I know of being and non-being, (Trans. from Spanish)
know of eternity and time –
that my place is at the center,
though there is no time and no center.
Neither between heaven and earth,
for earth and heaven are not –
nor East or West,
neither South or North.
Not needing a refuge for rest,
for my home is everywhere.
Not wanting a place to go,
for the world is all my own.
There is no mixed darkness and light,
for there is nothing but light.
I Know that nothingness is not,
for other than Being all’s naught.
ENERGÍA…………………………ENERGY – Prana
Yo soy montaña y soy mar. I’m tall mountain, wide sea;
Soy del río la corriente,………… Of the river I’m the current,
soy el correr de la fuente,……… The flowing of all the springs
del raudo viento el bramar……… And of a gale I’m the howling.
Soy el mar embravecido………… The turbulent ocean too
y soy tormenta rugiente,………… And also the raging storm.
soy caudaloso torrente………… I am a torrent unwieldy
y fuerza del vendaval………….. And of wind the blowing force.
Torbellino, rayo, trueno, Whirlwind, thunder and bolt,
relámpago y terremoto, Of fire the conflagration.
La conflagración del fuego,
el ojo del huracán. Lightning, earthquake – that am I;The eye of the hurricane.
Yo soy del águila el vuelo,…… Of eagle I am the flight,
y del león el rugido,…………… And of a lion the roar;
de las estrellas el giro………… Of the starry sky the gyre
y brillo del disco solar………… And brightness of the solar orb.
Soy yo Mercurio y soy Marte; I am Mercury and Mars;
Dionisio, Apolo y Teseo; Dionysius, Apollo, Theseus;
soy de Cupido el deseo. Of Cupid the lusty love…
Yo soy eso y aún soy más. I’m that and e’en more than that.
Beautiful and meaningful poems from someone who has achieved maturity in Self-Knowledge and ripened in experiential understanding.
Thank you, Martin.
Martin, there is a beautiful dialogue between JK and Sw Venkatesananda, an extract of which follows:
K: Thou art that. I am that. What does that mean? One can say, ‘I am the river’. That river that has got tremendous volume behind it of water, moving, restless, pushing on and on and on and on and on, through many countries and so on. I can say, ‘I am that river’. That would be equally valid as, ‘I am Brahman’.
K: Why do we say, ‘I am that’ and not the river, or the poor man, or the man that has no capacity, no intelligence, dull, this dullness brought about by heredity, by poverty, by degradation, and all that! Why don’t we say, ‘I am that also’? Why do we always attach ourselves to something which we suppose to be the highest?
K: Unconditioned, yes.
SV: So, since there is in us this urge to break all conditioning, we look for the unconditioned.
K: I know. Can a conditioned mind, can a mind that is small, petty, narrow, living on superficial entertainments, can that know or conceive, or understand, or feel, or observe the unconditioned?
SV: No. But it can uncondition itself.
K: That is all it can do.
K: Not say, ‘There is the unconditioned, I am going to think about it’, or ‘I am that’. My point is, if I may point out, why is it that we always associate ourselves with what we think is the highest, and not what we think the lowest?
I think it is obvious – we can at least surmise – that Sw. Venkatesananda knew well what JK was saying, but was humble enough to let the latter speak. JK adopted the role of teacher, and, in my opinion, was rather repetitive at that (a mono-theme), also giving the impression that there had never been someone (teacher, philosopher, religionist – he deprecated them all) that saw what he saw, discovered what he discovered – which is preposterous. Well, he did have a role!… mostly for Americans and Europeans, eager for something new.
Thanks for the quote of JK and SV conversation.
It just teases us and does not seem to take us to the logical end.
Did the conversation end there between them? If not will you post the remaining part so that we can know how it developed further (or give a link if it’s available on the net)?
Why I am curious to read further is because I would like to know if the ‘issue’ of sAdhana was brought up by the traditionalist, SV, or he was just happy with the direct pointing by JK.
Also, there is another important aspect we have to bear in mind regarding a poem like the one posted by Martin. Is it a spontaneous expression of the unbounded and indefinable joy one is revelling in or it is offered as a crutch for contemplative sAdhana aimed at softening the density of the self-imposed walls of the imagined finiteness (conditioning).
