Gems From 1.4.7, BUB

“He who meditates upon each of the totality of aspects of the Self does not know. The Self alone is to be meditated upon, for all these are unified in It. Of all these, this Self alone should be realized “– 1.4.7, BU

Shankara has written one of his longest of commentaries on the mantra at 1.4.7, brihadAraNyaka Upanishad. He presents therein a very lucid, comprehensive and highly instructive account of the entire spectrum of Advaita teaching — right from the origination of the manifest manifold to its sublation and attainment of liberation. I feel that it is a “must-study” for all earnest seekers. I recapitulate below a few of the Gems that I could glean from his bhAshya.

1.  All Vedic means consist of meditation and rites are co-extensive with this manifested, relative universe. They depend on several factors such as the agent. They culminate in identity with Hiranyagarbha. It’s a result achieved through effort. Continue reading

‘adhyAropa’ to ‘adhiSThAna’ – 4/4

Part – 3

What happens by the ascertainment of the implied meaning of the words in the sentence “You are That”?

Just as the idea of a snake is negated from a rope (in the snake-rope analogy), everything of the nature of non-Self is negated from the eternally existing Self implied by the word “I.” In other words, ‘ignorance’ vanishes (immediately on the attainment of right Knowledge) – 18.4-5, US.

In addition, the (false) conception of the pain with regard to the Self vanishes forever when the right Knowledge of the Self arises like all kinds of pain which is experienced in a dream comes to an end as soon as one wakes up.

What action should I take to augment my “understanding” and attain brahman?

Shankara tells us,

चतुर्विधमेव हि सर्वं कर्म कार्यम् — उत्पाद्यमाप्यं विकार्यं संस्कार्यं वा ।  – 1.2.12, muNDaka B.

Meaning: All the effects of actions are of four kinds: Production; Acquisition; Modification; and, Purification. Continue reading

‘adhyAropa’ to ‘adhiSThAna’ – 3/4

Part – 2

It is said that brahman Itself gets deluded by Its own magic. Does it not then imply that there is really creation and a (created) world out there?

Shankara is never tired of pointing out that there is actually no creation at all and the purpose of all the scriptures, when they talk of creation, is NOT to establish creation as a fact. For example:

1. न चेयं परमार्थविषया सृष्टिश्रुतिः ; अविद्याकल्पितनामरूपव्यवहारगोचरत्वात् , ब्रह्मात्मभावप्रतिपादनपरत्वाच्च — इत्येतदपि नैव विस्मर्तव्यम् — 2.1.33, BSB.

Meaning: “The Vedic statement of creation does not relate to any reality, for it must not be forgotten that such a text is valid within the range of activities concerned with name and form called up by ignorance, and it is meant for propounding the fact that everything has brahman as its Self.” Continue reading

‘adhyAropa’ to ‘adhiSThAna’ – 2/4

[Part – 1]

When and how does the process of ‘imagination’ (creation/projection) happen?

Shankara contends in his ‘adhyAsa bhAShya’ (Intro to his ‘Commentary on the brahma sUtra-s) that the formless, featureless and functionless, unbounded, immutable Beingness does not ‘cognize’ or ‘act’ unless Its Infinitude is somehow compromised. He writes, “The unrelated Self cannot become a ‘cognizer’ unless there are all these mutual superimpositions of the Self and the body and their attributes on each other, because perception and other activities (of a man) are not possible without accepting the senses etc. (as his own); the senses cannot function without (the body as) a basis; since nobody engages in any activity with a body that has not the idea of the Self superimposed on it.” [Slightly re-arranged the clauses for easy comprehension.] Continue reading

‘adhyAropa’ to ‘adhiSThAna’ – 1/4

    राजविद्या राजगुह्यं पवित्रमिदमुत्तमम् 
प्रत्यक्षावगमं धर्म्यं सुसुखं कर्तुमव्ययम्   — 9.2, BG.

[This is the Sovereign Knowledge, the Sovereign Profundity, the best sanctifier; directly realizable, righteous, very easy to practice and imperishable.]

What is this world that is available for our experience?

“The world is a ‘superimposition’ (adhyAropa). In other words, it merely appears to be present but does not really exist. It is like ‘casting forward’ a non-existing or unreal “form” (objects) onto the Eternal, Immutable and Real ‘Substratum’ (adhisThAna) or the Supreme Self,” avers the Advaita Vedanta. Because of our inherent inability to know what “exactly” out there, our intellect ‘confabulates’ what could be present out there and ‘externalizes’ the imagined ‘form’ as a projection.

Shankara in his introduction to the Vedanta aphorisms (sUtra-s) explains to us that this ‘superimposition’ is natural (naisargika) to us – i.e., it exists from our birth itself. Left to itself uninvestigated, adhyAsa seems to have no locatable or known beginning-point (hence, anAdi); nor an end-point (hence, ananta).

No meaningful answer can be given to a question like “What is north of North Pole?” Similarly, a point of ‘beginning’ cannot be indicated for something which is outside of our familiar time-space dimensionality. “anAdi” also implies that it lies beyond our time-space framework. As a result, we find ourselves inexorably caught up in its snares and suffer the consequences as helpless victims trapped within the jaws of a mighty ‘diaphanous power.’

A superimposition or a projection is, however, an ‘action.’ There cannot be an ‘action’ without an ‘agent’ who does the act.

If I am just a ‘victim’ and not the doer of this projection, who is the ‘agent’ that does the ‘superimposition’? Continue reading

SSSS and Ignorance

One of the sticky points in the controversies that surrounded Satchidanandendra was whether there is a root ignorance: Mullavidya even in self-realized persons (normally, Advaitins or followers of Shankaracharya). When Satchidanandendra (SSSS) and his former mentor, Krishnaswamy Iyer went to consult Virupakaksha Shastry (an authority on the tradition of AV) with that end in mind, the latter pretended to make them believe or accept that a remnant of Prarabdha Karma or Avidya always remains, even in jñani-s[1]. After that encounter, SSSS and K. Iyer concluded after further reflection that ‘the Vyakdhyakaras (post-shankarites) were themselves the originators of that misconception’.

