Fear, Action, Suffering and Liberation: A Dialogue

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Dialogue
    1. What Do We Mean by Fear of the Unknown?
    2. Experience and Duality as the Basis of Fear
    3. The Illusory Nature of the World of Duality
    4. Advaita as a Science to Discover the True Nature of Reality through Jnana Yoga, Not Action
    5. You and the World Was Never Born
    6. Sat-Chit-Ananda: Non-Affirming Qualifiers of Reality
  3. Conclusion

Introduction

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 by 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 off 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.” 

Thus, through this dialogue, I lead the student through a series of dialectics to show that the fact that one is an actor and a chooser is itself based on an illusion. So no amount of action can free an individual from illusion because action proceeds from illusion itself. What can and does free a person from the action and its results is not right action but the knowledge that in reality there is no actor and no world of objects to be acted upon.

Dialogue

Student:

The human race is evolving. Every person has a contribution in it. Everybody is like a small cog in a big machine. Everybody is important. The biggest fear in my opinion is the fear of the unknown. Because of my upbringing I have a belief that everything is written, whatever is happening is destined to happen. I think this belief is throughout the world, and we believe in it because we want to believe in it. We have fear of unknown, and we are so scared of unknown that we want to believe that everything what is happening is destined to happen. How do we know that? We say this only after an event has occurred. The result could be different if the actions were different. So, then how to know what is correct action? Can the right action be a product of thought? If it is a product of thought it depends upon our past impressions and therefore it cannot be the right action. Then how to choose the right action.

There is a reality and then there is the interpretation of reality in our mind. The interpretation of that reality is dependent on our past impressions. Is it possible to act without being affected by our past impressions. How do we know that we chose an action which was not biased? The mind always brings out an action from its storehouse of memory.

Anurag:

What Do We Mean by Fear of the Unknown?

Let us look at the fundamental question you are asking. What you are asking is, “What is right Action?” Now let us examine what is driving you to ask this question? Is it not fear, the fear of unknown? So let us now look at what is “fear” and what is “unknown”? Isn’t the “unknown” related to change and time? If we can see this then we can also establish that fear is related to change and time.

Isn’t the unknown about what the future hold for you? In your present there is nothing to fear. Fear is nothing but a thought in the present, talking about a future state. Now is not the future state that one is projecting based upon the past itself, based upon experiences and memory? So paradoxically, what we are fearing is not actually the unknown but the known. The unknown simply means, “not known at all”. How can we fear something we do not know at all? We can only fear something that we know. What is the fear about? The fear is always related to losing something and the experience of it recorded in our memory, isn’t it? So fear is a product of time, experience and memory. Fear is a past experience, stored as memory, projected into the future. If there was no experience, there would be no memory and no projection of it into the future.

Experience and Duality as the Basis of Fear

So now let us look at experience. Is not experience based upon the duality? There needs to be a subject – an experiencer – and an object – the experienced. Would there be any experience if there was no duality existing as the subject and the object? For example, let’s take the sleep state. In it, there is no subject-object duality, thus there is no experience of any kind happening there. And because there is no experience and its modifications happening in the sleep state, there is complete absence of fear and suffering as long as that state exists. But as soon as one comes out of the sleep state, either into the dream state or the waking state, there is a duality between the subject and object which is established and which gives rise to experience and the attendant suffering.

The Illusory Nature of the World of Duality

If we reflect on the above, there is a startling discovery hiding in plain sight. Isn’t the experience of the world of duality which splits into a thinking, doing, experiencing subject and a manifold world of objects something that is only available in the dream and waking states but entirely absent in the sleep state? Does this not imply that the world of duality we are experiencing not something real. For if this dual world of experience were something real it would exist in all three states.If this dual world of experience is not something real, it leads to another startling discovery that whom we are thinking ourselves and this world to be is nothing but an illusion or a delusion. If we take duality to be real then we are a subject (a thinker/doer/experiencer) interacting with a ‘world’ of objects. Another way to put it would be that there is a “self”, identified as ‘me’ acting on a world of “not self”, identified as the ‘other’. For all action to happen, whether good or bad, right or wrong etc. there must first arise the world of duality which splits into the actor and the objects to be acted upon. In sleep state, where there is no such duality, there is no experience, no actor and no suffering.

So ultimately, our investigation into the root of fear leads us to the discovery that fear is the result of experiencing a world of duality and that this experience of duality is itself not real because it is absent in one of the three states of our existence. And herein lies the solution for all our suffering. The solution is not in finding out any form of action, or asking about what is right action. What we have found out is that action itself proceeds from the experience of duality. If there was no duality there is no question of any action happening. If there is no duality, there is no question of an actor with a world of objects to be acted upon, like it is in the deep sleep state.

If we examine the three states, we see that none of the three states are real either, because all these states cancel each other out. When I wake up from the dream state, I consider all the experiences I had in the dream state as unreal from the waking state perspective. From the standpoint of the sleep state, the experiences of both the waking state and dream state are cancelled.

Advaita as a Science to Discover the True Nature of Reality through Jnana Yoga, Not Action

Thus, Advaita is the science of Self Inquiry which examines the nature of reality and helps a seeker understand that the reality is not what we are thinking it to be. Reality is not duality – the phenomenal world of objects experienced by subjects. The reality is actually non-dual. Advaita, through a deep analysis of reality through the process of Jnana Yoga/Knowledge Yoga helps a seeker understand that our experience of duality is nothing but a superimposition caused by an error on a non-dual reality just as a snake is seen superimposed on a rope when we see something coiled lying on a road in dim light.

The conclusions of such an inquiry are absolutely incredible and counter-intuitive. If duality is not something real but a mere superimposition on a non-dual reality, then we are not what we are thinking ourselves to be. We are not a subject acting in the world of objects. Which means we are not the body/mind/intellect which we are identified with. The body/mind/intellect are nothing but a superimposed duality on the non-dual reality that we are, just like the snake is superimposed on the rope. Also, if we do away with the subject, we also do away with the world of objects as both arise together. So in actuality, this world with subjects and objects actually does not exist except as a superimposition on the reality. If the world of subjects and objects does not really exist then there is no reality to experience and suffering too: they are unreal. In the technical language of Advaita we would not use the word unreal but a more cumbersome word called “apparently real” or mithya. It is called apparently real because it is not that it does not exist, neither is it that it exists permanently. But like all superimpositions, it exists till the knowledge of reality does not dawn. When we shine the light on the coiled piece of object lying on the road, we come to know that it was not a snake but a rope. It needs to be borne in mind that nothing else, no amount of action, like beating that apparently real/misperceived snake with a stick would rid us from fear. What rids us from fear and suffering ultimately is to get knowledge of reality which is the non-dual, partless rope. Through action one of the following results may be obtained: origination, attainment, purification, and modification. Release is different from all these attainments. The reality which is of the nature of release is not these four results what is originated, attained, purified, or modified. When ignorance is removed through knowledge, there is release. This is not a new acquisition; it is the realization of what eternally is. Anything that is caused by action is bound to perish.

