Topic of the Month – Belief

The topic for Aug 2014 is belief.

People believe all sorts of things. Over time, these may prove to be true but all too frequently are found to be false. Are we ever ‘justified’ in believing? There is clearly some overlap with the Advaitin’s concept of shraddhA, faith, here!

Here is a quote I used in ‘Book of One’: A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses; it is an idea that possesses the mind. Robert Bolton

Please submit your quotes, short extracts or personal blogs on this topic!

7 thoughts on “Topic of the Month – Belief

  1. My 2 cents:

    Humans are model builders; from shortly after birth we are building models of reality based on our interpretation of experience. The models are believed to be true inherently, meaning that the idea that knowing is possible at all is itself a belief that inhabits and informs the model.

    The story of this body/mind living this life on this planet, flying through space in an infinite universe, is a model. There is no inherent truth there. It is an interpretation of experience, not necessarily truth.

    But the story that I am not this body/mind, that there are no objects “out there, and that all that is arises in and as awareness is in fact just another model. There is no inherent certainty of truth there either. It is simply another way of looking and interpreting.

    Non-duality and other spiritual teachers by and large also make an emotional investment in a story. Some state that the Vedic body of work is “divinely inspired revelation and inherently true”. Some state that nothing ever happened and no-one actually exists. Some state that truth lies only in silence.

    In other words, all build models of reality that inform their teaching. Is any of it actually known to be true?

    On inquiry and observation it is clear that there is only one thing that can be actually known to be true, and that is that this awareness, as it is, here, now, IS. Everything else is an embellishment. Everything else is a story.

    However, the great scriptural traditions from all around the world, all of them, share a common theme: the theme of mystery. All say that the true nature of reality is unknown and unknowable. Why not surrender to that mystery and let go of the stories?

    Belief at best might in some cases be a gate key to possibly opening the door to a direct realization of this awareness that is hiding in plain sight right here. As they say, it might be the thorn that removes the thorn. But for most of us most of the time, belief is a mask covering over our direct understanding of our own true nature and needs to be collapsed.

    How many thousands/millions of people have fallen into the belief trap that they can, at some future time, awaken to their true nature, but only if they are ready, diligent, passionate, take courses, find a guru, etc, etc. All of the non-duality seekers I’ve known operate on that model. Is it true?

    So I guess I’d suggest that all beliefs are equally beside the point, that this awareness as it is right now is it. Silence, surrender, abidance, trust. Relax into this present moment.

    A good teacher should be exorcising belief, not building models.


  2. Excellent post, John! Hopefully should trigger some interesting discussion.

    Of course, Advaita doesn’t really disagree with you. Everything that traditional Advaita teachers tell you is only part of the ‘removing thorn’ and is ALL discarded when the truth is realized. (Presumably you don’t deny that there is a ‘reality’, even if we are not able to ‘describe’ it?)

    I don’t really have a very high opinion of belief myself, rating it not much higher than ‘opinion’! What really matters is knowledge, which I understand is defined by Western philosophers as ‘justified, true belief’. The aim of Advaita is to gain Self-knowledge. This has nothing to do with belief. The example of bhAga-tyAga-lakShaNa explains how this works. See

    Best wishes,

  3. Is Jivanmukta a BELIEF?

    Through my shravanam, I have come across two general versions of Jivanmukta.

    A Jivankukta is the one who through bhaaga-tyaaga separates Ahamkara I and Sakshi Chaitanya I from the Satya-anrita -mithunikararana (“I” is a mixture of Ahamkara I and Sakshi Chaitanya I. The two are fused together and are physically inseparable). Jnani, when he says “I am guru or shishya” then he is referring to his ahamkara I. When he says “Aham Brahma Asmi” he is referring (bhaaga) to Sakshi Chaitanya I while dropping (tyaga) ahamkara. He still understands the fact that Ahamkara component of I is still present till the prarabdha exhaustion – he is usually in satvik mode but once in a while when he gets into rajas (gets angry) he tolerates that and there is no meta-reaction or feeling of guilt. Such a Jnani could be Atmarati or Atmakridah – reveling in Self or reveling in the external world performing good deeds –loksangraha.

