Chaki: A Vedantic Perspective

  Chaki – by Bimal Prasad

This is a household grinding machine called a ‘Chaki’, made of stone.  It has two parts:an upper plate and a lower plate. The upper plate is rotated over the stationary lower plate with the help of a handle fixed at its periphery.

There is a small vertical rod fixed at the centre of the lower plate which passes through a hole at the centre of the upper plate.  The rod serves as an axis around which the upper plate is rotated with the help of the handle. There is sufficient gap in the hole through which grain is poured.

While the grain is poured by one hand, the upper plate is rotated by the other hand with the help of the handle. The grain is pressed between the plates and is ground and powdered. After some time, the upper plate is removed and the grain powder is collected from the surface of the lower plate along with the powder which has come out through the gap between the plates in the course of manual grinding.

The chaki was a common sight in Indian households; no more now. Though physically out of sight, it has left a lasting imprint on the Indian mind because of its  metaphorical association with some Hindi couplets conveying deep meanings related to life and living. Continue reading

Question on Atman and suffering

Does Advaita Vedanta acknowledge the existential reality of suffering and non-suffering occurring in Atman even after the spiritual liberation, or suffering becomes impossible in Atman after the spiritual realization?

https://www.quora.com/Does-Advaita-Vedanta-acknowledge-the-existential-reality-of-suffering-and-non-suffering-occurring-in-Atman-even-after-the-spiritual-liberation-or-suffering-becomes-impossible-in-Atman-after-the-spiritual-realization/answer/Alberto-Mart%C3%ADn-2

‘The existential reality of suffering and non-suffering… in Atman’? You write ‘suffering and non-suffering’, which makes no sense, as written, in the case of the highest principle, Atman (Atman-brahman or the Self) – there cannot be suffering in the Self, only non-suffering. Further, the way the question is written… ‘existential reality’, implies that you have in mind ordinary or worldy experience, but this confuses the issue, since ‘suffering and non-suffering’ cannot be ascribed to either the Self or the (empirical) self (jivatman- seen as individual and separate). Indeed, it is the lot of the self (ego or mind) to be immersed in a sea of difficulties and troubles – opposite ‘realities’ or experiences – but here it is suffering (samsara) what charterizes the life of an ordinary jiva — not ‘non-suffering’.

On self-realization what is eliminated, or, rather, disappears of its own, is psychological suffering – once and for all. No one is mentioning here physical pain, which is a foregone conclusion, as acknowledged by all spiritual traditions – no one more word about this.

One could say more about the cause of suffering by relating it to mind, when the latter (or the ego) is given some reality of its own instead of realizing that it is an illusory superimposition on the Self – all this being an essential doctrine of Advaita Vedanta.

Q. 416 – More on evil

Q: If everything is the manifestation of consciousness, is there any explanation for so much pain, suffering, illness, disease, starvation, depression etc?

I have read and understood that Consciousness manifests itself in everything and  through human beings in order to experience the life (or dream) it created.

If this is so then one comes to the conclusion that sadism and masochism are experiences Consciousness also wants to feel, bearing in mind the atrocities that humans are committing nowadays.

A (Dennis): This is a question I am sure many will relate to. I can provide an answer in a number of ways.

Firstly, similar questions have been asked before. See, for example, Questions 100, 120 and 134. Secondly, I could throw this open to the other bloggers who may look at it from different angles. Let me know if you want me to do this. Thirdly, here are a couple of ideas that may help.

If, by ‘Consciousness’, you mean the non-dual reality (which I assume you do – so do I) then you have to concede that from that point of view there can be no ‘experiences’ and no value judgments. If you accept the conclusion of Advaita – ‘all there is is Consciousness’, then Consciousness is all there is! It is a bit like using steel to make scalpels and also to make daggers. From the standpoint of the steel, both are steel only. It is only the person who says one is good and the other bad. And the person, too, is only Consciousness.

