VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem by D. Venugopal
Part 21 is a brillantly clear exposition of dRRig-dRRiShya- viveka – the discrimination between subject and object, in order to realize my true nature as Consciousness.
There is a complete Contents List, to which links are added as each new part appears.
This is a good introduction to Vedanta, written by a chap who, I think, did the two year course with Paramarthananda and Dayananda. In fact both give their blessings at the front of this book. This school seems to have been very successful in evangelising their Vedanta teachings in the both India and the West.
They style themselves as belonging to a traditional sampradaya, based on the lineage of Sankaracharya. Though strictly speaking the only authentic traditional lineage are the mutts that Sankaracharya himself established, of which Sringeri is the most renowned. And there are a number of areas where Dayananda’s teaching is at variance with the Sringeri acharayas.
For a start, Dayananda emphasises scriptural study as the route to self-knowledge, as I think you do as well, in your post which interpreted atma vichara as meaning an enquiry into the scriptures to understand what the atma is. Hence I presume why this school differentiates between being a jnani (having the scriptural knowledge) and being a jivanmukta – which Sringeri, or for that matter one of their own founding lights – Swami Chinmayananda – certainly does not do. And I have yet to see any scriptural validation for this assertion.
Indeed this book itself has a section which follows the Dayananda line that self enquiry, self abidance, investigating “who am I”, cannot be a means to knowledge. I do find myself bemused at the fact that despite this dismissal, Paramarthananda, Sadananda and co don’t hesitate to give ‘authoritative’ expositions on Ramana’s Sat Darshanam, etc.
To be clear, I don’t have a problem with them disagreeing with Ramana’s teaching – free discussion / discrimination to unravel truth from untruth is clearly the foundation of Vedanta. And I hope that we use this website to have those vigorous debates.
But to (mis-)interpret Ramana’s teaching to fit theirs, essentially saying that his followers (even presumably the ones who were actually with him most of their lives!) didn’t understand his teaching properly, seems to me to lack any intellectual integrity. I can only surmise they do so either because they have not delved sufficiently into Ramana’s teaching or because they realise he is widely respected and so attacking his teaching directly may not win them ‘market share’. Whichever the interpretation, it does imply that they are not necessarily a wholly reliable source.
It is important to note that Advaita Vedanta houses a broad set of beliefs, based on different interpretations of what Sankara wrote. So read this book, but also read Sankara’s commentaries on Mandukyakarika, Brihadaranyaka and Bhagavad Gita directly; and read his Upadesha Sahasri and Vivekachudamani (especially the one with the commentary by Sri Candraskhara Bharati of Sringeri). And figure this out for yourself, because as Krishnamurti always challenged – how do you know what they say is true? Moksha is too important simply to rely on someone else’s hearsay.
Swami Chinmayanada, in his commentary on Ashtavakra Gita 9.5 and 9.6 had this to say:
“When an intelligent student reads the various viewpoints, he must necessarily come to the conclusion that by words and arguments Truth can never be finally ascertained . . . True seekers, after some amount of study and discussion must turn indifferent to mere learning and should strive their best to cultivate and experience the tranquility of the Self in themselves.”
“The qualification of a teacher is not his great knowledge of the Vedik content. Knowledge of the scriptures is, no doubt, an added beauty in a spiritual teacher. But the essential quality of a teacher is his own inner awakening, accomplished by the three means – of indifference, of equanimity and of logical reasoning. According to Astavakra, the direct experience of the Self, is the most valid qualification for a teacher.”
The key point has to be that scriptures have been the foundation of successful teaching for several thousand years. It makes sense to continue to use them, even though one might aim to revamp them in terms more suitable for our times. In the end, ALL teaching has to be acknowledged as mithyA; it is only a means to the end of realizing the truth FOR ONESELF.
By all means read Ramana and Nisargadatta. I have, and found some truly valuable material there. But there is no system in either. You encounter these nuggets of truth but there is no seam to follow, contrary to traditional teaching where there are well-trodded prakrIya-s which work for most people.
Because scriptures are usually terse, often metaphorical or allegorical, alien to modern culture, and written in Sanskrit, there are bound to be divergent interpretations. It was fascinating to see this in fine detail when I was composing my commentary on Gaudapada’s kArikA-s and referencing dozens of views. Swami Dayananda and his disciples provide a consistent, modern, understandable, systematic unfoldment of Advaita that works. Don’t knock it!
