Understanding Sada's position

nanda chandran vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Aug 8 06:06:43 CDT 2001

Sada, my reply to you will be in three posts.

Philosophy in the Indian sense is the reconciliation with reason the
spiritual experience of the sages. So not only should our understanding of a
particular school of philosophy be reconciled with the metaphysical concepts
of the school, it should also reconcile with the psychological and
epistemological tenets of the school and also the spiritual practice
suggested to reach the truth. This is what I'll concentrate on in the first

My second post will deal with the validity of your arguments in their
own sphere of relevance and explore how far they are true in their own
field of suppositions.

My third post will push deeper and deal with the conceptions themselves -
subject, object, consciousness, mind etc - and see how true our
understanding of these concepts are.

First let's try to reconcile your understanding of Advaita with what we know
of Vedanta.

>From what I can make of your arguments - it seems purely intellectual. With
the metaphysical conception of Brahman as taught by Advaita - one without
another; all in itself - itself in all - you have intellectually reconciled
it with your own self/world as you understand them. And the knowledge that
has arisen out of this reconciliation, you say is the truth of Advaita.
Since Advaita is a path to liberation and it teaches jnaana/knowledge as not
only the path but also the end, we have to take it that understanding the
truth of Advaita is nothing but liberation itself - so in other words if we
understand what you say is the truth of Advaita then
we should be liberated.

I want to you consider the following :

1. All thinking is fundamentally objective in character. Intellectual
thinking too is necessarily so. The subject thinks of an object. Even with
thoughts about our own self the subject thinks of itself/its attributes as
an object. But the shruti clearly says that the Self is not to be known as
an object i.e it is beyond the intellect - that's also the reason there's
the teaching of silence, simply because brahman cannot be intellectually
apprehended or expressed. But you've comfortably reconciled the metaphysical
Brahman with the world and your own self and have no problem about
expressing it. So is intellectual understanding the same as atma jnaanam?

Also if Brahman was to be known by the intellect then what's the role of the
shruti - according to traditional opinion the shruti teaches two things
which are considered beyond human understanding and for which the shruti is
the only pramaana to establish their existence - dharma and brahman.
Wouldn't your intellectual reconciliation contradict this traditional stand?
And why is Badarayana rebuking the Saamkhya for trying to reconcile reality
with logic?

2. Shankara himself says Advaita theory is in the realm of ignorance as
theory being in the realm of pramaanas and since the pramaanas do not have
ultimate validity, Advaita theory is of a lower level of reality than
Brahman. By theory it is meant intellectual understanding. So is it right to
say that your intellectual reconcilation is the same as atma jnaanam?

3. If liberation is only the intellectual understanding/reconciliation of
Advaita theory with phenomenal life, then anybody who understood your post
(and there've been many in the Advaitin list who said what you said is the
true reading of Advaita) and understood it, would have been liberated? So do
they consider themselves liberated now?

One of the qualities of jeevanmuktas is that they're supposed to have lost
all fear - since fear is a product of the mind over what it imagines can
happen to itself or the body. Ramana used to refer to his body as "this" and
even when some thugs attacked him is said to have borne the blows without
any sign of such action affecting him. Simply because the body wasn't him.
So has your intellectual reconciliation given you this fearlessness? Can you
go and stand in a cage with a lion (only in the hypothetical sense) or in
any dangerous situation, without any fear, because any harm caused is only
to the body and it is not you?

4. If by atma jnaanam is meant only intellectual understanding then what's
the relevance of ethics, austerity, meditation etc which have been
practiced/preached by all the Advaitic saints? And why should anybody take

5. If by atma jnaanam is meant only intellectual understanding, then what's
the meaning of all the expositions of atma vichaaram using the pancha kosha
doctrine etc that we see in the praakarna grantha texts? The teachings in
those texts don't seem to be mere intellectual understanding - but a
physical seeing/feeling of the body/mind etc as something physically apart
from us. Did Yaganavalkya mean by "neti, neti" only an intellectual
understanding of ourselves as different from the body/mind etc or a physical
knowledge of differentiation - which should be similar to the view we view
objects external to us - that we're not the body and mind?

Sure according to Advaita metaphysics everything is ultimately brahman -
even the senses, the mind and body. But again why do the Advaitic teachers
also keep insisting that you're not the body and mind? The whole of
Dashashloki of Shankaraachaarya is in this vein - where he distinguishes
between himself and all that is known. Why does Shankara call his body a
disgusting bag of bones, flesh, urine, etc and asks you to reject it as not
your true self? Isn't this what neti, neti is about? But how would you
reconcile this with your theory?

Observe the kind of knowledge/certainty you have when you say "I" in
reference to your psycho/physical being. Is this the same kind of knowledge
that you have when you look at an object and think that "it is in me and I
am in it"?

6. According to the shruti/Advaita liberation would mean the end of all
desire - as dear GMurthy used to post often the quote from Katha
Upanishad : "When all the desires that dwell in the heart fall away, the
mortal becomes immortal and attains brahman even here" - after this
intellectual understanding are you really free from all desire? Even as you
read this post does your mind thirst to clear up any misunderstanding that I
might have regarding your views? I think you are particularly fond of
writing/talking about Vedanta. Can you totally give it up for say, a month
and be unaffected by it? Can you sit in a place for a couple of hours
without your body/mind thirsting to perform their functions - all of which
imply underlying desire. Sada, please do not think of it as a challenge from
me - just reflect on this and test the validity of your jnaana.

In another sense jnaana/reality is equal to self existence i.e, for the
normal human apart from the things that (s)he experiences/finds pleasure in
the world he has no existence/identity. (People who doubt this, all you have
to do is test this out - give up the top 5 things which give you the most
satisfaction/pleasure for just 1 week and see how you feel - without all
that external to give you pleasure/satisfaction/happiness and thus sustain
your identity, you'll feel like your whole life has been overturned and lost
purpose). Do you think your intellectual understanding has given you the
capability to reject the pleasures of the world and abide in yourself? Test
it out.

7. According to Advaita the Atman always is. But doesn't intellectual
understanding necessarily imply that which you are ignorant of that
understanding first and then knowledge arises?

Yes, there's some similarity between the "knowledge and ignornace" here and
the tenets of Advaita - but are these the knowledge and ignorance that
Advaita is talking about?

8. Also according to Advaita it is "brahma vid brahmaiva bhavati" - that is
on liberation you'll become reality - consciousness. So the knowledge that
you're not only yourself but you are everything should always be present.
One of the reasons the phenomenal self is the false self is that it is not
always present - for when your mind is lost in the object like say when
you're watching a movie etc or in deep sleep the phenomenal self - the "I"
feeling that you have when you are conscious of yourself, is not present.
Please differentiate between this "I" sense as the self awareness of the
person who's experiencing the state and the inferential reasoning like :
you're present in deep sleep since you wake up as the same person etc.

Is your intellectual understanding of the Advaitic metaphysical self always
present? Even when your mind is lost when answering this post or watching a
movie or in deep sleep?

Also intellectual understanding is what is retained by the mind. Many things
that we intellectually understood during school/college, we've already
forgotten. So will your understanding stand the test of time? When you grow
old and your mind becomes weak and forgetful, will it still be retained?

Sada, take your time to think on all these issues. I don't expect/rather do
not want answers from you immediately. Wait for my other two posts too.
After all three, you can present further arguments.

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