Advaita Vedanta – a periodic Blog

16 November 2013

Yoga-Vasishta – a philosophical text written by Valmiki

Yoga-Vasishta is a philosophical text written by Valmiki. It consists of metaphysical conversations, taking place over several days, between Prince Rama and the Vedic sage Vasishta, on the illusory nature of the manifest world and the principles of non-duality. It is a very long text composed of 32,000 slokas and includes many direct doctrinal discourses, indirect teaching stories, anecdotes about the gods and other famous vedic individuals, and the occasional allegory. The text is known by several alternative names: Maha-Ramayana, Arsha Ramayana, Vasishta Ramayana, and Jnanavasishta.

The Yoga-Vasishta of Valmiki, together with the Dasbodha of Samartha Ramdass, were the two books most valued by Nisargadatta's teacher, Siddharameshwar. Some conceptual similarities can be detected in the teaching of Siddharameshwar and Nisargadatta which are probably derived from the Yoga Vasishta.

Vasishta appears to have had an intimate knowledge of Kapila's Yoga system. Scholars have analysed the Yoga-Vasishta, and believe it contains a mixture of doctrines derived from different traditions, including: Vedanta, Jainism, Yoga, Samkhya, Saiva Siddhanta, and Mahayana Buddhism. The original text dates from at least the 10th century, which was then subjected to enlargement and editing during the 11th to 14th centuries to make its teaching align closer to the philosophy of Vedanta.

The book teaches a seven stage process of spiritual development: 1.Subheccha or longing for the Truth. The sadhaka must distinguish between the permanent and the impermanent, cultivate aversion to pleasure, and acquire control over the gross material body and the mind. He also should develop a yearning for liberation from Samsara. 2. Tanumanasa or the reduction of mental activity. The sadhaka begins to abandon the many and concentrates on the one. 3. Sattvapatti or the attainment of sattva, purity. The yogi now becomes a knower of Brahman. He practices Samprajnata Samadhi, contemplation. But, the consciousness of duality persists. 4. Asamsakti or being unaffected by anything. He performs activities and duties without involvement. 5. Padartha abhavana or seeing Brahman everywhere. The separation of subject and object becomes dissolved. Actions are performed without any sense of being the one who does them. Sancita and Agami Karma are destroyed. Only a small amount of Prarabdha Karma remains. 6. Turiya or permanent Samadhi. The yogi no longer performs any action. Neither promptings coming from within himself, nor from any other person, can induce him to perform action. 7. After entering this final stage, the gross material body falls away after approximately three days. [source: Wikipedia].

The Yoga-Vasishta is divided into six parts: 1. Dispassion. 2. The Method of Final Liberation. 3. Evolution of the World. 4. Existence. 5. Dissolution of the World. 6. Liberation.

On Dispassion, Vasishta says: the conception of the world is a mistake. Although we see the world and its objects by means of the senses, it has no real existence. Enquire into it and you will never find it to be real. The conviction of the non-existence of the objects of the senses, leads to the removal of their impressions from the mind. Upon perfecting this, there will enter the supreme and eternal bliss of self-extinction. The best state of liberation is actually the complete abandonment of desires. Desires bind us strongly by strings to the prison of the body. Impure desires are the cause of transmigration, whereas pure desires serve to destroy transmigration.

The purification or absence of desires leads to the extinction of mental actions, which in a liberated-while-still-living man appear like inner wheels and cogs which do not turn. When the mind becomes free from desire, the sense organs are relieved from their action, and the soul becomes devoid of the results of its past actions, just as it is of those actions it has left undone. The mind being set free from desire, the organs of action are restrained from their activities, just like an engine stopped in motion.

On the Method of Final Liberation, Vasishta states: the millions of beings who are dead, those who are dying, and those who will die in future, are all to be born according to the different desires in their minds. The external world appearing as a reality, is in truth only a creation of our desires, like a magical scene spread before us. Bondage consists in the belief that the visible world is real, and release depends on the negation of the phenomenal.

There is an interminable ignorance, resembling an immense sea, enveloping the face of creation, breaking into uncrossable streamlets. All beings here are but the waves of this sea of ignorance. Destiny has no form, no action, no movement, no power, because it is a false concept rooted in the minds of the ignorant. Destiny is a word which has come into fashion from the idea of the future retribution of one's past actions, as retributive justice, and this justice is designated 'destiny'. In this manner the ignorant are led to believe that there is a thing called destiny. There is no co-operative power of invisible destiny perceptible in the actions of men, consequently destiny is a meaningless word. If destiny is the main cause and source of the movements of all beings in the three worlds, then all creatures can rest in the assurance that destiny will perform their parts. Thus the fool imagines he has a destiny and relies on it to his own disadvantage, whereas the wise raise themselves to better states by means of their exertion. The wise do not wait for destiny in this world. It is a man's activity, and no other, that is the cause of all his actions, and the recipient of their consequences.

On the Evolution of the World, Vasishta teaches: that whoever is born in this world continues to progress until he at last attains his final liberation, or ascends towards heaven, or falls into hell. Whatever appears, as either moving or unmoving in this world, know them all as appearances in a dream in a state of sound sleep, which become extinct at the end of the Kalpa. At the end, there remains a nameless, unevolved 'thing', in a state of deep dark abyss, without any light. This great existence is given the name Mahat-atman. It next shows itself in another form which is called Jivatman, the living conscious self. The inert living principle, the jiva, becomes the moving principle, the akul-atman, which, due to its power of thought, manana, becomes the mind. Lastly, it becomes the embodied self, bhuta-atman. In this process, mind is produced and changed from the stillness of the Great Supreme Spirit, into a state of restlessness, asthirakara, which is personified as Hiranyagarbha. The mind soon evolves itself into a self-willed power which exercises its desires at all times, and consequently the extensive magical scene of the world is displayed to our view. This is Viraj-murti, the manifestation of the desires of the will of the Divine Mind, the offspring of Brahma. To the enlightened understanding, even spiritual bodies are non-existent.

On Existence, Vasishta declares: that it is not true that the mundane world exists in the form of a seed in the final sleep of Brahma. He argues that the mind is a very fine and minute substance, or particle, which logically cannot be born of itself, nor become the seed of the universe. The Supreme Spirit, being finer than subtle space, cannot have the form of a seed. That which is zero, or the equivalent of nothing, cannot be a seed without which nothing can sprout. Nothing comes out of itself, and that which is material does not comes out of immaterial spirit. It is Brahma who abides in his self, in the form of creation, at the beginning of the world. This creation is as formless as the creator himself, and there is no relation of cause and effect between them. There neither is, nor was, nor ever will be, a separate world in existence. It is the one intelligence of the Divinity that displays the creation in itself. Brahma himself is all and everything. The appearance of the visible world is a mere conception of the mind. The ineffable light, which is projected into the mind by the Divine Intellect, shows itself as the baseless fabric of the creation. The creation of the world, and all created things, are located in the mind of Brahma, and make their repeated appearance, as phantoms, before him. In reality, there exists no I, nor you, nor visible world, nor anything else, but all these merge, upon right reasoning, in the One, which remains and subsists after all other existences.