You might also find the Q&A I just posted relevant – https://www.advaita-vision.org/q-377-desire-and-suffering/
I’m reminded of the story about a man searching at night for his keys under a streetlamp. When a passerby asked if had lost his keys under the lamp, he replied no, but it was dark over there, where he had lost it, and that it was light here.
With best wishes
Yes, it’s a good story but I’m not sure what point you are making. Are you agreeing with what I said or disagreeing? In terms of the story, I am suggesting that people who follow traditional Advaita will eventually find the key, whereas those who do not will end up looking in most unlikely places and not get any sleep at all…
I’m afraid I am disagreeing. I don’t regard Dayananda & co as the authority on traditional vedanta.
If you recall you once suggested that many of the regular participants, including Sri Sastri, on the advaita yahoo grouping were probably jnanis. Sri Sastri disagreed – he said words to the effect that they were scholars rather than jnanis.
Even V.S.Iyer, who took a most philosophical approach to Vedanta said (in perfect accordance with my original Chinmayananda quote):
“Discussion and learning about truth are not useless although they cannot yield finality, because they are riddled with duality, drsyam, ie contradiction. The best explanation is silence. To understand an idea means having a duality, ie a knower and a known, drik and drsyam. To rise to a higher level, Brahman, there is no question of understanding for there is no duality there. So long as we speak or write we can never leave duality; hence the only genuine expression of Truth is perfect silence.”
Vasistha, Astavakra, Sankara, Chinmayananda, Nisargadatta, Atmananda, Krishnamurti, Ramana all talk about this silence, this emptying of the mind, and scriptures as pointers that have to be left behind. If you read the description of a jnani that Krishna gave to Arjuna in Bhagavad Gita chapter 2, Ramana fits it to a tee. So, for me, at one end you have these stalwarts, and at the other the compromised intellectual integrity (as I noted originally) of Dayananda’s disciples.
There may be some street light that is shone by their ‘systematic unfolding’, but that is probably not where the keys are.
PS Ramana had a very simple, systematic, logical teaching – he just didn’t need to use a lot of superfluous speech to convey it.
Dennis, I inadvertently omitted Ramakrishna from my list:
-“Sacred books only point the way to God. Once you know the way, what is the use of books?”
-“Only two kinds of people can attain self-knowledge: those who are not encumbered at all with learning, that is to say, whose minds are not over-crowded with thoughts borrowed from others; and those who, after studying all the scriptures and sciences, have come to realise that they know nothing”
-“If a man knows his own self, he knows other beings and God. What is my ego? Ponder deeply, and you will know that there is no such thing as ‘I’. As you peel off the skin of an onion, you find it consists only of skin you cannot find any kernel in it. So too on analysing the ego, you will find that there is no real entity that you can call ‘I’. Such an analysis of the ego convinces one that the ultimate substance is God alone. When egotism drops away, Divinity manifests itself.”
“From our childhood upward we have been taught only to pay attention to things external, but never to things internal; hence most of us have nearly lost the faculty of observing the internal mechanism. To turn the mind, as it were, inside, stop it from going outside, and then to concentrate all its powers and throw them upon the mind itself, in order that it may know its own nature, analyse itself, is very hard work. Yet that is the only way to anything which will be a scientific approach to the subject”
Sounds remarkably like Ramana’s self-enquiry?
As I said, they all have gems of wisdom but only traditional, sampradAya communicated unfoldment has the systematic education (e-ducere – to lead out). As I have noted before in reference to Dakshinamurthi, no one can teach through silence. And I fully accept that, once you have assimilated this teaching and it has led you to realize the truth, you then no longer need any of it, irrespective of its source (unless you choose to help others to that realization also.)
I think the problem is possibly that many seekers are unwilling to commit to the long, step by step trek along a proven path. They prefer instead to jump about all over the place, from one interesting viewpoint to another, in the doomed hope that they might quickly reach their presumed destination.
It’s interesting to me that every modern (20th c.) person quoted by many of the posters here and considered ‘Realized’, never followed a proven path that led them to Truth. Even Nisargadatta, who followed his guru’s instruction about getting to the bottom of ‘I Am’, did not follow a path so detailed and analyzed like Vedanta. They all dropped the search, the concepts, the sense of I/Me, The Path, for what is always present. Nothing can prepare you for this until you see the impossibility of the mind and all of its content to lead you anywhere but to more of the same. This is the critical point. A sacrifice is made, not of a goat. 🙂
Shri Venugopal, the author of the book, points out that ‘sampradAya’ should be understood as ‘following the commentary of Shankaracharya on the various texts’. In this sense, Swami Dayananda and his disciples are certainly sampradAya teachers.
