A warm welcome.
This blog-web site is intended to offer help to those in search of the self.
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.
Let us take an example.... I give you a peach. You hold it in your hand, touch it and smell its subtle paradisal fragrance You bite into it and taste it. Oh... magnificence. Pick up the telephone and tell your beloved what you have experienced..... without using the word 'peach'. All you have to do is to convey the essence of peachness in language.
Difficult? Even impossible? I agree.
No one has ever understood anyone else through the medium of language.
You haven't understood one word I have used so far. Nor have I understood anyone who has ever spoken to me. Nor have I ever understood anything I have read, neither what the author was expressing, nor why he wanted to write what he did. Poignant? Melancholic? Separate? That is the human condition. The human nature is one of unbearable limitations.
The gods do not use language. They have mouths but they do not open them. They are silent. If it is necessary to communicate... they have a much better method. Unlike human language which is almost random and uncertain in result, their method is exact and certain. They use darshan, showing. If they wish to demonstrate something to you, they put the experience directly into you. Their experience becomes your experience. Of course you may misinterpret the experience, fail to understand it, but any misunderstanding can no longer be due to misconceptions of language. Time is strange, in the divine world the past has not disappeared into oblivion, it is still present. Therefore the divine being can put any experience directly into to you, for you to observe and understand, even as far back to the beginning of creation, and so reveal the forces at work. The divine being can, through the process of darshan, show you Great Brahma discovering the principle of creation. Then you know as gods know.
Advaita Vedanta teaches that there are many Brahmas. Probably that is true. The Brahma associated with our world, did open his mouth and a sound came out, continues to come out. Advaita says it is the sound OM. It is a sort of rhythm, a vibration, a rhythm of huge overpowering force. It creates everything. The traffic noise in the city, the cooing of the pigeons in the trees, the sound of the pedestrians walking along the pavement, even your own heart beat..... all are part of the great rhythm. It seems impossible to escape from it, since it both encompasses everything and holds everything transfixed. Our Brahma seems to suffer from a compulsive creation disorder. No one seems to be able to stop him. Maybe he has a reason, an instruction, we know not of. For myself, looking at the world and the things that are in it, evaluating its nature and quality, I can't help thinking it is all somewhat immature, bizarre, cruel, appalling. Maybe that young immature Brahma should have kept his mouth shut? Great Brahma is of a different quality to the young Brahma who creates our world, and of him no criticism is made. Reluctantly, I tentatively have to propose the thesis that all our problems, all the imperfections of our world, result from the immaturity of the gods. Silence is a finer state than sound.
The self is not located upon any eternal wheel, nor is it subjected to fate, reincarnation, or recurrence. It is the jiva which is subject to reincarnation, etc. The jiva associated with yourself and myself is the atman identified with an individual nature, identified with someone who exhibits all the various characteristics of you and I. The atman has identified with someone or something it is not.
It happens like this... being pure consciousness, together with the fact that consciousness is one and is everywhere, the atman identifies with whatever it sees. To explain... the consciousness that is atman and the consciousness that is present as the object appearing before atman are the same one consciousness, therefore atman moves, identifies with, and relocates in the object because it believes it is itself. The atman believes 'I am you, you are I'. Identified and relocated, the atman now looks out from the object. The atman has become one with the consciousness of the object and can now look out using the object's consciousness. They are the same are they not? Subtly, that is ignorance. I would guess we have all made the same mistake. We are not what we appear to be. Advaita offers the well known aphorism: If you can see it, you cannot be it. It is the jiva, which is the combination of the atman identified with a nature, or the atman identified with a non-existent being, who we mistake to be ourselves and who, surviving death, is subjected to reincarnation etc. Philosophically it is necessary to separate atman and nature when discussing someone. One, they unknown are, whereas the other, they appear to be. Fortunately or unfortunately, it is the natures of both you and I that are eternally located in 'the wheel', 'The wheel', is part of the turning cosmic cogs of prakriti. Prakriti is an inexorable cosmic mechanism, when it moves and engulfs you, you hear the wrath of God. The individual nature of both you and I is prakriti (Nature).
