Understanding Turiya (the 4th state) and Turiyatita (the state beyond the 4th state)

Question: I get confused between the idea of Turiya, the so-called 4th state, which is the Self, and the idea of Turiyatita or beyond the 4th state. How can there be something beyond the Absolute Self, the ‘4th’?

Tom: Turiya means the Self. That is the only reality – there is no real ‘beyond turiya’ (turiyatita). First see how Turiya is defined in the Mandukya Upanishad in verse 7 here.

Then note what Bhagavan Sri Ramana says in Guru Vachaka Kovai verse 567:

567. The difference between the first three dense states and the fourth and fifth states are only for those who are not able to immerse and abide firmly in turiya, which shines piercing through the dark ignorance of sleep.

Sadhu Om’s commentary: The import of this verse is that advanced aspirants should know that all states other than turiya which are mentioned in scriptures [i.e. sleep, waking, dream and turiyatita] are unreal.

Tom: Now see further verses from Guru Vachaka Kovai which explain Sri Ramana Maharshi’s teaching on this subject further:

  1. In Jnanis, who have destroyed the ego, the three
    states [waking, dream and sleep], which were seen
    previously, will disappear, and the noble state of
    turiya [the ‘fourth’] will itself shine gloriously in them
    as turiyatita
    [the state transcending the ‘fourth’].

Tom’s comments: ie. the forth state (Turiya) is in fact Turiyatita – they are one and the same. This is stated more explicitly in the next 2 verses:

  1. The state of turiya, which is Self, pure sat-chit, is
    itself the non-dual turiyatita
    . Know that the three
    states are mere [false] appearances, and that Self is
    the supporting base for them [i.e. the base on which
    they appear and disappear].
  1. Is it not only if the other three states [waking, dream and sleep]
    were real that wakeful sleep [jagrat-
    sushupti], the pure Jnana, would be the fourth?
    Since those three states are [found to be] unreal in
    front of turiya, that [turiya] is the only state; know
    [therefore] that it [turiya] is itself turiyatita
    .

Using much simpler language, I also explain this type of teaching in a slightly different way that you may find helpful here in this video:

The true nature of the world or universe | Sri Muruganar | Sri Guru Ramana Prasadam

Sri Muruganar was one of the most important of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s devotees: he spent over 20 years being lovinginly devoted to his Guru, Sri Ramana, and he was, to my knowledge, the only living person who Sri Ramana said had realised the Self.

In the wonderful text Sri Guru Ramana Prasadam, Sri Muruganar writes verse after verse after verse explaining how through his Guru’s Grace and Teachings he too came to fully realise the Self.

On page 137 he writes about the true nature of the world or universe, as follows:

The viewpoint [that there is] a phenomenal world is given as a provisional hypothesis principally for those of low and middling attainment, who are the vast majority, and who do not have both an intense longing to realise the truth and a total absense of desire for sense enjoyments, resulting from perceiving the inherent defects [of those sense enjoyments].

In the scriptures themselves, enlightened Jnanis proclaim that the world appears to the ego-mind – formed by the know joining consciousness with the insentient (cit-jada granthi) – and that the Self remains in total union with that world.

However, in truth, nothing exists apart from the one Self. Hence, from the ultimate viewpoint, it remains unattached, there being nothing other than itself – like the underlying screen in a cinama show.

The perfect awakening into Self-knowledge happens in just a split second | Ramana Maharshi

The following is taken from Sadhana Saram, a wonderful text that explains the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi written by Sri Sadhu Om, a direct devotee of Sri Ramana’s:

48. The Manner of the Dawn of Knowledge (Janodaya Vidham)

268. Death happens in a split second. Awakening from sleep happens in a split second. Similarly, the destruction of the delusion of individuality happens in just a split second. True knowledge is not something that can be gained and then lost. If a person feels that true knowledge is coming and going, he is still only in the state of practice (or abhyasa). It cannot be said that such a person has attained true Self-knowledge.

The perfect awakening into the state of Self-knowledge happens in just a split second. That state is not attained gradually over a long period of time. All the sadhanas that are practiced over a period of many years are meant only for attaining blemishless maturity.

Listen to an apt illustration. After people have placed gunpowder in the iron barrel of a temple-cannon, after they have added broken pieces of brick, after they have packed it tight with a ramrod, after they have placed a wick in contact with the powder, and after they have plastered the open end of the barrel with clay, as soon as the charge is ignited it will explode in a split second with a blast that sounds like thunder.

