[Advaita-l] Faith as the basis for understanding Vedanta
kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Sat Sep 10 13:54:40 CDT 2011
Just as change of the subject and to bring our attention to the core of Vedanta and how faith plays an important role, I am reposting an article that I had posted earlier as part of jnaana yoga series.
Jnaana yoga and Self-realization-III
We discussed how or when to proceed from karma yoga to jnaana yoga. It is important to realize there are tripuTi-s or triads involved in both karma and jnaana in terms of their origin or utpatti. In karma the triads involve actor, acting and object of action – when we say Rama killed RavaNa, we have the subject Rama who is the actor and object of action is Ravana, it was his karma to get killed by Rama, and the action of killing. Rama is not Ravana, and Rama and RavaNa are not the action of killing. By mutual exclusion each limits the other and each is separate from the other. Thus dvaita (or plurality) forms the basis for karma. In the jnaana utpatti also we have tripuTi or three factors – knower, known and knowing. The jnaana prakriya, in terms of praamaata (knower), prameya (known) and pramaaNa (means of knowing), is extensively discussed in the Critical Analysis of Vedanta paribhASha (see for example,
<http://www.advaita.org.uk/discourses/knowledge/intro1.htm> . All are in the realm of dvaita, since by mutual exclusion knower is different from the known and the knowing. There is of course fundamental difference between karma and jnaana as elucidated by Sureswara in his Naiskarmya Siddhi. Karma is not only originated in dvaita but it subsists in dvaita or by dvaita, since any result of karma, which need not be immediate, depends on dvaita only. For example, a ritual performed to go to heaven, will materialize only after one departs from this loka. For some punya and papa, or merits and demerits to fructify, it may take different lokas or many lives. In contrast, jnaana is like a light. As soon as it arises or as it is arising it removes the ignorance, just as the when the light is lighted even though the lighting involves process or tripuTi’s and the auxiliary karanaas (as in lighting the candle with a match stick, etc), the result is immediate
– the result being the removal of darkness. Karma is purusha tantra, that is, it depends on the performer while jnaana is vastu tantra, it depends on the object. When I hear a lecture, what I listen and understand does not depend on me but on the speaker, but when I decide to take notes, the extent of notes I take depends on me, the kartaa.
The example of lighting of a candle illustrates some important aspects of jnaana. Once I understand by shravanam the nature of the reality that I am sat chit ananda, the ignorance that I am a jiiva with identification with body mind and intellect goes instantaneously.
To illustrate this point, an example of 10th man-missing story is given. When the teacher points out that you are the missing the tenth man that you are searching for all along, the knowledge is not paroksha or indirect but aparoksha or immediate and direct, since you are that, and not you are going to become that, after some time or after you have taken sanyaasa or after you have become parivraajaka, etc. The leader who was searching for the 10th man becomes jiivan muktaH, immediately. Ignorance and knowledge cannot co-exist. To say that other external requirements are need to be fulfilled to fructify the knowledge is against the very nature of jnaana itself. It is like saying I have lighted the candle but since darkness has been there for ages it will take some time for the light to remove the darkness.
What is needed for the jnaana prakriya to take place is that the mind has to be prepared. The reason is obvious – YOU are all the time THAT, even if you do not know. When you do not know you are that, even though you are that, the very teaching that points to the fact should immediately reveal the true identity one self –unless there are some pratibhandhakas or obstructions covering the light of knowledge, such as I have doubts about the teaching itself, or due to firmly rooted preconceived notions that I cannot accept the teaching even when Vedanta teaches you are that. It is like a prince, who was abducted when he was a child and grow-up like a beggar on the street, does not easily believe that he is the missing prince. One can become a king but not a prince. For one to be a prince, one has to be born to a king. Scripture addresses us – not as other religions do as you sinners - but as - Ye the sons of Immortality! – ShRinvantu veshve
amRitasya putraaH! ; In spite of that, we pray – mRityormaa amRitam gamaya – please led us from mortality to immortality, while the scripture is screaming that we are the very sons of immortality.
Although this example of the missing 10th man story is quite well known, the operation of the ‘tat tvam asi’ as mahaavaakya has to be clearly understood. This is the teaching of the scriptures via the teacher to the seeker. For the communication to be successful certain qualifications are necessary. If I enter a Physics class and the teacher is teaching E = mc2, even though I know what are E, m and c letters, I would not understand the significance of that teaching. Hence, we have gradations in the mental maturity of the students – broadly as uttama (the highest), madhyama (middle) and adhama (the lowest) adhikaaries or qualified students. Since the teaching is by communication, let us look at a simple statement by a teacher, ‘maanasa sarovar is of ten miles long’. This is a statement that involves subject, maanasa sarovar and predicate that describes the qualification of the subject. Of the two, subject and predicate, the sentence makes
sense to me only if I know the subject, and does not know the predicate. The sentence will provide me a new knowledge about the subject that I know. If I do not know what maanasa sarovar is, the information provided makes no sense to me; it would be as good as knowing that some gaagaabuubu is ten miles long. Thus if I do not know both the subject and the predicate, the teaching is useless. If I already know both the subject and the predicate, the teaching is redundant. The teaching is most effective only if I know the subject of the statement, maanasa sarovar and do not know the predicate pertaining to it.
