Enlightenment is deemed by many as something extraordinary, an ultimate state, a peak experience of bliss, or a vision of God. These are, however, dualistic conceptions. In Advaita, which speaks of non-duality, enlightenment is not an experience, but one’s true nature which is always enlightened; concealed due to ignorance, just like the sun is concealed by the clouds. An enlightened being is not any being with special powers. He may not even appear as a saintly person, on the contrary, he may do acts which are not considered virtuous. All his actions are due to the momentum of past acts called Prarabdha Karma which Self Knowledge cannot cancel. In part 1 of this series of articles I intend to introduce the philosophical concept of Prarabdha Karma for a Self Realized being/Jnani/Jivanmukta, as this topic is scarcely raised in the literature of Advaita. I wanted to show that because of Prarabdha Karma, which is more powerful than his/her Self Knowledge, a Jnani may be seen doing acts which are both virtuous or non-virtuous. In the ultimate sense, however, a Jnani is Brahman, who is a non-doer, and there are no grades in Jnanis/Jivanmuktas. Alongside this, it was also my intention to introduce to the reader to the flawed concept of ending of mind as a means of liberation, propagated by a school I have termed Yoga-Advaita. This school, as I have already shown, warps the concept of Prarabdha Karma and liberation as present in the pristine writings of Shankara.
Suffering is a fact that is common to all human life. Nonetheless, we are never educated by schools, parents and society to understand and explore the possibility of ending suffering. On the contrary, they teach us to somehow escape suffering. In this article, through the journals of two young female students of NEEV Psycho-Philosophy Inquiry group, the various ways in which people escape or find solutions to suffering are discussed. Finally, it is shown how any movement away from suffering, even in the form of different solutions offered by dualist spiritual paths really do not address the cause of suffering at its root. I show how Krishnamurti’s approach of watching suffering and only non-dual approaches like Advaita solve the problem of suffering comprehensively. As the Katha Upanishad says, “He, who sees any difference here, goes from death to death.”
This is an audio interview between Taposhri and Priya of Dhi and me held on 22nd Aug 2020. Dhi hosts live talks and discussions with people in the spiritual field. In my blog writings, I have never mentioned my personal journey and the challenges I faced in my journey to Advaita. This interview fills in this vacuum. In this free-wheeling interview I discuss what is Self Inquiry, reasons for me to start my Self Inquiry, challenges I faced in my personal life while doing Self Inquiry, what is Advaita and Jnana Yoga or Yoga of Knowledge, why knowledge and not experience is the final truth and what is the use (if any) of spiritual experiences in the path. Finally, it talks about the subtle difference between Advaita and Yoga, Tantra, Buddhism, Direct Path and Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga.
In this article, I am presenting a dialogue on what is the ultimate reality according to Advaita, with a teenage girl who is a student of the Facebook Psycho-Philosophy Group. As I started posting this dialogue, I thought it would be interesting to examine the role of women in the history of Vedanta because it is based on the study of scriptures, dialogue and wherever necessary debates: traditionally the bastion of males. I particularly examine the roles played by two women Gargi Vchaknavi of the Upanishadic era and Ubhaya Bharati of Shankara’s era. Going through the dialogues and roles played by these women, and subsequently going through my dialogue with the teenage girl, one can appreciate the fact that though times have changed- dialogues are held online instead of the forests – the method of transmission of truth, and the way of dialogue between teacher and student in the tradition of Advaita Vedanta remains unchanged, ever since Lord Brahma revealed the Vedas to Rishis and who transmitted this truth to a spiritual family-sampradaya: the lineage of teachers and students who pass the eternal truth down to the present day in an unbroken succession. Women are part of this eternal stream.
The Gita is a revolutionary and syncretic scripture in the canon of Vedanta. It brings down the Vedic truths from sequestered Himalayan caves into the active field of political life and crisis evoking tensions of fratricidal war. Religion is philosophy in action. Through the words of Krishna, who acts as his friend, guide, seer and prophet, Arjuna receives the practical application of teachings founds in the Upanishads. Throughout my active public life, I found myself in the position of Arjuna, facing a war, and asking the same questions he did, to Krishna. Thus it was that it was my favourite book till the time I did not renounce all organizational life. In this article, I discuss the Gita as a scripture of Advaita Vedanta along with its unique reformulation of action and renunciation, through what it calls action in inaction and inaction in action. I also discuss Shankara’s queasiness with this reformulation and his grudging acceptance even though it does not sit very well with his ideal of Upanishadic monasticism for a liberated being.
