[Advaita-l] A Perspective - 25

Kuntimaddi Sadananda ksadananda108 at gmail.com
Sun Mar 21 10:28:41 CDT 2010

Obstacles for Self-knowledge: We are discussing the obstacles for
self-realization based on the Krishna’s statement in Gita 4-40, where He
states that 1. avidya (ignorance), 2. ashraddha (faith), 3. samShaya (doubt)
form there major obstacles. The discussion below is based on some of the
comments noted in the advaita lists.

Avidya is mula avidya which is termed as self-ignorance, that is, the lack
of knowledge of our intrinsic nature. All other problems form secondary
problems arising because of this muula avidya or fundamental ignorance. Not
solving this fundamental problem will not help in solving other problems
that are bounded by space and time. In solving other problems I can take the
help of others or designate others to do on my behalf, for example, all
karmas or all the rituals; that is by proxy, but any knowledge can be gained
only by self study. Not even Bhagavan can help in this.  He may send a good
teacher for teaching or he may himself take the role of a teacher, but
knowledge has to be done by the individual mind alone. Other than the
intellect there is no other instrument available for new knowledge. Hence
knowledge, by definition, is intellectual. With the intellect we need to
understand that I am not the intellect and also because of which the very
intellect that I am not, dynamically functions. The ignorance, we said, is
anaadi or beginningless. This is true for any ignorance, such as ignorance
of physics or ignorance of chemistry. Even though it is anaadi, it can be
eliminated when one gains the knowledge of that subject. The same is true
for self-knowledge. The self-ignorance can go away only by self-knowledge.
Another important point to note is that any knowledge is gained only by a
pramANa, an instrument of knowledge. Advaita subscribes six means of
knowledge, of which the prominent ones are pratyaksha or direct perception,
anumaana or logical inference and shabda or word of a trustworthy person.
Since self is the subject which cannot be objectified, the perception and
anumaana cannot reveal self-knowledge. Perception and anumaana or logic work
only in the field of objective world. Hence only pramANa for understanding
the Self is Vedanta or Upanishad pramANa. Vedas are considered as
apourusheyam or not authored by a human being and therefore are free from
defects associated with human intellect. We accept any teacher’s teaching as
long as those teachings are in tune with the Vedanta. We need a live teacher
from whom we can learn Vedanta, with the full faith that the teachings of
the Vedanta by the teacher are indeed true – that is shraddhaa which
Shankara defines as – shaastrasya guru vaakyasya satyabuddhaavadhaaranaa. We
analyzed the role of shraddhaa or faith required in the teaching. For the
teaching to work, absolute faith is essential. Question people ask is can
one have a teacher who is not alive. Not so, because there is no way a
student can clarify his doubts from a dead-teacher. If he has to relay on
someone else to clarify his knowledge, then he should have full faith in the
teaching of that person that they are indeed are true and are in tune with
Vedanta. Therefore a live teacher is a must. Krishna says clearly – that one
has to approach (obviously a live-guru) a teacher with full faith and ask
relevant questions pertaining to Vedanta – tat viddhi praNipaatena
paripraShnena sevayaa. Muduka Up. says – tat vijnaanaartham sa gurum eva
abhigacchet – one has to approach a teacher alone (gurum eva) to gain that
knowledge – approaching the teacher with samit paaNiH – with fire wood that
was needed in those days,  indicative of readiness to serve and to be
disciplined. Now-a-days there is no need of fire-wood. Hence one can
approach with a check book instead – to support the teacher or the
institution that supports him. Tai. Up says the teacher obligation is to
teach freely but at the same time the student’s obligation is to give back
to the teacher – aachaaryaaya priyam dhanam aahRtya, ..( the obligation is
to procure and give the wealth that pleases the teacher). Obligations are
two fold. 1. Providing the required support to the best that one can do for
the sustenance of that teaching institution and 2. After learning, teach
others who come to him with full faith. Propagation of the knowledge to the
worthy students who approach the teacher with the attitude of learning is
the foundation of our Vedic culture. Hence student prays the Lord in
advance–(Once I become a teacher) please send many worthy students from all
directions – aa maayantu brahma chaariNaH swaahaa| vi maayantu brahma
chaariNa swaahaa| pramaayantu brahma chaariNaH swaahaa| damaayantu
brahmachaariNaH swaahaa| - The request is very specific - to send students
who are well prepared and who have shama, damaadi Shatka sampaathis – or
mentally well disciplined and brilliant students. Guru-shishya chain is
indicated by the very prayer.