The fact that atman moves, identifies, becomes what it is not, is the essential problem.
Our consciousness moves. Brahman does not move. Brahman is eternal stillness. Nor does Brahman identify with anything. It is the atman that has moved, separated from Brahman. This universe is about the poignancy of separation.
An interesting question is to enquire: where has the person, the nature, come from? Advaita suggests that it is a combined creation of Isvara and Maya. My ordinary sense of self, as the person covering the nature, is an illusory creation of Maya and is part of prakriti. I, as the jiva, am nothing other than a projection (vikshepa) upon the screen of mind. Someone is playing with me, and is probably playing with each of us. My nature is merely a part in the play of creation, a drama which is said to have no beginning and no end. Sankara says that transmigratory existence is like a wheel that rolls on forever. Just like a reel of film in a cinema projector, 'a wheel' slowly unwinds and presents the life of myself upon the screen of my particular inner space, my mind, and when fully unwound, it stops. When it stops it is probably rewound. Time is not something that is outside one, it is coiled up inside one, inside the body, in the solar plexus, in the subtle body. The life unwinds and then it is rewound. Recurrence is merely watching, viewing, the 'same' life again. If you want to rescue yourself from this subtle cinema, or theatre, you have to tell your consciousness, tell your atman, to stop identifying with one particular favourite character upon the screen and, if he can.... get out.
Theoretical mathematicians and astro-physicists are certain that time and space are curved, and some philosophers have said that the individual life is also curved, resulting in a circle, so that its end and its beginning are the same. Others say that the circle doesn't meet exactly its starting point, and there is a small gap, so that a spiral or helix is a better description. Recurrence is therefore passage from one circle of time to a parallel circle of time which is subtly spatially located alongside it. Everything, every detail, in the two parallel lines of time appears to be the same, but significantly they are not precisely the same circle, and thus there are rare small differences. However, there are some incomprehensible consequences as a result of the structure of recurrence.... there are at least two of everything you have experienced.... you have two mothers and in fact two of everything else. But you only have one self. Here is a story told by Shantanand, the former Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math....
'Now we will consider a divine creation.
The child Krishna once wanted to go out grazing cows along with the other boys. Everyone dissuaded him as he was too young to remain out the whole day, but he insisted on going. Yashoda, his mother, then gave some sucking sweets to the boys and asked them to give them to him when he felt hungry, to save him from the hot sun, fatigue, etc. Then the boys and Krishna went to the bank of the river Yamuna to graze the cows. There Krishna appeared to be eating the sand of the Yamuna instead of the sweets, and he did not stop when told not to indulge in that dirty habit.
In the evening, when they returned to the village they complained to Mother Yashoda about Krishna's mischievous behaviour. She questioned Krishna, and he denied it point-blank. Then she caught Krishna with one hand, took up a stick with the other, and threatened to beat him. Krishna said: “ Mother, just peep into my mouth. If I ate sand, you will surely see it there.”
Yashoda looked into Krishna's mouth. First she saw only his lovely pinkish lips and pearly teeth. But soon she began seeing in it the whole village – their own house – another Yashoda holding another Krishna – another earth and another sky – mountains and rivers – and everything. She was completely non-nonplussed. Seeing her frightened out of her wits, Krishna withdrew the vision and assumed his former appearance.'
Life is very different from Hell. In life there is the possibility of moving, the possibility of evolution and compensation, there is the possibility of understanding, there is the possibility of self remembering, although it is extremely difficult. In Hell there seems to be no possibility. It is pure pathos. The jivas smash each other into bewildered fragments and the spirits are buried in delusion (avarana), covered over for aeons of time in self forgetfulness.
