What is Vedantic Meditation? How Swami Satchitanandendra Saraswati (SSS) defines Nididhyasana (Vedantic Meditation)

Sri Satchidanandendra Saraswati Swamiji (SSS, 1880-1975), was a vedic scholar who devoted much of his life to studying the works of Shankara (c. 7th century BCE), the great reformer of Advaita Vedanta. SSS came to the conclusion that many of the texts that are ordinarily attributed to Shankara are not genuine works of Shankara, and that the truly genuine works of Shankara are essentially the commentaries he wrote on the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, the Brahma sutras and a non-commentarial text called Upadesa Sahasri. Whilst this view remains a controversial minority view, and personally I am not convined by the evidence brought forth, many are increasingly subscribing to it.

However, of those who do follow SSS’s teachings, I have noticed some have not actually read his teachings thoroughly, especially on what he says about Nididhyasana, or Vedantic Meditation.

So in this post we will look at how SSS defines Nididhyasana. I have read many of SSS’s books, and if we look at what SSS actually writes, we will see that the method he proposes is essentially the same as the method of Self-Enquiry as proposed by Sri Ramana Maharshi. Let us see:

  1. The first thing to notice is that SSS states that Nididhyasana is the same as Dhyana Yoga as described in Chapter 6 of the Bhagavad Gita, and Mano-nigraha Yoga as described in Gaudapada’s Karika, and is also called Adhyatma Yoga:

Adhyatma Yoga by SSS p. 9:

‘This Adhyatma Yoga is called as ‘Nidhidhyasana’ and in the sixth chapter of the Gita this Nidhidhyasana is described as ‘Dhyana Yoga’. The complete sixth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita reveals the process of this Dhyana Yoga with its accessories. In this very Bhagavad Gita in the following contexts also this Dhyana Yoga or Adhyatma Yoga is prescribed: 13-24, 18-52. The same Adhyatma Yoga is also called as ‘Manoni-graha Yoga’ by Gaudapada in his Mandukya Karikas from 3.41 to 3.48. So in all these places the practice of Adhyatma Yoga, its accessories, the obstacles during the practice and the removal of the obstacles are described.’

  1. The second thing to notice is that according to SSS this Nididhyasana (or Adhyatma Yoga) is a means to Self-Realisation.

The Theory of Vedanta by SSS, p. 153:

‘In addition to Karma and Upasana, there is a kind of concentrated contemplation called the Adhyatma-Yoga which leads to immediate intuition [of Brahman, ie. Self Realisation].’

This is further clarified in the introduction to the text Adhyatma Yoga. In this context the term ‘Vastu Tantra’ means Nididhysana is a means to Self-Realisation or Truth-Realisation. (‘Vastu Tantra’ means ‘a path to the truth’, which is independent of the person who is looking, so to speak, much like science – eg. the same independent scientific truth such as the speed of light or the gravitational constant can be discovered by various people from different places – this truth is independent of the person looking. Vastu Tantra means that this is the method that leads to the supreme truth, ie. liberation or Knowlege of Brahman/Atman. This is opposed to ‘Kartru Tantra’, also known as ‘Purusha Tantra’, which refers to ‘the path of an individual’ – eg. lifting weights to build up your muscles or meditating to gain specific special powers – it is a path that leads to specific results for an individual – eg. bigger muscles or specific powers – but it does not lead to discovery of an ‘objective’ non-personal universal truth). The following is from the introduction to the text Adhyatma yoga:

‘The subject dealt with here viz. Adhyatma Yoga, also known as Dhyana Yoga, Mano-nigraha Yoga, Samadhi Yoga and Nidhidhyasana, is treated these days as a Kartru Tantra Sadana. But in the Shankara Bhashya throughout, this Adhyatma Yogi or Dhyana Yoga is treated as a Vastu Tantra Sadhana.’