On the Dissolution of the World, Vasishta explains: when the thinking principle, or mind, is wasted and weakened, and it appears to be extinct or null, the intellect which remains in common in all beings, is called the universal intelligence of all. When this intellect is devoid of its intellection and becomes as transparent as if it is nothing of itself, then it is called the common universal intellect. When it ignores the knowledge of all its internal and external objects, then it remains as the common universal intellect, which is unconscious of any personality. When all visible objects are considered to have a common existence and to be of the same nature with oneself, this is designated to common universal intelligence. This common view of all existence is entertained by all great and liberated beings. Having attained this state of perfection, there is freedom from fear, or of falling. One who attains this immeasurable state is filled with supreme and infinite bliss, having neither beginning nor end, which is a reality without any property assignable to itself.

The mind is attached to the world and is said to be bound to it, but that which is detached from it is said to be free from it. It is internal attachment and detachment of the mind which are the causes of its bondage and liberation. The wise man watches the movements of the mind. The Mahat, the great soul, exists beyond the body and is situated in its own intellect. It looks on the body from a distance, like a spectator observing a crowd of moving people. The wise man, although he may be moving about in busy affairs, is yet ever quiet in the disengagement of his soul from them. He may be assailed by outward sorrow, yet his inward soul shines as an image of the sun. The soul, being without beginning, is never born, and being unborn it is never destroyed. It is unbounded by time and space, is never confined to any place, and being always unconfined, it requires no liberation. Give up the thoughts of your imaginary bondage and liberation

On Liberation, Vasishta reveals: there exists but one Brahma, unlimited by space and time, and he is the world himself. He is tranquil and shines with equal effulgence upon all bodies. Because of his nature of universality, he cannot be any particular thing. Knowing the nature of Brahma you will become free from your egoism, knowing yourself as the same with him, knowing yourself as bodiless and as great as he. There is no mind, nor ignorance, nor any life principle, prana... they are all fictitious concepts. It is the same beginningless and endless Brahma who spreads himself like a boundless and unfathomable ocean, supporting all bodies and things, and present in whatever we consider as favourable or unfavourable to ourselves, as our friends and our enemies.

The fiction of the mind continues, like a dragon, as long as we are unacquainted with the knowledge of Brahma, and believe the phenomenal world to be real, and continue selfishly to believe the body and the person and its personality, as well as a distinct mind, to be our own. The body of a living-liberated man has a mind which is employed in its duties, but free from its desires. Such minds are no longer self-willed free agents, but are acted upon by their paramount duties. They are mindless and unmindful of everything except their duty. They know no duality. Such a mind, purified by reason, is called the Sattva. It does not give rise to error. It is the opposite of the chitta, which is the active mind that has the quality of being born, on account of its desires and actions. The seed of the active mind, the chitta, is burned by the fire of sattva. The truly liberated man is unmoved under all circumstances, and has nothing to gain or lose in his prosperity or adversity, nor anything to elate or depress him in either state.

The blind see the world as all dark, while those who are conscious find it fully bright and shining, and so the wise are blessed with the knowledge of the Oneness of the whole, while the ignorant are immersed in misery by their lack of such knowledge. There is nothing in the world that lives of itself, nor dies away to nothingness. Everything equally exists in God at all time. All beings are located in the universal Self, as waves in the vast expanse of the ocean, therefore it is an error to believe that one resides in the spirit and another lives outside it. The spirit of God dwells in the form of the universe, displaying various shapes to awareness by the inner light of the spirit. There is nobody, nor no being, except the being of Brahma, just as all waves, foam and bubbles of the sea are the same water as the waters of the deep. So are all beings productions of spirit in the Infinite Spirit.

The infinite intelligence of God, filling all space and spacelessness, by its own will, takes a subtle and minute form, which is comprehensible by the name of 'intellect'. It is this which is expressed by the concept 'jiva' or living soul. The jiva is the pure intellect with consciousness of itself. It is nothing at all. It is identical with the nature, the property, and the quality of any object whatever that exists anywhere. Whatever this jiva thinks of anything, in any manner, in any place or time, it immediately becomes the same thing, by its idea of it. The jiva is misled to think of its individuality as the ego, the I am, by the dullness of its intellect, and it supposes itself to be confined within a limited place of space and time, and with limited powers of action and understanding. It assumes to itself an unreal form, or body, and believes it is real. The jiva, thinking of itself as being transformed into a gross material form, as that of Virat the macrocosm, views itself as bright but spotted, like the Moon. Then suddenly, he finds himself in union with the five senses of perception, which have appeared within him of themselves. These five senses of perception are discovered to have five organs of sensation, which are their inlets. Virat is also known as Purusha, the first male power. Purusha manifests himself into five other forms: the sides (space), air, the sun (fire), water, and the land (earth), which are the objects of the five senses. He then becomes the myriad forms, according to the infinity of objects within his knowledge. Although he manifests into objective forms, he is quite unknown to us in his unmanifest, subjective, causal form, which is unchanging. Virat-Purusha originally derives from the Supreme Being as mental energy and therefore is not the five elemental forms, but is the Self within the five elements. He is known as the Supreme Lord of All, the macrocosm of the world, who arises in a moment spontaneously by himself, by his own will, and expands his own essence over the whole universe, and after enduring for a long time, at last contracts the whole back into himself, then subsides in himself.

As subtle space, Virat-Purusha, is invisible, but becomes visible as the sky, as subtle and gross air. In the form of Brahma, he sang the four Vedas from his four mouths. He determined the significations of words, and established the rules of conduct, still applicable today. As the Lord of Life, he causes the body, the nature, the thoughts and actions of all living beings. Nothing whatsoever has its particular nature of itself, unless it is implanted in it by the intelligence of God, by the infusion of the subtle element of water, the moisture of divine intelligence. All our thoughts are agitated by inspiration of prana, the breath of the great intellect. Know your thoughts therefore as proceeding from the void, the nothingness of the entity of the Supreme Brahma. By his will, Virat-Purusha produces the gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva from himself. All the celestial deities and demons are the creations of his mind. By the light of the sun and moon he produces the vegetable food which supports all living beings, producing their minds and thoughts which become actions, and even the birth of future persons. In this manner, thousands of Virats, and hundreds of MahaKalpa ages have come and passed away, and there are many yet to appear. Virat is collectively the aggregate of all beings, but he is also distributed into the jiva, or soul, of every individual being. The same Virat is manifested in the meanest insect as well as in the highest Rudra, or god, and he even extends into atoms.

Being deluded by the illusion of the world, the jiva sees duality instead of its unity. The jiva, converted to the breathing of prana, vital life, has lost sight of the Self which is hidden, underlying it. We thus remain confined to this world of ignorance as long as we enjoy the idea of ego, I am. But as soon as we give up the idea of ego, we are free. Liberation is therefore self extinction. There is no confinement in this world, no bondage, no liberation, no salvation, no sat (being) and no asat (non-being), and when you know this, then, here and now, you will be truly free.


The Yoga-Vasishta text exists in two main forms, full and abridged:

The Brihat Yoga Vasishta is the larger version which consists of the full text of some 36,000 granthas, written in Sanskrit. There are several English translations, perhaps not easily obtained: by Swami Jyotirmayananda, by Vidvan Bulusu Ventateswaraulu, by Vihari Lala Mitra, by Swami Venkatesananda etc.

Vihari Lala Mitra produced a translation in 1891 (3,650 pages), which reads well and is not noticeably dated. This translation will eventually become available at the Project Gutenberg, but a preview is presently published online at the URL: A full scanned version is available at:

The Laghu Yoga Vasishta is the smaller abridged version which consists of 6,000 granthas. The original abridgement was made by Abhinananda of Kashmir. He kept almost all of the significant teaching text of the full version and deleted only the descriptive stories and the anecdotal sections.

