Thursday, December 1, 2011

  An ontological (pertaining to the nature of reality) statement is easy to make. We do it all the time. “He is an idiot” is an ontological statement because it is a statement about the reality of the person being referred to. “I am a good person” is an ontological statement about the reality of myself because it refers to the nature of who and what I am. “The world is an ugly place” is an ontological statement because it refers to the nature of the reality of the world.

When it comes to myself, others and the world, there can be as many different and competing ontological statements and notions as there are people. These ontological notions are important in Vedanta because they are ways of seeing which totally determine how you understand and experience your life.

In terms of living in this world, you could say there is a law: “As you SEE so MUST you BE”. If I have a notion about someone, I can’t help but live out that notion in relation to them. If I see my partner as a wonderful person, I can’t help but feel and act accordingly; if on the other hand they do something I don’t like and my notion of them as a wonderful person is replaced by a notion that they are an inconsiderate person, I can’t help but feel and act accordingly as well.

In Vedanta we are not talking of adding to our seeing and understanding as it is at present. We are talking of an entirely different order of Knowledge that does not come from ordinary daily existence but which profoundly changes the way we see and understand daily existence. When we are talking about seeing and understanding, we are talking about the nature of knowledge. What it is and what are its possibilities and limits. The term for such a study in Western thought is called Epistemology.

There is seeing and understanding in the context of our desires and aversions. In this context, our understanding or seeing is entirely restricted to those objects, the presence of which makes us feel happy within ourselves and those objects the absence of which makes us unhappy within ourselves. In terms of our existence or our existential situation, our seeing and understanding is entirely enclosed within the context of our desires and aversions. Anything not related to these desires and aversions, we are indifferent to. Knowingly or unknowingly, our attention is entirely taken up with our desires and aversions, to the extent that we are interested in nothing else.

This means that even though we have many different experiences and come across many different philosophical, psychological and spiritual ideas (including Vedanta), they are only seen and understood from a seeing and understanding that stands in reference to our desires and aversions. Unless a seeing and understanding becomes active in our lives that is derived from an entirely different context (the truth of ourselves, the world and God, which we are entirely ignorant of), we just move around and around thinking we are getting somewhere but in fact arriving no where.

Vedanta is an epistemological method in that it brings about an entirely different kind of seeing and understanding, not an extension of the ordinary kind of seeing and understanding that we are familiar with. The teaching is designed to have an epistemological impact, which is a transformation of our seeing and understanding, that takes us beyond the epistemological limitations within which we are enclosed.

According to Vedanta all my notions (good and bad) about myself, others and the world are ALL erroneous notions (not exactly a feel good suggestion). This is because whilst I am ignorant of the nature of myself, others and the world, all my notions are subjective and all arise from my ignorance. More importantly, subjective notions take the form of my experience which convincingly appears as a reality completely independent from the very notions which bring it about. Hence our ontological notions are entirely hidden or unconscious once they appear as experience. This is made more complicated by the fact that what we “know” to be true we never bother to question. We normally depend on our experience to tell us what is real. We don’t SEE that what is SEEN is our SEEING. We just KNOW that our partner IS an insensitive person and we just KNOW that we ARE right. The ontological notions in operation here are entirely invisible to the person subject to them.

Vedanta does not use preaching as a means of knowledge. It does not try to convince you about a new set of ontological notions about yourself, others and the world by presenting them for your agreement. So what if I like the idea that I am free already and find comfort in it? I have no hope in hell of resolving the unconscious notions about my self, others and the world, except in the light of the truth of what I really am (please note, this truth is not a philosophical assertion).

As my teacher, Swamini Atmaprakasananda, puts it only a clear doubt free vision of the Self resolves erroneous notions. Trying to replace the thoughts I have aboutmyself with other thoughts about myself (especially spiritual ones) does not resolve the problem, even if these ideas are derived from Vedantic texts. At best, this will result in friction between how I want to see myself and how I actually experience myself to be. In this situation I am identified with my erroneous thoughts about myself and now I am trying to identify with some new thoughts about myself that I get from Vedantic writings or conversations. These notions are simply philosophical mental constructs that only add content to the mind, not point to what is beyond them. Words used in this way have nothing to do with the Traditional Vedantic method.

