- The Dialogue
- Student’s Question
- My Response
- The Confusion of Paths
- About Truth Being a Pathless Land and The Reason for a Path
- Problems With Neo-Advaita Like Approaches
- The Wisdom of Advaita Teaching Methodology: Alternate Superimposition and Recension/Cancellation
- Krishnamurti’s teachings as a preliminary to Advaita’s Jnana Yoga in My Teaching Methodology
- There Are Even Practices in Jnana Yoga of Advaita
- Choiceless Awareness of ‘What Is’ and the Question of Ethics
- Uniqueness of Krishnamurti’s Teachings
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.
Student: I have difficulties differentiating between awareness and suppression, but one question sir. Since “practising” or trying to practice “watching” oneself tends to give peace, leading to one practising that more often, and getting that peace. Even delving into interesting reading has the same motivation; is this too not an escape (at this stage?) Watching oneself react angrily and damage stuff without suppressing anger (could it become an excuse to keep reacting that way?) initially. Also, I think (not sure) I’ve read of a Yogic method of “purifying the mind” by saying “no, no” as soon as unwanted tendencies pop up. Is that suppression?
The Confusion of Paths
Anurag: You should not be trying to understand what is Awareness at this stage. Secondly, to avoid all confusions you should not be reading the texts from other schools. Not that they are wrong or useless but each school has its own vocabulary, concepts and methods, which, actually tend to clash with each other. This is the most common mistake made by many spiritual inquirers, especially in the beginning and middle stages, and sometimes even in the more advanced stages too. I myself went through many schools before coming to Advaita, so I know the difficulties, problems and suffering involved due to confusion of paths. I am really happy that you got this topic out for discussion so that you and others can get the benefit of my experience in this regard. Even in one and the same path, there are many sub-schools and variations. (See my article Difficulties in Finding the True Method of Advaita Vedanta of Shankaracharya – Part 1) For example, what Vivekananda taught as Advaita was not true Shankara Advaita but something called Yoga-Advaita: a mixture of Yoga and Advaita, which actually mixes both the paths and makes them both ultimately unintelligible to a seeker who wants ultimate truth. (See the section on Yoga-Advaita) In this NEEV Psycho-Philosophy Group, I don’t teach Awareness as implied by Advaita, primarily. Here I teach “Choiceless Awareness of What Is” based on the teachings of J Krishnamurti. The latter is a ‘practice‘ to make your intellect ready and capable of getting direct knowledge that “You are Awareness”. Depending upon your Karma, this stage is actually a very long stage. (Took seventeen years for me) Once you are through with this stage till every level is seen, the final insight of Advaita is a matter of months.
Now answering your questions on practising “Choiceless Awareness of What Is”
1.) Question: Is the practice of choiceless awareness an escape?
About Truth Being a Pathless Land and The Reason for a Path
Well, in one of my debates, someone told me that Truth is a Pathless Land; no path can lead to Truth. He was damn right. No path can lead to Truth because You Are Truth. But my saying that You Are Truth/You Are Brahman/Tat Tvam Asi, does not move a hair in your body. Why? Because your intellect is not trained for this. It is full of rajas and tamas. Self does not require enlightenment. It is the intellect that requires enlightenment. The intellect reflects the Self. In all cases of reflection, you see that the quality of reflecting surface determines the quality of the image reflected. If the reflecting surface is imperfect in any way, the quality of the image reflected is imperfect in a corresponding way. So even though there is one sun, we see as many suns as there are reflecting surfaces. So, for example, we get one kind of reflection of sun in muddy water, one in moving water and one in pure transparent water. Similarly, the Self is reflected in different ways in the intellects of different Jivas/persons depending upon the reflecting quality of intellect, which, in turn, depends upon the degree of sattva present in it. Rajas creates an excited, turbid and dissipated intellect whereas Tamas creates a dull intellect. Sattva creates a calm, transparent intellect. So all practices form a path to polish your intellect to receive the reflection of Self. In traditional Advaita, if your intellect is sattvic enough, and the teacher just says that “You Are Truth/Self/Brahman/Witness/Awareness”, you will get Self Realization in one shot, just by hearing this. Some people, due to the force of their karma, actually require very little practice. Those graced by their past karma with exceptionally sattvic intellects get enlightened just by hearing this statement. The Aitareya Upanishad talks of Vamadeva who was born enlightened in the womb.
“While I was in the womb, I knew all the births of the gods. A hundred walls made of steel, protected me. I burst out of them with the speed of a hawk,” Vamadeva spoke this verse while lying in the womb.”Aitareya Upanishad, Verse 2.1.5
This is again mentioned by Shankara in his Brahma sutra Bhashya. The commentary by Shankara is as follows:
“The Yogi, striving assiduously, purified of taint, gradually gaining perfection through many births, then reaches the highest goal” (Ibid 6. 45). Moreover, that Knowledge sometimes fructifies in the next life is known from the life of Vamadeva who possessed Knowledge even while he was in the womb. This shows that it must have been the result of his past actions, for he could not have practised any Vidyas in the womb. Knowledge did not manifest in his previous life owing to obstruction, and this being removed when he was in the womb, Knowledge fructified as a result of his past Sadhana.”Brahmasutra Bhashya, Verse 3.4.51
Problems With Neo-Advaita Like Approaches
But very few are blessed with such karma. Most have to practice to attain a sattvic intellect. In fact, some people listen to the teachings of Krishnamurti or the higher teachings of Advaita, Dzogchen etc and say that no practice is required at all. This is very harmful. That is actually a deception of the mind. There are many neo-Advaita teachers and satsanga teachers who work on this principle of no practice being required. Just sit in the satsanga, listen to a teacher, and at some point, the insight shall dawn. This has a sort of paralysing effect on the mind. On one hand, the seeker is bursting with rajas, seeing himself as a thinker/doer/experiencer and lurching forward to seek and find; on the other hand, you have these Neo-Advaita and other New Age Satsnaga teachers telling seekers that all practices are a mark of your ignorance.
