On Analogy

Hardly does a minute go by when a student of Advaita does not hear an analogy. The subject being so abstruse and abstract, the teacher ostensibly to make things easy to understand (सुख बोधाय), resorts to the method of using an “analogy.” Much like in Theoretical Physics and Quantum Physics, the concepts in Advaita too are usually counterintuitive and metaphor is a powerful tool to help drive home a difficult idea. The danger in using the metaphor is that it, more often than not, lulls the student with a sense as though s/he “got” it (the Oneness of All That-IS).  Perhaps because of that, it is not seldom that we find even an advanced student of Advaita being tempted to extend a metaphor beyond the intended point and make his/her own inferences from such a wrong projection. (I am frequently asked questions on ‘reflected Consciousness,’  ‘Witness-Consciousness’ etc. based on such improper extensions).

No wonder that Physicists (particularly those in Science Communication) are concerned about the “use of metaphor” and the “understanding” it provides. Recently, I found the problem best articulated by  Philip Freeman, a teacher of Physics. He has some interest in Philosophy also. He lives near Vancouver BC, Canada. I am copying from his reply to a question at Quora regarding the limitations of analogies. Continue reading

On “shraddha”:

Vedanta demands “shraddha” from every seeker who is eager to learn or study Advaita philosophy. It’s a basic requirement. But what exactly is shraddha?

Unfortunately, the Sanskrit word ‘shraddha‘ does not have an exact equivalent in the English language.

tattvabodha asks: What is the nature of ‘shraddha‘? And it answers:
“Faith in the words of the Guru and the scriptures is shraddha.”

aparokShAnubhUti, verse 8 also says:  निगमाचार्यवाक्येषु भक्तिः श्रद्धेति विश्रुता । 

(nigama AcArya vakyeShu bhaktiH shraddheti vishrutA)

It means: shraddha is “implicit faith in the word of the scripture and the teacher.”

vivekacUDAmaNi, verse 25 is a bit more elaborate on ‘shraddha.’ One of the translations of this verse reads: “THAT by which one understands the import of the scriptures as well as the pregnant words of the advice of the preceptor is called by the wise as ‘shraddha.’
The word implies an ability to embrace the Truth, explains another of the translators of this verse. Continue reading

samAdhi Again – 3

Part – 2

  Many misconceptions and misunderstandings appear to be prevailing about Yoga and samAdhi in Advaita.  We shall take up in this Part of our Series,  an assortment of those topics in no particular order and examine the possible correct position.

1.  Yoga Terminology in Advaita:

The Sanskrit root “yuj” being common to words like ‘yoga, yukti etc. indicative of a union, we find that the Yoga terminology by itself is not an anathema for Advaita.  The word “Yoga” appears in as many as 10 brahma sUtra-s (e.g. 1.1.19; 1.1.31; 2.1.3; 2.2.9; 3.1.26; 3.4.41; 4.2.17; 4.2.21 etc.). It is used 93 times with different meanings in Bhagavad-Gita. kaTha and svetAsvatara Upanishads too refer to ‘yoga’ practices and the latter particularly holds special praise for ‘yoga’ techniques. Shankara himself extols the effectiveness of practicing Yoga in his commentary at brahma sUtra (BS) 1.3.33.

Patanjali Yoga sUtra # 3 explains samAdhi as:

तदा द्रष्टुः स्वरूपेऽवस्थानम् ॥   –  sUtra  #  3, samAdhi pAda.

[tadA draShTuH svarUpe ‘ vasthAnam]

Meaning:  For then (i.e. for samAdhi) finding our seeing principle entails insight into our own nature. Continue reading

samAdhi Again – 2

Part 1

  We shall present in this Part – 2 how the word samAdhi is used in Yogavasishta (Yogavasishta  is available as a pdf at this site). The word samAdhi occurs very ubiquitously in this text. It is used both in its Yogic and Advaita Vedanta meaning. A few select citations are illustrated below.

[We may, however, note that the original Commentator Shri Anandabodehndhra Swami Ji and also the current author Shri K. V. Krishna Murthy whose version is followed here belong to the tradition of Shankara. Hence we can expect the influence of Shankara in their interpretation.]

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 1.  samAdhi is obtained through the practice of controlling the mind. Control of the mind can help to bring about the arresting of the senses from running after the worldly objects. So the Yogi’s desires for worldly things may disappear. Unless one realizes that all percepts are unreal and non-existent, practicing only samAdhi will not stop the yogi from going back to the worldly things when he is out of samAdhi. Just being in samAdhi will not bring about the knowledge that the visible world is untrue. It is necessary that one has to realize the false appearance of the world in order to be liberated. So one cannot attain liberation from the practice of deep meditation alone. It requires the Knowledge of Self.”

–  Way to Attain The Self-Knowledge, Ch 3, Origination. Continue reading

samAdhi Again – 1

 samAdhi is  a highly technical term in Yoga and also in Vedanta. However, paradoxically, the word does not stand to convey the same ‘concept’ in a rigid and fixed manner in all its occurrences across different scriptural texts. Like all other Sanskrit  words in the scriptures, the word attains a lot of fluidity and delicate malleability in the hands of the Sages and ancient authors to convey a very precise and what is otherwise inexpressible philosophical idea. Such flexibility in the use of technical words is unknown and unimaginable in the West, particularly so if one is trained in the modern science. Therefore, it is important to bear in mind that one cannot nail the meaning of the word as per one single definition when comparing its usage across different texts by different authors of different times. ‘anubhava’ and ‘anubhUti’ usually rendered into English as “experience,” often used in association with samAdhi, is another such word that needs care in handling.

As we are aware, the teacher to disciple communication was predominantly oral in the ancient times and the meaning of a word smoothly and innocuously changed as per the context and the lineage of the teacher. Hence, it was considered that a disciple must approach a competent teacher and s/he has to be tutored face to face by the teacher as per the recension followed in that lineage. Jumping across different lineages or intermixing diverse systems of teachings without fully adhering to a specific one till the end can only result in confusion. Book-learning is also almost an impossibility in the absence of a teacher who would provide the authentic word meaning as can be understood from the famous example of the same word ‘satyam’ occurring twice in the same sentence in the same mantra but with two different meanings: Continue reading

Vedanta the Solution – Part 56

VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem by D. Venugopal

Part 56 concludes the examination of the idea that enlightenment involves an ‘experience’ – this is a misunderstanding of the concept of anubhava. And there is an extended analysis of the ‘tenth man’ metaphor, showing how the mahavAkya-s can give direct knowledge of the Self – aparokSha j~nAna.

There is a complete Contents List, to which links are added as each new part appears.

Vedanta the Solution – Part 54

VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem by D. Venugopal

Part 54 looks at Ramana Maharshi’s ‘Who am I?’ practice and explains that the ‘I thought’ cannot be removed by self-investigation. It also explains that we do not have to get rid of vAsanA-s in order to gain mokSha.

There is a complete Contents List, to which links are added as each new part appears.