Who am I?

In the (very long) thread of Q. 479 ‘What should I read?’, Ramesam asked the question: Who do we (the posters) mean when we use the words ‘I’ and ‘you’?

He suggested that ‘I’ could mean Atman/Brahman, if used from the ‘as if’ pAramArthika viewpoint; it could mean the reflected Consciousness (chidAbhAsa); or it could mean the usually understood ‘named person’.

I suggest that it can ONLY mean the usually understood, named person. When ‘I’ speak to ‘you’ or when I write the word ‘I’ in a post, I cannot be Atman/Brahman. The pAramArthika Atman/Brahman is non-dual. It is neither actor nor enjoyer. It does no do anything. It does not speak and it does not write. When I write and use the word ‘I’, if I mean Brahman, I need to add additional words to make this obvious.

The chidAbhAsa concept is a metaphor to explain how it can be that I am really Atman/Brahman and yet appear to be a conscious, embodied, independent entity. It relates the appearance to the reality. But I am not a metaphor.

Similarly, when I address ‘you’, I am speaking/writing to the named individual ‘you’. I would scarcely have the temerity to write to Brahman (and what would be the point?)! And, again, it would not be meaningful to address a metaphor.

If anyone is NOT using the same criteria when they post, could they please do so henceforth! 😉

Communication is only meaningful when an (apparently) independent entity A speaks or writes etc. to another (apparently) independent entity B.  B doesn’t know in advance what A is going to say or write. All is empirically familiar and obvious. There is no need to complicate things unnecessarily. Occam’s razor reigns supreme!

49 thoughts on “Who am I?

  1. Agree with Dennis’ sensible proposal: everyone to write as from their personal pronoun, I rather than i, or ‘I’. But that I can only be a metaphor or symbol for the Self (Atman-brahman), unless one directly means ‘this body-(individual)mind)’, e.g. ‘this AMG’. What else could AMG – name and form – represent, stand for? Thus one can dispense with either their identification with/as chidabhasa, or pretend to be pure Consciousness/the Self as the One that utters statements and offers opinions in this forum. Will everyone agree to this?

  2. It is not clear that you are actually agreeing with me here, Martin.

    What I (Dennis) am saying is that it is ONLY possible/sensible for us to write from the personal, named point of view. I (Dennis) may know that I (Dennis) am really Brahman but it is not meaningful to write from a Brahman point of view because Brahman does not ‘do’ anything.

    If I say that ‘I am enlightened’, I mean that I, the person going by the name of Dennis, have gained Self-knowledge. I can recognize that it is actually Brahman being metaphorically reflected in the buddhi of the body-mind Dennis that is animating/enabling this. But what we don’t want to do is to start saying things like “it was seen that the body did such and such”. This is the way of neo-Advaita!

  3. 1. There appears to be a lot of confusion about terms like liberation, mokSha, mukti, Self-knowledge etc.

    Actually all those terms are synonyms. They are all interchangeable. IOW,

    Liberation = mokSha = mukti = Self-knowledge = brahma jnAna = brahma bhAva = jnAna.

    2. Next there also appears to be some absence of clarity with regard to the usage of the terms like “phalam”; “gain”; “attainment”; “mokSha” etc. and “ending of ignorance.”

    At 1.4.7, brihadAraNyaka, Shankara clarifies, replying to the opponent as follows:

    फलं च मोक्षोऽविद्यानिवृत्तिर्वा ॥
    The result (phalam) is liberation on the cessation of ignorance.

    आत्मविषयमिथ्याज्ञाननिवृत्तौ च तत्प्रभवाः स्मृतयो न भवन्ति स्वाभाविक्योऽनात्मवस्तुभेदविषयाः |
    And when this false notion about the Self is gone, memories due to that, which are natural to man and concern the multitude of things other than the Self, cannot last.

    ज्ञानलाभयोरेकार्थत्वस्य विवक्षितत्वात् । आत्मनो ह्यलाभोऽज्ञानमेव ; तस्माज्ज्ञानमेवात्मनो लाभः|
    The shruti uses the words ‘knowledge’ and ‘attainment’ as synonymous.
    The non-attainment of the Self is but the ignorance of It. Hence the knowledge of the Self is Its attainment.

    तस्मान्निराशङ्कमेव ज्ञानलाभयोरेकार्थत्वं विवक्षन्नाह — ज्ञानं प्रकृत्य — ‘अनुविन्देत्’ इति ; विन्दतेर्लाभार्थत्वात् ॥
    Therefore the Sruti, wishing to express the indubitable identity of meaning of knowledge and attainment, says after introducing knowledge, ‘May get: for the root ‘vid’ also means ‘to get.’

    [All the above bhAShya translations: Swami Madhavananda.]

  4. Dear Dennis,

    Being concise and precise without losing clarity is the usual Hallmark of your writings. I always admired those skills of yours and perhaps expressed so a few times at this site.

    But, Alas, your latest Comment (at the Q: 479 What should I read?) referring to me is a mess of confusion. Sorry.

    Leaving out the detailed critique, let me point out some important things that appear to emerge (as I see it 🙂 ):

    1. “jnAni” is one who gains or attains Self-knowledge.

    [You seem to agree with the above as you say: “A person gains Self-knowledge. He/she thereby immediately becomes a j~nAnI.”
    I will not prefer to use the word “person” – but let it go).

    2. We should reject the use of the word “phalam” as a concept.

    [You seem to suggest so, as you say, “because you cannot gain as fruit something that you already have!”]

    3. A jnAni, i.e. one who attains Self-knowledge, is liberated immediately.

    [ You seem to agree to the above because you say: “You can say that they are ‘simultaneously liberated’ ”
    I prefer to delete the four words “that they now know” in your sentence that says: “This simultaneously means that they now know that they are already free,” – but let it go.]

    Summing up, you are now clear that the concept of ‘phalam’ is only figurative and a jnAni who attained Self-knowledge is liberated without any time gap.

    THAT IS GREAT.

    ***

    On one side you complain that there are too many comments to respond to, but on the other, you keep raising new issues every time.

    For example, instead of stopping with the points as above at 1, 2 and 3, you introduce a new topic of SCS and an IMAGiNED proportionality relationship with attainment of mukti. You yourself use the word “phalam” once again here whereas you said a little earlier that it did not make sense to say that you “gain as fruit something that you already have!”

    Have you not yourself FORCED us to request you for shruti and Shankara bhAShya citations that speak about such a “proportonality relationship” between SCS and mukti or mokSha?

  5. Dear Ramesam,

    I am indeed disappointed that you found my ‘clarification’ confusing, when I had been at pains to ensure it was very clear. I will reformulate what I said, endeavouring to take into consideration your comments.

    1. It is the person who gains Self-knowledge. The use of the word ‘person’ was intentional. If we are differentiating between ‘I’, Dennis, and ‘you’, Ramesam, everyone knows there are two persons involved. Those people who know me do not also know you. Why complicate and confuse things by trying to define this in any other way?? Certainly, when A gains Self-knowledge, he/she then knows that, in reality, he/she is Brahman. He/she also knows that B is Brahman, the world is Brahman, and everything is Brahman. But B probably still does not know this. I.e. it is the person who gains Self-knowledge.

    2. When the person gains Self-knowledge, he/she simultaneously knows that he/she is free (or has mokSha/mukti). He or she was already free but did not previously realize this. Thus, liberation is not ‘gained’, it is ‘realized already to be the case’. As I said, you cannot ‘gain’ what you already have. Therefore, mokSha cannot be a ‘phalam’ in any sense other than figurative. It may be the case that it is used in shruti but, if it is, it would have to be figurative. I never claimed that there was a time-lapse between gaining Self-knowledge (becoming a j~nAnI) and being liberated (gaining mokSha).

    3. What I did claim is that there may be a time gap between gaining Self-knowledge and becoming a j~nAna niShThA or jIvanmukta. This is because there may be pratibandha-s associated with the prArabdha that still has to be worked out before the body-mind dies. The destruction of the pratibandha-s is synonymous with the gaining of j~nAna phalam. This is what I will be writing about shortly (if people stop querying everything I say and making me write lots of other stuff!).

    4. I didn’t think I was raising new issues. I thought I was endeavouring to clarify things that have already been talked about. I started a new thread because the other was getting exceedingly long and this was clearly a separate issue (raised by yourself) that could affect other future discussions. Since we have raised the issue of pratibandha-s, we cannot avoid talking about sAdhana chatuShTaya sampatti because the two are directly related. And I re-used the word phalam in its correct context rather than implying that mokSha was a phalam of gaining j~nAna. We both (I think) agree that it is not a phalam but effectively the same thing.

    5. In my future post on pratibandha-s, my aim is to provide supporting quotes from shruti and Shankara (and maybe others). I am not providing any here because otherwise my post will be post-Xmas!

  6. Hi Dennis,

    Sorry to keep at this, but this is important.

    1) You say you do not disagree with anything in the SNS post. So when he says that he is not a jnani, how would you reconcile that with the fact that he understands and has studied advaita probably more deeply than any of us? And he quite clearly says there is no jnana phalam separate from jnana, and does not refer to completing SCS after becoming a jnana.

    2) You have made two statements that:
    – one who has self-knowledge (jnani) has moksha / mukti.
    – there can be a time gap between gaining self-knowledge and jivanmukta.
    But the very definition of jivanmukta is liberation whilst living. So logically how can the first two sentences be mutually consistent? How can you be a jnana and have mukti, and not be a jivanmukti?

    3) BG 6.27 states:
    “Supreme Bliss comes to this yogi alone whose mind has become perfectly tranquil, whose rajas has been eliminated, who has become identified with Brahman, and is taintless”
    In his commentary to this Sankara writes “brahma-bhutam, who has become identified with Brahman, means ‘liberated while alive’ (jivanmukta); who has got the certitude that Brahman is all.
    Now I think you’d agree that jnana / self-knowledge = identified with Brahman, that Brahman is all. And here Sankara is equating this unambiguously with jivanmukta.

  7. Hi Venkat,

    1) There is no doubt in my mind that SNS was a j~nAnI. One can only presume that one of his pratibandha-s was that of excessive humility. Even if he had some wrong idea about an aspect of the teaching, this would not prevent his being a j~nAnI.

    2) What do you mean when you say that someone ‘has mukti’? I understand that the person referred to knows that they are already free. Such a person I call a j~nAnI. I call someone a jIvanmukta if they have gained the ‘fruits’ of this knowledge, i.e. equanimity. fearlessness, lack of concern about life’s events etc. Only a j~nAnI can be a jIvanmukta but one can be the former and not the latter. (As I told Ramesam, I will endeavor to give scriptural references to support this view.)

    3) I have no quibble with this. The words ‘whose rajas has been eliminated’ means that pratibandha-s have been destroyed. The mind is now totally sattvic and the j~nAnI is now a jIvanmukti.