You and the World Was Never Born

If reality is non-dual and duality is just a dream or a projection then it means that there has never been any real birth of the phenomenal world of subjects and objects. While dreaming we create an entire universe of subjects and objects which we falsify from the waking state perspective. The waking state which we consider as real is no different from the dream state. If the world is not a “real” creation, it means that YOU WERE NEVER BORN AND SHALL NEVER DIE. You are not subject to any of the six modifications that affect phenomena: ‘is’, ‘is born’, ‘grows’, ‘undergoes modification’, ‘decays’, ‘dies’,

The foregoing analysis shows that the root of all our suffering is an error or what Advaita calls, an ignorance, about the true nature of reality. In ignorance, we create and are identified with a dual world and it’s six modifications and suffer. With knowledge, we understand that the entire world of duality which we were identified with and considered to be real was nothing but an illusion, a dream or mithya. It is this knowledge which liberates us from all suffering. There is only Non-Dual Reality/Awareness/Brahman. Please read – Understanding “Consciousness is Everything”: Journal of a 15 yr Old – Part2/2: The World Was Never Created (Ajativada)

Sat-Chit-Ananda: Non-Affirming Qualifiers of Reality

In this answer, in order to reduce its length and complexity, I have purposely avoided going into the nature of reality which is called Brahman in Advaita. The name does not matter. Moreover, contrary to what many people assume, Advaita does not posit any non-dual reality called Brahman to begin with. Advaita actually is about neti-neti (not-this, not-this), a systematic and thorough going inquiry into the nature of reality which systematically investigates and unearths all falsities. When all falsities are negates, reality which is nothing but non-dual knowledge or a non-dual vision shines on its own accord. All the naming and labelling we do for this reality is nothing but the product of mithya: the dual world in which we hold our discourse and communicate to people. As such non-dual reality can never be communicated in terms of what it is. In Advaita, it is communicated in terms of negating what it is not. Advaitins call non-dual reality as Brahman and in order to teach, they also qualify it in a non-affirming way as Sat-Chit-Ananda. These terms sound quite affirming or as positions. But actually the three terms are used as non-affirming qualifications or attributes. Thus, we can say that Sat = absence of voidness (reality is not a void), Chit = absence of ignorance and Ananda = Absence of suffering. And if we inspect these three terms closely, they are not three different attributes. In one sentence we can string all these three words/attributes/qualifiers to say that reality is knowledge of absence of suffering.

Conclusion

For a detailed analysis on how Advaita examines duality and uncovers non-dual reality, one may read my article: Turiya : The Fourth State of Consciousness & End of Suffering

8 thoughts on “Fear, Action, Suffering and Liberation: A Dialogue

  1. Hi Anurag,

    Thank You for this beautiful write up. My fear is the acts or mistakes done in young age (when the ability to think and analyse was not mature enough) which have been added to the Karma pot will open and take its course. Does just realizing that past actions were wrong, help in reducing the impact of Karma from those past actions. How does one get rid of those karmic seeds that have been sown?

    Regards, Sandhya Jois ASL Grade 5 020 74491241 B-205

    Like

    1. Hello Sandhya,

      I can very well resonate and sympathize with what you have written. The past haunts many of us.

      Dealing of Karma by a Jnana Yogi (Non-Dual School)

      In Advaita, it is said that with Self Realization, the Sanchita Karma (stored karma of innumerable past lives) and the Agami Karma (karma which is created due to future actions) is wiped out. But Prarabdha Karma (karma which has brought birth to the present body) has to be experienced by the Jnani. That is the only way it can exhaust itself. You can read more about all this is in my series of articles; “Prarabdha Karma After Self Realization”; starting with part 1 here :

      https://neevselfinquiry.in/2020/09/24/prarabdha-karma-after-self-realization-its-philosophy-part-1-3/

      This is a relative way of understanding Karma. From the absolute standpoint of Advaita, you were never born and this creation was never born (Ajativada of Gaudapada). The trio of Jiva-Jagat-Ishvara is all Maya. Maya means that which makes the real ‘appear’; as something else. So, in reality, you and this world are never really born or caused. You and the world appear because of Maya just as a snake appears superimposed on a rope due to error called ignorance/Avidya in Advaita terminology.

      So from the absolute standpoint, you have been unborn and only “appear” to be born as a person into a fictitious world like the one you invent in your dream state. Thus from the Absolute standpoint, there has never been any Karma for you because Absolute Reality is formless and actionless. You may do a lot of acts in your dreams but when you wake up, you do not reap any consequences of all the dream actions. The dreamer, the dream world, and the dream actions all were seen as illusions. And further, where is karma operative in deep sleep?

      Having said all this, realizing the absolute state of no-karma experientially takes a long time even after Self Realization. The suffering that one goes through can be very intense depending upon one’s vasanas. While a common person suffers absolutely and totally, the Jnani is able to tide over these waves of suffering from his knowledge of Self and the Absolute standpoint. He is able to witness all suffering as objects arising in Awareness. Even here, as my article, “How Does a Jnani Person Deal With the Negative Impacts of the World”; https://neevselfinquiry.in/2020/11/16/how-does-a-jnani-person-deal-with-the-negative-impacts-of-the-world-part-1-2-titiksha shows, there is courage required to be developed to stand as Self and endure the impacts of Prarabdha Karma. Personally, I faced the biggest storms of life after Self Realization (and continue to do so)

      I am sorry I am making all this sound very difficult, nonetheless, this is the truth; not what many modern non-dual teachers tend to portray it as a cakewalk. Except for the fortunate few who have been graced with a very attenuated karma load due to sadhana done in previous lifetimes, for the rest, the journey is long and full of suffering which has to be endured. As long as you live the dream, the dream experiences give you pain and pleasure. Only when you completely wake up from the dream, you are free from it. A Jnani is one who has partially woken up from the dream in terms of experience, even if he has acquired knowledge of the Absolute. A full-blown Jnani, whom Shankara calls a true knower of Brahman or a Paramhamsa is one who has completely woken up from the dream of Maya and perceives no difference between himself and the world because his mind and individuality have completely dissolved.

      Dealing with Karma by a Bhakti Yogi (Dualist and Qualified Dualist Schools):

      For the Bhakti Yogi of the Dualist and Qualified Dualist schools , the treatment of the subject of Karma is different, Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita (All quotes that follow are from Swami Mukundananda):

      “BG 18.66: Abandon all varieties of dharmas and simply surrender unto Me alone. I shall liberate you from all sinful reactions; do not fear.”

      So those who are into intense Bhakti Yoga they surrender all their Karmas, past, present and future to God. It is then his responsibility to take his bhakta to moksha or liberation from karma. Of course, here too, the praxis is that whatever is happening in real life has to be taken as the workings of God for which you should not complain as God knows best what is good for you. Here too, the suffering is thus endured, albeit there is someone or some entity whom you can emotionally relate to and whom you trust is there for you through all your sufferings by your side.

      As Madhvacharya (Dvaita Vedantist) writes in his commentary to the verse BG 18.66 above:

      “Knowing the absolute paramount position of the Supreme Lord Krishna as the creator, maintainer, protector and sustainer of all creation; one who is spiritually intelligent should incessantly attune themselves to adoring Him by bhakti or exclusive loving devotion. Then with such commitment of mind, speech and actions which is more precious and excellent than any other, one should surrender themselves completely unto Him thru the bonafide Vaisnava spiritual master in one of the four authorised sampradayas or channels of disciplic succession as revealed in Vedic scriptures. Awareness like knowing one is under the express care of the Supreme Lord and that He will always protect one in all situations arises on its own like flowers in spring. Such awareness is known to be the result of saranagati or complete surrender.”

