ADVAITA-L Digest - 8 Sep 2002 to 9 Sep 2002 (#2002-228)

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Tue Sep 10 19:59:35 CDT 2002

On Tue, 10 Sep 2002, yogafarm wrote:

> 1.) Sathya Sai Baba is my guru and preceptor, and has been so for some
> 30 years.  I have had other teachers, too, both by book and direct
> participation throughout that time.  Most of them claim their lineage
> back to Shankaracharyaji.

Anyone can make a claim.  The question is, is that claim valid?  Since
there is a direct and unbroken chain of disciples of Shankaracharya that
exists upto today, we shouldn't have to guess.

> I presume you and your families also have
> your own gurus -- anyway, that is my connection with Sai Baba (who fully
> supports Shankaracharaya's teachings, by the way).

Well I fully support getting rich.  It doesn't make me Bill Gates.

> 2.) I have been taught that all religions and spiritual sciences (such
> as yoga-Vedanta) lead to the same place, by whatever Name It may be
> called.

What if someone thought going out in the street and randomly stabbing
people led to the same place.  Would you accept it?

Don't laugh.  Not long ago some people though crashing a plane into a
building was a spiritual science.

> 3.) Regarding your stated "confusion," Jagannathji: Confusion is the
> state of a mind in change, and should be welcomed with open arms!

...and resolved.

> 4.) Regarding Buddhism's "Great Void" compared to samadhi, satori, Mu,
> etc., I suggest you begin any studies of that pathway with "The Tibetan
> Book of the Dead," then read a number of the great Buddhist sutras,
> beginning with the "Heart" sutra -- these will reveal much about the
> similarities, etc. (see item 2, above).

Yes and if you also read the Vedantic shastras you will also see the
differences.  Here are some differences:

1. Buddhism holds consciousness is a momentary (kshanika) construct while
Advaita Vedanta says it eternal, continuous and pure.

2. Therefore for the Buddhist self is just the same as ego an -- unreal
concept.  Advaita Vedanta says the self is the same as Brahman and the
only real thing.

3.  For Buddhists ignorance (avidya) cause the mind to create unreal
things.  For Advaitins ignorance causes what is real to be mistaken as
unreal and vice-versa.

4.  The goal of Buddhism is extinction (nirvana) of the self.  The goal of
Advaita Vedanta is perfect knowledge (jnana) which can occur even while
alive.  This leads to the notion of self to be increased to cover all

> 5.) We did not "make Neti Yoga up"; it is an adaptation of jnana yoga
> ... but primarily for Westerners.

I totally reject the notion that there is some seperate species called
"westerner" who needs special treatment.  Heck for that matter I'm a
westerner too.  I was born in England and grew up there and in the US. But
really notions such as east or west only made sense when the Earth was
flat.  I've seen right here on this least people of non-Indian origin who
were capable of understanding Advaita Vedanta -- if they made the effort.

 > And yes, in my experience it is QUITE
> necessary to adapt these teachings, as most (illusory) Westerners -- and
> even many (illusory) Bharatians -- are quite unfamiliar with Sanskrit,
> Tamil or Urdu.

In India when someone is unfamiliar with Sanskrit or Tamil or Urdu, they
are not coddled, they are called illiterate and are expected to go and
learn what they don't know.  "Westerners" are quite capable of doing the
same.  They teach Sanskrit at UNC for instance.

> But this is not unusual: Indeed, if you have 1000 spiritual people, you
> have 1000 different religions, no?

No.  dogma gets a bad name sometimes.  It is easy to point out examples of
what happens when people get excessively dogmatic.  But is no dogma any
better?  Why are we both following the dogma of English grammar for
instance?  If 1000 people all wrote English as they pleased.  There would
be chaos.  In the same way, Advaita Vedanta and the terminology it uses
mean specific things.  There may be some legitimate differences of opinion
but that doesn't mean *all* opinions must be respected.

> For example, on my bookshelf are
> some two dozen versions of "The Bhagavad-Gita" -- one of which I,
> myself, have had the pleasure to author a commentary upon

Only in America!

>-- yet each of
> these books carries a unique and often radically different
> interpretation by the respective translator or commentator.

Just because someone has an interpretation doesn't mean it is worth

> 6.) "Neti" (of Neti Yoga) refers to one's inabilty to define what being
> Brahman actually is -- "not this, not this" ... "neti, neti."  This is
> the classical interpretation

That's just it, it isn't the classical interpretation.

> I have been taught from a number of sources
> and if that differs from your conjecture, I'd certainly like to know
> what it is.

Did you read the link I mentioned in my last mail?  Now *that* is the
classical interpretation as you or anyone else can verify by learning
enough Sanskrit to read the Brhadaranyakopanishadbhashya for themselves.
Or you can see that this is the view held by Advaitins in the 5th century,
and the 10th century and the 15 century as well as today.  Do you know the
historicity of your sources?