  1. The third thing to notice is that the technique of Nididhyasana is to turn one’s attention away from objective phenomena and turn towards the Self until one ‘intuits’ the Self directly.

Here is a quote from The Method of Vedanta by SSS, p. 147, that summarises much of the above and also describes in brief the method of nididhyasana. Upasana is defined here as meditation upon objects, and nididhyasana is to turn away from objects (note that in some scriptures the word ‘upasana’ is used synonymously with ‘nididhyasana’ but here SSS is using the words in this particular way):

‘The aim of the one practising sustained meditation (nididhyasana) is different [to Upasana, defined here as meditation on forms/objects]. He tries to attain direct vision of reality (here in this very world) by turning his mind away from all else [ie. all objects]. And there is the difference — as against upasana — that after the rise of knowledge nothing further remains to be done. It is this sustained meditation that is referred to at Kathha Upanishad I.ii.12 by the name ‘Adhyatma Yoga’. In the Gita it is sometimes called ’Dhyana Yoga’ (e.g. XVI11.52). In the Mandukya Karikas it is called ’restraint of the mind’ (G.K.III.41, etc.). Its nature is described there in that latter work. Everywhere its result is described in the same way as right metaphysical knowledge, and from this comes immediate liberation (sadyo-mukti).’

SSS then quotes from the Katha Upanishad and Shankara’s commentary on it to make is point clear:

‘The wise man comes to know God through mastering Adhyatma Yoga, and gives up joy and sorrow. (Kathha I.ii.12)

[Tom: ie. through Adhyatma Yoga the Self is realised; SSS then goes on to quote Shankara’s commentary:]

Sankara’s Commentary: Mastering Adhyatma Yoga: Adhyatma Yoga means withdrawing the mind from objects and concentrating it on the Self. Having meditated on the deity, the Self, through attainment of Adhyatma Yoga, the wise man gives up joy and sorrow because there are no gradations of value in the Self.’

On p.149 of The Method of Vedanta by SSS, SSS quotes from Chapter 6 of the Bhagavad Gita to explain in more detail the method of Nididhyasana, as follows:

That yoga should certainly be practised with resolute mind. Giving up without exception all desires that come from individual, will, restraining the sense-organs on every side through the mind, one should gradually withdraw from all activity, with will and intellect firmly controlled; keeping the mind fixed on the Self, one should not think of anything. Wherever the fickle mind wanders, one should bring it back and fix it on the Self alone, under firm control. Supreme joy comes to such a yogi, whose mind is at perfect peace, whose lusts have subsided, who is sinless and who has become the Absolute.’

I hope the above is useful and helpful to you

Namaste

Tom

Here are some other articles that speak on this topic:

Do we need to turn away from the world of objects to realise the Self? | Advaita Vedanta | Sri Ramana Maharshi | Upanishads | Shankara

Remove Nama-Rupa (Name & Form) to reveal Sat-Chit-Ananda (the Self)

Advaita Vedanta: Is samadhi required for Self-Realisation according to Shankara and the Upanishads?

What exactly is Jnana (knowledge) according to Shankara and Gaudapada and the scriptures?

Neti-Neti is not Self-Enquiry | Ramana Maharshi – The 5 Sheaths (Pancha-Koshas)

I have also tried to explain how the teaching works here in this video which is well worth taking the time to watch:

Ramana Maharshi: ‘Those crazy-minded people…’ | The importance of dispassion towards sense-objects

Those crazy-minded people who do not know as real anything other than the objects of the senses, and who are thereby ruined, will term the jnana that flourishes luxuriantly through dispassion towards sense-objects ‘dry Vedanta’

Guru Vachaka Kovai, verse 148

Tom’s comments:

The way to the Truth Within (ie. jnana, meaning wisdom or knowledge), which, for practical purposes, is within each and everyone of us, has always meant we have to turn away from sense-objects, as well as mind-objects (ie. turn away from both gross and subtle objects).

