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 च 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.
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?
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
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?
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!
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.
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?
OK. What I was objecting to is the use of the language that Ramesam posted which to me, does not convey Sankara’s original meaning.
As for your explanation, I agree conceptually, but do you agree that it is not your direct experience, but an inference?
Any direct experience that you can talk about contradicts the truth that Advaita talks of. You seem to be keen to demonstrate a sagacity that is derived from your experience that others merely infer?
There is a clear difference between inference and direct perception or experience. I wasn’t trying to demonstrate anything other than knowing which view someone is putting forth. I wouldn’t be so bold to say I personally have direct experience of Brahman and that the statement I Am That is clear and present. I think it is important to be aware of what is actually the case in each of our lives. I have no objection to someone inferring something. It is a step that is necessary, it seems.
I am also not inferring that direct experience has an experiencer attached to it. It is a figure of speech used to clarify the difference between intellectual understanding and actuality.
” I wouldn’t be so bold to say I personally have direct experience of Brahman”
I think you know it all – just the terminologies are generating these debates!
Let me use the words “Aparoksha” and “Paroksha” jnana. The first one is jnana without eyes, ears… and mind and the other one is jnana with these tools.
Every frame that emerges is described by AA commentator as “Asti Bhati nama & Roopa” – “existence, consciousness, names and forms”
When i(Vijay) know a cot or pot – “isness” of cot & pot is Asti and “knowing” part is Bhati while the cot & pot and Vijay are name & forms. Pot jnana is Paroksha while Asti/Bhati is Aparoksha and is there all the time. As Denise (in his latest article Devil’s Teaching) stated nama rupa is not real (based on Chandogya) – it is only abhasa. So, in this frame of cot-pot, only Asti/Bhati is left and that is Brahman. So, every frame is Aparoksha Anubhuti (jnana – experts please give a better description). Forget nama/rupa and just BE with Asti/Bhati.
YSR/Ramesam in the AA commentary use the terms “Samanya” and “Vishishtha” jnana.
Pot IS, cot IS.. is vishishta (specific); and IS is Samanya (General) common to anything, everything and nothing. An ignorant is entangled in vishishtha while Jnani is stable in “Samanya”
If I say “Sat-Chit” I know you will immediately think of Brahman and now after our debate and discussions when I say “pot” I am sure you will think of Brahman or just BE
I’m not sure what you are trying to say. If this reply is about the difference between inference and direct perception, for me the difference is in ‘seeing’. There is no ‘seeing’ in inference. It is a mental event. Analysis is not real clarity.
I think in terms of Paroksha and Aparoksha (instead of direct and inference) so I was trying to explain the terms if they could fit anywhere in your thinking.
I understood that is how you are thinking of this as I think in terms of inference and direct perception. Both ways of thinking are merely ways of trying to describe the mental events that appear in Mind. What I was asking you was if you have perceived the nature of mind and thinking which is an experience of non-duality that seems to be an important event for the contemplator. I don’t mean this as realization or liberation from ignorance but as an actuality in your life. To me, this is the step that can lead out of the delusion and out of the dream of existence with proper view and application.
There always IS……..pot bird breath ringinf…nothing.
IS is always there not inferred but IS direct in your term. Pot etc are inferred. There is no involvement of mind in IS
What kind of understanding is IS? Is it not thought, which is the content of mind, that states ‘no involvement in IS’? This is all thinking. Is there anything other than your thinking and cognizing?
Yes Cognizing if you want to use the word but I call it Aparoksha Jnana
Aren’t we just cognizing more thoughts? Everyone is doing this whether they are conscious of it or not. Cognizing is part of the mind’s recognition of its content. The content is always conditioned, always from our accumulation of information. My question, once again, is there anything other than your thinking and cognizing? I see this as a closed circuit operation, processing information according to what we ‘know’ from our experiences. Every perception is ‘colored’ by this. Do you really experience anything other than this? I don’t think so. I am talking about all of us, not just pointing at you. We are only experiencing what we already know. There is nothing outside of this, no ‘other’ that you can cognize, intuit, or whatever you want to name your internal movement. We are chasing a shadow, nothing more.
If you mean Cognizer is Cognizing Itself -and that is all there IS. Then Amen!
Why are you capitalizing cognizer? It is not some special deity, some entity, that is doing this. It is simply thinking about thinking. It is not some kind of religious experience or activity. It is your ordinary mind that is creating all of this, the problem, its identification, and the path that is the solution. It is all imaginary, Vijay. Every insight, attainment, subtle or gross state, is a fabrication of perception and there is nothing apart from this activity that each and every one of us experiences. It is all a deception, created by imagery that you call yours.
OK take the capital C out and also take out you, me & every one and any other thought, dialog. Just ccc…there is!
Why not take the c out, too?
We travelled together so well so far
I will take c out because it is the one without any second or other and does not need an ID.
Now, take the one out. It is another idea that we are attached to.
Yes the word “One” also comes out. But remember we are at a stage now where there is no bringing in or taking out of the one – I just dropped the name one. There is no separate we to attach to either.
So, what is left? Have you discovered anything in a significant way? Or, does the process of projection and interpretation continue?