      And as Ramanuja (Vishishtadvaita Vedantist) writes in his commentary to the verse B.G 18.66:

      “So in order to succeed in commencing Bhakti Yoga, seek Me alone for refuge. I am supremely compassionate, the refuge of all without considering the differences of character among them, and am an ocean of tenderness for those dependent on Me. I will release you from all evil, the nature of which has been explained as incompatible with the commencement of Bhakti Yoga. Grieve not.”

      For the Jnana Yogi, on the other hand, the deal seems to be very cold and raw. He has to endure prarabdha karma without any emotional support. Thus, we see the following conversation between Arjuna and Krishna:

      Arjuna clearly asks Krishna to give his judgement on which out of the two paths – Jnana or Bhakti – is better.

      “Between those who are steadfastly devoted to Your personal form and those who worship the formless Brahman, whom do You consider to be more perfect in Yoga? (B.G 12.1)”

      Krishna answers here conclusively that those who follow the path of devotion to form are the greater yogis.

      “Those who fix their minds on Me and always engage in My devotion with steadfast faith, I consider them to be the best yogis.” (B.G 12.2)”

      And then he says that those who follow the path of knowledge reach liberation (gain me).

      “But those who worship the formless aspect of the Absolute Truth—the imperishable, the indefinable, the unmanifest, the all-pervading, the unthinkable, the unchanging, the eternal, and the immoveable—by restraining their senses and being even-minded everywhere, such persons, engaged in the welfare of all beings, also attain Me. (B.G 12.3-12.4)”

      But further Krishna says:

      “For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifest, the path of realization is full of tribulations. Worship of the unmanifest is exceedingly difficult for embodied beings. (B.G 12.5)”

      So clearly the Bhagavad Gita as a text seems to be favouring Bhakti Yoga over Jnana Yoga as a path to Moksha. In the commentary to B.G Verse 12.5, Swami Mukundananda explains beautifully why Krishna considers Bhakti easier than Jnana:

      “Why is the worship of the formless Brahman so difficult? The first and foremost reason for this is that we humans possess a form ourselves and we have been habituated to interacting with forms in endless lifetimes. Thus, while striving to love God as well, if our mind has a wonderful enchanting form to meditate upon, it can easily focus upon it and increase its attachment to the Lord. However, in the case of the formless, the intellect cannot conceive of it, and the mind and senses have no tangible object to relate to. So both the endeavours of meditating on God and increasing the mind’s attachment to Him become difficult.

      Worship of Brahman is also difficult in comparison to that of Bhagavān for another reason. The difference in paths can be understood through the markaṭ-kiśhore nyāya (the logic of the baby) monkey, and mārjār-kiśhore nyāya (the logic of the baby kitten). The baby monkey is responsible for holding onto her mother’s stomach; it is not helped by its mother. When the mother monkey jumps from one branch to another, the onus of clinging tightly onto the mother is upon the baby, and if it is unable to do so, it falls. In contrast, a kitten is very small and delicate, but the mother takes the responsibility of transporting it from one place to another, by holding the kitten from behind the neck and lifting it up. In the analogy, the devotees of the formless can be compared to the baby monkey and the devotees of the personal form can be compared to the baby kitten. Those who worship the formless Brahman have the onus of progressing on the path by themselves because Brahman does not bestow grace upon them. Brahman is not only formless, It is also without attributes. It has been described as nirguṇa (without qualities), nirviśheṣh (without attributes), and nirākār (without form). From this, it follows that Brahman does not manifest the quality of grace. The jñānīs who worship God as nirguṇa, nirviśheṣh, and nirākār, have to rely entirely upon self-effort for progress. On the other hand, the personal form of God is an ocean of compassion and mercy. Hence, devotees of the personal form receive the help of divine support in their sādhanā. On the basis of the protection that God bestows upon His devotees, Shree Krishna stated in verse 9.31: “O son of Kunti, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes.” He confirms the same statement in the next two verses.”

      Jnana Yoga vs Bhakti Yoga:

      Having compared the paths of Bhakti and Jnana for dealing with Karma, now let us compare the two paths through the claims of their two proponents Swami Muktananda and Shankara, based on their commentaries to Bhagavad Gita.

      Swami Mukuntananda’s Conception – Bhakti Yoga as Closest Realization of God

      Swami Muktananda seems to start off with a democratic approach to both these two paths, as he writes in his commentary to B.G verses 12.3-4:

      “Having said that worship of the personal form is the best, Shree Krishna clarifies that in no way does He reject the worship of the formless. Those who devote themselves to the all-pervading, indefinable, unmanifest, inconceivable, immovable, eternal Brahman, also attain God.

      Living beings are of an infinite variety of natures. The Supreme Lord who has created this variety also possesses an infinite variety of aspects to His personality. For the sake of our finite comprehension, we classify the infinite manifestations of God into categories. Accordingly, Ved Vyas has classified God’s various manifestations into three types, Brahman, Paramātmā, and Bhagavān. One may worship either of these categories, but one should never claim that one’s conception of God is the only correct one while those of the others are erroneous.

      In verse 4.11, Shree Krishna had stated: “In whatever way people surrender unto Me, I reciprocate with them accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Pritha.” Here, Shree Krishna confirms that the worshippers of the formless also reach Him. Since their choice is to unite with the attributeless manifestation of the Supreme Absolute Truth, God meets them as the unmanifest, all-pervading Brahman.”

      So what are the three types of manifestations of God precisely?

      Three Manifestations of Absolute according to Ved Vyas:

      To understand the three types of manifestations according to the Absolute, I am quoting once again, Swami Mukundananda. This time it is his commentary to BG Verse 12.2:

      “God can be realized in varying degrees of closeness. Let us understand this through an example. Suppose say you are standing by the railway tracks. A train is coming from the distance, with its headlight shining. It seems to you as if a light is approaching. When the train comes closer, you can see a shimmering form along with the light. Finally, when it comes and stands on the platform in front, you realize, “Oh! It’s a train. I can see all these people sitting inside their compartments, and peeping out of their windows.” The same train seemed like a light from far. As it came closer, it appeared to have a shimmering form along with the light. When it drew even nearer, you realized that it was a train. The train was the same, but on being closer to it, your understanding of its different attributes such as shape, color, passengers, compartments, doors, and windows grew.

      Similarly, God is perfect and complete and is the possessor of unlimited energies. His personality is replete with divine Names, Forms, Pastimes, Virtues, Associates, and Abodes. However, He is realized in varying levels of closeness, as the Brahman (formless all-pervading manifestation of God), the Paramātmā (the Supreme Soul seated in the heart of all living beings, distinct from the individual soul), and Bhagavān (the personal manifestation of God that descends upon the earth). The Bhagavatam states:

      vadanti tat tattva vidastattvaṁ yaj-jñānamadvayam

      brahmeti paramātmeti bhagavān iti śhabdyate (1.2.11)

      “The knowers of the Truth have stated that there is only one Supreme Entity that manifests in three ways in the world—Brahman (Impersonal), Paramātmā (Universal), and Bhagavān (Cosmic/Personal).” They are not three different Gods; rather, They are three manifestations of the one Almighty God. However, Their qualities are different. This is just as water, steam, and ice are all made from the same substance—H2O molecules—but their physical qualities are different. If a thirsty person asks for water, and we give ice, it will not quench the thirst. Ice and water are both the same substance but their physical properties are different. Similarly, Brahman, Paramātmā, and Bhagavān are manifestations of the one Supreme Lord but Their qualities are different.

