The path of self inquiry that I teach towards complete liberation is divided into four stages. These stages progressively move a seeker from duality to non-duality, which is liberation from all suffering. All non-dual schools like traditional Advaita, Buddhism, Tantra etc follow unique soteriological methods, along with their concomitant vocabulary, to gradually shift a student from their initially erroneous dualistic vision of the world to the ultimately true non-dual vision of reality, which is beyond all descriptions. Though I teach Advaita Vedanta in the last two stages of inquiry, unlike the path of traditional Advaita Vedanta, I do not follow its initial steps of Karma Yoga/Bhakti Yoga and Raja Yoga for preparing the mind for Jnana Yoga or the Yoga of Knowledge. Instead, I use the teachings of Krishnamurti for preparing the mind for Jnana Yoga, which are further divided into two stages: psycho-philosophical inquiry and meditative inquiry. In this article, I am presenting a dialogue with my student in which I am helping her understand and stabilize in stage 2/meditative inquiry/observer stage psychologically and philosophically.
Along with the dialogue, I am providing an extended preface that places this dialogue in the larger framework of the four stages of self inquiry I teach, showing how it links to the earlier stage and prepares the ground for the later stages for a student on this path, ultimately culminating in a total non-dual vision of reality. I have written several articles in this regard from different perspectives. Interested students and readers may go through the following articles
- Choiceless Awareness: Seeing Things As They Are
- The Thinker, Controller, Commentator vs the Observer: A Dialogue
- Meditative Inquiry: Is Thinking Same as Being Aware of Thought?
- Turning Within : Taking the Plunge to Find One’s True Self
- The Network of Thought and the Mind’s Need for Answers: A Dialogue
- The Difference Between Thinker and Observer in Advaita: A Dialogue
As already explained in the introduction, the journey of self inquiry in non-dual paths is about eliminating the erroneous dualistic notion of world inherent in every seeker and help him/her arrive at the ultimate non-dual vision of reality. Each complete non-dual path handles these graded shifts with their own methods and vocabulary. The path I teach is unique in the sense that it varies from traditional Advaita in its initial steps of preparing the mind for Jnana Yoga. Instead of following Karma Yoga/Bhakti Yoga and Raja Yoga as the initial methods for preparation of mind, I use the teachings of Krishnamurti because of their modern vocabulary and appeal to the modern mind. Borrowing methods and teachings from other schools and teachers is not foreign to the tradition of Advaita. For example, Advaita borrows a lot from its closely allied schools – Samkhya and Yoga – so much so, that pure Advaita teachers have a hard time helping the neophyte students from mixing the teachings of these schools with Advaita. Advaita clearly rejects Samkhya and Yoga as means for liberation, as can be seen by the following commentary of Shankara
For the Upanishads reject the claim that there can be anything apart from the Vedic knowledge of the unity of the Self that can bring about liberation, as is denied in, ‘By knowing Him alone, one can go beyond death. There is no other path to proceed by’ – Svetasvatara Upanishad, 3.8. But the followers of Samkhya and Yoga are dualists, and they do not perceive the unity of Self.~ Brahmasutra Bhashya, Verse 2.1.3
But even despite negating Samkhya and Yoga as paths of liberation, Shankara’s Advaita does accept those teachings of these paths which accord with the teachings of the Vedas. Thus, he says:
But it is admitted that Samkhya and Yoga have their application so far as those features are concerned which are not antagonistic to the Vedas; for instance, the absolute (qualityless) Purusa (infinite Conscious Entity) that is well known in such Upanishadic texts as, ‘For this infinite Being is unattached” (Brhadaranyaka Upanishad – 4.3.15), is accepted by the Samkhyas when they affirm that their purusa (individual soul) is without any quality.~ Brahmasutra Bhashya, Verse 2.1.3
In a similar vein, just like Advaita accepts those parts of Samkhya and Yoga teachings that accords with the non-dual truth of Advaita, similarly, I accept and utilize those paths of Krishnamurti’s teachings that do not conflict with the teachings of Advaita. It is easier in the case of Krishnamurti’s teachings because he avoids making any metaphysical assertions about the final nature of reality. But as one can read in my articles Difference Between The Teachings of Traditional Paths like Advaita, Yoga & Krishnamurti: A Dialogue and Differences Between Advaita and J Krishnamurti : A Dialogue, there are hidden metaphysical assumptions present in his teachings which makes him a dualist like the Samkhya and Yoga schools. Keeping this in mind, I use his teachings primarily for the first two stages of my teachings on self inquiry.
