NOT ‘THIS’, ONLY ‘THAT’

Some say that all is One already, All is Divine, so no need to give anything up, no need to do anything. Whilst there is a truth in this, and whilst this type of teaching can provide us some limited time-bound relief (which is good as a start), it is almost always an ego-preservation strategy: the thinking mischief-causing mind is allowed to continue with its ideas and concepts and beliefs about ‘this’, and the genuine thought-free Blissful Realisation of That Which Always Is, is postponed yet again. Suffering and duality continue, apparently, and we remain stuck in illusion, apparently.

Why ‘apparently’? Because in Reality there was never any ignorance, any delusion, any duality or any suffering. Only Blissful Being ever really is.

‘This’ never was (referring to objective phenomena/maya).

There is only That (Divine Formless Spirit)…
…and That Thou Art.

To realise this is very simple: (1) Surrender all to the Him (or Her or It), (2) allow the mind to become first happy, then very calm and still, and then (3) enquire into yourself as per instructions of Bhagavan Guru Sri Ramana Maharshi

Bhagavan Ramana summarises the teachings using the Biblical phrase ‘Be Still and Know I Am God’

Om Tat Sat
🕉

Swami Sarvapriyananda: Seeing the eternal in daily life not just in samadhi

Also see: Does Swami Sarvapriyananda teach the same as Swami Vivekananda and Sri Ramakrishna?

Above is a nice presentation from Swami Sarvapriyananda, but this in my view this is actually a distortion of genuine vedanta teachings. I do want to be respectful towards Swamiji as I think he is doing a great job sharing Vedanta teachings – he is raising awareness of and popularising Vedanta in a very accessible and approachable way – and he is also a gifted teacher who is benefitting many – so I hope I will not offend anyone by merely stating an alternative view that I also hope will be of benefit to those seeking liberation (see the link above for more on my view of these types of teachings).

Imho these ‘Vedanta’ teachings are predominantly on the intellectual plane only and the genuinely infinite and blissful nature of the Self is not revealed with this type of teaching. The Jnana (knowledge) of the scriptures is not mere intellectual knowledge, as suggested by Swami Sarvapriyananda, but a synonym for Self-Realisation which is beyond any intellectual comprehension and does not depend on the mind/thought. Jnana is not merely a change in a point of view, but something much more radical and fundamental than this.

eg. there is a direct contrast between Swami S’s teaching in the video and with that of Sri Ramana Maharshi, who I consider to teach the genuine Vedanta teaching, as taught in the Upanishads and by Sri Shankaracharya. The following is taken from Sri Ramana’s text Who Am I? – can the teachings be any clearer? See how it contrasts to the exposition given, eg at around 23:40 mins into the video above where Swami S states the world/’what is seen’ need not be removed:


Questioner. When will the realization of the Self be gained?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: When the world which is what-is-seen has been removed, there will be realization of the Self which is the seer.

Questioner: Will there not be realization of the Self even while the world is there?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: There will not be.


Questioner: When will the world which is the object seen be removed?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: When the mind, which is the cause of all cognition’s and of all actions, becomes quiescent, the world will disappear.

This teaching is given by Sri Ramana as ignorance is only removed when we turn away from Maya and towards the Subject-Self, and thus discover what we truly are beyond the mind and objective phenomena. Sri Ramana is also telling us that the entire world is in fact an illusory projection of the mind, something that he further explains in the text ‘Who am I?’.

Ironically, this teaching given by Swami Sarvapriyananda is also in direct contrast to Swami Vivekananda (the founder of the organisation Swami S is in) who again and again explained the need for Samadhi, eg:


‘The conclusion of the Vedanta is that when there is absolute [ie. nirvikalpa] samadhi and cessation of all modifications, there is no return from that state’

Or contrast this with Sri Shankara, the founder of ‘modern’ Advaita Vedanta, in his commentary on the Katha Upanishad 2.1.1:

‘…The group of sense organs, beginning with the ear, should be turned away from all sense-objects. Such a one, who is purified thus, sees the indwelling self. For it is not possible for the same person to be engaged in the thought of sense-objects and to have the vision of the Self as well

Guru Ramana gives a rather cutting teaching in Guru Vachaka Kovai verse 599:

599.
The innocent girl-bride thinking that
Betrothal is full conjugal union
Is filled with joy. Even so the learned
Who have yet to turn within and taste true bliss
Claim that the verbal wisdom which they prattle
Is advaita jnana.


See here for more many more quotes like this from Sages such as Sri Shankara and the Upanishads: Do we need to turn away from the world of objects to realise the Self? | Advaita Vedanta | Sri Ramana Maharshi | Upanishads | Shankara

There is no knowing or realising the Self | Sri Ramana Maharshi

People speak of knowing the Self, or Self-Realisation, but knowing the Self is just to Be the Self. To Be the Self is just Pure Being devoid of objective phenomena. In this there is no knowing or realising, just Being.