In Vedanta we are not trying to think about ourselves in a better way, we are interested in discovering who and what we are. This discovery alone resolves the unconscious erroneous notions about ourselves. It is not about adding new notions about myself on top of old notions about myself. Remember any notion I ascribe to myself is erroneous. When I am identified with notions that I take myself to be and make the statement that I am the Self this is a lie, because what I am really saying is that my thought “I am the Self” is what I am. This is absurd. The reality I am is not a thought. What I am in myself is the truth. Statements about me are not the truth of myself.

Swamini Atmaprakasananda often says that “we don’t know ourselves and we don’t know we don’t know ourselves”. In other words “we live, move and have our being” in ignorance. When I can talk eloquently and brilliantly about consciousness, the Self, God, joy, peace, love, freedom in a confident manner, it is so easy to think I SEE the meaning of these words. When people talk about what they don’t REALLY know as if they know, they are ontologically “lying”. In this sense there are plenty of people in the spiritual market place who are good liars. They are not blameworthy because they don’t see that they are lying but this does not alter the fact that lying is occurring.

The more convincing the spiritual presentation the more convinced I am. If I accept and confidently agree with Vedantic notions, all I am doing is adding to my conditioning and hence become more ignorant whilst thinking I am seeing clearer. Swamini Atmaprakasananda says that the statement “I am the self” is to be understood, not to be said. Talking to myself in this way is self hypnosis, nothing more.

If our existential condition is one of being entirely and unknowingly enclosed in ignorance, knowledge of Vedantic statements taken philosophically mean absolutely nothing, in terms of resolving this ignorance. We need to understand this thoroughly from the beginning so we are not seduced by slick presentations which are no more than preaching and hence nothing to do with Vedanta, even though they are full of Vedantic terminology.

Vedanta is not a set of philosophical propositions to be accepted. It is not trying to get you to conform to a new set of beliefs about yourself, others and the world. It is not a philosophical theory about Reality. It is not cognitive psychology that attempts to replace unhelpful thinking with a more helpful kind of thinking. At the existential level this can be helpful but it must be understood a change of mental notions, mental content, does not result in a change of the epistemological levelfrom which we look at life. It does not result in the growth of a clarity which, in itself, is the transformation of our daily life. This growth of clarity is so important because it is only within this clarity or understanding that we can SEE ourselves, others and the world in a less distorted light.

