abide as the true I’ means to be knowingly as that immortal and changeless Awareness and not to mistake oneself to be the body and the mind which are transient and perishable. Therefore, disciplining the body through a drill of practices (as done in skill development like car-driving or carpentry) or control of the mind through repeat exercises (as required for computer coding or mathematics) can hardly be called abidance as the true “I.” Conscientiously feeling the difference between the phrases ‘I am the body’ and ‘I am aware of the body’ and experientially realizing that difference will help to firm up the understanding.
Fear can be caused by a perceived threat which could be either from within the body-mind or from a source external to the body. The source of fear itself and consequently the type of fear can be either real or imaginary. We shall, however, not consider the issues related to the nature of the source causing the fear in this essay. We shall treat fear as a ‘signaling mechanism.’ Viewed thus, ‘fear’ includes all its other manifestations and variations like anger, hatred, disgust, anxiety, revenge etc. The signal itself appears as tightening of muscles, fastness of breath, heaviness in the heart area, slowness of digestive processes, dilation of pupils of the eye, contortion in the facial muscles, perspiration and so on. Depending on the intensity of the threat, the flux of thoughts may alter and even the sense of a ‘separate self’ may disappear.
A point to be remembered is that, though all such reactions are commonly attributed to the source, the perceived source itself is not the cause. It is in the way one’s body-mind are programmed to react. Suppose you sweat on mistakenly seeing a rope as a snake in semi-darkness. The unreal snake in the rope has actually nothing to do with the way your body has reacted. Continue reading →
Below is another essay from Atman Nityananda whose earlier essay on sAdhana triggered so much interest. This is preceded by an essay on the same topic from Swami Sivananda.
Free Will versus Fatalism
by Swami Sivananda
The controversy between free will and fatalism is still going on in the West and no one has come to any definite conclusion. It is a great pity that the doctrine of Karma is mistaken for fatalism. Fatalism is the doctrine that all events are subject to fate and happen by unavoidable necessity.
Fate is otherwise known as luck or fortune. That indefinable mysterious something which brings trials, successes and failures to man, which shapes and moulds him by teaching lessons of various sort, which takes care of him like a mother, which brings various sort of experiences, which brings cloudy days and days of bright sunshine, which raises a beggar to the level of a landlord and hurls down a mighty potentate to the level of a street-beggar, which gives different kinds of fruits and experiences to two people of equal talents and capacities, which made Napoleon at one time a terror in the eyes of the people and at another time a prisoner, and which makes a certain portion of the life of a man quite stormy and another portion quite smooth, is called fate. Fate educates and instructs man. However whimsical the fate may appear to operate, it works in harmony with the law of causation. Continue reading →