I think you’d agree that given our minds are so conditioned and confused, finding a true teacher is critical to guide us appropriately. And very difficult ex ante, for our confused minds to discern who indeed is a true jnani.
I just listened to a couple of Paramarthananda audios on Sad Darshanam. He makes clear that he has only read the Sanskrit version translated by Ganapati Muni, and not the original Ulladu Narpadu, or indeed any of his other writings, such as Ramana’s first written essay “Who am I?’; and yet he holds himself out as an expert on Ramana, and calls his disciples “cultists” – which must cover the old ones that were actually with him when Ramana was alive.
So, the point I am making is this. These fellows are at best intellectually erroneous, or at worst intellectually disingenuous / dishonest, in selectively quoting and claiming Ramana as their own. This is presumably being done to capitalise on Ramana’s renown, for their own marketing advancement.
This being the case, how can their interpretation / formulation of Truth – and of Sankara’s teaching – be relied upon?
(Further compounded by the fact that they also diverge from the traditional Sankaracharyas of Sringeri in important respects).
I’m afraid that under this streetlamp, no keys will be found.
You quote voluminously from Ramana and Nisargadatta. How much have you actually studied of Swamis Dayananda or Paramarthananda? I suggest you read, for example, Swami D’s commentary on Mundaka Upanishad or his 108 verses from Vivekachudamani (since that is, I believe, a favorite of yours), and maybe listen to Swami P’s commentary on Mandukya Upanishad.
When you have done that, THEN come back and make suitable, informed comments on the value of their teaching.
Thanks, I don’t just quote Ramana and Nisargadatta. That comment is not worthy of you. And misses the point.
For the record, I have got and read Dayananda’s Vivekachudamani, and his 9 vol Bhagavad Gita, and have listened to Paramarthananda’s commentary on Mandukya, and read his commentary on Katha. I have also read Upadesha Sahasri, Mandukya Karika by both Nikhilananda and Chinmayananda, Brahman Sutras, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Suresvara’s Naiskarmya Siddhi, and Pancadasi.
I am talking about integrity, which as far as Ramana is concerned, they seem to lack. You don’t seem to be disputing the facts that have led me to this conclusion?
This dissembling can presumably only be because they are trying to capture market share – you can’t both be dismissive of Ramana’s “who am I” and extol him as a great acharya for Sad Darshanam – provided of course it is read under the right interpretation of you know who. In this context, are their interpretations ones that you would want to rely on?
Ironically, Sadananda was arguing to ban Wendy Doninger’s book on Hinduism because it was poor on scholarship and disrespectful to Hinduism. Not only ironic, but instructive in the inability to engage in critical debate and the desire to exercise authoritarian censorship by those who know better than the masses.
I’m sorry Dennis to be critical, but I don’t believe this is how an Acharya – let alone a jnani – would behave, or convey truth.
My sincere apologies if I appeared to malign you. Having read most of the material to which you refer, I just find it incredible that you do not recognize Swamis D and P for the great teachers they are. They render difficult scriptures intelligible. They present Self-knowledge according to Shankara, referring always to the original text and Shankara’s bhAshya and never to their own experience. They praise other teachers such as Ramana where their writings tally with scriptures and Shankara and they try to rationalize and excuse where it doesn’t. At least that is my experience. They rightly criticize some modern teachers, such as those who claim lineage with Ramana yet whose writings demonstrate lack of understanding of the truth.
You say “You don’t seem to be disputing the facts that have led me to this conclusion”. If you want to pursue this, can you quote actual material and sources, since I am not aware of any ‘facts’ at all which support your assertions.
You say: “These fellows are at best intellectually erroneous, or at worst intellectually disingenuous / dishonest, in selectively quoting and claiming Ramana as their own. This is presumably being done to capitalise on Ramana’s renown, for their own marketing advancement.”
