Q. Why does traditional Advaita Vedanta reject Ramana Maharshi’s Self Enquiry as a method to attain liberation

Question. Why do the traditional Advaita-Vedanta schools based solely on the Upanishads and Vedanta scriptures, etc, reject Ramana’s Self-Enquiry approach as a method to attain liberation?

Tom: I do not think this is true. Ramana’s teachings are the same as those found in the Upanishads and Vedanta Scriptures & Ramana teaches us the true Vedanta in my opinion.

However, there are several teachings that claim to teach Vedanta in a traditional way but do not really go beyond the mind or beyond duality, and so suffering and ignorance does not end. Their teachings distort the scriptures in my view. My advice therefore is to stick to Sri Ramana’s teachings. However, what teachings you prefer is of course for you to decide.

Namaste

Tom

Rupert Spira’s ‘Direct Path’ vs Traditional Advaita Vedanta and Sri Ramana Maharshi

In this post I would like to point out some differences between the so-called ‘Direct Path’ teachings of Rupert Spira on one hand, and the traditional Advaita Vedanta Teachings and the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi on the other. Whilst these teachings may all seem on the surface to be pointing to the same thing, and they may seem quite similar in many ways, they actually are quite different in many important aspects and do not lead to the same end in my view. ie. they do not both lead to liberation.

I would like to note that the purpose of this article is not to criticise anyone, but simply to point out differences that are present in the teachings and my view on these difference and the consequences thereof. I hope that this will provide benefit for those who are genuinely seeking liberation that is free from suffering.

I would also like to say that I am not some Advaita Vedanta fanatic either – I am simply interested in what actually works. I understand that everyone has their own unique journey, and their own relationship with teachers and teachings. I also acknowledge that many varied teachings and practices can be of help and assistance to us on our spiritual journey (please explore this blog for examples of this). However it is also useful to acknowledge that not all teachings are equally helpful and not all teachings point directly at liberation. Some can even steer us away, apparently at least.

Personally, I have found the traditional teachings of Advaita Vedanta, and especially Sri Ramana’s exposition of them, to give us everything we need on the path to genuine Liberation.

Namaste

Tom

Also see:

Recommended Reading: books for enlightenment, liberation and self-realisation

How to end suffering and why other ways tend not to work

Sravana, manana, niddidhyasana, self-abidance (samadhi)

Personally I find that Rupert Spira’s teachings may be useful for aspects of sravana (listening) and manana (contemplation/ thinking/ reflecting upon the teaching) phases of traditional Advaita in which the teachings are given and contemplated upon and realisation remains predominantly on the level of the mind. However in my view they do not really engage fruitfully or deeply enough with the main part of the teachings of Sri Ramana and Advaita Vedanta, which is Nididhyasana (meditation), or turning away from objects in order to abide as the self and thereby attain liberation.

Traditional Vedanta and the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi teach that the purpose of Sravana and Manana are to convince the seeker to engage in the main practice of Nididhyasana, and this in turn leads to self-abidance (Samadhi) and it is this which results in liberation.

Shankara makes this clear in verses 364 and 365 of Vivekachudamani:

364. Reflection (Manana) should be considered a hundred times superior to hearing (Sravana), and meditation (Nididhyasana) a hundred thousand times superior even to reflection (Manana), but the Nirvikalpa Samadhi is infinite in its results.

365. By the Nirvikalpa Samadhi the truth of Brahman is clearly and definitely realised, but not otherwise, for then the mind, being unstable by nature, is apt to be mixed up with other perceptions.

For more verses like this, see here.

Otherwise, without abiding as the Self, the teachings remain on the level of the mind, infinite nature of the Self is not revealed, and the ‘Ananda’ or blissful aspect of the self is not realised, meaning that suffering and the sense of duality and ego are not actually removed and ignorance continues. More on this below.

Integration of teachings after realisation

In Advaita Vedanta teachings and with the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, both are clear that once the Self or Pure Consciousness is fully realised through the process of turning away from objects and abiding as Self – what Rupert Spira terms the ‘inward-going’ path – ignorance is totally and completely gone, and that is the final end of duality, suffering and the spiritual path. There is no need to integrate this thereafter according to Advaita Vedanta and Sri Ramana, as this would simply be more ego-ignorance and would mean that the Self was not truly realised – ie. it would mean that duality was not really eradicated and the ego and the consequent suffering were still present, and that self-realisation had not really occurred. Once the Self is realised, the (apparent) ego-entity is no more, so there is no entity present that could ‘face outwards’ or re-integrate.

However Rupert Spira states what he calls the ‘inward path’ of Advaita Vedanta is only one half of the journey, and that we then have to ‘turn outwards’ and engage in what he calls some kind of ‘outward facing’ path to re-integrate this knowledge – see the quotes section below for an example of Rupert Spira saying this. This is a commonly held view among many contemporary teachers, but this view is seldom found in traditional teachings paths, and for good reason, so I hope it is useful to highlight the differences in the teachings for the seekers who are trying to wade through what’s on offer.

What about going back into the world after realisation?

According to Advaita Vedanta, after Self-realisation, the appearance of ‘going into the market place/world’ thereafter may or may not happen – that depends on your karma – but it is spontaneous, not a practice and beyond your choosing. It is also irrelevant from the point of view of Realisation.

If the going back into the market place/world does happen, automatically all will be seen as One, because the Self has truly been realised, meaning no ignorance/duality is left. There is no need to re-integrate. This is why the Advaita Vedanta texts emphasise self-enquiry/going within only, knowing that once that is done, that is all that needs to be done.

See here for the types of liberated sage/liberation according to Advaita Vedanta.

What about removing the vestiges of ignorance after Realisation?

Some people say that in order to root out the last remaining vestiges of ignorance, after Realisation once must turn out towards the world and re-integrate.

According to Advaita Vedanta, this simply means that ignorance is still present and so Realisation has not truly been attained. The remedy is to pursue Self-Enquiry, the ‘inward-facing’ path until ignorance has truly been rooted out, and not to cease the primary practice and ‘turn outwards towards objects’ (See the quotes section below for examples of this teaching from both Sri Ramana and Traditional Advaita Vedanta).

Once Ignorance has truly been rooted out, the Self is genuinely realised, and all is spontaneously seen as One without the need for further practice or integration or any ‘outward-facing path’.

A summary of the respective teachings

A summary of Rupert Spira’s teachings could go something like this: You are Consciousness; in essence you are not the body, mind or world but that Consciousness which is aware of them; however the body-mind and world are also simply made or fabricated from that very Consciousness that you are. That’s the entire teaching basically. Note that these are essentially the teachings that are found in paragraphs 2 and 3 of Ramana Maharshi’s Nan Yar (Who am I?), whereas the rest of Nan Yar? describes the main part of the actual teaching.

Rupert Spira teaches that meditation is a useful part of the path to calm the mind and to recognise the Consciousness that you are, but that meditation itself does not lead to realisation and this recognition of your true self as consciousness is only the first part of a much longer journey.

Traditional Advaita Vedanta and the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, as found in these texts, also states you are Consciousness and that all objects are also Consciousness, but then go further. They state that in order to realise:

(1) your essential nature is consciousness

(2) the nature of consciousness, which now, through ignorance, appears to be limited, is actually infinite and limitless

(3) the entire phenomenal world, including the body and mind, is an illusion

(4) the blissful nature (Ananda aspect) of the Self, ie. in order to remove suffering

(5) and in order to remove all sense of duality and separation

…in order to genuinely realise the above for oneself one must turn away from the world and abide as the Self. Once the Self has been realised, there is no entity left that could then progress on another phase of the journey such as re-integrating with the objective world. Self-Realisation is total extinguishment (ie. nirvana) of the ego and duality.

Without turning within, the limitless infinite nature of consciousness is not revealed, not truly – the so-called ‘knowledge’ of infinite consciousness remains only conceptual, intellectual. Similarly, without turning within, away from phenomenal objects, the ananda or blissful aspect of the Self does not manifest.

In the traditional Advaita Vedanta text, Vivekachudamani, we find that only the first part of the text describes what is in essence a form of Rupert Spira’s teaching, but with a few notable and important differences, such as the Self is more often than not emphasised as being the Subject rather that both subject and object. This is because the bulk of the text is focussed on Nididhyasana (Meditation) as this is the actual means to Liberation. Thinking of the Self as being purely the Subject aids this mediation process which aims to turn one’s attention away from objects and towards the Subject and thus realise its infinite and blissful nature. Without this practice duality and suffering continue.