The Wisdom of Advaita Teaching Methodology: Alternate Superimposition and Recension/Cancellation
The great teachings like Advaita which having the wisdom of centuries, realize the predicament of students. From the ultimate viewpoint they realize that the phenomenal world is an illusion, and that all actions happen only in an illusion. For example, we have this verse from Gaudapada,
“There is neither dissolution, nor birth: neither anyone in bondage, nor any aspirant for wisdom; neither can there be anyone who hankers after liberation, nor any liberated as such. This alone is the Supreme Truth.”Mandukya Upanishad, Karika, Verse 2.32
And further, relating to the futility of all knowledge of the scriptures, we have this verse from Bhagavad Gita
“For the Brāhmaṇa who knows the self, all the Vedas are of only so much use as a small reservoir is when there is flood everywhere.”Bhagavad Gita Verse 2.46
These quotes show that the seeker, the teacher and the teachings are all an illusion from the ultimate point of view. But it also realizes that for a seeker stuck with the ignorance that this phenomenal world is real. To accommodate both views and resolve this seeming dilemma, Shankara evolved a two-fold view of reality. He spoke of
- Ultimate Reality/ Paramarthika Satya: Reality as conceived from the ultimate viewpoint, which is Self/Brahman/Awareness/Formless. From this viewpoint, the phenomenal world is mithya or only apparently real like a dream. This is the viewpoint of a Jnani or Self Realized Beings
- Conventional/EmpiricalReality/Vyavaharika Satya: Reality as conceived by people who are ignorant about the ultimate reality and take this phenomenal world of forms as the only reality, like materialists do.
According to the true teachings of Shankara Advaita, the teacher of Advaita, wielding the true method of Advaita learnt from the scriptures, helps the seeker move up the stages from conventional reality to the ultimate reality, in a graded manner, through a sophisticated teaching methodology of Advaita called Alternate Superimposition followed by Recension/Cancellation. Thus, the teacher does not perplex a newcomer seeker with the ultimate statements of Advaita I quoted above. Rather, for the sake of the student, the teacher first, accepts for his sake, that this world is real and the seeker is a real thinker/doer/experiencer entity. After that through a series of investigations starting from grosser conventional reality, the teacher helps the student understand and negate the reality of each level, rising up to subtler levels till no other phenomenal reality can be negated and Awareness shines due to it’s self revelatory nature. This process is beautifully explained by Shankara here:
“He who knows It, the Self described above, as such, as the fearless Brahman, becomes the fearless Brahman. This is the purport of the whole Upaniṣad put in a nutshell. It is to bring home this purport that the ideas of projection, maintenance, dissolution, etc., as well as those of action, its factors and its results were superimposed on the Self. Again, by their negation—by the elimination of the superimposed attributes through a process of ‘Not this, not this’—the truth has been made known. Just as, in order to explain the nature of numbers from one up to a hundred thousand billions, a man superimposes them on certain lines (digits), calling one of them one, another ten, another hundred, yet another thousand, and so on, and in so doing he only expounds the nature of numbers, but he never says that the numbers are the lines; or just as, in order to teach the alphabet, he has recourse to a combination of leaf, ink, lines, etc., and through them explains the nature of the letters, but he never says that the letters are the leaf, ink, lines, etc., similarly in this exposition the one entity, Brahman, has been inculcated through various means such as the projection (of the universe). Again, to eliminate the differences created by those hypothetical means, the truth has been summed up as ‘Not this, not this.’ In the end, that knowledge, further clarified so as to be undifferentiated, together with its result, has been concluded in this paragraph.”
A detailed description of how Enlightenment happens in Advaita can be found in my article “Shabda Pramana: Enlightenment through Words in Advaita Vedanta: Presenting a Dialogue
Krishnamurti’s teachings as a preliminary to Advaita’s Jnana Yoga in My Teaching Methodology
As mentioned in my section Krishanmurti & Choiceless Awareness of What Is, I use Krishnamurti’s teachings as a preliminary preparation for the Jnana Yoga of Advaita. Krishnamurti can be seen in a neo-Advaitic light, but he was not that. He did talk of ‘no practice’, ‘no effort’ but did talk of effort to become aware. He talked of putting his words to practice but his practice is very subtle and requires more than average sattvic intellect to follow him. Which also explains why his teachings are not popular among the masses. In fact, if you are in this group and if you can hang around in this group till the end, it indicates that you have a sattvic intellect to a very great extent. This is because I don’t teach Karma yoga or Bhakti Yoga or Raja Yoga, as is done in traditional Advaita, which are the basic steps to prepare the intellect for most. I start directly with a ‘form of Jnana Yoga’ found in the teachings of J Krishnamurti. One person had joined our Neev Advaita Study group and was very enthusiastic. But then he discovered Karma Yoga in the Advaita teachings which talks about sacrificing your work to God. He fell so much in love with that, that he left the group saying that he is not ready for Jnana Yoga right now, as he is enjoying the Karma Yoga. I did not resist him at all. In fact, I encouraged him and wished him all the best. My wife who lived with me for twenty-five years, having dialogue with me every single day, has moved away into the path of intense Bhakti Yoga to such an extent that she has given up married life and lives separately, following her own practices though legally we remain married. So this ‘path’ thing is really very important as it determines the nature of your practice.
There Are Even Practices in Jnana Yoga of Advaita
Coming back to your question, practice is required to make your intellect ready enough or sattvic enough to understand that you are the truth. Even in final Jnana Yoga of Advaita, there are ‘practices’, if you do not get Self Realized by mere listening or ‘shravana‘. Then one has to do further practices of manana/reflection/dialogue and nidhidhyasana/deep contemplation. In my own journey, I did not have to proceed till nidhidhyasana or deep contemplation. The insight came through after shravana and manana only. Same was the case with others who got Self Realization in the NEEV Advaita Study group. As you can see the practices get subtler and subtler till finally, you understand your True nature as Self had always existed, and all your practices never made any dent to it. Your practices only helped you get a true reflection of Self. At the point of insight, the distinction between reflection and the source of reflection, which is Self, is overcome – The intellect knows itself as Self.
Finally, a person comes to Self Inquiry to escape suffering. Is this an escape as you have asked in your question? Some say that even a desire to escape suffering is, after all, a desire. The answer is that once Truth is known, even this desire ends. You come to know that your real nature was always liberated. Suffering only happens in illusion. Once you get up from the dream, you don’t bother about whatever you did or did not do there. After Self Inquiry is over, you wake up to your eternal nature, which you are always and which has always been free from suffering.