Forming the end portion of the Vedas, the Upanisads have had a vast and pervasive influence in Hindu Tradition. Upanishadic teachings and Upanishadic type realization run through a wide range of Hindu religious literature as dye through a cloth. It is well known to those who follow the Veda that the phrase ‘the method of the Vedanta’ refers to the method for teaching knowledge of the Absolute observed in the Upanishads which crystallizes around a number of key terms, the most important of which are Atman and Brahman. Atman, “the Self”, is at the root of the experience of self, or “I”, which is found in every human being. It is the Formless Reality which one is, above Life and Death, and above space and time. Everyone is that Reality, although without being aware of it, and It shines in the heart and mind of all living beings. In this article, I discuss the origin, the message and the unique traditional method of teaching the message found in the Upanishads, by Shankara, through superimposition and negation.
I spent the first seventeen years of my inquiry with the teachings of J Krishnamurti (JK) after which I reached a stalemate. JK was primarily a master in investigating the psychological causes of suffering and despite having learned immensely from him in this regard, something within me kept clamouring to get metaphysical answers for questions like what is life, birth, death, self and creation. Moreover, like most Yoga-based teachings, Krishnamurti used to hammer at thought which according to him, in line with the teachings of Yoga based dualist schools, veils reality. However, unlike the depictions of Yoga based teachers like Buddha, Mahavira and other Hindu Yogis, Shankara is never depicted in a posture of meditation with eyes closed: always with a bundle of scriptures in his hand. This is a great testament to the fact that Advaita Vedanta, the path followed by Shankara does not believe in ending or shutting thought, but its science of Jnana Yoga is about using the subtle organ of thought, called intellect, and sharpen it to such an extent that it takes one to the reality that lies beyond thought, called Self/Brahman/Witness/Awareness, as revealed by the scriptures. In this series of articles, I shall be discussing the canonical base of scriptures and their paramount importance for the teachings of Advaita Vedanta of Shankara, where I found myself at home ultimately and received all my answers.
Advaita, especially Shankara’s Advaita negates all attributes for the Absolute truth it calls Brahman. According to Advaita, Brahman is the only formless reality. The phenomenal world we see is just an apparent reality like a dream. Brahman never creates the world and the souls we perceive. The only way to get enlightened is to get intuitive knowledge of this Absolute Reality of Brahman. This can only happen through knowledge and not through any acts like work, meditation or worship. However, we find several works attributed to Shankara which speak about creator Gods like Vishnu and Shiva. Did Shankara worship these Gods? This article sets out to show that most of these works are not considered by all scholars as undisputed works of Shankara. After giving a short history of the beginning of the worship of Shiva and Vishnu, who are not Vedic Gods like Brahma, the article shows that even if we see some inclination of Shankara towards Vishnu, there is no evidence to show that he worshipped them but used these concepts provisionally only for their helping in purifying the minds of seekers to finally make them fit for attaining enlightenment through Jnana/Knowledge.
The Upanishads are hailed as one of the most profound scriptures of mankind. Departing from the ritualistic traditions of the earlier Vedic age, the Upaniṣadic sages were engaged in a radical rethinking of the nature of self and reality that was destined to deeply influence the course of religion, philosophy, and life in India and beyond. Their main purport is to attain immortality. However, an examination of the contents of the Upanisads themselves will show that they were never confined to profound philosophical doctrines. All sorts of miscellaneous ideas, injunctions, incantations, theological interpretations, conversations, traditions, and so forth, regarded at the time are secret principles, or secret teachings were assembled and set down without any sequence. This article shows how the paradoxical contents of Upanishads have baffled ancient and modern scholars alike. Ultimately the article shows that the secret of the Upanishads cannot be unlocked by human reason.