  8. Hi Dennis

    (1) SNS defined a jnani as someone who ‘has given up completely his identification with the body-mind’. As you wrote to me this is different from knowing that you are not the body-mind, which is how you define a jnani. SNS’ definition takes this beyond scholarly knowledge to aparoksha anubuthi (as he himself wrote).

    (2) Given that Sanskrit is a very precise, technical language I would have thought that the use of the word jivanmukta (one who is liberated in life) would not have been used by Shankara differently from a “jnani”, if we are all agreeing that a jnani has mukti.

    (3) The point of the quote is that Shankara is equating identification with Brahman (which we agree means a jnani) with jivanmukta. See (2) above.

    Finally, I’d refer you to BG4.39, Krishna says:

    “The man of faith, who has mastered his senses and who is intent on it wins knowledge. WINNING KNOWLEDGE, HE ATTAINS WITHOUT DELAY THE PEACE SUPREME”

    Sankara’s bhasya:
    Through faith one may proceed slowly; hence the qualification ‘intent on it’. Though intent, his senses may not have been mastered; hence the further qualification ‘who has mastered his senses’ [inferring his SCS is complete]. Such a man, faithful, intent on knowledge and master of his senses, is bound to gain knowledge. Winning knowledge, the peace supreme, liberation is attained without delay, immediately. That liberation immediately follows from right perception is the unshakable doctrine established by all the sastras.

  9. Hi Dennis,

    It is a delight to visit your website and see people actively taking part in discussions and their sincere and earnest interest in Advaitha. Now a days Advaitha is the only thing that interests me and everyday I spend most of my time on that.

    In your 2nd point above, you imply that one who has Self knowledge is Jnani or enlightened. I disagree.

    One might have read the Upanishads, Bhagavadgita Gita, Ashtavakra Gita and works of Shankara, Sureswara, Vidyaranya, etc. A person might have thoroughly understood the Advaitha philosophy and might even be completely convinced without any doubt that Brahman alone is and everything else is Mitya. Such a person may be called Mumukshu and not Jnani because the Self knowledge or the knowledge of the Self is still bookish and theoretical. Gurus and scriptures can lead a person only until this step. The next step has to be tread alone and that step is Self Realisation.

    Equipped with the Self knowledge the person should strive for Self realisation through constant contemplation and meditation. Stilling of the mind or absolute calmness of the mind should be achieved. Efforts should be intensified so that one can abide with calm mind for prolonged durations. Soon the person will be able to reach the calm mind state effortlessly and at one’s will. Such a person instead of just “knowing” that the world is mitya develops a natural disinterest for the worldly things. The activities that were of great interest earlier such as sports, movies, parties, name, fame, recognition, appreciation, etc do not lure or attract anymore. Such a person can be said to have grown from being a Mumukshu to a Jnani.

    This is still the first baby step in the path of Jnana. That means though the knowledge has dawned, still I, me, mine – the Ego might not be totally anhilitated. Remember that even the great Shankara had traces of ego which had to be pointed out to him by none other than the Lord Siva himself by coming in the garb of Chandala holding four dogs (which were four vedas).

    If that’s the case with the great master Shankara then what about other mortals. The effort should be continued and intensified to abide in the Self for more and more time until the goal is reached.

    The goal is BG 3.17

    yastvaatmaratireva syaadaatmatruptashcya maanavaha |
    aatmanyeva cha santushtastasya kaaryam na vidyate

    “But, one who revels only being with the Atman (Self), and is content and satisfied in the Self alone, no duty exists for him”

    A person who succeeds in achieving this is called Jivan Mukta and would have qualities that you mentioned such as equanimity, fearlessness, disinterested in worldly matters, love, compassion, etc.

    A Mumukshu or Jignasu should strive to become a Jnani and the Jnani should continue the Sadhana, gradually keep maturing and finally become a Jivan Mukta.

  10. Hi Venkat,

    I’m not sure what point(s) you are making with respect to S. N. Sastri. We both agree that he was extremely knowledgeable and I said I had no doubt that he was a j~nAnI. But there are two corollaries to this: 1) As Shankara has pointed out (I believe – I don’t have the reference), it is not possible for anyone to determine whether or not another is enlightened; 2) Whether he was or not does not allow us to conclude that everything he said is in accord with traditional teaching (shruti + Shankara).

    I believe that the way in which I have used the word ‘jIvanmukti’ does not contradict anything said by Shankara. In BG 6.27, he clearly says that he is referring to one ‘whose mind has been thoroughly stilled’ and ‘whose delusions and other afflictions have dwindled away’. I.e. he is referring to someone who no longer has any pratibandha-s, having eliminated them by completing sAdhana chatuShTaya sampatti prior to following shravaNa-manana. Hence, on enlightenment, he/she ALSO gains the phalam SIMULTANEOUSLY and therefore, according to agreed definition, becomes a jIvanmukta.

    Exactly the same applies to BG 4.39. The verse itself refers to ‘one who has subdued the senses’ and Shankara reiterates this in his bhAShya. Furthermore, in his introduction to Chapter 3, Shankara says: “Also, BECAUSE EMANCIPATION IS NOT AN EFFECT, its seeker stands to gain nothing from works.” (मोक्षस्य च अकार्यत्वात् मुमुक्षोः कर्मानर्थक्यम् नित्यानि प्रत्यवायपरिहारार्थानि इति चेत् न). This shows that Shankara agrees that liberation is automatically associated with gaining Self-knowledge, so that the word ‘phalam’ cannot refer to ‘liberation’. This strongly implies that he would agree that any phalam relates to the clearance of pratibandha-s in the event that Self-knowledge occurs before their complete destruction. In other words, there is nothing in what you say that contradicts what I have suggested.

  11. Hi Arun,

    Good to have someone else join in the discussions!

    I’m afraid you are wrong here, though. The book I am writing set out to clarify confusions such as this. It is still expanding as new issues, such as the current one, are raised and I hope to post the ‘pratibandha’ topic in a few days.

    The ideas you express are largely due to the influence of VIvekananda, who denigrated scriptures and embraced Yoga philosophy. It is he principally who propagated the idea that we gain the knowledge and then have to practice/experience via samAdhi. Shankara was quite clear that mokSha = Self-knowledge and nothing more has to be ‘done’. I am not going to attempt to summarise here or give quotations. It takes many pages in the book to go through all the arguments and show, hopefully beyond any possibility of contradiction, that this is correct.

  12. Hi Dennis,

    Actually I have not read much of Vivekananda as I found it too verbose and confusing. What I was saying about Jivan Mukta, I read it in Jivan Mukti Viveka by Vidyaranya.

    The way you use the term “Self knowledge” implies Shravana and Manana. Once Advaitha philosophy is understood without any doubt then “Viveka” part of Sadhana Chatushtaya is complete. Using this Self knowledge, Self realisation should be pursued by continuous contemplation and meditation. This is Nididyasana. Without this one cannot become a Jnani.

    You seem to imply that knowledge about Self, which is knowing about Advaitha philosophy, which is just Shravana and Manana is enough for one to be called as Jnani which I disagree. Putting the knowledge to practice which is Nididyasana and succeeding in having the Direct Experience, which is called Aparoksha Anubhuti is essential for one to be called as Jnani.

  13. Hi Arun,

    Yes, you are right – I follow the vivaraNa school and accept that it is shravaNa alone that gives Self-knowledge. The purpose of nidihyAsana is purely to assimilate and consolidate that knowledge.

    I have a separate section on Vidyaranya in the book and refer to jIvanmukti viveka extensivley in the section on jIvanmukti. There is a fair bit of misleading stuff in here!

  14. Hi Dennis,

    I had not paid much attention to Bhamati or Vivarana schools. My sources have always been Upanishads (about 115), Bhagawad Gita, Ashtawakra Gita and works of Gaudapada, Shankara, Sureswara and Vidyaranya. Thus most of the above literature existed before the formation of these schools.

    I took my time to go through Aparoksha Anubhuti and Vivekachudamani completely before trying to reply. Hence the delay. Before I quote from them I find that by simple logic it is extremely difficult to accept that “Shravana alone is sufficient for Self Knowledge and is enough to be called as Jnani”. Wikipedia article on Vivarana schoool contains the same statement.

    If a person has read in complete detail all about airplane flying and even had practiced extensively using a simulator can he be called as Pilot if the person has never flown a real plane even once?

    Similarly if a person has read all about a surgery, is it enough for that person to be called as surgeon even if he has never performed a surgery?

    Thus it is very difficult to accept that Shravana alone is good enough to obtain the Self Knowledge.

    Let us see what the great master Shankara has to say about this.

    Quotes from Aparoksha Anubhuti

    Verse 100 clearly outlines that meditation is essential for Liberation, Moksha which is clearly against what you have specified which is Shravana provides Self Knowledge and hence one gets Moksha.

    Verses 101 – 124 talk about meditation to obtain Moksha. This means Nididyasana is highly essential to put into practice the knowledge obtained from Shravana and Manana.

    Verses 125 – 129 talk about constant practice even after succeeding in obtaining the Direct Experience because the obstacles still remain, I, me, mine – the ego is still not totally conquered. By constant practice one can finally succeed. This is what I had mentioned in my earlier post where once the Direct Experience is gained one becomes Jnani and after constant practice and perfection the Jnani could become Jivan Mukta.

    Quotes from Vivekachudamani

    In Vivekachudamani I find tons of verses contradicting the statement “Shravana alone is sufficient for obtaining Self Knowledge”.

    Verse 6 – Even if one is well versed in Shastras and Scriptures it is useless if one has not obtained the direct experience of the Self. This I think is the direct condemnation of the tenet of Vivarana school.

    Verse 15 says one should meditate.

    Verse 16 says one who has understood the scriptures well becomes an Adhikari or becomes qualified to receive Atma Vidya, Self Knowledge which clearly implies that Shravana alone is not sufficient to obtain Self Knowledge. Shravana makes a person an Adhikari.

    Verse 56 clearly declares that by learning Moksha is not possible. Only by Self Realization which is obtained by practicing Nididyasana, Moksha is possible.

    Verse 64 – Without conquering the land, just by merely repeating “I am the Emperor”, one cannot become an emperor. Basically what is learnt has to be put to practice which means Nididyasana is a must.

    I can go on as I said earlier I found easily more than 50 verses clearly specifying that Nidiyasana has to be practiced and Direct Experience has to be gained to qualify for Moksha. Shravana alone cannot provide Self Knowledge and is not enough to attain Moksha.

    ****************

    If you chose to reply please consider all the verses I have quoted and feel free to point out if there are any mistakes in my interpretation.

    I would also appreciate if you could quote the verses from Scriptures and works of Shankara that support the Vivarana school’s view which is “Shravana alone is enough for Self Knowledge and Moksha”.

    Regards
    Arun

  15. Hi Arun,

    I’m afraid we are getting side-tracked here. These are all aspects of the various ‘confusions’ that stimulated me to write the book I am presently writing. But I do not intend to try to write it via various posts and responses to random questions. I want to tackle the various problems in a systematic manner, identifying the misconceptions, then rationalising and explaining these, and finally quoting from scriptures and Shankara to support my explanations.

