Vedanta the Solution – Part 54

VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem by D. Venugopal

Part 54 looks at Ramana Maharshi’s ‘Who am I?’ practice and explains that the ‘I thought’ cannot be removed by self-investigation. It also explains that we do not have to get rid of vAsanA-s in order to gain mokSha.

There is a complete Contents List, to which links are added as each new part appears.

18 thoughts on “Vedanta the Solution – Part 54

  1. The author here is just parroting Dayananda’s prejudices about Maharishi (as evident from the footnotes). Not an original thought of his own. However he has the 3 year certificate from attending Dayananda’s course, so that’s ok.

    One just needs to read SSSS’ Adhyatma Yoga to see how simplistic the author’s argument is, and how close SSSS’ approach (based on his understanding of Sankara) is to Maharishi’s self-enquiry.

    It is hardly worth the effort to make the point that the looking at (examining) the I (or what we think is the I), is the means by which one discriminates and develops detachment from the all that is not the I. Hence why Maharishi, SSSS, Sri Atmananda and Nisargadatta make comparable recommendations.

    Given these Dayananda folk are so clearly dismissive of Maharishi’s self investigation, one has to ask the question why they are so keen to publish commentaries on his Sad Darshanam and Upadesa Saram. To leverage his popularity perhaps?

  2. Venkat,

    You really cannot make comments in this way. I respect your right to disagree with anything posted by anyone and to express the reasons for this in an appropriate manner. But in this short post, I count at least 7 places where your words or mode of expression cross the line into vitaNDa. Only vAda is acceptable in this forum.

    Dennis

  3. Here is what the master said on the subject, (as opposed to his disciple):

    “If your buddhi does not know this fact (tat tvam asi), it cannot tell you. It cannot tell you anything more than it knows. This is why continually asking ‘Who am I?’ does not work. Nothing can happen because you do not know what you do not know. Someone has to teach you. You cannot simply ask ‘Who am I?’ and expect to get an answer, because the ‘I’ that is always present is the one asking the question. How will the answer to such a question come? You cannot hope to stumble uipon the fact. The fact is you; therefore you are not going to stumble upon an answer that is anything more than what you already know.”

    Gita Home Study course, Vol. 1 P. 175

  4. Dennis

    I’m sure you know that Maharishi’s teaching was far more subtle and detailed than just telling everyone to repeat “who am I?” to themselves. This quote of Dayananda’s is simply to set up a straw man to then rubbish it.

    The Upanishads can only convey pointers to Brahman. They cannot do more. The Upanishads themselves say that Brahman can best / only be defined as neti, neti. Words cannot convey any more knowledge than this.

    When Dayananda says “the mind cannot tell you anything more than it knows” he forgets the mind is also an object in consciousness, one of the sheaths, and as such has to be negated. So any knowledge conveyed by sruti and accumulated in the mind is meaningless.

    And when he say “you are not going to stumble upon an answer that is anything more than what you already know”, that is so true but not in the sense he meant it. Because you, as the Self, do already Know this, for you are this.

    Sankara says that only the advanced seeker, with a purified mind, that has no desires or attachments, can intuitively and immediately grasp this knowledge from a true master, such that the final remnants of ego are dissolved. Those who are not so advanced, have to pursue manana and nididhyasana on the master’s pointers.

    Maharishi never simply said to people to go around repeating to themselves ‘who am I’ and expect an answer from the ego or the heavens. This is a gross misrepresentation and reveals much about the author and those who parrot him.

    Maharishi’s first written text was, it is true, entitled Nan Yar? (Who am I?). However if one reads this essay one would see that it sets out in some detail, Maharishi’s self-investigation – as did Upadesa Undiyar and Ulladu Narpadu – and in these, he goes into detailed explanations of the 5 sheaths, 3 states, and much of Advaita. But ultimately his teaching goes straight to the punchline, which was turn away from the world and examine your actions, thoughts, feelings, to try to identify what reality is there to the one that ‘owns’ these actions, thoughts, feelings. It was a sophisticated real-time application of neti, neti, rather than a theoretical teaching in the class-room.

    SSSS clearly understood this:

    “Through the practice of this ‘Adhyatma Yoga’ at last one cognises that my true nature of Being is beyond the ‘I’sense or ego. When one cognises this Truth, then he remains unto himself as of the nature of the Witness of the ego. Hence ‘to know the Self is to be the Self and to be the Self is to cease the identification with the not-self’. This utterance of Sri Ramanamaharshi is to be remembered by the Sadhaka of Adhyatma Yoga. Here the Sadhaka has traversed inwards, as it were, with a concentrated mind, followed by discrimination, and has arrived at the brink of all duality and at the very core of life. And he himself has remained as the Witness of the ego or as the Pure Self.”