To see this teaching in the Upanishads, see here: Do we need to turn away from the world of objects to realise the Self?

Quotes – Traditional Advaita Vedanta

Eg. see these quotes from Shankara’s Vivekachudamani, a very important text from the Advaita Vedanta tradition, that sternly illustrates this point. (Note that there are probably some better quotes than these from the Advaita scriptures – please let me know if you know any – I have just quickly put these together):

413. After the body has once been cast off to a distance like a corpse, the sage never more attaches himself to it, though it is visible as an appearance, like the shadow of a man, owing to the experience of the effects of past deeds.

414. Realising the Atman, the eternal, pure Knowledge and Bliss, throw far away this limitation of a body, which is inert and filthy by nature. Then remember it no more, for something that has been vomited excites but disgust when called in memory.

415. Burning all this, with its very root, in the fire of Brahman, the Eternal and Absolute Self, the truly wise man thereafter remains alone, as the Atman, the eternal, pure Knowledge and Bliss.

416. The knower of Truth does no more care whether this body, spun out by the threads of Prarabdha work, falls or remains – like the garland on a cow – for his mind-functions are at rest in the Brahman, the Essence of Bliss.

417. Realising the Atman, the Infinite Bliss, as his very Self, with what object, or for whom, should the knower of Truth cherish the body.

485. I neither see nor hear nor know anything in this. I simply exist as the Self, the eternal Bliss, distinct from everything else.

522. From the perception of unreal things there is neither satisfaction nor a cessation of misery. Therefore, being satisfied with the realisation of the Bliss Absolute, the One without a second, live happily in a state of identity with that Reality.

523. Beholding the Self alone in all circumstances, thinking of the Self, the One without a second, and enjoying the Bliss of the Self, pass thy time, O noble soul!

524. Dualistic conceptions in the Atman, the Infinite Knowledge, the Absolute, are like imagining castles in the air. Therefore, always identifying thyself with the Bliss Absolute, the One without a second, and thereby attaining Supreme Peace, remain quiet.

547. Similarly, ignorant people look upon the perfect knower of Brahman, who is wholly rid of bondages of the body etc, as possessed of the body, seeing but an appearance of it.

548. In reality, however, he rests discarding the body, like the snake its slough; and the body is moved hither and thither by the force of the Prana, just as it listeth.

Quotes – Sri Ramana Maharshi

Sri Ramana Maharshi also states many times that all one needs to do is turn inwards, and that no outward going path is thereafter required. The following are Ramana’s teachings as recorded in Guru Vachaka Kovai, a text which is widely regarded as the most authoritative collection of Sri Ramana’s verbal teachings:

630. Having felt the sun’s fierce heat
The wise one tarries in the shade,
And those who know the triple fire
Raging in the world will never
Leave the Heart and turn again
Towards the world

949. Those who with ego dead have gained
Being, transcending bliss, have nothing
Further to attain, no effort
To be made, no deed to do,

For life’s fulfilment they have reached.

950. When one abides in one’s true state
As effortless Eternal Goodness
One has no further work to do.
All deeds accomplished, such a one
Enjoys the perfect peace of bliss.

1179. Diving within enquiring “Who
Am I? Who sees between the creeds
Some differences?” the Self alone
Abides and the poor ‘I’ fades out.
In that still silence can there be
A sense of difference?

1180. In that great Silence there is no
Sense of difference. But is there then
A feeling of non-difference? No.

The non-duality extolled
By Seer’s is nothing but the absence
Of all sense of difference.

1223. Firm, steady abidance in
The peace serene gained by the quest
For Self, the Awareness, the sole ground
Supporting all appearances,
And consequent relinquishment
Of all objects as unreal,
This alone is mukti.

1224. Unless there is a final end
Of so called “knowledge” of things out there
,
One cannot gain release from bondage
To the sense-created world.
This “knowledge” being destroyed by firm
Abidance in the Self
, then what
Remains is mukti, bliss supreme

1237. While brightly shining in the hearts
Of sages who have left behind
All treacherous triads and now abide
As That alone, advaita’s grandeur
Cannot be by the mind perceived,
Like this false, trivial, dualistic,
Thought-created world.

1238. Siva, who is Pure Awareness
Transcending thought, is only known
To seers heroic who with minds
Extinct abide thought-free within
The heart, and not to those whose minds
Are still engaged in thought.

Also Bhagavan Sri Ramana’s teachings are recorded in Sri Ramanaparavidyopanishad:

411. Whoever obtains awareness of the real Self, for him this worldly life comes to an end. The others continue to wander here as before, remaining without awareness of the real Self.

554. These men do not know the truth of the transcendental state beyond time, in which the world has not come into being. Non-duality has neither beginning nor end. Duality, with space and time, is unreal, always.

569. In that state doubts do not arise since the sage is ever firm in his awareness of the true Self. There he remains without affirmations and vacillations, immersed in the depths of peace, the mind having become extinct.

585. By the dawn of right awareness of the real Self, the ego, the root cause of the appearance of forms, has been lost. Therefore for the sage, all forms are unreal, and hence this talk of forms is foolishness.

596 Our Guru, Sri Ramana, tells us that the real siddhi [special power][to be striven for] is to be firmly established in the natural state of the real Self, which is ever-present in the Heart; nothing else.

613. The true meditation on the supreme reality [the Self] is only to remain as the Self in the thought-free state. This ‘meditation’ can neither be given up, nor taken up by the sage.

663. The sage never comes back to samsara. Samadhi is his natural state. There is no moment when he is without samadhi. Hence it is called sahaja [natural].

664. The sage, remaining uninterruptedly in his natural state of samadhi, never swerving from it as a jivan mukta, is able to be active in the world, just as the sages of old such as Sri Sankaracharya did.

In ‘Who Am I?’ Ramana states:

As long as there are impressions of objects in the mind, so long the enquiry ‘Who am I?’ is required.

Sri Ramana more fully explains his position here (please see the post for the full context) when he states:

In reality, saying ‘We must see Brahman in everything and everywhere’ is also not quite correct. Only that stage is final, where there is no seeing, where there is no time or space. There will be no seer, seeing and an object to see. What exists then is only the infinite eye.”

Lastly I would like to direct you to a very important chapter of the traditional text Advaita Bodha Deepika, as recommended by Sri Ramana Maharshi which explains aspects of this teaching in further detail. For most, without the understanding given in this chapter, liberation will be unlikely to result. Conversely, putting these teachings into practice sets one onto the true Direct Path.

Quotes – Rupert Spira

Contrast the tone and content of the above verses with Rupert Spira who states that once Self or Pure Consciousness is realised, that is only one half of the journey, and we then have to turn outwards again and ‘re-integrate this understanding with our objective experience’. This re-integration, according to Advaita Vedanta, is simply more ignorance, more suffering, more duality, and means that the genuine realisation of Self has not really occurred at all. Here is what Rupert Spira writes in his book ‘Being Aware of Being Aware’ on pages 9-11:

The inward-facing path, or Direct Path, in which the mind turns its attention away from objective experience towards its own essence or reality, is, in my experience, best elaborated in the Vedantic tradition, which details with great precision both the philosophy and the practice of this investigation. In this way the Vedantic tradition provides direct means for accessing the essential, irreducible nature of one’s mind and the source of lasting peace and happiness…

However, it is important to recognise that the inward-facing path explored in this book is only half the journey. Once the essential, irreducible nature of the mind has been recognised, and its inherent peace and unconditional joy accessed, it is necessary to face ‘outwards’ again towards objective experience, realigning the way we think and feel, and subsequently act, perceive and relate, with our new understanding.

The culmination of the inward-facing path is the recognition of the presence, the primacy and the nature of awareness – or, in religious language, spirit or God’s infinite being – the intuition of happiness which transcends all knowledge and experience. However, it is not yet the full experiential understanding in which awareness itself, or God’s infinite being, is known and felt to pervade and saturate all knowledge and experience, and indeed to be its sole substance and reality. It is to recognise the transcendent nature of awareness but not its immanence.

If we do not reintegrate this understanding with our objective experience, then a fragile alliance will persist between our essential, irreducible nature of pure awareness and all objects and others. This often manifests as a denial or rejection of embodied life in the world and may readily become a refuge for any lingering sense of a separate self. The process by which this reintegration or establishment takes place, although implicit in the inward-facing or Vedantic tradition, is, in my opinion, best elaborated in the Tantric tradition, and is an exploration that lies beyond the scope of this book

Can you perhaps see how the ego and duality/separation is retained in this latter exposition of Rupert Spira’s? When there is no ego, what entity is left to re-integrate?