However, for those tamasic and rajasic ones, who are attached to the sensory world of objects, they would call this type of teaching ‘dry’ or ‘life-opposing’ or ‘life denying’. However it is these so-called ‘life-affirming’ teachings that actually keep one in Maya-Samsara-Suffering, for the ‘life’ that is affirmed is simply ‘Maya’ (illusion) and continued suffering.

They who only know the sense-objects, and they who consider these as being real, they betray their underlying attachment to body-mind. How so? It is this underlying attachment to body-mind, and thinking body-mind to be real, that actually causes the world to also appear to be real, and for the sense-objects to thereafter gain so much importance.

These people are ‘crazy-minded’ and ‘thereby ruined’ according to Sri Ramana, his somewhat harsh tone driving the point home emphatically in a compassionate attempt to reveal the true path to liberation.

Let us take heed, and turn away from body-mind-world and discover the Treasure that lies deep within us. Let us reject the small, temporary life of Maya-suffering and instead let us come upon and merge into Life Eternal Within, wherein we become One with Him, Our Beloved.

If you just be…

If you just be, all of these teachings will be revealed to you. You won’t need to read any books, go to Satsangs, watch YouTube videos or plough through scriptures, if you just be.

Maybe one thing I could add is not ‘just be’ but to know that your identity is being. To just be and somehow trust that what you truly are is this beingness that transcends body, mind world, matter.

This video was recorded live during a Satsang meeting with Tom Das and put together by volunteers.

See https://tomdas.com/events for further information.

Is Papaji’s teaching the same as Sri Ramana Maharshi’s teaching?

Whilst I am very familiar with the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, I am less familiar with the teachings of Papaji. However I have often been struck, whenever I come across excerpts of Papaji’s teachings, that they seem quite different to the teachings of Sri Ramana. Now, is this just because I have only seen excerpts of Papaji’s teachings and these excerpts are out of context? Or is there actually a substantive difference between what they teach? Or perhaps they are pointing to the same thing in a different way?

Before I continue, I just want to be clear that my intent here is not to condemn or criticise anyone. I fully understand that we each have our own unique path and that different teachers and teachings can be a part of that journey. My intent here is to explore the teachings, and I hope this exploration is helpful to you. If it is not, please feel free to ignore this post or give me some constructive feedback!

Well the more I have seen of Papaji’s teachings, the more it seems to me that the teachings are essentially different to that of Sri Ramana’s. Sri Ramana emphasises the need for sadhana, for turning away from the world and towards the Subject-Self, and for the necessity of Self-Enquiry, and Papaji tends to do the opposite – he seems to de-emphasise the need for sadhana, does not advocate turning away from the world and does not state that Self-Enquiry is the sole means to Liberation.

But as I am no expert on Papaji, I would welcome your thoughts. Here is an example of a teaching from Papaji, which seems quite representative of the kind of thing he would normally teach. I saw this posted on Facebook:

There is no sadhana better than just staying as Peace. If you must do any practice, then do Vicar (Self-inquiry).

Joy is also a good sadhana because it destroys mind, so always be happy. Always think of It and be happy: spend the rest of your life knowing you are Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.

Some practice is better than getting lost in samsara and is good in that it sometimes fatigues the mind, but typical sadhana is usually important only for the ego.

All sadhana is projected by ego so it is on a sandy foundation. This ego projection is samsara so search only for the seeker.“I” is ego so when this meditates there are no good results. Choice of practice depends on the choice of results.

Brahman has no attributes and is beyond mind so no practice will take you to that: It is self revealing.

Ramana says “Simply keep Quiet for it is Here and Now”This is the nearest practice because Brahman is your very nature.

~ Papaji

Notice that Papaji is stating that some sadhana is good – he says here there are two reasons sadhana is good: firstly that it is ‘better than getting lost in samsara’ and secondly that ‘it sometimes fatigues the mind’. Note that he does not state that sadhana is necessary for liberation in the way that Sri Ramana Maharshi does (see later), nor does he state that Self-Enquiry is the only essential method to liberation, which is what Sri Ramana often stated (see later for examples of this).