Using Krishnamurti’s teachings helps me avoid using the concept of God totally. Traditional Advaita uses the concept of God in its Karma Yoga/Bhakti Yoga phase of self inquiry to develop a student’s mind and make it mature and qualified to do self inquiry. The concept of God is gradually and totally eliminated during the Raja Yoga and the Jnana Yoga phases of self inquiry in traditional Advaita. While such an approach is suitable for those students who begin with an ardent faith in God, it has the effect of deterring students who would like to start off self inquiry from a sceptical, questioning and deconstructive mode of inquiry rather than faith and belief. And I must admit that the danger of starting with belief is that a student’s fascination with God can be so strong that he/she can never actually come to sublating his/her succulent belief oriented mindset and enter the psychological emptiness inducing self inquiry. Krishnamurti’s teachings start off directly with questioning, scepticism and deconstruction of all patterns and beliefs held dear by the mind. So his teachings share the overall method of neti-neti or negating the false to discover the truth which Advaita talks about. The difference is that while Krishnamurti goes for radical deconstruction from the start, Advaita goes through a gentler path of alternate construction and deconstruction. However, Krishnamurti’s teachings fall short of full deconstruction of duality, while Advaita goes right till the end.
The method of Advaita, thus, is to move a student through vadas or ‘viewpoints’ with decreasing order of duality, till one reaches the final non-dual viewpoint of reality. It does so through the use of different creation theories which suit the grasping capacity of the student. The various vadas, give subtler and subtler viewpoints and accounts of how creation happens, till in the final viewpoint all creation is negated. All creation can be considered to be the primary interplay of three realities – Jiva/sentient beings, Jagat/insentient objects and Isvara/creator. The various creation theories are designed to explain the source and interrelationship between these three entities. Therefore, the various theories of traditional Advaita are
- Shrishthi-Dristhi-Vada – Realist theory of creation in which the world has been actually created by God. Thus, Ishvara created Jiva and Jagat. This also corresponds to the waking state view of the world. The majority of people in the world subscribe to this view of reality. The Yoga prescribed for such students is Karma Yoga/Bhakti Yoga
- Dristhi-Shrishthi-Vada – Idealist theory of creation, which says that it is the mind which creates the world. Thus, Jiva, Jagat and Ishvara are nothing but products of the mind. This is also the dream state view of the world. People with developed intellects gradually come to subscribe to this view of the world. The Yoga prescribed for such students is Raja Yoga. This corresponds to Stage 1 and Stage 2 of my stages of self inquiry.
- Vivartavada – The theory that the created world is an illusion. Thus, Jiva, Jagat and Isvara are nothing but illusory appearances of a formless, non-dual reality called Brahman. This is the sleep state view of the world. This theory is advanced for students who have made deep progress in self inquiry. The Yoga prescribed for such students is Jnana Yoga. This corresponds to stage 3 of my stages of self inquiry.
- Ajativada – The theory that the world was never created. Thus, Jiva, Jagat and Isvara have never existed at any point. What exists is only the inconceivable non-dual reality which is conceptually designated the name Brahman in Advaita. The Yoga prescribed at this stage is Asparsha Yoga. This corresponds to stage 4 of my self inquiry.