Similarly, after one has learnt the truth about the real Self through hearing and reading, after one has practiced sadhana for a long time, after one has wept and prayed with heart-melting devotion, and after one has thereby attained purity of mind, the knowledge of the reality will instantaneously shine forth in a split second as “I am I”. As soon as the dawn of Self-knowledge thus takes place, due to the clear shining of the reality of this state, which is an empty space devoid of objective knowledge, will be spontaneously realized to be the state of true knowledge, which is our beginningless real nature.

Q. What is ego?

Q. What is ego?

Tom: if there is any sense of individuality whatsoever, then that is ego; if there is any sense or something apart or outside of you, then that is ego; if there is any sense of multiplicity, that is ego; if there is any notion ‘I am the body-mind’, then that is ego. The ego, no matter how refined, is suffering. The ego is the body-mind-world appearance.

In Reality, there has never been any ego, there has never been any duality or multiplicity, there has never been any suffering whatsoever. Reality is only Infinite Love & Bliss, Infinite Being-Consciousness, Formless-Spirit-Bliss.

To realise this one must turn within.

Furthermore:

To say ‘there is no ego’ without turning within and dissolving into Reality – that is merely the ego-mind saying ‘there is no ego’.

To say ‘all is One’ without venturing inwards and discovering the Self (by Being That) – that is merely the ego-mind saying ‘all is One’.

In this way (through not turning within, through not inquiring into the Subject-Self) ego-mind-suffering-duality continue.

Hence the instruction to turn within.

Furthermore:

The true teachings always emphasise the Subject (Reality or Self) and to turn towards and discover That, whereas false teachings emphasise objects, stating things like ‘all these objects are already That so no need to turn within’ and ‘there already is no ego so no need to turn within for what entity could even turn within?’. So egotism, duality and suffering are perpetuated.

Therefore turn within and discover what you truly are

🙏

Buddhism vs Vedanta | Self vs no-self | Nirvana vs Self-Realisation | The Unborn | The Deathless

Here in this article we will explore the Buddhist teachings and contrast them to Vedanta or ‘Hindu-style’ teachings. We will look at notions of self and no-self, nirvana and self-realisation, and look at the earliest complete Buddhist teachings ie. as recorded in the Pali Suttas (Sutta is a Pali word meaning ‘thread’ and refers to a ‘string of verses’, ie. a text; Sutra is the equivalent word in Sanskrit)

Also see: Ramana Maharshi: was the Buddha self-realised?

Some people think that the teachings of the Buddha point in some fundamental way to something different to teachings of ‘Hinduism’ (Sanatana Dharma) and Vedanta. Most of these people are either only approaching the teachings in an intellectual way or are attached to a particular conceptual view; or perhaps they have not made a deep study of the teachings, or perhaps they have not developed a deeper insight into the teachings for themselves.

Let us see why this is the case, as if one reads the early recorded teachings of the Buddha for oneself, clarity on this issue arises:

The Unborn, the Unmanifest, the Uncreated, the Unconditioned

A closer reading of the Buddhist texts reveals that the Buddha did actually acknowledge in many places the existence of what in Vedanta would be called ‘The Self’ (Sanskrit: Atman) and what others may even call God. Here is just one example from the Nibbana Sutta verse 3 (Udana 8.3), which is from the Pali Canon:

There is, bhikkhus [monks], that which is unborn, that which is unmanifest [or has not come into being], that which is not fabricated/created, that which is unconditioned.

If there were not, bhikhus, that which is unborn, that which is unmanifest, that which is not fabricated/created, that which is unconditioned, there would not be escape from that which is born, from that which is manifest, from that which is fabricated/created, from that which is conditioned – that therefore would not have been clearly known/experienced/seen.

But because, bhikhus, there is indeed that which is unborn, that which is unmanifest, that which is not fabricated/created, that which is unconditioned, therefore escape from that which is born, from that which is manifest, from that which is fabricated, from that which is conditioned, is [or can be] clearly known/experienced/seen.

We can clearly see that the Buddha is categorically stating that there is something that is beyond birth and creation, beyond manifestation and that which is conditioned (ie. all objects).

He then goes on to sate that only because there is such a thing as this Unborn is it possible for liberation to occur. The Buddha even states that without the existence of ‘that which is unborn’ liberation would not be possible.