Perhaps you may say: 'I hope my next life will be a life in which I can understand the things I didn't before. If I want it, of course', the interesting idea here is that one doesn't have to accept the life. It is inevitable that eventually, at conception, the divine arranger of lives will offer you a life. The secret is to somehow realize that the being who is offered the life is not your genuine self. The first part is quite easy. The person in the life offered, the being who you will have to get into, and who will live out the life, is clearly seen to be not yourself. From a distance you may be deceived, but close-up it is nothing like yourself. The much more difficult realization to make is that the person who is being offered the life is not your genuine self either. It is very subtle. You are merely the observer of conception, not the conceived, not the incarnated, not the transmigrant. The genuine you is not offered a life, it is only someone who you think you are, the someone who you have mistaken to be yourself for a long time, and who is being offered the life. But, considering where one has come from, considering that one cannot stand being a jiva, considering one cannot bear one's limited nature, considering that one is searching for oneself, considering one's natural inclination to help another, considering the poor quality of the intellect available to one at conception.... does one have any choice? Worse... the divine arranger of lives may well trick you into accepting. He has his own secret aim. You and I are here, therefore we must have accepted the life, either willingly or perhaps reluctantly.
It is possible to realize that you are not a physical body, not a person, not a nature, not a spirit, not even a god.... only when you see that they are all mere mechanisms. We all want to be spiritual, but when we discover our spirit we find that it is a mechanism. A subtle mechanism. A definition of the self could be... that which is not a mechanism. If you are in search of the self then.... the search goes on. Someone is playing with us. I am certain that someone is playing with myself, but I can only assume someone is also playing with you. Assumptions are often wrong.
Someone once said: 'All actions are ruled by three aspects, attraction, repulsion or neutral'....
Agreed, different words for the same idea could be: positive, negative, neutral. These are in fact the three gunas acting and interacting with each other, rajas the positive, tamas the negative, sattva the harmonizing neutral. Rajas and tamas are at war with each other, their eternal conflict is the basis of all the creative and destructive tendencies we experience in the world. The incarnations of Brahma are the benevolent creative rajasic types, the incarnations of Siva the malevolent destructive tamasic types, and whatever guna predominates in yourself, so you become attracted to other people of the same guna type, and conversely repelled by the opposite type. The incarnations of Visnu are the types who are the maintainers in society, those who naturally gravitate to the work of keeping it all going. Brahmas are attracted to cultured Sarasvati's, Sivas to voluptous Kalis and Visnus to maternal Lakshmis.
Sarasvatis are noble, beautiful, lovers of culture and wisdom, they have light and love in their eyes, their ears are large and plainly shaped, their legs are strong practical and relatively unattractive. Kalis are ignoble, they are lovers of the dark arts, they have blackness and malevolence in their eyes, their high cheek bones, flared nostrils and subtle primitive facial features are not genuinely beautiful, their ears are pointed or kinked, but their legs are perfect and very beautiful. Lakshmis are neither noble nor ignoble, often they are quite ordinary and plain looking although sometimes they have a sweet homely appearance, they are lovers of children, family happiness, wealth and good fortune, look deeply into their eyes and you will see utter slyness there, their ears are of medium size and simply formed, their legs are heavy with the calf muscles distinctively pulled down towards mother earth. These are the main characteristics by which each of the three main types of women may be recognized. Mate with a Sarasvati and you will live a creative cultured life, mate with a Lakshmi and you will spend your life rearing children and amassing a family fortune, mate with wild sexually dissolute Kali and you will end as one of the skulls in her necklace, as is the usual fate of all her lovers.
In Karma Yoga Schools it is taught that the aim is to come under the will of Brahman. Critics of Karma Yoga say that there is an error in such a principle because when you say you are doing Brahman's will it is merely the 'I' or ego making the choice to be neutral'..... To that objection one could reply like this... Yes, it looks like the I or ego is making the choice to commit 'suicide'. The ego has to fade away. It depends what you want, whether you are completely happy with your nature, and want to stay as an individual, or whether you can't stand your nature and are in search of a lost finer self. Because the genuine self is everything you may realize that the I or ego is not yourself, it is actually an imposter that has taken possession of one. Brahman is everything, therefore the true oneself is everything and not an individual. Brahman is unity, and it depends if that wholeness, oneness, is what you want. Because we identify with the I, with the ego, we are apprehensive about dissolving ourselves into the whole, fearing loss of identity. The I doesn't want to lose its grip on one, it doesn't want to be anhilated.