    So just a couple of points here (you will have to wait for the book for the comprehensive rebuttal):

    nididhyAsana does not mean ‘meditation’ per se, but ‘assimilation’ or ‘consolidation’. It refers to ‘Vedic meditation’, not upasana.

    Regarding your examples of flying an aeroplane or performing surgery, could you please explain what sort of ‘practice’ would constitute becoming ‘proficient’ in being Brahman (which you are already, and always have been, since That is all there is)?

    With respect to the classic scriptural analogy used to explain bhAga tyAga lakShana (‘this is that devadatta’ – see http://www.advaita.org.uk/discourses/definitions/bhAga.htm), could you tell me what additional ‘practice’ is needed after the immediate realisation that devadatta is the person you once knew, in order ‘fully’ to realize that?

    I will provide lots of quotations in the book, and refute some of those quotations used to support misunderstandings. Here is one quotation to be going on with (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad bhAShya 1.4.7):

    “Others say that meditation generates a new special kind of consciousness regarding the Self, through which the latter is known, and which alone removes ignorance, and not the knowledge due to the Vedic dicta about the Self. And in support of this view they cite such texts as the following: ‘(The aspirant after Brahman) knowing about this alone, should attain intuitive knowledge’ [4.4.21]; ‘The Self is to be realized – to be heard of, reflected on and meditated upon’ [2.4.5, 4.5.6]; ‘That is to be sought, and That one should desire to realize’ [Chandogya Up.8.7.1-3].

    “Both views are wrong, for there is no reference to anything else in the passage in question. To be explicit: The sentence ‘The Self alone is to be meditated upon’ is not an original injunction. Why? Because except the knowledge that arises from the dictum setting forth the nature of the Self and refuting the non-Self, there is nothing to be done, either mentally or outwardly… Apart from the knowledge arising from such passages delineating the Self as ‘Not this, not this’, there is no scope for human activity… because that knowledge puts a stop to all activity. For a neutral knowledge cannot initiate any activity.” Once you have gained the knowledge that there is no other entity but the Self, “no activity is possible, for they are contradictory to each other.” (Swami Madhavananda translation)

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  16. ‘Knowledge and Meditation’- (from) Articles and Thoughts on VEDANTA, by Sri Sri Satchidanandendra Saraswati Swamiji. Adhyatma Prakasha Karyalaya, 2015.

    Knowledge of Brahman and meditation upon Brahman are both mental. But then there is the important difference between them, that while knowledge culminates in immediate intuition of Brahman as Atman or one’s own Self, meditation bears it final truth only after death in the other world.

    As Shankara remarks (1.1.4 BSB):

    “Question” – Is not what is called Jnana (knowledge) a sort of mental action?

    Answer – No, for there is a difference: That is known to be an action which is enjoined (by the Sruti) without any regard for the nature of things and which is dependent solely upon the function of a person’s mind. While meditation or thinking is mental, yet it is possible to do, or not to do, or even to do it quite otherwise, since it is solely dependent on (the will of) a person. Knowledge, however, is produced by (some) valid means (such as perception), relates to an existing thing just as it is. Hence knowledge is impossible to do, or not to do or else to do in some other way. It is solely dependent upon its object and not upon any (Vedic) injunction or on (the will of) a person. Therefore, even while knowledge is mental, there is a great disparity (between knowledge and meditation)”

    Shankara is at pains of stressing this disparity, especially because a commentator of an earlier school of Vedanta, insisted on it that the Vedanta Sastra as the sole valid means of knowledge with regard to the nature of Brahman, presents the latter only as a factor of the injunction of meditation (Pratipatti), since the purpose of (all) Sastra is only to urge or to dissuade persons aspiring for release from the bondage of mundane life. This particular school of interpretation adopted across roads in its approach to explain the purport of the Upanishads.

    The position of this commentator is thus described in the Sutra-Bhasya:
    ‘There are (Vedic) injunctions like the following: Atman alone, my dear, is to be seen (Br.); That Atman who is free from sin… He is to be sought after; He is to be known (Ch.);; He is to be meditated upon as Atman alone (Br.); Knowing Brahman, one becomes that very Brahma (Mu); (with regard to such texts), the question arises ‘Who is that Atman?’ ‘And what is that Brahman?’ Texts like the following serve the purpose of presenting the nature of that (Atman or Brahman)- Eternal, Omniscient, Omnipresent, ever content, ever Pure, intelligent and free; Brahman is Consciousness and Bliss. And from Its meditation will accrue release in the other world, as revealed in the Sastra.’

    In perfect contrast and direct opposition to this view of the ancient school, Shankara maintains that

    1. Knowledge cannot be enjoined and release from bondage is not something to be accomplished –… (3.4.33 BSB)

    2. Knowledge of Brahman (culminating in intuition) only points out release which has been ever achieved by the aspirant. The state of release is Brahman
    (4.1.52 BSB)

    3. Texts devoted to the description of Brahman only end by teaching the nature of that existing entity; they never urge aspirants to undertake any action.
    (3.1.12 BSB)
    4. In texts which negate specific features in Brahman must be regarded as representing Brahman as it is, but texts that ascribe specific features to Brahman do not actually purport to describe Reality, for their aim is only to lay down an injunction of meditation.
    (3.2.14 BSB)

  17. Thank you, Martin! Great to see a post that supports what I have been saying instead of criticizing! 😉

    Would it possible to provide the references for the Shankara quotes so that I can include in the relevant sections of my ‘Confusions’ book? (Don’t need for the shruti quotes.)

  18. hi Dennis,

    I appreciate the fact that last few exchanges have been to the point which is “Is Shravana alone sufficient to gain Self Knowledge?”. You say so but I am of the opinion that Shravana (learning) alone is not sufficient and what has been learnt has to be put to practice until one has the Direct Experience.

    I would have appreciated much more if your explanations had included your views on the verses I had quoted from Vivekachudamani which were verses 6, 15, 16, 56 and 64.

    You have asked what kind of practice is required to realise that we are Brahman which we already are. Martin also seems to echo the same view which is nothing more to be done when somebody has read upanishads and other scriptures. By the way, I want to thank Martin for referring to Adyatma Prakasha as I found tons of articles on their website and have started reading them. The articles in that site also talk about Anubhava meaning experience. That means after learning one should strive to have the direct experience.

    Basically the practice that is required after learning the scripture is to remove Avidya. Brahman we already are. But no amount of parroting that “I am Brahman. Everything else is Mithya” is going to give the Self Realization. This is exactly what Shankara unambiguously mentions in Vivekachudamani, Verse 64 which says by merely repeating “I am the emperor”, one cannot become the emperor. In your next reply or the book you are intending to write I request you to refer to this Verse no. 64 and provide your views.

    In Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.3 it says “Use the Upanishads as the bow, highly focused single pointed concentration as the arrow and penetrate the target (which is Brahman)”.

    I hope that in the above sloka, the call for action is clear which is to penetrate the target with great concentration and stillness of the mind. The upanishad did not ask to just read the Upanishads and stop there as nothing more to be done. It is urging the seeker to use what has been learnt in the Upanishads and using the mind with great concentration realise that you are Brahman.

    Finally I want to refer to Sadhana Chatushtaya which has been painstakingly explained in great detail by Shankara. In my opinion Sadhana Chatushtaya is not something to be just “learnt” and understood. It is also nothing but a call for action and the seekers are supposed to be practicing it.

    The last two virtues of Shad Sampatthi are Shraddha and Samadhana.

    Shraddha is learning the scriptures and having faith in them.

    Samadhana is single pointed absolute focus (Chitta Ekagratha). This is definitely an action, though not physical yet it is a mental action that needs to be practiced. This is basically what I have been referring to using many words such as meditation, dhyana, Nidhidhyasana, etc. This should be practiced constantly until one has Aparoksha Anubhuti (Direct Experience). This practice of Dhyana does not give any special kind of consciousness about the Self. Rather it removes the Avidya, helps one to recognise and remove Anonya Adhyasa which is the Mutual Superimposition and wrong identification of Self. Then one starts enjoying in being “Silent Beatitude” or in being “Silent Awareness” which is the state of Self Realization or being with the Self.

    Regards
    Arun

  19. Hi Arun,

    You cannot really use vivekachUDAmaNi as authority for Shankara’s views as it is generally agreed that this text was not written by Shankara. It is excellent for teaching many aspects of Advaita but on the topic of what precisely ‘triggers’ enlightenment, it can be misleading, especially when the translation and commentary are by teachers who are more influenced by mystics such as Ramakrishna. Also, when you quote verses from this text, you really need to give the Sanskrit as well, since the many versions differ in their numbering.

    By 6, I assume you refer to paThantu shAstrANi… This is saying that simply following the injunctions of karma kANDa or reciting the text of scriptures is not going to achieve anything. You actually have to trigger Self-knowledge (through shravaNa!)

    By 15, I assume you refer to arthasya nishayo… Swami Madhavanada uses the word ‘meditation’ in his translation; but he was president of Ramakrishna Math so is unfortunately prone to such tendencies. (Sorry – I did not mean that to sound patronising. I certainly do not consider my knowledge to be a match for his. But it is unfortunately true that mistranslations such as these frequently occur and mislead seekers.) The relevant word is vichAreNa and no one else translates this as ‘meditation’. Even Swami Ranganathananda, also a past president of Ramakrishna Math, translates as ‘reasoning’. ‘Reflection’, ‘deliberation’, ‘consideration’ would also do.

    The verses which follow that one, incidentally, make it clear that one should undertake the fourfold sAdhana (chatuShTaya sampatti) as a PRELUDE to going to a qualified teacher to listen to the scriptures. I.e. shravaNa comes AFTER these practices, not the other way around. (This answers your last point.)

    Your verse 16, I take to be adhikAriNam AshAste… As you say, this is saying that success depends upon the seeker’s qualifications. But there is no mention of “having understood the scriptures”. Indeed, the next verse says the seeker has to go to a teacher in order to LISTEN TO the scriptures!

    Swami Madhavananda’s translation of verse 56 (na yogena na sAMkhyena…) is: “Neither by Yoga, nor by Sankhya, nor by work, nor by learning, but by the realization of one’s identity with Brahman is liberation possible, and by no other means.” I have no objection to this. There is no mention of nididhyAsana here.

    Finally, you are over-interpreting verse 64 (akRRitvA shatru-saMhAram…). Indeed, one cannot truly realize that one is Brahman simply by repeating ‘I am Brahman’. One has to eliminate the wrong notions by listening to the teacher and clarifying doubts over a prolonged period of time. Again, there is no mention of nididhyAsana here.

    You still have not answered my question about what ‘experience’ of Brahman could possibly mean. No ‘practice’ could ever remove Self-ignorance; only ‘knowledge’ can remove ignorance.