Prior to the quote I included a link to the full text from which the quote is taken so you can see the full context. The fact that Rupert Spira writes that the ‘outward facing’ aspect of the teaching is ‘beyond the scope of this book’ also implies, to me at least, that this aspect of the path cannot easily be dealt with in a few paragraphs.

Does this even matter?

Well for many this doesn’t really matter! If you are drawn to the so-called ‘Direct Path’ as per Rupert Spira or similar teachings, the chances are that these teachings will benefit you. They are not bad teachings, per se. I just do not find them to be ultimately liberating. But that doesn’t mean they are not good or beneficial. There are many teachings that are worse and some I may even recommend you avoid, but Rupert Spira’s ‘Direct Path’ is not one of these.

However the problem with stating that ‘turning inwards’ is only one part of the journey is that seekers ‘turn back’ towards the objective world too soon, without really having realised the Self, but only having a relatively superficial knowledge of ‘sat-chit’ (Being-Knowing or Being-Consciousness) without having ‘dived deep within’ to realise the limitless Ananda that is true Moksha.

The true teaching urges you to carry on turning inwards until the Self is fully realised. Once this has occurred, there is no longer any duality, and no-entity remains which could ‘turn outwards’ again and reintegrate with the objective world.

As Sri Ramana writes in ‘Who Am I?’:

Q. How long should Inquiry [ie. turning inwards] be practised?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: As long as there are impressions of objects in the mind, so long the enquiry ‘Who am I?’ is required.

A teaching that teaches that ‘turning within’ is only half the path is likely a teaching that doesn’t encourage one to go within far enough to genuinely realise the Self.

Please note that I am not some fundamentalist Advaita-pushing, scripture pushing-pandit here – I am merely interested in which teachings actually work, and I have found the teachings of Sri Ramana to be fully liberating, and these teachings are in line with the Advaita Vedanta scriptures from what I can see.

What about Tantra and Kashmir Shaivism?

What does this mean about the Tantric path? Well, if by tantra you mean Pratyabhijna (recognition) or the system of Kashmir Shaivism, which is what Rupert Spira is referring to when he says tantra, when you read the Pratyabhijna scriptures you find that the method is essentially the same as the Vedanta Path and the Path of Sri Ramana – ie. one must turn within until the Self is realised. That is all! No need to re-integrate back into the world or turn outwards again.

The only difference is the philosophical or conceptual framework from which this is done. In essence it is the same path. Again, what is written in the scriptures is not always the same as what is taught by the teachers. I explain more about this here, and you will also find Sri Ramana’s view on Kashmir Shaivism in that same post.

How to know your essential nature is consciousness?

There is another issue with teachings, such as Rupert Spira’s ‘direct path’, and forms of Advaita Vedanta that do not emphasise nididhyasana/ meditation and samadhi or what Sri Ramana Maharshi calls Self-Enquiry (Atma Vichara): they do not give a genuine methodology with which one can discover one’s true nature to be Consciousness.

They only posit that ‘You are Consciousness’ and give philosophical reasons why this must be so, together with a rather superficial exploration of one’s own experience. Add in some dodgy logic and, hey presto, suddenly we are to believe that not only is our true nature consciousness, but the entire world is also the nature of consciousness.

However, it should be fairly obvious that it is impossible to either prove or disprove on philosophical grounds alone that your nature is consciousness, or that the ground/nature of the entire universe is consciousness.

Similarly, it is also impossible to know your own fundamental nature to be consciousness by a simple exploration of your own experience. Whilst it may seem that, experientially, all arises in consciousness, that doesn’t mean that everything actually does arise in consciousness. One thing that both daily experience and science teaches us is that things are not always as they appear. To use a rather simplistic example, just because it appears that there are lots of little people inside a TV screen, that doesn’t mean that there actually are lots of little people inside the TV screen. Or just because it appears that the moon changes shape over a twenty-eight day cycle, it doesn’t mean that the moon is actually changing shape on a daily basis in this way. There are countless more examples like this.

Similarly, just because it appears from our subjective viewpoint that everything appears in our consciousness, and that consciousness is all there is, and that the only constant in our experience is consciousness or ‘I AM’, that doesn’t mean that is how the universe is actually structured.

So, how to know your true nature? Traditional Advaita Vedanta as recorded in scriptures such as Shankara’s Vivekachudamani and the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi give us an actual method that we can follow, and by which we can discover our True Nature for ourselves. Namely, through turning within and attending to the Subject-Self, we can discover for ourself the Truth, the One Reality. We discover this by losing ourselves and becoming only That which we always were.

Note, as we have mentioned above, whilst Rupert Spira and others with similar teachings do often advocate meditation and turning inwards, it is not emphasised as the main practice whereby realisation is fully gained. Compare this with the teachings of the Upanishads, for example. We have already noted that Rupert Spira cites turning inwards as being a part of a larger schema after which one has to again turn outwards and reintegrate with the objective world. This implies, to me at least, that the extent to which turning inwards is advocated is insufficient to gain a true realisation of Self, as once the Self is truly realised – full stop. It’s all done. Nothing else needed. And no entity present that could turn back towards objects and ‘reintegrate’.

Without going through this turning within type process and continuing and persevering with it until ignorance is rooted out, true realisation does not occur, and so the teachings reside predominantly on the level of the mind/concepts/beliefs, and suffering continues.

Without Abiding as Self and discovering for oneself, Advaita becomes just a bunch of conceptual beliefs such as ‘I am consciousness’ – and ignorance, duality and suffering are not truly destroyed. We have not actually realised the infinite blissful nature of Our Self. We must go beyond the mind and gain the True Experience for ourself of Pure Being in which there is no duality, no ‘me’. Then the Self is revealed as All and One and the ego-I that was seeking is no more.

In verse 356 of Vivekachudamani, Shankara writes:

356. Those alone are free from the bondage of transmigration who, attaining Samadhi, have merged the objective world, the sense-organs, the mind, nay, the very ego, in the Atman, the Knowledge Absolute – and none else, who but dabble in second-hand talks.

With this discovery of our True Self comes the immediate ending of suffering and duality, but this discovery does not occur if we remain purely on the conceptual level with the ego-mind-duality-ignorance-suffering remaining intact.

The Amritabindu Upanishads says:

The mind severed from all connection with sensual objects, and prevented from functioning out, awakes into the light of the heart, and finds the highest condition.

The mind should be prevented from functioning, until it dissolves itself in the heart. This is Jnana, this is Dhyana, all else is mere argumentation and verbiage

It is only through Nididhyasana/meditation, that the Ananda aspect of Sat-Chit-Ananda is revealed, as opposed to the emphasis on Sat and Chit aspects only, both of which self-evident without the need for meditation – ie. we already know we exist, sat, and that we are conscious, chit, without any great spiritual practice, but the Ananda or blissful and infinite aspect of Atman-Self can only be genuinely discovered through attending to the Subject-Self. This is also the culmination of the paths of Bhakti Yoga (the path of love and devotion) and the other Yogas too.

Understanding this we also start to understand why traditional scriptures are often worded differently and structured differently to these other contemporary teachings that ultimately teach something different. They are structured this way in order to effectively and efficiently guide us to the Truth that already IS, the Truth that we already ARE.

For supporting quotes relating to this from Advaita Vedanta see the section called ‘The need for Nirvikalpa Samadhi’ in this article: Shankara on the Mind, Samadhi and Liberation.

There is also an entire chapter from the traditional Advaita Vedanta text ‘Advaita Bodha Deepika’ that speaks to this point, see here: Advaita Bodha Deepika – Vital Teachings for Self-Realisation

We can see the same teachings in the Upanishads here: Do we need to turn away from the world of objects to realise the Self?

For supporting quotes from Sri Ramana Maharshi, see the section entitled ‘The only true practice/teaching’ in this article: Ramana Maharshi: how to abide as the Self

Ramana also summarises the entire path in this post: Ramana summarises the entire spiritual path

Conclusion

Of course, what you do with the above information is up to you. Have a look and see what teachings are right for you at this time in your journey. Just because teachings are not ultimately liberating, does not mean that you will not benefit from them – they may be right for you at a certain point in time – everything has its place, as it were. So I am not recommending you do not engage with the so-called ‘Direct Path’ teachings of Rupert Spira and similar teachings – if these teachings are something you are drawn to, then by all means explore them – the teachings probably have some role to play for you if you are drawn to them.