Choiceless Awareness of ‘What Is’ and the Question of Ethics
I shall now answer your second question.
2.) Question: Watching oneself react angrily and damage stuff without suppressing anger (could it become an excuse to keep reacting that way?) initially.”
My Response: First, you have to understand that Krishnamurti uses the word Awareness differently from how Advaita uses it. For Advaita Awareness is the ultimate reality. For Krishnamurti, Awareness is the process through which mind is understood. In my system, to avoid this confusion, I use ‘choiceless awareness of what is’ when talking about it as a process like Krishnamurti does, and simply the word Awareness with a capital ‘A’, when I am talking about it in terms of Advaita: as an ultimate reality-Awareness. In the way Krishnamurti uses the word, and, in the way which you should understand it, as of now is, that it has its own intelligence. When you are watching anger, there is a complex web of thoughts that come. It’s not just one unidirectional flow of thoughts. For example, if you are thinking of throwing and damaging stuff, that is one thought. Simultaneously there would be another thought that could arise telling you the consequences of what will happen when you damage stuff. This does not mean that the second thought is much wiser than the first thought. When we are being choicelessly aware we are not choosing between thoughts, judging between them, saying that this thought is wise and this thought is unwise. We are just looking at all our thoughts. We are not even bothered about looking at our thoughts to decide what action needs to be taken. Because if we do that then we shall have to judge and choose between thoughts. And we choose thoughts only on the basis of past conditioning, so we are never able to examine the whole network of thought. We are not able to watch the whole network of anger. We suppress anger out of fear, out of our desire to be respectable. So the network of fear and anger remains. If we do not suppress then what happens, you are plunged into the unknown. Within your mind and with all your relationships, you come into a zone of unknown. You are no longer playing by the rules and codes of conduct, of norms and acceptable behaviour set by society. You become a rebel. And one is very afraid of being a rebel, of losing relationships, of being seen as an angry person, of being insulted and losing reputation. Whatever I have said is not something that you have to agree with. See for yourself whether what I am saying is true or not? All people have anger, but they either suppress it or dissipate it or substitute it with other concepts like God, chanting etc. All these are only temporary measures. The only way to end anger or whole of thought is to watch it choicelessly. Look at what happens to you the moment I say this? Most probably there is a fear. What fear? The fear of losing all control, of becoming an impulsive animal. What happens the moment you get this fear? You pull back. Isn’t it? You get back into the game of control, into the split between the thinker and the thought. The thinker which is trying to control thought because of fear. Now, the question is why did you come to self inquiry? To become a respectable member of society or to know truth at all costs. To know the truth you have to pay the price. This is not a journey of acquisition. It is a journey of ending, of dying to all of thought and its acquisitions: it imples the ending of all acquisition, including the acquisition of virtue. I wrote about all this in my latest article: You (Self) Are Not (Your) Thoughts: A Dialogue
So when you are opening out to choiceless awareness is it a dumb act or is it an act of great intelligence? The basis of choiceless awareness of what is, is the desire to know yourself truly, to see through all falsity. Is this intention, a dumb intention, or an intelligent intention? If the intention is intelligent can it produce dumb acts? A socially respectable person dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s may be a darling for the family or society. A ruthless, ambitious person is an object of envy and adoration for the family and the masses. These so-called successful, respectable and adored people who follow all etiquettes are in fact dumb. Choiceless Awareness of what is, is certainly not going to take you down this path. You shall go to that path which is your truest intention. If your intention is to know the highest indisputable truth, you will move to that and if your intention is to become respectable and gain power, you will move to that even within the field of spirituality. If your intention is to seek experiences, you will move to that. All traditional paths will start off with ethics as I mentioned in my blog article I mentioned above. But I don’t start off with ethics because ethics anyway is a step, not the aim. I like Krishnamurti’s teachings because they don’t start off with ethics but start just a step lower than the ultimate truth. But not all can start off here. It may be a shorter climb up the mountain of falsity, to the peak of truth, but it is a very steep climb. Most people prefer a gentler climb, starting with ethics, gradually moving up the stages. So what you have mentioned as the Yoga view of ‘saying no no’ is a beginning step of that path which moves through eight stages. Even Yoga, in the ultimate stage, transcends the world of virtue and vice as its end is the same as that of Krishnamurti’s teachings: ending of all thought. With Krishnamurti, while we cannot make a direct comparison with Patanjali’s Yoga system, but in a general sort of way, I can say that we enter several stages above: almost in the fifth stage of Yoga, called pratyahara, or even in it’s sixth stage called dhyana.
Uniqueness of Krishnamurti’s Teachings
Now, coming to the last part of your question:
3.) Question: “Also, I think (not sure) I’ve read of a Yogic method of “purifying the mind” by saying “no, no” as soon as unwanted tendencies pop up. Is that suppression?”
My Response: I have already answered in my comment related to your first question that ‘choiceless awareness of what is’ is a means for purification of mind only. Not only this, at the end of my comment to the second part of your question, I have mentioned that this method of Krishnamurti is almost the fifth or sixth stage of Patanjali’s yoga in a very general sort of way. I am not very familiar with a lot of Buddhist teachings, but I guess they teach the same practice calling it mindfulness etc. There is a school called Dzogchen school in Buddhism, which is generally considered containing the highest teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, also kind of talks of choiceless awareness of ‘what is’. Of course, most of these schools talk about this in a set up of monks and renunciates, so the complexities are greatly reduced. However, to Krishnamurti’s credit goes the fact that he taught this in the set up of the non-ascetic world most of us live in. Thus, his teachings are quite unique, even if his process is found in other schools. His teachings cover all the issues we face as people in society; something that is lacking in the teachings of similar Buddhist schools.
24 thoughts on “Advaita & Paradox of Practice vs No Practice: A Dialogue”
The source of seeking is from a separate self. “I” exists because of “You”. Because the world demands me to be a separate entity, the “I” is born. And, the seeking is born because I am separate. The separate “I” wants to be part of the whole. The effort put to enlighten the intellect is by the “self”, which still exists with a very refined or non-existent intellect. That self is still a separate entity.