    Regarding your reference to Mundaka 2.2.3, I use this in my discussion on pratibandha-s which, if I am not continually diverted into other discussions – 😉 – I hope to begin posting in a few days’ time.

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  20. Hi Dennis,

    Great reply. Thanks for taking the time. I highly appreciate your detailed reply and thoroughly enjoyed going through it more than once. I sincerely think that we have collected some serious and interesting stuff which I am sure the visitors to your website would enjoy reading them. So please do not consider this as a distraction and I shall look forward for your upcoming article on Prathibandha.

    I think we have gotten really close. I have been using the Vivekachudamani translated by Swami Chinmayananda though I also have the books translated by Swami Ranganathananda and Swami Turiyananda.

    Verse 6 – patanthu Shastrani – Following karma kanda rituals or reading / reciting scriptures (Shravana) are nothing without the “Experience” of Atman. This implies that Shravana alone is not enough.

    Verse 15 – Atho Vicharah – I agree that “meditation” is a wrong translation by Chinmayananda. But definitely it urges the seeker to do “reflection” which is Manana. This again implies that Shravana alone is not enough.

    Verse 56 – na yogena – You had no objection to this. This verse clearly says just learning (Shravana) is not enough. “Realization” is essential which in my opinion can be had through “Direct Experience” by doing Nididyasana.

    Verse 64 – By saying “I am Brahman” realisation is not possible. The verse is clearly saying that by any amount of learning (Shravana) this mere repetition only is possible. The verse is clearly calling for action. Just like the emperor has to act and destroy the enemies to become the emperor, the seeker has to act by destroying the internal enemies, eliminate Raaga and Dwesha, burn all the desires, anhilate the me, mine – the ego and have the “Direct Experience” of abiding by the Atman.

    I mentioned both Shradha and Samadhana. Though you mentioned Shradha, unfortunately your reply had no mention of Samadhana. Actually this is the only single point I am disputing. I strongly believe Samadhana (Chitta Ekagratha) is a must to have the Self Realisation. No where in any texts it is mentioned that you can stop at Shradha (which is nothing but Shravana – reading the scriptures and listening to the guru – and having utmost faith in them). It is also not mentioned that Samadhana is not that important. In fact in all the verses mentioned above they are indicating the seeker to practice Samadhana to have the “Direct Experience” of the Self and become Self Realized.

    Now I shall focus on the “Experience” which I have been talking about and you have also specifically asked about it.

    I had been reading various Advatic texts for more than 9 years and I could understand from the texts that my underlying substratum is Atman / Brahman but actually I had no clue what it actually is. I felt like it is mere saying when I say “I am Atman” just exactly as mentioned in the Verse 64.

    But my reading continued and this time I decided to follow Sri Ramana Maharshi having full faith in his instruction “Be Silent. Self will automatically shine”. Initially I found it difficult to silence the mind even for 10 minutes. By trying it every day soon I was able to remain silent for 10 minutes. Then tried to increase it to 30 minutes. Though initially the mind remained silent, without my knowledge it would drift away from the silence and start wandering. Once I realised that my concentration had been disturbed, I used to cajole the mind to cooperate to be silent for 30 minutes and after that the mind could indulge in anything it likes. Soon I was able to establish silence for one hour and later for even two hours. But the Self did not shine.

    I was just following the instructions to remain silent. I did not know what to expect and how the Self will shine. But I continued this practice for four years. It was basically Nidhidyasana for two hours in the morning and the rest of the day whenever I got time I did Shravana and Manana. Soon I started enjoying being in silence everyday in the morning and it was now becoming effortless. But still no sign of Shining Self.

    One day when I was reading “Path of Sri Ramana – Part I” by Sadhu Om, I felt like there is further refinement in my understanding. Next day when I practiced the silence, I observed my own silence and suddenly it dawned on me that the observer is Atman and being silent is my true nature. This is what Ramana was hinting at that Self will automatically shine if one can be silent. Suddenly all the texts, all the slokas started making sense. Until then they were bookish knowledge. Now I could personally feel and vouch for them.

    So nothing special or spectacle happened. It is the same world, same me but some realisation happened and there were some wholesome changes in my perspective. All the changes happened at the same instant when the Truth dawned.

    For example, earlier I used to feel bored if I were to be alone for some time and used to seek refuge in TV, gadgets or some other activity. Now I really look forward to being alone for as much time as possible. Boredom is now history.

    Earlier my mind could remain silent only while practicing the meditation. Whereas now while sitting in a bus or a plane or a chair at home with my eyes wide open, my mind refuses to think and likes to remain silent.

    My speech and willingness to speak has drastically reduced.

    I lost great part of my individuality. I realised that all the thoughts are due to individual ego self and are the result of likes and dislikes. Now the self-centered thoughts are very less and this is what I had mentioned as clear recognition of Anyonya Adyasa and avoiding its affliction.

    Several things which used to attract me a lot such as watching sports, movies, parties, current affairs, etc. do not interest me anymore. It is not that I hate them but do not care for them as much as I used to.

    I was reading your post “What should I read” https://www.advaita-vision.org/q-479-what-should-i-read/

    In that you had mentioned a book by D.Venugopal. I downloaded it and read it. I would like to share two points from it which I enjoyed.

    He says that after we eat a banana, its peel or skin we just throw it away as we do not need it. It is not that we hate the peel or making a great effort to throw it away. We could feel the same way about the worldly things. I enjoyed the metaphor.

    The next point is he says that normally the mind is always wanting something or the other. When the mind does not want anything that is Ananda or Bliss. This I was reading for the first time and found it extremely useful.

    Thus it was from my personal experience that I was insisting that Nididyasana is essential and any amount of Shravana can give only bookish knowledge. At least that is the fact in my case.

    Wish you and all the folks a Very Happy New Year.

    Regards
    Arun

  21. As much as I don’t want to set a precedent in agreeing with Dennis 😉 . . .

    Arun, a few observations:

    1) Sankara does indeed say that for the advanced seeker, sravana, just once will be sufficient. But if not, repeated sravana, manana, nididhyasana is the appropriate means. Refer to BrahmaSutraBhasya 4.1.2

    2) Sankara’s teaching is that our problem is ignorance (superimposition of anatman on atman, and confusing the two), and the solution can only be knowledge, not any form of action – though naiskama karma and renunciation, can be a useful preparation for gaining the knowledge.. This knowledge, provided by sruti, is to negate all that is anatman, so that what is left is atman / Brahman. In my view, this ‘knowledge’ is actually a via negativa methodology to discriminate (viveka) between the real and not-real and to discard (vairagya) what is not real. So one’s increasingly subtle contemplation is on trying to discern what is real. And one’s way of living inevitably reflects this understanding and disidentification with the body-mind. If one’s way of life and thinking does not change, then I’d agree, this is just bookish knowledge.

    3) I don’t believe Ramana Maharishi advised anyone to sit to meditate for elongated periods of time. Indeed he would say that one needs to be meditative / aware throughout the day, alert to whenever the ego arises in one’s actions and thoughts – so as to be able to question ‘who am I that thinks it is acting or having this thought?’

    4) Ramana Maharishi taught essentially the same as Sankara’s ‘neti. neti’ through his “Who am I?” – a progressive discarding of all that one is not, to focus on what one is. His summa iru was consequently the ultimate instruction for the advanced seeker, who had already progressed in this line of enquiry. Summa iru was not, as far as I understand, a general instruction to meditate or still the mind. However stillness of the mind is an inevitable result of a deep understanding of what you are and what you are not. Krishnamurti used to say something along the lines of ‘when thought understands that it is forever limited, and can never access the infinite, it will naturally come to an end itself’. Summa iru is not a coercive injunction but a corollary of deep understanding and introspection.

    5) A jnani / jivanmukta is one who lives like a ‘dry leaf blown in the wind’, ‘not afflicting the world, and not afflicted by the world’, without desire, without fear. And only you yourself can know whether you have passed this test; whether you have jnana. Any compromise here is just cheating yourself, no one else!

    Hope this helps. Happy New Year to all.

    venkat

    • Happy New Year to all, and as many returns as you wish for !

      Ramesam says:
      Very clearly and beautifully summed up by you, Venkat.
      Thank you.
      ——-
      I agree wholeheartedly, Venkat’s summation comes from insight, I think !..ie Integrate, don’t differentiate, heh, heh.
      ——
      I am in the strongest agreement with this also, from Venkat:

      So one’s increasingly subtle contemplation is on trying to discern what is real. And one’s way of living inevitably reflects this understanding and disidentification with the body-mind. If one’s way of life and thinking does not change, then I’d agree, this is just bookish knowledge.
      ——————————
      As the Wiki tells us: Diogenes made a virtue of poverty. He begged for a living and often slept in a large ceramic jar in the marketplace.
      I would gladly accept any advice on the benefits of sleeping in tubs from Diogenes.

      I tend to think that “enlightenment” is one of the easiest things to mimic, and god knows there are a LOT of such mimics around.
      ————-

  22. Venkat, in his ‘Self-Enquiry’ Ramana does recommend prolonged periods of meditation. He begins chapter 8 ‘On Liberation’ with “This chapter teaches that Liberation can indeed be obtained by constant and prolonged meditation on the Self in the form of ‘Sivoham’ (I am Siva) which means ‘I am Atman’.” Later in the same chapter he says, “Long-cultivated tendencies can indeed be eradicated by long-continued meditation: ‘I am not the body, the senses, the mind, etc., I am the Self’ and “The Bliss of Liberation in life is possible only to the mind made subtle and serene by long continued meditation.” Ramana concludes ‘Self-Enquiry’ with the recommendation that we “meditate incessantly upon the Self and obtain the Supreme. Bliss of Liberation. This indeed is the purport of this work.” Cheers.

  23. Let me add my add my thanks to Venkat. A very pleasant New Year’s gift! 😉

    The only proviso I would make is regarding the equating of j~nAna with jIvanmukti. As most readers will know, I do not support this. My post on pratibandha-s is probably 70% complete but has not made any headway in the past few days (for one reason and another!).

    Regarding Rick Riekert’s comments: could you please give references in detail. What you refer to as Ramana’s ‘Self-enquiry’ does not appear to be his vichArasangrahaM. In any case, Ramana cannot be quoted as an authority for traditional Advaita. He wrote this particular work at the age of around 20, while living in silence in a cave. He had not had any sampradAya teaching. The explanation (traditionally) given for his enlightenment is that he received all his shravaNa-manana in a previous life. In which case, prolonged meditation might well have been all that he needed. For the ‘normal’ seeker, prolonged mediatation is no better than the reciting of verses from the scripture (mentioned earlier). (Although it is no doubt more comfortable than the equally pointless ‘living in a jar’!)

    This is also to let you know that I hope to respond to Arun’s last comment in some detail later today.

    Happy New Year to one and all,
    Dennis

  24. Hi Venkat,

    Good Summation. Nice way to end 2019 and a great way to welcome 2020.

