The Pull and Push Factors – Part 1/2

 The Pull factor:

We have from kaTha upaniShad:

नायमात्मा प्रवचनेन लभ्यो मेधया बहुना श्रुतेन   —  I-ii-23,  kaTha upa

Meaning:   Atman (brahman) cannot be attained by the study of the Vedas, or by intelligence, or by much hearing of sacred books.

Shankara’s special treatises too make that point abundantly clear declaring:

स्नानेन दानेन प्राणायमशतेन वा      —    verse 13, vivekacUDAmaNi

Meaning: Neither sacred baths nor any amount of charity nor even hundreds of breathing exercises can give us the knowledge about Self.

अविरोधितया कर्म नाविद्यां विनिवर्तयेत् |      —               verse 3, Atmabodha

Meaning: Any action cannot destroy ignorance, for action is not a negator of ignorance.

Shankara tells us in Atmabodha that an action or a ritual we perform cannot lead us to freedom from the world. Actions (done with the involvement of either the bodily organs like pilgrimages, holy dips, charity, service, idol worship, rituals etc. or the mind like meditation, upAsana) are incapable of destroying ignorance which occludes ‘brahman’   from us.

We learn from brihadAraNyaka:

ब्रह्म वा इदमग्र आसीत्तदात्मानमेवावेत्  अहं ब्रह्मास्मीति  तस्मात्तत्सर्वमभवत्तद्यो … |  —  I-iv-10, brihadAraNyaka upa.

Meaning: This was indeed the Supreme brahman in the beginning. It knew only Itself as, ‘I am brahman’. Therefore, It became all.

It’s brahman, who out of Its own volition, chose to become all That-IS. Therefore, it is only brahman who can fold up the show and revert to Its pristine Original nature.

Gaudapada in his kArikA on mANDUkya explains:

कल्पयत्यात्मनात्मानमात्मा देवः स्वमायया   –, verse 12, Ch 2, Gaudapada kArikA on mANDUkya upa.

Meaning: The self-luminous brahman through the power of his own mAyA imagines by himself within himself (all the objects that the subject experiences within and without).

Thus it is once again very clear that brahman imagines the manifold of multiplicity that we call the world. Therefore, it is up to It to wind up the imagination and return to Its natural position.

An analogy may help us in appreciating the import of the brihadAraNyaka quote above. Suppose a fisherman casts a net from his boat into the sea. It is up to the fisherman himself to decide when to fold up and pull back the net. Neither the wiggles and the struggles of the fish caught in the net nor anything done by the net will “pull” the net back into the boat. The net here is comparable to the phantasm of the world and we are the fish struggling within. The fisherman is brahman. So any practice observed or process followed by a spiritual aspirant has little relevance in deciding when brahman chooses to wind up the phantasmagoria of the world for the seeker.

From all that has been presented above, we may conclude that there need be no doubt that all that-IS and everything that happens is by brahman for brahman in brahman as   brahman and there’s precious little a “you” or “me” can do to end the drama. As though to remove even the last bit of reservation you may entertain in accepting that conclusion, a number of Upanishads unequivocally announce in a single voice:

निरोधो चोत्पत्तिर्न बद्धो साधकः 
मुमुक्षुर्न वै मुक्त इत्येषा परमार्थता                   —  10, amritabindu upa; 8, avadhUta upa,

There is no dissolution, no origination, none in bondage, none possessed of the means of liberation, none desirous of liberation, and none liberated. This is the ultimate truth.

Gaudapada too echoes that idea quoting that very same verse in his kArikA  on mANDUkya (II-32).

It is because of that reason, tradition holds that even the desire to inquire into the truth of this world and wanting to be free from it, arise out of the Grace from brahman. Shankara says in vivekacUDAmaNi,

दुर्लभं त्रयमेवैतद्देवानुग्रहहेतुकम्

मनुष्यत्वं मुमुक्षुत्वं महापुरुषसंश्रयः             —            verse 3, vivekacUDAmaNi.

Meaning: Very rare indeed are these three things and they happen only due to the utmost Grace of God — a human birth, a burning desire for liberation, and the blessed refuge of an illuminated sage.