An English translation of the Laghu version by Swami Venkatesananda is published (1993) by State University of New York Press (768 pages). This translation is considered authoritative. Swami Venkatesananda was the private secretary to Swami Sivananda, at his Rishikesh ashram. Price about $26, £15, or €17.

There is a free online English translation of the Laghu version (738 pages) by K Narayanaswami Aiyer available at this URL... NB. K N Aiyer was a member of the Theosophical Society which perhaps does not have the highest objective scholastic reputation.

Several other more severe abridgements exist but are not particularly recommended.

31 December 2012

Ajati-Vada - Creation is not genuine, the no-creation theory

'Aja' means: not born, existing timelessly, the name of the first and original uncreated being. 'Vada' means: speaking, speaker, and therefore in this context means: something said, a proposition, a thesis, a theory. Ajati-vada literally means: the no-birth theory. Ajati-vada is said to be the paramarthika, or absolute, view of creation, in contrast to the typical vyavaharika view of creation as having a god or creator as its cause, who has “put these various beings on the top of a machine of this illusion... they are mechanically going round” and are subject to karma and transmigratory existence, involving millions of births and lives, etc. Ajati-vada is the theory of no-creation, that there is no genuine creation. Philosophically the implications of the theory are... You, the Self, were never born, nor were you ever created, since you exist timelessly. You are the one original uncreated awareness, the Parabrahman, and as the Parabrahman there is no awareness of existence, there is awareness of awareness only.

The theory first appears in advaitic literature in the Karika of Gaudapada, although Gaudapada says it is detectable in the Upanishads. In his commentary on the Mundukya Upanishad, Gaudapada states: "The highest truth is that nothing whatsoever is born." "There is no dissolution, no birth, none in bondage, and none aspiring for wisdom, no seeker of liberation and none liberated. This is the absolute truth." "From the standpoint of the Self, the world does not exist. Nor does the world exist as something independent, nor something differentiated or non-differentiated." For Gaudapada, creation, the universe, the birth, bondage and liberation of beings are only appearances.

Gaudapada examines and rejects several theories of creation current in his time, which are still widely believed today, for example: Creation is expansion (Vibhuti: ie the expansion of Brahman); The universe is a dream of Brahman (svapna); The universe is an illusion created by the power (Maya) of Brahman; Brahman creates the universe by will (ichcha); Creation is the result of time (Kala); Creation is integral with enjoyment (Bhoga). Rejecting all these theories, Gaudapada states that Brahman is purna (full) therefore there is no gain or loss, or division in him. All duality, differentiation, division, multiplicity, and origin by creation are only mere appearances. Brahman is aja (birthless). Ajati-vada denies that creation is an event that took place at a certain moment in time in the past.

Nisargadatta states that the universe is built upon imagination. We imagine that the universe, and the people in it, are in space and time, but space and time do not exist, and you and I, and all other people, are also similarly non-existent. All existence is imaginary. The mind itself is the creator, but mind and space and the universe are the same. The realization that space and mind are the same changes one's perception of the world as well as one's perception of oneself. No longer is it quite possible to believe that oneself is a separate individual. Outer space is universal mind and inner space is individual mind, the two are directly connected. Individual mind is merely a branch and terminal of universal mind. Mind, as universal and individual space is akasha, one of the five subtle elements, as which Shakti unfolds herself and enters into at every level. The illusion of creation, maintenance and dissolution occurs only in the mind in the presence of Shakti (energy) in combination with Maya (mathematical law). The Self-realized jnani explains the theory in practical language...

“The mind is obsessed with the idea of causality and invents creation, and then wonders who is the creator? What we imagine to be the universe is our own mind. The mind and the world are not separate.

Creation, maintenance, destruction, or Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, is the action and interaction of the three gunas... this is the eternal process which governs all things, but you are the One. The One includes the three. When you are the One you will be free of the world process. You are in the universe as the witness and outside the universe as the Absolute. To the Self it all happens. The Self is aware, yet unaffected.

Consciousness is pure in the beginning and pure in the end. In between it gets contaminated by imagination which is at the root of creation. To know it as it is, is realization and timeless peace. First is the stage of creation, next comes the stage of examination and reflection, and finally the stage of abandonment and forgetting. Universes come and go, but the consciousness remains, in a latent, quiet state.

Para-brahman is the title of my state. In that state there was nothing, and in that state I have no knowledge of anything. I have no association with anyone in that state. I am always without words. I am ever non-objective, unmanifest. Parabrahman is when the movement is frozen, there is no movement, but the potential is present.

There is a state before this knowledge ‘I am’ comes upon you. If you are satisfied with ‘I am’ then you will reach the state where you consider yourself God and Brahman. But you will not go beyond it or prior to it. In the ultimate state lies the prior state. The prior state is the highest, best and original state. It is the state before this knowledge ‘I am’ ever dawned on you. The ultimate state is that state in which nothing exists, neither I, nor you, nor manifestation.” [Nisargadatta]


30 December 2010

Existence and Non-Existence - Bhava and Abhava

Abhava is the negative of 'bhava' which means being, becoming, existing, appearance. The word bhava is derived from the Sanskrit root 'bhû' which means to be, to come into being, to become. Therefore abhava  means non-existence, the state of non-being.

Existence is the positive state of something and non-existence is the negative state of the same thing, which indicates that something, probably everything, has both positive and negative states of being. Wherever the positive and the negative are discovered to be present in opposition it can be reasonably concluded that the three gunas have separated and manifested, and are no longer in a state of equilibrium. Because bhava and abhava are opposites this very duality is indicative that the gunas are involved in the phenomenon of existence and non-existence, rajas being the positive guna and tamas being the negative guna.

At the end of the Kalpa, the god Brahma, who is a personification of the positive guna, is absorbed into Siva Loka, where Siva, the personification of the negative guna, intensely compresses the head of Brahma, constraining it down into transcendental nothingness. Brahma effectively is unable to remember himself and stays in that state of non-existence for aeons of time, compressed into apparent nothingness, his head completely covered by Siva's swaddling body, and disappearing into a state of total self forgetfulness. After an inexorable passage of time, when Brahma eventually stirs, he struggles magnificently to remember himself, but it is not possible to remember yourself unless you love. Brahma remembers himself  by discovering the principle of love-existence, which is the principle that existence is possible if all-support-all, and he begins to rise upwards as a bubble, ascending and expanding.  Ascending to a region beyond the control of Siva, Brahma escapes from Siva Loka, and creation begins again, creation being the positive form of existence. Creation, the golden world of Brahma Loka, is held up by nothing except love, reciprocal love, and hovers above Dissolution, the nihilistic world of Siva Loka. If such love ever ceases, if someone breaks the bond of reciprocal support, everything, the whole of existence, would fall into the non-existence of Siva Loka again, which always lies below, menacing and threatening. That is the essential nature of the relationship between the two gunas who are eternally in opposition to each other: what one creates the other seeks to destroy. Purusha, the highest witness, sees all this as Prakriti, merely the action and interaction of the gunas, with which Purusha remains quite unentangled. The Self, oneself as the Absolute, is said to be aloof. Nisargadatta states we are in the universe as the witness (Purusha) and outside of the universe as the Absolute (Parabrahman). Therefore the Absolute is neither existent nor non-existent. Existence and non-existence are states produced by the gunas, and since the three gunas are merely aspects of the mathematical law by which the energy of Shakti manifests as the universe, it can be concluded that both existence and non-existence are part of the illusion produced by Shakti-Maya.

