VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem by D. Venugopal
Part 26 examines the nature of AtmA, utilising the ‘descriptions’ from the Brihadaranyaka, Kena and Mandukya Upanishads. How can we ‘know’ the Self, when it is not an object?
There is a complete Contents List, to which links are added as each new part appears.
Rather than this rather pedestrian and sterile exposition of Vedanta, could I strongly recommend to readers keen to understand Vedanta in all its wisdom, the lucid work “Advaita Saashanaa” by Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Mahaswamiji, the renowned Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham.
A few pertinent quotes on ending of the mind, the absolute prerequisite necessity of preparation, and for renunciation / sannyasa:
“Similarly the mind that is running in all directions should be made to stay at one place in one thought. It does not mean the mind has disappeared then. No, the mind is still there. Only instead of dwelling on various things it is now full of one and only one thought. This is the prerequisite to what I call the ‘disposal’ of the mind. After this the mind has to be vanquished totally. That is when Realisation takes place — Realisation of the Atman. In other words the being as a JIva goes and the being as Brahman sprouts. This process of stopping the mind at one single thought and then vanquishing even that thought in order to dispose off the mind along with its roots is a Himalayan achievement.”
“MumukshhutvaM — the yearning for moksha – is the end of the second stage. The first stage is that of eradicating the mind’s dirt and vacillation by karma and bhakti. SAdhanA-chatushTayaM is the second stage. The SAdhanAs remove mostly all the defective vAsanAs and perturbations adhering in the mind; if at all there are any that may be only five or ten percent.
It is in such a circumstance that the moksha-seeker (mumukshhu) feels he has only one work to do, namely to get the Release. So he renounces his home and possessions, takes Sannyasa and goes to the third stage. In other words, the Acharya’s conclusion is, in that last stage, it is the Sannyasi that has the right qualifications for Atma-SAdhanA. Having renounced all attachments, bondage and worldly obligations, Atma- vichara (Enquiry into the Atman) becomes his whole-time job. It is only for such a seeker that the most blissful gift of Realisation of Brahman happens. That is the maxim of the Acharya, as also confirmed by the Upanishads.
Thus, in that third stage, he takes Sannyasa under a proper Guru, gets his upadesha of the mantra which tells him about the identity of JIva and Brahman, constantly rolls it in his mind, and in due time even that thought process stops and he comes to be in union with his own aim, namely the Great Experience of Brahma-anubhava. This is the prescription of the Acharya.”
“In every work there are always expressions of different opinions but following them there is also the reconciliation passage that comes later. So also in this BrihadAraNyakaM, earlier to this passage in (III-5 ) it says “AtmAnaM viditvA”, that is, cognising the Atman, ‘discarding desires for kith and kin, wealth and property and the other world, they run away as beggars’. Here the words “AtmAnaM viditvA” looks like saying ‘after one has cognised the Atman’. It appears that this means, in contrast to what was said earlier, namely the earning of eligibility for SannyAsa for the sake of earning the Atma-jnAna, it is now said that sannyAsa takes place after the acquisition of jnAna. This is a legitimate question; but the answer comes if we carefully examine the context. In the same mantra, the question is raised: “How will a jnAni behave?”. And the answer comes; “Howsoever he may behave, he is just such, he is a jnAnai”.In other words he is not regimented by any shAstra or regulation. For such a person , where is the need for the rule that he should adopt the fourth Ashrama among the four Ashramas? So we should not interpret “AtmAnaM viditvA” to say “after learning by experience” but should interpret it as “understanding by the intellect”.It is clear therefore “He who confirms by his intellectual understanding that what he has heard and learnt from the advaita-shAstras is true, now throws away all his desires and becomes a sAnnyAsi” is what is said here.”
This really is a brilliant and thorough exposition of advaita, and the path through the jungle.
I guess you really believe that you can vanquish, or annihilate, the mind. If you can focus on one thought or image, or feeling, there is a bit of relief from the mind’s tyranny, and there is something to be said for it. But, this does not and will not lead one to anything but ‘a state of mind’ as the effort needed to do this is generated by the mind and is intimately connected to the will of ego, desire. The end of self is not and cannot be brought about by any effort on our part. It is something that is ‘given’ only to those who have abandoned themselves and their search and have become as nothing. That means all of your imaginings of divine life, peace, and all of the analysis that you engage in. As my wife would say, ‘get your head out of everything’.