All inquiry, as you rightly said, exists because of the feeling of a separate self. Thus all inquiry is born out of an illusion that one is a form or BMI -body/mind/intellect. Without this illusion inquiry won’t begin and there would be no need for any inquiry at all 🙂
But paradoxically the inquiry culminates in the insight that you are not a form or BMI, that you are actually formless awareness. This insight does not mean that you were a form before the inquiry began and then inquiry made you formless. It means that you were always formless (no I, no you, no world) , before the inquiry, during the inquiry or after the inquiry. The inquiry only makes you realize what you have always been and always be – eternal formless awareness.
Initially when you saw a mirage, you thought that the water was real and you rush to drink the mirage water to satisfy your thirst. After inquiry you come to know the mirage to be just a superimposition, then you don’t care for it, even if it appears: you don’t rush to satisfy yourself with it because you have seen its unreality. All the while, before you knew it was a mirage or after you knew it to be a mirage, the mirage waters never contacted or wet the desert sand and had always been free of the form of the mirage. You as desert sand or formless awareness had always been free of forms.
So the body/mind/intellect along with the world of phenomena in the two states of dream and waking as well as the unmanifest in the state of sleep, all appear as a mirage to a Jnani. The Jnani is not a person. That is how he appears to others and to Awareness. The Jnani is nothing but Awareness from the ultimate viewpoint. From the phenomenal viewpoint, he/she is a being who knows himself to be Awareness as opposed to beings who don’t know themselves to be Awareness but are Awareness anyway. Both the Jnani and others see the phenomenal world but the Jnani includes his body/mind/intellect as an object in the world of phenomena he sees, and knows himself to be other than any of these changing forms. The ignorant people consider themselves to be the BMI and all other forms as real as their BMI.
Also, you wrote,
“The source of seeking is from a separate self. “I” exists because of “You”. Because the world demands me to be a separate entity, the “I” is born.”
The form “I” and the world exist together. You cannot have an “I” till you have others as different from “I”, one form as opposed to another. So there is no question of “the world demands me to be a separate entity”. The moment there is a phenomenal world there are forms which are delineated in space at all levels – body/mind/intellect – and the “You” and “I” arise.
If the phenomenal world were to be the only reality, there would be no escape from the “I” and there would always be a form de-limited by other forms. But inquiry shows that the phenomenal world is not a reality. We are only “assuming” it to be real. Thankfully this is the case, otherwise, we could never be free of the limitation and suffering from forms.
In the state of dream sleep, as long as you are in the dream, you experience the pains and pleasures in that state. But as soon as you wake up from the dream, all the pains and pleasures that appeared so real to you in the dream appear to be unreal from the waking state view. You experienced all these pains and pleasures, and yet they appear to you unreal from the waking state point of view.
Now let’s see the waking state with perspective to deep sleep. You can be suffering from cancer in your waking state but when you are in deep sleep state, there is absolutely no suffering. In deep sleep, there are no forms (no I, no you and no world) and no suffering whatsoever. So even the waking state of the world of forms and its suffering is totally wiped out in sleep state as long as this state continues. So how real is the waking state? Each state cancels the reality of the other. But here we have a clue. While suffering is experienced in waking state and dream state where there is an “I” and the world of forms, there is absolutely no suffering present in deep sleep state which is formless. But also see one more paradox. You can inquire only in the waking state, where there is an “I” and other forms. You cannot inquire in the dream state and most certainly you cannot inquire in the sleep state where all suffering is absent (perhaps that is why. LOL!)
1. The awareness has self at the root, because this awareness has all the human experiences within it. To posit that there is this state of formless awareness within you means, you have recognized it as a state of formless awareness which you are describing. It either means there is a form that is describing the formless state which can only be in the past. The formless state, if it exists cannot be described in the present.
2. Deep sleep doesn’t erase the reality.So, the reality of the phenonomenal world exists even in deep sleep, except that there is no demand on us to be the form or the “I”.
Perhaps you did not understand what I wrote or you did not pay adequate attention to the words.
1.) All experiences are not within awareness. They appear to Awareness, which I am and everyone is essentially. A formless state is timeless. It exists at all times. In fact, space and time appear to Awareness.
2.) Perhaps you are not sleeping well :-). Deep sleep means that there is no space and no time and no forms. Deep sleep definitely does not erase reality because reality can never be erased. What can be erased is falsity and deep sleep does absolutely that. It erases the world of forms which is not real.
Whether within or appearing to awareness, they still exist. Awareness takes up a higher, superior position and space and time takes up a lower position. The separation still exists. Its an individual awareness.
Lol ! How can something be individual (i.e having a form) and yet be formless
That’s precisely the question to you. Awareness is not formless.
Vijaykumar, do you know Awareness? I am not talking of Awareness the way Krishnamurti uses that word.
This is where communication would break down. Because, whatever you know about awareness can only be communicated through words, and which then would be perceived by me only through the words, and so I can never get what you know about awareness because the words would project something based on my background and conditioning. I can only reach the outer limits of thoughts as I see it. And leave it there, because ultimately, if I keep trying to see something other than what is, “I” will be always active. And, to believe that I have got ridden of the “I” is never possible. So, all teachers have no place because they can never ever communicate something which is not thought.
I agree Vijay, and Advaita too, agrees with what you say. So in Advaita, we never communicate what is Awareness. We communicate “WHAT IS NOT AWARENESS”. The method is neti-neti. All that is not Awareness are objects which are impermanent. When every single impermanent object is negated, then eternal Awareness shines by its own. Awareness is self-revealing. I don’t have to tell you what the sun is. The teacher just removes the clouds. The student sees the sun on his own because it shines when all clouds are removed. What is the cloud in self-inquiry? The cloud is ignorance? What is ignorance? That you have identified your sense of Self with body/mind/intellect. So Advaita only helps in removing your ignorance by removing your false identification with body/mind/intellect. When you see that you exist even when these three are negated, you shall see that this existence is formless. That is why Awareness is called Sat-Chit-Ananda. Sat means existence.
Vijay, please re-read my previous comment as I greatly edited it and gave a more detailed understanding. I was a little busy when I had responded earlier. So I got back to my response again and added stuff.