My teacher says that Vedanta is not preaching - which is an attempt to get you to believe what the preacher is saying, rather it is a method to get you to SEE what the teacher SEES. Vedanta is an epistemological method - related to knowing, what it is and its possible range. It is not a philosophical, religious or psychological method. If this is not clearly understood from the outset, the transforming effect of its epistemological methodology will not be available to you.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Shree Dhananjay answered many of the questions posed. In my post, I only addressed why rationality as part of viveka is a requirement to differentiate what is eternal and what is ephemeral without addressing the specific questions posed by the poster. We are not concerned about the language or the philosophy of language here per sec, but rational thinking what goes beyond just the language as a tool. Language is required for communication of the knowledge gained. There is obviously interconnection between the thinking and the language as a vehicle for thinking. Do I think in my mother tongue or do I think in English, the acquired tongue? Once the mind is habituated to think in a particular language, it will do so automatically. Even though my mother tongue is Telugu, it is difficult for me to give Vedanta talks in Telugu since the mind has lost flow of language with the appropriate vocabulary required to express the logical sequence of thoughts in Telugu. I end up thinking in English and translating it into Telugu, and fall short when the appropriate words do not strike from the memory. However I do not give more importance to the language itself other than the vehicle to express the thinking. Vedantic language with the words specifically defined becomes a basis for communication. Yet logical or rational thinking goes beyond the language per sec and the rationality comes by the training of the mind. I still remember the words of the famous professor with whom I worked decades ago, while comparing me and with another student by name John, from England, who was very good speaker in English, but yet could not logically think and present the ideas in a coherent way that others can appreciate the validity of his logic. The professor said - John speaks English, but no one can understand what he says, but Sada does not speak well in English, but it is easy to understand what he says, since there a logical flow in the presentation. The point is logical or rational thinking  is different from learning language for communication and it requires training.  Navya nyaaya ( the so-called modern logic developed in 11th century) has been developed extensively and nayyayikaas provided definition for every word used for precision in communication. For example an object is defined as praagaabhaava pratiyogini that is it is counter to its non-existence before. There is deeper implication of this definition. It implies there was a time the object was not there and therefore it is a creation and further that there will be a time the object will not be there in future since that which has a beginning must have an end. Every object is nothing but assemblage from its constituents with the anu as the ultimate particle or dravyam. Goudapaada uses this to express his idea – adouantecha yannasti vartamaanepi tattathaa| That which was not there the before and that which will not be there in future is also not really there in the present also – what is there is, of course, pure existence now in the form of a particular object, with naama and ruupa or name and form- which are superficial attributes for the existence that exists all the time.
NyaayaamRitam, ShatadhuushaNii of the dvaita and VishiShTaadvaita schools use Navya Nyayaa to criticize advaita Vedanta and Madhusudhana had to respond to those criticisms using the same nyaaya in Advaita Siddhi. Thus language is required for communication but mode of communication depends more than just the use of language.
Now coming back to the original questions that were posed:
1. What am I searching for?  
I am searching for eternal peace, security and happiness in all my pursuits from the birth to death of from the womb to the tomb, as Swami Chinmayanandaji says. Vedanta says you can never find these outside since they are your essential nature. You are searching for something you already are or have in abundance as your intrinsic nature.
2. "Why is it that there is a search for rational answers to questions?"
Because mind only seeks for a rational answers. Since it is the mind that is searching, it finds itself comfort only if the answer is rational. That is what the intellect means and it involves rational thinking or discriminative aspect of the mind. One can shut of this part of the rational thinking by using a belief or dogma system, where you do not question rationally, but accept as a fact because of the faith, blind or otherwise. In fact you are not allowed to ask a question by declaring that it is blasphemy. That I am going to have eternal life in the future in haven or hell depending on whether I believe in their system or not, but at the same time I have no past life – is irrational but accepted in the belief system – while Vedanta says there was never a time you were not there and there will never be a time you will be absent; and therefore you are crying where there is no reason for you to cry.
That the all pervading Lord is in Heaven or in vaikunTa or Kailaasa is also irrational – all pervasiveness at the same time localization is illogical. Vedanta also says the absolute truth cannot be deduced by rational thinking – naishaa tarkena matiraapaneya says Kathopanishad. That does not mean that one should blindly follow Vedanta – it become again a belief system. I exist and I am conscious entity is not a belief but a fact. Even the rational thinking is possible only because I exist and I am a conscious entity. In fact my existence alone is a fact independent of any validation by any means. The misunderstanding according to Vedanta is I take myself as I am this body or assume that I exist as this body  only since I cannot comprehend pure existence or pure consciousness, sans the body, mind or intellect.
"Why do I try to understand the world around me, my own existence, and everything in terms of reason and meaning?"