Surely anyone quoting form another writer necessarily does so ‘selectively’. They could not quote the entire work, could they? They choose something that supports the point they are making. And the suggestion that that are trying to ‘capitalize’ on Ramana does not make sense if, as you say, they denigrate his teaching. And the only ‘marketing’ I have seen from AVG, apart from announcements of new books to those who are interested, have been messages from Swami D trying to drum up donations for the charity he founded – AIM for SEVA – which tries to provide education to underprivileged children in India. Is this to be condemned?
The book that is being serialised “Vedanta – The Solution” has a section critiquing “who am I” as a route to realisation. That is fine – I can understand that if you believe that scriptural knowledge is the only way to truth, why you would hold that view.
However “who am I”, self-abidance, self-investigation IS the primary teaching of Ramana. His first written work was entitled “Nar Yar?” – “Who am I”. Throughout his work, this is the practice he emphasised, not scriptural study. This is not just the view of “cultists” as Paramarthananda calls Ramana’s disciples: Sw Dayananda, in an interview with Andrew Cohen, which has since been taken off the web, challenges whether Ramana was in fact enlightened, and says that Ramana just answered every question with his “who am I”. He said millions of Indian housewives had the same level of attainment as Ramana, I did read the original interview, but the only link I could now find was this reference on David Godman’s site:
So far, so good – you have a difference in views on what is the right path. And if Dayananda doesn’t believe Ramana was enlightened, fair enough.
You then listen to Paramarthananda’s commentary on Sad Darshanam. In the very first introductory audio, he calls Ramana a great acharya for having written Sad Darshanam. He goes on to say that it was written in Tamil, which he has not read, but he is using the sankrit translation by Ganapati Muni. Note this is not the sanskrit translation and commentary that Ramana recommended – which was by Lakshmana Sarma, who studied Ulladu Narpadu verse by verse with Ramana over a number of years.
He goes on to say that Sad Darshanam is very deep, and has to be read in the light of traditional teachings – and that there are many Ramana ‘cultists’ who have misinterpreted his teaching. (Presumably Lakshmana Sarma would be one of them?). Sadananda, who also lectures on Sad Darshanam, asserted on the yahoo advaitin group, that there are many Ramana devotees who don’t understand his teaching, and that his primary teaching was not “who am I” – which is contrary to what Ramana himself wrote, and what even Dayananda said of Ramana!
Paramarthananda goes on to portray himself as an authoritative interpreter of Ramana, because of his traditional knowledge . . . and on the basis of reading only this Ganapati Muni’s sanskrit translation of Ramana’s Sad Darshanam; and ignoring his other written works! Others who have stayed and studied with Ramana in depth are dismissed as ‘cultists’. This is arrogance, poor scholarship and lack of respect – he is clearly not seeking to understand what Ramana’s teachings were, with an open mind.
So, to sum up, if they don’t believe Ramana was enlightened, why lecture on one of his main written works? Perhaps Paramarthananda and Sadananda disagree with Dayananda on this point? Thought they clearly agree with Dayananda that Ramana’s self-enquiiry method cannot lead you to truth (as per the above book) – so then how can Ramana be a great acharya worth lecturing on? Hence the intellectual acrobatics to say that Ramana’s primary teaching was not “who am I” and that this was just an assertion of “cultists”.
Now, I don’t think you would disagree with me, that Ramana’s primary teaching was indeed self-enquiry. So these chaps presumably haven’t really studied Ramana’s teaching. That of course if absolutely fine – but then why portray yourself as an expert commentator on his works?
Finally, of course, if that is the approach they take with Ramana’s teaching, how reliable are their other interpretations? Or are they just interpreting everything through their own preconceived notions – as with Ramana?
This is why JK always said not to follow anyone else; take the pointers, but find out for yourself the truth and untruth.
This is a great quote from Sri Ramana:
Question: Bhagavan, I have read much of the Vedas and the sastras but no Atma jnana [Self-knowledge] has come to me. Why is this?
Bhagavan: Atma jnana will come to you only if it is there in the sastras [scriptures]. If you see the sastras, sastra jnana [knowledge of the scriptures] will come. If you see the Self, Self-knowledge will shine. (Living by the Words of Bhagavan, p. 217.)
Bhagavan seems to have had a sense of humour!
Dennis, your gang seems to embody the definition of Pharisee.
Dennis suggested that I join this discussion, and perhaps I would if it was really a discussion, rather than what I perceive, on cursory glance, as an argument.
I wish Peterji was still alive, as he, having studied more completely than I, knew many Sanskrit words and terms for various things.