Also, Vijay, I have been saying continuously one thing which you are missing. Non-Duality is not about getting rid of the “ego-I”. That is also an approach. It is the Yoga approach, where you end the psychological mind. That is the approach which Krishnamurti too follows. This is the approach followed in dualistic paths like Yoga. No harm with that path. It too shall lead you to formless Awareness.
What Non-Dual paths say, is that the reality is present all the time. It is not that the reality, Awareness, is absent when “ego-I” is present. In fact, “ego-I” cannot be present without the substrate of Awareness. You are yourself talking of getting rid of “ego-I”. Which means you know that it is a conditioned reality. It means you somehow know that “ego-I” is not actually who you are, your real “I”. Which means that you exist even when the “ego-I” does not exist. In fact, in Advaita when a person calls himself as “I”, that “I” is actually Awareness itself, which is getting mistakenly identified with the “ego-I”. The “ego-I” in Advaita is not the psychological mind but the “ego-I” in Advaita has a very different meaning. The “ego-I” in Advaita is the ignorance in the intellect which is causing the false identification of Awareness with the body-mind-intellect.
So what all non-dual paths say is that “I” as the reality – formless Awareness is always present and unaffected by the “ego-I”, whether it stays or does not stay. Even the dualistic path of Yoga, too, says that the reality as Awareness remains unaffected by the mind at any point. So where is the difference between these two paths? Non-dual paths say that you can know the reality because YOU ARE THE REALITY. What hides the reality, therefore, is not something very real or physical like matter but just a superimposition caused by wrong knowledge. When you see a snake on the rope, there is not a physical snake on the rope which needs to be removed to know the rope. What do you do? Just shine a light. In Advaita, that light is knowledge which dispels the ignorance or wrong knowledge that you are the body, mind and intellect.
In the Yoga path, the ‘ego-I’ is taken to be real. It’s taken to be something really existent, like a physical snake on the rope, which will not be removed by knowledge but by killing the snake or killing or ending the ‘ego-I’. What you are talking about is a way to end the “ego-I”. You end the “ego-I” by not doing anything about it. It dies its own death. This is the way of Krishnamurti. It’s not exactly Yoga way, but the assumption in both is common: that the ‘ego-I’ is an actual entity. But if you look carefully at the formulation of your own words, you shall see that there is still something that can be asked from you. You wrote, “I can only reach the outer limits of thoughts as I see it. And leave it there,” Who is the “I” that sees the outer limits of thought? Who is deciding to leave it there? Who is making this choice? Is it not the “ego-I” itself that you are talking about? You see Krishnamurti actually skirted this issue. I guess, once, only once, he responded by saying that there is a part of your brain which is “unconditioned”. The problem with Krishnamurti is that he does not go with philosophy at all. He does not need to because his method does not require much. But the method is relying on a background set of philosophical assumptions. To an onlooker, the goal is made to look very simple: end the “ego-I” or the psychological mind. But who takes this decision? Who thinks about how to or how to not end it? Yoga school talks about these questions. It relies on its theoretical underpinnings for another school called Samkhya. It then does a little innovation in the Samkhya school. But the point is that the bonnet of Yoga school is open to be seen, examined and critiqued. Thus, it comes under heavy fire from Advaita philosophy in particular and other schools in general. Not that Yoga schools have not returned fire. I am sure they must have. Just that I have not got time to get around to their critique of Advaita. Another interesting this is that gradually Yoga got co-opted in Advaita and Advaita started looking more and more like Yoga with a different metaphysics. Krishnamurti did not want his theoretical underpinnings exposed. His interlocutors were often too weak to get it exposed. In his dialogues, he would often get agitated when cross-questioned and would abruptly snub some valid and brilliant questions. He developed a style, a language and a vocabulary that ‘seemed’ very free of all theorizing. His teachings draw the masses or somewhat intellectuals but if someone goes very deep metaphysically, someone who is more analytical and philosophical rather than psychological, one is bound to uncover serious contradictions in his teachings, because unlike Yoga school, whose basic principle he is following, the underlying philosophy of his method is hidden. Yoga is said to be a psychological path and Advaita is a more philosophical path.
Krishnamurti finally did leave clues in “Ending of Time”. He describes his own stages of experiencing in his journey – from mind (ego-I) to cosmic mind (cosmic-I) to emptiness (no ego-I & no cosmic-I but just the potential of both these I’s) to the source (I-Awareness). These are the exact stage of Yoga. LOL! What Advaita says that there is no need to travel this distance because all the while you are already I-Awareness. You just discriminate between all these other I’s (ego-I, cosmic-I and no-ego, just potential of both these I’s) and Awareness (which is always existent) and know that You Are the Source of your body/mind/intellect and all the universe. In his later years Krishnamurti became a little Advaita like, where he started talking about liberation just by listening to the teacher – instantly. This is the exact Advaita way. But it happens only with very qualified minds.
Ultimately, if one is a Krishnamurtian, one has to question Krishnamurti too 🙂 Why not look at the criticisms levelled at him from other paths?
So which path is right? Which is wrong? There is nothing like that. You take the path which suits you, gives you peace and happiness 🙂 I am not saying Advaita is the only path available. Though, one must remember that each path has a critique for the other. Advaita has for Yoga and Yoga has for Advaita. Krishnamurti has for all paths and all paths have for Krishnamurti 🙂
Thanks for the detailed examining of some of the facts. What we both agreed upon at the beginning is that there is a separation that has happened, which created the “I” , and because we see/feel/know this separation, the inquiry begins. What is before this separation? You are saying that that when we negate the separateness, we reach the source, and which is awareness and which is present in the separate forms as well. You are also stating that this source is also the “I” and which we are mistakenly identifying as a separate BMI.
So, thought is also seen as a superimposition on this awareness. So, awareness and thought are one and the same which is awareness. The ignorance according to what you are saying is that thought is identified as a separate form as “me”. If not, thought is also awareness. What you are saying is that the negation is done on the identification of the form as “my” form, not on the form itself.
Please find my comments inline Vijay:
Vijay: Thanks for the detailed examining of some of the facts. What we both agreed upon at the beginning is that there is a separation that has happened, which created the “I” , and because we see/feel/know this separation, the inquiry begins.
