Advaita Vedanta FAQ's

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Not-So-Frequently Asked Questions

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Namaskaar.

This is fortunate to me, to be able to interact with you.

I am ignorant in matters of the spirit. Please guide me thru the steps towards understanding the Self.

It is sometimes so confusing when, for example, the answers are in ourselves, how do we make our efforts focussed only on these. The daily life has tremendous impact in the thinking process and that detracts us from reaching for the ULTIMATE.

Sir, please take me thru every step, and treat me like a full blown ignoramus and suggest ways to remove this veil of ignorance.

Namaskaaram.

The greatest of all barriers to moksha is the very idea that one is in bondage.

Whatever veils or obstacles the ego-Mind happens to [apparently] create, remember that the real Being within All--the Self--remains unaffected in pure Bliss.

To say that 'I am ignorant' is an impossibility. They are words without meaning, O Brahma...

The Self is the only reality in existence; the rest is dream.

Now, the above stated postulates are really inconsequential. They are merely meant to serve as counter-thought weapons: to destroy the accumulated ego* (which itself doesn't exist!)...they are used like a thorn is used to pluck another thorn out of the skin and, once it's out, both are discarded, O Siva...

To mean "I am ignorant," as it seems an impossibility, is yet possible, because "The I" that you are referring to is the actual "I" and the "I" I am referring is this "I" that I think is "I." "The I" that I am thinking is obviously different from the "I" that you are referring to, and therefore I request humbly to elucidate as to what is this "I" that I should actually be referring to? What is the process that should help me realise it?

The key words above are "...this 'I' that I think is 'I'." And, in turn, the key words in this phrase are "I think." Note that the 'I am' is the Self; the 'I think' is the ego. Since the ego is a dream-phantom, so is the delusion of 'I think'! To whom do thoughts occur? Investigate in full awareness, without lapses or breaks in focus. Where exactly is located the mechanism that thinks or receives thoughts?

The idea of 'process' is itself dvaitic, in the sense that it presumes a movement between a modality of lack to one of fulness. The vichara marga is the 'process' that kills out all 'processes', all dualities.

Whenever I ask myself this question, "Who am I?", the answer that I get is "This body is not you." It is like "Is 2 + 2 equal to 4, pat comes the reply, it is not 5." Therefore as much the intuition/knowledge suggests that the body is not what I is, how does one head towards the COMPLETE UNDERSTANDING.

Atmavichara is not designed to produce an 'understanding' or even any answers. Rather its purpose is to help us destroy all questions, along with the full range of relative logic. The whole business of 'understanding', 'recognizing' or even 'witnessing' is based on the assumption of duality. And duality precludes a knower and a known--or two entities. Are there two selves in the individual? (The very word 'individual' means undivided.)

Nothing positive to gain; rather only phantasms of negatives to relinquish. And this implies the works of none other than the Mind. If thoughts tell you that you still need something, let them. On the contrary, you know better--by what your very natural State of Being is: sahajAtmananda: wherein resides the energy of the Universe, O Rudra.

What do the words TAT TVAM ASI and SAT CHIT ANANDA mean?

TAT TVAM ASI informs us that the reality behind the mistaken identity (ego) is really none other than the Self, or God.

We're told that another name for Self is Satchidananda, being three aspects that the Mind extracts from the turiya state so that it can make sense out of that magnificence; just as the Mind categorizes the mulaprakrit in the form of the gunas. (Notice also how each has a correspondence to the other: sat relates to satva, etc.)

To whom do thoughts occur? Investigate in full awareness, without lapses or breaks in focus. Where exactly is located the mechanism that thinks or receives thoughts?

The only way I know to investigate is by complete surrender to GOD and by constant meditation.

Bhakti and raja yoga are indispensible applications that lead to the mother, jnanayog which, when fully engaged, thrives as the sruti note that is automatically recognized to have been always there.

There are times that I am...drawing inspiration from Shri Ramana's own meditation times inside the Temple Cellar alongwith ants, etc...

It's important to consider that Sri Bhagavan was not really involved in dhyana since the Awakening at age 17, rather was permanently locked in effortless sahaja samadhi. Meditation implies subject/object as well as applied effort.

Am I positioning incorrectly during meditation that the pain appears to be unbearable?

It's likely so. If the pain is generalized, see if sitting upright in a chair instead of crosslegged would help. If not, it's likely one of the defenses of the ego since it recognizes that such activity represents a threat to its existence; so it takes out its fears on the poor innocent body!

Can we point out a location to SELF? If so, would not that make it localisable.

It's said that the Monad or Atman is focused in the spiritual heart center (located about 3" to the RIGHT of the sternum). Yet, this is only the relative reference point. The heart of Self is nowhere more than anywhere else, either in thought, word, form, or deed.