Krishnamurti’s teachings mainly fall in the realm of Drishthi-Shristhi-Vada. He beautifully helps the students to transit from Shristhi-Drishthi-Vada to Drishthi-Shristhi-Vada. And this is the reason why I employ his teachings for the first two stages of my self inquiry – Psycho-Philosophical Inquiry and Meditative Inquiry. As indicated above, the yoga for the students at this stage is primarily Raja Yoga. The teachings of Krishnamurti are a vast and powerful form of Raja Yoga, quite different in its method from what is practised in Yoga schools like that of Patanjali. Rather, it’s a kind of Raja Yoga practised by Advaitins in post Witness stage. While Raja Yoga of Patanjali is based on concentration, Krishnamurti’s method is based on ‘Choiceless Awareness of what is’. Though Krishnamurti’s teachings lack the structure and method of Yoga schools, their immense benefit is that one can use every world situation to do self inquiry. One does not have to sit in a closed room with closed eyes, concentrating one’s mind to reach Samadhi. ‘Choiceless Awareness of what is’ is very similar to Advaita’s Post Witness stage Jnana Yoga of “abiding as Witness to burn vasanas/karmic propensities”. (In this regard one may read my articles How Does A Jnani Person Deal With the Negative Impacts of the World: Part 1/3 – Titiksha/Endurance, How Does A Jnani Person Deal With the Negative Impacts of the World: Part 2/3 – Udasinata/High Indifference and How Does A Jnani Person Deal With The Negative Impacts of the World: Part 3/3 – Neurology)
Stage 1 or Psycho-Philosophical Inquiry in my stages of self inquiry culminates when the student has totally understood and ended all forms of psychological becoming. This results in ending the duality of the thinker and the thought. Stage 2 or Meditative Inquiry begins after the ending of this duality and ends when one has totally discriminated the observer from the thinker and is ready for the highly philosophical reasoning and discrimination in Stage 3 or Advaitic Inquiry of my stages of self inquiry. Both Stage 1 and Stage 2 are very long-drawn stages. In my own case, they took about 17 years to complete. Though, a lot depends on the psychological maturity of the seeker when he/she enters self inquiry.
Krishnamurti’s teachings, it seems to me, carry the fragrance of stage 4 – the final phase of my stages of self inquiry – because he ends all his analysis of psychological states of mind, with a jaw dropping – “observer is the observed” statement, which I am sure, no one gets it. Non-dual traditions like Advaita and Buddhism have very elaborate soteriological methods and philosophical analysis to help a student to move from Stage 2 – Observer stage to Stage 4 – Ajativada/Collapse of Witness/Empty Awareness/Complete Non-Dual stage, in which the distinction between the observer and the observed totally collapses. But, in “Ending of Time”, a book containing a series of talks between him and David Bohm, also the only place in his entire teachings where he makes a metaphysical commitment about the ultimate nature of reality, he does talk about “source”, in a way, which is similar to Samkhya. So I cannot wholly and completely peg his ultimate teachings to Stage 4 of my stages of self inquiry and the ultimate truth of non-dual reality.
In the dialogue that follows, I am helping a student transit from Stage 1 to Stage 2 in both psychological and philosophical ways, which means basically helping the student understand that the world is nothing but a creation of the mind and that the mind has two aspects – a silent observer and a rainbow of sensations that creates our world or samsara.
The dialogue begins with me sharing to my student a picture of a rainbow, which is the header of this post.
Anurag : Good morning . My wishes for you to find this beauty in life. This picture was taken by me a few moments ago 🙂
Student: Ohhhh … Such beauty .. thank you so much for sharing with me Anurag
Anurag : Thank you. This rainbow disappeared a minute after I took the pic.
Student: ..Maybe I already foud this beauty, because it was never away from me , from you ..from all manifestation
Anurag : Good. So what would you say of this…..
Student: The rainbow was there for you, so that you can take the picture and share it with your students.
Anurag : 🙂
Anurag : So did the beauty end with the end of the rainbow?
Student: Not at all
Anurag : 👍. Did the rainbow exist when it existed?
Student: The rainbow is travelling over the world in another form
Anurag : Can you catch hold of the rainbow when it is there?!
Student: Uhm, this is a more difficult question … I think it exists in the perception of watcher …
Anurag : Ok. Good. Better than materialism 😂
Student: No you can’t (catch hold of the rainbow)
Anurag : 👍. So even when it appears, the rainbow is empty of any substance. Right?
Student: Yes, right
Anurag : And even when it disappears it is empty of any substance. Right…
Student: Yes ..it just created some romantic emotion in the watcher.
