[Advaita-l] Jnanam and Meditation

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Mon Aug 9 12:43:15 CDT 2004

On Thu, 5 Aug 2004, Balaji Krishnapuram wrote:

> Question 1:
> -----------
> How is this even possible then that the Brahman can be realized!? My
> interpretation seems flawed because logically points 1 and 2 seem to be in
> contradiction.

It is known through negative means.  When the false or rather
misunderstood (mithya) thoughts have been eliminated, the pure
consciousness alone remains.

This illustrates a difference between Advaita Vedanta and some of the
other philosophical currents in Indian thought.

Buddhism for example (at least the idealist types) considers the
elimination of false concepts to go to the ultimate extreme, the "snuffing
out" (nirvana) of the idea of self.

Samkhya/Yoga thinks the best that can be done is a kind of stasis
(samadhi) in which self and non-self are seperate.

Advaita Vedanta tries to make the self "full" (purna) by expanding it from
the limited notion of ego (ahamkara) to cover everything.  This is why it
is wrong to translate maya as "illusion" it is avidya (ignorance) which
cause that which is real to be thought as seperate when it is actually
ones own self.

> What is the true purpose of meditation? Can it ever lead to Jnanam
> ("enlightenment" in the words of some commentaries)?

No it cannot.  And you are right that meditation is lumped together with
karma not jnana by Advaitins.

> The state of continuous non-thought (when there is no perceiver or perceived
> and they have thus merged into one) in the height of meditation is the
> Thuriya state: this seems to imply that this height of meditation allows the
> Brahman to be experienced. This experience is referred to as the
> "realization" and they seem to imply that the active experience of the
> Brahman is essential for Jnanam. This school often dismisses all other
> approaches as "bookish" and the basis of this claim is that they draw a
> distinction between experience and "intellectual knowledge".

"Experience of Brahman" suggests a duality between seer and seen.  This is
in keeping with the dualistic philosophy of classical samkhya/yoga which
originated the terminology of e.g. samadhi etc.  As I mentioned above the
goal of samkhya/yoga is for the purusha (soul) to be nothing more than an
eternal independent witness to prakrti (nature.)

jnana in advaita vedanta has an experiental side too, but it is Brahman
doing the experiencing, it is Brahman who is the experience.

> For example one explanation used is that no amount of talking about the
> taste of sugar will help the listener "understand" what it tastes like. The
> only way to explain the taste of sugar is direct experience. Once both
> speaker and listener have experience of this taste, then it makes sense to
> talk of it using words, but not before this.

An Advaitin would reply that the important thing is not the experience of
the taste, but the knowledge that sugar and tongue are one and the same.

> It seems to me that every experience in our every day life, and every
> thought, and even every non-thought is a reflection of the Brahman. Thus the
> only experience of the Brahman possible is the Maya all around us and we
> have been experiencing this all the time. Even non-thought has been
> happening in or life all the time from our birth: which of us has
> continuously had thoughts? Thus in the intervsal between two thoughts there
> has been a silence, though that silence has perhaps not been consciously
> observed. Further, no doubt in the time when there is no thoughts there is
> Brahman, but the same Brahman is not absent when there are thoughts!

Yes.  One should believe that Brahman is absent and we are trying to find
it.  Rather that all those every day experiences which we mistakenly
thought were not Brahman were in fact Brahman.

> So in this interpretation, each of us has already had the necessary (and
> indeed all possible) experiences, the difficulty is only a matter of wrong
> interpretation due to ignorance of the truth. Swami Dayananda Saraswati and
> his school sometimes make this point strongly by saying "all experience is
> still only in the form of some intellectual knowledge, thus there is no
> distinction that can be drawn between intellectual knowledge and
> experience".


Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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