Experience and Knowledge

Sunder Hattangadi gourish at INTERNET1.NET
Sun Apr 25 19:59:29 CDT 1999

----- Original Message -----
From: Parisi & Watson <niche at ameritech.net>
To: <ADVAITA-L at advaita-vedanta.org>
Sent: Sunday, April 25, 1999 4:36 PM
Subject: Experience and Knowledge

| I'm confused about the relationship between experience and knowledge,
| especially when the experience is of a 'mystical' nature.

In Shri Ramakrishna's pithy sayings:  " Some have heard of milk, some
have seen it, some have tasted it, and some have nourished themselves on
it. Those who have experienced the Divine are in the last class!"

One can have 'knowledge' of sleep; one cannot prove to another that one
had slept a dreamless sleep, and woke up feeling refreshed.

One has knowledge of weightlessness in space, one cannot prove to
another one has experienced it. There is nothing 'mystical' about the
experience or the logic.

 We commonly
| say that reason and discrimination can take us only up to a certain
| point, and after that one must experience the truth directly. But does
| experience always deliver certain knowledge in a way that is beyond
| question or interpretation?
| If it does, then how do we account for the other schools of Indian
| thought that are in opposition to Advaita Vedanta? Dvaita Vedanta
| particularly to mind, but I'm sure others could mention many more
| examples. Do we say that the founders and followers of these other
| schools never experienced nirvikalpa samadhi (I hope I have the term
| right), or that they did, but they misunderstood and misinterpreted
| The former seems to be potentially presumptuous, and the latter opens
| the door to questioning all interpretations, including the one of
| non-duality.

Again quoting Shri Ramkrishna: " The mother cooks the same food
differently for her children, proper to their tastes and digestive
capacity.  The love is the same, however."

Advaita does not oppose ANY school. IT is only ONE. Others may dispute;
no need to argue whether they experienced 'nirvikalpa' samadhi. Nobody
has disproved the 'mahavakyas' of the vedas.

| Sometimes it seems to me, as one who definitely never has experienced
| samadhi or any other 'exotic' state such as bliss and so forth, that a
| great deal of importance is laid upon feelings and impressions. "I
| blissful and infinite, that I was everything and everything was me."
| Does the fact that I feel infinite mean that in fact I am, or could
| intepretation possibly be mistaken? Are these 'peak' experiences of
| bliss and oneness really glimpses of the inner truth of existence, or
| are they merely induced anomalies? How can we be sure?

It may be worth your while to read Paul Brunton's (and later several
others from the Western tradition) book
"A Search in Secret India". The sincere seeker will get the teacher who
can quench one's thirst for knowledge and experience.

| There are many people out there making very dubious claims on the
| of their experiences and the interpretations they have chosen for
| Near death experiences and out of body experiences, for example.
| Particularly the former can be very powerful and can transform the
| of those who have them. But there is a large amount of convincing
| evidence that in fact these experiences are not at all what they
| imagine, and that they tell us nothing about what, if anything, lies
| beyond physical death. We also know that certain drugs can induce what
| seems to the individual involved to be a mystical experience of
| with a cosmos of bliss. These drug experiences are typically (but not
| always) transitory, since they are not preceded by years of study and
| disciplined practice. But could they not at least move us to wonder
| whether it is valid and legitimate to base so much on an experience?
| I'm pouring out a lot of negative seeming questions at once, but
| bear in mind that if I didn't find Advaita Vedanta at least plausible,
| wouldn't be here. But I have to deal with these issues in order to
| forward. Someone issued the invitation to "ask all the questions you
| want," and I am now doing so. Please accept my assurances that my
| motivation is only a sincere and careful search for the truth.

Truth is beyond the positive and negative aspects; it will withstand all
dualities, because it is transcendent.
As long as one is convinced that there is such an entity as truth, and
is worth pursuing it at all costs, let one exert oneself. As Buddha, on
his deathbed, said to his foremost disciple Ananda: " Only you can reach
the salvation beyond sorrow, by your own efforts. Noone else can take
you there."


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