Somewhere in the teachings (and Peter would have known exactly where) it is said that one should not engage in a discussion, which isn’t really a discussion, bur rather an argument. One should only debate or discuss with others whose minds are open to listening and changing. But because I haven’t read these back and forths completely, nor do I have time to do that, I may be wrong in my surmise about this ‘discussion.’ If I’m wrong, I apologize.
If a person already has his or her mind made up, then what is going on, would not be termed a discussion or debate, but rather an argument. And what is the point of that?
Love is our true nature. My advice would be to rest in that understanding and be happy.
I do agree with Dhanya but I had already compiled the following response before I saw it, so here it is – my final word on the matter. (Venkat is, of course, invited to have his final word also.)
Your reference to Swami D’s statement about housewives is from the interview by Andrew Cohen but your actual quote is from the Introduction by Craig Hamilton, not from Swami D himself:
Hamilton says: “Fueled by his conviction in the supreme efficacy of scriptural study, Swami Dayananda is unabashed in his criticism of “mystics” who say that the way to enlightenment is through spiritual experience alone. In fact, both in his writings and in one of our dialogues with him, he even went so far as to express doubt about the realization of the widely revered but unschooled modern sage Ramana Maharshi—adding that there may be millions of Indian householders with a similar level of attainment!”
If you read the interview itself rather than Hamilton’s ‘summary’, this is what Swami Dayananda actually said in that interview:
“Some people say that Ramana is the highest, the one who in the modern world has accomplished advaita. That’s the perception because he’s known to some people, but there could be unknown millions we don’t know—some may even be householders, people who are at home, some of them just your ordinary housewives. In India, you know, you can’t take these people for granted; some of these women are enlightened. They are! And they may be housewives, mothers of ten children. We don’t know. India is a different country. There are no criteria to find out whether this person is enlightened or not. And so Ramana is said to be enlightened, but we should ask him, “Are you enlightened?” And he will say, “Why do you want to know? Who are you who wants to know? Find out who you are.” He discovered this way of speaking with people that did not require him to answer any questions. One fellow comes and asks, “What is God?” and he answers, “Who are you that is asking this question?” This is a way of answering questions that he adopted as an attempt to turn the person toward himself. Therefore, his attention was not toward any particular style of living. He neither encouraged sannyas nor anything else. He was only telling people: “Understand who you are. That’s what is important.””
Not quite the way that Hamilton summarized it! You speak about integrity!
Incidentally, you point out early in your diatribe that “strictly speaking the only authentic traditional lineage are the mutts that Sankaracharya himself established, of which Sringeri is the most renowned. And there are a number of areas where Dayananda’s teaching is at variance with the Sringeri acharayas”. You may be interested to note that Hamilton continues in his ‘summary’ to say: “While such statements initially took us by surprise, we would later discover through dialogues with a number of leading Western Advaita scholars that similar sentiments are held by many Advaita traditionalists. Even one of the living Shankaracharyas—the head of one of the four monastic institutions allegedly established by Advaita’s founder, Shankara—also denies the validity of Ramana’s attainment, apparently for the simple reason that someone who wasn’t formally trained in Vedanta couldn’t possibly be fully enlightened!”
(As an aside, lest any reader might be concerned that I personally have low regard for Ramana, I point out that I have maintained the UK Ramana Maharshi Foundation website for the past 15 years or more.)
Dhanya (I’m not continuing the ‘discussion’ , honestly!)
I think you are referring to the three categories of debate:
vAda – speech, proposition, discourse, argument, discussion, explanation or exposition (of scriptures etc.); dispute with the aim of reaching the right conclusion, irrespective of who ‘wins’.
jalpa – talk, speech, discourse; disputation with ‘overbearing and disputed rejoinder’; arguing for the sake of winning, irrespective of who is right.
vitaNDa – cavil, fallacious controversy, perverse or frivolous argument, criticism; argument purely for the sake of winning the point.
This is certainly not a point to be settled by scripture. Not sure whether it is jalpa or vitaNDa…
I just saw this discussion and these are my inputs. Its not my intent to prolong the discussion but wanted to put forth my thoughts for what it is worth.
Verse 17 of Advaita prakarana in Manukya Kaarika says – tair ayam na virudhyate –
Advaita have no conflicts with any of the dvaita.