Anurag: Well, in Advaita, the separation has not “really” happened. The separation is caused due to a “superimposition” on the Real Self. The Yoga school philosophy, which Krishnamurti follows too, states that there is a “real” separation between “Awareness/Source” and “I”. Thus, in Advaita, your “ego-I” is not something psychological, it is a philosophical knowledge misunderstanding, an error of perception that superimposes the BMI on your real Self which is Awareness/Source. In Yoga, you have to actually remove the “ego-I” – which is a whole range of mental conditioning (called vasanas in Yoga language), and not a philosophical error as in Advaita. The “ego-I” is actually blocking Awareness in Yoga. Well, in Advaita too, one cannot just jump to Jnana Yoga and its superimposition theory before a lot of mental conditioning is removed. This is where I use Krishnamurti’s teachings. In traditional Advaita, (Raja) Yoga is at times taken as a preparation too.
What Krishnamurti does not address in his teachings, which is a very big lacuna, that Yoga does address, is the fact of who is doing the inquiry. If the “ego-I” is the only thing that exists and it is all conditioned, then how can it ever get out of itself. This is the kind of loop Krishnamurti gets you in and never resolves. But then he uses some vague words and terminology like “flowering of intelligence” etc. The question that needs to be asked is if there is only “ego-I” then from where is this intelligence born? Even prior to this question is the question, “From where does the intelligence come in the first place even to question this “ego-I”?” So you see, all this is hidden under the cover with Krishnamurti. Yoga and Advaita are quite clear and comprehensive in this regard. They distinguish between the intellect and mind. What Krishnamurti means by “ego-I” roughly translates to chitta or mind of Yoga. What is the intelligence that can do inquiry and free the mind? It is called “intellect” in both these systems. The intellect/buddhi due to it’s greater proximity than body and mind to Awareness, reflects the light of Awareness. Thus, it is the intellect which does the heavy lifting work of inquiry in Advaita and the action of dissolving the mind in Yoga. In Advaita, at a certain point of inquiry, an insight arises that takes you beyond the intellect to Awareness. There is only one such though that can do this. It is called akhandakaravritti, a thought modification that takes you beyond thought. It is also called the tiger in the dream. Why? Because when you are dreaming, you are considering all of it real. But there can come a tiger in the dream that can scare you and wake you up. It was not a real tiger but a dream tiger, but it did its work of waking you up which other objects in the dream could not do. So in Advaita, the akhandakara vritti is the only thought modification in the illusion that can take you out of the illusion. This thought, like the dream tiger, gets destructed the moment you wake up to your real identity of Awareness. The whole of Advaita is also now seen as nothing but the contents of the dream reality of forms.
So you see, both in Yoga and Advaita, you are not caught in chains. There is the intellect which can inquire in Advaita and the intellect which can dissolve the mind in Yoga. In Yoga, once the intellect does its job of dissolving the mind (vasanas/psychological thought patterns/mental conditioning) it becomes latent. It arises only when required for some functional purposes but otherwise, there is total silence. The intellect in Yoga is not veiling Awareness, it is the “ego-I” that veils awareness and which needs to be ended.
Vijay: What is before this separation? You are saying that when we negate the separateness, we reach the source, and which is awareness and which is present in the separate forms as well. You are also stating that this source is also the “I” and which we are mistakenly identifying as a separate BMI.
Anurag: Awareness is not present in separate forms. Awareness is the source and base of all forms. When a snake is superimposed on the rope, the snake as a head, body and tail of. Similarly, your body/mind/intellect and all other body/mind/intellects of others are seen as sheaths in increasing order of subtlety which are superimposed on Awareness like a snake on the rope. You are right in saying that all these sheaths are also Awareness because the snake is ultimately the rope only. There was never any real snake. But this is how things are in Advaita. Yoga would say that the form intellect, “ego-I” and body/mind are real. Intellect is prior to “ego-I” in it’s scheme of evolution. So in Yoga, the intellect dissolves the ego, which dissolves the identification with body/mind. It’s like a chain of evolutes. You break the link at “ego-I” and then you are liberated. But it is again clear here who is breaking this link “ego-I”. It is the intellect which itself becomes latent after doing the work and allows the Awareness as Source to be revealed.
Thus in Yoga, the source is revealed only when psychological mind is ended whereas in Advaita, there is no need to end the mind. One has to just discriminate between BMI and Awareness on which this BMI is superimposed. This discrimination is not just an indirect knowledge, just like other objects in a dream. It has to be direct knowledge, an insight, the akhanadakara vritti that shatters the dream in a single instant. At that very moment Vijaykumar who was doing the inquiry becomes the object and Awareness or the real “I” becomes the subject who is looking at the BMI of Vijaykumar as an object. This Awareness is not the BMI. It does not think or act or experience. All that is done by the BMI. This subject – formless Awareness is not Vijaykumar because Vijaykumar is part of the whole world of phenomena which are objects to Awareness, which is never absent.
So you are right in your understanding as per Advaita that your BMI is also Awareness, just as the snake on the rope is nothing but the rope. In Advaita, we call it conditioned Self/Awareness. But the word “conditioned” here is not meant psychologically. It is a philosophical term, meaning that the BMI is how formless Awareness appears when there is an error in perception. Awareness never became the BMI just as the rope never became the snake. The BMI is just an appearance on Awareness which you always are.
Vijay: So, thought is also seen as a superimposition on this awareness. So, awareness and thought are one and the same which is awareness. The ignorance according to what you are saying is that thought is identified as a separate form as “me”. If not, thought is also awareness. What you are saying is that the negation is done on the identification of the form as “my” form, not on the form itself.
Anurag: Well, I would give you 100 marks on this. This is a brilliant understanding which people arrive after a lot of inquiry. Yes, Vijaykumar is just like any form or any object appearing to Awareness just like all other objects of the phenomenal world. In fact the whole phenomenal world is an object to Awareness.