    Another version of Jivanmukta is as follows: Once the sense of separate self is gone then who is going to know whom? who is going to see/hear whom? One is in a quadrant where mind is absent and only body is active – end of the story. Jivanmukta or whatever one wants to call it. As UG used to say “it is dog’s bark; i dont know why you are glorifying what i am saying is brahmajnana. Even i do not know what i am saying; infact i have no clue who is saying that?”

    Which version of Jivanmukta should I believe? Is “Jivanmukti a BELIEF or a direct experience or What?????

  4. A jIvanmukta still has a body and a mind. How could the body continue to function without a mind? How could a Shankara or a Swami Dayananda continue to teach without a mind?

    I know I have said this once or twice before (!) but, just so it appears here in answer to the question: a jIvanmukta is simply a j~nAnI in whom the knowledge is firm – a j~nAnaniShTha, one whose mind also benefits from peace, steadiness, firmness, etc. These ‘fruits’ are gained as soon as knowledge is gained if the mind was sufficiently prepared beforehand (sAdhana chatuShTAya sampatti). Otherwise, they come with continued dwelling upon the teaching – nididhyAsana.

    You are obviously only able to ‘believe’ this (or not) until such time that you become a jIvanmukta yourself, when you will ‘know’ it. But I suggest that it is eminently reasonable. To talk of manonASha (death of mind) and there no longer being a world for the j~nAnI is clearly not reasonable. And Gaudapada and Shankara say that that which is taught by the scriptures and is corroborated by reason should be accepted, and no other.

    Best wishes,

  5. Dennis,

    I think you have previously accepted that the idea that a jnani needs to have sufficient firmness through SCS to become a jivanmukta does NOT accord with scripture, and is just some ad-libbing by Swamis Paramarthananda and Dayananda. So, to John’s original point (and the point of the K quote I posted), this is just a matter of your belief in them, over what the scriptures say. But it is just a belief either way. The problem with their “methodology” is that they sell the placebo of becoming a jnani (‘I fully understand the import of scriptures’), without really achieving moksha – which is an ideal get-out clause for the ego.

    Hence the need to look in the direction indicated by scriptures and sages, and then discard the concepts, and find out what is true. As the early 20th century Vedantin V S Iyer commented:
    “The fundamental thing is to get a knowledge of truth by your experience and reason. To say that Shankara writes the truth implies that you already know the truth and hence can certify Shankara’s work. Until then you have no right to say whether his work is true”

    We also need to lay to rest this simplistic rhetorical straw man that keeps getting set up by Dayananda and others, questioning how a body could function without a mind. That is a mis-interpretation of Vedanta, which I think you well know. When Vedantins speak of no mind, no thoughts, they are pointing to the absence / destruction of the egoistic “I”-thought as the sine qua non of jnana. Functioning continues in the world, but the level of thought chatter is minimal, and is only there for the functioning to continue, without any sense of I or mine.

    This is clearly the import of Vivekachudami (from the edition by Sri Candrasekhar Bharati, Sankaracharya of Sringeri):

    425: The supreme limit of detachment is the non-springing of vasanas in respect of enjoyable objects. The non-springing of the sense of the ‘I’ (in the things which are the anatman) is the extreme limit of bodha. The non-springing again of the (mental) modifications which have ceased is the extreme limit of uparati.
    527: To the mahatma who is the knower of Brahman, the mind which is the cause of imagination of the unreal, remains silent by reason of his being Brahman (having realised Brahman) in the enjoyment of permanent bliss of non-dual experience.
    Swami Chinmayanada’s comment on this verse: “When the mind which is responsible for the flights of fancy and chaotic emotions walks the path of sadhana and realises the Self, it becomes completely quiet. This quietude of the mind is not because of deep sleep or stupor, but because of the experience of the objectless, unbroken bliss”