This is what is known as objectivity, reason based on facts not
"conjectures".  If all we have are conjectures then we can never have a
civilized discussion only a shouting match.

> 7.) Regarding "that" samadhi: Some people believe there are various
> stages of samadhi; others -- including myself -- believe that there is
> only one samadhi.  It is the No-Mind state; it is Brahman; it is turiya,
> Atman, Pure Consciousness, satori, etc.  Any state where an "observer"
> remains is, by definition, dualistic -- the observer observing bliss,
> "oneness," etc., are (to my group of people) merely advanced states of
> dhyana / meditation.

Your group are entitled to believe what they like.  The question is does
Advaita Vedanta consider it correct?  The answer is no.

First some definitions.  Samadhi is the state of balance of the three
gunas causing the mind to remain calm and unperturbed.  (See the
vyasabhashya on yogasutra 1.1-2)  For classical Yoga which is a dualistic
system, this is it because once ones mental functions have been arrested
(not necessarily destroyed) the purush or soul that has been imprisoned in
material nature (prakrti) is free of its bonds.  Note even in the Yogic
view, the Purush or Atma is an observer or witness (sakshi)  See yogasutra
1.3 -- drshta here literally means seer or observer.

Samadhi can be savikalpa (with mental constructs) or nirvikalpa (without
them.)  From the Advaita Vedanta point of view, (I noticed you used the
term yoga vedanta but careful readers should know the two were once
seperate darshans and their concepts are not always interchangeable,)
nirvikalpa samadhi is nice to have (just as it is easier to do philosophy
in a mansion than a shack) but it is really orthogonal to jnana.  Jnana
occurs when the observer extends his gaze to all things and has the
cognition that all those things are in reality the same and not other than
his own self.  This incidently is the meaning of "you are that"
-- Tattvamasi.  It is not dualistic because you (tvam) and that (tat) are
the same. In other words it is the asi which is important.

> But perhaps we are both saying the same thing though in different words;
> for as knowledgeable as you are, I cannot imagine this most basic tenet
> of advaita is confusing to you.

It's not confusing.  i'm 100% sure you're wrong.

> 8.) Regarding "one without a second": Tat twam asi, as you surely know,
> is one of the mahavakyas, all of which assert the same pronouncement --
> Aham Brahman ... Aham Jyotir ...

See above.

> If you need a review of these mahavakyas, I can probably quote half a
> dozen, or so; but with your obvious knowledge, I'm certain you are
> already familiar with them.
I am familiar but it still wouldn't hurt to get a review.  I'd expect the
reviewer to do his homework before giving me any though. :)

> 9.) And you are fortunate to be so certain of your convictions and
> knowledge.  For myself, having been deeply immersed in this pathway for
> some three decades, now, I am finding I feel satisfied by simply being
> able to ask the right questions.  May you always be so fortunate!

Like philosophers the world over, Advaitins also spent a lot of time on
pramanashastra (epistomology.) They found that "convictions" are a very
poor basis for a search for truth because the easiest person to hoodwink
is yourself.

> 10.) Regarding amritha / soma / the Nectar of Immortality: It was
> brought to your attention, not for its mystical or mythical value (for
> as advaitans, we are all CONVINCED of our immortality, already -- with
> or without amritha, no?), but because of its miraculous nature.  Whether
> or not it is simply "sugar water," the way it keeps on manifesting --
> non-stop!! -- is the wonder!
> And, yes; it IS fact (well, as "factual" as anything in maya can be).  I
> have directly experienced this manifestation three times at the
> orphanage, myself, as have thousands of other pilgrims to that site.
> Making it all the more phenomenal is that there is no human hand --
> other than the holder's own -- involved in the process' yet the syrup
> (whatEVER it may be) keeps on flowing, regardless of how long one holds
> either amulet in one's palm.

If you didn't mean amrit than you shouldn't have called it amrit.  this is
why people are having trouble understanding you.   Words have accepted
meanings but you use them any which way.

And no I'm not impressed a whole lot by miracles.  The mere existence of
this universe in its variety is miraculous enough for me.  i'm not
prepared to count them out entirely though.  Basically they are an
irrelevant distraction to the true purpose of Vedantic sadhana.

> 11.) You seem to have mixed feelings about Sathya Sai Baba (like many
> other people).  My knowledge of him is not just by reading; I have had
> three, indepth personal interviews with him; wear a ring he manifsted
> for me within inches of my face; have consumed vibhuti (sacred ash) he
> manifested for me four times from his open, downturned palm, etc.

I have no problem with Sai Baba himself.  As I said I accept him for what
he is.  It's some of his followers.  Mmembers of my own family are his
followers and I interact with many other Sai devotees on a daily basis.
Appreciating the good things about them shouldn't mean gullibly accepting
everything.  After all viveka is the cardinal Advaitic virtue.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>
It's a girl! See the pictures -

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list