      Brahman (Impersonal God) is the all-pervading form of God, which is everywhere. The Śhwetāśhvatara Upaniṣhad states:

      eko devaḥ sarvabhūteṣhu gūḍhaḥ

      sarvavyāpī sarvabhūtāntarātmā…(6.11)

      “There is only one Supreme Entity. He is seated in everything and everyone.” This all-pervading aspect of the Lord is called Brahman. It is full of eternality, knowledge, and bliss. However, in this aspect, God does not manifest His infinite qualities, enchanting personal beauty, and sweet Pastimes. He is like a divine light that is nirguṇa (without qualities), nirvivśeṣh (without attributes), nirākār (without form).

      Those who follow the path of jñāna-yoga worship this aspect of God. This is a distant realization of God as a formless light, just as the train from far appeared like a light.

      Paramātmā is the aspect of God that is seated in everyone’s hearts. In verse 18.61, Shree Krishna states: “O Arjun, the Supreme Lord dwells in the hearts of all living beings. According to their karmas, He directs the wanderings of the souls, who are seated on a machine made of the material energy.” Residing within, God notes all our thoughts and actions, keeps an account of them, and gives the results at the appropriate time. We may forget what we have done, but God does not. He remembers our every thought, word, and deed, since we were born. And not only in this life! In endless lifetimes, wherever we went, God went along with us. He is such a friend who never leaves us for even a moment. This aspect of God dwelling within is the Paramātmā.

      The path of aṣhṭāṅg-yoga, as revealed by Patanjali in the Yog Darśhan, strives to realize God seated inside, and leads to the Paramātmā realization of God (Universal God). Just as the train, which appeared as the light from far, was seen as a shimmering form when it came closer, similarly, the realization of the Supreme Entity as Paramātmā is a closer realization than Brahman.

      Bhagavān (Personal/ Cosmic God) is the aspect of God that manifests with a personal form. The Shreemad Bhagavatam states:

      kṛiṣhṇam enam avehi tvam ātmānam akhilātmanām

      jagad-dhitāya so ’pyatra dehīvābhāti māyayā (10.14.55)

      “The Supreme Lord Who is the Soul of all souls, has descended upon the earth in His personal form, as Shree Krishna, for the welfare of the world.” In this Bhagavān aspect, God manifests all the sweetness of His Names, Forms, Qualities, Abodes, Pastimes, and Associates. These attributes exist in Brahman and Paramātmā as well, but they remain latent, just as fire is latent in a match-stick, and only manifests when it is struck against the igniting strip of the matchbox. Similarly, as Bhagavān, all the powers and aspects of God’s personality, which are latent in the other forms, get revealed.

      The path of bhakti, or devotion, leads to the realization of the Supreme Entity in His Bhagavān aspect. This is the closest realization of God, just as the details of a train become visible when it comes and stops in front of the observer. Hence, in verse 18.55, Shree Krishna states: “Only by loving devotion can I, the Supreme Divine Personality, be known as I am.” Thus, Shree Krishna answers Arjun’s question by clarifying that He considers the devotee of His personal form to be the highest yogi. ”

      Thus Swami Muktananda, having started with a democratic approach to Jnana and Bhakti paths, ends with according Bhakti Yoga, a higher pedestal. This is not surprising because he is a bhakti yogi 🙂

      But Swami Muktananda may not be wrong in his assessment if he considers Bhagavad Gita to be the gold standard. For Bhagavad Gita in a number of verses has iterated the same. Thus we have the following verses translated by him:

      “BG 6.47: Of all yogis, those whose minds are always absorbed in me, and who engage in devotion to me with great faith, them I consider to be the highest of all.”

      “BG 18.55: Only by loving devotion to me does one come to know who I am in truth. Then, having come to know me, my devotee enters into full consciousness of me.”

      Swami Muktananda’s Commentary on this:

      Shree Krishna stated in the previous verse that on becoming situated in transcendental knowledge one develops devotion. Now he says that only through devotion can one come to know God’s personality. Previously, the jñānī had realized God as the nirguṇa (quality-less), nirviśheṣha (attribute-less), nirākār (formless) Brahman. But the jñānī had no realization of the personal form of God. The secret of that personal form cannot be known through karma, jñāna, aṣhṭāṅga yoga, etc. It is love that opens the door to the impossible and makes way for the inaccessible. Shree Krishna states here that the mystery of God’s form, virtues, pastimes, abode, and associates can only be comprehended through unalloyed devotion. The devotees understand God because they possess the eyes of love.

      However, while Swami Muktananda, and Bhagavad Gita (seems to), confer Bhakti Yoga the highest trophy, it seems quite unclear to me how according to Swami Muktananda, a Bhakti Yogi can even get the realization of Brahman if he has always been enamoured by forms. If Brahman, as acknowledged by Bhagavad Gita too, is more difficult to attain than the other two forms of God, then it goes against common sense to state that a simpler realization is a higher realization. My point here was to present a conception of liberation from Karma from the perspective of Bhakti Yoga and then compare it with the conception of Jnana Yoga. I am providing two conceptions: of Non-Dual Advaita school that promote Jnana Yoga, and Dualist Schools (Dvaita and Vishishtadvaita) that promote Bhakti Yoga. Each has their complete philosophical framework in which of course, their preferred system comes on top 🙂 Either a seeker can decide which conception suits their temperament and accordingly choose that system in which their preferred conception is enthroned as the summit of enlightenment, which is usually the case; or perhaps the seeker can take the effort to follow the arguments of all the three schools and select the one that interprets the scriptures with the greatest integrity. My opinion is that Advaita Vedanta is the most integral interpretation of the scriptures of Vedanta.

      So let us look at Shankara’s conception now and see if my opinion stands the light of scrutiny.

      Shankara’s Conception: Brahman as the highest Realization –

      Unlike Swami Muktananda, Shankara is quite clear that the other two forms of God: Paramatma (Universal) and Bhagavan (Cosmic/Personal) are in the realm of Maya. Brahman only is the highest reality. In Advaita Vedanta, we have the concept of Macroscopic Sheaths which condition Brahman, the formless reality, to appear in a certain way. In the foregoing discussion on the three forms of God, Paramatma(Universal God) realized by Ashtanga Yoga is Brahman conditioned by the Macroscopic Causal Body, and Bhagavan (Cosmic/Personal God) is Brahman conditioned by the Macroscopic Gross Body. And what is quite interesting here is also how the order is inverted. In Bhakti Yoga of Swami Mukundananda, the highest order of realization is considered to be the Cosmic/Personal God, followed by Universal God, followed by Brahman (Impersonal God). Whereas, in Jnana Yoga, one can see from the discussion on sheaths that the order is just the opposite: The highest realization is that of Brahman, followed by Universal God (Macroscopic Causal Body) followed by Personal/Cosmic God (Macroscopic Gross Body).

      Thus, in Shankara’s Advaita Vedanta, as per Bhagavad Gita, one does not come directly to Jnana Yoga. He goes through three stages of purification according to the order mentioned above.

      1.) Karma Yoga – exhausts materialistic vasanas by ethical action in the outer world and accepting the
      results as a gift from Personal/Cosmic God
      2.) Upasana Yoga – introverts the mind through mental meditation on Personal God first and later
      Universal God
      3.) Jnana Yoga – Get Knowledge of Self (Impersonal God) followed by Steadfastness in Self.

