[Advaita-l] Obstacles for Spiritual Progress V - Part I

kuntimaddi sadananda via Advaita-l advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
Thu Sep 18 19:57:12 CDT 2014

PraNAms to all. Continuing the series with the above title. posted in two parts due to its length. For previous posts one can look at the archives.  


Madhyama Adhikaari:

We are discussing about the madhyama adhikaari, who has sufficient four-fold qualifications, saadhana chatuShTaya sampatti, to have clear understanding of Vedanta, but not sufficient enough to have the jnaana phalam or the fruits of the knowledge. Most of us fall into this category. Thus he has jnaanam but not jnaana phalam to be a jiivan mukta. The mind is still habitually entangled in the changing diversities of the world. To change continuously is the nature of the world. To expect the changing world to remain conducive all the time to ones likes and dislikes is inherently faulty. Not to be affected by the changing world requires a disciplined frame of mind that can witness the events happening in the world objectively, without emotions getting on the way. Even though jnaani understands he is pure existence-consciousness-limitless, due to lingering vaasanaas or habitual notions due to praarabda, emotional transformation of the mind is incomplete. In
 effect, the emotional mind does not abide in the knowledge of the intellect or the habitual notions come in between the mind and the intellect. For such a person only nidhidhyaasana is prescribed by Vedanta. Hence nidhidhyaasana is not for gaining any new knowledge but for making the emotional mind to abide in the knowledge that has already been gained through shravana and manana. Nidhidhyaasana is not for manda adhikaari. For manda adhikaari who has saadhana chatuShTaya sampatti at the lowest level, karma and upaasana yoga are prescribed. Nidhidhyaasana is not needed for uttama adhikaari since he gets both jnaana and jnaana phalam by shravana and manana, since his mind has already been purified by saadhana chatuShTaya sampatti. Hence Nidhidhyaasana is required for madhyama adhikaari who has half-baked with four-fold qualifications. He gains the knowledge but not the fruits of knowledge due to lingering vaasanaas. How do I know that I have jnaanam but
 not jnaana nishTa. After the study of Vedanta under a competent teacher and understood the essence of Vedanta without an iota of doubt then I have learned what needs to be learned.  In principle, that is all what is needed. However for many of us, the mind seems to get agitated whenever we are transacting with the world. This is due to emotional involvement with the world due to attachments to things and people. This implies that the saadhana chatuShTaya sampatti needed is incomplete. Hence nidhidhyaasana is prescribed by the scriptures to internalize the learning that has already been taken place. It is like current switch is on and the bulb is in good condition, but still no light is coming. The brighter and brighter light will start beaming forth as one starts rotating the rheostat switch slowly. Thus knowledge is there but for it to express in all its glory, the obstructive emotional attachments or raaga dveshas have to be reduced further. 