Here are some verses from Sr Ramana Maharshi’s Upadesa Saram (30 verses on the Essence of Spiritual Instruction):

25. Seeing oneself free of all attributes [objects]
Is to see the Lord,
For He shines ever as the pure Self.

26. To know the Self is but to be the Self,
For it is non-dual.
In such knowledge
One abides as that.

27. That is true knowledge which transcends
Both knowledge and ignorance,
For in pure knowledge
Is no object to be known.

28. Having known one’s nature one abides
As being with no beginning and no end
In unbroken consciousness and bliss.


See here for the full 30 verses of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s Upadesa Saram which summarises the entire teaching

Sri Suresvara – Advaita Vedanta Summarised – |Download Naishkarmya Siddhi as PDF

From performance of the daily rituals comes merit (dharma), from merit comes destruction of sin, from this comes purity of mind, from this comes a correct evaluation of transmigratory life, from this comes indifference to it, from this comes desire for liberation, from this comes a search for the means to the latter, from this comes the renunciation of all ritualistic action and its accessories, from this comes practice of yoga, from this the focusing of the mind within, from this a knowledge of the meaning of texts like ‘That thou art’, from this the eradication of nescience [ignorance], from this establishment in the Self alone, according to the texts ‘Verily, being the Absolute (Brahman), he attains the Absolute’* and ‘Released, he is released’**.
~Suresvara (Direct disciple of Adi Shankara) from the text Naishkarmya Siddhi 1.51

*Brihadaranyaka Upanishad IV.iv.6
**Katha Upanishad II.ii.1

The entire text of Sri Suresvara’s Naishkarmya Siddhi can be downloaded here as a PDF:

Tom’s comments:

I chose this verse as it forms a concise summary of the Advaita Vedanta teaching presented in the text. (There are also many other important points made in the text). We can see the progession to liberation Sri Suresvara outlines is as follows:

  1. Performance of selfless actions (daily rituals) leads to accrual of merit
  2. Merit leads to a pure peaceful (Sattvic) mind
  3. The pure mind is able to accurately reflect and understand that all objects are transient and temporary and so not lasting fulfillment or happiness can be derived from them
  4. This leads to Vairagya or dispassion for sense-pleasures
  5. Vairagya leads to desire for a lasting fulfilment that is not based on the temporary objects, ie. liberation
  6. Desire for liberation leads to a search for a method to attain it
  7. Which leads to renunciation of all action (becoming still) and focusing one’s attention on the Self within
  8. This leads to an understanding of ‘Thou Art That’ as is written in the scriptures, or that our true nature is that of Pure Objectless Consciousness, the Eternal Subject. This is the same as the removal of ignorance
  9. This is Moksha, liberation

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti Om

Q. How can I or Atman be beyond the EXPERIENCER as well as the doer? | Nisargadatta Maharaj

Q. Hello Tom , Thank you for your efforts in helping us. I have a doubt: Sri Nisargadatta Mahraj says that YOU ARE BEYOND THE EXPERIENCER – I understand that experiences changes but the experiencer is constant, but what can be beyond the experiencer, and does that mean we avoid experiences of our lives and even spirtiual realisation is a sort of experience, as we feel more peaceful and joyful, please explain this to me.

Tom:

Great question. The ego is both the experiencer AND the doer. These are both Maya (ie. illusion or fiction) or part of the waking dream. What you are, the Self, is beyond this Maya or waking dream.

Sometimes the Self is said to be the Witness, but this is not actually true, for it is the (fictional) ego that witnesses things/objects, it is also the ego that thinks, that emotes, etc.

The Self is devoid of all phenomena.

This can only really be understood fully by doing Self-Enquiry, eg. as per Sri Ramana’s instructions in the text Who Am I?

eg. See here verse 7 from the Mandukya Upanishad which explains that the Self is not the witness/observer of objects and also the Self is devoid of phenomena (note Turiya is another name for the Self (Atman means Self), as is also explained in the verse):

‘Turiya is not that which is conscious of the inner (subjective) world, nor that which is conscious of the outer (objective) world, nor that which is conscious of both, nor that which is a mass of consciousness. It is not simple consciousness nor is It unconsciousness. It is unperceived, unrelated, incomprehensible, uninferable, unthinkable and indescribable. The essence of the Consciousness manifesting as the self in the three states, It is the cessation of all phenomena; It is all peace, all bliss and non—dual. This is what is known as the Fourth (Turiya). This is Atman and this has to be realised.’

~Mandukya Upanishad, Verse 7

For more see here in this post and also follow the links cited in the post:

Both thought and trying to get rid of thought are illusory mirages of separation

Objection:
The assumption that thought is an actual thing and that thought has a source, arises only in the realm of imaginary separation. There is, by definition, no way to determining the imaginary source of an imaginary thing.