Papaji then goes on to state that ‘all sadhana is projected by the ego so it is on a sandy foundation’. This is sounding less like Sri Ramana or traditional Advaita Vedanta and more like what is often called neo-advaita, something that Sri Ramana criticised. Neo-advaita often propagates the notion that practice/sadhana is done by the separate ego-I and so it necessarily perpetuates the ego-I.

Note that whilst this seems logical and rational enough, it is actually a belief based on inductive logic rather than a truth. Whilst it is true that this certainly can happen – ie. sadhana can certainly lead to perpetuating the ego-I, this is not necessarily the case and there are exceptions. I explain this in these videos:

Papaji then goes on to state his essential view, that ‘no practice will take you to that [Brahman]’. He then concludes his teaching by stating ‘simply keep quiet for it is here and now’ stating this is what Sri Ramana also said.

Now it is true that Sri Ramana often said that we should ‘be still’ and that this is the practice, but what did he mean by ‘be still’? If we read and examine Sri Ramana’s written work ‘Who Am I?’, we will see what Sri Ramana means when he says ‘be still’ or ‘keep quiet’. Note that we can trust the teachings in ‘Who Am I?’ as an authentic rendition of Sri Ramana’s teachings as they were written by Sri Ramana himself. Let us see: the first time we come across the notion of quieting the mind in ‘Who Am I?’ is as follows:

‘When the mind, which is the cause of all cognition’s and of all actions, becomes quiescent, the world will disappear.’

Now on the face of it this is quite a strange statement for Sri Ramana to make: that the world will disappear when the mind is still. Clearly, when Sri Ramana states that the mind is to be quiet, he is perhaps using these words in a different way to how they are normally used. How can it be that when the mind becomes quiet the world disappears?

Well earlier in ‘Who Am I?’ Sri Ramana explains that it is the mind is a power that creates or projects the entire body, mind and world, so to ‘be quiet’ means not just to still the ordinary thinking mind, but to still this world-projecting power, ie. to remove all of Maya. Ramana repeats this, see here, also from ‘Who Am I?’:

Question: 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

Question: Will there not be realization of the Self even while the world is there?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: There will not be.

I have a video here which explains the importance of this teaching. It fundamentally explains why some teachings are liberating and others are not:

Again, I hope it is clear that this teaching of Sri Ramana’s, or at least the emphasis, is quite different to what Papaji is proposing. Papaji is telling us to rest in happiness and joy and ‘keep quiet’ for the Self is ‘here and now’ whereas Sri Ramana is emphasising removing the entire body-mind-world from our consciousness. We can see that Sri Ramana’s teaching is far more extreme – it is this extreme teaching that is needed to remove ignorance and realise the Self.

Papaji is stating that all sadhana is projected by the ego and will never lead us to the Self/Brahman, whereas Sri Ramana emphasises Self-Enquiry as the only sadhana that will lead us to Liberation. Again, Sri Ramana’s teaching is more narrow and prescriptive in this way, as he maintains that Self-Enquiry is the only way. Let us see what else Sri Ramana writes in ‘Who Am I?’:

Question: Are there no other means for making the mind quiescent?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Other than inquiry [Vichara; Self-Enquiry], there are no adequate means.

We can see that Sri Ramana is stating that sadhana or self-enquiry is essential to make the mind quiet, so that when Sri Ramana is asking us to ‘be still’ or ‘keep quiet’, he is actually asking us to do Self-Enquiry.