And, as Jacopone states so eloquently in his poem:
Love beyond all telling,
Goodness beyond imagining,
Light of infinite intensity
Glows in my heart.
I once thought that reason
Had led me to You,
And that through feeling
I sensed Your presence,
Caught a glimpse of You in similitudes,
Knew You in Your perfection.
I know now that I was wrong,
That that truth was flawed.
Light beyond metaphor,
Why did You deign to come into this darkness?
Your light does not illumine those who think they see You
And believe they sound Your depths.
Night, I know now, is day,
Virtue no more to be found.
He who witnesses Your splendor
Can never describe it.
Anon, I don’t really have any beliefs. This is a website to discuss advaita, and so I highlight what I think might be helpful to understand perhaps the earliest and yet most careful, lucid and logical deconstruction of ‘reality’ and the ego that has been communicated. If you find it useful, fine; if not, fine as well.
I do know that the world is full of illusion, sorrow and injustice, and has no meaning.
I do know that each of us, as individuals, vainly strive for meaning and self-validation. Yet there is no separate individual.
And I do know that the mind is the primary cause of separation, greed and selfishness.
Therefore, I can understand logically why death of the ego, of the mind, can lead to . . . who knows.
I may not get there, but it doesn’t really matter, because ‘I’ am just another conceptual construct. My striving or not striving to remember how illusory the ego and thoughts are, and to not get caught up in them, is in no way enhanced by you authoritatively repeating that no effort can end the self. How do you know that? Because that has been your experience? How do you know that your experience is applicable to me – apart from as a concept in your mind?
In any event, I can never know what your experience is, and you can never know mine. So your truth is yours and yours alone. You may or may not be deluded. Who knows and who cares?
We don’t have to know what each others experience is. But, once you see that everything you think and feel has already been put into you by your culture, the game changes. It’s not about death of the mind, ego, or attaining anything. All of that is put into you through books and your imagination. You have no way to validate anything. You are only hoping and repeating words you’ve learned. We are only a broken record on repeat, a tape machine on playback.
It’s a hard thing to swallow, so please don’t tell me you have no beliefs. It’s just not true. Please don’t tell me you know there is no separate individual. Another belief you’ve tricked yourself into believing. It is not the same thing as living this. Get your head out of it, says Mrs. Anon.
“Get your head out of it, says Mrs. Anon.”
Sure enough, Anon, it’s just “Another belief you’ve tricked yourself into believing.” 🙂
My wife? 🙂
Venkat, Belief – which by itself engenders doubt, its faithful companion – is not the only alternative to knowledge, as Anon. so simplistically puts it. Everyone knows, or should know, that there is also trust (accompanied by reasons one can give), and a third possibility being withholding assent – placing something within brackets – until further light shines on it, if it will. So, it is not just a question of a gullibility one innocently or ignorantly falls into.
Anon, “Another belief you’ve tricked yourself into believing. It is not the same thing as living this”. You are full of it (beliefs, conditioning, etc) as well.
The fact that we are non-separate from all that is, is not hard to understand and rationalise for oneself. That is not a matter of belief, but basic logic and science. Hence why there is a proliferation of softly- and slowly-speaking pseudo gurus who think they have achieved a great insight, and can go about selling their “you are awareness” wares, including seminars, graduate courses, etc
However, Ramana, Nisargadatta, et al convincingly argue that there is a step beyond this which involves the total eradication of the ego. Which is equivalent to the ending of discriminating mind-thoughts that favour the me against the whole – which is the very foundational tenet upon which our capitalist society is built, and hence all of our conditioning. This is not a trivial task. And so their assertion on this falls into your category of brackets – to be proven by further light being shone upon it.
Further Ramana says the way to shine light upon it is, quite logically, to: question, be aware, abide in, meditate on, this illusory I-thought – and that this very focus on the ‘I’ will make it dissolve. This falls into your category of trust – accompanied by the very sound reason that if logically a separate ego is not true, then through focusing attention on it, one will discern the ephemeral nature of its character.
