[Advaita-l] How can one claim to know Brahman?

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Tue Mar 15 09:07:01 CST 2005

On Tue, 15 Mar 2005, Mahesh Ursekar wrote:

> Pranams:
> Jaldhar, from your writing it is clear that you are an Advaitin to the
> core! And a proud one at that! But forgive my saying this but you are
> on what I would say an "Advaitic High". I was that way once - the
> philosophy is so elevating, so logical, so mentally rewarding that one
> could almost be forgiven for claiming it is the sine-qua-non of
> reality!

Sorry to be blunt but based on your posts uptil now, I don't think you've
made a thorough study of Advaita Vedanta at all and I think your
perspective will change once you actually do so.

> But every teacher who ever reached the highest pinnacle on
> this path has put humility as a high prerequisite when treading this
> path.

Sure I agree with that.  But there is nothing arrogant about stating the

> You say:
> >>...is a non-sequiter.  What Advaita Vedanta describes as jnana is not any
> >> special mystical kind of knowledge but the same kind of knowledge as 2+2.
> Brahman is as logical as 2+2?

Note I didn't say logical (though I do in fact believe it is.)  I said the
means of knowledge (pramanas) are the same.

> Do you mean you can capture the essence
> of reality with words?

Of course.

> Consider (just one of the many references replete elsewhere ) - Katha
> Upanishad III, 12
> "The Self [Brahman] is beyond speech and thought; the eyes [and other
> organs] cannot perceive it…"

So if the essence of reality cannot be captured in words, why are you
quoting a book at me?  Either those words have meaning in which case your
point is disproved or they do not in which case they do nothing to support
your point.

> If you think you can understand Brahman by your thinking, that is
> misplaced arrogance! It is common knowledge that the understander is
> greater than the understood (which explains the position of humans in
> the world). The logical extension of this assertion means if you had
> an ego and said "I know Brahman", you should be able to do all that
> Brahman can do - i.e. create the world!!

In fact I (and you etc.) as Brahman did create the world so why from
the perspective of Brahman would I need to do it again?

> And continuing my last thought, if words and thoughts cannot capture
> or understand this reality then only experience can. For example, take
> the word 'Love'. A million words cannot capture what a single feeling
> can. And therefore the only way you can understand Brahman is through
> experience which is in Samadhi! Infact, Sri Ramakrishna has even said
> only a person with direct experience is in reality qualified to teach
> this great subject!

What I am objecting to is that there is something called "direct experience"
which is sperate from "words and thoughts."  The reader and the listener
have as much of a direct experience as any mystic.

> As far as I know, nobody says "this is Brahman"! It is all "Neti,
> Neti! It is "not this, not this"!

Unfortunately a certain 19th century apologist for Hinduism tried to show
how "modern" our religion was by appealing to the prevailing romantic
agnosticism of the day and this has colored his interpretations

In fact, immediately after this phrase "neti neti" a positive description
of Brahman _is_ given.  It is satyasAmasatya ("The truth of truth") Neti
neti merely means that it is no this one thing or this other thing.  It in
fact pervades all things.  The way to learn this is not to stop thinking,
but to expand ones thinking to cover greater and greater areas.

> If Jnana was the highest form of Bhakti, then the esteemed Narada
> would be proven wrong as he says in the "Narada Bhakti Sutras", verse
> 25: "Bhakti is greater than Karma, greater than Jnana, greater than
> Yoga (Raja Yoga)". It may be an opinion only, I agree, but when coming
> for a soul like Narada, one should not scoff at it.

No need to scoff,  just to put it in a proper perspective.  In many places
in the shastras you find phalashruti, advertisements if you will, that
laud the subject at hand.  This is why one should look at the whole
system rather than isolated sentences.

> You say that "A
> bhakta asks "Who is Bhagwan"?" But, in the same Sutras, Narada
> mentions in verses 20, 21: "Expressions exist of such perfect examples
> of love (bhakti)", "As the Gopis of Vraja had it". Mere shepherd girls
> aspiring to Jnana?

Sure why not.  A sheperd girl is of the nature of Brahman just as much as
the greatest Rshi.

> Finally, you say:
> >>The idea that there are different "yogas" is a peculiar invention of
> >>Vivekananda.  It has no basis in Advaita Vedanta.
> I am not completely sure if this is Swamiji's invention (the above
> Narada Bhakti Sutra verse talks of it). And even if were, it is not an
> invention but a mere categorization of paths. It doesn't diminish or
> enhance anything in the pristine world of Advaita - only serves to
> make it easier to understand.

It has been my experience that rather than making it easier to understand
it just confuses things further in the minds of people who are only
familiar with translations and not original texts.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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