    Suresvara’s Naiskarmya Siddhi:
    3.28: The more a man turns inward and negates the body, etc, so much the more does the meaning of the word ‘that’ tend to enter into the meaning of the word ‘thou’ for him.

    Sankara’s Upadesa Sahasri:
    5.5: When the ‘this’ (objective) element has once been eliminated from the ego-sense (through metaphysical discrimination) the latter is no longer an object illumined pure consciousness and no longer exists for its sake. The immediate experience that then ensues is the supreme Self.

    All of the above, clearly point to a form of meditative self-reflection that is introverted and turned away from external objects (nb with the body-mind also qualifying as an external object).

  5. PS The question remains: if Dayananda and his followers are dismissive of Maharishi’s “Who am I”, why do they publish commentaries on his Sad Darshanam and Upadesa Saram?

  6. Venkat,

    You say: “I’m sure you know that Maharishi’s teaching was far more subtle and detailed than just telling everyone to repeat “who am I?” to themselves. This quote of Dayananda’s is simply to set up a straw man to then rubbish it.”

    No! I do not dispute for a minute that Ramana’s teaching was more subtle and detailed. As I remind people from time to time, I have considerable respect for his teaching – I am, after all, the webmaster of the UK Ramana site. The point is that many seekers believe this is THE key aspect of his teaching and that it is intended literally. It is to disabuse them of that notion that Swami Dayananda and others point out that it is not so intended. This also answers your ‘P.S.’ question. The fact that Swami D. has given talks on Sad Darshanam and Upadesa Saram shows that he DID acknowledge Ramana as a great teacher.

    You say: “When Dayananda says “the mind cannot tell you anything more than it knows” he forgets the mind is also an object in consciousness, one of the sheaths, and as such has to be negated. So any knowledge conveyed by sruti and accumulated in the mind is meaningless.”

    No! The mind does NOT have to be negated. Indeed it cannot be. If it were, then it would no longer be possible to hear, understand etc. nor to be enlightened. The mind is essential. What needs to be done is to purify it so that it is able to attend and assimilate, and then question and clarify doubts. Read my article: https://www.advaita-vision.org/manonasha-not-the-literal-death-of-the-mind/.

    You say: “Maharishi never simply said to people to go around repeating to themselves ‘who am I’ and expect an answer from the ego or the heavens. This is a gross misrepresentation and reveals much about the author and those who parrot him.”

    Quite. As I point out in ‘Book of One’: “Ramana advocates Atma vichAra – investigation into the Self. An element of this is asking ‘Who am I?’ but simply repeating this like a mantra is not going to achieve anything. What is lacking is Self-knowledge and some external teaching is required to provide this. Of all the means of knowledge available to us, the only one that can provide this knowledge is shabda pramANa – scriptural knowledge, ideally imparted by a teacher. It is the ideas in the mind which bind us but the mind is also where the self-knowledge takes place that brings enlightenment.”

    I think the main point that you should take from these discussions is that Swami Dayananda is NOT criticizing Ramana but those who think that simply repeating ‘Who am I?’ will lead to enlightenment.

  7. Dennis

    I have read your article. I’d say Shankara and the upanishads are more nuanced than that, though I concur that they can be interpreted in the way you do. And I’ve quoted in the past Brihadaranyaka Up to that end, but lets not repeat that again. I’ve also quoted above to demonstrate that for Sankara, Sureswara and SSSS, atma vichara is not sruti vichara; it is an introversion and negation.

    I’ve also read Dayananda, Swartz and Paramarthananda, and that of their followers, and I have listened to the gist of their comments on Maharishi. And I disagree with your interpretation. They have never tried to explain to context of “Who am I”. This Venugopal (who I’m sure accurately repeats Dayananda’s views) writes:

    “Another view that is prevalent among the devotees of Ramana Maharishi of Tiruvaëëämalai is that the inquiry “Who am I?” conducted by a person will make the mind go back to its source and that if this state of inwardness (antar-mukhatvam) is maintained, the “I” which is the source of all thoughts will go and that the self which ever exists will shine. . . As regards self-inquiry as the solution, the incorrectly known I cannot conduct the enquiry on itself to rectify the error.”

    So no, they fundamentally do not agree with Ramana’s teaching on self-enquiry (not just the mantra-like repetition that your specific Dayananda quote implied). And that is why I have very little respect for what I see as a cynical manipulation of Maharishi’s teaching and popularity in advaitic circles.

    Ultimately it comes down to their (and your) view that Knowledge is equivalent to what is gained by the mind, and therefore it needs to be taught through scholarship of sruti. And the alternative view that the mind is the source of the Maya, and therefore liberation from ignorance is essentially the dissolution of the mind-ego, or at least its attenuation to such as extent that it is like a burnt rope.