This self-enquiry may or may not work – but the logic of it is sound, and placing trust in the advice of a man who demonstrably lived the life of a egoless being, who claimed nothing for himself, would seem well-placed.
If I read the story of Ramana’s reckoning, in his own words, he made no mention of what you wrote above, Venkat. He did not practice self enquiry as a ‘path’, over time, to anything. His, it seems, was a spontaneous moment of Reality, of awakening, that was presented to him for some unknown reason. He didn’t warrant or strive for this kind of thing. Call it Grace, if you will. It comes to you, but you can’t go to it. Even JK, whom you so fondly quote many times, states:
“You see, one must be without capacity, without gift; one must be as nothing, inwardly. And, I think that if one sees this without trying to learn how to be as nothing, then the seeing is the experiencing of it and then, perchance, the other thing can come into being.”
You may want to refresh yourself on:
1) The conversation that you, Ramesam, I and others had on grace. In effect one increases the possibility of grace by being aware of this non-duality. Is there anyone to whom this has happened who was not quizzing the meaning of life, who was submerged in the day-to-day frivolities of the ego with no interest in such questions?
2) How UGK effectively did ‘sadhana’ by seeking answers to these questions of life from a young age, culminating in giving up his attachments to wife, family and wealth. When he says that there is nothing you can do, that is just a reflection on his inability to distil and articulate the essence of that sadhana
3) Ramana’s intense focus on death, and who is it that dies, which led to his moksha . . . and his ability to distil this to his recommendation to focus on self-enquiry. You may wish to re-read your Ramana.
Ramana was a 16 year old boy with no background in this stuff at all. What he did occurred spontaneously to him, not from reading a book.
UG repeatedly said that what happened to him had nothing at all to do with anything that he did prior to this. Your interpretation of what he said only furthers your illusions about yourself and your desire to be in a different state.
Personally, I have no idea how Grace works. Seems to me, you and others are hedging your bets on it by believing all this stuff. Real self enquiry ends the search. That means ending all hope and desire to be something else. It is something that one must come to terms with alone and in a very deep way.
“Ramana was a 16 year old boy with no background in this stuff at all.”
This is the view (and unverified presumption) of a Westerner with no acquaintance with the Indian way of life (particularly South Indian orthodox Iyer Brahmin) family in the last phases of the 19th century. Every child willy-nilly got exposed to Advaita due to the religious milieu in which life was lived by parents.
“UG repeatedly said that what happened to him had nothing at all to do with anything that he did prior to this.”
This is MERELY an assertion of the fact which Advaita repeatedly says — CAUSATION IS NON-EXISTENT AND IT IS FUTILE TO LOOK FOR CAUSE-EFFECT RELATIONSHIP THAT RESULTS IN A “STATE” OF PERMANENT HAPPINESS.
“Personally, I have no idea how Grace works.”
Ah, a fair admission at last!
Read scriptures and they will help. Sage Vasishta, for example, says:
Grace is Intrinsic Order + Human Effort
“Real self enquiry ends the search.”
One invincible Truth, finally. 🙂
“That means ending all hope and desire to be something else.”
That means the realization of no creation, no liberation, no seeker.
“It is something that one must come to terms with alone …”
‘To come to terms’ is clearly a wrong ‘understanding.’
It is not a question of compromise or resigning oneself to a ‘conclusion.’
Sure, Ramesam, the kid was exposed to the religious beliefs around him just like all of us were growing up. But he wasn’t engaged in a ‘practice’ much less a direct approach like self enquiry as far as I’ve read. In fact, in his own words (at least that’s what the book says, 🙂 ):
“Previous to that crisis I had no clear perception of my Self and was not consciously attracted to it. I felt no perceptible or direct interest in it, much less any inclination to dwell permanently in it.”
You can draw your own conclusions.
UG reiterated that there is no such thing as a ‘permanent state of happiness’.
The rest is what YOU choose to believe based on your background.
‘Come to terms’ is a figure of speech. I said nothing of compromise or resigning oneself to a conclusion. Please don’t put your words into my mouth. I have enough of my own. 🙂
1. I do not think you are unaware of Dr. John Bargh’s work on ‘whether behaviors thought to be under volitional control may result from automatic interpretations of and reactions to external stimuli — priming which affects action.