    You said it is very personal for one to know whether one has passed the test or not. I completely agree.

    Almost after a decade of reading and understanding the texts, if I were to utter that “I am Brahman” it used to appear as mere utterance and used to sound hollow to me. If I were to persist that that’s what I am whether I agree or not then I used to feel like it is cheating and self deceit. But when one has the “Direct Experience”, Aparoksha Anubhuti, trying to utter “I am Brahman” sounds ridiculous. That is because it is as ridiculous as trying to say to oneself that “I am a male” or “I am a man”. I assertively know that “I am a man” and hence there is no necessity to say it outwardly. “I am Brahman” also becomes so once a person grasps it.

    This change has to happen for everybody. Any amount of repeating “I am Brahman” should feel like mere utterance and then one has to reach the stage where uttering “I am Brahman” should feel superfluous and redundant because the feeling “I am Brahman” becomes so obvious as it has been firmly grasped.

    In Adyatma Prakasha website pointed out by Martin, in few articles I have read so far which are written by Sri Satchidanandendra Saraswati, he calls it as Intellectual Knowledge and Intuitive Knowledge. Intellectual is something that is read and heard and Intuitive is something which one knows for sure as it is personalised and grasped.

    If this knowledge is gained by Shravana alone so be it. But by Samadhana (Chitta Ekagratha – Single pointed concentration) definitely it can be achieved. That’s what is recommended by Sadhana Chatushtaya and I would like to see some mention where it is said that “Samadhana” is not required.

    Ramana Maharshi just advised “Summa Iru” meaning “Be Silent”. In one of the texts I was reading the exact sentence was “Be Silent. The Self will automatically Shine”. When I read that I felt that “Hey!! that’s not a difficult ask. Let me try and see whether this guy is really telling the truth or not. But I knew that whatever it is, the experience is not going to happen overnight. Though specific time period was not mentioned I was prepared for the long haul and wanted to give my best effort. It was arduous, at times frustrating but after sustained effort it did not feel that difficult to “Be Silent”.

    When one grasps the Truth then there is definitely this feeling, “Is this it?”. This has been always there with me and how come I have been ignorant of it and how come it has been so elusive and so hard to grasp it. At the same time there is also this feeling that “I am Free”. “I am not in bondage” and Moksha is instantly attained. The realisation happens that Moksha is not something to be gained or attained but rather it has to be realised as it has been always there waiting to be grasped.

    When the Truth is grasped then one is not Silent only during meditation. The person becomes silent even while standing, sitting, walking, etc. That means in the waking state, the Jagrat Avastha, the mind loses its normal tendency of engaging in incessant thoughts and likes to remain silent devoid of thoughts. This is what is called “Abiding in the Self”. There is more and more liking to be with the Self and joy in losing the individual ego self.

    One final point. In my opinion Jnani and Jivanmukta are not the same and cannot be used interchangeably. A Jivanmukta is definitely a Jnani but not the other way around which is a Jnani is not Jivanmukta but is capable of becoming one with more intensified effort. A Jnani even after realizing the Truth, could still have the ego self, materialistic tendencies and liking to the worldly pleasures. But with further Sadhana the Jnani could become further refined, could become completely indifferent to the pleasures or pains offered by the world and could attain the state of Jivanmukta.

    Regards
    Arun

  25. Hi Rick

    “This chapter teaches that Liberation can indeed be obtained by constant and prolonged meditation on the Self in the form of ‘Sivoham’ (I am Siva) which means ‘I am Atman”

    I suspect that this introduction you quote to the chapter ‘On Liberation” was written by someone other than Maharishi. For in Ulladu Narpadu v32 he writes:
    “If one goes on meditating ‘I am not this, I am That’ – instead of winning the Natural State, which is indicated by the Upanishadic text ‘Thou art that’, by pursuing with one-pointed mind, the quest ‘who/what am I?’ – it is due to mere weakness of mind; for that Reality is ever shining as the Self.”

    In the chapter you quote, he goes on to write:
    “can the mind fixed unswervingly in the divine Self, and remaining unaffected even while engaged in activities, give in to such thoughts as ‘I am the body, I am engaged in work’, or again to the discriminating thought ‘I am not the doer’ . . . One should abide in the Self, without the sense of being the doer, even when engaged in work born of destiny”

    In his Guru Vachaka Kovai, v675 he writes:
    “You should go beyond meditating at specific periods of the day and continuously practice Self-Abidance at all times”

    In Mandukyakarika Gaudapada, and Sankara in his Bhasya, make a fine distinction between meditation to control / still the mind, and asparsa yoga, which is abidance in the Self, untouched by duality. As Sankara says elsewhere, the Self can only be defined as ‘neti, net’ – ie discarding all that is anatman.

    For me, Maharishi is saying the same as Sankara and Gaudapada. I also suggest that all would state that one needs to relinquish as many worldly activities as possible, in order to focus on this atma vichara or aparsa yoga. To quote Nisargadatta:

    “Limit your interests and activities to what is needed for you and your dependents’ barest needs. Save all your energies and time for breaking the wall your mind had built around you.”

    Finally I cannot think of a better commentary on Bhagavan’s “summa iru” than Nisargadatta:

    “There is nothing to do. Just be. Do nothing. Be. No climbing mountains and sitting in caves. I do not even say: “be yourself”, since you do not know yourself. Just be. Having seen that you are neither the “outer” world of perceivables, nor the “inner” world of thinkables, that you are neither body nor mind, just be.
    Think neither of the past nor of the future, just be. You are the changeless background, against which changes are perceived . . . Give up all working for a future, concentrate totally on the now, be concerned only with your response to every movement of life as it happens. . . Think carefully and deeply, go into the entire structure of your desires and their ramifications. They are a most important part of your mental and emotional make-up and powerfully affect your actions. Remember you cannot abandon what you do not know. To go beyond yourself you must know yourself.
    If you trust me, believe when I tell you that you are the pure awareness that illumines consciousness and its infinite content. Realize this and live accordingly. If you do not believe me, then go within, enquiring “What am I?”, or focus your mind on “I am”, which is pure and simple being.”

  26. Hi Arun,

    To revisit the vivekachUDAmaNi verses:

    paThanthu shAstrANi – The verb paTha means to read or recite. (Some versions give vadantu, which means to speak or recite.) The word shravaNa does not occur here and, in any case, it has nothing to do with ‘reciting scriptures’; it has to do with a qualified seeker listening to a qualified guru ‘explain’ the scriptural text – a world of difference, since a new seeker has practically zero chance of understanding scriptures on his or her own on first contact. (Or even after reading them lots of time without assistance from the teacher.)

    The words that you are translating as ‘without experiencing the Atman’ are Atmaikya bodhena vina. I do not believe this is the literal or intended meaning. I believe it means ‘until one gains the understanding that one’s Self is identical with Atman’. The word ‘vinas’ means to reach or attain. One cannot ‘reach’ or ‘attain’ the Self, since one already IS the Self. Therefore it must mean ‘until one gains Self-knowledge’. Nothing to do with experience. As I keep pointing out, one IS Atman all the time; there is no question of ‘not experiencing’ it, ever. (Except, of course, that this can never be in the sense of an ‘experiencer’ experiencing an ‘experienced’.)

    — [Verse 15 – Atho Vicharah – I agree that “meditation” is a wrong translation by Chinmayananda. But definitely it urges the seeker to do “reflection” which is Manana. This again implies that Shravana alone is not enough.] —

    arthasya nishchayo – This is not correct either. This verse urges the seeker to undertake enquiry. It says that the conviction (nishchaya) is gained by enquiry (vichareNa), as advised by the wise (hitoktitaH). There is nothing here about ‘experience’ or about ‘reflection’. It is indeed frightening how a commentator can bias his translation so that it tallies with his own understanding of the teaching and not with what is actually written! It is no wonder that many seekers come away with distorted and confused views.

    You also did not comment on the other point I made here: The verses which follow that one make it clear that one should undertake the fourfold sAdhana (chatuShTaya sampatti) as a PRELUDE to going to a qualified teacher to listen to the scriptures. I.e. shravaNa comes AFTER these practices, not the other way around. And, since manana necessarily comes AFTER shravaNa, verse 15 cannot possibly be urging ‘reflection’. (Although you should also note that manana does not just mean ‘reflection’. It means asking questions to clear doubts that remain after the shravaNa.) Swami Gambhirananda says (in his Brahmasutra comments) that: “manana is also a mental activity consisting in the employment of favorable arguments for the removal of the apparent contradictions that such a purport may raise against other means of valid knowledge.”

    — [Verse 56 – na yogena – You had no objection to this. This verse clearly says just learning (Shravana) is not enough. “Realization” is essential which in my opinion can be had through “Direct Experience” by doing Nididyasana.] —

    Again, there is no mention of either shravaNa or nididhyAsana. It is indeed saying that liberation only comes from realization of one’s identity with Brahman. But it is not denying that realization comes about as a result of shravaNa!

    — [Verse 64 – By saying “I am Brahman” realisation is not possible. The verse is clearly saying that by any amount of learning (Shravana) this mere repetition only is possible. The verse is clearly calling for action. Just like the emperor has to act and destroy the enemies to become the emperor, the seeker has to act by destroying the internal enemies, eliminate Raaga and Dwesha, burn all the desires, anhilate the me, mine – the ego and have the “Direct Experience” of abiding by the Atman.] —

    akRRitvA shatrusamhAraM means ‘without having accomplished the elimination of enemies’. The ‘enemy’ preventing one from realizing Atman is Self-ignorance. The only way of overcoming this is by gaining sAdhana chatuShTaya sampatti and undertaking shravaNa manana. One cannot become an emperor merely by repeating ‘I am an emperor’. One cannot gain Self-realization merely by repeating ‘I am Brahman’. One has to go through the process of purifying the mind and going to a guru. As I said earlier, reciting the scriptures is not shravaNa. The verse says nothing at all about ‘any amount of learning’ being equal to ‘mere repetition’. It is not ‘clearly calling for action’.

    The important point here is that rAga and dveSha are not directly obstacles to realization. They are obstacles to a purified mind (chitta shuddhi); and if the mind is insufficiently purified, fruitful shravaNa will not be possible. But it is Self-ignorance alone that is the obstacle to mokSha. (It is true that rAga and dveSha may be obstacles to jIvanmukti, but that is another story!) In fact, I see from your latest post that you agree with me here – that one may be a j~nAnI but still need to do further work (nididhyAsana) in order to gain the ‘fruits’ and become a jIvanmukta.