Advaita can accommodate all under its huge ambit. Having said that, what is the problem in teachers teaching a particular text in the context of vedantic methodologies? Whether “Who am I” works or not can be discussed later. Being an advaitin, one can teach any text, Patanjali yoga sutras, sankhya, nyaya etc and convey how they can be interwoven with sAdhanA to better tune the mind. We have borrowed from sankhya and yoga; It would be absurd for the sankhya and yoga philosophers to question why we use their terms. We have borrowed where required and have vehemently pointed out the drawbacks in their systems also. Any darshana can be learnt. Any text can be taught. Why not sad darshanam?
Our allegiance is to the teaching and teaching alone. The teachers of the sampradaya are the ones because of whom the teaching flows down. As a consequence, the teachers are respected. They are the ones who can handle the words of the scriptures and use vedantic prakriyas and convey to the student who has unflinching trust in the scriptures. The teacher as an individual is not prime but the whole tradition due to which the teaching flows down to us is prime.
One is born with the ignorance of the self and does not stumble upon it like a lost pen, the ignorance being innate. One has to tune the mind and learn. The scriptures readily provide methodologies, if i may use the word. In the end the teaching is also mithyA.
I have come across references where Bhagavan Ramana has quoted from Vivekachudamani and Upanishad. To some he has also talked of japa etc. He has spoken of “Who am I”- Understand the truth, understand yourself, don’ t search outside since you are the sought.
Why we need a sampradaya is because the statements of the scriptures are terse, apparently contradictory (not actually though) and are written in Sanskrit, with many metaphors. The modern world cannot understand the traditional statements without a scripturally learned man who sees the truth clearly. How will an ignorant person remove his misconceptions without a methodology? How to remove the wrong notions seated if the absolute truth is spoken of without proper foundation.
Bhagavan Ramana is revered. I have read books written on him and am also contributing articles on Sad darshanam. I do not find any conflict with Advaita. Silence is beautiful, but silence does not teach. One can choose to be silent after knowledge (like Swami Tapovanam) or can choose to teach ( like Bhagavan Shankaracharya). None of it is required at all if you do not wish to teach. Bhagavan Ramana had no desire to teach. This is to be noted.
All are to be respected whether Bhagavad Ramana or sampradaya teachers. In the end, there is no point debating about it. In our nature we abide.
You say: Our allegiance is to the teaching and teaching alone. The teachers of the sampradaya are the ones because of whom the teaching flows down. As a consequence, the teachers are respected. They are the ones who can handle the words of the scriptures and use vedantic prakriyas and convey to the student who has unflinching trust in the scriptures. The teacher as an individual is not prime but the whole tradition due to which the teaching flows down to us is prime.
With due respect, perhaps you’ve got it backwards. In my view, if you’re lucky enough to meet someone who has gone past the conceptual mind, self/ego, and is always abiding in what they are, it won’t matter at all what they use to communicate, be it words, deeds, or silent presence. They ARE the ‘teaching’. They ARE the prime source, just as someone was once the prime source for your tradition, hundreds or thousands of years before.
What tends to happen in every tradition, is the interpretation of the tradition by people who are not in the same ‘state’ as their teacher. Therefore, what they communicate can never have the same ‘effect’ as one who is Realized, and often leads others into territory better left alone.
If you have met someone who is ‘finished’, you will know why their presence alone is enough to teach those who are listening, looking, & hearing them, giving them everything they need.
Funny you should make this comment. I recollected this passage last night from Sw Chinmayananda’s biography, regarding Bhagavan. I wasn’t going to post it, but given your comment, thought you’d find it interesting – esp last 2 paras.
“I was just emerging from high school, exams were over. On a package railway ticket I was roaming through south India. As the train steamed through the country side at a halting speed, most of the passengers in my compartment suddenly peered through the windows in great excitement and bowed revertentially to the elaborate temple beyond. Inquiring about it, I was told that it was the Tiruvannamalai temple.
Thereafter, the talk of my fellow travellers turned to Ramana Maharshi. The word “Maharshi” conjured up in my mind ancient forest retreats and superhuman beings of divine glow. Though I was at that time a convinced atheist, I was deeply drawn to visit the Maharshi’s Ahsram. I chose to take the next available train to Tiruvannamalai.