Sometimes it becomes difficult to separate from the thought though it is now easy to distinguish from this corpse form. More so, when relinquish from the thought, it becomes a difficult task to deal in daily life - to talk (infact the inclination to talk has sunken so low that it is misconstrued as lack of interest in life by family members and has drawn criticism after criticism). How to resolve this?

The greatest gift you can give to all concerned is the gift of your own deliverance. For, who are these people apart from you? Who is anyone if not the Self? And is not the Self already perfect? The world-appearance with its exhilirations and tragedies is just that-- an appearance. Fear not the snake, it's only a rope!

My teacher, in response to the question of how to enlighten others after one achieves mukthi, replied, "After you achieve realization, there ARE no others."

Surrender the works of your mind and body (being the fruits of prarabda karma) to the God of this world (Isvara). There are actions you must (are destined to) perform and others you choose to add to the mix. The latter--whether good or bad actions--are still agami karma, and therefore add to the overall sanchita, of which additional portions must consequently be later worked out. Therefore it benefits one to surrender without further judgements or concerns about the affairs of jagat, letting the Divine Plan work its mission, using us as tools. The best course is to remain silent.

Also, the surrender should be motivated by Love for the Divine. Faith is not a blind belief but a belief that whatever happens is God-Given, and God looks after your welfare, which is not necessarily your comforts.

This is like going to a doctor and trusting the medicines he gives without engaging in prolonged conversation of the chemical nature of the drug or how the drug enters the blood stream, etc.

Remember the lotus in the marsh example, it is better to live like water on the lotus (detached) rather than the water in the marsh. The best recourse is to NOT to philosophize or endlessly discuss but be silent [in mind].

Sometimes, when thoughts occur to realise the self, it is these words that haunt me, due to my own inadequacy in the language (I suppose) that for such a simple thing to realise and so many words to terrorize those thoughts. Then I console myself saying, that "Oh! Lord!, if you want me to realise you, you would show me the way when I deserve it, and these words are mere product of HUMAN THOUGHT and therefore are meaningless by themselves when I see myself in YOU."

Is that a right way to look at it? Something tells me it is. Please reaffirm.

Yes, exactly. Nama as well as rupa are only the mithya* of maya**.

      * mithya being the false counterpart of the [incomprehensible]
      phenomenon of maya [which is a mixture of the Real and unreal...being
      Brahman's Leela or Life-Play]. The snake looks real but it
      cannot bite since it's ever only its foundation as the rope! And this
      snake is a necessary part of the format of Brahman's Leela, in order
      for It to work its magic of creative plurality based on the Reality of
      the ONE Brahman. It's a game [of Life] we the Self (Paramatman or
      Brahman) devised for our entertainment!

      ** maya: the common definition for it is the mithya aspect referred
      to above. However, the less popular, esoteric definition is that it is
      the inherent essence of Brahman, being a mixture of real and unreal
      [as stated above] and is ultimately referred to as Anirvachaniya
      (Indescribable).

.....which of me is asking the question "What is the best way to meditate without creating bodily pain." It cannot be the SELF for SELF is all-knowing, therefore SELF cannot be asking that question, therefore the only thing that is left in me is the EGO. If that is true, then, would EGO in the fear of its own destruction, ask whether is there a better way to meditate without causing bodily pain? Please enlighten.

A good question. And a tricky one. In fact, any answer put cannot possibly satisfy the relative ego and the Absolute Self in a single sweep. Who or What, then, really CAN be wanting to kill the ego (if not the Self)? It may be surmised that, within the relative framework of the [illusory] ego, there thrives the satvic so-called Atma-Buddhi of the jiva who, phoenix-like, is willing to sacrifice itself along with its soul-body appendage (from the antahkarana to karina-sarira) for the sake of ressurecting its unalloyed Atman. The end-result is supposed to be the fusion of Atman in Brahman, as the state of nirvikalpa samadhi. Yet, this is all relative and ultimately transient. All Mind-theater. We are already That! People beieve they aren't and some believe they found out why not: because the Mind dictates it thus. But, where is this Mind?

In fact, this is a beautiful illustration of the clever subtlety and intricate depths that the belief in this [magical] Mind can provoke us to explore--and, before we notice, become enchanted and deceived, then suddenly get arrested and taken for prisoner in the process! This is where the Atmavichara can be most effective. My guru referred to it as a Brahmastram--where when the Mind engages us in the combat of maya, the divine weapon of "nan yar" is our only hope to defeat it!

.....therefore, there has to be a specific posture that would help us realise ourselves for, a man with EGO as I still seem to possess, needs to be belittled on that aspect to understand SELF. For people who have shelved EGO, a posture may not make any meaning.