      Steps 1 and 2 are also called Saguna Bhakti – Contemplating God with attributes and step 3 is also called Nirguna Bhakti – Contemplating God without attributes.

      Thus Shankara unpacks the verses of Bhagavad Gita in a totally different way.

      So starting with the verse:

      B.G 18.66: Abandoning all forms of rites and duties, take refuge in Me alone. I shall free you from all sins. (Therefore) do not grieve.

      Which appears absolutely devotional at face value and as other commentators take them to be, we have Shankara saying the following in his commentary:

      “Abandoning all rites and duties; take refuge; in Me alone, the Self of all, the same in all, existing in all beings, the Lord, the Imperishable, free from being in the womb, birth, old age and death—by knowing that I am verily so. That is, know it for certain that there is nothing besides Me. By revealing My real nature, I shall free; you, who have this certitude of understanding; from all sins, from all bondages in the form of righteousness and unrighteousness. It has also been stated, ‘I, residing in their hearts, destroy the darkness born of ignorance with the luminous lamp of Knowledge’ (10.11). Therefore do not grieve, that is, do not sorrow.”

      Now compare this with Madhvacharya’s (Dvaita Vedantist) commentary:

      “Knowing the absolute paramount position of the Supreme Lord Krishna as the creator, maintainer, protector and sustainer of all creation; one who is spiritually intelligent should incessantly attune themselves to adoring Him by bhakti or exclusive loving devotion. Then with such commitment of mind, speech and actions which is more precious and excellent than any other, one should surrender themselves completely unto Him thru the bonafide Vaisnava spiritual master in one of the four authorised sampradayas or channels of disciplic succession as revealed in Vedic scriptures. Awareness like knowing one is under the express care of the Supreme Lord and that He will always protect one in all situations arises on its own like flowers in spring. Such awareness is known to be the result of saranagati or complete surrender.”

      And then compare it with Ramanuja’s (Vishishta Advaita Vedantist) commentary:

      “So in order to succeed in commencing Bhakti Yoga, seek Me alone for refuge. I am supremely compassionate, the refuge of all without considering the differences of character among them, and am an ocean of tenderness for those dependent on Me. I will release you from all evil, the nature of which has been explained as incompatible with the commencement of Bhakti Yoga. Grieve not.”

      So the word “Me” (mam) in the verse is taken to mean the Personal God – Krishna – by Madhvacharya and Ramanuja, as the Supreme, while Shankara takes “Me” to be Brahman as the Supreme.

      Further, to flesh out the implications of this verse in his long commentary, Shankara, embarks on a discussion as to why he considers Self as Brahman (rather than a Personal God) as the Supreme. He says:

      “Knowledge of the Self, however, is exclusively the cause of the highest good; for, through the removal of the idea of differences, it culminates in the result that is Liberation. The idea of distinction among action, agent and result is ever active with regard to the Self because of ignorance. This ignorance in the form, ‘My work; I am the agent; I shall do this work for that result’, has been at work from time without beginning. The dispeller of this ignorance is this Knowledge regarding the Self—in the form, ‘I am the absolute, non-agent, free from action and result; there is none else other than myself—because when it (Knowledge) arises it dispels the idea of differences which is the cause of engagement in action.”

      The above seems to be a clean and logical solution to the problem of Karma. What Shankara is telling above is that the notion of karma or action only arises in a dualistic reality which is split into the world of subjects and objects. So the solution to getting out of the filed of karma is not any further action like devotion etc. but to get knowledge of the fact that duality is not real but a product of Maya. When knowledge of non-dual Self which is eternally “non-agent, free from action and result” is attained, the problem of Karma is automatically resolved. As I shall discuss later, all this happens through various steps.

      Now how does Shankara consider the verses B.G 12.2 to 12.5 which seem to be so clearly establishing Bhakti Yoga over Jnana Yoga as a more efficacious means to liberation for commentators like Ramanuja and Madhva?

      Shankara acknowledges the quandary of the worship of three forms of God that Bhagavad Gita has been speaking about in his introduction to Chapter 12 – titled Bhakti Yoga – with the following remarks

      ‘In the chapters beginning with the second and ending with that on the divine manifestations (Chapter 10) has been stated the meditation on the supreme Self, Brahman, the Immutable, devoid of all qualifications (Impersonal God). And, in various places, has also been stated the meditation on You, who are God possessed of all mystical powers (Universal God) and the power of omniscience, and have the quality of sattva as the limiting adjunct. But in the chapter on “The Revelation of the Cosmic Form”, the primal, divine Cosmic form of Yours comprising the whole Universe has been revealed by You (Personal/Cosmic God) for the sake of meditation itself! And after revealing that, You have said, “…he who works for Me,” etc. (11.55). Therefore, (63) in order to learn which is the better of these two views, I ask you,’—

      Having clarified what is making Arjuna ask the question to Krishna, he interprets the verses in which Krishna answers Arjuna’s query as below:

      B.G 12.2: Those who meditate on Me by fixing their minds on Me with steadfast devotion (and) being endowed with supreme faith—they are considered to be the most perfect yogīs according to Me.

      To this verse he comments:

      Those who, being devotees meditate on Me, the supreme Lord of all the masters of yoga, the Omniscient One whose vision is free from purblindness caused by such defects as attachment etc. by fixing, concentrating; their minds on Me, on God in His Cosmic form (Personal God) with steadfast devotion, by being ever-dedicated in accordance with the idea expressed in the last verse of the preceding chapter; and being endowed with supreme faith they are considered; to be most perfect yogīs according to Me. Therefore, it is proper to say with regard to them that they are the best yogīs.

      ‘Is it that the others do not become the best yogīs?’ ‘No, but listen to what has to be said as regards them:’

      B.G 12.3-4: Those, however, who meditate in every way on the Immutable, the Indefinable, the Unmanifest, which is all-pervading, incomprehensible, changeless, immovable and constant.— By fully controlling all the organs and always being even-minded, they, engaged in the welfare of all beings, attain Me alone.

      Shankara’s commentary: As regards them it needs no saying that they attain Me, for it has been said, ‘… but the man of Knowledge is the very Self. (This is) My opinion’ (7.18). It is certainly not proper to speak of being or not being the best among the yogīs with regard to those who have attained identity with the Lord.

      But,

      B.G 12.5: For them who have their minds attached to the Unmanifest the struggle is greater; for, the Goal which is the Unmanifest is attained with difficulty by the embodied ones.

      Shankara’s Commentary: For them who have their minds attached to the Unmanifest the struggle; is greater. Although the trouble is certainly great for those who are engaged in works etc. for Me, still, owing to the need of giving up self-identification with the body, it is greater in the case of those who accept the Immutable as the Self and who keep in view the supreme Reality. For the Goal which is the Unmanifest—(the goal) which stands in the form of the Immutable; that is attained with difficulty by the embodied ones, by those who identify themselves with the body. Hence the struggle is greater.

      Well, Shankara’s commentary requires a further commentary to decode the intricacy involved here. For this, I take the help of Swami Dayananda and Swami Paramarthananda of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam:

      Arjuna is asking whether Nirguna Bhakti is superior or is Saguna Bhakti superior? Generally, our tendency will be to vote for Saguna Bhakti because in it alone there is variety, there is beauty,
      all these are there. (Like we see in the case of Swami Mukundananda’s case). Who will like a no sound, no form, no touch, no taste reality, like bland food, no sweet, no pungent, no chilli, which is insipid, who will like that? Many people say it is not worth knowing or teaching, it is useless.