    That is why Sankara prescribed karma yoga, SCP, etc as perquisites to purify the mind; whereas in your / their schema, Sadhana is not necessary for jnana [you just need to attend a 3 year course 😉 ], but it is, to be a jivanmukta. Note no such distinction exists in Shankara: jivanmukta is coincidental with jnana.

    Anyway lets agree to disagree. You and I are not going to convince the other. And ultimately we each have to find our own path.

    Best wishes
    venkat

  8. “The non-attainment of the Self is but the ignorance of It. Hence the knowledge of the Self is Its attainment.” Shankara, Br.Up. bhAShya 1.4.7.

    Your understanding of ‘my / Arsha Vidya’ schema is incorrect. What they say is that someone who has zero qualification from sAdhana chatuShTAya will NEVER gain Self-knowledge; someone with middling attainment will gain it; someone with maximum qualification will ALSO gain j~nAna phalam.

    By all means let us disagree about the conclusions but at least let us ensure we both have the facts straight. 🙂

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

    • “… let us ensure we both have the facts straight. ”

      Tough luck.
      An impossibility for Vedantins.

      A fact for an ordinary mortal is that which is observed by the senses and known by the mind. But every Vedantin worth his salt begins telling us that what the senses show or the mind knows is all a big LIE – a superimposition.

      So Vedantin and “facts” will make strange bed-fellows! 🙂 🙂 🙂

      • Good point! 🙁

        Even so, words are all we have to go on – shravaNa is how it all begins. So we have to do the best we can.

        Can we agree to replace the word ‘facts’ with ‘ what was said by X’?

  9. Dennis

    You wrote:
    “The non-attainment of the Self is but the ignorance of It. Hence the knowledge of the Self is Its attainment.” Shankara, Br.Up. bhAShya 1.4.7.

    Yes, but in response, consider what Sankara actually means by knowledge:

    US 2.1: Because the Self cannot be negated, it is that which remains after saying ‘not this, not this’.

    US 6.4: The Self should ever be apprehended as the bare knower to the exclusion of the knowable. Even that which is known objectively as ‘I’ must be rejected. It is like a discarded limb.

    US14.38: How can there be thought and reflection on the part of ONE WHO IS WITHOUT MIND? How can there be activity on the part of one who is without sense organs? True is the Vedic text “Without vital energy, without mind, pure”.

    US 18.210: For that which is self-existent and self-evident has nothing to do. AND IF ANYONE HAS SOMETHING TO DO HE IS NOT THE SELF-EXISTENT AND SELF-EVIDENT ONE. IF ONE RESORTS TO BOTH IDEAS ONE DECEIVES ONESELF.

    US 19.5: WHEN THOU HAST CEASED TO FUNCTION there is no notion of difference through which one suffers through illusion, the delusion that there is a world. `for perception of difference is the cause of the rise of illusion. When sense of difference is absent (as in dreamless sleep), no one experiences any illusion.

    US 19.8: O my mind, here thou art of the nature of non-existence. For when the matter is scrutinised thou canst not rationally be said to exist. The real, O my mind, cannot be destroyed and neither can the unreal be born. Thou are both born and destroyed. Therefore thou art non-existent.

    So yes Dennis, the mind has to be negated.

  10. PS The above is consistent with SSSS’:

    “To KNOW the Self is o BE the Self and to be the Self is to cease the identification with the not-self”

    And US 19.8 with Maharishi’s Upadesa Saram v.17:

    “When an enquiry is made into what exactly is this mind, it will be found that there is no mind at all. This is the direct path for realisation of the Self.”

    The mind is the last of the “not-Self” to be negated. Maharishi goes straight there – hence the direct path.

  11. Yes – the mind has to be recognized as mithyA. It is name and form of brahman, just as is the world.

    But this recognition still has to be done by the mind. There is no getting away from this. ‘Recognition’ is an activity in vyavahAra and the Self does not act. Enlightenment is an event in vyavhAra. It relates to the jIva – the Self does not need to be enlightened.

    After realization takes place, ‘doing’ continues but it is known that there is no ‘doer’.

  12. The mind – a superimposition on the Self – is not an illusory entity (pratibhasika), as Venkat is intent in conveying. As Dennis states it is mithya, a relative reality. Willy- nilly (I say this ironically) it has a function in vyavaharika or mundane life. It is only on the dawn of knowledge (anubhava) that mind becomes as useless, verily no-mind (GK 3-32).

    ‘… the mind is withdrawn onto itself by the knowledge got through discrimination, repeated practice and renunciation … (which results in the) disappearance of duality’ (GK Bh. 3-31).