Now let us look at – you are the missing 10th man – story. The leader is looking for the 10th man everywhere, and the leader also knows he himself exists and he is not missing. However, he thinks that the 10th man is missing. He has negated the first 9 people as neti neti, that is, first is not the 10th man, second is not the 10th man, etc., and still searching for the 10th man. He cannot find the 10th man anywhere that he could see. He was devastated. When the teacher says the 10th man exists (asti), his mind is relieved and wants to know whereabouts of the 10th man. Then the teacher says, tat tvam asi, ‘you are the 10th man’. That is, the leader knows the tvam padaartha thoroughly when the teacher points out that ‘YOU’. Hence the subject is very much known that he exists and is not missing. The object that one is searching is the missing 10th man. Hence the statement by the teacher ‘ YOU, are the 10th man’ makes immediate sense to
the leader, who knows himself as existent entity and now knows that he himself was the missing 10th man. He experiences the 10th man immediately and directly – aparokshaanubhuuti. He did not suddenly become the 10th man. He was searching for the 10th man allover, except where he really has been. He has been the 10th man, even when he was searching for the 10th man. The seeker himself was the sought. Once he discovers that he himself is the missing 10th man who was never missing at any time, all the seeking for the 10th man stops and all the anxieties that arose due to the missing 10th man subsided. He has self-realization. Is it an experience or knowledge? Here both are the same. It is not experience-experiencer and experience or knower-known and knowing tripuTi-s, but clear understanding that the object that he is looking for is the very subject himself. The experiencer and the experienced, or knower and the known have become ‘as though’ one
in that identity relation.
Let us apply now to the mahaavaakya – tat tvam asi. This teaching with the identity relation becomes effective when two things are thoroughly known. The first thing is ‘tvam padaartha’ and the next thing ‘tat padaartha’. What is not known is the identity relation between the two. In Gita it was said that the first six chapters predominately deal with tvam padaartha and next six chapters deal with tat padaartha and the remaining six chapters deal with the identity relation, which requires operation of bhaaga tyaaga lakshaNam. Our understanding of the meaning for ‘tvam’ is different from what ‘tvam’ that Vedanta refers to in the identity relation. Before we can understand the sentence, we need to under the subject that is being referenced. Before I understand the significance of the statement ‘maanasa sarovar is 10 miles long’, I need to know maanasa sarovar that is the subject of the sentence that is being qualified. Hence I need to
know first the ‘tvam’ that is being pointed out in the identity relation.
In principle, one can arrive at the nature of oneself – tvam padaartha, either by the study of the scriptures or even by meditation on the subject – I; the subject, I, must be different from the object - this. That is, one can use anvaya vyatireka logic, or dRik-dRisya viveka, or avasthaatraya, or pancakosha vilaskhaNa analysis or all of the above, to understand that I am not this – I am pure existence consciousness that I am. Essentially I am saakshii, the witnessing consciousness that is different from the witnessed objects that include all the objects in the world, including panca koshas. Clear understanding of who that I am is, constitutes the understanding of tvam padaartham. Clear understanding involves no more confusion of mixing the subject I with the object this, as I am this. That is, the ahankaara gets dissolved in the understanding that I am the witnessing consciousness. That is what is involved in the ‘who am I’ inquiry.
Up to this point, I can understand who am I, by the enquiry of the subject I, as different from the object, this. To accomplish this, I can use the scriptural teachings, or even sharp intellectual discrimination of subject from object. Meditation can take me up to this point and even to nirvikalpaka samaadhi, where I am with myself without any objectification, since all objects are silenced by sublimating them. That constitutes only the understanding that I am pure witnessing consciousness – the subject in the identity relation. In the maanasa sarovar example, knowing who am I, in the tat tvam asi statement - is like knowing only the subject part that is being referenced in the statement ‘maanasa sarovar is 10 miles long’. That knowledge is necessary before understanding the predicate in the sentence ‘maanasa sarovar is 10 miles long. Now let us look at the rest of the sentence which is predicated for the maanasa sarovar. It says, ‘it is 10
miles long’. The statement now concerns the maanasa sarovar that I know, and what I do not know is that it is 10 miles long. Even though I know now what Maanasa sarovar is, the statement still would not make any sense to me, if I do not know the meanings of the three words used – ten, miles, and long. In relation to tat tvam asi, essentially I should know what is tat padaartha in order understand the relation between tvam and tat. In Gita, starting from seventh chapter to all the way to 12 th chapter, the glory of Iswara is described in detail. In 7th Ch. Krishna says - bhuumiraapo nalo vayuH .. describing that all the panca bhuutas, from which the whole gross and subtle universe is build, is My lower nature – beyond that and yet which supports all these is my higher prakRiti. I pervade this entire universe in an unmanifested form, all beings are in me – they arise in me, sustained by me and go back into me; nay I am not in them in the sense
that their modifications do not affect me – Look at my Vibhuuti or glory, Arjuna – I am the Virat swaruupa that pervade the entire universe, and yet I am beyond the time and space – thus the magnificent description of tat padaartham goes on. This knowledge of tat padaartha can only be obtained via scripture and not by my meditation of who am I. It is only in Vedanta that spells out I am not only an intelligent cause but material and instrumental cause as well. Hence scripture says- yatova imaaani bhuutani jaayante, yena jaatani jiivanti, yat prayantyabhisam vishanti - from which the whole world arose, by which it is sustained and into which it goes back – I am that gati, bhartha, prabhu and saakshii, the goal, the protector, the Lord and witness of this phenomenal world of plurality - the cause for projection and the cause for annihilation too, prabhavaH palayaH sthaanam, sources for everything, biijam and but yet I am immutable, avyayam.