Advaita, particularly Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, states: that which exists can never cease to exist, and that which is non-existent can never come into existence. Therefore everything that has being must always exist, although it may temporarily be located in a state of non-existence. Everything may oscillate between a state of existence and non-existence, and although completely disappearing... it, everything, still exists... although undetectable, in the state of non-existence, which is its negative phase.

Nisargadatta has some interesting things to say about existence and non-existence: 

"Existence and non-existence relate to something in space and time, here and now, there and then, which are in the mind. To exist means to be something, a thing, a thought, a feeling, an idea. All existence is particular. Only being is universal. Existences clash, being never clashes. Existence means becoming, change, birth and death, and birth again, while in being there is silent peace. All existence is in space and time and is limited and temporary. He who experiences existence is also limited and temporary. I am not concerned either with what exists or with who exists. I take my stand beyond, where I am both and neither. Do not identify mere existence with reality. Existence is momentary, while reality is changeless and all pervading. Existence is in consciousness, whereas your essence is independent of consciousness. Deny existence to everything except yourself."

The 'universal being' to which Nisargadatta alludes is that Great Mass of Being which is Vishnu Loka. Vishnu Loka is simply a large mass of transcendental being. Into Vishnu Loka everything that has being dissolves without trace. Individual being merges into Universal Being . Vishnu Loka is the destination of all bhogis. The Bhogi is an enjoyer of existence. Whether they realize it or not, the bhogis are moving slowly and inexorably towards Vishnu Loka, by means of the accumulation of enjoyment in their being. The bhogis are manifestations of pure being and they add to their being by feeding on enjoyment. The universe is subtly designed so that enjoyment adds to one's being. Young children instinctively realize this principle and from dawn to dusk pursue enjoyment spontaneously and relentlessly. At the end of the day children sense they have grown a little, increased a little by the accumulation of all that enjoyment, evolved a little in their being. Unlike adults, children are still able to feed on the enjoyment of existence. The being of children is still a whole and has not yet become divided into the warring internal opposites, into the duality of a cavalier rajas and a puritan tamas, who respectively convert natural enjoyment into the extremes of sensuality and pleasure in one case, or by denial starve themselves into an atrophied level of cruelty of being in the other case. The two sides of being have separated in the adult and one has managed to become dominant over the other. Their mutual violent struggle is the internal warfare that secretly takes place in the subtle inner world of being within every human being. No genuine enjoyment of existence is possible as long as they remain separated and in perpetual conflict. To enjoy existence the cavalier and the puritan within one have to dissolve without trace into the natural child, forgotten but still present within one, from which they originally separated. It is necessary to become childlike and natural again. There is no one more pure or cavalier than a child, but the external observer is unable to separate either characteristic from the whole nature of the child itself, because they are not separate. The bhogi child is still a natural unity, for a short period of time, before they become corrupted by external influences later in childhood.

The being of the Bhogi, the being of everyone who is a bhogi, and that may well be everyone and everything that has being touched by ahamkara, which has been animated by prana, the life-force, evolves slowly. From gods, to spirits, to human beings, to animals, plants and minerals, in the subtle dimension everything has being. Theirs is the path of evolution, the very slow way, the very certain way, the very collective way, the way for those who are subtly attracted to the real, the way for those who believe in reality and pursue reality relentlessly, life after life. Their way is a thousand miles in distance and characteristically they move along the way a mere quarter of an inch per lifetime, but their destiny is inevitable and certain. Their destiny is Vishnu Loka. Vishnu is their beloved god who preserves everything that is real, and since their being is not, as their may have believed, individual but is universal... therefore when they finally reach Vishnu Loka, their being dissolves into that Great Mass of Universal Being and is drowned in it, disappearing without trace. They no longer know that they are. Some jnanis have described the phenomenon as resembling a drop of water being dissolved into a great ocean. Vishnu Loka is a manifestation, at the divine level, of subtle water, one of the five subtle elements unfolded by Shakti through her power of Maya. Vishnu Loka is the great ocean of the subtle element of water, the great ocean of universal transcendental being, which both the bhogis and bhaktis commonly mistake for Brahman. In Vishnu Loka the dissolved individual beings do not clash because they have lost their individual being, they no longer know that they are. Their individuality has merged into universality. However, if they, or something, were ever to become differentiated again, within the transcendental mass, and rise to the surface then, upon breaking open at the surface, they would realize who they are. At the surface, as particular individuals in existence again, as a something in space and time, they would experience irritation with each other and would clash, especially the male and the female. Although the merged inhabitants of Vishnu Loka are real, they are not perfect. A something can never be perfect, only a nothing can be perfect, because it does not contend. Something manifesting in time and space can never be perfect.

Visnu is pure slyness. Look deep into the eyes of any incarnation of Vishnu and unmistakably you will see there... utter slyness. Vishnu has an aim which he conceals from everyone. He pursues his aim relentlessly, considering and valuing it before anything else. He uses everyone and everything he meets as part of his aim. His aim appears to be intimately involved with the maintenance of the universe upon its course. What is that course? Vishnu naturally will never tell you. Vishnu is the great manipulator, whose actions, when analysed, appear to be subtly designed to create a self-evolving being. All that can be said is that you are not a being, you are beyond being and non-being, and the one who evolves is not yourself although the Atman, your pure consciousness, may be identified with it. All evolution is in Prakriti. Only nature, Prakriti, evolves and you are the unevolving Purusha, the witness of Prakriti and its interactions in the arena of the universe. As the Parabrahman you are not even in the universe, therefore its evolution, which is cyclic, is not anything which can affect you or concern you. Ultimately you are neither the jiva, nor the buddhi, nor any deva, nor the Sakshin, nor the Mahat, nor the Atman, nor Brahman. Only the Parabrahman is left. Who knows who you are?

Siva Loka is the world of non-existence. It is pure tamas. It absorbs consciousness and returns nothing back. In the nihilism of Siva Loka non-existence dominates. The way of the yogi leads directly to Siva Loka. Whether the yogis realize the destination towards which they are inexorably moving, or not, is uncertain. Those who follow the difficult intense way of the yogi, performing many austerities, elaborate sadhanas, and engaging in deep studies, all eventually come to nothing. Sometimes they intentionally aim for Shiva Loka, hoping to annihilate themselves, or destroy what they believe to be their false selves. If fact they may go in the exactly the opposite direction to that which they had intended, leading to their self destruction. Everything the yogi does, all the sadhanas etc, are subtly for himself, for his liberation, for his own benefit, although this deception is very difficult to see impartially and objectively, because we are so strongly identified with who we are not. Everything that is done for the benefit of the 'me' or for the 'myself' inevitably leads to Siva Loka.

Siva and his incarnations are recognized by their inner blackness. Sooner or later the incarnations of Siva will betray in the depths of their eyes their inner malevolence. When you see inner blackness and the manifestation of hatred you will know you are in the presence of Shiva and his forms. They are not good company, either externally or internally. Siva has profound malevolence of being and a strong sense of injustice and he sees something in creation, in existence, and in you the jivatman, of which he profoundly disapproves. He seeks to destroy you, the jiva, not directly, but by getting the jivas to destroy each other. He secretly places a suggestion in your ear, that “the negative is the good”. The jivas naturally believe this is their own thought, in their own mind, and begin to inflict violence upon each other, soon mutually reducing themselves to the pathos of fragments. The smashed souls. Siva covers over, hoods, the higher intellect, the Buddhi, so that right discrimination is very difficult, even impossible. In his own domain, Siva Loka, Siva completely covers over, for aeons of time, the myriad lost spirits. Sometimes these unfortunate beings are described as the petris, the ancient ancestral fathers. Siva destroys that which can be destroyed and covers over that which cannot be destroyed. Only the unreal, the jiva, can be destroyed, the real, the witnesses, cannot be destroyed, however, the witnesses can be prevented from witnessing by the hooding of consciousness.