    — [I mentioned both Shradha and Samadhana. Though you mentioned Shradha, unfortunately your reply had no mention of Samadhana. Actually this is the only single point I am disputing. I strongly believe Samadhana (Chitta Ekagratha) is a must to have the Self Realisation.] —

    samAdhAna is the last of the shamAdi ShaTka sampatti – the six-fold accomplishments that should ideally be attained (as part of sAdhana chatuShTaya sampatti) PRIOR to approaching the teacher to seek shravaNa. Your bracketed ‘chitta ekAgratA’ shows that you are confusing this with the Yoga practice of dhAraNA – single-pointed concentration of the mind. Although the aShTA~Nga yoga practices are just as useful for initial practice, they diverge towards the end as Yoga ultimately advocates samAdhi as the actual means of attaining mokSha. I am definitely not entering into a discussion of samAdhi at this point. It has been discussed in depth elsewhere and will be covered in its entirety in my current book on ‘Confusions’. Suffice to say that it has nothing to do with Advaita. (Yoga is a dualistic philosophy.)

    — [One day when I was reading “Path of Sri Ramana – Part I” by Sadhu Om, I felt like there is further refinement in my understanding. Next day when I practiced the silence, I observed my own silence and suddenly it dawned on me that the observer is Atman and being silent is my true nature.] —

    Training the mind to (be able to) be silent is a good practice. One who has achieved this is no doubt qualified to ‘approach the teacher’. But a silent (empty) mind does not have Self-knowledge. The Atman is necessarily always ‘shining’; it illuminates the Self-ignorance just as much as the Self-knowledge. If the shravaNa and manana have been done, then what is needed is to assimilate that, not get rid of it. The idea is similar to that of ‘teaching through silence’ – a silly idea resulting from a misunderstanding of the chin mudrA of dakShiNAmUrti. I respectfully suggest that what has happened in your own case is that the repeated periods of stillness, allowing the mind to ‘digest’ what has been learned instead of continually questioning and objecting to it, has allowed the understanding to become established and secure.

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  27. Hi Dennis,

    When you say that the Self Knowledge is gained when Avidya is gone I am in complete agreement. This uprooting of Avidya (ignorance) is what I wanted to stress upon.

    By mentioning Samadhana (Chitta Ekagratha) I was not suggesting any kind of Yoga practice. I was directly quoting from the book “Tattvabodha” which is attributed to Sankara and this book is recommended to understand Sadhana Chatushtaya. In that book a question is asked Samadhanam Kim? meaning What is Samadhana? The answer given is “Chitta Ekagratha” meaning single pointed concentration of the mind.

    In Vivekachudamani, Verse 26, Samadhana is explained as total contemplation (concentration) of the Supreme Reality – Brahman.

    Ramana’s instruction of “Be Silent” is not to exist as an empty mind. I would be doing a total disservice and complete misrepresentation if somebody understands it as an empty mind. Ramana called it as paying “Self Attention”, paying attention to the Self or contemplating on the Self. He said pure existence-consciousness “I am” is not a thought, it is the very nature of our being. This is in exact conformance with the definitions of Samadhana given above.

    Ramana said that to be in Self Attention, “Be”, “Just Be”. The instruction was simple, direct, forceful and effective. What this does is, few minutes into this practice of just being, one loses the body conscience, ego self becomes non existent and one exists as a Conscious Entity. The pure Consciousness is allowed to shine forth and one happens to be in “Silent Awareness”.

    Then one gains the understanding that because of the ego self there is a barrage of self-centered thoughts and it is these thoughts that act as a veil and obscure the pure Consciousness. As I had mentioned before when this understanding is gained, Avidya is gone and even when not practicing Dhyana and while doing normal activities such as sitting, walking, etc. one starts to exist as pure Consciousness without any thought. Being with the Self or Abiding in the Self becomes a favourite and enjoyable pastime. When Avidya is still present, saying that “I am Brahman” feels like a mere utterance. When Avidya is gone, saying “I am Brahman” appears superflous because that feeling gets firmly established.

    The objective of me engaging in this discussion is to contribute my little bit towards overcoming the Avidya. If I were to have the benefit of reading all the material collected in this single post about 10 years back it could have saved me a lot of trouble and would have immensely helped to progress faster.

    Regards
    Arun

  28. Needless to say that a knowledgeable and advanced seeker has to be absolutely clear about what certain terms as used in the scriptures connote.

    In the absence of such uncompromising clarity, there is a danger that a seeker may naively assume that s/he attained brahmajnAna (Self-knowledge), the tricky mind self-servingly attributing meanings as convenient to itself!

    Let us not forget OR undervalue the significance of BG verse 7.3 which talks of the low probability of a seeker achieving tattva jnANa (Consciousness AS IS). One should not denigrate the verse 7.3 saying that it belonged to a begone era.

    It requires an Essay on its own to comprehensively cover the subject matter. I shall here, therefore, restrict myself to suggest some source documents for some of the terms the discussants are using in these columns.

    jIvanmukta:

    This term gets very clearly and unambiguously defined / explained in Chapter 4 of the varAha upanishad, Pl see here:
    In Sanskrit:
    In English translation by Shri K. Narayanasvami Aiyar at AStrojyoti

    jnAnaphalam:

    This word occurs only 3 times, within the Shankara bhAShya part in the BG at: 13.17; Intro to 15; 18.73. What it connotes is that “The goal of the Self-knowledge; what is to be Known; i.e. mokSha.

    jnAni:

    It is entirely a misinterpretation to think that if “I know that the world is ‘mithya‘” that much information load in my mind-memory system makes me eligible to be titled as a jnAni.

    BG explains who a jnAni is without mincing any words, leaving no scope for confusion. One may see particularly what Shankara comments at the BG verses at: 2.21; 3.5; 3.39; 4.11; 4.34; 12.14 (where 7.17 gets quoted); Intro at Ch 15; 18.73.

    Further:
    It’s not enough to be as brahman by merely knowing “I am brahman.”
    One also needs to “REALIZE” that “I am all that IS.”
    The new Series on “sAdhana in Advaita” will discuss this in the forthcoming posts.

    aparokShAnubhUti of Shankara is also worth to be read.
    “The samAdhi in Advaita is sallakShya, complete focus on sat-cit (Beingness-Consciousness) to the exclusion of anything else. Such an unwavering focus on sat-cit, the all-pervading and Universal Reality, is the Advaitic samAdhi.”

    One may also like to see the short Blog post of about 10 yrs old:

    regards,

  29. Hi Arun,

    I was referring to your statement that “I strongly believe Samadhana (Chitta Ekagratha) is a must to have the Self Realisation … In fact in all the verses mentioned above they are indicating the seeker to practice Samadhana to have the “Direct Experience” of the Self and become Self Realized.” This implied to me that you were saying that gaining Self-knowledge was not enough and that one had subsequently to ‘perform’ samAdhAna in order to become Self-realized. It is true that Shankara refers to samAdhAna in Tattvabodha (also in upadesha sAhasrI) but this is in the context of sAdhana chatuShTaya sampatti as practices to be undertaken prior to seeking Self-knowledge. It is the Yogis who advocate dhAraNA in their aShTA~Nga yoga, where gaining knowledge is not an aspect.

    I don’t wish to seem in any way disrespectful or unrecognizing of the value of other texts and teachers but, if you want to establish the ‘correct’ understanding of the traditional teaching of Advaita, you have to go back to prasthAna traya and Shankara’s bhAShya-s. You cannot rely upon texts such as vivekachUDAmaNi, brilliant though this is, nor on teachers such as Ramana, brilliant though he was.

    I have shown I believe, how unreliable the commentaries of VC in particular may be, so you should not look to these for the ‘final word’! Ditto, I’m afraid with Ramana, whose teachings on manonAsha and ‘who am I?’, for example, have misled many seekers. (Not, I hasten to add necessarily because of what Ramana actually said, in the context in which he said it, but because of subsequent commentaries, mis-translations and the teachings of ‘disciples’.)

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

    • The aficionados wrestling with the bodily yogas and mental concentrations do need to pause for a minute and consider what Ashtavakra samhita says:

      निःसङ्गो निष्क्रियोऽसि त्वं स्वप्रकाशो निरञ्जनः ।
      अयमेव हि ते बन्धः समाधिमनुतिष्ठसि ॥ — 1.15

      [You are really unbound and actionless, self-illuminating and spotless already. The cause of your bondage is that you are still resorting to stilling the mind.]

  30. From Vivekachudamani, v420:
    “The fruit of detachment is knowledge; of knowledge, abstinence is the fruit. That leads to the experience of the bliss of the true self, which in turn leads to peace.”

    Note that Sankara had said in Brhad Up, that knowledge culminating in renunciation is the sole goal of the upanishads. Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati of Sringeri comments on this verse:
    For the yogin who has deeply drunk the nectar of jnana and who has achieved his purpose, there is nothing to be done; if there is then he is not a knower of Truth. If the succeeding things do not arise, it means that the preceding things have been infructuous. So until the determined effect of each is attained, it means that the practice of the respective preceding means is not complete.

    To steal a quote from Ramesam’s past post on Vasistha:
    “Meditation is useless without detachment. Meditation is meaningless with detachment. Utter detachment is the most fundamental thing of all for Nirvana.”

    Returning to Vivekachudamani, v421:
    “Withdrawal from all activity, absolute satisfaction, incomparable natural bliss and absence of regret over the perceived miseries [as a result of prarabdha karmas] – these constitute the preeminent fruit of knowledge.”

    Sri Chandrasekhara comments:
    This is the perceived pre-eminent fruit of the knowledge which is synonymous with realisation of the truth about the atman.

  31. Hi Dennis,

    Everybody knows “Brahma Vidya” is not that easy. But the material and means available to us also do not make it any easier to grasp the knowledge. Listening to lectures for months together, reading various texts for several years and still not guaranteed whether we are making progress or would we be able to attain the Self Realization in this life.

    Actually we can see the great impetuousness and effective and forceful hastening and nudging of the seeker in the original texts itself. For example the works attributed to Sankara such as Aparoksha Anubhuti, Tattvabodha, Vivekachudamani, Bhaja Govindam, etc. we see relentless arguments, reasoning and teachings towards the goal without deviating from the point. Several individual slokas themselves from the Upanishads and BG and sometimes bunch of verses taken together are capable of giving the enlightenment. Mahavakyas which are single sentences are good enough to reach the goal if one were to seriously contemplate on them. Basically these are our Gurus along with some genuine text books and video lectures. As you pointed out there may be some error in translations here and there but they should not be major impediments and it is not necessary to get that much nit-picky.

    My sincere wish is in this list of Gurus your website also should get added. Your website has got ton of material, I myself have read quite a lot of them and have been benefitted also. But what is missing is sure shot methods, tips or techniques if I might term them so to help the genuine seekers to attain the goal of Self Realization. I do not want to get into the argument that we are already Self and what is there to realize 🙂 Let me rephrase the sentence as “help towards removing Avidya”. If your website could provide more such information using which Avidya could be uprooted then I am sure that your website becomes not only the site to learn about Advaita but also a very effective guide to reach the goal for sincere and interested seekers. Hope the new series on “sAdhana in Advaita” mentioned by Ramesam contributes towards that.