For a student who has clear understanding of both tvam and tat, the mahaavaakya instruction reveals the knowledge of the identity when he has full faith in the teacher’s words. The uttama adhikarari, therefore, is one who has clear understanding of both terms tat and tvam and will be able gain the knowledge by listening to the teacher when the teacher says – tat tvam asi. Once I know what is maanasa sarovar and what are the meanings of the three terms ten, miles, and long, the statement that ‘maanasa sarovar is ten miles long’ makes immediate sense. The statement ‘maanasa sarovar is ten miles long’ is a statement of fact, and is accepted as valid knowledge. This is knowledge of revelation involving the nature of maanasa sarovar, provided I have a faith in the source of revelation; it is not an instruction for any action - to do, not to do, or to do something else. If that information is helpful, then it will be – other wise it is
not. In the case of tat tvam asi, it is also knowledge of a fact and the information is helpful as in the case of the 10th man story, since all search for what I am longing for ends with that knowledge. In this case it is the very fulfillment of life itself.
If my knowledge is not clear regarding either or both, tvam and tat, then the identity relation is not obvious for the student to accept. Since it is the Vedic statement, it is a statement of fact, the fact becomes factual only when understood correctly what the terms and the identity relation mean. Normally, major problem comes from not understanding the significance of the term ‘tvam’. We all know who we are since everybody talks about themselves endlessly, if there are listeners, or at least to themselves in their minds, yet scripture say you are not what you think you are – you are the very subject who has the capacity to think, but not the contents of what you think. You are the witnessing consciousness who is nether waker, nor dreamer nor sleeper, yet in your presence, the waking, dream and deep-sleep states emerge, sustain and dissolve. However, we operate though out our lives, we are as wakers, dreamers and deep-sleepers – while Vedanta
says, the truth is you are none of the three. We say we are kartaa, bhoktaa, jnaataa, etc, doer, enjoyer, knower, etc. while Vedanta says you are saakshii chaitanya or witnessing consciusness, which is akartaa, abhoktaa and ajnaata – witnessing consciousness that is non-doer, non-enjoyer and non-knower. All transactions are done at one level and saakshii is the witnessing consciousness of all the transactions. This lack of shift in understanding of the real nature of tvam forms the major hurdle in the spiritual path – hence the emphasis by Bhagavan Ramana to inquire who you are first before you inquire about the world and the Iswara. Then he says later that ‘…. soham ityasou bhaavanaabhidaa paavanii mata’| saH aham iti – I am He or He is I – that unifying or non-differential understanding of tat and tvam is the most sacred. That saH aham iti bhaavana is the same statement as tat tvam asi declarative statement that comes from mahaavaakya of
Vedanta – where all the terms involved have to be clear to understand the identity relation. Isha jiivayoH vishadhii bhidaa, satva bhaavato vastu kevalam – the Iswara He, and jiiva, aham, the difference between the two is only in the costumes each one is warring, but in their essence they are identical. The identity relation is the essence of all maha vaakyaas.
Hence if the Vedanta has not done its job, it is not the problem of Vedanta nor it is the problem of the teacher, but the problem lies in not clearly understanding the terms tat and tvam and the problem in acceptance of the identity relation between the two. There is no self-realization unless this identity relation is understood as a fact. For that only Vedanta is pramaaNa – hence the statement of Shankara that was quoted before – na yogena na saankhyena karmaNaa no na vidyayaa, brahmaatmaiktva bhodena mokshaH sidhyati na anyathaa! – only by the understanding the identity relation between self and Brahman, one can gain the supreme – brahma vit aapnoti param – knower of Brahman attains the supreme where knowing Brahman involves the knowledge that I am that Brahman.
Hence depending on my mental preparedness or purity, the teaching can sink in immediately after I am convinced of the validity of the knowledge. The primary obstacle or the pratibandhaka is that the mind is not ready to see the fact as fact. For that only shravaNa and mananam is emphasized. We will address some more obstacles or pratibhandhakas that arise inhibiting the awakening of the knowledge.
PS: For those who want to know, the series can also be obtained from www.adviataforum.org under tat tvam asi title.
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