What is to be done in Nidhidhyaasana:  Nidhidhyaasana is defined as dwelling upon the teaching that has been gained via shravana and manana, by remaining in the teaching, as often as possible, as intensely as possible, as long as possible, as repeatedly as possible.  It is essentially living in the teaching itself. This dwelling on the teaching can be done by selecting any or all of the methods listed here. These include: 1. Repeated listening to scriptures – shravana – mind to dwell on the teachings. 2. Repeated reading of the Shaastras or reading the notes prepared. 3. Repeated writing, while the mind dwells upon the teaching 4. Discussions of the Shaastras with those who have shraddhaa on the teaching (advaita-list-serve comes in handy in this regard) 5. Teaching of the Shaastras to others, if one can manage to get some one to listen to. 6. Contemplating on the teaching in a secluded place (essentially meditation on the teaching). In all these
 saadhanas, mind is essentially dwelling on the Vedanta teaching. Since the teaching is centered on the self-itself as Brahman or the totality, whatever is not aatma (which then is anaatma) is slowly reduced to mithyaa that includes the likes and dislikes. In the nidhidhyaasana, the physical posture is of secondary consideration as it is predominately a mano vRitti, i.e., a contemplation using the mind. Therefore mind should be awake and available without getting high-jacked by any other thought. Any physical posture that keeps the mind conducive for contemplation on the teaching without falling asleep is the right posture. In essence, the posture should be such that mind should not be dwelling on the posture or become conscious of it during contemplation. In this regard, one can also employ aShTaanga yoga meditation stages to keep the mind alert and contemplative. Shankara discusses the application of the ashTanga yoga steps for self knowledge in his
 aparokshaanubhuti text.  Here chitta nirodha involves only withdrawing the mind from the extroverted pursuits and investing in the teaching of mahaavaakya gained through shravana and manana or enquiry of the nature of the self. 
Therefore nidhidhyaasana is not silencing the mind, but involves mental inquiry or vichaara on the essence of the advaitic teaching – Brahman satyam- jagat mithyaa and jiivaH bhramaa eva na aparaH, Brahman alone is real and the world is just apparent projection on Brahman and jiiva is none other than Brahman. To abide in this understanding, any or all of the above methods can be practiced at the seat of meditation. One can even meditate on anaatma that is a worldly object with name and form to see the truth behind that object. When I meditate on anaatma, I have to see the mithyaa aspect of the name and form and shift my attention to the Brahman or pure existence as the reality that lends existence to the object.
The next question is how one should meditate?  Bhagavaan Ramana gives illustrative examples. He says in Upadeshasaara- aajyadhaarayaa srotasaa samam, sarala chintanam virala tatparam. He says the contemplation should be – like a flow of ghee or flow of river. The ghee example is to illustrate sneha bhaava or love for the goal, just as ghee sticks to the fingers, the mind has to stick to the goal. The river example is given to emphasize the persistence to reach the goal, in spite of small or large obstacles that invariably come on the way. For small obstacles the river joyfully jumps over with gurgling joyful noise, and for large obstacles she gracefully goes around, even taking few steps backward, without loosing sight of the ultimate goal to reach, namely, the ocean where its identity with name and form gets dissolved. The mind should be constantly dwelling in the understanding of the truth, in spite of any incidental obstacles that arise. Hence
 Bhagavaan Ramana says it should be continuous flow of thoughts (sarala chintanam) rather than with starts and stops (virala chintanam). Initially it will be of the later type but as the mind gets absorbed more and more it becomes continuous flow of thoughts. Abhyaasa (constant practice) and vairaagya (withdrawal from attachments) that Shree Krishna emphasizes again and again are the essential ingredients -  abhyaasenatu kounteya vairaagyena ca gRihyate. Obstacles do arise, since the nature of the world is to change. Changing set-ups will never be all the time conducive to ones mental liking. However their impact is reduced by understanding that they are all mithyaa or have no absolute validity. This recognition becomes increasingly factual as the mind start abiding in the knowledge of the self. Thus by recognizing the higher nature of oneself and recognizing the lower nature or the falsity of the worldly objects and people, one slowly transcends the
 emotional attachments so that the mind does not get affected by these local interactions as it becomes immune to them. It is similar to how one regards the incidents in the dream after one is awake. The effect of this mental modification is whatever that comes in the course of the time is intrinsically accepted as part of either praarabda or Iswara prasaada. Externally the jnaani’s BMI will act as required but internally one gets established as saakshii for all the external happenings. Emotional involvement will decrease leaving intellectual or objective actions needed for the changing circumstances. This is an evolution rather than a revolution, just as a flower-bud slowly blossoms into a beautiful fragrant flower with all its glory. In nature every beautiful creation evolves into perfection.  Therefore, it is not like I become jnaani on one day and jiivan mukta on the other day. I discover my real nature and abide in that knowledge as the mind
 slowly evolves until I discover that all are in me but I am not in them.  
(Continued in the next post)

Hari Om!

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