Tat tvam asi?

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Wed Feb 13 21:35:17 CST 2002

On Tue, 12 Feb 2002, nanda chandran wrote:

> Note that Shankara himself says that even a thousand shrutis cannot make a
> fire cold and that reason has to be given preference over revelation because
> it is nearer our experience.

Let us finish the quote "...in the matters for which reason is relevant."
Knowledge of Brahman is not the same as knowledge of heat and cold.  How
can perception be a valid guide when it is the nature of perception itself
which is under suspicion?

Also let me point out again that hearing or reading the Shruti is just as
much "experience" as anything else.

> That's the reason I said that analyze your
> expereinces by themselves and when you reach a stage where you cannot go
> further, from then on use the shruti.

This is how it is done by many people nowadays but it exactly backwards
from the way of life envisioned by our sages.  One should start from the
shastras, take them as far as they can go and then learn the inner meaning
when you can't go further.  This is why the teaching of the upanishads is
called Vedanta--the "end" or culmination of the Vedas.  Dharma provides a
total way of life from marriage to profession to which way you should
arrange your bedroom furniture[1]. It is as one progresses that one
gradually learns to give up the worldly aspects of life (including the
worldly aspects of Dharma.)

 > Note that this doesn't mean that you
> have to use reason blindly. Be guided by the shruti. All that it teaches
> about phenomenal life - like the three states of experience - take such
> categories and evaluate them independently with reason. Then try to
> reconcile your understanding with the shruti. That way your understanding
> will be more accurate. That's the reason the adorable Gauda says that only
> that which is taught by the shruti and proved by reason is the truth and
> nothing else.

I agree with that but it just goes to show that all the pramanas work
together.  One cannot use one in the sphere of another or say one is
paramount over the others.  Each shows a different aspect of the truth.
Brahman is something which is known only from the shastras.  The other
pramanas may provide some side information about it but they cannot say
anything authoritative about it.

> If you take the shruti's revelations first then you'll have a conception of
> the Atman or Brahman which anyway has no real basis as you've never
> experienced it in itself as it is supersensible.

By the very fact that you are using the words Atman and Brahman instead of
icebucket or fire engine it shows that you have a preconception.  A word
is not just random passage of air through the vocal cords, it carries a
meaning.  And that meaning doesn't come unbidden on a whim, it is learned

> Then armed with the
> conception of something which cannot be conceptualized you'll waste your
> life away trying to reconcile it with reason. I've seen quite a few people
> who've done this - after years of studying advaita, the Atman is still only
> an idea for them - not something that is to be lived as an integral
> experience.

I agree that such people are doing something wrong but would again like to
point that others who come to know Brahman through study are living no
less of an integral experience.

[1] in case anyone is wondering your bed should be arranged so your head
is pointing north or east.
Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
It's a girl! See the pictures - http://www.braincells.com/shailaja/

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