Brahma is also flawed. Brahma has a fatal tendency to forget himself, to sleep for inexorable periods of time, and his attachment to his image of nobility is his chief weakness which is mercilessly exploited by others. Despite his universal benevolence of being, Brahma is easily overpowered by Siva’s suggestive strategies and by Vishnu's manipulations. Brahma and his incarnations carry around within a certain quantity of golden light. You recognize the incarnations of Brahma by the flashes of light and love in their eyes. The way to Brahma Loka is the way of understanding. By understanding alone one ascends the mystic tree in the midst of existence to the golden world of Brahma Loka. Brahma Loka is the world of heavenly golden light in which all support all. To ascend it is necessary to free oneself from unseen myriad attachments which act as blocks of stone holding one's feet firmly down on the Earth. Anyone identifying with the sounding of the 'me' in Brahma Loka is expelled through the great gates and must descend to, and appear on, Earth, a violent oppressive place full of gloom and suffering, and flimsy screens upon which lives are projected by turning chakras, which crack revealing illusion upon illusion.

Siva is tamas, Brahma is rajas, Vishnu is sattva. Siva is associated with the subtle element of earth, Visnu with subtle water, Brahma with subtle fire (light), Saguna Brahman is associated with subtle air, Nirguna Brahman with subtle space, The Parabrahman is the other side of space, beyond space….. ? The Parabrahman is beyond the gross physical, the subtle and the causal worlds. The gross physical, the subtle, and the causal worlds are world of existence and non-existence, but the Parabrahman is not associated with any of the three worlds.

In one sense we have all three gunas, all three gods, Brahma, Siva, Vishnu, within us, perhaps as adjuncts, and they contest the control of ourselves. First we fall under the influence of one, then another, then the third may make its entrance. If the truth is that we cannot perform action, cannot do anything whatsoever, then one’s inner essence will prevail, which ever of the three types, the three gods, our essence originally is related to, was and is, and will be. The shakti of either Brahma, Siva, or Visnu may be present in us, probably within or associated with the antakarana complex that we usually identify with. Antakarana consists of three components: manas (lower mind), buddhi (higher intellect-spiritual body), chitta (understanding-memory). The often quoted fourth component, Ahamkara, is an emissary of Maya and is not strictly part of the antakarana although it interacts with, and brings into manifestation, the being, the self-love, the aham, which is latent in the buddhi.

When you experience, and clearly see, the gunas manifesting within oneself, they are surprisingly seen not simply as abstract qualities, but as personifications. It is possible to see rajas, tamas and sattva as persons, natures, spirits, struggling with each other within oneself. It is the Purusha, the upper witness, also within one, who is looking down from high within oneself, looking down onto an arena where these three enact out their struggle for domination. That arena is the universe, including the universe within one's mind. Purusha observes manifestation of the Law of Three. Purusha witnesses the three gunas wrestling with each other, struggling for domination, and realizes that the universe is composed of nothing more than the three gunas engaged in action and reaction with each other. The Sanskrit word 'guna' means a single strand or thread, and many jnanis have commented that the three gunas entwined around each other resemble the tri-stranded coil of a rope. The three gunas entwined with each other are actually Prakriti, Nature, which manifests in the individual natures of everything as well manifesting as the phenomenon of Great Nature herself. Once you see the quality, the characteristics, of each personified guna within one, you will recognize the same essential characteristic qualities in everyone and everything you meet. Then you know what they want, and possibly what their ultimate aim is, and what the probable outcome of your entanglement with them is likely to be….. romance, tragedy, history. Romance is existence, tragedy is non-existence, and history is the passage from one to the other and back and forth again and again.

In the advaitic language of Sanskrit the three gunas are known as: rajas, tamas and sattva, but in western language the same three forces are: the positive, the negative and the neutral. Everyone and everything you meet is either positive, negative or neutral and once one experiences and comprehends the principle of the Law of Three then it is becomes easier to see these same three forces manifesting as, and recognizable as, a multitude of forms each characterized by an adjectival description: creative, destructive, maintaining / active, passive, neutral / benevolent, malevolent, sly / harmonious, disharmonious, reconciling / supportive, undermining, opportunistic / extension, compression, equilibrium / freeing, binding, manipulative / love, hate, indifference. Everything, without exception, is a manifestation of the three intertwining gunas. That is existence and non-existence... that is all there is in this strange theatre of the universe. There isn't anything else... except the witness.

The advaita philosophy teaches a significant principle 'If you can see it you cannot be it.' The principle contained within this aphorism is that consciousness cannot see itself, since consciousness can never be an object to its own consciousness. If this principle is true…. then it is a magnificent, great and liberating concept. The concept can be applied at the beginning, the middle, and probably even towards the end of the search for oneself. This liberating concept prevents one from identifying with any form. No image or reflection can be oneself. Nothing in consciousness can be oneself.  Therefore because the gunas can be seen, even seen within oneself, ultimately one cannot be any of them. Because the gunas manifest as Brahma, Siva and Visnu then one cannot be a god or a shakti (the representative power of a god) or any spirit resembling them, or any incarnation of them. Even if the shakti is within one, and possesses one and manifests through one, the shakti is not oneself. There are lovers of Brahma, Siva, and Visnu and all their many avatars and manifestations, and forms, and some people even cultivate complete devotion to them, and desire union with them.  But Advaita says… if you can see it then you cannot be it. Although many sources may suggest otherwise, you are not Brahma, nor Siva, nor Visnu. The drama, the dramatic interaction between them, is merely the Vyavaharika. The Vyavaharika is the unreal superimposition of existence and non-existence upon the real, the Paramarthika, which is Brahman.

The tension between the three Gods, the three gunas, the struggle between them, the action and inter-reaction between them…. is simply the drama that Brahman is performing all around the jivatman, all around the you and I when we identify with the jiva. We also appear as part of the drama, one of the parts in the drama, whether we fully realize that or not.  There is a war in the universe, there is a war in the subtle cosmos, and the conflict descends down upon the Earth, and mankind generally does not realize that a cosmic war is going on. The Mahabharata epic hints at such a war. The war is between the beings of the Brahma Loka and the beings of the Siva Loka. Those in the Visnu Loka interact between the two opposing sides, maintaining a form of balance. The war is the great drama, which is Brahman's Lila. The war is a cosmic war involving everything in the universe, including all life on Earth, and is simply the triadic interaction between the benevolent, the malevolent, and the cunning. Some jnanis have said that all these three types are required to produce an interesting and entertaining drama. Perhaps therefore it is useful to study the philosophy of the theatre and drama quite seriously? Existence and non-existence are merely dramatic episodes in a beginningless and endless theatrical production.