Krishna, while glorifying the Vedantic teacher in Gita ch.18, says to whom
one can teach and to whom one should not teach. One should teach only to
those who have shraddhaa or faith in the teachings and in the methodology.
We respect all realized masters but all cannot be the teachers. Only those
who have learned Vedanta, not only the truth but how to teach also – which
is termed as sampradaaya teacher – can teach properly the truth knowing very
well the pit-falls that the student can fall into.   This is one of the
problems in trying to gain the knowledge by listening to JK where he himself
dismisses the teacher – although it is claimed that he himself wrote a book
– at the feet of the master – when he was associated with Theosophical
lodge. ( I will analyze some of his lectures later and show where the
problem arises if one does not have the Vedantic background).

The moment jnaanam raises it removes ignorance – like the moment a light is
brought in all the darkness instantaneously disappears, even if that
darkness has been there from the beginning of the creation.  The moment
ignorance is removed all dvaitam is removed (that is the misconception of
the reality to duality is removed. Duality is falsified in the wake of

Even though ignorance is beginningless – with mushrooming effects of –
sanchita-aagaami-and praarabda karmas, it appears that it is very difficult
to get rid off. Sureswara says knowledge being fact is always stronger than
thousands of misconceptions. Falsehood cannot stand in front of truth.
satyameva jajate, na anRitam - is the Vedic proverb. Jnaanam destroys
ignorance and errors. In addition only knowledge can destroy ignorance –
samyak jnaanam na baadhyate –because it is born of proper instrument of
knowledge, once it arises it never gets destroyed. This knowledge does not
require any other support like meditation or saadhana for negating samsaara.
Even meditation is not required to strengthen the knowledge. It does not
require even karma. The role of karma yoga is only to convert the student
into a worthy listener. Meditation is only to internalize the knowledge that
has taken place. It is for recognition that there is nothing more is needed
to know. Knowledge also cannot be negated or falsified by the experience of
duality. Knowledge recognizes the falsity of the experiential duality. It is
similar to the knowledge that sun never rises or sets does not negate the
experience of the sunrise and sunset – it only helps to recognize the
falsity of the experiential sunrise and sunset. That means the jnaani still
sees the duality but recognizes the falsity of the duality that is
experienced. Therefore, samyak jnaanam – right understanding born out of
proper study of Upanishadic scriptures – is more than sufficient for the
negation of the ignorance. That understanding takes place only if I have a
faith in the teaching.