As you may already be knowing, there are well-known weighty psychological and physiological considerations in asking one to contemplate on Infinity rather than finity.
The extract is from the start of this second affectionate dialogue between the two.
Thanks again, Venkat for the link.
I heard the conversation which takes off with SV citing the mahAvAkyas and JK amplifying on the important point of dropping all the “known” (the conditionings) in order to let whatever that remains to shine by itself effortlessly. JK was emphasizing that it is not accumulating more “knowledge” in order to be boundless. It is rather about breaking and giving up all shackles – even the shackles of “memorized” knowledge acquired.
So I still tend to think that if one does not make an “ideal” of what is described in the two poems as something to be acquired and hoarded but as an “expression of joy,” it makes good sense.
I trust that that was your point too.
I have to disagree with Martin’s assessment of JK. JK, unlike any other teacher I have come across, whether traditional or Neo-advaitin, was concerned about not just freeing the individual from the self-image for their ‘own’ good, but also because of the corruption, evil and sorrow he saw around the world, arising as a result of the relationship between conditioned self-images. Most, when the sorrow of the world is pointed out, simply slip into a set of superior, superficial response set essentially saying non-duality hasn’t been understood; there is nothing wrong except that the mind that thinks so.
JK – in pointing out that we always seek to attach ourselves to the highest, to some romantic imagery, and not attach ourselves to the poverty, the degradation – is a stark reminder that expressions of non-dual joy, actually are not that non-dual!
All of JK’s talks had the under-current of the sorrow inherent in the world – and the importance of getting rid of the self-image. Nisargadatta showed flashes of this; but he essentially was disinterested in the world.
VS Iyer hit the nail on the head, when he wrote:
“Non-duality does not mean the non-existence of a second thing, but its not-existence as other than yourself. The mind must know it is of the same substance as the objects . . .
The goal of Vedanta is to see the other man’s sufferings as your own. Because in dream all the scenes and all the people are made of the same essence as yourself, they are as real as you are. Do not treat other people as mere ideas but your own self as real. If they are ideas, so are you. If you are real, so are they. Hence you must feel for them all just what you feel for yourself.”
The last couple of sentences, as a logically inevitable conclusion of Advaita, is something that most of the so-called teachers have not grasped.
Is there any teaching available from any of the great teachers of Advaita – Krishna to Krishnamurti; Rama to Ramana; Valmiki to VS Iyer – that guarantees my mind will always get dreams which are populated only by creatures that are free of fear, suffering, sorrow and squalor?
The world is it is, and we have made the world. I have never asked for a teaching that guarantees your straw man, and the escapism you seem to think I am seeking.
I have however been sceptical about the hubris of so many so called enlightened teachers and their eager self-absorbed seekers, who are looking for the next self-help manual to make them happier. Let’s be clear. Human beings through their vanity and selfishness, have created this world, which JK as early as the 70s and 80s was warning us was degenerating. Let’s just dispel the illusions that our societies have created and see clearly how we live.
We have to face the world as it is, and our responsibility for creating it. Nishkamya karma, if it teaches us anything, is to act without selfish desire. Is that so hard to understand? Or does one blindly pursue the self-absorbed escapism offered by the multitude of Spira’s and Swartz’s et al, who say they offer the ultimate truth, whilst also enabling them and their seekers to hold vyavaharic worldly pursuits? Funnily enough both seem to have started a family business in their teaching efforts – clearly this vedanta lark is a good consumer franchise for the astute entrepreneurial westerner. And I’ve come across one entrepreneurial Indian Swami who teaches vedanta on corporate courses!
We want to pursue liberation and poetic majesty for ourselves, whilst turning a conveniently blind eye to the squalor etc which is also us. It is like the Chinmaya mission last year when floods were hitting the US and Bangladesh simultaneously, though of course the latter was far worse; the Mission demonstrated its Uncle Tom credentials by sending its heartfelt condolences to the people hit in the US, and not a word for the Bangladeshis. The hypocrisy of self-acclaimed non-dualists is truly stunning.