      Now, what is the real answer? The real answer is that the question is wrong. For a wrong question, there is no right answer. It’s like asking how many kilometres is the weight of a clip? You will look at me because you cannot answer that question because centimetre has nothing to do with weight. Centigram is OK, centimetre refers to distance; So therefore whenever you try to compare two things to find out which is superior, you remember that comparison comes only when you have to choose between two similar things; there is no question of choice between two dissimilar things. Similarly, between two roads, you can have a comparison, between two destinations you can have a comparison but you can never compare between road and destination, do you want road or destination?

      Similarly, when Arjuna is asking which of the two is better (B.G 12., Nirguna Bhakti or Saguna Bhakti, the question is literally asking, which is better, the road or the destination because Saguna Bhakti is the road to reach the destination of Nirguna Bhakti as I have already discussed previously. However, Krishna does not directly state this to Arjuna. As a teacher, he does not want to disappoint Arjuna by telling that he is asking the wrong question in the first place. So, what does he do? He answers Arjuna’s question in the terms he has asked it considering the level of Arjuna.

      Because Arjuna is not evolved, he wants Arjuna to follow the path of Saguna Bhakti and at the same time he does not want to say that Nirguna Bhakti is inferior, he gives a sort of puzzling answer to Arjuna in B.G 12.2-12.4. He says something like:

      “The path of Saguna Bhakti is superior while those who do Nirguna Bhakti attain me alone.”

      This subtle variation goes unnoticed by most readers. And this subtle variation with huge implications is based on how one translates a single word in B.G Verses 12.4. Let’s look at the sanskrit verse and the translations by different commentators:

      B.G Verse 12.4:

      sanniyamyendriya-grāmaṁ sarvatra sama-buddhayaḥ
      te prāpnuvanti mām eva sarva-bhūta-hite ratāḥ

      Translation by Swami Mukundananda

      sanniyamya—restraining; indriya-grāmam—the senses; sarvatra—everywhere; sama-buddhayaḥ—even-minded; te—they; prāpnuvanti—attain; mām—Me; eva—also; sarva-bhūta-hite—in the welfare of all beings; ratāḥ—engaged

      By restraining their senses and being even-minded everywhere, such persons, engaged in the welfare of all beings, also attain Me.

      Translation by Shankara:

      Saṁniyamya – by fully controlling, withdrawing; indriya-grāmam – all the organs; sarvatra – always, at all times; sama-buddhayaḥ – being even-minded; te – they, those who are of this kind; ratāḥ – engaged; sarva-bhūta-hite – in the welfare of all beings; prāpnuvanti – attain; mām – Me; eva – alone.

      By fully controlling all the organs and always being even-minded, they, engaged in the welfare of all beings, attain Me alone.

      Whereas Swami Mukundananda interprets the word ‘eva’ as ‘also’, Shankara translates it as ‘alone’. A search in the Monier William Sanskrit to English dictionary (https://www.sanskritdictionary.com/?q=eva#:~:text=eva-,ind.,eva) shows that Shankara’s translation of the word is correct.

      Which means that the B.G is very clearly saying that only those who do Nirguna Bhakti attain the Supreme Truth.

      And what does B.G mean by those who meditate on Saguna Brahman are the best?

      It means that amongst the many types of people doing Karma they are the best. People who do Karma may do actions ethically or unethically. Of these two, the one doing ethical action is superior. Then there are those who are not only doing ethical actions but surrendering the results of their actions to God, as part of Karma Yoga, they are even more superior. Finally, there are those whose minds have got purified due to Karma Yoga to the extent that they have turned inwards to do meditation on Saguna Brahman, such Karma Yogis are the most superior of all those described. Those who are Jnanis or Nirguna Brahman Bhaktas do not all belong to the class of Karmis or Karma Yogis meditating on Saguna Brahman; so there is no question of comparison between the two. A person goes through the stage of Saguna Bhakti to become a Jnani or Nirguna Bhakti.

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  2. This article is much simpler and insightful than when it is filled with quotes and jargon like in some other articles. Keeping it free of the advaitic jargon seems more easy on my mind.
    So, you are positing an unknown, which is neither the deep sleep state, neither the wakeful state of objects nor the dream state. What do you say of the stimulus and response that is hardwired in the brain? Is this state part of the stimulus and response? Or, it is not?

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    1. Hello Vijay,

      Vijay: This article is much simpler and insightful than when it is filled with quotes and jargon like in some other articles. Keeping it free of the advaitic jargon seems more easy on my mind.

      Anurag: All non-dual paths are conceptual constructs that are meant to completely deconstruct into a non-conceptual understanding of reality. Since they are made of language, people have preferences of words and styles. People also have some cultural associations with words and concepts. These stylistic and cultural preferences are the reasons why some people choose some paths and others choose other ones. For instance, some people gravitate towards the path when they hear the word Awareness/Consciousness, and get put off if they hear the word, Brahman, even though they are used as synonyms in Advaita.

      Advaita, if we just go by the meaning of the word, simply means “not two” or ‘non-duality’. I can talk Advaita with less Advaita like terminology or I can talk Advaita with more Advaita terminology BUT NEVER WITHOUT Advaita terminology. This is a very difficult concept for people to understand. As you know very well yourself, the moment we speak a word, we have entered a conceptual domain of communication. A more technical word would be – “categorical framework” for speaking about reality. For example, if I start speaking in terms of Quantum Physics to describe the reality of life to a tribal in South Africa, my communication shall fail. Similarly, if an Amazon tribal starts speaking about his reality of life in terms of spirits of plants and animals I shall fail to understand or reject his categorical framework. To understand each other we must share the same categorical framework. A categorical framework is a set of categories that are chosen to talk about, transact and think about life. One simply cannot make a categorical framework that can ever be complete or contain the whole of reality, because then it ceases to be a categorical framework. A framework, by its very definition, is a containment. And without a framework, we cannot even think. THe problem is that we consider a particular categorical framework we have imbibed to contain absolute truth. However, every non-dual path is completely aware of the fact that no categorical framework can contain truth. Thus, it introduces a categorical framework into the mind of a seeker to challenge his imbibed categorical framework and then deconstruct itself at the end. Therefore, there are several non-dual paths with their own categorical frameworks, sometimes employing the same words within them but with different conceptual meanings. And the most mature practitioners of all these non-dual paths are aware that the truth is not the categorical framework but what it leads to after it sweeps out all concepts one has about reality.

      So, it is a big mistake to seek objective metaphysical truth in any categorical framework. Shankara, in his very introduction to his Brahmasutra Bhashya says that the Vedas and all the knowledge of Advaita work in illusion. They are required only till the point the illusion of duality exists. Even Buddha said that one must leave behind the raft(path) that one used to cross the river of samsara/duality when he reaches the other shore/ultimate non-dual reality. But one needs the raft. Without the raft, one cannot cross the shore. I already showed in my last discussion with you how people who show that they have no paths are actually having a path, complete with developmental stages. In non-dual paths, the developmental stages are actually not constructive but deconstructive; in the sense that duality is deconstructed systematically. Concepts are not built but torn down till no concepts remain.