However if you ask me, as always, I recommend you follow the teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi – my view is that we are so very lucky to have them – in my view they are a complete teaching that give us everything we need for liberation. You can find a complete exposition of his teachings here for free. Other teachings may seem similar to Sri Ramana’s, but as we explore further and dive deeper into the teachings, we find subtle differences, and these differences can make all the difference!

So if you are able to and are so inclined, I encourage you to take Ramana as your Guru and follow his teachings.

!Sri Ramana’s teachings show us the true Advaita Vedanta!

!Sri Ramana’s teachings are the true ‘Direct Path’!

!Sri Ramana’s teachings guide us unfailingly to Liberation!

!!Om Namo Bhagavate

Sri Ramanaya Om!!

Recommended Reading: Books for Enlightenment, Liberation and Self-Realisation

Whilst there are many wonderful books and texts to read, I want to focus here on books and scripture that:

  1. comprehensively deals with the path to liberation
  2. in a clear and unambiguous way that is easy to understand for the true and genuine seeker of liberation
  3. with few/minimal detours
  4. but still provides the necessary depth of teaching
  5. in order to effectively bring about Liberation

Where possible I have provided a link to Downloadable PDF versions of each of the books recommended in the sections below. I recommend you obtain a copy of all of the books recommended. Towards the end of this post I also give a suggested order in which you can read the books.

I hope you find these resources to be of value

Best Wishes & Namaste

Tom

How to read the books

The point of this list of books is not for you to simply read lots of books!

As I have only selected books which each contain the entire teaching required for liberation, a deep study of any single one of the above texts is all that is required.

The purpose of the books is to outline the essential cause of suffering and the remedy for it. The theory given in the books is then meant to be put into practice. Once the essential teaching has been understood and the desire to put the teachings earnestly into practice has arisen, there is no need to read more and more, as this can get in the way of actual practice.

However, if the teaching has not been understood or the strong desire to put the teachings into practice has not arisen, then the recommendation is to continue reading, but to read slowly. Take your time, study the teachings presented, make sure you understand them step by step but fully and deeply. Take your time to ensure you not only intellectually understand the texts but that your understanding sinks deeper into the feeling or experiential level where it can actually result in a lasting change. Staying with a single powerful quote and allowing that quote to penetrate into the depths of your being, so lasting change is created, is more useful than reading an entire volume and understanding the theory on a superficial intellectual level only.

Put the teachings into practice. If you have read the teachings several times but find you are not putting them into practice, it means that you probably haven’t grasped the depth of the teachings and perhaps you are relating to them predominantly on an intellectual level only. This may be a signal that you should slow down and take more time over each teaching point before moving on to the next teaching. Alternatively it may be a signal to speak directly to a teacher about such matters to seek clarity about the teachings.

The books

Texts by Sri Ramana Maharshi

Ramana gave many varied teachings to those who approached him. He naturally and spontaneously adapted the teachings to the level of the seeker before him, and some of these teachings therefore seem contradictory, and this can give rise to confusion about what Sri Ramana’s actual teaching was. However, in the short texts that Sri Ramana himself wrote, we see a very clear, unambiguous and consistent teaching that outlines the direct and true path to liberation.

Many state that the short text, Who am I?, written by Sri Ramana Maharshi contains all you need to attain liberation. And I would agree!

Together with two more of Sri Ramana’s writings, Upadesa Saram (The Essence of Instruction) and Ulladu Narpadu and Supplement – click on the links for downloadable PDF versions – a comprehensive set of teachings for liberation is given to us in concise form by Sri Ramana Maharshi.

The above three texts can also all be found in the Collected Works of Sri Ramana Maharshi, which also contains other beautiful works including Sri Ramana’s translation of Shankara’s Vivekachudamani, itself another recommended text (see below).

The Path of Sri Ramana

This is the text I most commonly recommend reading and the book I recommend you read firstThe Path of Sri Ramana by Sri Sadhu Om. Sri Sadhu Om spent several years with Sri Ramana and many consider this book to be an authority on Sri Ramana’s teachings and how to put them into practice. This text explains in detail the entire path to liberation in a way that is easy to understand.

Whilst the three texts from Sri Ramana Maharshi mentioned in the section above contain all the teachings needed, I have found that many people are unable to understand or even see what these short texts are saying despite it all being laid out. This may be in part due to the concise nature of Ramana’s own words, together with some technical terms and a language barrier, but also because the ego-mind will not always allow the true teachings to be seen.

The Path of Sri Ramana explains all the teachings clearly and in detail so the true teaching cannot be missed or ignored by the ego-mind that may be trying to distort or alter the teachings in order to avoid its own demise. It also clearly explains what the path is NOT, and so keeps the seeker away from paths that seem or appear to be similar to the true path, but are actually routes to more delusion rather than Liberation.

The Path of Sri Ramana also is one of the few texts that not only explains the path of Knowledge (Jnana) but also clearly outlines the path of Love & Devotion (Bhakti) and the path of Karma (action) in a clear and logical manner.

Another text that is also of value is the wonderful Sadhanai Saram (The Essence of Sadhana or Spiritual Practice), also written by Sri Sadhu Om. This text contains many gems and the teachings are given through a series of verses grouped by topic. I recommend you read the Path of Sri Ramana Parts 1 and 2 before you read Sadhanai Saram to gain the full benefit of the text.

Guru Vachaka Kovai (Garland of Guru’s Sayings)

Whilst not strictly written by Sri Ramana, the text Guru Vachaka Kovai was extensively checked and amended by Sri Ramana. It was written by one of his closest devotees, Sri Muruganar, and is widely considered to be the most authoritative collection of verbal teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi. The foreword of the book published by Sri Ramana Ashram states the following about Guru Vachaka Kovai:

[Guru Vachaka Kovai] provides the most precise, systematic and authoritative exposition of Sri Bhagavan’s teaching, explaining step by step the theory, the practice and the experience of jnana, the Truth supreme which is Being as Life Eternal, Pure Awareness, Perfect Bliss. Thus, the most comprehensive collection of the Maharshi’s sayings is Guru Vachaka Kovai…

My recommendation is, after having read the introduction and introductory verses, to start with the verses towards the end of the book which deal directly with the nature of liberation and work your way towards the front of the book.

Sri Ramana Gita

I also recommend the Sri Ramana Gita

Traditional Vedanta Texts

Whilst there are many wonderful traditional scriptures that one can read, there are a few traditional texts that clearly explain the entire path unambiguously for the genuine seeker of liberation, with minimal detours as possible.

Traditionally the most important of these is Vivekachudamani written by Sri Shankacharya. This is arguably the single most important scripture in Advaita Vedanta. Whilst Vedanta is primarily based upon the Upanishads, the teachings in the Upanishads are not always clearly and systematically explained. There are also different ways of interpreting these texts, and many Traditional lineages themselves have very questionable interpretations of the texts, and this can give rise to doubts. One danger is that one may end up engaging in too much extensive scriptural study, which in itself may take decades – even then one may still have doubts!

Vivekachudamani summarises and systematises the teachings of the Upanishads and has been used as a gold-standard for Advaita Teachings since it was written approximately 1400 years ago. The repetition present in the verses, the way the same topic is often spoken of in different ways, and the way the teaching is present throughout the text (ie. the teachings are given at the beginning, middle and end of the text) means that the true meaning of the text cannot easily be distorted, altered, misunderstood or wrongly interpreted.

Whilst most scholars and traditionalists agree that Vivekachudamani was likely written by Shankara, some dispute the authorship of the text and state it was written by a later Shankaracharya in the same lineage. Regardless of who the author was, there is not a single teaching present in Vivekachudamani that cannot also be found in the Upanishads, which are the source texts for Vedanta, and of course the authors of the Upanishads also remain unknown to us. Countless sages in the last 1400 years, including Sri Ramana Maharshi, have also testified the greatness of this text, stating this text teaches the way to liberation.

Sri Ramana Maharshi also translated the entirety of Vivekachudamani into Tamil and wrote an introduction to the text in which he states that Vivekachudamani reveals the direct path to liberation. Both of these by Sri Ramana are also recommended. Many other sages over the centuries have also praised Vivekachudamani as clearly showing the true path to Liberation.

