Fear, Action, Suffering and Liberation: A Dialogue

This is a dialogue based on the question of a student in my NEEV Advaita Study Group. The quandary he is raising is somewhat similar to the dilemma faced by Arjuna in Bhagavad Gita and almost all of us: What is right action given that each action leads to consequences? Albeit, the quandary being posed by the student in this dialogue is not based on any moral crisis. Rather it is a more general and psycho-philosophical question born out of fear of consequences of actions in the future while also seeing the fact that all actions are based on thought and thought is nothing but a conditioned response of memory. While the Bhagavad Gita starts off answering Arjuna’s questions by making assertive statements on the nature of reality, my response in this dialogue starts by looking at the question itself and deconstructing it to show that the real problem is not in the domain where the question is being asked. Which reminds me of the oft-quoted but never redundant words of Albert Einstein, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” … Read More Fear, Action, Suffering and Liberation: A Dialogue

How Does A Jnani Person Deal With the Negative Impacts of the World: Part 1/2 – Titiksha

A Jiva/ embodied being is subject to the attack of the dualities of life: to the turbulence of grief and joy, to the violent touches of pleasure and pain and to the tumult of his emotions and passions. It is not that the Jnani or a Self Realized being does not have to deal with all this. Just that the Jnani knows that these are events in the phenomenal reality affecting the phenomenal Subtle Body (Mind/Intellect) and the Gross Body (Sensations) but not his core Self. As Self/Witness he is unaffected by these phenomenal changes because Self/Witness is Unattached, and Contactless. However, till the Prarabdha Karma exist for the Jnani, ‘his’ BMI has to experience the dual phenomena. I have covered all this in great detail in my articles “Tat Tvam Asi” (You are-Brahman) and the three parts article series – “Prarabdha Karma After Self Realization”- through the lens of traditional Advaita scriptures. There has been very little literature, to my knowledge, talking about the subjective ways in which a Jnani deals with the negative impacts of the world. In this two parts article series, I am taking a psychological approach of describing two stages of psychological attitudes, the Self Knowledge of a Jnani fashions, to front the negative impacts of the world. I describe how this approach subverts conventional morality and ethics so that the ways a Jnani deals with the world can neither be termed as moral or immoral but amoral, especially so in the first stage which I describe in Part I: Titiksha. … Read More How Does A Jnani Person Deal With the Negative Impacts of the World: Part 1/2 – Titiksha

Difference Between The Teachings of Traditional Paths like Advaita, Yoga & Krishnamurti: A Dialogue

This is a fairly deep dialogue, almost a snapshot of Advaita, I had with my friend who is not a student of Advaita but has been greatly inspired by the teachings of J Krishnamurti. It goes into great detail about the differences between teachings of traditional paths like Advaita, Yoga and Krishnamurti. Through this dialogue, I show how ancient, time-honoured and tested paths have developed a very rigorous methodology for liberation. Krishnamurti undercut these very strengths of these paths, calling them authoritative, mechanical, traditional and imitative techniques which dull the mind. However, one must differentiate between tradition and traditional. We may not like the traditional but the tradition leading to Moksha/Eternal Freedom is not talking about matters caught in the matrix of space-time. All these traditional paths are talking about eternal principles. Their terms may be archaic but their import is valid across all space-time. Krishnamurti missed this point. And what’s more, it so happens, his teachings fall squarely in its principles of a particular Indian school called Yoga of Patanjali (though his method is slightly different) and leads to the same reality. It’s just that his language effectively couched the metaphysical principles he was basing his path on. Though he says that there is no path, there was certainly a path in is his teachings, which I reveal in this dialogue. Having said that, he has his place. His psychological style of exploring the mind through real-life relationships is something unparalleled. And most certainly what he said about truth was the same as all the paths say – it is never known as an object or concept of mind: though we can give it different names.… Read More Difference Between The Teachings of Traditional Paths like Advaita, Yoga & Krishnamurti: A Dialogue