Another way of looking at it is by comparing it to dream. Presumably you have dreams in which ‘bad’ things happen? Why do you do this? Why not always dream about good things? But, when you wake up, does it really matter? Was the bad thing really bad? When you realize the truth, you also know that the waking world is ultimately no more real than the dream world. Both are turIya, only.

Finally, you should note that Consciousness does not do anything, does not desire anything. Nor does it experience anything, either for itself or ‘through’ the supposedly created entities. The ‘bottom line’ of Advaita is that nothing has ever been created.

Q.395 – Person vs Consciousness

Just to keep alive the thoughts on eka Jiva vAda…

Q: If we are just a ‘Stream of Consciousness’, how is it possible to introspect and know Reality? It is akin to the dreamer knowing that he is dreaming while still being in the dream. Also, the SOC’s suffering is really Brahman’s sufferring as Brahman alone exists. So is the SOC doing Brahman a favour by realizing the “Reality”? That doesn’t sound right!

A (Dennis): What do you (think you) mean when you say ‘I am a Stream of Consciousness’? In reality, there is only brahman (or Consciousness if you prefer). So it is correct to say ‘who-I-really-am is Consciousness’. But, if you are saying such things as ‘I know’, ‘I introspect’, ‘I dream’ etc, then you are speaking of the person. This is the level of the seeming world – vyavahAra. In reality (paramArtha), there is no world, no persons. I, the person, may suffer but  brahman does not suffer.

Q: My terminology is wrong but I meant ‘the thread of consciousness within Brahman’ which seems to be creating this impression of a ‘Creation’. This thread is running within Brahman and there are feelings of suffering. Since nothing exists but Brahman, Brahman is the sufferer through this thread. Suffering need not be physical it could be just psychological or some other means of pain.

A: There is no separate thing inside or outside of brahman; there is only brahman. The concepts that you are using are only of value to the extent that they help you to realize that truth. If they are not helping, discard them!

Advaita In Plenitude Only?

predator-prey Man seeks refuge in philosophy usually when things are not working for him/her in the world. When s/he is desperate and exhausts all the means at his/her command, he searches for succor elsewhere, anywhere. Mind becomes palpably uncertain, agitated, and anxious in those times. The misery and sorrow that spring from having to helplessly watch the unsatiated hunger of their children, the endless destitution, disease and penury of their own, the daily grind of laboring in hot Sun for a pittance of a wage, the constant stress from the hawkish creditors who compound their struggles, make the parents desperately want someone who could tell them the purpose of their life and provide at least a ray of hope. Continue reading

Q. 385 – Is enlightenment meaningless?

Q: If Brahman is perfect, not ignorant, and the sole subject, what is the purpose of enlightenment as proposed by Advaita as the perfect one needs none?

If the ignorant jIva-s are nonexistent and Brahman is perfect, ignorance is nonexistent, therefore perception of separation is nonexistent.  It appears that Advaita, while advocating non dualism and a perfect sole subject, in fact is dualist, reaching out to a nonexistent audience to fix a nonexistent issue, to provide realization that the absolute already witnesses.   Can you shed some light on this?

A (Dennis): Coincidentally, an answer I gave recently to a different question effectively answers yours also:

<<< You have to decide whether you are talking form the empirical viewpoint or the absolute. If you don’t do this, you just get confused because the ‘explanations’ differ.

You are brahman, whether or not you know this. There is ONLY brahman from the absolute standpoint. No one has ever been born so there is no one to be reborn. Continue reading

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.

The ego, the ‘soul’ and metaphysics – 6th and final part

EXPLANATION
.
It was made clear at the beginning of this essay that what we mean by the “ego” (the “personality”), it being no more than a delusion, a false image or projection, cannot be a subject, except in a dream -and is itself a “dream”. We described the fight of the “ego” in its efforts at reaffirmation as an “unholy war”. That it is obviously the soul, the person, who is the subject of the delusion, the “dream” ; his/her’s the “holy war”, the suffering and the required effort towards reawakening (is not life itself a dream? –it is so for “fallen man”). The soul’s, the person’s destiny – and this is conditional according to the monotheistic religions – is to finally be “reabsorbed”, united or reintegrated , and thus liberated. Liberated not from itself (its Self!) by itself , not even from life, but from a false image of itself and of life (“the world”) due to ignorance (avidya).

