The Pull and Push Factors – Part 2/2

[Part 1]

 Let us take a simple case of “I see a tree.”

Whenever we have an “experience,” like I see, I walk, I do and so on, we should remember that the entity “I” has first separated out from the “Whole” that-IS and positioned itself as the “subject” (agent) of the action. Thus, at the moment of experience, it is not anymore a single entity, Oneness.  There are two —  the experiencer, “I,” and the experience. But the “experience” in turn consists of the object experienced and the act of having the experience (experiencing). So whether we are aware or not, a multiplicity got introduced.

Hence a committed seeker must learn to let all things just happen and be a mere witness to the happenings. He cannot be judgmental “accepting or rejecting” the events and situations as they arise. It can be achieved by dropping the claims for doership and ownership, every time the sense of ‘agency’ arises.

It is sine qua non that a healthy body and a sane mind are necessary for pursuing the Advaita inquiry. The mind has got to be bias-free and tenuous. It should also have the ability to stay focused with single-minded attention without succumbing to the worldly temptations. This necessitates the cultivation of certain discipline on the part of the seeker in matters of his/her conduct, food, interactions with others. Obviously, then it is important that the seeker knows that s/he cannot say “I will continue to be what I have been in my behavior and interactions and still be committed to seeking Non-dual understanding.”

Reducing the number  of the parameters and their intensity that defined the “me” thus far, vide the Equation-1 (in Part – 1/2) will help the seeker stand out less and less as a separate entity and that would in turn help him/her in easily melding himself/herself with the Universal.

 As per Advaita:

The main reason for our inability to recognize ourselves as the unchanging screen, vide the model we presented, is our ignorance of the fact that there is no “thing” that is not “I.” This ignorance occludes the truth and hides the Reality of Oneness from us. The veil also distorts our vision showing to us a thing to be different from what it actually is. As a result, while all That-IS everywhere is “I” only, we see diverse objects and take them to be “not-I.” Then a “desire” arises in us to acquire those objects that are “not-I.” Desire then propels us into “action” to acquire them.  Action will necessarily have “consequences” – either favorable or unfavorable. The consequences bring the “experience” of happiness (when favorable) and misery (when unfavorable).

So the remedy has to be at the root before this whole problem inflates into a complex structure. That root is the ignorance of what we are. The ignorance can be eliminated only by acquiring the right Knowledge.

We obtain knowledge in our day to day life through the “means” of our five senses (i.e. direct experience) and mind (inference). We do not possess any other means to obtain knowledge. But those two means available with us can give us memory based accumulative knowledge about the empirical world. That type of knowledge cannot dispel our ignorance of the fact that there is nothing other than “I” everywhere.

Therefore, we have necessarily to depend on a valid “scripture” to give us the true “Knowledge” which will be an antidote to our ignorance.  There is no other way. The scripture informs us that the true Knowledge is not a piece of new information that we have to acquire. It is already known to us but seems as though we have forgotten It. The core teaching of Advaita from scripture is, therefore, a reminder to us that all things we see are “I” only and no ‘thing’ exists that is “not-I.” Shri Y. S. Rao, an Advaitin writes as follows in a book of his:

“Shankara compares the attainment of true Knowledge to becoming healthy. We are by nature healthy. It’s our normal condition. Then, say, some illness took over. Because of the illness, our health, which had not gone anywhere, got tentatively masked. Administering a medicine to get rid of the illness is all that needs to be done. Once that’s done, health shows up. We feel as if we got our health back. Similarly, Advaita avers that we are already brahman. By nature we are That. So there is no question of acquiring newly something which we do not have.

Nevertheless, a disease in the form of thoughts such as “I am not-That” has overtaken us. As a result, our own natural state seems to be far away from us. It is like a temporary amnesia. Like our health being hidden by illness, our True nature is hidden by our forgetfulness. It is enough to remove the dark layer called forgetfulness by means of the Knowledge generated through the scripture. We will get back to our natural intrinsic quality as brahman.”

Once this Non-dual truth that everything “That-IS” is I only is clearly understood, the Upanishads give us several techniques to stabilize ourselves in that understanding. For example,

ईशा वास्यमिदं सर्वं यत्किं जगत्यां जगत् 
तेन त्यक्तेन भुञ्जीथा मा गृधः कस्य स्विद्धनम्    —    mantra 1,  IshAvAshya upa

Meaning:  All this – whatever exists in this changing universe − should be (seen as) covered by the Lord. Protect the Self by renunciation. Lust not after any man’s wealth.

The implied exercise is to consider that “I myself cover (permeate) all things in the universe. I notice only the “Universality” in everything and I am already that. I do not have to covet anything because there is no ‘thing’ that is ‘not-I.’ What is necessary is the “Understanding” that all that IS is a modulation of my Self which is none else than what “I am” – the Universal Beingness and Knowingness.”

The end game is that instead of experiencing the “not-I” which I call as the world (anAtma anubhava) through my senses and mind, I experience “I” only (called Atma anubhava). That is the True Happiness.

The Method of Teaching:

Shankara follows a uniform method of teaching in all his works. He devotes a large amount of the text in explicating the “Doctrine.” He follows up by an almost equally long description of the method of practice towards the attainment of the goal of Oneness. Then he briefly touches on the nature of that which is attained. For example, if we take the famous ten verses of “Hymn to dakShiNAmUrti,” the first five explain Non-duality (50 % of the text). The next four and a half verses teach about the practice (45 %) What is obtained finally is told in half a verse (5 %)!