“I had no clear perception of my Self and was not consciously attracted to it” cannot ever mean “no background in this stuff at all.”
Of course, you are free. “You can draw your own conclusions.” 🙂
2. To say that “UG reiterated that there is no such thing as a ‘permanent state of happiness’ ” is another issue.
The matter under discussion in the previous note was not about the existence or not of ‘permanent state of happiness.’
It was about “what happened to him had nothing at all to do with anything that he did prior to this.” That was about CAUSAL RELATIONSHIPS. Let us stay on course.
3. ” ‘Come to terms’ is a figure of speech.”
You have not said what exactly “the figure of speech” means according to you.
Okay, agreed English is not my mother tongue. The Cambridge Dic gives the meaning for the idiom “to come to terms with something” to mean:
to begin to accept and deal with something difficult or unpleasant
The online Free Dic gives the meaning : to compromise, to reconcile.
You will never convince Anon. no matter what. He is recalcitrant as a rock. and (as such) nothing will make him change his position… obviously enjoying the proceedings all along. How does he know that RM never did any practice or meditation?
‘… enlightenment will only come to a very mature person, regardless of his age…. I mentioned earlier that Vedanta is concerned with meaning. Here you have an inquiring mind, one not fascinated by the experience, seeking to understand the experience.(there must be notions, or guidance to know what to look for). Although the majority of the people coming to Tiruvannamalai are experience happy, quite a few have this kind of mind to some degree. They want to know. But very few have it to the degree that Ramana did. This shows that he was a lover of knowledge….
… So now he is [Ramana M] aware of the dead body and the Subtle Body, what is called the personality, and ‘even the voice of the ‘I’ within me, apart from it.’ You see the whole structure of the self in this experience. Then, he concludes correctly, “So I am spirit transcending the body.” He has answered the ‘Who am I?” question, which up to this point he had never even considered.’ Unfortunately, I forgot the source, but may be able to trace it.
Thanks Martin. Here is the extract from Ramana’s narrative:
“I just felt, ‘I am going to die,’ and began thinking what to do about it. It did not occur to me to consult a doctor or my elders or friends. I felt that I had to solve the problem myself, then and there.
The shock of the fear of death drove my mind inwards and I said to myself mentally, without actually framing the words: ‘Now death has come; what does it mean? What is it that is dying? This body dies.’ And I at once dramatized the occurrence of death. . . to give greater reality to the enquiry.
‘Well then,’ I said to myself, ‘this body is dead. It will be carried stiff to the burning ground and there burnt and reduced to ashes. But with the death of this body am I dead? Is the body ‘I’? It is silent and inert but I feel the full force of my personality and even the voice of the ‘I’ within me, apart from it. So I am Spirit transcending the body. The body dies but the Spirit that transcends it cannot be touched by death. This means I am the deathless Spirit.’”
This is the basis on which he then precedes to recommend self-enquiry throughout his life. Hence the first work he wrote he titled “Nan Yar”, “Who am I”. And throughout his writing this was the common refrain. Hence in his Upadesa Undiyar he writes:
17: “When one scrutinises the form of the mind without forgetfulness, it will be found that there is no such thing as mind; this is the direct path for all”.
Anon, as I said, you should re-read your Ramana. And, to be clear, JK’s ‘pathless path’ also involved sadhana, though he didn’t call it that: choiceness awareness of the reactions of the ‘I’ to daily relationships, the observation of which would transform the ‘I’:
“Unless your life, your daily life is a completely non self-centred way of living, the other cannot possibly come in”
We all agree I think, that the ego is an illusion, a function of conditioning, and the primary cause of suffering, and that its removal is the moksha that is talked about. So in a sense you are right, the ego can’t go about killing itself. But the sadhana prescribed by advaita are all steps to ameliorate the ego, towards a ‘non self-centred life’, to a point at which grace may (possibly) happen. But it is not a simple prescriptive path, with a clear series of steps that lead to a clear set of outcomes. Each individual is so complex and different that that can never be the case. That does not mean that it is foolish to even bother doing anything, as you imply. One can just follow the direction in which the finger is pointing and then, it is out of one’s hands.