Another traditional text that shows us the complete path is Advaita Bodha Deepika. It too is a text that was recommended by Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, and so I also recommend you read it. Whilst Vivekachudamani clearly explains the correct path, this text not only does this, but it also describes why other (false) paths do not work and how to avoid them. Some people find it to be more accessible as it is written in a question and answer format in prose, rather than in verse (Vivekachudamani is written in verse form).

In the Collected Works of Sri Ramana Maharshi, Sri Ramana has translated several traditional Advaita texts himself, all of which are recommended. These include texts from both the Vedanta and Tantra traditions (the Agamas are the source texts for several Hindu Tantric schools).

There are many other wonderful traditional Advaita texts such as the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Avadhuta Gita, Ashtavakra Gita, Ribhu Gita, Uddhava Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, etc, and these are also well worth reading, but the last one I want to mention here is the wonderful Yoga Vasishta. This is one of the most important traditional texts in Advaita Vedanta in which the teachings are clearly and unambiguously explained in a systematic way. It is also of historical interest as it is one of the few Vedanta Scripture that clearly gives us an idea of what Vedanta was like prior to Shankara. You can read about it more in the link I have just provided above and you will also find further links to key teachings from the text which are also well-worth exploring.

Other contemporary books

You may find that some of your favourite spiritual books do not feature on this list. It may be that I simply haven’t come across that book, but it also may be that I have come across it, but have not included it here as I do not feel it fulfils the criteria I have set out at the top of this post.

As you (hopefully) become familiar with the teachings presented in the above texts – they all present the same essential teaching by the way – you may start to see how these teachings are often NOT the same as other teachings that are more widely available in today’s contemporary spiritual marketplace. Initially it may seem that all non-dual teachings are pointing to the same essence in their own way, but as you become more familiar with the teachings, you will start to see differences emerge, and these differences can make all the difference!

Here are some more contemporary books that I also recommend. Again, the same essential teaching that is given in the above texts are also given in these.

First is The Most Direct Means to Eternal Bliss by Michael Langford. This book’s tone may not be for everyone, but wonderful teachings are presented nonetheless. As well as outlining a path to liberation, this book also outlines various strategies the ego-mind uses to ‘prevent’ liberation from occurring. Understanding these ‘ego preservation strategies’ is very useful, especially if you can see them operating in yourself and put and end to them. Also highly recommended by the same author are the books ‘Seven Steps to Awakening’ and ‘The Importance of Practice and Effort’.

Another book I’d like to tentatively recommend is Happiness and the Art of Being by Michael James. I hesitate to and only tentatively recommend this book as it is the one book on this list I haven’t actually fully read myself – I’ve only skimmed through it and read the first few pages of the introduction – but I have been very impressed by what I have read thus far, so hence it makes this list. I feel the author has a wonderful understanding of Sri Ramana’s teachings and manages to shines a light on the true Vedanta rather than many of the ‘drier’ intellectual (ie. false) versions of Vedanta that are currently in circulation. He also studied Ramana’s teachings directly with Sri Sadhu Om, who wrote the Path of Sri Ramana (see above), and has made his own translations of Sri Ramana’s works including Guru Vachaka Kovai, so I feel fairly confident the teachings will be in line with the above teachings. There are also many gems and detailed insights in this book I have found when skimming through that I have not found elsewhere, which is another reason this book makes the cut. The author has made the book available for free online on the link above, but if you are able to, I encourage you to make a donation to help support the author.

A suggested reading order

All of the above texts contain the same essential teaching presented in slightly different ways, so if you find that you are drawn to one particular book, it is generally good to read that one first, as that is the text you will be most motivated to read. However here is my suggested reading order:

  1. The Path of Sri Ramana Part 1 & 2 by Sri Sadhu Om – these two books clearly describe the entire spiritual path and form a great foundation for beginners and advanced seekers alike. If these texts are put into practice, no further books are required.
  2. Sadhanai Saram by Sri Sadhu Om – this is sometimes referred to as ‘part 3’ of the above and consolidates the above teachings as well as giving further clarity to the path
  3. Who am I?, Upadesa Saram and Ulladu Narpadu & Supplement – all by Sri Ramana Maharshi. These short texts will be more fully appreciated and easier to understand having read the above 3 books by Sri Sadhu Om.
  4. The Most Direct Means to Eternal Bliss by Michael Langford
  5. Seven Steps to Awakening, compiled by Michael Langford
  6. Vivekachudamani by Shankara
  7. Advaita Bodha Deepika
  8. Guru Vachaka Kovai
  9. Sri Ramana Gita
  10. Advaita texts translated by Sri Ramana in the Collected Works of Sri Ramana Maharshi
  11. Yoga Vasistha
  12. Happiness and the Art of Being

Q. I don’t really care for Sri Ramana or Vedanta, etc – I just want very clear teachings on liberation in plain language without any mystical mumbo jumbo – what books do you recommend?

In this case I recommend you read ‘The Most Direct Means to Eternal Bliss’ by Michael Langford. This is a wonderful and straight-forward presentation of the teachings stripped of mysticism and obscure language. However – these teachings may be too direct for some – you were warned!

Michael Langford has created another compilation called ‘Seven Steps to Awakening’ which is a collection of quotes from various sources which give a traditional and scriptural backing to the teachings given in ‘The Most Direct Means to Eternal Bliss’. These two books work very well together.

Q. My main interest is in Advaita Vedanta teachings – which books are best?

The best introduction to the Vedanta teachings I have come across are actually The Path of Sri Ramana Parts 1 & 2. After this, I would recommend the traditional texts Advaita Bodha Deepika and then Vivekachudamani, followed by the traditional Advaita texts Sri Ramana translated that can be found in the Collected Works of Sri Ramana Maharshi, and then Yoga Vasistha. Lastly I would recommend you read Happiness and the Art of Being which is also a very good text on Vedanta teachings.

My main interest is in Sri Ramana Maharshi’s Teachings – what do you recommend?

I would recommend the Path of Sri Ramana Parts 1 & 2, then Sadhanai Saram, followed by the suggested reading order I gave above.

Q. Why is my favourite spiritual book not on your list of books?

It may be that I haven’t read it, or it may be that it doesn’t in my view fulfil the criteria I have outlined at the top of the post.

Q. I know you have written various blog posts on Zen and Buddhism. Why do texts from these traditions not feature on your list?

Yes, I have written several posts on Zen and Buddhism – please see the hyperlinks in the question above for examples. I do think they are wonderful traditions but I haven’t found a book from those traditions that gives a complete teaching with sufficient detail that fits the criteria at the top of the post without also creating much ambiguity and confusion about the path. Many of the texts fall short in my view, which is not to say the traditions themselves fall short necessarily, although they may depending on how they are taught. I have found that the above recommended texts are much clearer and more straightforward, and therefore more effective. However I will let you decide!

Q. What about books by Nisargadatta Maharaj such as ‘I Am That?’

Whilst I Am That is a very good book that has inspired many, I have found that the teachings vary a lot depending on whom Nisargadatta Maharaj is speaking to. This is because this book, and others like it, are a record of conversations, so the teaching given varies according to the context it was given it. This means that the highest teaching is not always taught. What then often happens is that the ego-mind or the reader often finds a way to latch onto the lower teachings and use this as a means to perpetuate itself – this is often done unconsciously without the reader realising this. The terminology used such as the use of the phrase ‘I AM’ can be very confusing for some, as sometimes it refers to what Ramana would call the ‘I thought’ or ego, whereas in other parts of the book ‘I AM’ refers to the Self or the Absolute. Basically the essential teaching is not always clearly taught in my view, so hence I do not recommend it. However, if one has read the above recommended books first, then these varying teachings found in books such as ‘I Am That’ will not cause the reader confusion as the essential teaching has already been understood.

The same could be said for Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, which is also a record of conversations, so although Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi is also a wonderful book, I do not recommend it here for those who want to go directly for liberation as the essential teaching is not always clearly given. We are however very lucky that Sri Ramana wrote several short texts himself which clearly point the way to liberation without the need to wade through large collections of recorded conversations.

Best wishes and Namaste!

Tom

What’s wrong with ‘neo- advaita’? Why is it so fiercely attacked and mocked by traditional Advaita followers?

For the most part we can define ‘neo-advaita’ (or radical non-duality) as those teachings/communications that state all is already one/whole and there is no separate individual self, and as there is no separate self, there can be no useful practice as all practices reinforce the notion of an individual self that is carrying out the practice; therefore, according to neo-advaita, there is no path to liberation, no practice that can help one attain liberation, and no separate self to be liberated, and to say the contrary is inaccurate.