Anurag : Now it is the same case with all emotions like fear, anger, sadness, pleasure … All emotions are empty and insubstantial like the rainbow. Right?
Student: It is surely right, yes !
Anurag : So even when the emotions “appear” they are empty and insubstantial. Right?
Student: They are…..
Anurag : Like the rainbow you can never catch hold of them. Right?
Student: Uhm …
Anurag : Hahahahahahaha
Anurag : I caught you 😉
Anurag : This is where people get caught. They “think” they can hold on to emotions….. And that is where their suffering begins……But in reality all emotions are like the rainbow….. Just that we can see it more easily for the rainbow and not so easily with emotions..
Student: Perfectly. Exactly. Let me say ..
Anurag : Sure. Please say….
Student: Different emotions will make different reactions in the body, so if I beleive that the body IS this reaction I will take and keep the emotion
Anurag : Yes….
Student: That is the importance of ‘just observing’
Anurag : Yes. But is not the body nothing but sensations? I mean can you imagine a body separate from sensations…..Do you agree?
Student: No I cant. Yes, I agree that there is no body separate from emotions
Anurag : Great. So the BODY IS SENSATIONS. Sensations and body are not separate….So the BODY IS THE RAINBOW.
Student: I actually need a body to feel sensation..
Anurag : In dream do you have a body?!
Student: I think so
Anurag : The eyes of your body sees dreams?!
Student: Not really, no
Anurag : So it is the mind that sees ultimately. Right?
Anurag : The senses are objects to mind. Right?
Student: Yes, yes, sure! But from where do I observe?
Anurag : From the mind..
Anurag : The body and senses and emotions are all objects to mind. And taken all together they can be only one object – sensations. Right?
Student: I understand.
Anurag : So the mind is like space or sky in which all objects appear. Like your body and the rainbow and the emotions and the whole world…
Student: Totally agree, but the mind is still there
Anurag : Your mind is like space in which the entire world appears like the seven colours of the rainbow
Student: Yes, totally YES
Anurag : Like space 🙂 Totally unaffected by all appearances. Unaffected by the appearance and disappearance of the rainbow.
Anurag : Great. Now stay with this and deepen this practice. It is the same as what K is trying to say everywhere in Choiceless Awareness of what is.
Anurag : As mind you do not have to do anything to the rainbow of sensations that appears as the world. Just watch them and see their beauty..
Student: I do it, I really do it and stay as observer, where I see the all emotions and thought appear, and disappear
Anurag : BRILLIANT. That will bring you in my 2nd stage or meditative inquiry.
Student: It’s a good training place, here, in my workplace, with other therapist and their ego 😉
Anurag : Oh. Absolutely. K said that one must watch oneself in the mirror of relationships …Observe where you start catching hold of emotions. Observe how you catch hold of them. Learn about this process of attachment and identification…
Student: 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽Yes. Actually I also perceive someone who is totally completely calm …who is just observing
Anurag : A silent mind can observe a LOT. That is how I am able to observe energies of people too……
Student: Is that my mind who observe?
Anurag : Yes. But not your thinking mind. It is the higher mind which is like space. I call it the observer in stage 2
Student: Uhm, very good
Anurag : The observer arises only when you go beyond the duality of the thinker and the thought in stage 1.
Student: I see
Anurag : When you are caught with the duality of the thinker and thought, you become identified with the rainbow and try to grab hold of thoughts, emotions, people etc. When freed from the thinker thought duality your mind becomes like space which allows the rainbow of the world sensations to appear and disappear without its space like quality being affected..
Student: Absolutely brilliant
Anurag : 👏👏👏👏. This understanding has to be practiced and stabilized now in all situations. This will perfect stage 2 for you and make you ready for stage 3 which is Advaita and Self Realization 🙂
Student: I will stay with this .. “When freed from the thinker-thought duality your mind becomes like space which allows the rainbow of the world sensations to appear and disappear without it’s space like quality being affected.”
Anurag : Yes. That is the summary and end of stage
Student: It’s already soo nice ..I know that I can do it …I saw that yesterday evening
Anurag : Yes …. I told you that the stages are all freeing…..