Fear is the most basic emotion of man. For those who are inquiring into the question of whether man can live in total freedom, the feeling of fear has to be understood. Fear exists at various levels. It’s like a tree with various branches, trunk and root. How does one come to the root of fear? In this article, I address this question through a dialogue which I shared with a student in my FB Psycho-Philosophy Inquiry Study group.
Normally, as thinking people, we analyze fear. But this analysis does not go to the root of fear. In fact, as the dialogue shows, analysis is a device of mind to escape fear.
Advaita Vedanta is unique amongst all paths for liberation. It is the only path that does not consider any form of action (meditation, yoga, chanting, worship) as the final means to liberation. These actions are a means to purify the mind so that it is qualified to receive and assimilate enlightenment through Knowledge. The only knowledge that can grant enlightenment to a student is the shabda/word of the Sruti/Upanishads transmitted by a teacher established in Brahman himself/herself. In this article, I describe the theory and practice of enlightenment in this unique path. Finally, I furnish the article with an actual dialogue that takes place between a teacher and a student in which the student gets enlightened.
On reading one of my previous blog articles about the quest to understand death, an eighteen year old girl who is member of NEEV Psycho-Philosophy group wrote about her own fear of death and her desire to go beyond it. Death is usually taken as a morbid topic to be spoken about in hushed tones. But for a self inquirer, who wants to know truth, death is an enigma he/she must solve. In my response to the girl’s journal I revisit the two characters – Buddha and Nachiketa – on their quest for going beyond death, whom I had mentioned in my previous article on death. This time I talk about how both of them ultimately conquer death – Buddha with his Nirvana and Nachiketa with his Moksha. Though their quest into the reality beyond death returns different answers, I show that the common aspect to both these paths is how the cycle of birth and death actually begins with attachment to objects. Either one remains attached to impermanent objects and keep wandering in the cycle of samsara or one takes the path out of this suffering by taking the path of self inquiry.
The path to Self Realization or Liberation which starts from self-inquiry is a long one. I break the path into three different stages in ascending order – psycho philosophical inquiry, meditative inquiry and Advaitic inquiry. I teach the first two stages in my FB group called NEEV Psycho-Philosophy Inquiry Study Group, and the last stage in NEEV Advaita Study Group (FB). The first group comprises of young people who are beginning their journey of self-inquiry. In this article, I give a brief outline of the activities of this group and post three journal entries of a 19 yr old girl in the group who has undertaken the study of self-inquiry with me. These journal entries provide a snapshot of the moving river of self-inquiry for those who wonder what it is all about, and how and where to begin.
There is a widespread notion that Shankara is the founder of Advaita Vedanta. Still, others think that he may have introduced some personal innovations in Vedanta by borrowing teachings from other schools. This article seeks to conclusively put an end to such speculations, by showing that Shankara gave ultimate authority to the Upanishads/shrutis. He followed a traditional teaching method of Upanishads called Agama: stretching back right up to Brahma, the Lord of every cycle of creation, who reveals the Vedas to the Rishis, and who further transmitted this knowledge to a chain of teachers constituting the Advaita tradition/sampradaya. Shankara was just a link – a powerful one – in this sampradya, which continues till today amongst those who know the Agama – traditional method of teaching found in the Upanishads/shrutis. Finally when Brahman is intuited even the shrutis are transcended.
About half a century after Shankara, two schools developed: Dvaita (Dualism) and Vishishtadvaita (Qualified Non-Dualism). The founders of these schools seek support for their doctrines in the tradition of Vedanta. In this article, I show that if we study the Brahmasutra of Badarayana and the Brahmasutra Bhashya of Shankaracharya, we don’t find any non-Advaitic schools being mentioned. Though there were several schools not following the approach of Shankara’s Advaita tradition, they were all ultimately non-dual in their final purport. These schools were discussed and refuted by Shankara. These are schools which enjoin subtle actions along with knowledge as means of liberation, while Shankara’s Advaita talks only about knowledge as the final means. Schools which enjoin subtle actions like meditation, worship and even affirmations of knowledge are refuted by Shankara. Ultimately the article shows that the latter-day Dvaita and Vishishtadadvaita schools find no support even from these schools which Shakara refuted, for their doctrines.