Lets leave aside JK. NIsargadatta did not hide from the sorrow of the world. His words:
“A man who knows that he is neither body nor mind cannot be selfish, for he has nothing to be selfish for. Or you may say he is equally “selfish” on behalf of everybody he meets; everybody’s welfare is his own. The feeling “I am the world, the world is myself” becomes quite natural; once it is established, there is just no way of being selfish. To be selfish means to covet, acquire, accumulate on behalf of the part against the whole . . . When the centre of selfishness is no longer, all desires for pleasure and fear of pain cease; one is no longer interested in being happy; beyond happiness there is pure intensity, inexhaustible energy, the ecstasy of giving from a perennial source.”
“All devotion, liking and love is dissolved for a jnani, but whatever he does is for others”
Or Ramana: V.S. Iyer did not believe Ramana was a jnani, because he did not take any interest in his ashram or the world. But he was mistaken in this assessment, because Ramana treated his own body-mind no differently from the rest of the world. He had no interest in his body or personal welfare; he had literally given up everything. What residual self-interest was there? And take his Guru Vachaka Kovai:
v.809: “By giving alms to Lord Vishnu, Mahabali became great even though he was pressed and sent to Patala Loka. Therefore, ‘though it is only a ruin that befalls one by giving, it is worth to give even at the cost of selling oneself.'”
Muruganar’s comment: There is truly nothing in the world which can be bartered for oneself. Though it is so, if it is for the sale of giving, even that [selling oneself] should be done. Thus giving is so much glorified. The loss that is incurred by giving is not at all a loss. ‘The world will not consider it to to be a ruin if a person falls in life by giving to others’ says v117 of Tirukkural
I don’t believe Advaita is about sticking one’s ostrich head into some dream sand and refusing to see the sorrow around us. Most of us do that already in our worldly lives, ignorant of the poverty and degradation around us – we don’t need Advaita to reinforce that. That is why this paramarthika and vyavaharika distinction is so much self-serving nonsense, pandering to a European and Indian, well-off middle class.
As Vivekananda wrote:
No religion on earth preaches the dignity of humanity in such a lofty strain as Hinduism, and no religion on earth treads upon the necks of the poor and low in such as fashion as Hinduism. The Lord has shown me that religion is not at fault, but it is the Pharisees and the Sadducees in Hinduism, hypocrites, who invent all sort of engines of tyranny in the shape of doctrines of Paramathika and Vyavaharika.
Let me at the outset make very clear two things:
1. I am under no illusion that I can answer you satisfactorily, let alone convince you, on a point that is close to your heart – we have perhaps talked about it in earlier times too.
2. I do not disagree with you on the importance of the problem. Also I do not mean to lessen or bypass the issue.
But at the same time, if you recall, I requested you to make a separate Post on the subject so that we could look at it from different angles, in the background light of the Advaita teaching. For some reason, we seem to discuss it on the margins of some other issue. As a result, often the focus and the attention that it deserves gets diluted, the topic being not up in front and center.
My reference to the dream world is not an innuendo. I was trying to draw your attention to something you seem to either ignore or interpret from a POV that is not the realm of Advaita.
As you know, the Advaita teaching is not about changing the world or bringing about social reformation. It is also not about self-improvement. Advaita is not a group activity nor does it come up with “must follow” injunctions. It is out and out a method of inquiry to find the absolute reality that is immutable, immanent, infinite, indivisible and independent, if such a thing at all is there. Necessary investigative techniques and methodologies towards that end are offered by the Advaitic texts. The teaching is offered at an individual level for one who is yearning to discover the truth for himself/herself.
Yes, the seeker who does really find out the truth experientially (not as an objective experience but as an immediated intuitive experience) may work for the overall benefit of the society, as BG III-20 says. But that is neither the ultimate goal nor a compulsory obligation.
Sage Vasishta mentions that the “suffering” is as though engineered into the lives of people so that it may work as a “self-destruction” chip in a rocket that is off its trajectory. In the humans the suffering is supposed to trigger an activity that is conducive to self-introspection and the subsequent destruction of the arrogant “Me-only” ego that is building up its sinews shamelessly.
Advaita posits that the world viewed by an individual is his/her mental image only. It is not one world seen by over 7 billion people; it’s more like 7 billion worlds witnessed by one single sentience. Modern Neuroscience confirms such a view.