The world one is enmeshed in, the life one is living, the person whom one has
become, the person with whom one has unconsciously become familiarly completely and hopelessly identified with, are all merely an entanglement with Prakriti, entanglement in and with the disturbed equilibrium of Prakriti, consisting of three gunas, manifesting as three principle gods, functioning through desire, domination, conflict, and illusion.  How can the struggle between desire-ridden competing gods be anything to do with oneself? How can there be any benefit in getting oneself involved in their warfare? If there is a war going on, especially a pseudo dramatic war, it is advisable not to get involved. The phoney war is merely a drama, an illusory presentation in mind. The advaitic jnanis say it is completely unreal. Prakriti, when in the phaze of manifestation, is little more than a gigantic piece of cosmic machinery, set in motion by the Shakti of Brahman. Existence and non-existence are merely the scenes created by the stage machinery in the theatre of the universe. Life is nothing more than a gigantic cosmic mechanism, consisting of cosmic cogs turning human cogs.

What benefit can there be in cogs turning cogs, mechanically and remorselessly? If Prakriti is in fact related to the Maya of Shakti, what benefit can any illusion have, what purpose can any dramatic play have, except to covey a message, except to entertain, except perhaps to pass the time? Alternatively, the theatrical drama has no purpose whatsoever? If the education thesis, the entertainment thesis, and the temporal thesis are all correctly rejected... is the meaninglessness and purposelessness of both existence and non-existence the only intellectual thesis remaining? Can one abandon all theses, and all interest in theses?

18 December 2010

Theories about the beginning and end of the universe

In Indian philosophy there are several opposing theories about the origin of the universe, its creation, maintenance and dissolution, and particularly whether or not it has a beginning and an end.

There are three major darsanas (literally ‘showings’) (metaphysical systems of Indian Philosophy): arambha-vada of the Nyaya-Vaisheshika school, parinama-vada of the Ramanuja and Samkhya-Yoga schools, vivarta-vada of the Advaita Vedanta school.

Arambha-vada is the theory that the Universe had a beginning and is the creation of an external agency, believed to have been created by Isvara from minute ultimate round particles or atoms, called anus. The anus are composed of even smaller particles called paramanu, sometime known as the ‘ultimate atoms’ which are equivalent to sub-atomic particles. The paramanus always exist, whether in the unmanifest or the manifest state. Since they were never created, they can not be destroyed, because destruction is merely the separation of constituent parts, and the paramanus have no smaller constituent parts. Being indestructible, the paramanus therefore are eternal, and occupy no space, having no inside and no outside. Having no magnitude the paramanus are only conceivable by the mind. The aranbha-vada theory, by placing the paramanus as the ultimate constituent of material existence, hints at the emptyness and insubstantiality of gross matter. The combination of two paramanus form one atom, or anu. Anus in turn combine to form a dvyanuka or molecule. Molecules can combine into ‘illusionary’ visible objects. There are four kinds of atoms: earth, water, fire, air. The ultimate atoms are incapable of being divided further, and the formation of the various objects in the universe is due to the conjunctions and aggregation of the atoms, and correspondingly the destruction of objects is due to their disjunction and disaggregation. This process is perpetual. Arambha-vada theory corresponds remarkably closer to contemporary chemistry and physics theory than any other ancient Indian philosophical system.

Arambha-vada is also known as Asat-karya-vada and includes the thesis that the effect is not pre-existent in the cause (as some other Indian systems believe, eg Samkhya and Advaita). The cause (Isvara, God) is one thing and the effect (the universe) is an entirely different thing. The effect (the universe) is an entirely new production by the cause (Isvara, God), and therefore the universe has a beginning. The universe does not exist before its creation by the cause (Isvara, God). There are variations in arambha-vada theory and in the sutras of Kanada a supreme creator, Isvara, is not admitted and instead an agnostic view is proposed, admitting an adrishta or ‘unknowable unseen cause’. However, another proponent of the theory, Prastapada, adheres to the traditional Hindu doctrine of Brahma as the creator and Siva as the destroyer of the universe.

Parinama-vada is the theory that the universe is neither created nor destroyed, but is a transformation of the Absolute. The Absolute has created the universe by a transformation of a small part of his substance or being. Samkhya-Yoga states that the universe is a manifestation of the Absolute stepping into unmanifest Prakriti. A difficult concept to comprehend is the thesis that the effect pre-exists in its material cause, ie the universe pre-exists in unmanifest Prakriti. The Absolute, despite the transformation of its being, is not changed by the universe emanating out of itself and dissolving back into itself.

Vivarta-vada is the theory that the universe appears as it is only because of the limitations of the observer, who is subject to Maya, the magical power of Shakti, which is coeval with the Absolute. The universe is actually Brahman, and upon the self-realization of the Atman with Brahman the illusion of the universe ends.

Advaita only accepts the vivarta-vada thesis, and rejects arambha-vada and parinama-vada as being untrue. The clearest view of vivarta-vada is presented by Nisargadatta who states that: “God is not running the world. Nobody is running the world. All happens by itself. All is a play in consciousness. Yours is the desire that creates the universe. Know the world as your own creation and be free. All the time you look for origins and causes. Causality is in the mind only. It is the illusion of time that makes you talk of causality. When the past and the future are seen in the timeless now the idea of cause and effect losses its validity”.

27 May 2009

Apartheid and Karma – essay No 1

Someone on the Crossroads discussion group web site made this statement....

'Leon MacLaren once said something about recurrence which struck me as true. Referring to South Africa (during the time of apartheid), he said that “those who now practised apartheid would find themselves in the next life being practised upon”. I took this to mean that, if you practise something, you get good at it and the more you practise the better you get. An extension of this would be that, if you practise duality (apartheid), you get good at it, that is your world, but there's a twist in the tail. From being the bully you next become the victim. 

I'm not sure how this could be an objective truth but it certainly speaks to me emotionally'.

[Note: Leon MacLaren 1910-94 was the founder in 1937 of The School of Economic Science in London, now a world-wide organization, which first taught Economics based on the ideas of Henry George and later in the 1950's gave lectures on a non-academic, mystical form of Philosophy which at first was based on a large collection of philosophical quotations collected by Peter Goffin, and then in 1953, after a meeting with Dr Francis Roles, switched to teaching the ideas of PD Ouspensky, which in the early 1960's became modified by the Vedic version of Advaita Vedanta taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and finally modified again from 1965 onwards by direct contact with the purer Advaita Vedanta teaching of Shantanand Sarasvati, Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math, India.]

This was my reply....

I think that any attempt to understand the words and methods of Leon MacLaren is aided by a little knowledge of his particular biography, especially the esoteric philosophies he encountered in the first part of his life, which left impressions deep in his mind. Here is a short meander through some of them.

The concept that 'if you practice something unethical upon others, then in your next life the same will be done to you' contains several philosophical principles as well as several assumptions. It seems to be based upon a particular view and variation of the Hindu philosophy of karma, which essentially states that merits and demerits are accumulated in life and these condition the next life, via the subtle instrument of the chitta which transmits karma from one life to the next, by means of the impressions left upon it.

A common assumption is that the next life will be different from the present one, but this is denied by some esoteric philosophers, eg P D Ouspensky, who state that we are in for a surprise... because the next life is this same one again. We find ourselves placed in recurrence. If we are unable to remember our past lives we will not realize that we live the same life over again. An appropriate attitude towards such a recurring life is to become tired of it, bored with it, seek to escape, work for liberation or release from it... moksha. Another esoteric quasi-philosopher was Ouspensky's teacher, G I Gurdjieff, who hinted that the next life is indeed a recurrence of this present life, but with the 'twist' that the roles are reversed. He gave an example from Christianity: Jesus and Judas are the two principle characters in the Christ drama, but whoever played Jesus in one life may well play Judas in the next. The roles would be reversed. Strangely, this seems slightly similar to what Leon McLaren was saying? Such an idea is not merely a Gurdjievian invention since it is found in older Greek philosophy to which Gurdjieff, as a Greek-Armenian, would have had cultural access. It is interesting to note that SES lecture material in the mid 1950's to 1970's period, written by Leon McLaren himself, was largely derived from P D Ouspensky's writings and lectures, especially 'In Search of the Miraculous', although publicly such a source was not acknowledged at the time. The Study Society was more open, and both acknowledged and revered Ouspensky as a source, whereas SES seemed embarrassed and generally tried to hide the fact.