    ‘Following (in the shadow of) Atman alone, the mind appears, manifests, pervaded by Atman; it accrues and manifests in our intuitive experience to help realise that ‘everything is Atman alone’ (Gita Bh. 6-26).

    Isn’t that the only way to realise the truth of what reality – ourselves included – is?

  13. Venkat posted: US 19.8 with Maharishi’s Upadesa Saram v.17:

    “When an enquiry is made into what exactly is this mind, it will be found that there is no mind at all. This is the direct path for realisation of the Self.”

    Martin posted: ‘… the mind is withdrawn onto itself by the knowledge got through discrimination, repeated practice and renunciation … (which results in the) disappearance of duality’ (GK Bh. 3-31).

    Both of these statements are discovered through one’s own meditation, which is the practice of direct looking at the mind both in its still aspects and in its moving aspects until its true nature is established. Without a repeated practice, which is what Dennis calls recognition, Maharshi calls negation, and the Gita calls intuitive experience, it is the only way to realize the truth of what reality is as Martin says.

    Martin also makes an important distinction in not regarding the mind as illusory. No one would argue that relative truth or reality doesn’t impact our experience. It is the seeing of one’s true nature that resolves the dualistic view of relative and ultimate reality, not conceptual models that capture the imagination of mind.

  14. Martin

    I’m not trying to convey anything; I do not claim to have wisdom. I have set out my understanding, backing it up with statements from sruti, in order to clarify my understanding through the crucible of your challenge. This approach is after all, Dennis’ sruti vichara.

    The quotes, that you responded to, clearly state that the mind and the world is an illusion. They are from Sankara’s Upadesa Sahasri. If you believe that I have taken the quotes out of context, or that the translation is poor (it is from Alston), please do instruct me.

    As for Gaudapada, the whole second chapter of Karikas is dedicated to showing the world is illusory, and that the waking state is equivalent to the dream state. SSSS writes in his Essential Gaudapada:
    “The things which are seen by us in the external region are also seen by others and are steady aren’t they? Thus one may raise a doubt.
    But this doubt too may not stand the test of Intuitive reasoning. For here also we may adduce the illustration of the dream . . . The dream at or during the time of the dream experience appears as waking alone; that experience being as real as the one in our waking is identical in esse. This truth is being driven home quite convincingly to all and sundry by this Avasthatraya Prakriya, which is the real clincher in all spiritual teaching, taking one to the acme of all Knowledge and Happiness . . . Therefore in the waking too, just as it is in the dream, both the internal and the external phenomenon are all imaginary indeed; merely on the ground of their having distinctions of belonging to Chittakala and Dvayakala, to assert that they are not imaginary at all there cannot be any evidence to be found.”

    It is also worth recalling the dialogue between Yajnavalkya and Maitreyi, where Sankara comments:
    “After attaining this oneness, the self, freed from the body and organs, has no particular consciousness. For it is due to ignorance, and since ignorance is absolutely destroyed by the realisation of Brahman how can the knower of Brahman, who is established in his nature as pure intelligence, possibly have any such particular consciousness . . .Therefore when one truly realises the unity of the Self, there cannot be any consciousness of actions and their factors and results. Hence, because of contradiction, there is an utter absence of actions and their means for the knower of Brahman. The words ‘what’ and ‘through what’ are meant as a fling, and suggest the sheer impossibility of the other factors of an action also; for there cannot possibly be any such factors as the instrument. The idea is that no one by any means can smell anything in any manner”

    Sorry Martin there is no vyavaharika here, for Sankara’s knower of Brahman.

  15. Venkat,

    The premature dismissing of mind or world as illusory is to never understand (see) that the world of appearance has the same nature as Brahman. If you only take sruti and citations as truth, you are not a practitioner. A practitioner is one who investigates themselves directly. They have seen clearly that all appearances are mind only, so they look directly at mind, not the words in books. The words in books help us to direct our attention, to give us some energy for the investigation. The realizations are not the same as the words in books. Only your direct perceptions of mind and its modes can see through its veiling habits. Recognition of the nature of mind is essential and possible through direct investigation. The constant application of this recognition must happen through the meditative or contemplative process. It is mental at first because of all the images we have identified with through our mental habits but as stabilization takes place, samadhi, stillness and one-pointedness, there comes insight, or seeing through to the nature of mind which is free of imagery and analysis. This recognition is not conceptual and it is not divisive into subject/object. Relative and ultimate lose their meanings as these are just conceptions themselves. The taste of oneness has nothing to do with words or numbers. All these words must be let go of as they carry the images of delusion with them. This is a difficult thing to comprehend. You are just caught in a view, nothing more. Vicara reveals this.

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