I have a problem in saying that this is the end, and there’s nothing more than this. That once awareness is known, then we have realized. It is a marketing ploy by the spiritual teachers from the ancient till now to state that this is it, for they wish to proclaim themselves as having arrived and then go about converting others. I don’t see this knowing as the ultimate reality. This knowing is a perception by the brain rooted in the same substrate as the forms of thought that separate. One has only removed the identification thought. The awareness is still an illusion.
Vijay: I have a problem in saying that this is the end, and there’s nothing more than this. That once awareness is known, then we have realized.
Anurag: Awareness is not known as an object. So it is not Vijaykumar knowing Awareness as an object or concept or thought or sensation or form. There is no Vijaykumar in Awareness. There is absolutely no form there. Vijaykumar that talks and speaks and writes is an object to Awareness. The correct way of saying is that Vijaykumar is Awareness in essence, without any superimposition of BMI. There can be nothing more than Awareness because Awareness is formless. It is already nothing. So if you say that there is something more than this, you would land up saying something absurd like nothing came out of nothing. LOL !
Awareness is that in which the split between the knower, knowing and the known has not occurred. Imagine light in space. You cannot see it. You shall see only darkness. The light is known to exist only when there is an object in space. Then it shines with the light of Awareness. The knower is that object which shines in the light of Awareness. That is why in Advaita, the knower is referred metaphorically as the moon and Awareness as the Sun.
Vijay: It is a marketing ploy by the spiritual teachers from the ancient till now to state that this is it, for they wish to proclaim themselves as having arrived and then go about converting others.
Anurag: I have already addressed all this before. For some reason, you are repeating your assertions. But still, I shall clear this objection of yours once more, and for the last time.
1.) If you are talking about me, I can say that I don’t charge any money from anyone. I have started no organization to induct any followers. I have not tried in any way to market and propagate myself. I just write. If people would like to learn or discuss things with me, I do so. Otherwise, I am going about my writing business quietly. I am not promising any reward to anyone like bliss, visions, ecstatic experiences etc. Awareness is devoid of all experiences. My students are good friends who are on par with me. Because as Awareness no one is high or low. As forms of Maya, there are distinctions. Two pots are made of clay. One pot knows itself as the form and therefore it fears the destruction of its form while the other pot knows itself as clay and does not fear any destruction of form as it will still remain clay. When you see the essence as clay, all pots are same. When you see all pots as forms then all appear of different qualities, shapes and sizes. Same goes for people. So I know you as Awareness itself. Why shall I convert you? I cannot convert you into anything other than Awareness? Only forms can be converted, not formless Awareness. So why should I bother with conversion? You are already Awareness in your essence. LOL !
2.) I did not come to you to tell you that I shall teach you. You have approached me with your doubts, scepticism and questions. You could lay such a charge if I had come to you in the first place to induct you as a student 🙂 In fact, Awareness is actionless. All action is happening only in illusion or Awareness conditioned by the waking state and dream state.
3.) Advaita is never about conversion. It is not a faith. If you see it, you see it. If you don’t, you don’t. Even if you don’t see, you are still Awareness. LOL !
Vijaykumar: I don’t see this knowing as the ultimate reality. This knowing is a perception by the brain rooted in the same substrate as the forms of thought that separate. One has only removed the identification thought. The awareness is still an illusion.
Anurag: Of course you are right. If someone says, I know Awareness, then he considers himself a knower seeing awareness as an object. I shall repeat the same thing again ( because this is the most difficult aspect to realize). Awareness is a knowingness. It is not the knower. The knower is a superimposition on this knowingness. Awareness is that to which the knower appears. The knower is an individual. So the correct way to state is “I Am Awareness”. And this holds true for everyone at all times.
Talking about the brain, it is something very gross. It appears only in the waking state. In fact, the brain appears to the mind. Mind and brain are separate things 🙂 Mind appears to Awareness, the brain appears to the mind. So it is something like Awareness – Mind – Brain, in the increasing order of grossness. From formless to form. You are locating awareness in your brain whereas it is just the opposite.
Finally, Vijay, It’s my humble request, if you respond next time, please do not make the same statements that you have made earlier. Because I see that you come back to the same premises again and again. If you have anything new to say, it would merit my response. It seems a pointless exercise for either of us to keep saying the same things again and again to each other. I am sure you would agree with this 🙂
Remember, I did not start this conversation, so I am not out there to convince you of anything. On the contrary, if you would like to convince me that I am under the illusion of having known the truth, which seems to be the case by your coming back again and again to the same premises, I have got your point. You do not need to keep driving it further. To this, I shall say what I have already said earlier: you are free to think anything of me. After all, the thinker, thinking and thought are only forms in Awareness. LOL !
You know what is your basic problem, Vijay. I think I am getting it now. You are all the time thinking that I am talking of Awareness inside the brain. Well, that is how we are hardwired to think. This is the way Maya deluded us with it’s layers.
The fact is just the opposite. It is the brain which is in Awareness, and that too it’s the gross projection of Mind. English philosopher Douglas Harding understood that he was Awareness, in a totally scientific way. You can visit his website too. Perhaps you are averse to tradition and paths and be more open to a very “scientific” style which is free of traditional references. Whatever way you choose, if you don’t stop at any station like experiences, God etc. you land at Awareness only. LOL ! You know why? Because all paths and all forms are objects to Awareness. Douglas Hardy found the same using only tools of science.
Here is the website: https://www.headless.org/douglas-harding.htm
Just a snippet to get you curious:
In London in the early 1930s Harding was studying and then practising architecture. In his spare time, however, he devoted his energies to philosophy – to trying to understand the nature of the world, and the nature of himself. Into philosophy at this time were filtering the ideas of Relativity. Influenced by these ideas, Harding realized that his identity depended on the range of the observer – from several metres he was human, but at closer ranges he was cells, molecules, atoms, particles… and from further away he was absorbed into the rest of society, life, the planet, the star, the galaxy… Like an onion he had many layers. Clearly he needed every one of these layers to exist.
But what was at the centre of all these layers? Who was he really?
One day Harding stumbled upon a drawing by the Austrian philosopher and physicist Ernst Mach. It was a self-portrait – but a self-portrait with a difference. Most self-portraits are what the artist looks like from several feet – she looks in a mirror and draws what she sees there. But Mach had drawn himself without using a mirror – he had drawn what he looked like from his own point of view, from zero distance.
