Kashmir Shaivism, Tantra and Advaita Vedanta – Ramana Maharshi’s view

ramana-maharshi face
Sri Ramana Maharshi

Kashmir Shaivism is a non-dual tantric tradition in which Pratyabhijna or ‘recognition’ is the goal. In Kashmir Shaivism, the absolute is termed ‘Shiva’ and the relative world of people and objects is termed ‘Shakti’ (which means energy or power). Shiva and Shakti are given equal status and are said not to exist apart from each other – where one exists, the other also exists.

In Non-Dual (Advaita) Vedanta, the Self (Atman) is the Absolute (Brahman) and it is said to project Maya-Shakti which in turn projects the world of people and objects. Maya is said to be dependent on the Absolute Self and not vice-versa, so the two are not given equal status.

This obviously causes confusion in some seekers, so here Ramana explains them both:


The following is an excerpt from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 288:

Explaining Maya of Vedanta and swatantra [tantra] of Pratyabhijna (independence of recognition), Sri Bhagavan said:

The Vedantins say that Maya is the sakti of illusion premised in Siva. Maya has no independent existence. Having brought out the illusion of the world as real, she continues to play upon the ignorance of the victims. When the reality of her not being is found, she disappears.

‘Recognition’ [ie. Kashmir Shaivism] says that Sakti (power) is coeval with Siva. The one does not exist without the other. Siva is unmanifest, whereas Sakti is manifest on account of Her independent will swatantra. Her manifestation is the display of the cosmos on pure consciousness, like images in a mirror.

The images cannot remain in the absence of a mirror.

So also the world cannot have an independent existence. Swatantra becomes eventually an attribute of the Supreme. Sri Sankara says that the Absolute is without attributes and that Maya is not and has no real being. What is the difference between the two? Both agree that the display is not real. The images of the mirror cannot in any way be real. The world does not exist in reality (vastutah).

Both schools mean the same thing. Their ultimate aim is to realise the Absolute Consciousness. The unreality of the cosmos is implied in Recognition (Pratyabhijna), whereas it is explicit in Vedanta. If the world be taken as chit (consciousness), it is always real. Vedanta says that there is no nana (diversity), meaning that it is all the same Reality.

There is agreement on all points except in words and the method of expression.

Q: If all is one, why is there this duality? Does consciousness really want to know itself?

Yin Yang Tao

Q. This has been a source of confusion to me. If Brahman, Presence, whatever you want to call it is unconditioned, one without a second, then why do teachers go on to explain how it manifests the universe. Or, encloses itself in matter. Once an action takes place, it is no longer unconditioned…So then what is this dream, and why do so many non-dualists talk about it as though it is the Source wanting to know itself, or something like that. Thank you.

Tom: In my view, and also in the view of many of the traditional scriptures, nobody really understands Maya. It is mysterious. How can the unconditioned give rise to the conditioned? How can One appear to be many? It’s a mystery.

And why does it (appear to) happen? Again, it’s a mystery.

However, to please seekers of differing levels of understanding, different explanations are given, such as ‘consciousness wanting to know itself’, etc. The various theories are given to appease the seeker’s mind and stop the questions so that the seeker can then get on with the real work of turning inwards and keeping quiet.

That is what all the teachings are pointing to:

Be still.
Be unconcerned with the world.
Be unattached and happy.
All is well.
No need to worry.
Have faith.

Best wishes and pranams
🙏

Integrating knowledge, spontaneous action

This post is continued from Discarding Knowledge as Ignorance

Do you go around repeatedly saying your name so that you remember it? Do you have to walk around saying “I am Tom, I am Tom, I am Tom?” (obviously substitute in your name).

Or do you spend most of your life not even thinking about your name, but when someone calls out your name, the understanding ‘My name is Tom’ automatically acts: you turn your head and respond?

It’s the same with understanding there is no doer: initially you may need to think about it, go through the reasoning, and realise there is no evidence for a doer. It is a conscious process. Because we have been conditioned to think of ourselves as being a doer, there is often a process of deconditioning.

It may also take time for all the suffering based on the ‘I am the doer’ notion to fall away. Other notions such as ‘I am to blame’ or ‘I could/should have done it differently’ or ‘I am not worthy’ may still all be at play. All these depend on the root belief ‘I am a separate doer-entity’. Again, there may be a conscious process of applying this understanding in order to deal with suffering as it arises and uprooting the associated beliefs upon which suffering depends.

But once this has been done, then we don’t need to think about it. The knowledge of ‘there is no doer’ has been ingrained into us. We do not need to think about it, we no longer need to repeat the process of understanding.

But just as when someone asks your name, you can spontaneously respond ‘My name is ____’, when someone asks you ‘Are you a doer?’, you can instantly reply ‘there is no doer’.

This post is continued here: Am I the body? Am I not the body?

The sense of being a doer vs. no doer

When the doer* is seen to be an illusion, an imagined fiction, the sense/feeling of being a doer may still continue. The sense/feeling of being a doer can arise like any other phenomena arises.

And notice – it arises spontaneously, meaning there is no doer there doing it. You see! It can be seen that even the sense of being a doer is something that has no doer behind it – it just happens, by itself.

So, in my daily life I often feel like I’m doing things, but there is an understanding there that there is no doer-entity doing it. It is all just happening.

This is the difference between experience and knowledge/understanding: I may feel like a doer, but I know/understand I am not a doer.

It is similar to realising the sun does not orbit a stationary earth, even though the appearance of the sun rising and setting each day continues. Or if you realise that a mirage is an illusion, the illusion persists even when not believed in. The sense of doership can continue even when the understanding ‘there is no evidence for a doer’ is present.

*By doer I mean the notion of being a separate entity which creates or authors thoughts and actions

Shri Ranjit Maharaj: the cause and end of Ignorance

Ranjit Maharaj

“Listen to the Master…
by hearing, Ignorance has come up,
and by hearing it goes off.”
Shri Ranjit Maharaj

Tom’s comments:
The master speaks:  because, as a child, we ‘listened’ to those around us, through absorbing their words we came to believe that we are a separate individual, a doer, a separate entity responsible for everything that this body-mind does. This is the basic ignorance.

Now, we can listen to the Master dispense his words. While his words, like ignorance, are also conceptual these concepts are there to remove ignorance.

The master’s words are like anti-matter: just as when anti-matter and matter collide they both disappear in a flash of energy leaving nothing behind, the master’s teachings nullify the suffering caused by our wrong notions of doership. Then the master’s teachings are also seen to be false.

We are left with no concepts at all, neither our original ignorant concepts, nor the concepts of the teaching. Only reality remains. It was always here.

When you do not cling

moon water.jpg
Image from ana-rosa.tumblr.com

When you do not cling
There is no you.

Actually,
There never was a you.

You are just:*
Water in mirage,
The son of a barren woman,
The snake in a rope,
The moon in a pail of water.

*these are all traditional Indian metaphors used to describe our basic mistake (original sin)