As explained above, the intellect cannot accept any thing irrational unless it is shut off by belief or dogma system. By killing all the non-believers I am going to go heaven is irrational but for those who have that belief it is to be accepted; no questions asked.
Vedanta does not want anyone to believe that is irrational. Only it points out the fact that absolute truth cannot be deduced by logic since logic requires direct perception as means of validation and the truth cannot be perceived by the senses.
" What is the guarantee that rationality works, that there is meaning?"
By rational thinking one cannot deduce the truth but rational thinking is essential for not falling into dogmatic approach. When we say Vedanta is pramANa or means of knowledge, it is not a dogmatic statement but to be experimented here and now to the validity of that truth. When Vedanta says you are what you are seeking (see the first question posed) one has to analyze and realize that by self-analysis and self-assertion. Vedanta only provides a means to know oneself like the mirror that shows your original which cannot be seen otherwise.
What is the guarantee? No other, other than the declaration of the sages and saints of the yore who have gone through the same questioning and discovered the truth and documented by way of Vedas. They provided the working hypothesis for us to proceed and discover ourselves the truth pointed out – not after life – but right here and right now.
One gentleman had an eye operation and doctor after removing bandages said to the patient that operation went very well, now please open your eyes and see. The patient refuses to open his eyes and said – I do not want to open my eyes until you guarantee that the operation is a success and I can really see now, without that guarentee I do not want to open my eyes and get disappointed.  Now what is that doctor going to do? The patient has to open his eyes to see if the operation is a success or not – there is no other way the doctor can guarantee.
 It is the same thing. Vedanta points out the direction and it is left to us to follow that direction and discover the truth, as others who did in the past. There are no other short cuts for this – hence Scripture says only way is – shrotavyaH, manthavyaH, nidhidhyaasitavyaH – Listening to scriptures from a teacher, understanding its essence by reflecting on it until no more doubts are left and contemplating on it until it is assimilated as a fact.
No, rationality is not evil but a glory of a human being where we have to use the rational intellect to discriminate what is eternal and what is ephemeral to filter out what is the absolute truth behind the rational world of plurality.  
Hari Om!

Saturday, June 25, 2011


                     THIS, the Source.
From where do thoughts arise? if the Source of thoughts is known, intuitively understood, the seeking ends. The activity that is refered to as thought or feeling appears out of and within non-action and is witnessed by this non-action. This non-action is their Source. Regardless of  what the content of this that we call mind is it is always witnessed by this which it appears out of and within, the Source, No-mind.
When thoughts or feelings appear they are recognized by you , this "you" is the non-action that brings them into play and within which they appear temporarily and within which they again dissolve, leaving behind Nothing , the Source. You are the source of these temporary activities, you are permanent, unchanging Awareness.
There is not one human being on this planet that is not familiar with thoughts and feelings, there is therefore not one human being that is not familair with the Source of these activities. The Source is familiar to all, more familiar than the activities that arise within it for they come and go but their Source is everpresent.
If the Source arises as the activity of seeking it seeks itself as an activity, a thing, a thought or feeling, an experience, but as it itself is not these temporary appearances these then do not satisfy and do not bring an end to the seeking. After  giving  attention to these activities again and again over time, and finding them lacking, a disbelief in experiences holding the answer that is being sought sets in. This then leads to seeing what is present prior to the activity arising. It is also seen that this is present during and after the action, it is then recognized to be everpresent. This then begins to hold the attention on itself naturally, without any effort or method of any kind.
When this is seen it is self evident that this is what was being sought, this itself was what was  all along seeking itself as a something, an activity, an experience and in the process bringing those activities into play. This that is forever present, the Eternal Awareness that has always been the witness of everything, is what one is,was and therefore always shall be. Totally familiar, ordinary, nothing special, I.
One is always this, this is all that there is, Nothing giving rise to the temporary appearance of everything which is no other than its own activity.
Now forget these words and allow the attention to be present on this that is witnessing the activity of thought and feeling. THIS is I, this is what has been sought, this is what has been seeking itself and this is what you are.
In Love and laughter Avasa

