[NDM: Also what about this sensitive money issue that seems to hit a raw nerve when ever it’s raised.
Is there anything right or wrong with doing this? Is there anything right or wrong with making a few , rupee’s on this ancient non dual teaching? What is your take on this controversial and almost taboo question?]
Ramesam Vemuri: First of all no question need be a taboo. If a particular doubt posits itself as a stumbling block, well, it should be attended to.
The ancient Indian system advises a student to redeem his indebtedness to the teacher by rendering service, by payment in kind or cash or in the absence of any other means of repaying, by passing on the wisdom obtained by him to others after taking Guru’s permission. This obviously shows the necessity of some accepted social structural norm to preserve and propagate the knowledge to others. Does this mean that the ‘wisdom’ is on sale or available for prostitution by the highest bidder? Moreover, a seeker had to be eligible to receive the wisdom, the most important criterion being his single minded unswerving devotion for liberation in exclusion to any other desire (including food, clothing, wealth, status etc.).
The ancient sages foresaw a danger also in throwing open the knowledge for one and all because it can be detrimental to the very health of the individual and the society, if it is misunderstood and/or incompletely understood. Continue reading →
NDM:So without a teacher/guru of some kind, how does one navigate a path through this non-dual jungle? How did you do this without falling into all the traps like getting stuck in the absolute, or only seeing half the picture and the other pitfalls?
Ramesam Vemuri:: Non-duality is not the jungle. Non-duality is clarity. Information on it, about it and around it is the jungle!
One of the derivative meanings for the Sanskrit word Guru is, as you may have known: “the dispeller (ru) of darkness (gu).” In the ancient times when knowledge is transmitted through oral tradition, a human Guru (dispeller of darkness or ignorance) was necessarily required because the Guru was the only information source. Each Guru developed, used and expanded certain terminology to explain the Truth as realized by that Guru to a lineage of his disciples.
Fast forward to the present day. We have now multimedia storage devices as information resources and satellite communication technologies for its dissemination. These do dilute the mandatory requirement of a human Guru (dispeller of ignorance).
The more important question is how do we manage with the information ‘overload’ and distinguish the grain from the chaff. Continue reading →
NDM: Did you ever formally study traditional Advaita Vedanta?
Ramesam Vemuri: I should at the outset say that other than as a matter, perhaps, of curiosity, me or what I did is utterly inconsequential; it need not to be considered important. I never studied Advaita formally under a Guru-sishyasampradAya (tradition) nor did I pursue any particular teacher or Ashram. In fact, I feel repulsed to “follow” any organized system that upfront demands obsequious obeisance, dictates a belief structure, creates a hope and promises a distant carrot.
My spiritual inquiry, if I may use that term, has been more like the pursuit of research in science – define the problem as it arises, do a literature search, then investigate, check and cross check to the extent possible and so on. In this process I was exposed to Zen, a wide variety of teachers in Advaita (from traditional to Direct path to Neo) and also bits and pieces of other systems. Undoubtedly there is a greater influence of Advaitic thought of the ancient Indian texts on me simply because they are some of the finest philosophical texts based on logic and were also the more readily accessible resources for me. I am truly indebted to each one of them and also to the innumerable people who helped me in arriving at a clear understanding.
NDM: Is there any particular method or study out of all these various ways that clicked with you over the others? Continue reading →
NDM: What would you say are the odds of someone being “enlightened” also becoming a Jivanmukta?
Ramesam Vemuri: Advaita holds that everyone is already a Jivanmukta. Some scriptures unequivocally declare that the mind is most important. If it knows clearly that it is unbound, it is free. If it thinks it is bound, it is in bondage!
And incidentally, the Advaita teaching does not say one “becomes” a Jivanmukta. The teaching is that “You are That.” It is not to ‘become’ but just to ‘be.’
Enlightenment or the first glimpses of ‘realization’ may entitle one to be called as a Jivanmukta. But to be unceasingly in/as brahman, one has to overcome several of the distractions that the mind keeps posing.