When Harding saw this self-portrait the penny dropped. Until this moment he had been investigating his identity from various distances. He was trying to get to his centre by peeling away the layers. Here however was a self-portrait from the point of view of the centre itself. The obvious thing about this portrait is that you don’t see the artist’s head. For most people this fact is interesting or amusing, but nothing more. For Harding this was the key that opened the door to seeing his innermost identity, for he noticed he was in a similar condition – his own head was missing too. At the centre of his world was no head, no appearance – nothing at all. And this ‘nothing’ was a very special ‘nothing’ for it was both awake to itself and full of the whole world. Many years later Harding wrote about the first time he saw his headlessness:
“I don’t think there was a ‘first time’. Or, if there was, it was simply a becoming more aware of what one had all along been dimly aware of. How could there be a ‘first-time’ seeing into the Timeless, anyway?
The journey is made beautiful with your insights and sharing. Words emerge and disappear. What is left is the essence. Thanks for the discussion and exploration.
Wow. That was so beautiful Vijay. Thanks !
Enlightening dialogue! Enlightening place. I have one thing I wonder about. Is Advaita stating a tautology ultimately? Because “reality is real and nothing is different from reality” seems to be basic? I shall explore more.
Thank you for your words of appreciation and for your question.
Yes. It seems to be stating a tautology. Your web name suggests to me an interest in philosophy so I may be able to share this with you in the hope that you will understand the subtlety involved here.
Advaita says that there is ultimately only reality which is unchanging. Which means that the objectivity and self inherent ontological reality we ascribe to the different forms of phenomena is an illusion/Maya. Till one is not free from Maya, one shall perceive all forms as plural. With truth, all forms are seen as Awareness/Brahman. Which means there are no objective realities, no inherently self existing objects. All are only Awareness. There is only one reality – Awareness, which IS all forms.
This can be seen only when illusion/Maya is removed. Maya has got a peculiar ontological status. It is neither real because it can end (with the dawn of knowledge) and it is not unreal like the horns of a hare (something entirely non-existent). So Maya/illusion does not actually “really cover reality like a snake mistakenly perceived on a rope does not “really” cover a rope. Basically Maya is a “wrong idea” of reality. When the wrong idea is totally removed, reality shines. Even when the rope was mistaken to be a snake, the rope had been nothing but a rope.
Hope I answered your question. Feel free to ask if you have any further questions.
Thank you for the clarifications.
Supposing a person sincerely believes that space, time and energy are the ultimate reality (as materialistic advances in science etc. seem to suggest), then wouldn’t they start “knowing ” everything (including themselves) as nothing other than “that” reality? Next, if they see themselves as space time energy, these entities are also immortal. So even that (accepting that this person is mortal as a person but immortal as spacetime) would remove suffering. Would that be a kind of NONDUALITY then? Would Advaita accept it as legitimate? (Would this be, in a sense, that if I accept myself as a manifestation of Maya which is spacetime and energy, Maya is also beginingless. It would remove suffering.)
Why I’m asking this is that: is Advaita ultimately concerned only with removing suffering? Is it possible to delude oneself into fake enlightenment (would it also remove suffering)? Or is Advaita about only discovering the reality, and just by chance that reality happens to be the real me, so removal of suffering is a side effect? Because advertising Brahman as SATCHITANANDA, Ananda seems more of an advertisement; upon enlightenment is it more like that the person who was suffering by watching the reality in one way has just changed his viewpoint and now does not suffer.
Please find my answers inline.
Supposing a person sincerely believes that space, time and energy are the ultimate reality (as materialistic advances in science etc. seem to suggest), then wouldn’t they start “knowing” everything (including themselves) as nothing other than “that” reality?
1.) Advaita does not start with any belief. Its process of investigation is neti-neti, that is, negating all objects till nothing is left to negate, then the reality shines on its own. Advaita does not teach you the reality. It only negates the unreal. Reality shines on its own because it is self-luminous.
2.) Where is time and space in deep sleep? Can you tell where in space are thoughts located?
3.) When you talk of “knowing everything” you are talking of knowledge accumulating gradually over time. How can something which is gradually growing, ever have an end? You started with time as your reality, how can you banish the process of accumulation of knowledge in time and end time?
Next, if they see themselves as space-time energy, these entities are also immortal.
1.) Immortal can never change. Where is space-time-energy in the sleep state?
2.) Don’t space-time characteristics change in the dream state from what we observe in the waking state? Time and space can dilate and contract. Immortal thing can never change. If it does it is not immortal.
Philosophile: So even that (accepting that this person is mortal as a person but immortal as spacetime) would remove suffering. Would that be a kind of NONDUALITY then? Would Advaita accept it as legitimate? (Would this be, in a sense, that if I accept myself as a manifestation of Maya which is spacetime and energy, Maya is also beginningless. It would remove suffering.)
Anurag: Obviously it won’t remove suffering because of the reasons stated above. Maya is an explanation given from a conventional standpoint. From the ultimate standpoint, there is no Maya.
Philosophile: Why I’m asking this is that: is Advaita ultimately concerned only with removing suffering? Is it possible to delude oneself into fake enlightenment (would it also remove suffering)? Or is Advaita about only discovering the reality, and just by chance that reality happens to be the real me, so removal of suffering is a side effect? Because advertising Brahman as SATCHITANANDA, Ananda seems more of an advertisement; upon enlightenment is it more like that the person who was suffering by watching the reality in one way has just changed his viewpoint and now does not suffer.
Anurag: Why don’t you try your own thoughts on yourself? Believe in science and see if it ends suffering. Truth and liberation from suffering are the two sides of the same coin. Sat-Chit-Ananda is not an advertisement. It is a non-affirming description of reality. Sat = Truth is NOT VOID, Chit = Truth is NOT IGNORANCE, Ananda = Tuth is NOT SUFFERING. Advaita is a science of examining all aspects of reality, ignoring nothing whatsoever. Empirical science is that which operates only in the waking state. No one can do science while sleeping. What exists at that moment when everything : space-time-causation all ends?
I may ask you a question now. Why are you trying to learn Advaita if you have a strong belief that science has all the answers. In looking deeply into this question, you shall discover many things 🙂