Advaita comes up with a little helpful model to a seeker who likes to transcend the sight of a suffering world that s/he perceives. If a person sees suffering, it’s like fancying the growth of a third hand on his back or believing that there is a pink elephant below his bed. No sword can hack the imaginary hand nor any crane can lift and throw out the pink elephant. The person must have to see the truth for himself.
If any Advaita teacher suggests mass-activity or social reformation, that may be out of his own interests of aggrandizement or a misunderstanding of the priorities set by Advaita in an individual’s Self-inquiry.
I think both Ramana and Nisargadatta too stressed the point that one must understand himself/herself first, before talking about helping others. They even said that finding the truth for oneself is the best help anyone can give others.
If one has a burning interest in social service, Advaita is, perchance, not the appropriate path.
You have misunderstood me – I was not actually making an argument for social service, or reformation of the world. For a start, I have no illusions that this is possible; or sustainable – it all comes and goes in a cycle. I was simply reacting to the idea of the middle class satsang crowd going off in expressions of personal bliss in the belief that they have been enlightened, oblivious to all else. How many have truly grasped: “If they are ideas, so are you. If you are real, so are they.”?
I was watching a discussion between Prof Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg (of the Pentagon Papers). Part of their talk ventured onto the Manhattan Project – how a collection of the best and brightest of scientists of their time, and all individually decent and humane, collaborated to build the nuclear bomb. They made the observation that there is something about our minds that thrills at the opportunity to solve a technical challenge, within a narrow frame of reference; and the focus is such that they cannot see the bigger picture, the implications of what they are doing. I would add that it also reflects a tendency of our minds towards herd behaviour.
Similar psychological experiments have consistently shown that humans follow authority figures; so when they are told to administer an electric shock, most will obey.
Ramesam, we have so many illusions to free our minds from – not just to gain the intellectual knowledge of the paramathika satyam from Advaita scriptures. Freedom from bondage surely if it is worth anything, must be the shedding of every conditioning and illusion. To be alone, to think for yourself, to be unconditionally free.
I absolutely agree with you – before you can help anyone, you must be free yourself. And that is the greatest help one can give – harmlessness, peace – or as Nisargadatta put it “nothing profits the world as much as the abandoning of profits”
We have lost the ability to think critically for ourselves. That is why Ramana’s self-investigation and the Socratic dictum “the unexamined life is not worth living” can be the only path in a pathless land. It is just too silly to believe that liberation is to be gained through going on a 1 week retreat or a 3 year vedanta course. Clearly V S Iyer and Vivekananda also grasped this.
SSSS quotes Sankara’s commentary on Brhad 3.5.1:
“[The Brahmins of ancient times] rose above all ends and means characterised here as ‘desires’ and lived as mendicants. And they abandoned all actions as a means either for ends in this life or lives to come. Therefore, even today, a Brahmin, one who is to get knowledge of the Absolute, first masters this indirect knowledge of the Self called learning. Then through the help of the Teacher and the traditional teaching he rises above desires. Indeed this ‘learning’ in its true form consists in rising above desires . . .
Therefore, having risen above desires, he should strive to stand based on the strength of direct knowledge of the Self . . .
‘Strength’ here refers to the total elimination of vision of objects . . .
Then he becomes a silent contemplative sage (muni) . . .
Sagehood is the culminating point and final result of elimination of all notion of the not-self. When this has been achieved the Brahmin has done all that needs to be done.”
Do the Spiras and Swartz’s teach the elimination of desires, or a variant of here is the paramarthika satyam, now do as you please in vyavaharika world (admittedly they are probably silent on the last part)? Clearly it is a far easier sell into western ‘fast’ consumerism culture that pervades the world now, to say go on a retreat, learn scriptures, and voila you will have jnana. Interesting that the four-fold disciplines no longer seem to be a prerequisite for jnana according to what I understand from the Dayananda followers.
Finally from Krishnaswamy Iyer’s “The Science of Reality”, a passage practically mirroring Sankara above:
“Release therefore must occur only in waking when alone knowledge is possible. Then we realise our self by acts of self-denial and self-sacrifice. The life of the released one is full of bliss arising from a consciousness of the higher Reality which manifests itself as the sphere of acts and thoughts in which he realises it . . . the Pure Consciousness, disclosed by sleep, has to be realised in waking as our true nature and RECOGNISED IN EVERY ACT and thought of waking. Knowledge aims at purifying the will by disinterested acts and complete conquest of the lower self.