Shri Y. S. Rao explains the rationale of such a distribution with the analogy of consuming food to appease hunger. The procurement, assembling and putting together all the necessary material including the finalization of a recipe for the preparation takes a lot of time. Then the food is consumed following in a particular sequence – appetizers, drinks, main course, dessert, mint etc. Once the food is eaten, the satiation obtained is only to be experienced by each individual by himself/herself. It cannot be expressed or communicated to another. So also nothing much can be said about the ultimate Happiness from the Non-dual Knowledge.

This analogy contains another lesson for us. Once the satiation is obtained, none goes back to the exercise of procuring or preparing. Those jobs are done prior to the satisfaction being achieved. He or she just enjoys being satiated. Therefore, all preparatory work has to precede the attainment of true understanding. Here too the teachers in the West seem to differ.

The End

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

  1. Let’s hope none of us are subject to the Sisyphean setbacks threatened by your image!

    Really useful metaphors from Sri Y. S. Rao. Not heard of him before – can you tell us which book you are referring to?

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

    • Thanks Dennis for the kind observations.

      The enormous effort required to “push” the object oriented mind susceptible to many a world allurement, as you yourself indicate in your writings, is no less than pushing a stone up the hill; I too hope, by Grace, we don’t have to face “the Sisyphean setbacks.”

      Late Shri Y. S. Rao, a highly respected teacher of Advaita Vedanta, had many books and Talks on Advaita. Almost all his work is in his native language (Telugu). The specific book I referenced here is titled “The Great Teaching of the World Teacher – Essence of Revered Shankara’s Doctrine of Advaita,” 2014. The Link to his Website is: http://advaitavedanta.in/advaita_home_english.aspx

      regards,

  2. Ramesam,

    I must admit that this current subject leaves me in the dust. I don’t know what to make of it. It seems you or the author are trying to establish an ‘I’. Yet, in our previous discussion about Sankara’s AA, we agreed on:

    “Anon: “Nothing in my experience points to any permanent being, essence, or appearance/thing.”

    R: You are absolutely right. I don’t think anyone who has a head on his/her shoulder can dispute with what you say. I am pretty sure that almost all of us agree with that statement within the limitations of our own experience.

    Advaita also agrees with that.”

    The confusion that can be caused by trying to establish an “I” as a permanent ‘thing’ is a dangerous idea. Surely, there must be a better explanation than what is written above on the nature of reality. The ‘I’ and the “not-I’ are both conceptual creations and have no inherent existence and do not describe reality. Surely, you agree with this, don’t you?

    • Anom
      My four cents worth!
      The advaita message is very clear
      “The way to immortality is by dissolving all the particulars into the Universal. In other words, melt away all the thoughts into the “Knowing” of them. This is “cit”, the knowingness aspect of the Self. Melt all the things and people that you perceive into the “feel” of beingness. Whether it is the spouse or children or property, every one of them “is.” This is the “sat” or ‘beingness’ aspect of the Self. Since both ‘sat’ and ‘cit’ are formless, they dissolve into One. That is the direct experiential Non-dual understanding. It is the Truth. Therefore it appears fresh each time. It is quite exciting and exhilarating even to hear and work on this process. What is untrue does not give such a pleasure. The unreal gets exposed sooner or later.”
      There is no “I” established it is remembered.
      This “I” Advaita talks about is Sat-Chit – call it something else if you are confusing this with the ego i. the reason it is called Atma/I is that it is You!

  3. Vijay,
    I get what you are talking about, but I’m not sure you get what I’m talking about. What I am referring to is Ramesam’s or Rao’s statement: “there is no “thing” that is not “I.” This ignorance occludes the truth and hides the Reality of Oneness from us.” What does this mean? Am I the tree, am I you? Brahman does not identify itself with things, the mental images do this identifying in the form of perceptions, cognitions, and memory. This is what needs to be seen. The discernment of this is neti neti. Trying to establish a positive can only be done after all is understood as not Brahman as Brahman is the underlying reality that is always present.

    What you are talking about Vijay is not the removal of ignorance but mental events that are themselves obscurations. They are just on a subtler level. They are images that you take for real. These are what are stored in the deepest layers of our conditioned minds. This is where ignorance lies that obscures reality. Only the light of awareness, which is our true nature, can penetrate these images. But that cannot happen if you have not prepared the body/mind through contemplation and enquiry. If you still struggle with desires and attachments, it is impossible to live as Sat-Chit-Ananda.

  4. Hello Anom
    For this discussion, Let us not call Brahman ”I” – just Brahman
    In AA Shankara first said that this world, objects, thoughts & feelings are not real – only the witness is real – that witness is Brahman.
    Then he explains Objects… are ‘abhasa” (like snake on rope). Abhasa is not ‘abhava”(non-existence). Abhasa is what seems to appear on the substratum – has no independent existence. Without substratum there is no abhasa. Abhasa, in other words is an imaginary pink elephant and does not really exist– it really is Brahman only. Therefore, all these objects, me you… are only one Brahman. What is wrong with that? So every time you see a Sponge Bob or Homer Simpson you know it is the screen only!
    Who is seeing is a different question – is that your question?

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