Negating vs affirming language

Note that the Buddha characteristically uses negating language – ie. NOT born, NOT manifest, NOT created, etc, rather than the combination of both negating and affirming language often used in the vedic literature.

I hope you will see that this is clearly analogous to descriptions of the Self in Vedic literature which is described as being that which is Unborn, Unmanifest, Unconditioned, etc.

Please note that the above verse and following verses are taken from the Pali canon which represents the earliest complete recorded teachings of the Buddha (rather that the writings of later schools).

Nirvana

Please also note that the word Nibbana is the Pali equivalent of the Sanskrit word Nirvana (sometimes spelt Nirbana), which is a word that is also used in pre-Buddhist Vedic texts such as the Bhagavad Gita as a synonym for liberation. This means that the Buddha chose to use the same word for liberation that the Vedic texts also used.

‘No Self’ means no ego or no Jiva, NOT no Brahman/Unborn principle

So what does the word ‘Nirvana’ mean? It literally means extinguishment or annihilation or ‘blown out’ (like extinguishing or blowing out a flame).

Why is this word used in both ‘Hinduism’ and Buddhism (and Jainism too) as a synonym for liberation? It is because in all these traditions, it is accepted that liberation is simply destruction or extinguishment of the ego-self, which is illusory or unreal. So when ‘no-self’ is proclaimed in Buddhism, it is only the denial of the Jiva (apparently separate self) or ego-illusion.

In Vedanta this is also known as manonasa or destruction (extinguishment) of mind (manas = mind; nasa = destruction or anihiliation). We will see later that the Buddha also conceived of liberation in the same way – ie. destruction of the thinking and desiring mind.

Anatman (Anatta in pali) vs Atman

The Sanskrit word atman means self, and anatman means not-self or no-self. The Pali equivalent of anatman is anatta.

The Buddha points to various phenomenal arisings and points out that in none of these can a self be found and that all of these phenomenal arisings are anatman or ‘not-self’. An example of this is the Buddhist teaching of the five skandas, which is clearly analogous to the Vedic teaching of the five koshas. In both these teachings it is pointed out that these five skandas or five koshas are not-self, meaning no self can be found in them.

It should be clear that he Buddha is not saying there is no Unborn Principle (quite the opposite as we can see from the Nibbana Sutta verse 3 above), but that the phenomenal appearance of a separate self (Jiva in Sanskrit) or ego is illusory and that only by coming into the Unborn we can attain liberation – see the next section for more on this as well as how to do this for oneself.

The Deathless – how to attain Nirvana & Sri Ramana Maharshi’s teachings

Earlier we saw how the Buddha referred to what called the Unborn, the Unmanifest, the Unfabricated. Elsewhere he referred to the same Unborn as ‘the Deathless’. See here for an example of this – in this post I also go more into the actual methodology of liberation as proposed by the Buddha and show how it is essentially the same method taught by Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.

The Unmanifest or Nirguna Brahman

In Vedanta teachings, two forms of Ultimate Reality or Brahman are spoken of: the manifest or saguna Brahman and the unmanifest or nirguna Brahman (sa = with; nir = without; guna = qualities).

According to Vedanta, in truth there is only one form of Brahman – the unmanifest or Nirguna Brahman, but is spoken of as being two purely for purposes of teaching. This Nirguna Brahman, which has no qualities that can be described in words and has no qualities that can be perceived by the senses, this nirguna Brahman is the only True Reality, and realisation of this Truth is tantamount to liberation.

The manifest or Saguna Brahman refers to the apparent world of phenomenal appearances and according to Vedanta these do not actually exist and are illusory. The Vedanta teachings encourage us to turn away from objective phenomena towards the Subject-Self which is then revealed to be Nirguna Brahman.

Unsurprisingly we see exactly the same teaching in the Buddhist Pali Suttas time and time again.

Extinguishing the Fire of Egotism

For example in the Fire Sermon, which was said to be the third sermon the Buddha gave, the Buddha explains that everything that we can perceive and imagine is just egotism which he likens to a flame or fire. It then makes sense that Nirvana is extinguishment of this flame or fire of egotism. He encourages us to ‘become disgusted’ with the various phenomenal arisings and turn away from them, and it is in this way liberation or nirvana, which is the end of egotism and suffering, occurs.