Now on the same Facebook post which posted the Papaji teachings above, I saw the following Sri Ramana Maharshi quote, which seems to state something quite different to what Papaji is saying. It states that meditation (Upanasa) is definitely required for liberation – Sri Ramana clearly states ‘this is definite’, in direct contrast to Papaji who states the opposite. This following quote is taken from Sri Ramana Gita, an early text of Sri Ramana’s teachings that was comfirmed by Sri Ramana as being an accurate representation of his teachings:

Now this above quote is taken from Chapter 1 of Sri Ramana Gita. It is worth noting that the title of this chapter is ‘The Importance of Upasana [meditation]’. The next two lines in the same chapter reads as follows:

1.14 When discarding sense-objects, one abides in one’s own true nature as a flame of Jnana, this state of being is termed sahaja sthiti [the natural state].

1.15 In the firm, natural state, through that Supreme Silence free from all vasanas, the jnani knows himself as such without any doubt.

Again, we can see the emphasis on needing to turn away from sense-objects, what Sri Ramana calls ‘removal of the world’ in Who Am I?, and on ending the vasanas, or egoic habitual tendencies to identify as a body-mind.

But how are we to practically do this? How are we to practically turn away from the world and be free from all Vasanas. Well the practical method is to do Self-Enquiry. In Chapter 3 of Sri Ramana Gita we can see the essential method Sri Ramana is advocating:

Question: what in brief is the means to know one’s own real nature? What is the effort that can bring about the sublime innervision?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: strenuously withdrawing all thoughts from sense-objects, one should remain fixed in steady, non-objective enquiry. This, in brief, is the means of knowing one’s own real nature; this effort alone brings about the sublime inner vision.

We can see that the emphasis is on continuing to perform the sadhana, as it is this sadhana that leads to the mind ‘becoming quiet’. When Sri Ramana says the mind should be quiet or that thoughts should stop, he means that the entire world projection should cease and all vasanas are to be ended. How to do this? We should ‘strenuously withdraw all thoughts from sense-objects’ and remain fixed in Self-Abidance, ie. we should do Self-Enquiry.

Ramana also states in the above quotes that ‘this effort alone’ leads to liberation, meaning that this is the only essential method which all other methods ultimately bring us to.

But how long should we continue this sadhana for? Sri Ramana tells us in Who Am I?

Question: How long should inquiry be practised?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: As long as there are impressions of objects in the mind, so long the inquiry “Who am I?” isrequired. As thoughts arise they should be destroyed then and there in the very place of their origin, through inquiry.

So as far as I can see, Ramana is constantly emphasising sadhana and turning away from the world, and that this should be relentlessly pursued until realisation is attained, whereas Papaji de-emphasises sadhana, and in so doing de-emphasises turning away from the world.

Papaji and Sri Ramana both talk of silence, but Sri Ramana speaks of a deep silence in which there is only abidance as Self devoid of all objective phenomena, whereas Papaji’s ‘silence’ seems much more superficial stilling of the mind without removing all objective phenomena or removing the vasanas.

Papaji also de-emphases sadhana, or at least does not emphasise Self-Enquiry whereas Sri Ramana emphasises Self-Enquiry as being the sole means to liberation.

What do you think? Have I got this right? Or are there other aspects of Papaji’s teachings I am unaware of or something else I am missing? In the meantime here is a video of quotes from Sri Ramana instructing us on the essential method:

And here is a video explaining the technique of Self-Enquiry in brief:

If you want to know how to put the teachings of Sri Ramana into practice, I highly recommend you read The Path of Sri Ramana which can be downloaded for free here or see a list of books that I recommend here.

Again, as always, the intent of this article is not to criticise or denegrate anyone, but only to explore the teachings and clarify The Way. In this spirit, I hope this article is of help to you.

Namaste

Tom

Be still and know YOURSELF

After a brief introduction, Tom guides us into a gentle practice: we’re invited to quieten the mind and to be still.

Then, when we are ready, we can very gently turn within and know the Self.