Ouspensky came to realize that something was missing from the teaching he had received from Gurdjieff, most probably some type of practice which would facilitate higher states of consciousness? After Ouspensky's death, some members of the Study Society and SES were given the task of trying to discover the source of the Gurdjieff-Ouspensky teaching. Gurdjieff was a member of a small group of 'Seekers of the Truth' who studied and absorbed the philosophy and practices of many Central Asian religions, and claimed to have found the source of them all, the enigmatic Sarmoun Monastery, which was said to have had three branches, one vaguely in the Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan Hindu Kush, one in Tibet, and a third in Himalayan India. Gurdjieff had hinted that he had gained most of his knowledge while staying at the remote Hindu Kush Sarmoun monastery Many, including Gurdjieff's direct followers, went looking for the Hindu Kush monastery but no one is ever reported to have found it. (Desmond Martin reports finding it in northern Afghanistan in 1965 but his account is suspect?). It would have been difficult for the Tibetan branch to exist after the aggressive Chinese invasion and then, just as today, the Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan branch was believed to be located amidst very hostile tribes. Not finding anything, some began to speculate that Gurdjieff, rather characteristically, had invented the whole idea, as a teaching allegory, and there was no inner circle of mankind on Earth, periodically putting beneficial influences into humanity in the form of philosophical knowledge, religion and culture. Ouspensky actually hints that the inner circle is located in heaven.

No one found anything significant for years until Maharishi Mahesh appeared in London in 1960. It was not at first realized that Mahesh was a link to the deeper knowledge and special practices that were being sought. Contact was made with Mahesh, meditation taught, and discovered to be beneficial, and so Mahesh's version of the advaita teaching began to be incorporated into the philosophy material read out in groups. Even tape recordings of the Maharishi were played in an atmosphere of induced reverence. The Maharishi had initially created an extremely strong and favourable impression. Soon Mahesh proposed that the Study Society, SES, and his own organisation be combined together under his personal direction. Leon MacLaren and Francis Rolls discussed the proposal together but MacLaren found it difficult to reach a decision, saying that whatever Dr Rolls decided he would agree to. Francis Rolls decided to keep the organisations separate. That was quite a decision, without it the two schools would probably have gone down the same line of development as the TM movement, and become engulfed in endless vedic ritual and the idealized science of being and art of living that Mahesh developed. Later Maharishi Mahesh angrily denounced SES in a public lecture given at the Hilton Hotel, London, attended by the Beatles, accusing them of stealing mantras as well as combining meditation with philosophies that caused harmful stresses. It is probably true that SES did steal many mantras that the Mahesh system of meditation employed, particularly by getting one of his female initiators drunk and encouraging her to reveal everything she knew. Ironically, having tried the mantras and found them to be less effective than the traditional mantras employed in the Jyotic tradition as revived by Brahmananda Sarasvati, they never used them. Mahesh's teachings and tapes were quietly dropped from SES and School of Meditation group lecture material.

Previously, further encounters with Mahesh took place in India circa 1961, where Francis Rolls coincidentally met Shantanand the successor to Brahmananda (who was Mahesh's own 'teacher'), and heard him use the same language as Ouspensky... emphasising the importance of 'self-remembering' etc. An astonished Francis Rolls then sought audience with Shantanand at his Shankar Math ashram in Allahabad, believing that he had at last found a living source of Gurdjieff's philosophy. (Shantanand spent the winter in Allahabad, summer at Jyotir Math). When McLaren was informed, he naturally imitated and, starting in 1965, arranged his own audiences with Shantanand. As a consequence the Gurdjieff-Ouspensky lecture material, a mix of Sufi, Christian, Indian, Asiatic and Western philosophies was replaced by a purer form of Advaita. Nevertheless those who had been studying the Ouspensky ideas for years would not be able to easily discard the old valued philosophical material, nor erase the methods completely from their minds.

It is easy to detect that much of Ouspensky's subtle influences and philosophy still remains embedded in SES, especially in the attitudes of the old hierarchy. Examples are: the secrecy, the habitual slyness, the emphasis on payment, the school's negative methods of teaching, rarely answering student's questions and frequently turning the question back on the questioner with a 'what do you think?' the rigid catechetical style of teaching, the cryptic double language employed, the emphasis on discipline and absolute obedience, also the tricks played on students, particularly the unpleasant artificial teaching scenarios the hierarchy act out and create for the purpose of testing their unsuspecting victims, and in particularly the attempt to take over of the personal lives of almost everyone who comes within their influence, often with disastrous consequences. All the negativity in SES can be traced back to an imitation of Gurdjieff's methods. Gurdjieff and Ouspensky believed that doing something negative to someone, through the invention of an unpleasant scene woven around and exposing the student's chief feature, could produce good teaching results, enlightenment, first-hand knowledge, a hard lesson never to be forgotten etc. Consequently, as a result of the Gurdjieff-Ouspensky residual legacy, I think you will find that Leon McLaren's publicly expressed beliefs about karma were a somewhat confused mixture of Fourth Way Philosophy and Advaita.

Recurrence is in eternity, reincarnation is in time.

Leon McLaren appeared to believe unquestioningly in the cast iron law of karma. I heard him say: 'you can not remain where you are, for ever in the same place, either you work and evolve or you go down'. 'If you don't take advantage of the opportunity you go down into the lower forms'. 'There is great competition for human life, and everything must have its chance'. 'Criminals are those who will soon be out of the universe'. 'God is that which puts things up and puts things down'. In old age, the now frailer shrunken MacLaren, walking with the aid of a stick, would explain that it was 'his karma'. Being relatively authoritarian, McLaren, a barrister by profession, would probably have enjoyed the concepts of retributive justice and corrective punishment that forms the basis of the law of karma, but relatively lacking objective reasoning powers he may have failed to see the fundamental contradictions and paradoxes within such a doctrine.

The chief paradox is that the self is pure consciousness and is not an agent of action. The self does nothing. If the genuine self never performs action who is it that accumulates merit and demerit for actions? Who is performing the actions? How can the self reap the karmic consequences, be put up and down by God, for actions it never performed, but simply observed? The self is never born, nor ever dies, universes come and go and it remains unchanged.... so who is there to be reborn, reincarnated, and beneficially or detrimentally affected, or ethically responsible for, and even improved by, the effects of karma? No one.

The idea of role reversal in reincarnation, even of you becoming your enemy and he becoming you, is also found in the Russian Leo Tolstoy's writings, but to date I have not detected the same idea in Advaita Vedanta. In Advaita you and your enemy are the same, there is only Brahman, and all separation and differentiation is illusory. It is the same Brahman in both South African whites and blacks, and to reverse incarnations in any subsequent life as an administration of justice because of the unethical practice of apartheid is ultimately meaningless.