In Nirvana there is the cessation of all phenomenal appearances

How does the Buddha describe Nibbana? Where better to look than the Nibbana Sutta that was quoted above? Here is verse 1 (Udana 8.1):

There is, bhikkhus, that Base where there is no earth, no water, no fire, no air…neither this world nor another world nor both; neither sun nor moon. Here, bhikkhus, I say there is no coming, no going, no staying, no deceasing, no uprising. Not fixed, not movable, it has no support. Just this is the end of suffering.

We can see from the last phrase ‘just this is the end of suffering’ that the Buddha is describing Nirvana (which he defines as the end of suffering, and which is generally defined as the end of suffering) or what is Vedanta would be called The Self (Atman).

In his description the Buddha is also explaining that in Nirvana ‘there is no earth, no water, no fire, no air…‘, ie. by negating the appearance of the four classical elements he is stating that in nirvana there are no phenomenal arisings whatsoever. He continues this theme by stating ‘there is neither this world, not another world…neither sun nor moon… no coming, no going…

See the PDF file here to see this same process of cessation of all phenomenal arisings being described in Vedanta.

The ‘Unmoving’, that which requires ‘no support’, the ‘Unaffected’

The Buddha then goes on to describe what in Vedanta would be called the Self – the Buddha states it is ‘…not moveable, it has no support‘. In Vedanta it would be said to be immovable or unchanging (that which moves can change, that which doesn’t move does not change) and self-shining, meaning it supports itself. In Vedanta, the word ‘ananda’ which means happiness or bliss means the cessation of suffering. Hopefully it is fairly clear that the teachings are pointing to the same basic thing!

In verse two of the same Nibbana Sutta (Udana 8.2) The Buddha speaks of ‘the Unaffected‘, which is clearly another name for the Vedic notion of Self, by which craving and all phenomenal appearance (Maya in vedanta) is ended. Every phenomenal appearance is within the realm of ‘the affected’, so what is this ‘unaffected’ but the True Self?:

It’s hard to see the Unaffected,
for the Truth isn’t easily seen.
Craving is pierced
in one who knows;
For one who sees,
there is nothing.

In liberation there are no thoughts or desires

As we have already quoted from verse 3 at the top of the post, let us proceed to verse 4. In verse 4 of the Nibbana Sutta the Buddha explains that one who has not found the ‘Unaffected’ (ie. the True Self) remains dependent (on phenomenal objects) and so ‘wavers’. This wavering refers to the movements of the mind, ie. what we would call thoughts and desires. Here is verse 4 (Udana 8.4):

One who is dependent has wavering. One who is independent has no wavering. There being no wavering, there is calm. There being calm, there is no desire. There being no desire, there is no coming or going. There being no coming or going, there is no passing away or arising. There being no passing away or arising, there is neither a here nor a there nor a between-the-two. This, just this, is the end of suffering.

See how Sri Ramana Maharshi explains this here.

Cessation of time and space in Liberation

In the above verse 4 the reference to ‘there being no passing away or arising’ not only indicates no arising phenomena in liberation, but also the cessation of time itself. Similarly the reference to ‘there is neither a here nor a there nor a between-the-two’ refers to the cessation of perception of space.

We can see that the teachings are referring to what in Vedanta is known as ‘non-duality’, or advaita, Oneness beyond the illusions of ego, separation, time and space

See this described here in Vedanta teachings.

The ‘Stainless’, the ‘Sorrowless’, the ‘Blissful’

In verse 5, the final verse of this Nibbana Sutta, the Buddha states the following, continuing the theme of the need to efface all desires, wants and cravings. Note how he refers to ‘stainless’ and ‘sorrowless’ and ‘blissful’ – could be be referring to what in Vedanta would be called the Self? I think so!:

The sorrows, lamentations,
the many kinds of suffering in the world,
exist dependent on something dear.
They don’t exist
when there’s nothing dear.
And thus blissful & sorrowless
are those for whom nothing
in the world is dear anywhere.
So one who aspires
to be stainless & sorrowless
shouldn’t make anything
in the world dear
anywhere.

See how Sri Ramana Maharshi similarly describes the way to liberation here.

Some concluding remarks

I have only touched upon one Sutta here in any detail. If you read the Pali canon for yourself you will find countless references like these, eg. to the Unborn and the Deathless, again and again. You will also see references to the need to turn away from objective phenomena towards that which is unborn. You will also see references to the cessation of all arising phenomena. Again and again these references are made.

Surely the Buddha and Vedanta teachings are pointing to the same thing in their own way?