Advaita & Paradox of Practice vs No Practice: A Dialogue

A modern seeker of truth is faced with a plethora of paths and schools in this digital age. While this is a boon, it also presents a challenge for the seeker to decide which path to take, because more often than not, paths conflict and critique each other. In this dialogue, a seeker raises some of these dilemmas. One dilemma he raises is that of the issue of practice vs no-practice. Many new age teachers, like Neo-Advaitins scorn effort, path and methods of traditional paths as useless baggage. In this article I show how this can be very self-defeating and disorienting for the vast majority of seekers who need a structure, path and practices for preparing the mind. I show how Advaita Vedanta teachings have a sophisticated methodology to lead a seeker through alternate superimposition and cancellation of concepts, and from practice to the final state of no-practice. One can enter the spiritual path at any point on the scale of practice to no-practice. I show how my teachings start just a shade beneath the point of no-practice but I do not totally discount practices.… Read More Advaita & Paradox of Practice vs No Practice: A Dialogue

You (Self) Are Not (Your) Thoughts: A Dialogue

That we all suffer conflicts of various kinds in our life is an undeniable fact. Self Inquiry is about unearthing and ending the root of all conflicts. In this dialogue with a seeker, I examine the conflict of the division between the thinker and thought. What sustains this division is the process of psychological becoming. One of the processes of psychological becoming is seeking to be virtuous. In this article, I differentiate between dharma/virtue as a process of psychological becoming and adhyatma/the spiritual science of eternal being, to help the seeker appreciate the difference, and overcome the conflict caused by this form of becoming. Finally, I introduce the various stages of self-inquiry, by which I help a seeker completely transcend the duality between the thinker and thought, as a means to ending of all conflict.… Read More You (Self) Are Not (Your) Thoughts: A Dialogue

Prarabdha Karma After Self Realization: It’s Experience of Suffering and Pleasure: Part3/3

With this article, I finish the three-part series on Prarabdha Karma. In this final article which has extensive quotes from the text Panchadasi, a reader gets the most exhaustive treatment of this subject found anywhere in Advaita literature, corroborated by my own experience. The purpose of these articles was to draw out the complexity of experience and actions of a Jnani, evident only to him/her rather than to an outsider, who sees nothing saintly or special in a Jnani, when contrasted to Yogis with siddhis and saints with their visions and acts of compassion. The greatest difference between yogis, saints and a Jnani is that both for yogis and saints this world is real and therefore they are invested and committed to it in different ways: the yogi in controlling his mind and the saint with his actions to purify his mind and help the world. The keynote for a Jnani is however that this world of phenomena is mithya or only apparently real, therefore he does not evince any serious commitments to this world of mithya even if he appears to. His attitude is therefore of ‘high indifference’. Though the Jnani may seem to undergo suffering and do acts which can be labelled under the categories of virtue and vice, a Jnani knows himself to be Self/Awareness which is not a thinker/doer/experiencer. For a Jnani, his BMI (Body/Mind/Intellect) appears as an object to Awareness/Self, so even though his/her BMI is affected by Prarabdha, the Jnani as Self remains unaffected. I wanted to explore the enigmatic inner world of the Jnani; his/her experiential dimension that escapes onlookers: a person who is in the world yet not of it.… Read More Prarabdha Karma After Self Realization: It’s Experience of Suffering and Pleasure: Part3/3

Prarabdha Karma After Self Realization: Seeming Refutations: Part 2/3

In Part 1 of this series I introduced Shankar’s concept of Prarabdha Karma to show that a Self Realized being is not necessarily an epitome of virtuous conduct as he is still affected by the momentum of past actions (both virtue and vice) called Prarabdha Karma which is sustaining the body of the Jnani. Though these actions do not taint the Jnani as Self, were it not for this portion of Karma, the body of a Jnani would cease to exist on Self Realization. In Part 2 of this series I am exploring some post Shankara works that seem to refute the theory of Prarabdha Karma. I analyse these works and show that even though they are seeming to refute the theory they do not have any firm grounds to do so. Rather their refutation is based on a confusion relating to not discriminating between the absolute order of reality and the provisional empirical reality. These texts make the mistake of attributing Prarabdha Karma to absolute reality of Self which Shankara himself was very clear is not the case. Ultimately, Shankara’s flawless logic holds true because the texts that seem to refute the concept of Prarabdha Karma do not offer any explanation as to why the Jnani’s body continues to exist even after Self Realization. … Read More Prarabdha Karma After Self Realization: Seeming Refutations: Part 2/3