Related to the lack of shraddhaa is the doubt about the pramANa itself, when
the teacher says you are seeking the fulfillment in life and what you are
seeking is what you already are. However that knowledge, tat tvam asi, does
not get registered in the mind, due to lack of a strong conviction of the
truth of the teaching. One wants a further proof of the statement, mainly
because of strong personal experiences or impressions that are contradictory
to the teaching itself. People generally say advaita is very difficult to
understand. That is an immediate red signal. The implication of that
statement is my intense transactional experience contradicts the teaching of
advaita that says what you are experiencing is not real, because of the fact
that you are experiencing; and that which is real cannot be experienced,
since it is not an object for experiencing. If I see a chair out there,
advaita says there is really no chair out there, since I am seeing. What is
really there cannot be seen. The pramANas that I use to perceive the world
contradicts the teaching itself. Hence only pramANa is the Shaastra pramANa.
One cannot use any other pramANa to confirm or to deny the teaching. Hence
Krishna says shamshaya or doubt about the mahaavaakya as pramaaNa, where the
identity of the self and the total self, will cause degradation of the
individual since he will relay objectivity as reality which is inherently
erroneous. That Brahman is alone is the ultimate truth cannot be proved by
any other means, and that Brahman is none other than myself says the
scriptures. Therefore, no proof is also required. Other than advaita no
other philosophy subscribes to oneness of the ultimate reality. The great
aachaaryaas of other philosophies, including both theistic and atheistic
philosophies namely, sankhyaa, yoga, nyaya, vaisheshika, puurva miimamsa,
dvaita, vishiShTaadvaita, Bhuddism, Jainism, etc have all problems in
appreciating the non-duality at the absolute level. They all interpret the
mahaavaakyaas emphasizing the duality. They all subscribe to multiple jiivas
and some even claim that each jiiva is all pervading - nityaH sarvagataH
sthaaNuH acaloyam sanaatanaH – that which is eternal, all pervading, firm,
immovable and beginningless – all-pervading yet finite are contradictory in
terms. Hence Dattaatreya says in avadhuuta gita – Iswaraanugrahaat eva
pumsaam advaita vaasanaas – only by the grace of God one acquires the
inklings towards advaita philosophy.

The next prominent obstacles for self-realization is longing for some
Brahman experience: Lack of clear understanding of the nature of the truth
or mahaavaakya causes one to long for some Brahman-experience.  There is
notion that understanding of the nature of the truth is recognition of
oneself as ever present and eternally liberated or free from all limitation.
Realization is the realization that there is nothing else to realize but
recognition of the fact that I am, by nature, complete and full. All are in
me but I am not in any of particular thing, including this body, mind and
intellect. There are those who claim that they have studied Vedanta and I do
not want to waste any more time in intellectual discussions, and all they
want to do now is to sit down now and meditate for self-realization or
experience of aatma or the self. Some claim that there is no need to study
Vedanta – there is a direct path and that is sit down and enquire –who am
I?. Even by proper inquiry of who am I, it can only take you to the
understanding that I am existent-consciousness or saakshii swarupam or tvam
padaartham. Without the clear understanding of mahaavaakya that related to
tvam tat into one has not discovered that one is free. Any idea to the
effect that I have understood Vedanta intellectually, and for
self-realization I need to sit down now and meditate on it, or one has to
take sanyaasa to realize is a red signal, showing that Vedanta mahaavaakya
is not understood correctly.  It should be recognized that meditation is not
a means of knowledge or pramANa to provide the self-knowledge. It should
also be recognized that only through intellect one can know that I am not
the intellect but the very substratum of the intellect – similar to
recognition while looking at the pot, that there is no pot there. What is
there is only clay in the form of a pot. Similarly intellect is required to
recognize that I am not the intellect and I am that because of which I am
able to make a statement that I am not the intellect using intellect. Kena
says – yat manasaa na manute ye na hurmano matam, tat eve brahma tvam viddhi
na idam yat idam upaasate| - that which mind cannot think of (mind can only
think of the objects) but because of which mind has the capacity to think of
– that alone is Brahman not this that you worship. Then what is
nidhidhyaasana for?

