Q. 392 – Traditional lineages

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.

Bhakti – Limitation of Accepted Paths

In our search for Truth, beginning with an examination of the world before us, we use
as our instrument the faculty of reason. This reason can well be divided into two. One
is lower reason, which is exercised by the mind in examining the mutual relationship
of objects, from intellect down to the gross world. The other is higher reason or
transcendental reason, which is exercised in examining the mind and its objects –
gross or subtle – with a view to discover their real content.

There are usually three accepted paths to the Truth. They are the paths of devotion,
yoga and jnyana. Of these three, devotion and yoga deal only with relative things
falling within the sphere of the mind and sense organs, taking into consideration only
experiences in the waking state. Their findings, therefore, can only be partial and

The jnyana path looks from a broader perspective and comprehends within its scope
both yoga and devotion. It takes into consideration the whole of life’s experiences – comprised in the three states – viewed impartially. It demands a high degree of real
devotion, in the sense that the aspirant has to have a high degree of earnestness and
sincerity to get to the Truth. This is real devotion, to Truth; and it is infinitely superior
to devotion to anything else, which can only be less than the Truth.

The yogin controls, sharpens and expands the mind to its maximum possibilities,
attaining samadhi and powers (or siddhis) on the way. But in the case of those who
follow the jnyana path, the mind is analysed impartially and minutely; and proved to
be nothing other than pure Consciousness itself, beyond which there is no further
power or possibility of development.

So it is through jnyana alone that Truth can be visualized, while yoga and devotion
only prepare the ground for it.

Note 63, Notes on Spiritual Discourses of Shri Atmananda: Volume 1, Shri Atmananda and Nitya Tripta, Non-Duality Press, ISBN: 978-0-9563091-2-9. Buy from Amazon US
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Experience and Knowledge (Q. 321)

Q: ‘Experiential’, seemingly, is becoming a stumbling block in current discussions within spirituality and non-duality. There are the ‘experiential’, usually ‘anti-intellectual’ types (who deprecate ‘merely intellectual’, or ‘conceptual’ approaches), and those who defend the proper use of mind and the intellect, without denying the validity of experience.

 Would it be possible, though, to dispense with either of the two concepts: ‘knowledge’ and ‘experience’?; they appear to overlap, practically being synonyms and, indeed, one can say “I know pain in the belly”, or, “I know such and such emotion”, “I know (I am acquainted with) life”, etc., without resorting to the word ‘experience’ – the word ‘acquaint’, conveniently, is derived from the Latin via old French: cognoscere, gnoscere. The other alternative would be to dispense with the word ‘knowledge’ and use instead ‘real’/’unreal’, ‘reality’, which is, precisely, sat/asat in sanskrit – and expressions using these terms are quite frequent, as everybody… realizes (‘is cognizant with’, then, would have to be ruled out). Just today I wrote in a comment that true understanding is an experience, but now I have my doubts. Ultimately, certainly, the only Experiencer/Knower is brahman/atman (though he remains ever unmoved). Continue reading