This is in contrast to traditional-type Advaita teachings that for the most part acknowledge all is already one, but often state there is some kind of process or path that one can engage with and engaging with this teaching and path will in some way help ‘you attain direct realisation/liberation’ of the oneness/Self that is already present.

Which view is correct?

I think most seekers that have explored this can see the potential benefits of both approaches, but most neo-advaita types reject the practice/progress orientated paths, and vice versa.

My own view is that the neo-advaita types for the most part have only a very superficial realisation and they also do not usually point to suffering ending (unlike traditionally orientated paths), but that does not make neo-advaita entirely worthless of course, as different things resonate at different times in our journey.

I have written several posts on this which may be of interest to you, best wishes:

False enlightenment

Are spiritual teachings prescriptions or descriptions? Sudden vs. gradual teachings. Is a practice required?

Who or what does Self-Enquiry? Why still the mind? Isn’t this more mind? More beliefs? Neo-advaita | Radical non-duality vs Traditional teachings and practices

The evolution of Tony Parsons | Radical non-duality | Neo-Advaita | Advaita Vedanta

The problem with radical non-duality or neo-advaita

Ramana Maharshi on Neo-Advaita | Radical Non-duality | Are practices really required?

Neo-advaita myth: The ‘me’ is an energetic contraction

Shankara: The Self (That Brahman Art Thou)

Here in a series of verses taken from Shankara’s masterpice Vivekachudamani, the Self is described and the basic technique of meditation is given. We can see we are to meditate upon ourselves as being Brahman, which is eternal, ever-present, timeless, beyond all names and forms and devoid of names and forms. It is the Source of all. It is unmoving, like the ocean without any waves. It, being formless, cannot be known by the intellect or sense organs. It is unmoving, unchanging, causeless, non-dual, needs no other support and has no parts or components.

Sri Shankara

254. That which is beyond caste and creed, family and lineage; devoid of name and form, merit and demerit; transcending space, time and sense-object – that Brahman art thou, meditate on this in thy mind.

255. That Supreme Brahman which is beyond the range of all speech, but accessible to the eye of pure illumination; which is pure, the Embodiment of Knowledge, the beginningless entity – that Brahman art thou, meditate on this in thy mind.

256. That which is untouched by the sixfold wave; meditated upon by the Yogi’s heart, but not grasped by the sense-organs; which the Buddhi [intellect] cannot know; and which is unimpeachable – that Brahman art thou, meditate on this in thy mind.

257. That which is the substratum of the universe with its various subdivisions, which are all creations of delusion; which Itself has no other support; which is distinct from the gross and subtle; which has no parts, and has verily no exemplar – that Brahman art thou, meditate on this in thy mind.

258. That which is free from birth, growth, development, waste, disease and death; which is indestructible; which is the cause of the projection, maintenance and dissolution of the universe – that Brahman art thou, meditate on this in thy mind.

259. That which is free from differentiation; whose essence is never non-existent; which is unmoved like the ocean without waves; the ever-free; of indivisible Form – that Brahman art thou, meditate on this in thy mind.

260. That which, though One only, is the cause of the many; which refutes all other causes, but is Itself without cause; distinct from Maya and its effect, the universe; and independent – that Brahman art thou, meditate on this in thy mind.

261. That which is free from duality; which is infinite and indestructible; distinct from the universe and Maya, supreme, eternal; which is undying Bliss; taintless – that Brahman art thou, meditate on this in thy mind.

262. That Reality which (though One) appears variously owing to delusion, taking on names and forms, attributes and changes, Itself always unchanged, like gold in its modifications – that Brahman art thou, meditate on this in thy mind.

263. That beyond which there is nothing; which shines even above Maya, which again is superior to its effect, the universe; the inmost Self of all, free from differentiation; the Real Self, the Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute; infinite and immutable – that Brahman art thou, meditate on this in thy mind.

The above excerpt was taken from the post: Shankara: How to Meditate for Self-Realisation

Ribhu Gita – Chapter 26 (as recommended by Sri Ramana Maharshi)

Sri Ramana Maharshi often mentioned the Ribhu Gita in his teachings. It is reportedly said that he especially recommended the recitation of chapter 26, and that reciting it could lead one directly to the natural state or sahaja samadhi.

I have subdivided the chapter into four sections: the introduction, ‘without a trace of sankalpa’, ‘I am that, that am I’ and the concluding portion of the chapter.

Recite and be free!

You can download the PDF version of Ribhu Gita Chapter 26 here:

PDF: Ribhu Gita Chapter 26

ramana maharshi eyes of grace

!Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramayana!
!Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramayana!
!Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramayana!


RIBHU GITA

Chapter 26
‘Undifferentiated Abidance in the Non-Dual Nature’

Translated from the Tamil version of the Ribhu Gita

Introductory verses

1.

Nidagha! in this explanation,
I shall tell you about being established in the Undivided,
Which has nothing apart from itself, which is full of itself.
May you be in the Bliss of being That itself, as being proclaimed to you.
This teaching is highly secret and rare to come by
In the Vedas and the scriptures.
Moreover, this is rare to come by for even the gods and yogis
And is dear to their hearts.

2.

Son ! it has been said by those who know fully
That being at one with the perfectly full non dual Brahman,
The mass of Existence Consciousness Bliss, the immutable
The Self of all, the serene,
With the vikalpas (imaginations, notions) of the fickle mind ended
And thought dissolved wholly and indistinguishably herein,
Like a solute such as cumin seed dissolved in water,
Is the abidance in That itself.

3.

When inquired into deeply, all the multitude of differences
Will be seen to be never existent.
All is the undivided Supreme Brahman, which is not different from the Self,
And That am I.
Be always correctly practicing
In this exalted certitude
And relinquishing all else,
Be in the Bliss of being ever That itself.

4.

That in which all these apparent differences of duality
Cease to exist when inquired into,
In which all cause and effect –
Even a trace thereof – cease to exist,
And in which not a trace of this fear of duality exists
When the mind is merged therein –
Being that itself,
Ever abide in unwavering Bliss.

5.

That in which there is neither a sankalpa (intention) nor vikalpa (notion)
In which there is neither peace nor perturbance,
In which there is neither mind nor intellect,
In which there is no confusion or conviction,
In which there is no bhava (conviction or feeling) or absence of bhava,
And in which there is no cognition of duality at all –
Being as That itself, without the least fear of duality
Ever abide in unwavering Bliss.

‘Without a Trace of Sankalpa (intention, volition, will)’

6.

That in which there is nothing bad or good,
In which there is neither sorrow nor pleasure,
In which there is neither silence nor speech.
In which there are no pairs of opposites.
In which there is no distinction of ‘I’ or ‘body’ (or I am the body)
And in which there is not the least thing to perceive –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa (intention).
In That itself as That itself.

7.

That in which there is no activity of body,
In which there is no activity of speech,
In which there is no activity of any other kind,
In which there is nothing sinful or meritorious,
And in which there is no trace of desire or its consequences –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

8.

That in which there is never any imagination,
In which there is no one who imagines,
In which he universe has not arisen,
In which the universe does not exist,
In which the universe does not get dissolved,
And in which nothing exists at any time –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

9.

That in which there is no appearance of maya (illusion),
In which there are no effects of maya (delusion),
In which there is neither knowledge nor ignorance,
In which there is neither Lord (Isvara) nor individual (jiva),
In which there is neither reality, nor unreality,
And in which there is not the least appearance of the world –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

10.

That in which there are no manifold gods,
In which there is no worship or service to these,
In which there is no differentiation as the triad of forms (Brahma, Vishnu, Siva),
In which there is no meditation on the triad of forms,
In which there is no form of the Supreme Siva,
And in which there is no meditation on the Supreme Siva –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

11.

That in which there is no action suggesting differentiation,
In which there is neither devotion nor knowledge,
In which there is no result to be obtained,
Bereft of which there is no supreme abode
In which there is nothing of means for attainment,
In which there is nothing to be attained –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa
In That itself as That itself.

12.

That in which there is nothing of the body or senses or life.
In which there is nothing of mind or intellect or thought,
In which there is nothing of ego or ignorance,
In which there is no experiencer of these,
In which there is no macrocosm or microcosm,
And in which there is not a trace of samsara (cycle of birth and death) –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of a sankalpa –
In that itself as That itself.