Subsequently, SSSS intensified his study of the Bhashyas for five years, during which time “he used to discuss and argue with reputed scholars with the intention of compiling a Sanskrit book called ‘Mullavidya Nirasa’ … which was finally published in 1929… there were hundreds of objections from every quarter… the battle of wits and attrition continued for the rest of his long life”.

An example of the above: a recent critic (Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian) has written: “No doubt SSS’s textual analysis skills are excellent, but the problem I see with SSS’s writings is his obsession with terminology, rather than philosophy”[2]. The main criticism by the author, in respect of the interpretation of avidya by SSS, is that this is not due to a double superimposition of the self and the non-self, as the latter maintains, but only to a superimposition of a subject, non-self, on the self: “

The fundamental error is a superimposition of an observer on the real… and by a reverse process the inner self, which is the witness of everything, is superimposed on the inner-organ.

[1] Sri Satchidanandendra Saraswati  Swamiji – By D.B. Gangolli,  1997

[2] Review of ‘A New Approach to Understanding Advaita as Taught by Sankara Bhagavadpada’ – by A. Martin –‘Advaita Vision’, 2014.

Consciousness, Ego and Self-knowledge

Verse 3.42 of the Bhagavad Gita says that the sense organs are superior to the gross body, the mind is superior to the sense organs, the intellect is superior to the mind and the Atma is superior to the intellect. Superiority also refers to subtlety.  Our interest is in the mind, the intellect and finally in the Atma.  There are five fundamental elements called panchabhutas.  They are space, air, earth, water and fire.  The subtle body is made of panchbhutas in their primary or nascent forms.  When the panchabhutas undergo a process of compounding among themselves, the gross or physical body emerges. The mind and the intellect belong to the category of subtle body, i.e., made of the five elements in primary form.  The Atma is beyond the panchabhutas because It is not a thing or physical entity.

We all know that we are a conscious entity. We also feel so.  We are also certain that consciousness is different from the gross body. However we are not so sure whether the consciousness is different from the mind because consciousness ordinarily gets mixed up with the mind.  Vedanta says that the consciousness is different from the mind. It is based on the axiom that the subject (observer) is different from the object (observed). This is Seer-Seen discrimination (Drg Drisya Viveka). Continue reading

Conversation with ‘H’ – 5

M. … Of course, we know ‘we’ are primarily awareness where no distinctions whatsoever are valid, such as male/female. But something occurs to me just now, and is that prior even to the apparent multiplicity I mentioned above, and perhaps even more significant if not more real, is the presentation or exhibition in nature – amounting to a cosmological law – of the dichotomy or binary positive-negative, active-passive, static-dynamic, yang-yin, potentiality-actuality (this one an Aristotelian distinction). And, of course, male-female.

And, by extension or implication we have: angularity-roundness, left brain-right brain, etc. Someone I knew (a traditionalist or perennialist) wrote in one of his books that poetry is masculine and musicality and dance feminine… man is protector and woman nurturer; doctrine male, method female (in Buddhism it is the reverse, i.e. doctrine as prajna). Further, Sophia (wisdom) is female, represented by the goddesses Athena and Saraswati, also Minerva. And so on.

A final point: Is your metaphysical position, rather than pure non-duality, closer to the mitigated non-duality of Ramanuja (a great sage in the Indian philosophical tradition)? If so, who can find fault in that? Continue reading

Conversation with ‘H’ (Knower, Witness) Prelude & Part 1

H. ‘… as regards the somewhat artificial distinction (ontologically speaking) that I make between awareness and consciousness, then this is something I do of my own choosing, accepting that there is an objectless state of mind that cannot correctly be termed ‘consciousness’ as it is not ‘with knowledge’ of any kind. In its stricter, more formal sense, then in the language of Pali this would be one of the Arūpajhāna, as you may well know – i.e. neither perception nor non-perception. I often find myself in dispute with phenomenologists over whether an objectless awareness is possible. Although the (8th) Arūpajhāna itself is of course a very rarified state, the very fact that it is a state gives me – I hope – the liberty to introduce the idea of a Tabula Rasa of mind, and which, again due to the ubiquity of the term, I call ‘awareness’ for the purposes of creating a template for learning only. I do not consider it to be its own ontological category.’ Continue reading

Q.410 Teaching the blind

Q: How do you teach Advaita to a blind person ? I am talking about a person who has been blind since birth, who has no vision of external reality/unreality. The adhyAsa bhAShya talks about superimposing the subject and the objects. But both subject and object are not perceived by a person who has been blind since birth. All that he/she would be aware of is taste, smell, sound, sensations. How would you proceed with such a candidate ? The theory of negating the superimposed almost fails for such a person, for he/she cannot ‘see’ or ‘perceive’ what is superimposed !

 I am not saying the avasthA traya is not a good way to start here, the avasthA traya prakriyA holds good for even a blind person. That is, your dream is just like your waking state. But the problem is, there is no perception in either dreams, waking or deep sleep for such a person. Here’s a video that confirms that people who are blind since birth don’t see anything in their dreams :

If you’re a jIvanmukta, I request you to close your eyes and then tell me if you can still get established in the self, you’d understand how difficult this is !

Thanks for any and all inputs on this subject.

Note: I am aware that Atman is beyond perception, but to know one has gone beyond perception is easy when one still sees and not when he doesn’t see. It’s just the same for a blind man. Continue reading