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Dear Sumanth,
Let me congratulate you on deciding to ask questions.  You have commenced a journey my friend, and you are in the best of hands.  And thats NOT me!.........Its the wonderfully, intelligent folk you will meet here, IF you hang around long enough.
For starters, you have great advice from Sadananda, a Giant, in this area.
Let me, (still very much an ajnani), answer & hope not to delude you.
You ask WHO is the experiencer?  So Vedanta uses the analogy of the Dream.  In a Dream, you create the landscape, situations, and all the people therein.  And there is also A YOU, in your own dream experiencing the happenings in the dream. So you may find murderers in the Dream & Condemn them..............Now here's the fun part.  When you WAKE up next morning ARE YOU still going to condemn that murderer YOU saw in your dream?.........the one that you created? with your MIND
Now use that analogy of the dream to understand THIS WAKING DREAM.  Your MIND & your senses, are causing you to believe that there is a real world, with real people, & real feelings..............and all the TAMAS, and you JUDGE & condemn (just like the sleeping dream), but here's the deal............THE REAL YOU, is watching the TAMASHA, in this dream, and the sleeping dream, AND in Deep Sleep.  Your challenge (though easy) is to recognize this ONE CONSCIOUSNESS, that YOU ARE............& not confuse it with YOUR EGO,...........because YOUR EGO, will seem to GET IT,..........& you are back to square one..............meaning you have to realize that your mind and ego...........are ALSO YOU, & yet NOT REALLY, THE REAL YOU!...............I know this sounds like profound CRAP...........& thats why VERY VERY few people GET IT.
Now does THIS MEAN, that the world doesn't exist.........OF COURSE NOT.............this is the bone of contention (if any) in Vendantic circles.................IT EXISTS, but IT IS YOU,..........watching yourSELF, in this CREATION.......this is extremely hard for over Pavlovian-conditioned mind to understand...............& in fact THIS mind, will stand in the way (through intellectualism), to confound, the PROFOUND aspect of your OWN PRESENCE, in this PRESENT MOMENT.
I wish you well, my fellow DREAMER, but,  I too am searching just like you...............but the GURUS are around, we need to be astute and observant of them.

Friday, April 29, 2011


8 hours ago :  Another word for prakRRiti is mAyA.

mAyA is Brahman's shakti, Brahman's potential to manifest. It cannot be a second thing as it has no existence outside Brahman.

A useful way of looking at it is as the relationship between water and its stillness. In its natural undisturbed state water is perfectly still: we can describe this state as water plus its shakti of stillness. It is this stillness that, when disturbed, takes the form of ripples, waves, breakers, tsunami, etc. But what are these? Just the forms of water. Water does not become the wave: it remains water. The stillness disturbed is what becomes the wave. The self of the stillness and the self of the wave is water.

Similarly prakRRiiti-mAyA is also still: unmanifest, undifferentaited shakti. When mAyA is 'disturbed' it becomes differentiated and manifest as the jagat. Also, similarly, the truth of the jagat and the truth of mAyA is brahman, here called purusha.

What is mAyA? It is a single 3-stranded cord comprising three undifferentiated powers: j~nAna shakti, krIya shakti and dravys shakti [the powers of knowledge, action and inertia]. Once mAyA moves into manifestation, these three shakti manifest as guNas: sattva, rajas and tamas respectively. These combine to form the subtle elements which re-combine to give us the whole subtle and gross worlds.

All through this brahman remains brahman. It does not even witness. In its mere presence, by virtue of its mere presence, the powers of mAyA do their thing. The example given here is of the sun with its nature of illumination. In its mere presence things come to light. From the point of view of the illumined things we can say that the illuminator is the sun. But from the point of view of the sun does it illumine as an act of will? No. It just is the sun. And because it is the sun with its nature of illumination, things get lit. So the witness is Brahman, but Brahman is not the witness.

Brahman/ consciousness is never without mAyA shakti: together with mAyA shakti it gets the name Ishvara or saguNa brahman. For the sake of discussion, however, when we want to talk of brahman without its potential to manifest, we call it nirguNa brahman or purusha.

I hope this longish answer has shed some light on your question. All this can be understood from texts like Tattva Bodha, which is why Vedanta study without study of Tattva Bodha will always throw up questions about what's what and what the relation of the parts are. I can highly recommend it.Peter Bonnici