It is always the I or ego which believes it has choice, and can do, and that it does the deciding and performs all the actions. But careful observation shows that everything just happens, and the self never does anything, including making choices. It is your nature, prakriti, that is acting through the body and mind, not you. Advaita says the only thing that is possible is for you to change your attitude. Attitude is free, and is not determined. You can change your attitude to what is happening, either you can enjoy it, or resent it, or you can regard it with equanimity. If you have a nature which decides to do and say whatever is necessary in the moment, then you happen to come under the will of the all, Brahman, if you have a nature which ignores or neglects what is necessary then you happen to come under the will of the unseen force which suggests, induces and controls your separate egoism. It is your attitude to what is happening that makes some difference. We are not our natures, we have become identified and entangled with parkriti (Nature). Because we are identified with our I, our me, it is very difficult to see this. Only the witness, the sakshin, can see this clearly.
Become the witness.
Christianity proposes the trinity of Father-Son-Holy Spirit and it is interesting to attempt to see what this may be related to in Advaita Vedanta? If one takes the Son to be the child in us, the Father to be ageless wisdom in us, and Spirit to be the finest and holiest level of being in us.... then the mystery begins to unravel?
Study any young child and it can be observed that they are essentially pure consciousness, therefore the Son perhaps represents consciousness, which in Advaita is the Atman. Wisdom depends upon knowledge and understanding. Knowledge is very cold. When one meets a pure intellectual in ordinary life you can observe how they look at oneself, study one, as an object of knowledge. They love knowledge more than they love people, and they never see the 'you', only you as an object of knowledge. Observing intellectuals more closely it can be detected that they are operating in a two-way direction, they look out at the object of knowledge, and look within, relating what they are seeing to what they already know. Knowledge is already within themselves, and to them the whole enjoyment lies in connecting the knowledge outside with the knowledge inside. Therefore perhaps the Father represents Knowledge in Advaita? There is a third type of person one meets in life who are almost wholely inturned. Their attention is turned within upon themselves. They are the enjoyers of their own being. This is the season of the Christmas Party, and people are encouraged to 'enjoy themselves'. If you go to a party in the next few weeks observe the moment when someone is laughing, or expressing pure enjoyment, or happiness.... you may well observe that they are completely turned in, turned momentarily in upon themselves. They are in love with their own being. They are enjoying their own being. Therefore the Holy Spirit perhaps represents the happiness-joy-bliss of pure Being?
Playing with the words, one arrives at: Consciousness is the Son, Knowledge is the Father, Bliss-Happiness is the Holy Spirit. Consciousness is Sat, Knowledge is Chit, Bliss is Ananda. Advaita is always reminding us that our true nature is Sat-Chit-Ananda. Therefore it can be concluded that Atman, which is pure consciousness only and is looking out, lacks knowledge, which looks simultaneously in two directions, in and out, in order to regain contact with our true being which is inturned within. Perhaps this partially explains why Advaita states that only knowledge, aided by the study of Jnana Yoga, leads to self-realization?
Usually Sat-Chit-Ananda is translated as Being-Consciousness-Bliss, but I suggest that this is a slightly incorrect translation of the sanskrit, due to a slightly incorrect understanding of our true self? It is better to understand the self, as far as it can be put into words, which is doubtful, as Consciousness-Knowledge-Bliss?