I’ve really enjoyed your comments on this thread, thank you. I think you nailed it in your last paragraph, and that this is the right attitude toward “seeking.” All we can do is follow the pointers and leave the rest to Isvara, which is basically the sadhana of Karma Yoga.
Thank you Charles.
To call the ego an illusion is quite misleading to anyone who is an investigator of this subject. To further state that the removal of ego is moksha, may also not be true. To me, ego is an activity, not an entity. It is centered on desire and will. ‘Ego death’, while being a rare occurence, is not the end of self, which many believe it to be. The end of self is a transcendental event that transforms the whole body in a way that cannot be measured or understood from the point of view of self. It is a-causal and at a cellular level. I don’t like referring to this because there is no way to prove anything like this. But it can be surmised from the descriptions of those who have underwent this. The descriptions of UG and Bernadette Roberts bear witness to this. Nisargadatta touches on it and the Buddha and others also touch on it. It has nothing to do with any kind of experience anyone could have. This is why it is transcendental. It is of a totally different dimension, beyond consciousness. It is unimaginable and ‘valueless’ as UG was fond of saying.
A very thought-provoking note !
Makes me curious 🙂 .
Perhaps it is for the first time you are opening up with a bit of your philosophy / approach. Thank you.
I guess Venkat may find time in responding / reacting to it as you addressed it mainly to him. It, however, left me a bit unclear on some aspects and I hope you will be kind to clarify:
1. “To further state that the removal of ego is moksha, may also not be true.”
What is moksha in your definition?
Advaita holds that moksha in Truth is a myth.
2. “To me, ego is an activity, not an entity.”
3. “‘Ego death’, while being a rare occurence, is not the end of self, which many believe it to be. The end of self is a transcendental event …”
What is the ‘self’ according to your usage and how is it (the sense of separate self) different from ‘ego’ as you use these terms?
4. ” The end of self is a transcendental event that transforms the whole body in a way that cannot be measured or understood from the point of view of self. ”
Agreed that there will be inevitable ‘footprints” of ‘liberation’ on the physical body. But you seem to believe that the way the physical body (food body in Maharaj’s terminology) ends is an “Indicator” for the genuineness of liberation.
That sort of assumption / assertion is contrary to the Advaita teaching. Physical body is a creation of the ‘mind’ and how it perishes is of no concern to the liberated individual. The physical body is like the paste that got squeezed out of the tube. It meets its own end in innumerable ways – cancer (Ramakrishna, JK, Ramana etc.), diabetes (Vivekananda), fulminating ulcerative colitis (Shankara, if we go by Vidyaranya’s account), and so on.
Does the way the dream body of yours ends determine the nature of your awake world?
Trust you will not shy away from providing an answer.
As I have said many times before, if Advaita or any other philosophy or religion could really answer the questions you put forth, all questions would disappear. The fact that the so called questioner remains wanting to know this or that is the only problem that you and I have.
It seems to me, the more one investigates all this, the more hopeless and helpless one is to use the mind for any kind of real understanding. In fact, one becomes dumb and dumber and it begins to dawn on you that you know nothing at all. And, that any attempt to understand yourself or the universe meets with the same fate. It just perpetuates the myth of becoming and the sense of continuity that is associated with a self, a being.
Can this self stop existing? In order for this to happen, that which feeds this self would have to come to an end. And that which feeds and sustains the idea or reality of self is experience and consciousness. Without this, self cannot exist. The moment there is consciousness, there is self. You cannot separate the two.
From what I’ve gleaned from those who claim the end of self, is that only a transcendental event can resolve the question of self and interrupt its continuity and existence. If anything, self is the sense of continuity and existence, and of being. Those who talk about this transcendental event never claim any responsibility for it. How could they? They no longer exist in the way they used to. Anything short of this is not it. Any clever way of describing it is not it. All frameworks are destroyed. Self Realization is not it. No experience or union survives. No dual or non-dual states. No Atma, no Brahman, no God as an experience. Not even Sanskrit! As Buddha said, the house collapses. Extinction.
As for the physical body, somehow it can continue without a self directing it. It is wiped clean. Just read the descriptions of UG and Bernadette for a first hand account of how they function. They are the best examples I’ve ever come across.
Ultimately, neither one will help you resolve the sense of there being a self and what that means for you. Even JK couldn’t resolve it. The end of you, do you want that, Ramesam? It’s not real, right?