It is thus through ignorance, passion and attachment, that individual man (non-gender term) has “become” an “ego”, a “dreamer”, until, or unless, he wakes up. Existence itself is a ‘becoming’, not ‘being’, according to Plato and all traditional thinking. This subject is otherwise inexhaustible, and here we may remember the saying of Râbi’a quoted at the beginning, as well as the utterances of so many other sages and mystics. Continue reading

Q. 377 – Desire and suffering

(Also discusses Buddhism versus Advaita; analysis versus experience; need for practice)

Q: Your work is both beautiful and rigorous, and I’ve appreciated your continuous efforts to continue the much-beloved tradition of Advaita Vedanta.

As I consider devoting myself to the path of Advaita Vedanta, I find that I keep coming up against a few constant, nagging protests:

First, it seems that the tradition and methodology (although I also assume that there is quite a lot of variety of how Vedanta is taught and realized) is overly academic and scholastic, at least as I view it from the information that I’ve gleaned during my research.  The unfolding of the teaching of Vedanta seems to leave the student engaging in a lot of analysis, rather than a deep exploration of how they genuinely experience the world, which lacks transformative power because it remains something objective.

Second, according to some of the sources that I’ve gleaned, it seems to place Vedanta on an extremely high pedestal, as something engaged in only following years of other preparatory practices.  But modern practice appears to demonstrate that such preparation, while helpful, is not necessary.  I cite websites like “Liberation Unleashed” and Scott Kiloby’s excellent work which show that directly exploring and inquiring into the truth of statements like, “All there is is pure awareness,” etc., can still be highly transformative outside of the context of a more robust regime of spiritual purification and development.

My fear is that if I follow the traditional route, I will end up entangled in these preparatory practices.  I’ll just be getting the appetizer for years before getting the meal, in other words, but, in my opinion, why wait?

Is this perception true (given that there will be a lot of diversity)?  Do most AchArya-s make their disciples engage in such practices for prolonged periods of time before discussing Vedanta?

I have heard you and many other teachers in the traditional Advaita lineage say things like, “Unless you have a very pure mind…” or “Unless you are highly developed…”  etc., the practice of Vedanta will be fruitless.  But, if you read the logs, for example, of the website “Liberation Unleashed,” you will find some very impure people – depressed, addicted, desperate, you know, the usual seeker lot!, who come out transformed after only a few days of directly looking into their experience.

I appreciate your thoughts on this and your generosity in helping so many confused seekers. Continue reading

Q. 369 – mokSha

Q: What is meant by mokSha as a puruShArtha? (The answer should incorporate a definition of mokSha.)

Responses from Ted, Venkat, Ramesam, Martin, Shuka and Dennis

A (Ted): Moksha literally means, “liberation.” It indicates freedom from dependence on objects (i.e., anything perceivable, conceivable, or in any way experienceable) for happiness, contentment, or a sense of wholeness and completeness. And since it is our vain pursuit of permanent fulfillment through impermanent objects that is the cause of suffering, moksha also implies freedom from all suffering.

 Moksha is the essential purushartha (i.e. goal or end) that we are seeking, though in most cases not consciously, through our pursuit of artha (security), kama (pleasure), and dharma (virtue). If we analyze the objects we chase in any of these categories, we invariably find that it is not actually the object itself that we want, but rather the sense of peace and/or happiness that it seemingly provides us. Admittedly, the objects we seek to obtain in these areas are either necessary for our survival or enhance our enjoyment of life, but all are limited. And no limited object can provide limitless fulfillment. Thus, if we depend on these objects for our happiness, we doom ourselves to inevitable disappointment and certain suffering. Continue reading