The devil’s teaching part 2

Eka jIva vAda – the devil’s teaching (part 2 of 2)

Read Part 1

Here is how I described this teaching some years ago:

First of all, however, I will say a little about sRRiShTi dRRiShTi etc, since I have mentioned these above. I once thought that these were the principal creation theories of advaita. sRRiShTi is the Sanskrit word for creation. The mythical stories of God creating a world, for example over six days as in the Bible, are called krama sRRiShTi, meaning ‘gradual creation’ (krama means ‘ progressing step-by-step’). dRRiShTi is the Sanskrit word for ‘seeing’ or the faculty of sight. Thus, sRRiShTi dRRiShTi vAda means that a world is created and then we perceive it. dRRiShTi sRRiShTi vAda, on the other hand, supposes that perception precedes creation. This effectively boils down to a form of subjective idealism; i.e. the world only exists in our mind. This, in turn, implies that there are no other individuals than ourselves; i.e. solipsism. (The theory that there is only one person is called eka jIva vAda in Sanskrit.) 

 You will no doubt be familiar with the concept of mithyA and will know that the world does not exist as an entity in its own right but is entirely dependent upon brahman which is its essential substratum. This is analogous to our dream world having no existence of its own but being entirely dependent upon our mind, which is its essential substratum. So the theory of dRRiShTi sRRiShTi vAda should not sound so outlandish. Nevertheless, it was not recognized, or at least not spoken of, by Shankara and only appears relatively recently, for example in the transcriptions of Ramana Maharshi’s dialogues. The reason why Ramana might have considered it relevant is suggested by the following quotation: “If one can consistently regard the world as an unreal creation of the mind then it loses its attraction and it becomes easier to maintain an undistracted awareness of the ‘I’ thought.” (David Godman, ‘Be As You Are’) As will be seen, however, the idealistic view of creation is one which is held by the vij~nAna Buddhist and it is rejected in the brahmasUtra-s. [Not actually sure this is true but it is also rejected by Shankara in his commentary on Gaudapada’s kArikA 4.28 – note that the vij~nAna Buddhists also believe that Consciousness is ‘momentary’, being ‘born’ and ‘dying’ in each moment. I deal at length with all of this in ‘A-U-M’.]

 As an interesting aside, the vij~nAna vAdi-s use the example of dream to support their theory. They say that, on awakening, the dream world is seen to be entirely a creation of the mind. In just the same way, the waking world also is unreal. Ironically, this is the same argument used by gauDapAda in the mANDUkya kArikA so it might initially seem odd that Shankara should refute it. However, says Shankara, they are failing to make a subtle but crucial distinction. The world does exist separate from the mind, even in the case of the j~nAnI. What it is not separate from, is Consciousness.

Shankara concedes in his commentary on Gaudapada’s kArikA-s that waking state and dream states are similar because both can be ‘objectified’ (dRRishyatvam). (The eka-jIva-vAdins translate this incorrectly as ‘seen’ or ‘perceived’.) In his Brahmasutra bhAShya (II.ii.29) he clarifies this when he states: “…it cannot be asserted by a man… that the perception of the waking state is false, merely on the ground that it is a perception like the perception in a dream. (And it is not logical for those who consider themselves intelligent to deny their own experience.)

The eka-jIva-vAdins conflate the waking and dream states by their theory – both have to exist only in the (single) jIva’s mind. This again conflicts with traditional teaching, in which avasthA traya is a key prakriyA. And it does away with vyavahAra entirely – the empirical waking world becomes just as much prAtibhAsika as is the dream. Of course, by effectively making many aspects of traditional teaching redundant, and going ‘straight for the jugular’, it theoretically reduces the elapsed ‘seeking time’ by a vast amount. A bit like the ‘This is it’ of the neo-Advaitins… Although, of course, one must not lose sight of the (claimed) fact that there is only one jIva, who is thus inventing teacher, scripture, logic, reason, experience…

The one question that keeps coming to my mind in all of this is: who is the eka-jIva-vAda proponent trying to convince?? His teaching/writing has to be entirely for his own benefit, since there are no others. I am criticizing the teaching for my own benefit, since there is not really an ‘Advaita Vision’ site or any readers of material posted there. You, the reader, are the only jIva if you are reading this without my knowledge – are you trying to convince yourself of the value of the theory or its failure? Make up your mind!