Hence the spark of a desire for liberation from the world striking a seeker itself is considered to be a “pull” from brahman to fold up the fallacious appearance of a world and it is brahman Itself who provides the enabling factors like an appropriate teacher and so on.

It looks to me that the Non-dual teaching scenario in North America relies heavily on this “Pull” factor of brahman. The ‘satsang’ type of teaching methodology, the absence of any stipulations on the prior  requirement of a disciplined mind free from “individualism,” and the universal open access to the teaching of Oneness appear to have taken shape in the West based on the “Pull factor.”

The Model:

A powerful ‘model’ that was used in the ancient times and continues to be in use even in the modern day in imparting the Advaita teaching of the “Oneness of all That-IS” is the shadow play on a screen. It was the “puppet show” that served as the most appropriate model in the good old times. The puppets were large specially treated leather characters (like in the picture at the top left), silhouettes of which were projected onto a screen illuminated from behind. The model, changing with the changing technology, moved from puppetry to the ‘cinema’ in the early 20th century. Today the apt analogy to teach Advaita is the computer screen sitting on your desk.

Suppose you are watching a movie on the computer screen. Even when you are seeing the movie, you are actually seeing the screen only. The screen is One but appears as though there is a multiplicity of characters and objects playing on it. The objects and characters keep appearing and disappearing, but the screen never disappears and also it does not change. It doesn’t get wet by the water in the movie nor does it get burnt by the fire. It stays unaffected by what goes on between the characters or in their environment. Though the screen is in close contact (perhaps closer than close) with all the images that appear on it, it remains unattached to and untouched by the images. There can be no image in the absence of the screen; but it does not matter for the screen whether an image exists or not. The screen pervades all the images because they are all nothing but the modulations of the screen itself at their respective pixel positions.

Okay, it is simple enough to know that the unchanging screen is One, in spite of the multiplicity of characters appearing and disappearing on it. Still, as long as the movie is on, we cannot escape from perceiving the movie. Only the movie appears and the screen does not make its presence felt. How do “I” look through the image and notice just the ever present “Oneness” of the screen and not the fallacious movie playing over it? This is the crucial question faced by the seeker in pursuit of the Advaitic Realization of Oneness of all That-IS.

The Push Factors:

In order to answer the “How to ‘see’ the screen?” question, the approach Advaita takes is not so much about dropping or piercing through the “image” appearing on the screen in order to reach the screen. The ancient Advaita Sages, in fact, caution us that it will be an unending fruitless effort if we try to manipulate the image. It’s an approach that is doomed to fail if we  do anything at the image-end. Therefore, they advise us to work from the “seer” end rather than the “seen” end.

There are a number of tools that Advaita provides to the seeker to work at the ‘seer’ end. I call those techniques as the “Push factors” that help the seeker on his journey of implosion – from multiplicity to Unicity. While the “Pull factor” of  Grace is the supreme, the Push factors can help the seeker to achieve an unswerving abidance as Self. Sometimes the earnestness, diligence, sincerity and commitment  of the seeker, if strong enough, may even induce  Grace to shine on him/her. We shall examine some of the “Push factors” that the traditional Advaita teaching provides, but seem to have been ignored by the Western teachers.

As the seers of the world, we experience a strong sense of “I see.”  Advaita tells us that it is this sense of “I see” that has to end. In other words, I should stop claiming to being the “Agent” for the action of “seeing” that goes on. Extending the concept to our day to day living, whether it is eating, walking, talking, breathing etc. etc., I should end the claim of “I am the doer” for all actions that happen and also stop claiming “I am the owner” for the worldly possessions I call as mine (including my body and the mind). The one word that describes the development of such an attitude in the traditional Advaita teaching is “detachment’ (vairAgya) – the ability to “give up” doership and ownership.

Next step (not in a sequential sense) is to reduce the density or grossness of the sense of “me.” The objective here is to make the mind, where the concept of “me-mine” is centered, as tenuous and rarified as possible. We normally define ‘who I am’ through a series of qualities and characteristics that make me what I am. We should attrit that ‘me-ness.’