Vedantic meditation involves sitting down and inquiring into the meaning of
the mahaavaakyas staring from tat tvam asi only in order to recognize and
establish my self in that identity of my true nature.  As we discussed
before the knowledge takes place by Shravana and manana since it is direct
and immediate since the statements concern about myself which is ever
present. PramaaNa operated by shravana as in the tenth man. Manana
eliminates all the doubts related to the pramaaNa. Doubt-free knowledge
alone is complete knowledge.  Then, Nidhidhyaasana or meditative inquiry
into the nature of reality will help in eliminating the habitual mental
notions formed before the dawn of the knowledge. These habitual notions that
involving the notions that I am not that will side track the background
understanding. Habits die hard. (Swami Dheeranandaji of Chinmaya Misson,
Washington D.C. says even if one removes H from the word Habit, a bit still
remains, and if one removes - a -also, -bit- still remains and if one
removes –b-, -it- still remains. Only when the little i representing the ego
is removed, the truth t becomes self-revealing). Only way to overcome these
and for the mind not to get entangled in the external world of plurality is
to have constant reminder of my true nature that I have understood through
shravana and manana. Krishna says by abhyaasa and vairaagya, that is by
practice and by withdrawing from unnecessary involvements one can achieve
this. This is what is emphasized in the jnana-karma-sanyaasa or that is by
knowledge one can withdraw mind’s indulgence in the involvement of the day
to day transactions. In this respect the jnaana sanyaasa or vidhvat sanyaasa
is helpful for a jnaani to abide himself in the jnaana. Krishna gives an
elaborate analysis of a jnaani or sthitaprajna in dealing with the day to
day transactions which cannot be avoided as long as one is living with BMI.
The understanding of the mahavaakyaas gets one firmly established when the
praarabda-vaasana-generated emotions in the mind do not perturb the
equanimity of the mind gained through the absolute knowledge of the self.
Hence Krishna say a jaani is one whose mind is devoid of attachments,  –
dukheShu anudvigna manaaH sukheShu vigata spRuhaH| viita raaga bhaya krodhaH
thitadhiiH muniH uchyate|| The one whom mind is not perturbed when sorrow
comes or excited when objects that bring pleasure come, one who is devoid of
attachments, fear, anger and who is firmly abiding in his knowledge is
called muni. Obviously jnaani has the mind but he is not affected by the
fluctuating emotions in the mind. He can withdraw the mind like the tortoise
withdraws it limbs when sees mind is getting lost in vyavahaara.

Longing for an experience of the absolute is therefore constitute a big
hurdle in the self-realization. The fact of the matter is the absolute truth
cannot be experienced and also need not be experienced, since it is the
experiencer himself in all the experiences. Yet the constant nagging
question remains; if I am already complete or full or limitless, how come I
feel I am terribly incomplete and utterly inadequate person, wanting many
things that I do not have. How can one prove that I am complete and full
already? Implication is I am looking for an independent objective
confirmation, other than the scriptures, the confirmation that does not
depend on one’s faith, or subjective assertions. Even if any realized person
comes and says – yes what the scripture says is indeed true - such
statements also do not provide the proof since there is no litmus test to
prove that he has realized. Ultimately it is only shabda pramANa where faith
in the statement of the scriptures is essential for knowledge to take place.

Even those philosophers or Vedic scholars, dvaitins and vishiShTaadvaitins,
who have the faith in the scriptures do not consider that the mahaavaakyas
provide the absolute truth with identity of jiiva-jagat and Iswara as one –
adviatam – that is beyond the waking, dream and deep sleep states –
…advaitam, caturtham manyante sa aatmaa, sa vijneyaH, Man.Up. For them
duality is the ultimate reality, in spite of the fact that the scriptures
says even a speck of duality will cause fear – udaramantaram kurute
athathasya bhayam bhavati – Tai. Up. Even the Patanjali yoga that stresses
on the nirvikalpaka samaadhi ascertains that the absolute reality is not
advaita or non-duality but plurality involving Iswara and multitude of
jiivas. Obviously the nirvikalpaka samaadhi of Patanjali does not give the
knowledge of advaita, since it is not a means of knowledge or pramANa. Mind
is required to gain any knowledge including self-knowledge. Mahaavaakya as
pramANa will work in the hands of a competent teacher. A competent teacher
is one who was a competent student before. Thus Vedantic tradition and a
proper means of study are ascertained. There are always exceptions to the
rule but we do not make rule out of exceptions. As Paramarthanandaji says
self-realization is not by intuition but by being in tuition.

Hari Om!


More information about the Advaita-l mailing list