Unless you're speaking allegorically, there is no posture or asana fit to promote realization--in of itself, that is. At least to my understanding. There isn't any reference in the Upanishads or other sastras or any teaching of any muktha that alludes to hatha yoga as having any direct bearing or critical benefit promoting sakshatkara. Not to say that it's not an aid; just not a very important one.

Regarding the pain; it's of the body. I have 8 herniated discs; my body is a mass of pain. Now, contrary to popular belief [even in the Advaitin school--that is, its exoteric orthodox interpretation] the body isn't unreal, as such!: it's an infinitesimal fragment of who and what we really are: the Brahman Self Itself (ParamAtman)! Which is why it has to be put into proper context. This latter point is really the main thrust of the mission of Advaita.

Isn't pain on the body a way for the SELF to destroy EGO or master EGO. For by ignoring the pain, the EGO is disregarded and soon a part of the body in disuse (here EGO) would vanish.

Exactly!

Pardon me if I have uttered anything contrary to what a man in pursuit should have uttered.

There is only ONE Being in existence. Who's to pardon who, and for what?

If Mom wants to go east with me, and wife wants to go west with me and I as SELF or EGO, how do I satisfy their EGOS. To remain silent - possibly will help. But how does it resolve those individual wants. Where does the question of my EGO come into play in this GAME? To me, I am looking at it as an excellent "TEST" from the LORD.

All egos are destined to be food for Kali. Be glad if She mercifully devours them sooner than later! However, en route to their dissolution, why concern with their wants? On the other hand, fulfilling their NEEDS to the best of our ability: this is our dharma.

Regarding the [hypothetical] wife and mother incident, I believe it would be best to follow neither, since both--assuming they were aware of the circumstance they created--have violated THEIR dharma, as it applies to you. At any rate, irrespective of what your decision would be, so long as your motivation is empty of ego; so long as the Substratum Reality ever pulsates as the rhythm of (y)Our Being--which conditions cannot help but exist as Our collective UNIFIED Omnipresent Spirit forever poised in the Eternal Now, O ParaBrahmam, how can even the advent of an exploding quasar in gross Space or the duration of a kalpa in heavy Time diminish thy Cidakasa?

What does the sentence, "The best course is to remain silent" actually mean? Does it mean Sir, if I am asked to do something, do it without questioning?

Not at all. This was the latter part of Sri Bhagavan's reply to His mother when she wanted Him to come back home. What He was alluding to was the best course [or attitude] for a sadhu to adopt, which is a mental poise that transcends reasoning (as a result of an unconditional acceptance of whatever life's circumstances befall him). This state of mental equilibrium is mounananda--being settled or sunk, as it were, into the Silence of Self.

We're literally creating karma by worrying/evaluating/philosophizing about the right thing to do. This is why, instead of engaging ku-tarka, the 'best course is to remain silent' or to maintain in [steady INWARD] mounam: the Natural State of the Self--likened to being 'awake in sleepfulness' (sushupti-jagrat) which is pure Consciousness (chinmaya).

Thanks for the explanations.

As much it is not appropriate to ask this question now, for I have not yet realized ATMAN, though the belief in the existence of THAT is inevitable in my BUDDHI, the BUDDHI wants to know as how ATMAN and BRAHMAN are the same?

Depending on exactly what point of view the situation is observed from, the highest interpretation is that the difference is only in name and not in substance.

It's as though we, for example, upon awakening, go through a DE-realization process--as the ego engages itself. It can be argued that the prajna state (equivalent to sushupti) is one, not of wisdom, but of nescience, oblivion.

Is this Atman/Brahman relationship a Permanent Reality or a concept? Does it exist without the act of Mind?

It appears, that Atman and Brahman are mere constructs of the mind. For once we pass the realms of thoughts and the body, there is nothing to compare anything with, for the multiplicity is lost (at least it appears from this senses perception/ minds perception capability).

Further, it is difficult to explain in words... .... which are mind's product - are obviously inadequate.

Therefore, we cannot conclude using MIND, either way whether what is left after the mind and the body are left behind, is ATMAN and whether ATMAN and BRAHMAN are the same.

Agree.

I suppose one has to realise ATMAN, even before to address this question - for a strong belief in me exists that if I am mature enough to understand the TRUTH, the divine will, will dust off the answers in me, for me to understand these questions that I am posing now. I guess, therefore asking questions is in itself an evaluator on the SPRITUAL PROGRESS one makes.

Provided there is an ego established in Reality; then it would make sense for there to be 'progress' (ie: from a fault-ridden state to an enlightened one).

Yet, is there really an ego formed within the [eternal] substance of Sat? When this question is answered, all other questions are disintegrated forevermore.