The attrition of ‘me’ has two steps in it. It begins with getting rid of as many parameters as possible from the equation which formerly defined the ‘me.’

Me  =  f {who I am + my likes +  my dislikes + my relations + my image + my tastes + my partners + my needs + my interests + my sex …… + ……. on and on}                                                — —   Equation 1.

So simply drop as many qualities as possible that “mark” you to “stick out” as a “distinct and different” person.

Then comes the next step of improving your ability to viewing the “Universal” (sAmAnya) within all the objects rather than the particulars (visheSha) that distinguish each object from every other. What is “Universal” to and present in all the objects can only be “one” thing. For example, all objects have ‘beingness.” That  “beingness” itself is the “Oneness.” The “particularities” make each of the object to stand out as a separate entity. A multiple number of objects make the one “That-IS” to appear as multiplicity.

Another way to get rid of “I am the doer” idea is to work on the “observer-observing-observed” triad. We know that whenever any action takes place, three entities come into picture. One is the subject, the second is the object and the third is the predicate (the actual action).  We have to reduce the triad to just “observing,” by the elimination of the feeling “I see,”  “I observe” etc. i.e. by dropping the “I,” the subject.

(To Continue  … … Part – 2/2)

8 thoughts on “The Pull and Push Factors – Part 1/2

  1. Ramesam as clear as a gooseberry on my palm.
    For the push part the problem occurs when you extend what you see to everyone. I understood it all but what happens to others. This is where the brutal prakriya of Ekjiva vada comes handy(to me). This me is still there but that is the only me that is real everything is not real.
    The easier way out for me did not work where on vyavaharik plane everything is real but on parmarthic plane it is me. So I have to trans cend the VP leavingeveryone .
    Any words of wisdom on how push fits into Vyavahric plane.

  2. Brilliant post, Ramesam! But I think I have the opposite concern to Vijay. I wonder how you are going to continue the explanation to take account of EJV. That ‘brutal prakriyA’ does not come at all handy to me!

  3. The blog starts with नायमात्मा प्रवचनेन लभ्यो न मेधया न बहुना श्रुतेन. But selectively, it leaves out the other part: यमेवैष वृणुते तेन लभ्यस्तस्यैष आत्मा विवृणुते तनुँ स्वाम् । This says that continue to strive for It. At Its desired moment, It will reveal Itself. That means, we can doggedly follow It, till the knowledge is revealed to us. Except this faithful pursuit, we cannot do anything else. Thus, the subsequent quotations, which tries to explain the nature of Brahman, becomes superfluous, because it is covered by प्रवचनेन and बहुना श्रुतेन, which have been denied as the path to knowledge. Thus, what is the reason for including such superfluous statements?

    The concept of Adwaita comes from Brahmasootram, which resolves the apparently conflicting statements in the Upanishads. For this reason, its four chapters have been named as समन्वय, अविरोध, साधन, फल, respectively. Hence, it cannot preach a path that is opposite to what is described in the Upanishads. Upanishads talk about द्रष्टा, दृश्य, दर्शन. In your screen example, the screen is the दृश्य, which is the विश्व. The projector and all are parts of the mechanism of दर्शन. Their existence depends on the द्रष्टा. If there is no द्रष्टा, the existence or otherwise of the screen – दृश्य, is meaningless. Only when the द्रष्टा observes the screen – दर्शन, then only it has meaning. Thus, the question of “How to ‘see’ the screen?” does not arise. Thus, the example is erroneous.

    When one seeks आत्मज्ञान, the “seeking” is due to some “pull”. But, there is no “push” factor. The “push” factor contradicts नायमात्मा प्रवचनेन लभ्यो न मेधया न बहुना श्रुतेन. How do you justify this? The #“detachment’ (vairAgya) – the ability to “give up” doership and ownership#, is “giving up”, not “pushing” something. It is the opposite of pushing, because we push something only towards our goal. If there is filth, we do not push it, but pull ourselves out of it. Hence your statement appears to be contradictory to Upanishads. Would you kindly quote the reference to any scriptures in support of your statement?