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dhanya's Blog

Dhanya's Blog

The Vedas give us two types of knowledge, both of which are unavailable for us to arrive at with our usual means of knowledge, and both of which types of knowledge are beneficial for us to know.
The first type of knowledge is knowledge of the creation and how it works.  The Vedas tell us of the existence of Ishvara and the orders that govern the whole.  They tell us about dharma and karma, about those deeds which will have beneficial results (puNya), and those deeds which will not (pApa).  They tell us about rebirth and the existence of heaven realms.  They describe to us those rituals we can do in order to attain desired results, and also certain types of prayer.
All of the above we cannot arrive at with our usual means of knowledge.  The first portion of the Vedas gives us knowledge of those things which will enable us to live and good and happy life, both here and hereafter.
The second portion of the Vedas, the Upanisads, also known as Vedanta, gives us knowledge of something else.  This portion gives us the knowledge of who we in fact are and what this entire creation is.  They lead us to the recognition that 'I am the Whole.'  The entire manifest reality has for its being my Self alone.
We cannot arrive at either of these two types of knowledge on our own, and both of them are beneficial for us.  The type of knowledge which the first portion of the Vedas gives us is considered to be in the realm of 'belief,' in that we cannot know if all that is described therein is really true, yet to my mind anyway, logic supports it.
We can know and recognize 'I am the Whole.'   All of this which appears to be dual has as its reality my very being alone.
    So the Vedas give us two types of knowledge, neither of which we can arrive at on our own, and both of which are beneficial for us to know.  The first helps us to live the best life that we can in the changing world of experience, and we accept the words with faith, because with an individual limited mind we cannot know how all of duality is working in detail.  The second type of knowledge (Self-knowledge) we can know directly and without a shadow of a doubt.  Initially we accept the words with faith pending understanding, and when the understanding arrives we know, we know directly and absolutely that 'I am the whole.'  There is nothing that truly exists other than 'me.'

    Monday, February 21, 2011

    Dhanya's Blog

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    My spiritual journey has been long.  I've tried many paths and many practices.  Two of the different traditions and practices I've been exposed to are the mindfulness meditation practices of Theravadan Buddhism, known as Vipassana, and Hindu practices of devotion, or bhakti, both of which seem to have many adherents in the West these days. 
    Buddhist mindfulness meditation practices are very popular now, perhaps because these teachings are presented as being outside of any religious structure.  Anyone can meditate, they say, you don't have to believe anything, subscribe to anything, all you have to do is sit down and observe your mind and your physical sensations.  This practice will lead to the gain of greater stability and happiness in your life.  And it probably does.  Now there is even the science that proves it.
    The other spiritual practice, which is very different from Vipassana sitting meditation and which seems to be gaining popularity in the West, is the practice of kirtan, call and response chanting that usually focuses on repeating the names and aspects of different Hindu deities.  The goal of this practice seems to be the gain of an ecstatic experience.
    Although these two practices, mindfulness meditation, and singing kirtan, seem entirely different, there are many people who enjoy doing both, and even like to combine the practices.  A little sitting meditation, then a little ecstatic chanting.  What could be better?
    I don't think any of it is a bad thing.  Any spiritual practice which calms the mind in whatever way it is accomplished is helpful, and it will provide for greater happiness, peace and contentment in every day life.
    But my question is what are we then left with as a goal?  It seems to me that the goal of Buddhist practice of mindfulness meditation, as it is generally presented these days, is something that requires constant maintenance.  One has to always practice mindfulness.  Certainly it becomes easier the more one does it, but it is still a practice which requires maintenance, and one can slip out of it.
    Having an ecstatic experience as a result of praising the Lord through kirtan is wonderful, but of course, like any experience, it doesn't last and it needs to be repeated.
    The marvelous thing about the teachings of Vedanta is that once you know you have a self, and once you have recognized what that self is, you know without a shadow of a doubt that you have recognized the most stable thing about your being.  In fact, it is your being.
    Your self, atma, which is brahman, doesn't need to be maintained.  One cannot slip out of it, because one is it.  Rather than requiring to be maintained, the self is in fact maintaining everything.  The self is not an ecstatic experience which comes and goes, and yet it is the source of all happiness.
    Echoing the ancient sages of the past, all one can say is, 'What a wonder!  What a wonder that there is a self!  What a wonder that these teachings and teachers exist!  What a wonder that they deliver the goods!'
    And to myself I sometimes think, 'What a wonder that anyone would pursue anything else.'
    Shanti Om!