Brahman is limitless. We could say that we limit it by saying that it cannot ‘do’ anything or ‘enjoy’ anything (akartA, abhoktA). So let us say that it ‘chooses’ to delude itself by posing as a jIva and imagining the creation, so that it can follow a path to remove its ignorance and realize that it has been Brahman all of the time. Since it is limitless, it must be able to do this.

But, since it is limitless, it can also pose as many jIva-s in a world that has a higher order of reality than a dream. And it can ‘enjoy’ the process of realizing its nature many times over as each jIva progresses down its own path. Since a world of many jIva’s clearly corresponds better with our experience, why should anyone even conceive that Brahman would limit itself to one?

Ramana Maharshi is often credited as a key source for teaching eka-jIva-vAda – indeed I have made this claim myself – but here is extract 571 from the ‘Talks With Sri Ramana Maharshi’ (7th Nov, 1938):

Multiplicity of individuals is a moot point with most persons. A jiva is only the light reflected on the ego. The person identifies himself with the ego and argues that there must be more like him. He is not easily convinced of the absurdity of his position. Does a man who sees many individuals in his dream persist in believing them to be real and enquire after them when he wakes up?

 This argument does not convince the disputant.

 Again, there is the moon. Let anyone look at her from any place at any time; she is the same moon. Everyone knows it. Now suppose that there are several receptacles of water reflecting the moon. The images are all different from one another and from the moon herself. If one of the receptacles falls to pieces, that reflection disappears. Its disappearance does not affect the real moon or the other reflections. It is similar with an individual attaining Liberation. He alone is liberated.

 The sectarian of multiplicity makes this his argument against non-duality. “If the Self is single, if one man is liberated, that means that all souls are liberated. In practice it is not so. Therefore Advaita is not correct.”

 The weakness in the argument is that the reflected light of the Self is mistaken for the original Light of the Self. The ego, the world and the individuals are all due to the person’s vasanas. When they perish, that person’s hallucinations disappear, that is to say one pitcher is broken and the relative reflection is at an end.

 The fact is that the Self is never bound. There can therefore be no Release for It. All the troubles are for the ego only.

The reason I include this quotation, though, is not to claim that Ramana did not utilize eka-jIva-vAda in his teaching – I’m perfectly prepared to accept that he did. The point is that Advaita uses many prakriyA-s in its teaching. A good teacher uses whichever one is most suited for a given seeker, and most likely to move that seeker forward by eliminating some Self-ignorance.

All these devices are mithyA, just as are the guru and shiShya themselves. The thrust of my argument is that this particular teaching is an unnecessary and unhelpful extrapolation from the message of vAchArambhaNa shruti. It is an intellectual diversion that does not move the seeker forward but is likely to leave them stranded in a cul-de-sac or boost an ego into believing it is the only one.

Our experience is that we are separate individuals in a world of multiplicity. The traditional, scriptural teaching, explained by a qualified teacher, is more than enough to eliminate Self-ignorance. It is not helpful for a seeker to fall into the traps mentioned above; it would seem to be positively unhelpful for a teacher to lead the seeker into them.

In my research for sources on the topic of EJV, I have come across the claim on more than one occasion that ‘this teaching is for advanced seekers only’! This implicit rebuke – if you don’t understand it, you need to go back and do some more sAdhana chatuShTaya sampatti – highlights what seems to be another problem.  It is an ego-booster, whichever way you take it. If you embrace it, your ego is now able to claim ‘I am the only jIva; everyone and everything else is dreamt up by me for my own enjoyment or suffering’. On the other hand, if you rebel against it, your ego is liable to be ‘boosted’ (in the opposite direction) by suffering the ignominy of having to admit ‘I cannot understand this; I am clearly not clever enough.’ (A third possibility is that I may claim I am sufficiently intelligent both to understand it and reject it!)

This why I call EJV the Devil’s Teaching. There is no ‘win or lose’; there is only ‘lose’ for Traditional Advaita and ‘win’ for the ego. Instead of respecting the existence of all other jIva-s at the empirical level and respecting the existence of the teaching which enables these jIva-s to gain Self-knowledge, both jIva-s and teaching are relegated to the trash can of pratibhAsa. And the ego is further boosted by the thought that ‘I myself am the author of all these wonderful Upanishads and Shankara bhAShya-s etc.’.