This video was recorded live during an online meeting

Remove Nama-Rupa (Name & Form) to reveal Sat-Chit-Ananda (the Self)

Here we will see how a clear teaching is given and then distorted by the mind, only for Bhagavan Sri Ramana to make clear the essential teaching again in order to keep us on the clear and direct path. The following passage is taken from Day by Day with Bhagavan, page 193, recounting events from 10th April 1946:

Dr. Masalavala gave Bhagavan a letter addressed to him by a friend of his. Bhagavan perused it. Some portions of it were not cogent. With other portions there could be no quarrel.

The letter said that all is contained in asti (sat), bhati (chit), priya (ananda), nam and rup, that the first three constitute reality, and the rest the fleeting and unreal; that jnana consists in seeing only the reality and not the nam-rup, that the first three constitute aham and the next two constitute idam (this).

Tom: we can see here the teaching of ‘nama, rupa, sat, chit, ananda’. ‘Nama’ means name, ‘rupa’ means form, ‘sat’ means being or reality or truth, ‘chit’ means consciousness or knowingness and ‘ananda’ means happiness or bliss. Note that here the word ‘priya’ (which means beloved) is used instead of the more commonly used ‘ananda’,

The first two of these, nama-rupa (name and form) constitute the entire observable world of objects, including trees, cars, people, buildings (ie. gross objects), but also subtle objects such as thoughts, feelings, emotions, spiritual experiences, dreams, visions, etc, etc. These objects, gross and subtle, come and go, and together can be considered to be Maya (illusion).

The latter three, sat-chit-ananda, refers to the Self, the Unchanging Ever-Present Reality, the Pure Consciousness that you are. The text clearly states that Jnana (knowledge, ie. spiritual knowledge or liberation) consists of seeing only Reality and not nama-rupa, ie to remove objects and abide only as Self.

In the next line Ramana agrees that sat-chit-ananda refers to ‘aham’, aham meaning ‘I’, as the true ‘I’ is the Self, and nama-rupa refers to ‘idam’, idam meaning ‘this’, referring to all perceived phenomena, ie. all objects, gross or subtle:

Bhagavan agreed and said, “‘I’ and ‘this’ between them exhaust everything.” The letter also said that seeing Brahman alone in everything and everywhere is jnanottara bhakti. With reference to this, Bhagavan said, “This is a matter of mere words, whether you call the stage of seeing only Brahman, jnanottara bhakti or bhakti-uttara jnana.

Tom: Jnanottara bhakti means ‘Bhakti (love), which is higher than Jnana (knowledge)’. This term is often used by schools of vedanta that prefer Bhakti and state that Bhakti is superior to Jnana (knowledge). Bhakti-uttara Jnana means the opposite, namely ‘Jnana which is higher than Bhakti’. Ramana here makes it clear that this is all just linguistic juggling, implying that there is no need to quibble about which is higher, Jnana or Bhakti. In fact they are, ultimately, one and the same.

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.”

Tom: many teachers state that we should see everything as Brahman and Brahman in everything, and this is true Jnana or Liberation. Here Sri Ramana corrects this mistaken view, stating that we must eventually go beyond this too and renounce name and form in order to discover and abide as the pure Self, devoid of objects, devoid even of notions or perception of time and space. That is which there are no triads of object, subject or seeing. In that ‘place’, there is only the Self and no objective universe whatsoever. Nama and Rupa are completely removed, as per the original teaching stated above.

This is where our sadhana should take us!

We should not get off the sadhana train at an earlier stop thinking we have reached the destination!

In Who Am I? Ramana is asked the following:

Question: How long should inquiry be practised?
Sri Ramana: As long as there are impressions of objects in the mind, so long the inquiry ‘Who am I?’ is required

Let us give thanks to Sri Ramana’s teachings that point out the direct path and encourage us not to leave the sadhana early and remain caught and bound in Maya’s clutches!

To learn more about this path please see:

The entire path explained: the Path of Sri Ramana

I also explain this is more detail in this video – it is well worth listening to: