As I gain more experience with students in teaching Advaita and Self Inquiry I have come to see a pattern that I wish to write about.
Most people treat Advaita like a philosophy, bereft of emotions and feelings. They treat it as a passport to resolve their suffering: some kind of golden key that is going to instantly land them to bliss. While the ultimate phase of the teaching of Advaita is very impersonal, one cannot come to that impersonal stage of understanding after having deeply worked with one’s emotions; nor is the ultimate stage bereft of emotion. I have seen students studying Advaita by making learned assertions, showing off their philosophical mastery and involving themselves in heated and learned debates. Over the years, I can detect this tone of arrogance whenever it comes up. These are students who are not willing to do the hard labour of working with their emotions. They use philosophy to cover up their emotional incapacity to face fear and desire. Before coming to Advaita, one must first learn to be a genuine person. This is the phase of Psycho-Philosophical inquiry, based on Krishnamurti’s teachings, which I insist my students should do before they come to Advaita. Being genuine does not mean mere outward polished behaviour. I have seen many people in life who appear very calm, caring and composed, from outside, but have judgements and hold poison in their hearts within. On the contrary there are those who appear angry and uncaring outside but are actually true to themselves and people. As you shall see later, I am not talking of mere, shallow and convoluted ethics. Some previous articles I have written in this regard are
- Unmasking Ourselves
- How to learn about oneself in the mirror of relationships?
- Is there discipline without control?
- Who is an authentic person?
Traditional Advaita talks about the emotional and psychological preparation required for self inquiry in terms of Sadhana Chathusthaya, the four qualities that need to be cultivated in order to get to the insight of Self/Brahman/Awareness in Advaita. The four qualities are
- Viveka/discriminative capacity
- Vairagya/detachment from objects
- Shat Sampatti – Wealth of six virtues: control of mind, control of senses, endurance of opposites, cutting down on all inessential work of life, faith in the teachings and the teacher (not a blind one: what we say, ‘faith pending confirmation’) and focus on the goal.
- Mumukshutva/Intense Desire for Enlightenment
Honestly, I never practised these virtues, but they got developed (most of them) automatically through my work with Krishnamurti. (One may read my page Stages of Self Inquiry for a detailed discussion on this). One can observe that the above virtues seem to have an ascetic flavour. I have never considered myself to be an ascetic, though my current lifestyle shows some ascetic aspects unintentionally. Krishnamurti himself eschewed asceticism, perhaps the primary reason I was drawn to his teachings.
The above listed qualities of sadhana chatusthaya can be developed in a non-ascetic context, without any form of control, suppression or denial through the teachings of Krishnamurti. One of the primary teachings of Krishnamurti has been observing oneself in the mirror of relationships with total honesty. Krishnamurti did not teach people to withdraw from the world into a cave, jungle or a monastery. In fact, he challenged people to move into the world, and its myriad relationships, to examine all of them with total honesty. In what he calls “choiceless awareness” of oneself in the mirror of relationships, one becomes aware of the multiple layers of deceptions and defences of the mind. The mind is “understood” in its natural functioning rather than repressed, concentrated or controlled. As Krishnamurti used to say, “observe the mind’s spider as it builds its web”. In that state of choiceless observation – without modifying, controlling or indulging – there is a dawn of viveka/discriminative capacity – the first quality listed in the sadhana chatusthaya. In my opinion, viveka/discriminative capacity is the peak of the other practices listed. Advaita says that this function is done by “buddhi“/intellect (not to be confused with the western interpretation of that word)/higher mind. Viveka is the “impersonal” ultimate phase I have talked about in the beginning of this write-up. It must be appreciated that viveka has within it, tremendous emotional wisdom – years and years of choiceless observation of mind in the mirror of relationships or the sadhana chatusthaya done in the ascetic contexts. The Bhagavad Gita provides also provides Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga as possible non-ascetic lifestyles to develop the buddhi for viveka. But I did not take them up in my journey because they involve a provisional belief in God. As Advaita is completely non-dual, it negates the triad of Jiva (individual)/Jagat (world)/Isvara (God) in the ultimate reality of Brahman/Awareness. So I did not see much of a point in first installing a God and then finally negating him. Well, this may still work for many others, but not for me.
But wait: there’s more. Emotions go even higher than Viveka. Though this is an “optional course” reserved for the highest few. The highest truth is Ananda/Bliss/Love. In Advaita, the highest reality is called Sat-Chit-Ananda. Many Advaitin Jnanis come up to Sat-Chit, but it is the rare soul – almost historically rare – that comes up to the Ananda, in the Sat-Chit-Ananda trinity. For those who want to come to that level, the journey stretches hundreds of miles after Viveka. This is the journey of Love in which all the knots of the heart have to get untied. It is a long process of shattering where the mind/Viveka ultimately exhausts itself and the mind ends, or as Krishnamurti says – in tandem with the highest seers – the mind enters the heart. So much for dry philosophy that so many Advaitins revel in.
“Verse 4.85: What else remains for him to be desired when he has attained to the state of the Brāhmaṇa—a state of complete omniscience, non-duality and a state which is without beginning, end or middle?“
Gaudapada, Mandukya Karika
“Verse 4.86: This (i.e., the realization of Brahman) is the humility natural to the Brāhmaṇas. Their tranquillity (of mind) is also declared to be spontaneous (by men of discrimination). They are said to have attained to the state of sense-control (not through any artificial method as it comes quite natural to them. He who thus realizes Brahman which is all-peace, himself becomes peaceful and tranquil.“
Gaudapada, Mandukya Karika
The verses above, especially the last one, bear out the fact that the teachings of Krishnamurti has its precedent in the teachings of the ancients as old as Gaudapada.