    All my expressions so far have been towards making it simple to reach the goal. For example in my last reply please note the two paragraphs that start with

    “Ramana said that to be in Self Attention, “Be”, “Just Be”. The instruction was simple, direct, forceful and effective. What this does is, few minutes into this practice of just being, one loses the body conscience, ego self becomes non existent and one exists as a Conscious Entity. The pure Consciousness is allowed to shine forth and one happens to be in “Silent Awareness””.

    “Then one gains the understanding that because of the ego self there is a barrage of self-centered thoughts and it is these thoughts that act as a veil and obscure the pure Consciousness. …….”

    Please compare these with the 19th verse of the fourth chapter of Varaha Upanishad whose link was shared by Ramesam. It says “May you become the Reality which remains after all thoughts are given up”.

    “Giving up thoughts” is the key. So if more and more information is provided in achieving this then we would be doing a great service.

    Ramana calls it as “Chidhabasa Roopam”. Due to Chdhabasa when the mind reflects the pure Consciousness just keep the mind right there without disturbing it with thoughts. No mentation or no thinking to be done. Just exist as Pure Consciousness with a Conscious or Alert mind devoid of thoughts.

    Dennis, I request you to not be dismissive or so critical of Ramana. His teachings are simple, direct and are in complete conformance and adherence to Advaita. If somebody misrepresents or mistranslates then Ramana should not be held responsible. I want to share one amazing thing about Ramana. Though I am a Kannadiga living in Bangalore I happened to do my entire schooling in Chennai. Hence I know Tamil very well including reading and writing. When I read “Ulladu Narpadu” (Forty Verses) by Ramana in Tamil I was astonished to see the class of Tamil language that was used. He dropped out from school at the age of 13 but the class of Tamil language and the metre he has used is so pure and of highest quality. I could not understand it without the help of somebody splitting the words, providing the meaning of individual words and the complete meaning of each verse. That means I needed the help of a translation from high class Tamil to a common man’s Tamil:-)

    You said “This implied to me that you were saying that gaining Self-knowledge was not enough and that one had subsequently to ‘perform’ samAdhAna in order to become Self-realized.”

    No. That’s not what I implied. You agree that all the points of Sadhana Chatushtaya are the prerequisites for a seeker. But I also believe that it is not just a prerequisite, it is a requisite one must have through out the journey. This is what I implied. That means if one becomes Self-Realized then it also means that Sadhana Chatushtaya is in full play and is deployed with full force. That means Samadhana also has played a part to remove Avidya and become Self-Realized.

    Finally I want to express my opinion on some of the points mentioned by Ramesam. First of all I want to thank him for the links he provided for the Varaha Upanishad and his blog which were very interesting to read and contained useful information.

    I fully agree and Dennis also has said that Jivanmukta is the highest stage of a Jnani which is attained after sustained and intense Sadhana. In several verses the Varaha Upanishad also affirms that.

    Ramesam said “Let us not forget OR undervalue the significance of BG verse 7.3 which talks of the low probability of a seeker achieving tattva jnANa (Consciousness AS IS). One should not denigrate the verse 7.3 saying that it belonged to a begone era.”

    BG 7.3 says “Among thousands one gets interested in this path. Among thousands such, only one does not give up and sustains the effort. Among thousands such, only one might reach the goal”. My translation is not verbatim, contains a bit of exaggeration but retains the meaning which is as Ramesam mentioned “the probability of seeker achieving the goal is very less”.

    From one point of view this can put us off and make it seem very difficult to attain the Jnana. But I want to interpret it in a positive manner which is we could consider ourselves as distinguished as we are discussing this subject because only one in millions gets interested in this subject. Let us strive to become more distinguished by making progress in this path. Finally let us put our best efforts and whatever it takes to join the distinguished club of Jnanis. They say that Self-Realization is not for the faint hearted. In fact the scriptures call such seekers as Dheera – meaning a person with courage.

    Ramesam said “It’s not enough to be as brahman by merely knowing “I am brahman.” One also needs to “REALIZE” that “I am all that IS.”

    This is the main point I wanted to drive home ever since I started engaging in this discussion. I was always afraid that by doing only Shravana which is reading 100 times or 1000 times repeatedly “I am Brahman” or hearing it from Guru and with his repeated assurance one could get “convinced” that “I am Brahman”. Of course nobody does only Shravana without reflecting, reasoning, understanding and clarifying the doubts which is Manana. At this stage still one has only belief or convinced or assured. That means it is still Paroksha Jnana, Indirect Knowledge. The person is yet to be “REALIZED”. That’s why I had said Nididyasana is very much necessary to “REALIZE” and “GRASP” the Truth. But I did not want to stick to the technical point of whether it is Shravana or Nididyasana. That’s why in my last reply I switched my argument to “Removal of Avidya”. Now it does not matter how you arrive here whether by doing only Shravana or by doing all the three. Avidya must be gone to become Self-Realized and now it is called Aparoksha Jnana, Direct Knowledge. Now trying to say “I am Brahman” outwardly should feel superflous because now you are living it. Just like the back of your palm, now you clearly know and realise without any doubt that “I am Brahman” as you are living it. One should be able to clearly see and experience the marked changes in perspective and thoughts when Avidya was present and when Avidya vanishes as the Knowledge dawns.

    Finally, Ramesam mentioned Verse 1.15 from Ashtavakra Geetha which is “You are really unbound and actionless, self-illuminating and spotless already. The cause of your bondage is that you are still resorting to stilling the mind”

    I request that we stop using the phrase “stilling the mind” as it came up when I mentioned Ramana. I hope I had clarified it in my last reply. Ramana meant “being in Self Attention” with a calm mind but a highly alert mind that is completely reflecting the Pure Consciousness. That is being in “Chidhabhasa Roopam” which is existing has Pure Consciousness without doing any thinking. So it is not “stilling of the mind” or “empty mind”. Rather it is a highly “alert mind” being in “Silent Awareness” abiding in the “Self”.

    This verse 1.15 from Ashtavakra Geetha, if it is read by a Jnani he would agree that one is already that and no need to do any meditation. But if it is read by a person who still has Avidya then this verse acts as an assurance and is comforting. It is saying “Don’t worry my friend and don’t be hard on yourself. You are already unbound, self-effulgent and without any blemish”. But then is the Avidya gone after reading this verse? Then what one needs to do to remove Avidya? Here we go all over again:-)

    Regards
    Arun

  32. Arun

    I would disagree with (my interpretation of) your exposition of Ramanamaharishi’s summa iru.

    Of course everybody, every book says ‘Be quiet or still’. But is is not easy. That is why all this effort is necessary. Even if we find one who has at once achieved the mauna or supreme state indicated by ‘summa iru’, you may take it that the effort necessary has already been finished in a previous life.

    Self-enquiry is Maharishi’s primary advice – to understand and watch the ego, seeing whether it had any veracity, and discarding all that was seen to be unreal. My earlier quote from Nisargadatta I think captures the sense of what Bhagavan meant.

    And mauna / summa iru, is the culmination of this understanding / jnana. Bhagavan used to say that there are two paths to moksha: self-enquiry and self-surrender – which amount to knowledge and complete detachment respectively, and which ultimately are indistinguishable. Interesting that this detachment / renunciation keeps on appearing as the culminating advice of Sankara, Vasistha, Ashtavakra and Maharishi. A still mind is a natural outcome of this.

    As an aside, Bhagavan didn’t differentiate between a jnani and a jivanmukta.

  33. Hi Venkat,

    Jnani / Jivanmukta

    In my opinion a person with a sustained effort with the help of the grace could finally “realize” that he is Brahman, Pure Consciousness. Basically the person is having Aparoksha Anubhuti, Direct Experience for the very first time. No doubt the Jnana, the Knowledge is gained and hence can be called as “Jnani”. But can he be right away called as “Jivanmukta”? Definitely there is a joy or delight at the gain of the Knowledge. Just like swimming or cycling now this Knowledge stays with that person for ever. But the Sadhana should continue for the Jnani to become more refined. The Jnani could still have traces of ego and still be affected by worldly pleasures and pains though they are definitely minimal when compared to a person still in Avidya where the ego and the engagement with the world are in full force. But Jivanmukta is so refined that there is absolutely no sign of ego, exists as a Conscious entity, sometimes even losing the conscience of the body and at times might not remember even his name. These are some of the qualities which I had read. The Varaha Upanishad pointed out by Ramesam contains several verses describing the attributes of a Jivanmukta. IMHO, a person with ignorance, when for the first time has Aparoksha Anubhuti, Avidya vanishes, Knowledge dawns becomes a Jnani but cannot be called Jivanmukta right away.

    Summa Iru – Instruction of Ramana Maharshi

    I did not clearly understand which part of my understanding of Ramana’s instruction you are in disagreement with. I had used the same sentences “Be”, “Just Be” which you had also used.

    You said “But it is not easy. That is why all this effort is necessary”. I completely agree and I am not in any kind of disagreement and I never said all this effort is not necessary.

    But we are touching on some important point here. All the readings, Prasthana Traiya, Sadhana Chatushtataya, etc. are all absolutely necessary. When a person makes a relentless effort in reading and absorbing all the scriptures, texts and anything such as all the material available in this website then such a person could be called “Mumukshu”, a person with a burning desire to know the Truth.

    Nisargadutta’s “I am That”, Jiddu Krishnamurthy’s all the works and lectures though he does not call himself Advaitin and did not say what he preached was Advaita, I feel every bit helps. Chinmayananda, Ramakrishna mission, Divine Life Society, it does not matter. If it contains any useful content just read and absorb it. Every single bit helps.

    Ramana’s also I might have read each of his books several times such as Self Enquiry, Collected Works of Sri Ramana, Ulladu Narpadu, Upadesh Undial and several other works. But every single time when I read Ramana I felt more and more confident.

    His emphatic assurance that “Self Realization can be had at this instant here and now” was very confidence boosting. Alright I definitely want to have that Self Realization at this very instant. But what I have to do for that? He said be in “Self Attention”. This is exactly the words used in “Path of Sri Ramana – Part One” by Sadhu Om. I would definitely request everybody to read it. The book conveys the same meaning in several different ways. “Be in Self Attention without any thoughts”. Then one has to Trust and undertake the practice with Shraddha, full faith and with Samadhana, with the single pointed concentration practice it.

    If you see the Varaha Upanishad also it said “May you become the Reality which remains after all thoughts are given up”.

    Every book is saying the same but for each one the trigger could come different sources, different verses or different texts.

    You also said everybody, every book says the same. You said it is not easy. Nobody said it is easy. But it is doable. If Ramana’s disciples including Paul Brunton could do it then I can also do it. If I can do it then you also can. If you can then all our other friends here can. Then we shall work towards helping the visitors to this website to remove Avidya and attain or rather realize the “Self” and attain the Moksha instantly, the Liberation that comes with it because the Bhandhana, the Bondage (which never was but was apparently felt) just vanishes.