I hope you found this post of use. I have written it rather hastily in one quick sitting so apologies for any spelling or grammatical or other errors.

Namaste and best wishes!

Q. Why does Vedanta insist on there being a Self? No-self makes more sense to me | the I AM|

Qestioner: Why do you say that non-duality means ‘there is only you’? For me it makes more sense to say ‘there is no you’?

Tom: Yes, many people say it the way you do, but there is a specific reason why it is said in the traditional scriptures that ‘only I exist ‘ or ‘only you exist’ as opposed to ‘there is no I’ or ‘there is no you’.

The ‘I’ or ‘I AM’ is being pointed out as indicating the reality.

Why is this?

It is because only when we turn towards the ‘I Am’ or the Subject can the non-dual reality be intuited. Otherwise, as you say, the knowledge remains only on the conceptual level for the ego-mind. This is more fully explained in Chapter 8 of The Path of Sri Ramana.

I also explain this more here.

Oh Arunachala! Sri Ramana Maharshi’s Guru. Bhakti.

Tom Das

Ramana weak though my effort was

Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi was often said to have had no guru, but he himself considered the mountain-hill Arunachala to be his Guru.

Ramana considered the actual form of Arunachala to be the divine Self, the Pure Consciousness dwelling in the Heart. This is a very strange notion for the rational Western mind, but for those who have tasted Bhakti, or devotional love, it makes complete sense.

Maybe some of you have experienced this: the Guru grips you, magnetically pulls you towards Him (or Her or It) and showers you with His Grace – you have no choice but to Obey. You somehow become convinced that the Guru’s form is itself the Absolute, the Pure Consciousness that Alone Is, and have no choice but to fall at His feet in Loving Devotion.

Ramana Thou dost root out the ego

Ramana wrote very little himself, but of his written works he did write several devotional poetic works effusively…

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Sadhanai Saram (the essence of spiritual practice): Devotion and Self-Enquiry | Ramana Maharshi | Advaita Vedanta | PDF download

The PDF file available on this link contains beautiful profound & essential Advaita Vedanta teachings for those who are genuinely seeking liberation. We find this text not only summarises Bhagavan Sri Ramana’s teachings and Advaita Vedanta teachings, but goes into them in tremendous depth with a clarity that is often not found elsewhere, Namaste

Tom Das

The following are the first 21 verses from Sadhanai Saram (The Essence of Spiritual Practice) by Sri Sadhu Om. This text contains very beautiful and deep teachings for those who are genuinely seeking liberation. We find this text not only summarises the teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana as well as Advaita Vedanta teachings, but goes into them in tremendous depth with a clarity that is often not found elsewhere.

These initial verses presented below beautifully display both devotion to Bhagavan and the path of Self-Enquiry.

You can download the full text of Sadhanai Saram here as a PDF file

Invocation

  1. O Sri Ramana, bestow Your Grace upon me so that I may in experience flawlessly attain the unequalled and unsurpassed essence of the practice (sadhana) of Self-knowledge, the excellent path “Who am I?” which you have discovered to be the central and foremost among all the various paths.
  2. O Sri…

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Manonasa by Michael Langford | The nature of Liberation | Ramana Maharshi | PDF download

In the following PDF file below, the nature of liberation is described in detail in a way I have not seen elsewhere.

Also see:

How can the Jnani (sage) function with NO THOUGHTS? Sri Ramana Maharshi

Ramana Maharshi: how to abide as the Self, the world is not real, attend to yourself

One of the books I highly recommend on my recommended reading list is ‘Manonasa’ by Michael Langford. There are many wonderful aspects about this book that give the genuine seeker of liberation many hints, tips and instructions that are not commonly found elsewhere, hence the potential value of this book. As with many of Michael Langford’s books, the style in which it is written will not suit everyone, but a genuine seeker will hopefully be able to look past any apparent or perceived stylistic deficiencies to find the treasure buried within.

So therefore I do recommend you buy and read this book for yourself.

There is a section of the book that describes Liberation or Manonasa in great detail in a way I have not found elsewhere – and this can be particularly valuable to some seekers – you can download the relevant section below as a PDF file:

In the PDF file the following is explained:

-The nature of Manoasa

-An important barrier to Manonasa

-Quotes from various different sources and sages to show that this is the traditional teaching of various sages and not just Michael Langford’s personal views

-Explanations as to how this can actually be the case

Namaste & Blessings

Tom