Please show directions for the progress.

The phenomenon of so-called 'progress' resides within the dreamscape of ego. And within that dreamrealm there are myriads of notions of comparative icons that make up the so-called 'individual psyche'. And among those notions, the one that demands to behold the awareness that qualifies and quantifies the worth of this 'psyche' is the very instigator of [subliminal] suffering. The atmavichara weapon is our only recourse to neutralize this powerful vasana.

The above explanation leads me to believe, that there is no sense of belonging in that SAT state - for everything is one and hence there is no belonging. If that is the case, then if we evaluate our heading towards SELF - is that akin to a SIN? The very act of evaluating, though an expression of EGO, can't we interpret that as EGO submitting to the spiritual self and eventually EGO submerged into SELF and only SELF exists at the end? If that is the case, why cant EGO evaluate where it stands in front of SELF.

However, it does show to me that once we evaluate, then we are ASKING for something in return for the act of "DOING" towards SELF, which defeats the purpose of submission.

Please elucidate on the point.

Whatever transpires in the stream of Mind-flow, let it. What has to be reckoned within the mechanism of such activity (the snake) is the existence of nothing other than its permanent source (the rope).

Let this snake hiss and feign attack all it wants, and even frighten us occasionally(!), we know it's just Hollywood--a dream.

Regardless of what you think, you ARE THAT anyway...AHAM BRAHMASMI...and any entertainment of the idea of 'progress' only reinforces the maya of dvaita, which plunges one further into ego. (There are no pakvas, nor even jeevatmas...) (Being 'this way' or 'that thing' amounts to a transient dream.)

Who are you apart from Brahman?

The answers that are received from you, sir, as much as they are mind constructs, is interesting in one sense that we use EGO to kill EGO. That is these sentences their meanings are used to submit EGO, by it understanding the meaning of the sentences. It sure is wonderful. Hope the prayers are incessant, the faith is steadfast and pleading unceasingly for the GRACE of SELF, to submit EGO. It sure is wonderful.

The jivanmuktha has an ego equivalent to a burnt rope. It looks like a rope, but it can't be used to tie anything. As such, this ego is really the Paramatman: an integrated focal spark that IS at once the Virat, Hiranyagarba and ParaBrahman. On the other hand, the videhamuktha, is not, however, further realized at all; rather merely without any locus that can be identified as even Paramatman.

I would like to change my line of questioning at this time.

Repeatedly, BRAHMAN is associated with source of light and the MAYA with shadow of it.

Depending on how it's perceived (which process of perception, remember, is itself maya), the light itself (prakrit) as well as its source (mulaprakrit) can also be categorized as maya; and its birthplace, being the Unmanifest, associated with Darkness: the Void of Clear Awareness or cidakasa (residing beyond thought--where thought is tantamount to light). This view is considered the occult counterpart to the naive-realism of what is believed to exist (among the newcomers to spiritual study). And this 'higher' view is ALSO an illusion!

However, the question that exists is, why in the first place was this MAYA ever created? If we consider that this FREE WILL that we seem to possess is created by GOD and it is the FREE WILL which creates MAYA or the BRAHMAN itself that creates MAYA, why is MAYA there in the first place?

As much as we can say that it is meaningless to ask for the purpose of this question, why does MAYA exist at all?

The best that can be said, is that maya is for the purpose of Brahman's (our) entertainment. The question that follows on this, as to why does brahman require entertainment is meaningless, as is ALL philosophizing! It gets us nowhere. Except to spawn MORE questions. On the other hand, if and when the mind is diffused, ALL maya evaporates along with the questions.

Discourses on your [classical] questions can be readily forthcoming, yet they will ultimately go in subtler and ever wider circles, answering, in effect, nothing. And so we wind up where we started, with the same basic paradoxic theme: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How? The final answer entails uprooting the Original Question: "Who am I?", which destroys ALL subsidiary questions. "Who am I?" is the trunk of the tree of ALL questions. Ask it straightaway, every day, with piercing intent and fell that giant sequoia of endless sorrows! It will work. (It already has!)

A sustained jolt of samadhi (which is simply feeling one's ordinary sense of Being, without overlay thought-judgments...either by their cessation or just ignoring them) is the proving-ground for all these claims and promises in the field of jnana. Still, the ego is stubborn...therefore the sadhana must be equally stubborn.

praNaam.

(Note: To be continued...)

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* Note: the ego or Jiva, by definition, is that apparent entity who believes it is an individual apart from its source in Brahman. The Jivatman, on the other hand, has a real component, which carries the recognition that Its true nature is equivalent to Brahman. This is what Adi Sankara was referring to in the third part of his Advaitic Formula.

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