NDM: The one question that really interests me is what someone can do about their vAsanA-s if they are enlightened, but still have problems with them? Continue reading →
NDM: What about an energetic shift? Does this also take place?
Ramesam Vemuri: A particular individual may call his experience as an ‘energetic shift’ and only he can tell what those terms signify. Most people may figuratively express “realization” as a change in perspective, a sort of re-orientating, rather than as anything extra-ordinary or dramatic.
NDM: So if the understanding isn’t crystal clear, are you saying this is the reason why one may not become a Jivanmukta?
Ramesam Vemuri: That is true. Absolute clarity without even a speck of confusion or doubt on the teaching (shall we call the “theory”?) of Advaita is a must and is the primary step. Lack of clarity or misunderstanding can lead one astray into pursuit of false mental states, fancy expectations and may even result in unhealthy minds or dead ends.
NDM: What is the difference with simply being enlightenment in the advaitin sense, knowing one is Brahman, infinite, eternal non-dual awareness and so on and being a Jivanmukta?
Ramesam Vemuri: The first and foremost thing is the knowing of information “I am brahman.” This has to be understood by the mind intellectually. It is the shravaNa (Listening) phase. Next is to assimilate it and internalize it to the extent that no doubt remains in one’s mind about the Truth of that statement. This is the manana (Reflection) phase. After being firmly convinced and free of doubts, one needs to continuously stay with it as brahman (not become brahman but be brahman). This is the nididhyAsana (Contemplation and Meditation) phase. Jivanmukta is one who unwaveringly and unbrokenly abides as brahman.
NDM: Why would one person become enlightened and get the added benefits of bliss, no aversions, fears, desires and being a Jivanmukta, while another may not? Is this grace, karma, or because of one’s practice or some other factors involved?
Ramesam Vemuri: If one continues to mistake the rope as snake or the understanding is only superficial, his understanding is obviously incomplete. Continue reading →
NDM: When you say: “The most basic point to remember is that in order to talk in terms of vAsanA-s and so on, one has to first believe in the ‘reality’ of the existence of a cause, an effect and a relationship between them.Looked at from the position of a Jivanmukta, there are no different entities, one as a cause and another as an effect and a formula expressing a relationship between them. The entire thing is One. And that is the only Truth. Not so many different things and their inter-relationships which are all imaginary.”
So are you saying that the Jivanmutkta no longer acknowledges that there is an empirical relationship of cause and effect on this relative level. (samvriti-satya or vyâvahârika-satya)
That they only recognize or acknowledge the absolute perspective? (pâramârthika-satya). That they in fact deny that a relative level even exists like some of the neo advaitins do.
Ramesam Vemuri: The terminology of Absolute Truth, transactional reality and dream-like reality and stories around them are inventions for appeasing a seeking mind. They have as much value, meaning and significance as the conversations and technologies of a dream experience have in the wakeful world. You may dip into a river and next thing suddenly be flying over a mountain peak in a dream. You could do so in the dream because you possessed that technology in your dream. But what relevance has it in the wakeful world? Similarly, the terminologies and classifications and theories used in the wakeful world carry no meaning or relevance to a Jivanmukta. Continue reading →
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.]
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.”
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 →
A question that is often asked of me is why YogavAsiShTa is not as popular as Bhagavad-Gita.
[Frankly, I am not sure if that is true and if so why it is so. I spell out a few of my thoughts to start a healthy discussion.]
In my own case, it was Bhagavad-Gita that I was first exposed to, even as a teenager, and it was much later in my life after my pate turned bald and the few hairs that remained acquired a silver gray hue, that I happened to study YogavAsiShTa. I can say with certitude that both books must have been equally present in my house when I was growing up with my parents. Could it be that my parents somehow conspired to see that I did not get access to read the YogavAsiShTa in my youth because of my mother’s apprehension or belief in an adage that was popular in those times that one who reads YogavAsiShTa would surely fling the family life and retire to a forest as a Sannyasi (renunciate)? Continue reading →