13.

That in which there is no desire and no anger,
In which there is no covetousness and deluded infatuation,
In which there is no arrogance and envious malice,
In which there are no other impurities of the mind,
And in which there is no delusive notion of bondage,
And in which there is no delusive notion of liberation –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa
In That itself as That itself.

14.

That in which there is neither beginning nor end,
In which there is no bottom or middle or top,
In which there is neither shrine nor deity,
In which there is neither charity nor righteous conduct,
In which there is neither time nor space,
And in which there is no object to be perceived –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

15.

That in which the fourfold means for realisation of Brahman (sadhana chatushtaya) do not exist,
In which there is no Sadguru (true guru) nor diligent disciple,
In which there is no illustrious jnani (the Knower or sage).
In which there is neither of the two kinds of liberation (jivanmukti and videha mukti)
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of a sankalpa.
In That itself, as That itself.

16.

That in which there are no scriptures like Vedas and such,
In which there is no inquiring individual,
In which there is no confusion and clarification,
In which there is no position to be established,
In which there is no position to be rejected,
In which there is nothing at all except oneself –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

17.

That in which there is no disputation,
In which here are no victories or defeats,
In which there is no text or its meaning,
In which there are no words with which to give expression,
In which there is no differentiation of individual (jiva) and the Supreme,
and in which there are no conditionings –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of a sankalpa
In That itself, as That itself.

18.

That in which there is no listening (sravana) or connected practices (manana, nididhyasana),
In which here is no exalted samadhi,
In which there is no differentiation between objects of the same particular group,
In which there is no differentiation as affording pleasure or otherwise,
And in which there are no words or their meanings –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa
In That itself, as That itself.

19.

That in which there is no trace of the fear of hell,
In which there is no pleasure of heaven, either,
In which there are no worlds of the Creator or others,
In which there are no fruits to be enjoyed there,
In which there are no other worlds,
And in which there exists no universe –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

20.

That in which there are no elements,
In which there is not even a trace of any derivatives of the elements,
In which there is no egoism or sense of possession,
In which there is no trace of the kingdom of the mind,
In which there is no defect of attachment,
And in which there is not the slightest trace of vikalpa
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa
In That itself as That itself.

21.

That in which there is no triad of bodies (gross, subtle, causal),
In which there is no triad of states of existence (waking, dream and deep sleep),
In which there is no triad of souls (ever free, having attained freedom, bound),
In which there is no triad of afflictions, (caused by bodily and mental factors, caused by external factors, caused by supernatural and cosmic factors),
In which there is no pentad of sheaths, (physical, vital energy, mental, intellectual, blissful),
And in which there is no experiencer of any of these –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankapa,
In That itself as That itself.

22.

That in which there is no sentient being,
In which there is no power of veiling,
In which there is no array of differences,
In which there is no power of false projection,
In which there is no delusion of a manifest world –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

23.

That in which there is nothing of action,
In which there is no performer of action,
In which arises unsurpassed Bliss,
Which is, indeed, the changeless state,
Knowing and realizing which none returns (to mortality or illusion)
And becoming which one is freed from bondage of worldly existence –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of a sankalpa
In That itself as That itself.

24.

That by realizing which and in Bliss of which
All other joys appear to be the joys of That,
That after realizing which with very firm certitude as oneself
Nothing else will be something apart,
That by realizing which with very firm certitude as oneself
All kinds of jivas will attain Liberation –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of a sankalpa
In That itself as That itself.

25.

That which by knowing firmly as oneself
One has no need to know anything else in the least,
By knowing which with full conviction as oneself
All is know for ever,
And by knowing which as oneself in complete certitude
All actions are accomplished in their entirety –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

26.

That which can be easily attained in an unimpeded manner
By the certitude that I am Brahman,
In which, by quiescence after such certitude,
One completely full, ineffable Bliss will reveal itself,
And by merger of the mind in which
One will be joined with unsurpassed, incomparable contentment –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

27.

That by merger of the mind in which
All sorrows will cease to exist in the least,
By merger of mind in which
Neither you nor I nor anything else will exist,
And by merger of the mind in which
All these differences will disappear –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

28.

That by merger of the mind in which
One abides as oneself with no sense of duality,
By merger of the mind in which
Not a trace of anything separate will remain,
and by merger of the mind in which
Incomparable Bliss alone will reveal itself –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

‘I Am That, That Am I’

29.

That which is, indeed, of the nature of undifferentiated Existence,
Which is, indeed, of the nature of undifferentiated Consciousness,
Which, is, indeed, of the nature of undifferentiated Bliss,
Which is, indeed, of the nature of non duality,
Which, is indeed, not different from the Self,
And which, indeed, is of the undivided Supreme Brahman –
In the firm certitude that ‘I am That’,
Abide in the Bliss of ever being That itself.

30.

That which, indeed, is ‘I’ and ‘you’,
Which, indeed, is everyone else,
Which, indeed, is the substratum of all,
Which, indeed, is One without a trace of anything else,
Which, indeed, is utmost purity,
And which, indeed, is the undivided, complete, perfect fullness –
By the conviction that ‘I am That’,
Be in the Bliss of ever being That itself.

31.

That in which there are no varying modes,
In which there is not the least thing different,
In which all egoism is extinguished,
In which all desires or imaginings get destroyed,
In which mind and such perish,
And in which all delusion is destroyed –
By the firm conviction that ‘I am That’,
Be in the Bliss of ever being That itself.

32.

That in which the body and others cannot be discerned,
In which there is no perception of manifestation whatsoever,
In which the thought itself is destroyed,
In which merges the jiva,
In which all the imaginings get dissolved,
And in which even certitude disappears –
By the deep conviction that ‘I am That’,
Be in the Bliss of every being That itself.

33.

That in which all meditation is merged,
In which all yoga is obliterated,
In which all ignorance is dead,
In which all knowledge is nullified,
In which there are no interactions involved,
And which is the state of Absolute Truth –
By the very firm conviction that ‘I am That’,
Be in the Bliss of ever being That itself.

34.

Merging in which one attains happiness always,
Merging in which one never experiences sorrow,
Merging in which one perceives nothing,
Merging in which one never takes birth at all,
Merging in which one never experiences a sense of being separate,
Merging in which one abides as the Supreme (Para) itself –
By this deep conviction of ‘I am That’
Be in the Bliss of ever being That itself.

35.

That which is verily the nature of the Supreme Brahman,
Which is verily is of the nature of Supreme Siva,
What verily is of the nature of the Supreme State,
Which is verily of the nature of the Knowledge of Reality,
And which verily is of the nature of the Supreme Truth –
That, indeed, am I.
By such conviction, be in the Bliss of ever being That itself.

36.

That which is verily of the nature of the Pure Absolute,
Which verily is of the nature of a mass of Bliss,
Which verily is of the nature of the subtle Supreme,
Which verily is of the nature of the non dual,
Which verily is of the nature of self luminous,
And which verily is of the nature of the meaning of the undifferentiated –
That, indeed, am I.
By such conviction, be in the Bliss of ever being That itself.

37.

That which is verily of the nature of Truth,
Which is verily of the nature of the peaceful Absolute,
Which verily is of the nature of the eternal,
Which verily is of the nature of the attribute-less,
Which verily is of the nature of the Self,
Which verily is of the nature of the undivided Absolute –
That, indeed, am I.
By such conviction, be in the Bliss of ever being That itself.

38.

That, indeed, which constitute the entirety of interactions,
That even the least of which, cannot indeed, be conveyed by the ‘highest truth’,
Which, indeed, is the Existence Consciousness Bliss,
Which, indeed, is ever peaceful,
From which, indeed, there is nothing apart,
And which, indeed, abides self existent, all by itself,
That, indeed, am I.
By such conviction, be in the Bliss of ever being That itself.

Concluding Verses

39.

Thus, have I explained to you, Nidagha!
The state of being established as That itself, without any duality.
You shall enjoy perpetual Bliss
By attaining this state by constant
Continuous, changeless certitude
Of the undifferentiated Absolute
There are no more miseries of mundane existence at all at any time in the future
For you are Brahman alone.

40.

Casting aside all impure Vasanas
By the pristine tendency left by the practice of
‘The Absolute Existence Consciousness Bliss, is all,
And That I ever am’,
And subsequently effacing even that tendency,
Son! You will be established in the perfect, full absorption
In and as the non dual Supreme Brahman itself
And attain the Liberation of being the undifferentiated, undivided One.