    Further, if there is a realization of “अहं ब्रह्मास्मीति”, as quoted by you, how can we see filth and push it? If there is “न निरोधो न चोत्पत्तिर्न बद्धो न च साधकः । न मुमुक्षुर्न वै मुक्त इत्येषा परमार्थता ॥“, how can there be a push factor? Are you not contradicting yourself? Kindly clear these doubts.

    • Could I ask you, please, either to use ITRANS (or provide other transliteration) and translation, since many visitors are unable to read Devanagari script. The site is intended for all level of seeker, not just advanced, and I would not want anyone to be excluded from the discussion.


    • Basudeba
      Just curious how you came up with ” यमेवैष वृणुते तेन लभ्यस्तस्यैष आत्मा विवृणुते तनुँ स्वाम् । This says that continue to strive for It. At Its desired moment, It will reveal Itself. That means, we can doggedly follow It, till the knowledge is revealed to us.”

      The simple translation I got was:नायमात्मा प्रवचनेन लभ्यो न मेधया न बहुना श्रुतेन ।
      यमेवैष वृणुते तेन लभ्यस्तस्यैष आत्मा विवृणुते तनूँ स्वाम् ॥ २३ ॥

      nāyamātmā pravacanena labhyo na medhayā na bahunā śrutena |
      yamevaiṣa vṛṇute tena labhyastasyaiṣa ātmā vivṛṇute tanūm̐ svām || 23 ||

      23. This âtman is not to be attained by a study of the Vêdâs, nor by intelligence, nor by much hearing, but the âtman can be attained, only by him who seeks to know it. To him, this âtman reveals its true nature.
      Where does it say ‘continue to strive for it?’

  4. Hi Vijay and Dennis,

    Thank you both, Vijay and Dennis, for the kind comments.

    I hope to discuss some of the points made by you in my next post.


  5. [Shri Mishr posted his Comment at the Facebook. I happened to respond to him there. So I am repeating my response.]

    Thank you, Mishra Ji, It’s a brilliant critique.

    I do not wish to critique a critique, but your objective in critiquing [the post] is not clear.

    First off, I hope you realized that it was a Blog article and not a “paper” which word gives it the status of an academic research publication. By any means it is not so nor is it meant to be.

    [In his comment here, Shri Mishr changed the word “paper” to “blog” and reposted here.]

    Yes, the article opens with a quote from kaTha. Yes, it does leave the later part of the mantra. But you seem to attribute some hideous motive in not quoting the full mantra by your choice of the epithet “selectively” in your sentence “But selectively, it leaves out the other part…”

    You did not just say “leaves out.” I wonder why.

    Further, the point you accuse me of “selectively” leaving out, was the very theme highlighted in the later part of the post. How could you miss seeing that? After all, the purpose of the post was not an explication of the kaTha mantra.

    I am surprised that you say that “The concept of Adwaita comes from Brahmasootram” as though the Upanishads themselves did not teach Advaita and only sUtrakAra found it and not the Upanishadkars. Sorry.

    It looks to me that you are not familiar with the very popular “computer screen” metaphor used now a days by the teachers of Non- duality, particularly in the West. They do not take the “screen” as the “seen.” The image is “the seen” and the screen is the unchanging Reality. [The blog also goes into some detail of how the screen is used in the analogy.]

    It also appears that you are not acquainted with the terms Pull and Push factors as used in Management science. The “push” does not refer to pushing away physically some dirt and squalor, as you seem to think. The Pull and Push are somewhat equivalent to top-down and bottom-up approaches. For better productivity, an organisation optimizes the inputs from both sides rather than only one side.

    The rest of the comments too seem a bit misplaced. It is not clear to me whether you captured the main aim of my post. There are literally hundreds of Non-dual teachers in the West and they are mushrooming by the day. Many of them openly and several of them by hints declare that they are Self-realized. Their method of teaching Non-duality is being compared to a traditional way of teaching, say in India, where the prerequisites like sAdhana catuShTaya sampatti, sama damAdi ShaTka sampatti, celibacy etc are necessary before the final message of jIvabrahmaikya is imparted.


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