    A still mind has consistently been spoken of by Sankaracharyas, traditional teachers like Chinmayananda and VS Iyer, and by sages like Bhagavan Ramana, Sri Atmananda, Nisargadatta and JK. For example:

    Atmananda: By utilising right discrimination and reason to analyse the mind, the mind as such disappears, and you stand in your real nature. The activity of the mind is the only obstacle” (Note 1346 from Spiritual Discourses)

    “Abandon all desires, keep your mind silent and you shall discover’
    “To be quiet and detached, beyond the reach of all self-concern, all selfish consideration, is an inescapable condition of liberation. You may call it death; to me it is living at its most meaningful and intense, for I am one with life in its totality and fullness.” (I am That)

    JK: “Wisdom cannot be bought, it cannot be learned; it comes into being only when the mind is quiet, utterly still – not made still by compulsion, coercion, or discipline. Only when the mind is spontaneously silent is it possible to understand that which is beyond time.”

    Bhagavan: ‘The thought-free Siva, who is Self, the real consciousness, cannot be known by those who have a mind which thinks, but only by the thought free heroes who have a mind which, due to inner consciousness, has entered and abides in the source of thought, their thinking mind having died.” (Guru Vachaka Kovai, vs 1238)

    Perhaps Sw Dayananda’s master, Chinmayananda and the other jnanis mentioned above are all mistaken or charlatans. Or perhaps the latter have realised something in silence, which he hasn’t ?

    Best wishes,


  6. Dennis,

    To follow on, as I know you are a fan of Gaudapada’s Mandukyakarika . . .

    3.32: When the mind does not bring forth any more of these imaginations. because of the knowledge of Truth, which is Atman (Pure Consciousness), then it ceases to be mind, and that mind becomes free from the idea of cognition for want of objects-of-cognition
    Chinmayananda: “Why do we say that self-realisation is the state of non-mindhood? The reason is explained by Gaudapada. He says that the mind can exist and maintain its personality only if there are objects of perception . . . An empty mind is a ‘non-mind’ ; thus in that plane of consciousness, when awareness is perceiving nothing other than awareness, mind cannot exist.”

    3.34: The behaviour of the mind that is under perfect control – which is free from all imaginations – and which is brought about with discrimination should be known. The condition of the mind in deep-sleep state is altogether of another sort and it is not like that (of a perfectly controlled mind).
    Chinmayananda: “We have so far been told that the Supreme Consciousness is a state wherein the mind is not entertaining any object of perception from the outer world and that it is conscious only of itself. The only known experience of this type, to the deluded is the experience of deep sleep where there is no perception of the pluralistic world of the waking or the dream states . . . Suppression of mind is no process to raise it into the perfection of godhood. Mental elimination should come about as a result of intellectual conviction and discrimination.”



  7. Venkat,

    I would love to be able to devote more time to this discussion but I am trying to write a book at present and keep getting diverted! I was hoping some of the others would be joining in.

    I did indeed say that I accepted that the ‘Dayananda view’ on jIvanmukti did not seem obviously to be scripturally supported but I also made it clear I think that it seems eminently reasonable. And I have since found further support from Gaudapada, though most translators seem to miss this. However, that is not the topic here (I willl be convering it to some depth in the book).

    Very briefly, my understanding of manonASha is that it means understanding that the mind is mithyA and it may be figuratively referred to as ‘destruction of the mind’ in the same way that we might refer to ‘destruction of the (rope-)snake’ when we realize that the snake is a rope. Alternatively, we might ‘destroy the pot’ when we realize it is really clay – but still continue to drink out of it. Similarly, we realize the mind is Atman but continue to use for day-to-day transactions in the mithyA world.

    But, again, it seems that this is an attempt to continue an earlier discussion rather than move forward onto this month’s topic!

    Best wishes,

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