The ego is overcome in every act of unselfish discharge of duty and service. The words of Jesus ‘Take up thy cross and follow me’ can bear no other comment. The words mean engage in acts of self-denial regardless of temporal considerations and with me, the Highest reality, as your guide and goal.
The fate of the physical body is indifferent to the enlightened for he has accomplished the purpose of his embodiment.”
Later he writes:
“The sense of divine identity must necessarily mean the breaking to pieces of the outer shell of individuality. the annihilation of all attachment and the extinction of selfish appetites or desires . . .he has no joys or pains of his own apart from those of society. Knowledge of truth imposes moral and spiritual obligations as a matter of inevitable necessity from which there can be no escape or desire to escape. Spiritual truths admit of no display or advertisement. Spiritual conviction requires no demonstration, no theatrical show. Spiritual struggle is in the inner life and the most powerful organisations hardly affect it. True courage of the soul is rarely seen except in voluntary acceptance of privations and poverty, in acts of self-denial and mercy” [This really wouldn’t sell well into the middle class satsang seekers would it?]
As Vivekanda railed, and as the writing of Ramana, Nisargadatta and JK confirm, there are no separate realms of paramarthika understanding and vyavaharika actions here. The understanding reflects the actions and the actions reflect the understanding.
“Understanding reflects actions and actions reflect understanding”
In context of subsequent posts, I think that there is a need to clarify this. Perhaps it would have been better to have written:
‘understanding reflects non-action, and non-action reflects understanding’.
It is incontrovertible that Sankara said that knowledge was the only means to liberation, the removal of ignorance; and that action had no role to play. However unlike some of the modern ‘traditional’ interpretations, he was more extreme and non-compromising. In saying that action had no role to play, he went further to actually advise the renunciation of all action, to live as a mendicant. Whilst he acknowledged that there were some householders, like Yajnavalkya, who may have attained liberation without being a renunciate, he felt that this was the exception rather than the rule.
So we have Krishna advising Arjuna, an immature seeker, that he was not in a position to renounce all action, and instead advised naishkama karma – desireless action. And then Sankara emphatically advising the mature aspirant that the understanding of tat twam asi, could only be assimilated by one who had given up desires, and therefore given up actions. Hence his injunction (yes injunction!) to give up all desires and consequential actions. (Some quotes are given in the above comments, but there are plenty more in Sankara’s writings).
Sankara also made clear that with liberation the ego, the feeling of “me” and “mine”, have entirely dissolved, and that there is no more that needs to be achieved, and therefore no action that can be performed . . . unless it is for the good of others.
For Sankara, there was no paramarthika understanding at the ultimate level, and the continuing of vyavaharika actions at the empirical level. There was just truth, and its inevitable reflection in living. And if you need an example of such truth in action, you need look no further than Ramana Maharishi, who lived the life of the jivanmukta that Sankara described. It is not for nothing that Sw Chinmayanada described him as the cream of the upanishads.
So be clear that those ‘acharyas’ who would teach you ‘traditional’ Advaita, and say that Sankara only prescribed knowledge, and that no sadhana, no renunciation of desires or action is necessary to become a jnani, are merely selling a form of snake oil. At best they have been misled and believe themselves to be jnanis, at worst they are frauds who want to build commercial enterprises. Probably a bit of both.
One either sees everything as an illusion, and has no reason to act; or one sees everything as the Self and therefore acts only for the benefit of ‘everything’ (and not for one’s own personal desires, security etc).
You mention that Sankara viewed the awakened householder, Yajnavalkya, as an exception to the rule that you must be a renunciate to attain liberation. If this was really a rule, it would be impossible for Yajnavalkya or any other person who was not a renunciate to liberate. This is the simplest of logical statements one could make. If one was feeling a bit antagonistic, one could call Sankara a hypocrite, but that is not my intention.