Tom:
Whilst it is true that thought is ultimately an illusion, and trying to get rid of thought is also more of the same illusion, there is a logical flaw in this objection, as follows: thoughts may be imaginary, but that does not mean their source is imaginary. Fiction or imagination can have a real source. The teaching is to locate that Source (the Self) and abide there in Pure Being, which is devoid of thought, until the tendency to imagine duality (ie. thought) ceases.

Here are two quotes to illustrate the above points, one from Sri Shankara, and one from Sri Ramana:

The binding, and the getting rid of bondage, are both mirages. The belief that bondage of the Real, is, and the belief that it has ceased, are both mere things of thought

~Sri Shankara, Vivekachudamani verses 571 and 572

All doubts will cease only when the doubter and his source have been found. There is no use removing doubts. If we clear one doubt, another doubt will arise and there will be no end of doubts.

~Sri Ramana Maharshi, Day by Day with Bhagavan

Q. Arahant vs Bodhisattva – which is best? | Buddhism

Q. According to Buddhism is it better to be a Bodhisattva or an Arahant? I’ve heard quite a few conflicting things about this so would be good to get some clarity.

Tom: According to the Pali Suttas, the earliest records of Buddha’s teachings, true enlightenment/liberation is to be an Arahant, a Boddhisattva being anyone who desires liberation. By this definition, a Bodhisattva is unenlightened and still stuck in suffering/samsara, and an Arahant is an enlightened sage.

In later Buddhist schools/thought, a Bodhisattva became someone who foregoes enlightenment in order to help all sentient beings attain liberation. The idea here is that an Arahant, whilst liberated, is somehow ‘cold’ and ‘self-centred’ (I don’t agree with this by the way), placing their enlightenment above others, and so the ‘compassionate’ Bodhisattva rejects full liberation in place of compassion towards others. The problem with this, as has been oft pointed out, is that only a ‘liberated being’ can lead another to full liberation, and that with Nirvana, duality and the sense of ‘another’ outside of yourself, ceases (please excuse my dualistic language – see these quotes from Diamond sutra if you are unsure what I am talking about here when I say ‘dualistic language’)

Later still, a Bodhisattva was defined loosely as a compassionate enlightened being who helps all others attain liberation. By this definition, a Bodhisattva is a desirable outcome!

So take your pick!

There is more complexity and nuance in this topic if you want to delve into it, but the above is a broad outline. Hope that helps 🙏⁠

Shankara: The Self or Brahman cannot be known!

A definition of Jnana by Shankara

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, verse 4.4.20, states the following:

20. It [Brahman] should be realised in one form only, (for) It is unknowable and eternal. The Self is taintless, beyond the (subtle) ether, birthless, infinite and constant.

Here we can see that the Upanishad is stating that Brahman is unknowable. So what of Self-Knowledge or knowledge of Brahman that is so often spoken about? Shankara explains this contradiction in his commentary on this verse:

The knowledge of Brahman too means only the cessation of the identification with extraneous things (such as the body). The relation of identity with It [Brahman] has not to be directly established, for it is already there. Everybody always has that identity with It, but it appears to be related to something else. Therefore the scriptures do not enjoin that identity with Brahman should be established, but that the false identification with things other than That should stop. When the identification with other things is gone, that identity with one’s own Self which is natural, becomes isolated; this is expressed by the statement that the Self is known. In Itself It is unknowable – not comprehended through any means. Hence both statements are consistent.

We can see that Shankara is stating that Brahman is indeed unknowable, and that Jnana, or knowledge, only signifies the cessation of identification with extraneous things, ie. loss of identification with objects, specifically the body-mind. Jnana is not of the mind and is not for the jiva or individual.

We do not need to affirm our identity as Brahman, as we already are and always have been and always will be Brahman. Any affirmation of Brahman would simply be on the level of thought or concepts, and so it would be Maya, or more ignorance. But once the false identification has been removed, then the Self naturally shines as itself, and this lack of wrong-knowledge, or lack of wrongly identifying as the body-mind, is what is called ‘Jnana’ or ‘knowledge’.

In Ulladu Narpadu verse 12, Sri Ramana Maharshi writes:

True Knowledge is being devoid of knowledge as well as ignorance of objects. Knowledge of objects is not true knowledge. Since the Self shines self-luminous, with nothing else for It to know, with nothing else to know It, the Self is Knowledge. Nescience It is not.

In Upadesa Saram verse 27, Sri Ramana Maharshi writes:

That is true knowledge which transcends
Both knowledge and ignorance,
For in pure knowledge
Is no object to be known.

The above is an excerpt from the following post which further explores this topic: What exactly is Jnana (knowledge) according to Shankara and Gaudapada and the scriptures?