At the Ashram I was told that the Maharshi was in the hall and anybody was gree to walk in and see him. As I entered, I saw on the couch an elderly man, wearing but a loincloth, reclining against a round boster. I sat down at the very foot of the couch. The Maharshi suddenly opened his eyes and looked straight into mine. I looked into his. A mere look, that was all. I felt that the Maharshi was, in that split moment, looking deep into me – and I was sure that he saw all my shallowness, confusions, faithlessness, imperfections and fears.
I cannot explain what happened in that one split moment. I felt opened, cleaned, healed and emptied! A whirl of confusions, my atheism dropping away, but scepticism flooding into question, wonder, and search. My reason gave me strength and I said to myself, “It is all mesmerism, my own foolishness.”. Thus assuring myself, I got up and walked away.
But the boy who left the hall was not the boy who had gone in some ten minutes before. After my college days, my polical work, and after my years of stay at Uttarkashi at the feet of my master, Tapovanam, I know that what I gained on the Ganges banks was that which had been given to me years before by the saint of Tiruvannamalai on that hot summer day – by a mere look.
Sri Ramana is not a theme for discussion; he is an experience, he is a state of consciousness. Sri Ramana was the highest reality and the cream of all the scriptures in the world. He was there for all to see how a master can live in perfect detachment. Though in the mortal form, he lived as the beauty and purity of the infinite”
I wasn’t criticising whether Dayananda thought Ramana was enlightened or not.
I was challenging how, given Ramana’s primary teaching was “who am I” and he downplayed scriptural enquiry beyond the initial pointer stage, and given this is rejected by this school (as per the serialised book), how and why they can still provide ‘expert’ interpretations of Sad Darshanam, and dismiss Ramana’s disciples as cultists and misguided for talking about “who am I” / self-enquiry.
Anyway thank you Dhanya for some good advice, which I suspect Bhagavan would have given as well. I should have remembered Self-abidance.
Thanks for your considered, well written post. I also don’t want to prolong the discussion, but you raise a point which I would like to respond to.
Let’s do a thought experiment. There is a Buddhist who has read Sankara’s commentary on let us say the Isa Upanishad. S/he hasn’t read any of Sankara’s other commentaries, let alone the well-known commentators on Sankara’s works. Based on this, s/he then proceeds to elaborate on what Sankara really meant by his Isa bhasya in light of Buddhist teachings, and dismisses the commentaries of those who have studied Sankara in depth as being misguided. Of course, s/he is entitled to do so. But has s/he really understood what Sankara intended, given that it is only a partial view, through glasses of his/her own prior conditioning? Does his/her Buddhist tradition really make that person a competent Sankara expert?
Sure, any text can be taught – through one’s own perspective. It however doesn’t mean that one has really understood the full context and import of what was intended. That surely is why we go to the effort of fully studying all of Sankara’s works and the upanishads.
Now Ramana, whilst deeply appreciative of advaita texts, never set himself out as part of a sampradaya – and certainly didn’t insist on Vedantic scriptural learning. So if you are going to understand him, surely you need to approach him fresh, with an open mind, and considering Sad Darshanam in the context of the original Ulladu Narpadu, his other writings and the commentaries that he commended (including for example Guru Vachaka Kovai).
Sorry Meenakshi one other point regarding “silence does not teach”.
D.: Why does not Sri Bhagavan go about and preach the Truth to the people at large?
M.: How do you know that I am not doing it? Does preaching consist in mounting a platform and haranguing to the people around? Preaching is simple communication of knowledge. It may be done in Silence too.
What do you think of a man listening to a harangue for an hour and going away without being impressed by it so as to change his life? Compare him with another who sits in a holy presence and leaves after some time with his outlook on life totally changed. Which is better: To preach loudly without effect or to sit silently sending forth intuitive forces to play on others?
(Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk no 285)
Siva appeared before them sitting under the sacred banyan tree. Being yogiraja should He practise yoga? He went into samadhi as He sat; He was in Perfect Repose. Silence prevailed. They saw Him. The effect was immediate. They fell into samadhi and their doubts were at an end.
Silence is the true upadesa. It is the perfect upadesa. It is suited only for the most advanced seeker. The others are unable to draw full inspiration from it. Therefore they require words to explain the Truth. But Truth is beyond words. It does not admit of explanation.
(Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk no. 569)
This is why Ramana’s teaching is different from that of your sampradaya. You may think he is wrong, or has been misinterpreted, but then you have to study his teaching to come to that conclusion. Without that study, how can one interpret his teaching?