Prarabdha Karma After Self Realization: It’s Philosophy – Part 1/3

Enlightenment is deemed by many as something extraordinary, an ultimate state, a peak experience of bliss, or a vision of God. These are, however, dualistic conceptions. In Advaita, which speaks of non-duality, enlightenment is not an experience, but one’s true nature which is always enlightened; concealed due to ignorance, just like the sun is concealed by the clouds. An enlightened being is not any being with special powers. He may not even appear as a saintly person, on the contrary, he may do acts which are not considered virtuous. All his actions are due to the momentum of past acts called Prarabdha Karma which Self Knowledge cannot cancel. In part 1 of this series of articles I intend to introduce the philosophical concept of Prarabdha Karma for a Self Realized being/Jnani/Jivanmukta, as this topic is scarcely raised in the literature of Advaita. I wanted to show that because of Prarabdha Karma, which is more powerful than his/her Self Knowledge, a Jnani may be seen doing acts which are both virtuous or non-virtuous. In the ultimate sense, however, a Jnani is Brahman, who is a non-doer, and there are no grades in Jnanis/Jivanmuktas. Alongside this, it was also my intention to introduce to the reader to the flawed concept of ending of mind as a means of liberation, propagated by a school I have termed Yoga-Advaita. This school, as I have already shown, warps the concept of Prarabdha Karma and liberation as present in the pristine writings of Shankara. … Read More Prarabdha Karma After Self Realization: It’s Philosophy – Part 1/3

Watching Suffering: Journals of Two Young Girls

Suffering is a fact that is common to all human life. Nonetheless, we are never educated by schools, parents and society to understand and explore the possibility of ending suffering. On the contrary, they teach us to somehow escape suffering. In this article, through the journals of two young female students of NEEV Psycho-Philosophy Inquiry group, the various ways in which people escape or find solutions to suffering are discussed. Finally, it is shown how any movement away from suffering, even in the form of different solutions offered by dualist spiritual paths really do not address the cause of suffering at its root. I show how Krishnamurti’s approach of watching suffering and only non-dual approaches like Advaita solve the problem of suffering comprehensively. As the Katha Upanishad says, “He, who sees any difference here, goes from death to death.”… Read More Watching Suffering: Journals of Two Young Girls

Audio Interview: My Personal Journey to Advaita, Advaita Teachings & Difference Between Advaita & Other Paths

This is an audio interview between Taposhri and Priya of Dhi and me held on 22nd Aug 2020. Dhi hosts live talks and discussions with people in the spiritual field. In my blog writings, I have never mentioned my personal journey and the challenges I faced in my journey to Advaita. This interview fills in this vacuum. In this free-wheeling interview I discuss what is Self Inquiry, reasons for me to start my Self Inquiry, challenges I faced in my personal life while doing Self Inquiry, what is Advaita and Jnana Yoga or Yoga of Knowledge, why knowledge and not experience is the final truth and what is the use (if any) of spiritual experiences in the path. Finally, it talks about the subtle difference between Advaita and Yoga, Tantra, Buddhism, Direct Path and Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga. … Read More Audio Interview: My Personal Journey to Advaita, Advaita Teachings & Difference Between Advaita & Other Paths

You Are Awareness/Brahman: Dialogue with a Teenage Girl & Women in Vedanta

In this article, I am presenting a dialogue on what is the ultimate reality according to Advaita, with a teenage girl who is a student of the Facebook Psycho-Philosophy Group. As I started posting this dialogue, I thought it would be interesting to examine the role of women in the history of Vedanta because it is based on the study of scriptures, dialogue and wherever necessary debates: traditionally the bastion of males. I particularly examine the roles played by two women Gargi Vchaknavi of the Upanishadic era and Ubhaya Bharati of Shankara’s era. Going through the dialogues and roles played by these women, and subsequently going through my dialogue with the teenage girl, one can appreciate the fact that though times have changed- dialogues are held online instead of the forests – the method of transmission of truth, and the way of dialogue between teacher and student in the tradition of Advaita Vedanta remains unchanged, ever since Lord Brahma revealed the Vedas to Rishis and who transmitted this truth to a spiritual family-sampradaya: the lineage of teachers and students who pass the eternal truth down to the present day in an unbroken succession. Women are part of this eternal stream. … Read More You Are Awareness/Brahman: Dialogue with a Teenage Girl & Women in Vedanta

Prasthana Traya: The Triple Canonical Base of Vedanta Scriptures Followed by Shankara – Part 3/4: Bhagavad Gita