The ‘loser’ falls into all of the traps I outlined above:

  • taking EJV at its face value – the world is no more than a dream. Whether it is one rife with poverty and injustice or one in which respect for planet and others is paramount, makes not an iota of difference.
  • justifying and arguing the inevitability of the teaching (and its suitability for advanced minds only), instead of allowing the more mundane prakriyA-s of the traditional teaching to do their job and remove Self-ignorance.

But the final bottom-line of all this has to be: the teaching is self-evidently false because the world is still here. The writer of the material cannot be ‘the One’ or he wouldn’t have written it. You, the reader cannot be ‘the One’ or you and the world would have disappeared in a puff of smoke before you reached

19 thoughts on “The devil’s teaching part 2

  1. Hi Dennis

    I’d posit that the Maharishi is utilising the logical progression from anew jiva vada, to eka jiva vada to ajata vada.

    As you know, as a proponent of ajata vada, he didn’t really put much stock into creation theories. They were just theories he used to help seekers move on.

    He taught that one needs learn to turn away from the world and, as JK would say, away from measuring oneself against others. To simply focus attention on oneself as one is – his atma vichara. In carefully so doing the ego, the eka jiva, would also be seen as drysam, the observed, leaving only atman = brahman. SSSS says much the same in Adhyatma Yoga.

    I would posit that the reason people have said that EJV is for advanced seekers only, is because of exactly your warning – it will simply boost the ego, and interpreted to provide a license for any activity of the jiva.



  2. Sorry, “anew jiva vada” should be “aneka jiva vada”. The devil in autocorrect!!

  3. Hi Venkat,

    But you haven’t explained why there is a need for a ‘last interim’ position of there being only one jIva. One can see and ‘neti’ the ego for oneself whilst still accepting the mithyA status of ‘other’ jIva-s.

    I would be interested in having a reference for EJV in SSSS.

    Best wishes,

  4. Hi Dennis

    I think where you and I diverge is that you believe that atma vichara is an intellectual investigation of sruti, and I believe it is an investigation, a keen observation of oneself.

    Hence Maharishi’s advocation of EJV, is to encourage a detachment from other.

    Apols, I didn’t mean to imply that SSSS referenced EJV. I can’t say I have come across this – perhaps Martin or Ramesam could help us on this.



  5. Hi Venkat,

    I understand vichAra in the sense of ‘enquiry, reflection, introspection’ rather than ‘investigation’ in an active sense. I equate it to the shravaNa, manana of traditional Advaita – listening to and questioning the teaching of shruti via the smapradAya guru. It is not possible to ‘observe’ the Self or even ‘know’ it in an objective sense. Everything that we could see or know would still be in duality. It is the ultimate subject that we want to understand.

    Best wishes,

  6. Dennis

    Worth reading SSSS’ Adhyatma Yoga. In it he writes what comes close to Maharishi’s use of EJV.

    “After this one should investigate the source of the sense organs. Then he comes to the conclusion that the mind is the Self of the sense organs. Here also residing inside, pervading outer things etc., are the four common features. All the above-stated methods should be applied to the mind and the sense organs or the outer things. So here the Sadhaka gets a firm conviction that the mind alone appears as the sense organs and the outer world with the concepts of infinite time, space, causation, etc. This is called the sublation of the sense organs by means of the mind. Here the Sadhaka remains in the form of the mind only. He is an embodiment of the mind, as it were. There is no independent existence for the world or sense organs apart from the mind.”

    He continues with the discernment and sublation process to arrive at:

    “Then this Sadhaka should discern or divine the stuff of the intellect i e. ‘I’-sense or ‘ego’ . . . Hence the ‘I’-sense is the Self of the whole phenomena. Where there is the ‘I’ -sense, invariably it appears with its whole retinue of its respective world. Here it Is very essential to remember and intuitivlely reason out that the ego of the waking and the ego of the dream are not the same. In fact, they have no relationship with each other whatsoever. Each ego projects its own respective world, Where there is no ‘I’-sense there is no trace of any kind of any world . . . And in deep sleep when these two types of ‘I’-senses disappear there is no trace whatsoever of any world or duality. Hence it is evident that this ‘I’ -sense il the Self of all the phenomena . . . At last, the aspirant should objecti fV his ‘I’-Iense or ego taking a stand in the true nature of his own Self, that is, the Witness of the ‘I’-sense. To objectify the ‘I’-sense the only method is through discrimination, and with deep concentration when one says there is ‘I’-sense, then automatically he takes his stand in his true nature of the Self, who is the Witness of the ego or ‘I’-sense.”