      Advaita, as a path, follows a procedure called alternate construction and deconstruction. It is very aware that its categorical framework has to deconstruct at the end. It already announces, “You Are the Truth”. Now, this does not help anyone. It’s like talking Quantum Mechanics to a fifth-grader. So we have to a categorical framework in the child gradually till he comes to assimilate Quantum Mechanics. Of course with Quantum Mechanics, it is yet another categorical framework to describe reality, not the truth. Thus, a Non-Dual path goes even further. It finally deconstructs itself leaving you with bare reality free of all concepts. We may use the word Awareness to communicate it, but even that would be speaking too much in the final realization. Who is left to speak what when all concepts and categories have been hushed into silence.

      You may not have anticipated my elaborate response to this aspect of your question but I wrote this because this is what is blocking your inquiry. You are conflating a path with metaphysical objective truth. You cannot find truth IN the path. No language or path can describe the truth. It can lead you to it. Once you understand this fact, you can step into the raft of your chosen path and be secure that it shall help you cross the shore! Without a raft, you cannot. Because suffering is duality and duality is nothing but a host of conceptual illusions about the nature of reality. Every non-dual path sweeps out these false notions one by one for you and then sweeps itself out.

      Only if you have deeply understood the above can you imbibe my further response.

      Vijay: So, you are positing an unknown, which is neither the deep sleep state, neither the wakeful state of objects nor the dream state. What do you say of the stimulus and response that is hardwired in the brain? Is this state part of the stimulus and response? Or, it is not?

      Anurag: The problem here is that you are mixing up two categorical frameworks. One is a materialistic scientific framework and the other one is Advaita. You have unconsciously bought in, or are presuming, that the scientific categorical framework that you are using is an OBJECTIVE and TRUE description of reality. If science as a categorical framework had given you a true and complete description of reality then why would you be inquiring in the first place? With my previous response, you would have understood at least this much that science as a categorical framework is a description of reality, not THE reality.

      If you have understood this much, then you may understand that the brain, which is matter/material world, is dismissed as a candidate for reality in the very first negation of Advaita.

      Secondly, you asked me whether, “I(You) am(are) positing an unknown”. You must understand three things here. First “I” am a conceptual construct which every path look at differently. For example, materialists consider “I” to be an objective reality. I am not going into the discussion of what you mean by that word “I”, as of now. But understand that there is no “I” except for the path. The path or categorical framework defines “I”. Why am I saying all this? Because I = Anurag, is not positing anything. Whatever is being said, its by the path, the categorical framework, the raft we are choosing to deconstruct falsity of duality and reach the other shore. Dualist paths, for instance, have a different conception of “I”, subtle dualist paths like Yoga/Krishnamurti have a different conception of “I”. There is no singular, objective “I” 🙂 Lastly, Advaita does not posit any unknown. No nondual path – at the end – “posits” anything about ultimate reality. If it does then it brings you back into a falsity of a conceptually constructed dualistic framework. All truly non-dual paths, taken till their end (not midway) shall completely deconstruct all conceptualizations of reality including their own. In the highest utterance of Advaita, the ultimate reality is “that from which the mind turns back speechless”.

      I have intentionally given a sort of “heavy response” to you because you are trying to approach something with very, very subtle metaphysical assumptions which I have to clear. It would have been a much easier job for me with someone who has submitted to the path. In that case, you just sit on the raft and whatever questions you have, we can clarify on the way 🙂

      So to wind off my response, I have tried to show you rationally and philosophically what are paths and how you cannot cross the shore of conceptually created duality without a raft, and how the raft is ultimately left behind when the other shore is reached.

      Warm wishes,
      Anurag

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    2. Hello Vijay,

      I hope you have read, and I am assuming you have assimilated my previous response. So, in short the response to your answer is

      1.) Advaita does not posit any reality. It’s method is negation of all falsity. It examines the three states to show that reality is none of the three states. When all three states are negated, then non-dual reality shines on it’s own. What concealed it was the wrong knowledge of duality which is called ignorance in Advaita.

      2.) Brain is only a reality, or more appropriately, a construct that appears in ignorance/dualistic knowledge. In the ultimate reality there is no brain.

      Even in Krishnamurti’s categorical framework, he distinguished between brain and mind. For example see this quote from him:

      “So we are going together find out what is a religious mind. The brain is conditioned – by our culture, by our knowledge, by our experience, by all the impressions that we receive, conditioned by newspapers, television, by the books we read and so on, the beliefs, the faiths, all that has conditioned our brain. The language – I question whether language ever conditions the brain but that is a different matter altogether. We are conditioned, the brain is conditioned. And when the brain is not conditioned then it has got infinite capacity. As is shown in the technological world, it has got extraordinary capacity. Look at all the things it has invented, from the most convenient things to the most complex, subtle things. But psychologically we are conditioned, the brain is conditioned, and therefore its energy is very, very limited. And meditation is to find out, come upon that freedom which comes from total unconditioning. When the brain is totally unconditioned then the mind is the religious mind. Not the mind that believes in some ideology and all the rest of that immature stuff. So we are going to find out together, if you wish, if you are concerned, if there is something utterly beyond thought, something that is sacred beyond all words, something that is not measurable, something that is totally free from all contamination of thought.”

      ~ Public Talk 2 San Francisco, California, USA – 01 May 1983

      From the above we can clearly see that Krishnamurti is referring to the ultimate reality as mind. He uses other words at other places but here it is clearly being indicated as the Religious Mind or Mind and it is being distinguished from the word Brain. There is a school in Mahayana Buddhism called Yogachara or Vijnaavada or Chittamatra School which similarly calls the reality One Mind.Pratyupanna samadhi sutra, a text of this school states:

      “This (or: whatever belongs to this) triple world (*traidhātuka) is nothing but mind (or thought: *cittamatra). Why? Because however I imagine things, that is how they appear.”

      The above quote is trying to say that all duality is due to thought. The three worlds (correspondence with the three sates of consciousness) is nothing but thought. So non-dual reality is mind which through thought creates the three realms.

      Thus, a person who has gone very deeply into one path of non-duality can easily appreciate the fact that all non-dual paths are categorical frameworks employing words and concepts to deconstruct duality and take a seeker to non-dual reality that is inconceivable and inexpressible. THe words and concepts utilized by these categgorical systems may sometimes be exactly the same but having assigned a very different meaning within different categorical frameworks. The referents of words, in this case, would be different. In the above case, I showed that both Krishnamurti and Yogachara Buddhism use the word Mind to decsribe the Ultimate Reality.Mostly, however, the same words are aving different referents in different categorical frameworks. But we can map them to each other by using their common referents to show that all non-dual paths employ a similar process to deconstruct duality.

      Let us take a look at a verse from Advaita in this regard. It is from Mandukya Karika

      “When the mind does not imagine on account of the knowledge of the Truth which is Ātman, then it ceases to be mind and becomes free from all idea of cognition, for want of objects to be cognised.”

      ~ Mandukya Karika, Verse 3.32

      In order to map it to Krishnamurti or Yogachara Buddhism, let us just make the following substitutions – let us change the word mind to brain(because brain = dualistic reality = mind in Advaita) and the word Atman to Mind (because Atman = Mind = Ultimate Reality). Now let us see how it reads:

      “When the brain does not imagine on account of the knowledge of the Truth which is Mind, then it ceases to be brain and becomes free from all idea of cognition, for want of objects to be cognised.”

      Now let me quote the commentray to this verse with the above substitutions. It is a commentary by Anandagiri and it reads like this:

      “The acts of brain which conjure up the world of duality belong to the empirical realm, i.e., to the realm wherein the duality of the subject and the object is recognised. But such action becomes impossible in the absolute state where there is no consciousness of subject and object. In that state Mind alone is realised and hence the brain, consisting of determination and volition, ceases to exist. Then brain becomes identical with Mind which is free from all duality of cognition.”