The Gita is a revolutionary and syncretic scripture in the canon of Vedanta. It brings down the Vedic truths from sequestered Himalayan caves into the active field of political life and crisis evoking tensions of fratricidal war. Religion is philosophy in action. Through the words of Krishna, who acts as his friend, guide, seer and prophet, Arjuna receives the practical application of teachings founds in the Upanishads. Throughout my active public life, I found myself in the position of Arjuna, facing a war, and asking the same questions he did, to Krishna. Thus it was that it was my favourite book till the time I did not renounce all organizational life. In this article, I discuss the Gita as a scripture of Advaita Vedanta along with its unique reformulation of action and renunciation, through what it calls action in inaction and inaction in action. I also discuss Shankara’s queasiness with this reformulation and his grudging acceptance even though it does not sit very well with his ideal of Upanishadic monasticism for a liberated being. … Read More Prasthana Traya: The Triple Canonical Base of Vedanta Scriptures Followed by Shankara – Part 3/4: Bhagavad Gita

Prasthana Traya: The Triple Canonical Base of Vedanta Scriptures Followed by Shankara – Part 2/4: Vedas/Upanishads

Forming the end portion of the Vedas, the Upanisads have had a vast and pervasive influence in Hindu Tradition. Upanishadic teachings and Upanishadic type realization run through a wide range of Hindu religious literature as dye through a cloth. It is well known to those who follow the Veda that the phrase ‘the method of the Vedanta’ refers to the method for teaching knowledge of the Absolute observed in the Upanishads which crystallizes around a number of key terms, the most important of which are Atman and Brahman. Atman, “the Self”, is at the root of the experience of self, or “I”, which is found in every human being. It is the Formless Reality which one is, above Life and Death, and above space and time. Everyone is that Reality, although without being aware of it, and It shines in the heart and mind of all living beings. In this article, I discuss the origin, the message and the unique traditional method of teaching the message found in the Upanishads, by Shankara, through superimposition and negation.… Read More Prasthana Traya: The Triple Canonical Base of Vedanta Scriptures Followed by Shankara – Part 2/4: Vedas/Upanishads

Prasthana Traya: The Triple Canonical Base of Vedanta Scriptures Followed by Shankara – Part 1/4: Introduction

I spent the first seventeen years of my inquiry with the teachings of J Krishnamurti (JK) after which I reached a stalemate. JK was primarily a master in investigating the psychological causes of suffering and despite having learned immensely from him in this regard, something within me kept clamouring to get metaphysical answers for questions like what is life, birth, death, self and creation. Moreover, like most Yoga-based teachings, Krishnamurti used to hammer at thought which according to him, in line with the teachings of Yoga based dualist schools, veils reality. However, unlike the depictions of Yoga based teachers like Buddha, Mahavira and other Hindu Yogis, Shankara is never depicted in a posture of meditation with eyes closed: always with a bundle of scriptures in his hand. This is a great testament to the fact that Advaita Vedanta, the path followed by Shankara does not believe in ending or shutting thought, but its science of Jnana Yoga is about using the subtle organ of thought, called intellect, and sharpen it to such an extent that it takes one to the reality that lies beyond thought, called Self/Brahman/Witness/Awareness, as revealed by the scriptures. In this series of articles, I shall be discussing the canonical base of scriptures and their paramount importance for the teachings of Advaita Vedanta of Shankara, where I found myself at home ultimately and received all my answers. … Read More Prasthana Traya: The Triple Canonical Base of Vedanta Scriptures Followed by Shankara – Part 1/4: Introduction

The Place of Devotion/Bhakti in Shankara Advaita

Advaita, especially Shankara’s Advaita negates all attributes for the Absolute truth it calls Brahman. According to Advaita, Brahman is the only formless reality. The phenomenal world we see is just an apparent reality like a dream. Brahman never creates the world and the souls we perceive. The only way to get enlightened is to get intuitive knowledge of this Absolute Reality of Brahman. This can only happen through knowledge and not through any acts like work, meditation or worship. However, we find several works attributed to Shankara which speak about creator Gods like Vishnu and Shiva. Did Shankara worship these Gods? This article sets out to show that most of these works are not considered by all scholars as undisputed works of Shankara. After giving a short history of the beginning of the worship of Shiva and Vishnu, who are not Vedic Gods like Brahma, the article shows that even if we see some inclination of Shankara towards Vishnu, there is no evidence to show that he worshipped them but used these concepts provisionally only for their helping in purifying the minds of seekers to finally make them fit for attaining enlightenment through Jnana/Knowledge.… Read More The Place of Devotion/Bhakti in Shankara Advaita