Throughout history, in many traditions, there have appeared liberated beings who were not renunciates. We have to keep in mind that in Sankara’s time, the archtype of the renunciate loomed large over the whole religious landscape and had been like this for a couple of thousand years prior to Sankara. The image of the renunciate was always pointed to as ‘the goal’ by the existing powers. Yet, we have the ‘reality’ of the householder throughout history, to offset this image but it is still relegated to a ‘lesser’ position even today. To me, this is just a conditioned response to images that have been in place for thousands of years and have no ‘authority’ save for those who preach this. Ramana himself was no renunciate when he had his ‘death experience’.
It seems that the word and the image, renunciation, comes to us in a backwards way, meaning that we put an action in front of us and believe that it will lead us to liberation. Yet, all examples of liberation show renunciation as a kind of natural response after the fact! No experience holds after that. No form of action is identified with after that. The personal identification is gone. There is no longer something to accomplish.
I believe Sankara was mistaken in this way as I also think the Buddha may have been mistaken in creating a monastic order. It may have seemed logical or a good idea, but you can see what it has created in its aftermath. It is also possible that the original words and intent of these people have been lost through the centuries of interpretation and adaptation, but we can still see examples of the ordinary person becoming an extraordinary person. I’ll leave it like this.
I think you misunderstand why and what Sankara meant by renunciation. He comes from the perspective that any worldly action is likely to be tied up in a sense of “me” and “mine”.
Here is what a modern sage, a householder, Nisargadatta, had to say on the subject:
“Abandon all self-concern, worry not about your welfare, material or spiritual. Abandon any desire, gross or subtle, stop thinking of achievement of any kind. You are complete here and now, you need absolutely nothing. It does not mean that you must be brainless and foolhardy, improvident or indifferent; only the basic anxiety for oneself must go. You need some food, clothing and shelter for you and yours, but this will not create problems as long as greed it not taken for a need.”
“When there is total surrender, complete relinquishment of all concern with one’s past, present and future, with one’s physical and spiritual security and standing, life dawns full of love and beauty; then the guru is not important for the disciple has broken the shell of self-defence. Complete self-surrender by itself is liberation.”
“Discrimination will lead to detachment; detachment will ensure right action; right action will build the inner bridge to your real being. Action is a proof of earnestness. A day comes when you have amassed enough and must begin to build. Then sorting out and discarding (viveka-vairagya) are absolutely necessary. Everything must be scrutinised and the unnecessary ruthlessly destroyed. Believe me there cannot be too much destruction. For in reality nothing is of value. Be passionately dispassionate that is all.”
“The desire to find the self will be surely fulfilled, provided you want nothing else. But you must be honest with yourself and really want nothing else. If in the meantime you want many other things and are engaged in their pursuit, your main purpose may be delayed until you grow wiser and cease being torn between contradictory urges. Go within, without swerving, without ever looking outward.
Whatever work you have undertaken – complete it. Do not take up new tasks, unless it is called for by a concrete situation of suffering and relief from suffering. Find yourself first and endless blessings will follow. Nothing profits the world as much as the abandoning of profits. A man who’s no longer thinking in terms of winning and losing is truly a non-violent man, for he is beyond all conflict.”
`’In matters of daily life, the knower of the real has no advantage; he may be at a disadvantage rather – being freed from greed and fear he does not protect himself. The very idea of profit is foreign to him; he abhors accretions; his life is constant divesting oneself, sharing, giving. Give up all and you gain all. Then life becomes what it is meant to be: pure radiation from an inexhaustible source.`’
In the religious traditions, renunciation is usually associated with ‘going forth’, the homeless or monastic way of life. You mention this in your description of what Sankara said about living the life of a mendicant as ‘the correct way’, in his opinion, and Yajnavalkya being the exception to this rule.
It seems to me that this action, of going forth, is thought to be that path that leads to liberation. I take objection to this and show many householders who have ‘liberated’ without living the life of a mendicant.
Of course, I agree with his description of what renunciation really is, but I do not agree with the specialized action of either monasticism or homelessness as a necessary step to liberation. This is implied in his statements and is a cultural artifact, imo. All paths are fabricated and supported by words.
I don’t want to comment on ‘how to renounce or what to do to become liberated’ by quoting others. This is only more belief piled on top of the already illusory self who thinks in terms of time and being the center of experience.