    He goes on:

    “Hence to take a stand in the true nature of the Self, there is no other way than the process of discrimination. This is explained by Shankara in his commentary on Sutra Bhashya (1-1-4). In the excerpt which we have given at the beginning of this topic the last phrase is: “The great soul (ego or cosmic ‘I’) is, however, to be established by him in the peaceful Self, in the supreme Purusha under consideration. That is to say, in the ‘highest Goal'”. The
    meaning of this phrase is explained hereunder:

    Through the practice of this’ Adhyatma Yoga’ at last one cognises that my true nature of Being is beyond the ‘I’sense or ego. When one cognises this Truth, then he remains unto himself as of the nature of the Witness of the ego. Hence ‘to know the Self is to be the Self and to be the Self is to
    cease the identification with the not-self’. This utterance of Sri Ramanamaharshi is to be remembered by the Sadhaka of Adhyatma Yoga. Here the Sadhaka has traversed inwards, as it were, with a concentrated mind, followed by discrimination, and has arrived at the brink of all duality and at the very core of life. And he himself has remained as the Witness of the
    ego or as the Pure Self.”

    This is very different I think from your description of a guru explaining and clarifying the meaning of sruti. This is a guru guiding a sadhaka in his / her inward enquiry / contemplation discernment and sublation. This adhyatma yoga is no different from Maharishi’s self-enquiry, as SSSS’ quote indicates.


  7. Hi Venkat,

    I haven’t actually read SSSS’s ‘Adhyatma Yoga’ but from a quick glance, I find in the introduction: “…along with „Adhyatma Yoga‟ the chapter on „Adhyatma‟ is included; besides, an appendix, in which the relevant topics of Shravana and Manana are treated in detail, is added at the end for the benefit of the aspirants.” This suggests that the traditional approach is very much intended in this work.

    And, in case there is any doubt, this view is reinforced by the following quotation from the text itself:
    “Hence it is very difficult to attain the highest goal of Adhyatma for the common man without the help of the teachings of the Upanishads and the Guru.”

    And later: “To practice this Adhyatma Yoga (Nidhidhyasana, Dhyana Yoga or Manonigraha Yoga), an aspirant at first should get Atmaprathyaya (meaning the firm conviction about the real nature of the Self) by listening to the process of discrimination taught by the Guru and the Shastra and he must know the process of Manana i.e. method of reflection on the firm ground of intuition and adopting the reasons according to the teachings of the Guru and Shastra.”

    And the extensive appendix begins: “There are three direct means (Saakshaat Sadhanas) to Self-Knowledge and they are called as Shravana (Listening), Manana (Reflection) and Nidhidhyasana (Contemplation), according to Shankara Bhashya (Refer to Taittriya Bhashya 1.11.4)…

    But, as I said, I admit to not having read the text. It does look as though it would be worthwhile to do so but I very much doubt that I would come away with any more favorable view of EJV.

    Best wishes,

  8. Hello Dennis
    I was referring back to older blogs where I found enough was discussed on EJV – so I am not going to add anything new!
    My only comment on “ego” is:
    “The ‘loser’ falls into all of the traps I outlined above:
    taking EJV at its face value – the world is no more than a dream. Whether it is one rife with poverty and injustice or one in which respect for planet and others is paramount, makes not an iota of difference”

    For me a bigger ahamkara/ego trap thru AJV is/was:
    While Vijay the Jiva gets liberated and transcends to Paramarthic, all my beloved ones will have to take their turn while suffering in the eternal hell/heaven of samsara.

  9. C’est la vie, Vijay! 🙂 The consolation is that they are all Brahman and are not really harmed. They just need to address their Self-ignorance when they have had enough of the samsaric existence.

    Best wishes,

  10. Dennis
    C’est la vie – Not for this compassionate, selfless one. Unlike EJK folkes who believe there are no other jivas, i still have to be worried about my other beloved jivas who are on this E-Plane:)

  11. C’est la vie?
    Nein, Das ist Verwirrung!

    You are ‘swarUpa’ and all that is *seen* is your own ‘vibhUti.’ It’s All One — not dual like a ‘you’ and a set of your ‘loved ones.’ Everyone awakens with you waking up – much like all your dream characters ending along with your dream. All at one go. Altogether as One.