The concept of role reversal appears to contradict the principle of karma, since in the Gurdjievian Christian example a meritorious Jesus with good karma will next play the role of a despised treacherous Judas. And the reverse, Judas having allegedly accumulated bad karma is apparently rewarded by the role of the paraclete Jesus. Someone who plays their part extremely well, even if it is the part of a villain, must be rewarded according to such an interpretation of karma. To many minds this may appear extremely puzzling. One resolution of this contradiction is to view the whole world, life itself, as nothing more than a subtle drama. Shantanand and many advaitins say that 'the world is a show which God, (Saguna Brahman), is staging all around you in the shape of the universe'. That, I feel, is an essential clue by which one can escape the paradoxes within the law of karma

If life is merely a drama, then it is not completely real. Karma and reincarnation are therefore both part of Maya, illusion. The Self does nothing therefore it cannot be subject to karma. It is the false self, the me, which is subject to karma, and the illusion persists for as long as the individual self is identified with the part in the drama, identified with the suggestion 'me'.

Francis Rolls reports Shantanand saying: 'The way to rid oneself from evil is to cultivate the attitude that it is nature (prakriti) that is acting through the body, and not the self.'

Recurrence and reincarnation continue as long as, the me, the person, the soul, the jiva, believes it is the cause and originator of action. Consciousness and knowledge enable the jiva to realize that the self does nothing and it is prakriti, nature, that performs all action, as part of the drama, as the characters in the play being performed in the theatre of the universe. As long as an individual self believes it acts, it is subject to karma, and it appears to experience of the effects of past actions.

Knowledge removes the effects of karma by the realization that the self does nothing, accumulates no samskara, and is invulnerable, quite beyond the law or effects of karma. Karma is realized to be merely a subtle aspect of Maya. To the genuine self, the Parabrahman, which is beyond the limitations of, and entanglement with, Prakriti, beyond both time and space, karma is illusory.

Therefore it is Prakriti which is practising apartheid. But.... who is it practising on?

18 May 2009

Atman has separated from Brahman

Heaven, Brahma-Loka, can be known. It is a golden world. We are expelled from Heaven when we sound an "I" for the first time. "I" indicates separation. I and the world have become separated, in truth they are not. A separate "I" cannot stay in Heaven, and we pass out through the gates, which close firmly behind us. This can be remembered. Some advaitins say that Brahma-Loka, Siva-Loka, and Visnu-Loka are all part of the illusion, and merely aspects of the Vyavaharika. Heaven is not the Paramarthika.

Atman has separated from Brahman. This is due to ignorance. Atman looks out, and is that awesome consciousness within us which is looking out. Because Atman is everything, he identifies with whatever he sees. Atman is pure consciousness, and everything else is consciousness, therefore Atman identifies everything he is conscious of... as himself. What Atman does not know is that the Shakti has unfolded herself as space-air-fire-water-earth and entered into them. When the Atman identifies with anything present in, or constructed from, these five subtle elements he becomes lost in the illusion, in the dream, magically created by the Shakti. The magical power of the Shakti is Maya.

Space, akasha, is universal mind, inner space is individual mind. Air, vayu, prana, is the serving medium of the causal world, and has the power of animating the unmanifest, bringing being into manifestation, turning mere forms and mechanisms into apparently living things, including spirits. Fire, light, tejas, is the projection from Isvara which reflects upon the screen of space in the mind to create the appearance and forms of the world. In Water, ap, are the characters in the drama, the illusory people and selves in the world, their natures, hopes, desires, loves and hates. Earth, prithivi, is associated with the physical bodies of everything.

Space is mind, air is power, fire is form, water is nature, earth is body.

When Shakti-Maya, via various subtle intermediaries, presents a person, a character, a part in the drama, before Atman, he identifies with it, and becomes the jiva. If Shakti-Maya presents a spirit before Atman he becomes a spirit, buddhi, if she presents a god before Atman he becomes a god, chitta, and so on. The Shakti is playing with the Atman, and some jnanis say it is a very serious game. Atman is being tricked into believing that he is born, living, dwelling in a house with a pretty garden, falling in love, marrying, having children, and dying. Sometimes, and eventually, the game becomes intense, extreme, and apparently very painful to the jiva. When the pain or folly becomes too great, Atman will disengage, turn completely around, and looking back into himself.... remember himself. The end of ignorance.

Does the Shastra tell the Atman to disengage from the Prakriti of Shakti-Maya? I suspect not. The Shastra tells the jiva to do so, and that is not quite the same thing? The Shastra therefore has to be understood as a theoretical aid to the education of the jiva only. Who can teach the jiva that he does not even exist? Who can demonstrate the illusory nature of space-air-fire-water-earth? Who can demonstrate that Shakti-Maya, your own shaddow self, is playing mercilessly with you, the Atman? Who can show you the sakshin and purusha witnesses within you who alone can see that everything is merely a succession of octaves according to law, and that Prakriti is unreal, and consists entirely of the action and interaction of the three gunas? .... only the power of the guru. Darshan. The shastra cannot do anything. Those who put their faith totally in the enlightening power of Vedas are possibly further deluding themselves? And finally who can separate the jiva from the Atman? Only the Atman himself by divesting himself of ignorance. The jiva is Atman identified with what he is not. Being identified with anything in the play of Shakti-Maya is ignorance. Atman is not physical or material, Atman is not a person or nature, Atman is not a spirit, Atman is not divine. Atman is not light or darkness or shaddow. Atman is powerless and disinterested in action. Atman is not in time, Atman is not in space. Atman is not in mind. Atman is beyond mind.

When Brahman sleeps his Shakti awakes, when Brahman awakes, the Shakti sleeps. Nothing can change while Brahman is dreaming. We are all part of the dream of Brahman. We all have to wait for him to awake. Who can awaken Brahman?

17 May 2009


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This blog-web site is intended to offer help to those in search of the self.


The Beginning

There are cycles of Creation, Maintenance, and Destruction.
Advaita Vedanta suggests that there is no beginning and no end. It is endless.

At the beginning of one cycle, the god Brahma remembers himself, awakens, and discovers the principle of existence.

What Brahma discovers is that existence is possible if all support all.
It is not possible to remember yourself unless you love.


No one has ever understood anyone else by means of words and language.


Consider how language operates.... you have an experience, but being human you cannot share your experience directly with someone else. You conceptualize the experience, attempt to capture it in thought, then you attempt to transpose the thought into words, but realize that the right words are difficult to find, you realize that no words exactly represent what you are trying to express, you keep trying and compromise with words, eventually accepting some that approximately correspond to the thought, then you sound the words via some flaps of membrane in your throat and observe them come out through your mouth, noting that the particular sound, timbre, rhythm, pitch, colour, phrazing etc that your inherited body makes doesn't quite correspond to the quality and dynamism of the original thought, and now has, by a series of transformations, become even more distant from the living original experience. You realize that your words sound slightly contrived and empty, almost random, a very poor approximation to what you had hoped to express. Nevertheless the sentence has now been spoken, and you watch your beloved listen to, and react to, your words. You see her struggling momentarily in her mind to match the sounds that you made with words, as she personally and uniquely understands them, and next to match them with what she believes are the conventional meanings that she has absorbed from the society within which she has grown up. She also struggles momentarily to match your words with her own experience, and then match those experiences with concepts already present in her own mind..... and amazingly, suddenly she seems to connect the sounds with something. She smiles, and says; Yes, that is very interesting.

You have no idea whether or not she understands you, whether what is now in her mind is exactly the same as what is in your mind. Her words may reassure you, but ultimately you are confined to your own mind and she to hers.... unless you have direct access, which is possible. But direct access doesn't use language.

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