    If we cannot have the Self Realization and do not have that confidence then no matter how many years we keep deliberating on various aspects of Advaita, we would only be doing just that. Instead we should be headed towards the goal in a sure footed manner.

    I want to take this opportunity to request Dennis to allow me to send him a post by email where I want to share some information about reaching the goal, removing the Avidya and attaining Self Realization through some simple reasoning, understanding and practice and at the same time in full accordance with Advaita and backing of the Scriptures – Upanishads and Bhagavad Geetha.

    As usual Dennis could have a disclaimer for my post and let it attract all kinds of comments be it supportive or highly critical.

    Regards
    Arun

  34. It is really good to see so much interactive discussion but it does mostly seem to be a case of my making a few points and then everyone else endeavoring to shoot them down! And I’m afraid that, if I am ever to complete the material on pratibandha-s (and then on all the other aspects of j~nAna, phalam, jIvanmukta, mokSha etc, action, experience and knowledge), then I really cannot attempt to respond to all these points.

    Accordingly, I would just like to respond to two aspects of Arun’s latests posts. 1) I am not being ‘dismissive’ of Ramana or suggesting that he is responsible for mistranslations or misintepretations of what he said. As I have pointed out before, I generated and maintain the website of ramana-maharshi.org.uk precisely because I regard him highly. I am simply pointing out that a seeker cannot rely upon those translations and commentaries for understanding of traditional Advaita. 2) The same applies to varAha upaniShad I’m afraid. This is a Yoga Upanishad. Yoga is a dualistic philosophy that advocates samAdhi as the final step to realization. You cannot rely upon what is said in these as being representative of traditional Advaita.

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

    • “… a case of my making a few points and then everyone else endeavoring to shoot them down! ”

      Sorry, Dennis.
      You tend to express some things that do invite arrows at themselves like giant magnets.

      You called Varaha Upanishad to belong to Patanjali’s Yoga system. To my info. it is NOT.

      Varaha Upanishad belongs to the same group like the famous Katha, Mahanarayana, Svetaswatara, Taittiriya, Tejobindu, etc. coming under Krishna Yajurveda.

      Just to add:

      The first 4 chapters out of 5 of the Varaha Upanishad, deal with brahmajnAna and jIvanmukti. The last chapter deals with aShTAngayoga which finds a place in Shankara’s prasthAna trayi bhAShya.

        • I have seen the link, thanks Dennis.
          Nothing therein says that Varaha upa deals with Patanjali system, as you state.

          I don’t know how the name “Yoga” used in the classification of some 20 Upanishads as “Yoga Upanishads” has come about.

          Varaha Upanishad is all about jIva-brajhmaikya. As you know the word “yoga” in Sanskrit has several meanings and it need not necessarily mean Patanjali’s dualist philosophy.

            • Are you going to argue like a Bat-at-Law, Dennis?

              You say: “I never used the word ‘Patanjali’.”

              But you did say: “Yoga is a dualistic philosophy that advocates samAdhi as the final step to realization.”

              Whose school is that which “is a dualistic philosophy that advocates samAdhi ” other than that of Patanjali?

              The link you provided now fairly represents what Varaha Upanishad is about. It did not say that it “is a dualistic philosophy that advocates samAdhi,” as you mentioned.

              Let us agree that Varaha Upanishad is about brahma jnAna and not “a dualistic philosophy that advocates samAdhi .”

  35. Arun

    The second paragraph in my previous comment was actually a quote from Maharishi.
    Here is another apposite one:

    “Your duty is TO BE, and not to be this or that. ‘I am that I am’ sums up the whole truth; the method is summarised in ‘BE STILL’. And what does stillness mean? It means destroy yourself, because every name and form is the cause of trouble. When the ‘I’ is kept up as the ‘I’ only, it is the Self. When it flies off at a tangent and says ‘I’m this, or that, I am such and such’ it is the ego.”

    The point I am making is that by ‘self-abidance’ Ramana didn’t mean to sit for periods with a still mind (though this may be a help). By Self-abidance, I’d suggest he meant constantly applying what one has understood from scriptures – ie pursue self-enquiry / neti neti, such that one is constantly attentive to any thought / feeling that arises, and tracing it back to examining the reality of the body/mind/ego that is generating it.

    Perhaps it is important to define terms, specifically, what we mean by Self-Realisation, what is the point of it?

    For me, it is the moment-to-moment understanding that I am not a separate body-mind; there is nothing to strive to achieve or do; nothing to fear or desire. Then, as Sishya alluded to in a comment, life is lived like Diogenes, richer and freer than even Emperor Alexander the Great. This surely is the Self-abidance that Ramana talked of.

    How would you answer this question?

    Finally, you seem to be very keen to help people quickly remove their avidya. Why? Who is there to have avidya? And (paraphrasing Ramana) who is the entity that wishes to remove others’ avidya?

  36. Hi Dennis,

    I have utmost respect to you and all the other friends participating in the discussions. It is because of these discussions now we know that your are maintaining another website http://amana-maharshi.org.uk. Intention is never to shoot you down. My personal intention also is not to exhibit my knowledge. Whole intention is can we in a sure manner attain the goal of Se;f-Realization and can we help the visitors of this website also to attain the same and help them get rid of Avidya.

    All upanishads I respect. I really do not know whether it is Yoga upanishad or some other upanishad accepted by Advaita.

    But I would have accepted if you had disagreed with the message given by the Varaha Upanishad which is “May you become the Reality which remains after all thoughts are given up”. I really feel that is the same message that is conveyed by several Upanishads. May be let us have a dedicatd post where the same message is said in different ways from several Upanishads and present all of them as a single post.

    In this particular comment I am not disputing any point with you. Hence there is no necessity for you to respond. Your post on Prathibandha is much awaited and please post it asap.

    When Rameasam said that he is going to provide series of posts of “Sadhana in Advaita” I was not aware that he has already provided two posts. I was always having this post of yours in my browser and was checking everyday what is the response. Today I went through Ramesam’s two posts and I really felt good. But the ultimate test is can I progress reading this message and can I attain the goal which is Self-Realizationl

    For that matter starting from you and everybody are very careful and are not casual and provide completely correct information.

    The next step is can this website which provides great information on Advaita philosophy, can it also help the interested seekers in attaining the goal.

    Dennis, in your response you have not responded to the request I made. But I am extremely sure and confident that you will accept my post which I shall send my email to you and you can have a disclaimer to it.

    But even if you agree to accept my post I shall wait until Ramesam completes his four other blog posts which he has declared that it consists of totally 6 posts and I shall also wait for your post on Prathibhandha and then I humbly request an opportunity to post my thoughts as a single post, not a series.

    Cheera and Regards
    Arun

    Hi Venat,

    After I completed this response, before posting I saw your response. Definitely I don’t assume as anybody or I am not on a mission to remove somebody’s Avidya. But if my thoughts can help and feel to somebody that they are convinced and based soundly on logic so be it. What is the harm in sharing. But if the same expression sounds absurd and devoid of logic so be it. But just like Ramesam is writing a post on “Sadhana” and just like you have written several posts and so has Dennis, I am requesting an opportunity to express freely in a single post with a sole objective of convincing somebody with an open and free mind to understand and realise the ultimate Truth what these great masters are talking about and unselfishly have left us with great work of theirs for the sole purpose for us to progress. In a way it is the same purpose with what Remasam has been posing on “Sadhana” now and his earlier posts, why you have posted several posts and why Dennis if going through this endeavour of maintaining this website and posting several useful information on Advaita, I also just want contribute my two cents towards the same cause. Dear Venkat, nothing less and nothing more.

    Regards
    Arun

  37. Arun, Apologies if my post came across as being critical. They were genuine questions. If you think about it, who is the ‘other’ that we are trying to help?

  38. Hi Venkat,

    No need to be apologetic. If there are any opposing views they are not for the sake of opposing or shoot somebody down. We are sharing our views openly and frankly with mutual respect and the topic Advaita happens to be the interesting and common ground for all of us.

    Now to your question “Who is the other that we are trying to help?”

    To answer it in Advaitic language, if I consider myself as a Jiva then I am trying to help other Jivas who are having Mumukshatva and who could stumble upon my post just like ants find the sugar and if they do get benefitted from reading what they find then that is the hope. But if I consider myself as Brahman then there is no one to help and there no one to be helped.

    Is this answer helpful?

    I want to borrow a quote from Naishkarmya Siddhi by Sureswara where in 2nd or 3rd sloka he says “There is nothing in this book that is new or not already told by my Master Sankara and other masters before him. Still the purpose of writing this book is to test my own understanding from the learned so that they could criticise if my understanding is wrong”. I read the sloka three or four times and was very much moved by the humility of Sureswara who himself was a great master. As an admiring student of such a master and other scholars I also want to follow the same footsteps and with all humility I want to express my thoughts in the hope that it could benefit the fellow students of Advaita and at the same time it would allow my thoughts to be criticised if my understanding is wrong.

    Regards
    Arun

  39. Hi Venkat,

    You made some very important points which I have not responded to.

    You said “When the ‘I’ is kept up as the ‘I’ only, it is the Self. When it flies off at a tangent and says ‘I’m this, or that, I am such and such’ it is the ego.”

    This is just perfect, I am in total agreement and this is the understanding we need to actualize because just understanding or knowing is not sufficient.

    In the next two occasions you say something which I feel needs some minor but important corrections.

    You said “constantly applying what one has understood from scriptures”.

    This constant application is needed until one no longer needs to do any application. I hope I am making sense. You are very close. The constant application is needed which is Sadhana. Then when the realisation happens as “I am That” then one starts living or abiding in the feeling “I am” without being affected by any thoughts and without having any need to do any kind of application.

    You said “it is the moment-to-moment understanding that I am not a separate body-mind; there is nothing to strive to achieve or do; nothing to fear or desire”.

    Here also similar correction is required just like the previous instance. Your latter part of the sentence “I am not a separate body-mind; there is nothing to strive to achieve or do; nothing to fear or desire” is perfect. I am in complete agreement.

    But the part where you say “it is the moment-to-moment understanding” is required as part of Sadhana. There also it is not “understanding” which implies “thinking” or “comprehending”. Instead it should be “being”. This effort of “being” and continuous watchful effort of being with a silent but fully conscious mind is required as part of the Sadhana until the Paroksha Jnana becomes Aparoksha Jnana and will remain with you forever. After that no “understanding” or “being” or any kind of effort is needed because You would start living as “I am” all the time allowing the Pure Consciousness to be reflected effortlessly through your mind without being disturbed by any kind of thoughts.

    As part of Vyavaharika dealings one has to think and act and carry out the professional responsibilities and day-to-day activities. Whenever involved in any kind of action there is no sense of doership or pride. Whenever thinking is not called for then the mind easily and effortlessly goes to rest, but highly alert and allows the Pure Consciousness to shine in its fullest glory.

    Regards
    Arun

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