      Now, can you spot an iota of difference between what Krishnamurti says and what Advaita is saying in the above commentary? I am quoting K again for the sake of your comparison.

      “So we are going together find out what is a religious mind. The brain is conditioned – by our culture, by our knowledge, by our experience, by all the impressions that we receive, conditioned by newspapers, television, by the books we read and so on, the beliefs, the faiths, all that has conditioned our brain. The language – I question whether language ever conditions the brain but that is a different matter altogether. We are conditioned, the brain is conditioned. And when the brain is not conditioned then it has got infinite capacity. As is shown in the technological world, it has got extraordinary capacity. Look at all the things it has invented, from the most convenient things to the most complex, subtle things. But psychologically we are conditioned, the brain is conditioned, and therefore its energy is very, very limited. And meditation is to find out, come upon that freedom which comes from total unconditioning. When the brain is totally unconditioned then the mind is the religious mind. Not the mind that believes in some ideology and all the rest of that immature stuff. So we are going to find out together, if you wish, if you are concerned, if there is something utterly beyond thought, something that is sacred beyond all words, something that is not measurable, something that is totally free from all contamination of thought.”

      So I hope my illustrations in this reply lays down to rest all your apprehensions about paths and it shows how Krishnamurti and every non-dual path is doing the same thing: deconstructing non-duality through a categorical framework which ultimately deconstructs itself through the experience of non-dual reality.

      Warm wishes,
      Anurag

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  3. Direct realization is possible. Requirement of a raft is not a certainity. If Advaita lays the requirement of stepping onto the raft as the precondition to realization, then it is not different from a scientific framework. A scientific framework also leads to a certainty within the framework. Advaita lays a categorical framework and at the end of it, the categorical framework goes away. Why lay the framework itself, when there is freedom right in the moment? Advaita does not exist without the categorical framework and the raft.Brahman is part of this categorical framework.

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    1. Vijay, I responded to your question in my previous comment. Please read it and let me know if you still have questions.

      You missed one point in my discussion of categorical frameworks: the most important point which I unfailingly stressed all along, because I knew you would miss it, and you did 🙂

      Yes, science is a categorical framework but it lays absolutist claims based on it’s framework. It does not deconstruct itself. It ends with knowledge claims and these claims are in the realm of space and time and changing. Thus we first had Netwonian mechanics which was later superseded by quantum mechanics and which is being questioned further.

      Non-Dual paths, I specifically mentioned, do not end with any knowledge claims. They deconstruct the fundamental duality that creates all knowledge. They deconstruct the duality between knower and known or the subject and the object. When knower and known are deconstructed it means there is no one left to say anything. Krishnamurti used to say water does not know itself. What did he mean? Let me illustrate this by an example:

      Consider yourself as a wave in the ocean. When you know yourself as the name-form wave then you are one wave amongst many waves. Then you see a world of plurality. You see bigger waves and smaller waves, beautiful waves and ugly ones etc. You also see yourself as a small entity as compared to the mighty ocean. This is the world of duality and dual knowledge. A world of names and forms. Science as a categorical framework does not transcend this dualistic world and knowledge. It is the knowledge of names and forms.

      Now what happens when you know yourself as the water in the wave? Then can you see other waves? Can you see the ocean? Can you even “see” anything or “know” anything? When you are water, is there “any one” standing apart “any where” to make any claim of what is reality? This is what Krishnamurti meant by water does not know itself. When all is water, who is there to know or call the word “water”. All name-forms end in non-dual knowledge.

      Brahman is just a name given like the name water is given from the conventional or dualistic knowledge framework. Brahman is nirguna – without any attributes – indescribable – unutterable

      “Because when there is duality, as it were, then one sees something, one smells something, one tastes something, one speaks something, one hears something, one thinks something, one touches something, one knows something. But when to the knower of Brahman everything has become the Self, then what should one see and through what, what should one smell and through what, what should one taste and through what, what should one speak and through what, what should one hear and through what, what should one think and through what, what should one touch and through what, what should one know and through what? Through what should one know that owing to which all this is known? This self is That which has been described as ‘Not this, not this.’ It is imperceptible, for It is never perceived; undecaying, for It never decays; unattached, for It is never attached; unfettered—it never feels pain, and never suffers injury. Through what, O Maitreyī, should one know the Knower?

      ~ Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, Verse 4.5.15

      The above verse is saying absolutely the same thing.

      Lastly, not only Advaita, but all name-forms are part of a categorical framework. The difference is as I laboured to show with a lot of effort that all non-dual paths like Advaita are aware of the fact that these categorical frameworks are not the ultimate reality. Science is not aware of this fact. Thus, in science, no one talks of deconstructing knowledge, but they construct knowledge. I showed you also in my previous response that those who talk of pathlessnes, like K are themselves having a path which is absolutely same as all non-dual paths.

      All non-dual paths are doing nothing but deconstructing the duality between the knower and the known. Path is nothing but the name of a process by which this is done in steps.

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    2. Dear Vijay,

      Also, if you would like the dialogue not to go in circles, I request you to very carefully read what I write because I spend great effort in my replies. This is not to say that you must honour my efforts but what I mean to state is that I very carefully regard everything that you have asked and anticipate from before what you are going to point out. This is so because I have dialogue with many people and I know from their replies, which aspect of duality is obscuring their inquiry.

      For example, in your last response you wrote this:

      “Why lay the framework itself, when there is freedom right in the moment?”

      Yes, freedom is “available” in this very moment. Advaita too says the same. It says, ” You Are That”, “You Are Freedom”. It also says that if this knowledge can help you break through all bondage then you need nothing else. I already mentioned this in the first reply too. So why is one not feeling free right now if it is so “available”? Because almost none of us are so spiritually gifted that we can become free by someone coming and telling me, “Hey you are already Free”. The Avdhuta Gita actually says this:

      “Verse 1.17 – For you there is no birth or death, for you there is no mind, for you there is no bondage or liberation, no good or evil. Why do you shed tears, my child? Neither you nor I have name and form.”

      Does the above help anyone in any way?

      Now, please see this:

      “Advaita, as a path, follows a procedure called alternate construction and deconstruction. It is very aware that its categorical framework has to deconstruct at the end. It already announces, “You Are the Truth”. Now, this does not help anyone. It’s like talking Quantum Mechanics to a fifth-grader. So we have to put a categorical framework in the child gradually till he comes to assimilate Quantum Mechanics. Of course with Quantum Mechanics, it is yet another categorical framework to describe reality, not the truth. ”

      Thus, I have answered why Advaita creates a framework and then deconstructs it.

      Secondly, you wrote this:

      “Advaita does not exist without the categorical framework and the raft. Brahman is part of this categorical framework.”

      I wonder how you could make this assumption when I said this in my first reply ( I have added the word Brahman in parenthesis, as Brahman = Awareness, as I had stated in my reply):

      “It (Advaita) finally deconstructs itself leaving you with bare reality, free of all concepts. We may use the word Awareness (Brahman) to communicate it, but even that would be speaking too much in the final realization. Who is left to speak what when all concepts and categories have been hushed into silence.”

      So I sincerely hope that the next time you respond, you would make sure that you are not asking me a question which I have already responded to.

      Warm wishes,
      Anurag

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