Just to throw everything into confusion again, just as one is begining to think one understands Advaita... the young god of consciousnes, the ancient-ever-new god of knowledge, the holy inturned god of being.... are all masks of Visnu. Visnu is playing with us. He is hiding behind these three images. He projects himself as these three forms. Then he peeps out from behind and lets you catch a glimpse of himself, just to make you realize that it is all an illusion. Visnu is utterly, utterly sly. Because you react, and conclude you can never trust the sly man, Visnu intentionally induces mistrust in you, intentionally confuses you, so that.... you have to discover everything for yourself. That is his unseen sly aim... to create a self-evolving being.... You. You may desire to evolve. You may, as a limited nature, long for perfection. But it is prudent to remember that all evolution is in Prakriti. The self is already perfect and doesn't evolve. The self is not Prakriti. The self is not a nature. The self has no nature, no characteristics. It is all a trick.
This explains why Vaisnavism, the worshippers of Visnu as the supreme godhead, come closest to Christianity... both are dualistic systems proposing self and god as separate beings, with the individual wholly dependent upon the god. Both Visnu and the Christian God appear in the form of Father-Son-and Holy Spirit. But Advaita goes one step further when it unequivocally states, self and Brahman are the same, not two, without duality. It is Purusha, the real spirit which, being the highest witness, is located above the three gunas, above Brahma-Visnu-Siva (which are personifications of the three gunas), and it is this highest witness, the Purusha which sees everything as mere Prakriti (Nature).
Beyond Purusha is Brahman, the self.
When the Shankaracharyas are addressed as 'your holiness'... it may simply be an indication that they have, at least, reached the level of Purusha, Holy Spirit, and realize that everything in Nature is merely the action and inter-action of the three gunas?
All the words, all the voices, all the ideas and concepts in our head, come originally from an inner silence. As an impulse, originating in the silence, something stirs and rises up in us, which is first perceived as silence, then seen as an intense soundless vibration, then as a dynamic sound, then passing through various transformations the rising bubble finally breaks at the surface of the mind as.... words. Such frozen, almost random, words, so stale and disappointingly transformed, changed beyond recognition from the initial magnificence! The silence, the dynamic sound, the pure comprehensible idea, the tamed concept, the transfiguration and translation into words... is exactly the same impulse which merely passes through different levels of the mind. Mind is inner space, subtle inner space, and connects internally and transcendentally with outer space, subtle outer space. Subtle outer space is universal mind.
Therefore there are no individual minds. Mind is one continuum. The individual mind is simply a terminal of the universal mind. The two are connected in a straight line. Therefore if you go very, very far within, plunge very, very deep within, beyond the usual limits, you find yourself outside yourself in vast space. It is from that transcendental unknowable inward, but outer space, that our thoughts originate. Inner and outer lose their distinction. The source of language, the source of an idea, the source of all words, appearing in our mind is silence. Silence is the only word that can attempt to describe the source. The source is simply something intensely compressed beyond the range of our ordinary cognition. Inner cognition has a limited range and the source of concepts, ideas, and language is beyond the extreme limit of that range. If we could think and speak at a level even a little closer to the source.... our lives would be quite different.
Individual mind and universal mind
One can never be sure that one knows what is in the mind of another person, unless one has 'spiritual consciousness'.... in which case you can know the mind of another.... because it is all in universal mind. We tend to think we have an individual mind, which is quite private and into which no one can trespass.... but that is because we are generally unaware that individual mind connects directly, in a straight-within direction, with universal mind. Some one who has managed to dive deeply enough in their individual mind and reached universal mind.... has the same mind as you, shares the same mind.
In reality mind is one, not multiple. Individual minds are simply branches or terminals of the one universal mind. Call it the mind of God, if you wish?
Just as God knows all, so can you know all, know all minds, if you dive sufficiently deep into your own mind. Very young children, say a few months old, have something of that quality of mind.... they see what is going on in your mind, although you may not realize that. The problem is that they do not yet have any language with which to communicate with you. And by the time they have developed language... they have lost the power to see inside your mind.
So you can never know how an infant child sees you, unless you remember what you were like yourself at that age.
Most people can not remember that far back. But those who have managed to remember what they were like at a few months of age... all say the same thing.... they saw directly into adults minds, they saw what people were thinking.
Posted by john ward
at 1:30 AM BST