  12. Ramesam said:

    ”You are ‘swarUpa’ and all that is *seen* is your own ‘vibhUti.’ It’s All One — not dual like a ‘you’ and a set of your ‘loved ones.’ Everyone awakens with you waking up – much like all your dream characters ending along with your dream. All at one go. Altogether as One.”

    Is that your own experience Ramesam or something you’ve read?

  13. Yes, It is in my experience – “all [my] dream characters ending along with [my] dream. All at one go. Altogether as One.

    Yes, it is in my experience – “the Sun disc and the sunlight is one continuum.”

    Yes, it is in my experience – “the flame and the glow of the flame are not two.”

    Do you find your dream characters waiting for you in your drawing room after you wake up from the last night’s dream in your bedroom?

  14. It seems all this flurry of thinking and imaging is in your thought-stream, Ramesam. There is nothing real about any of it apart from the fleeting imagery. The dream is not even yours but you think it is and call it your own. It is the way we perceive a world and our separate selves, an illusion so great that it sees what is not really there. Inference is part of the thought-stream. All interpretations fall into this category.

  15. “Inference is part of the thought-stream. All interpretations fall into this category.”

    That’s the problem, Anon.
    Your too kind and noble heart spurts out of your mouth much faster to save all the ignoramuses here than the time it gives to you to read fully at least one Advaita text!

    Remember, we requested you to read the aparokShAnubhuti files, but clearly you didn’t.

    A Surgeon’s love flows through his knife to excise the unwanted thing. That could be a bit bloody, but it always works for the good of the person. Martin is a well-trained Surgeon. But you rejected his suggestion.

    You say you aren’t a card carrying Buddhist etc. But it is worse than that as it looks. The Buddhist approach is imprinted on you.

    We all know that the worldly experiences and knowledge gained through senses (direct perception) and through mind (inference) are not reliable “means to Knowledge.” That’s why Advaita, unlike Buddhism, goes for additional “means to knowledge” like shabda pramAna, Apta vAkya, testimonial from well-wishers. Have you missed that part in my Post on “Pull and Push Factors – Part 2?

    So while what you say is true about “inference,” your rushing to save us is wasted – albeit you are at that for the last so many years! I once again request you to read fully at least one Advaita text before we can have a useful discussion.


  16. There is no one to save, Ramesam. This problem of perception is at the root of all ways of looking at ourselves. You, Martin, and myself, are full of shit. I don’t say this to belittle you or anyone else. It is quite clear that you, Martin, and everyone else on this site does not live what he or she is parrotting. I put the blame on both Advaita and Buddhism for planting these ideas into the mind stream and setting up the perception of divided consciousness and a path leading to some kind of freedom from it using the very things that are said to be ”un-kosher”. This is a very difficult thing to acknowledge in ourselves, so we don’t. We continue to live in hope that somehow we will get the ‘message’ if we continue to believe in the model. The model is what is responsible for all of this, Ramesam.

    And, by the way, I did read Sankara’s AA as well as a whole slew of books written by ‘masters’ of every tradition. Burning them would be the best thing, but we would still carry these ideas around with us until we burned them out of our thought streams.

    I like you a lot, Ramesam, but I won’t listen to a thing that you or anyone else believes about this stuff. It doesn’t lead to what you think you need or want. Apologies for any offensive remarks. They are just words………….I love you

  17. I wonder if the person hiding behind the mask of ‘Anonymous’ (how convenient… but also how revealing it is! – not coming up front) has ever read the story of ‘The Fox and the grapes’, from which derives the expression ‘sour grapes’.

    Anything else to add? Yes, as Dennis has kept repeating, this is a venue for the teaching and studying of Advaita Vedanta for all those that are well disposed towards that end. A different school of thought is called Carvaka. But it is not up to me to outlaw it, it being after all a ‘school of thought’ which could act as a Spanish fly in our midst – I feel comfortable enough as it is (though at times I visualize Dennis ever so slightly cringing and Ramesam resignedly sighing, gentle and patient souls that they are); and, by the way, I don’t include here everyone else in my response or reaction, as Anon. is in the habit of doing.

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