[Advaita-l] Obstacles for Spiritual Progress -4 - Part I

kuntimaddi sadananda via Advaita-l advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
Thu Jul 24 07:44:32 CDT 2014

PraNAms - this is continuation of the series. Previous posts can be found in the archives.

Posted in two parts due to length of the article.

Hari Om!
                                                                 Obstacles for Spiritual Progress - IV

Part 1

We are discussing the obstacles for self-realization based on the Krishna’s statement in Gita 4-40, where He states that there are three major obstacles, namely 1. avidya (ignorance), 2. ashraddhaa (lack of faith), 3. samShaya (doubt). Here samshaya or doubts are concerning the validity of the Vedanta as means of knowledge or pramANa. Any doubt of a student related to his understanding of the teaching must, of course, be cleared by asking his teacher. Those doubts are normal and valid, as Arjuna kept on asking in Geeta, until the last chapter. Therefore, in the above mentioned sloka, we are not referring to those doubts, but the doubts related to the validity of Vedanta itself as the means of knowledge, and about the truth revealed by the Vedanta. Here the pramaaNa or means of knowledge is Vedanta’s aphoristic statements called mahaavaakyaas that equate the individual soul to the totality, such as – I AM INFINITE or aham brahmaasmi. Here the basic
 doubt manifests as – How can I be infinite when all my day-to-day transactions or experiences are confirming my severe limitations at every second?  

Another problem we face is, if we say that Vedanta is the only pramaaNa, then question can be asked about other religious masters who have not studied Vedanta or do not accept Vedantic teaching.  For this, our answer is that Vedanta is a science, and therefore we accept statements of any religious teacher that agrees with the science of Vedanta. In essence, it is the teaching that points to the oneness of the substantive of individual, world and Iswara. It does not matter who says it, the truth is the truth, and that is the nature of any science, including science of Vedanta. All other sciences that we are familiar with fall in the realm of objective sciences that use objective tools to validate the truth. Vedanta says these are only relative sciences, since it does not include the subject, I, the conscious entity, who is pre-requisite for validation of the any objective truths. If there is no conscious entity to validate or prove the existence of the
 object, its existence remains as indeterminate. Determination requires a conscious entity that is self-existing and self-conscious, and therefore self-revealing. In essence I do not need any means of knowledge to know that I am there and I am conscious entity. Vedanta becomes a means of knowledge to reveal the existence-consciousness that I am is infinite and therefore include even the objective world. Hence Vedanta forms an absolute science. 

Since this statement of identity of subject, I, the world, and the creator of the world, Lord, cannot be established by any other way or any other pramaaNa other than by Vedanta, it becomes a pramANa or means of knowledge.  This is the ultimate knowledge, veda anta, knowing which every thing else is as well known. The philosophies that differentiate jiiva, the individual, jagat, the world, and Iswara, the God or the total self (whether they are based on Vedas or not), are tentatively accepted only as a stepping stone, until the mind of the student becomes mature enough to reject such a dualistic philosophies and ascertain the oneness implied in the identity relation. This method of approach is called adhyaaropa apavaada, that is, tentative acceptance and subsequent rejection as suggested by the Vedanta itself. Scripture itself uses this methodology as in the example of the analysis of the five sheaths or pancakosha vivarana, in Tai. Up. Here, initially,
 each kosha or sheath is considered as aatma, the self, and it is subsequently negated in preference to the next subtler kosha, until one arrives at the pure sat-chit-ananda swaruupa aatma. Hence all philosophies, Vedic or non-Vedic, are tentatively accepted as preliminary or preparatory technology for purification of the mind (chitta suddhi), but freedom or moksha can be recognized only by the essential teaching of mahaavaakya, tat tvam asi, or you are that totality. This is not a fanatical statement but a statement of a fact, since one cannot be free unless one becomes limitless and one cannot become limitless unless one already is; and that teaching that provides this understanding of advaita or non-duality is Vedanta. Thus subject-object duality exists at transactional level but from the absolute reference, I alone am as the very substratum for the individual, the world and the Iswara. 

Any dvaitic philosophy will not lead the seeker to moksha, since moksha by definition involves freedom from all limitations. In dvaita, each limits the other; hence neither one can be limitless. Furthermore, that the truth is something else beyond I, the self, is illogical, since I can negate everything else other than myself, as in deep sleep state. The thing that can never be negated alone is the absolute truth, which is called Brahman. Hence logically also I cannot but be Brahman. If I have doubts about this fundamental truth, then Krishna says there is no salvation, either here or in the higher world, or lokas – na ayam lokaH asti, na paraH, na sukham, samshayaatmanaH| -Geeta 4:40. 

Hence Krishna’s strong statement that those who have doubts about the teaching itself therefore do not attempt to purify their minds to appreciate this teaching. Hence they will neither achieve anything in this material world or in the spiritual world. They loose out in the material world also as their extroverted minds get cocooned in the sensuous fields contributing only to their further down-fall. One falls deeper into the ocean of samasaara - kRitimahodadhou patanakaaraNam – says Bhagavaan Ramana. One gets caught up and moves from one whirl-pool to the other -says Shree Vidhyaaranya in Pancadasi. 

Since I have to have clear understanding of identity relation between individual and the total as the essential truth (mahaavaakya, Vedantic aphoristic statement), and if there are exceptional cases of religious masters who have not apparently gone through Vedantic shravana-manana-nidhidhyaasana, it is implied that they must have been exposed to that knowledge in the last life. Shree Krishna, in fact, declares that those who have progressed spiritually in this life but due to some obstacles have not realized, they will be born in the next life in a conducive environment that helps them in their rapid progress. He says that such a birth is rare indeed. This may sound like begging an issue, but the fact remains that there is no freedom for an individual soul unless he recognizes that he is indeed limitless, i.e. aham brahmaasmi has to be understood, in one way or the other. The teaching of that absolute truth is Vedanta or the ultimate knowledge. Hence
 Shankara says in VevekachUDAmaNi: 

na yogena na saankhyena karmaNaa no na vidyayaa| 
brahmaatmaikatva bodhena mokshaH siddhyati, na anyathaa| 

Neither yoga, sankhya, karma, or mere study of scriptures gives the freedom. Only thing that liberates an individual is a clear understanding of the identity of individual soul and the total or Brahman, and nothing else.   
Continued in the next part

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