According to Anon. it is ‘hopeless and helpless’ to use the mind ‘for any kind of real understanding’. However, he obviously is using his mind to convey his (his mind’s) understanding of what is the situation with ego and self (it doesn’t matter if these two are considered as equivalent, for the sake of the discussion). Hopeless indeed! He, Anon., leaning on Nisargadatta , blames also the consciousness.
‘… only a transcendental event can resolve the question of self and interrupt its continuity and existence.’
Here a subtle, unavowed desire is lurking underneath, and it cannot be in any place other than the ego – the ego or thinking subject that wishes to destroy itself… Doesn’t Anon. see this? Evidently not (we went into this before, but no matter).
From relative reality’s standpoint, it is indisputable that there are good teachers and bad or false (or mediocre) teachers. Woe unto him who follows a false, or half cooked, teacher. I believe (forgive me for this – or don’t forgive) that such ones as UG and OSHO are examples of bad or pseudo-gurus who have misled, even abused (in the case of the latter, as far as I know), the unwary -his followers. And that even JK did not go far enough in his teaching… He saw the coming dawn, but not the sun in all its splendor (according to FL, with whom I agree). The reason for this may be / is that he presented himself as the only teacher that ever existed! (except for the Buddha). Krishnamurthy’s approach was mostly psychological, but even his teaching that ‘the observer is the observed’ can be found in the Upanishads.
Anon does see what you are referring to. He was simply painting a picture drawn from the lives of others.
To equate UG with Osho is a serious mistake, Martin. Evidently, you never met UG and spent any time around him. I do agree with you about JK. But, it was UG who famously said that JK saw the sugar, but never tasted it.
And, Nisargadatta is not the only one who talked about the transcendence of consciousness. Buddhist and Christian teachings both address it in the mystical schools. But it doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree. What else could Martin possibly do?
I agree with you 100% on everything you just wrote. As for myself, I am not interested in being convinced by anyone. It is not the same thing as coming face to face with yourself in any given moment.
You made my point about Ramana never having employed ‘Who Am I’ as his sadhana, yet resolving it after his ‘death experience’. Of course, this is the central question that everyone must face, but it isn’t an intellectual exercise where the ‘answer’ is given with words.
I also never said that one should never make an effort in this area. Indians call it sadhana. We cannot help but make an effort, and that effort helps us come to the point of utter helplessness and hopelessness (tapas?) in using the mind to sort out what we seek. That effort is frustrated at every turn leaving one in a very different position than one started with. It is a kind of dropping away of the core of yourself. Sorry if the terminology is not in Sanskrit, but words have nothing to do with this. I am not trying to equate this with Ramana’s experience.
A diversion, but worth pondering over in the context of a non-self centred life in a world that reinforces the opposite through the regimented conditioning of education and society. JK’s used to despair that “the world is burning”, even back in the 1970s; I wonder what he would say now.
Responding here, to make it easier.
An aside I know, but I think you both (anon, Martin) both under-estimate JK. I think he had ‘tasted the sugar’, but he knew that it is not something that can be readily communicated and understood. In some of his talks, he occasionally gives hints of this, but then quickly moves on. Buddha did the same in not talking about what might lie beyond emptiness / ‘dependent arisings’.
JK’s message was aimed at the Western(-ised) mind, and so rooted in addressing the issue of suffering (personal and global) – and he pointed out the role of authority, conditioning as the cause of both forms of suffering. And so think for yourself . . . don’t rely on political leaders, or religious leaders, or anyone.
In that sense he prepared the way for what could come next. If you consider the three-stage sadhana that I referred to in my initial comment, JK was addressing the first stage, karma yoga, to live a non-self centred life.
In spite of what I said, I still have great respect for JK. Please don’t think I’ve summarily dismissed him from the conversation as Martin seems to do along with UG, Nisargadatta, and possibly Ramana. JK resolved many questions concerning mind and ego and I am eternally grateful to him for what he helped me to see. UG also said he was instrumental in his life and wouldn’t be what he was without him. What that really means I couldn’t say. Anyone who thinks that only ‘scripture’ states the truth is severely limited in their scope.
Have a good one……..