41.

All impure vasanas are of a state of the mind.
The tendencies (vasanas) about the Pure Absolute are also of a state of the mind.
The Supreme has no such tendencies (vasanas).
Hence, be established in this state,
Without any tendencies (vasanas) of the mind,
Whether considered pure or considered impure,
Like a motionless piece of stone or wood
And without any strain, be in Bliss.

42.

Having disassociated from the imaginings of all other thoughts,
By the conviction (bhava) of being the undivided Absolute,
And forgetting even the said conviction (bhava) of being the Absolute,
You yourself abide as the perfectly full Supreme Brahman.
Even if a great sinner in this world
Hears this explanation now proclaimed
And understands it, he shall, rid of all the great sins of his ego,
Abide as the nature of the undivided, undifferentiated Absolute

43.

The endless Vedas
In revealing here and there,
The means of meditation for mental purification,
Have indicated only rock-like, motionless merger with and absorption in
The unafflicted mass of Bliss,
The undivided, completely, perfectly full Siva,
As the means for the happy Liberation
Of those who are mentally purified.

44.

Therefore, one can here attain
The undifferentiated Liberation by abiding as just That itself
And with a purified mind arising out of the practice of the meditation
That whatever is known is Siva
And that Siva am I.
Whatever stated here is the Truth
Thus, the Sage Ribhu explained in full to Nidagha
The abidance in the True State.

45.

It is the undivided form of our Supreme Lord in a state of sublime, joyous dance that says:
By the conviction that I am ever the Reality, which is Existence Consciousness Bliss,
And by the state of abiding at one with That being That itself,
The empty bondage of the world can be cut asunder and pure Liberation attained.

 

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The four types of Liberated Sage (Jnani) | Advaita Vedanta |Kaivalya Navaneeta

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In the text Kaivalya Navaneeta (The Cream of Liberation; a 16th century traditional advaita text that was often recommended by Sri Ramana Maharshi), four types of liberated sages are described starting at verse 94.

Understanding these descriptions can help explain and reconcile the different views of liberation one may come across, such as whether or not the body and world appear after liberation, what type of lifestyle a liberated sage would exhibit and whether or not they would experience any kind of afflictive or suffering-causing emotions at all. My comments are in italicised red:


94. The wise, remaining like ether and liberated even here, are of four classes, namely Brahmavid (i.e. a knower of Brahman), vara, varya, and varishta, in order of merit.

Tom: The four types of liberated sage are called Brahmavid, Vara, Varya and Varishta. First we will discuss the Brahmavid or or ‘knower or Brahman’ (Vidya is Sanskrit for knowledge). The phrase ‘remaining like ether’ refers to the previous verse 93 and means the wise sage abides as consciousness, fully liberated.

95. The Brahmavids who by steadfast practice have gained clear realization of Brahman, continue to perform even the hard duties of their caste and stage in life, exactly as prescribed by the shastras for the benefit of others, without themselves swerving from their supreme state.

96. Should passions rise up they disappear instantly and cannot taint the mind of the Brahmavids who live in society detached like water on a lotus leaf. They look ignorant, not showing forth their knowledge, and remain mute owing to intensity of inward Bliss.

Tom: the first type of liberated sage is called the Brahmavid. They continue to be fully engaged in society and the world whilst simultaneously being liberated. Occasionally afflictive emotions and passions arise but they are short lived and do not affect the Brahmavid. They may seem like an ordinary person with nothing particularly special about them, but they are often outwardly quiet.

97. Prarabdha, i.e., karma which is now bearing fruit, differs according to the actions in past incarnations. Therefore the present pursuits also differ among jnanis, who are all, however, liberated even here. They may perform holy tapas; or engage in trade and commerce; or rule a kingdom; or wander about as mendicants.

Tom: Prarabdha essentially refers to the destiny of the particular body mind based on its previous actions, ie. its karma . This verse states that the actions of the (body of the) jnani  or sage (jnani literally means ‘knower’, ie. ‘knower of truth’ or ‘knower of Self’) varies depending on what the activities the body did prior to realisation. So the sage may, for example, perform holy penance, or engage in the world, or be a ruler, or a wandering monk. Basically there is no fixed description of what a sage would do in daily life in terms of their ‘occupation’.

98. They would not think of the past or future; would partake of what comes unsolicited; would not wonder, even if the sun turned into the moon, or at any other marvel, whether the sky were to spread its shoots down like a banyan tree or a corpse were to be revived; nor would they distinguish good and bad, for they always remain as the unchanging Witness of all.

Tom: the last point on the Brahmavid is that they are unaffected by whatever appears to happen, no matter how marvelous, calamitous or ridiculous. Why? Because they are liberated, ‘fixed’ as the Self, remaining as the ever-unchanging ‘Witness of all’.

Now let us look at the other three classes of Jnani or Liberated Sage:

99. Among the other three classes, the vara and the varya remain settled in samadhi. The vara feels concern for the maintenance of the body; the varya is reminded of it by others; the varishta never becomes aware of the body, either by himself or through others.

Tom: Here the vara and varya are both aware of the body at times whilst the fourth type of Jnani, the varishta, is not even ever aware of the body at all, even though others may perceive him as a body. The vara has a desire to maintain the body, whilst the varya occasionally becomes aware of their body if someone else prompts them.

So which of these types of liberation is best? Let us see…

100. Although there are distinguishing characteristics in the lives of the different Sages, who are themselves very rare in the world, yet there is absolutely no difference in the experience of Liberation. What can be the use of the hard-won samadhi? The Brahmavid, who is outwardly active, seems sometimes to feel the misery of calamities, whereas the others remain in unbroken Bliss.

Tom: Here it is made clear: all of these four types of sage are rare, and all are the same in that they are all fully liberated. They all in theirselves have the same essential experience of Liberation, the differences being only superficial and present from the point of view of other non-liberated people.

However a point is raised that is dealt with in the next verse. The Brahmavid may appear to suffer and stress like the unliberated, whereas the other three categories of liberated sage are lost in eternal Peace and Bliss. How can this be? How can the Brahmavid be said to be truly liberated?

101. Now if the Brahmavids live like the ignorant, how are they free from the cycle of births, and how is their ignorance gone? The all-pervading ether remains untainted by anything; the other four elements are tainted by contact with objects. So it is with the Brahmavid and the ignorant.

Tom: The answer given is that, as Consciousness, the Brahmavid remains unaffected and untouched by whatever seems to happen in the world of objects that we ordinarily call life.


Tom’s summary: So we can see there are various types of liberated sage that are all fully and totally liberated, but appear different to each other only from the point of view of ignorance or the ‘unliberated’. Some jnanis are active in the world and appear to stress and suffer, some are immersed in constant experiential bliss, some are totally unaware of their body or only aware of it to some degree, and others seem to have a need to look after their body. Some appear to be holy sages, other just ordinary mundane people int he world.  However, all of this does not matter from the point of view of Liberation – Liberation is only One. Know Thy Self!

Swami Chinmayananda on the Ashtavakra Gita

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Swami Chinmayananda writes in the introduction to his commentary upon the Ashtavakra Gita of how in a way it is superior to the Upanishads, Brahma Sutras and Bhagavad Gita (these are the Prasthana Traya or ‘Holy Trinity’ of scriptures in Advaita Vedanta) in communicating the nature of the Supreme Reality.

Note the final paragraph in which all concepts, including that of ‘Supreme Reality’ or ‘Brahman’ are also dissolved:

In communicating to the seekers the unsurpassing beauty and indefinable perfections of the Absolute, the Upanisads stammer; the Brahma sutras exhaust itself and the Bhagavat Gita hesitates with an excusable shyness. A theme, in dealing with which, even these mighty books of Hinduism are thus, at best, unsatisfactory; we must, in sheer gratitude, admire Astavakra Samhita for the brilliant success it has achieved in communicating, through words, perhaps, more clearly the nature and glory of the Supreme Reality, than by the Prasthana Traya.

The student of this Samhita is himself giving the autobio-data of the liberated in life. We have here in this book a revealing autobiography of the Saint, the Liberated-in-life in King Janaka.

Beyond all assertions and denial, beyond the concepts of bondage and liberation, lies this Realm of the Self, wherein there is neither the individual-ego(jiva), nor is there even the Supreme-Reality (Brahman)!

The above was written by Swami Chinmayananda, taken from his introduction to the Ashtavakra Gita