Please join me for an ONLINE MEETING this week.
I’ll be online this Thursday 16th May at 8pm (UK time) to talk about all-things Non-Duality & Liberation. All are welcome to attend and it’s easy to join me if you have not done so before:
To join simply make a payment of £10 beforehand here. Then click here at the meeting time to join and just follow the instructions. If you have never used Zoom before it will prompt you to download the program onto your computer/phone/tablet.
(The full link to the meeting if you need it is here https://zoom.us/j/9409264979)
To find the time of the meeting in your timezone you can do so on this website.
I do not turn anyone away if the cost of the meeting is prohibitive, so please let me know if this is the case with you.
Details of all my events are posted here.
I look forward to meeting you soon.
You are innate divine power. You are naturally free. You are self-fulfilled: You need nothing to complete You.
Nothing can harm You. You, the essence, ever remain the same, unacting, unmoving, whole, unscathed and untouched.
You, pure consciousness, are one with everything and all-pervading, yet no individual object is You, the divine essence.
Discerning self from non-self, knowing this, realised your true nature as you. Then rest here, as the unacting, all-pervading, untouchable, self-fulfilled Self.
When this knowledge is firm, letting go of all thoughts, even thoughts of ‘I am That’, etc, simply be still and abide as the Self (ie. that which is denoted by ‘You’ above).
In the above lines, the first 3 paragraphs are when the teaching is verbally explained and listened to by the seeker (Sravana, which means listening in Sanskrit). This is the first step of the teachings in which the concepts of the teachings are delivered and explained by a teacher and thereafter retained by the seeker.
In the 4th paragraph the verbal teachings are contemplated (Manana in Sanskrit) by the seeker. This is the second step of the teaching and this eventually culminates in an experiential realisation or understanding of what the teachings are pointing towards. The conceptual understanding that occurs through Sravana has now been transformed into a direct experiential understanding through examining ones direct experience in light of the conceptual teachings.
In the last paragraph the verbal teachings themselves are transcended once the ‘I am the body-mind’ concept is no longer present, and the instruction is simply to remain as That (Nididhyasana or meditation in Sanskrit).
It is this last stage that leads to lasting fulfilment and the end of suffering through (1) destruction of the habitual tendency (Vasana in Sanskrit) to identify as a limited entity (ie. ignorance or avidya in Sanskrit) ie.the body-mind) and (2) destruction of the egoic tendencies to seek pleasure and fulfilment through objects (Vishaya Vasanas in Sanskrit), including subtle objects such as experiences and knowledge /understanding /insights /intuitions, all of which are transient and so never lead to lasting satisfaction or lasting peace.
When suffering is no more, this is also known as ‘understanding’ or ‘knowledge’ or wisdom (Jnana), and it is also the culmination of devotional love (Bhakti) and the culmination of the path of meditation or yoga. It is also known as Self-realisation or liberation (Moksha).
Questioner: Usually this understanding stays for a while and then again gets muddled or covered by personality and it’s needs. How do we keep going back to the clear state…Although there is nothing called going back.
Tom: This is not a trick question: what covers up the ‘clear state’?
Q. The personality and it’s story.
Tom: Does it really get in the way? If so, how? If not, how?
Q. It’s like a forgetting of the clear state and thinking of ourself as a personality and the story it carries. This is taken as real and suddenly we are captured by it’s momentum unless some teaching or saying re-points to the clear state again. There is forgetting of the clear state.
Tom: Exactly. There is your answer. The force of habitually taking yourself to be a ‘me’ or a body-mind is ignorance. Letting that subside or seeing through that is enough. Eventually the habit will reverse and ignorance won’t reappear. It never really appears anyway. Namaste.
In the original Sanskrit, the word translated here as ‘work’ is ‘karma’. In the the preceding chapters Krishna has taught Arjuna about spiritual practice during activities, ie. karma yoga, in which the mind is made calm during activities by various means.
Now, in Chapter 6, Krishna teaches Arjuna that eventually the path of work leads to the path of stillness, and it is through stillness of mind that one advances in yoga. The rest of Chapter 6 explains in more details how this is to be done.
When we engage with egoic thoughts, we suffer. All egoic thought assumes the existence of a separate ‘me’ and aims to deliver pleasure, security or fulfilment to that ‘me’.
By simply seeing that thoughts themselves are empty arisings with no intrinsic self, and that they are non-separate from ordinary awareness which in essence is ever-unchanged, we have spontaneously transcended them. In that moment, suffering is no more. This is the way of INSIGHT.
Alternatively, we can simply ignore the thoughts. Sometimes it can be useful to focus on something else such as the breath, a mantra, the sense of presence, etc, in order to distract us from the thoughts. This is the path of PRACTICE. It is a coarser path, as the notion of ‘me’ as the practitioner is still subtly present, but for most of us PRACTICE is required during much
of our spiritual journey as the habitual tendencies are too strong and deeply ingrained to be abated by pure insight practice alone. Once through PRACTICE the thoughts become less strongly ingrained, INSIGHT becomes the more predominant focus of the path, eventually becoming spontaneous.
Often, PRACTICE and INSIGHT will go together, sometimes alternating, depending what is happening and what is required. Ultimately they fuse, as indicated by teachings such as ‘Be still’ or ‘Be as you are’ (Ramana Maharshi) and ‘Just sitting’ (Dogen), in which spontaneous non-egoic non-volitional INSIGHT-PRACTICE is implied.
The paradoxial thing is that throughout all of this, all there is is INSIGHT. There is no ‘me’, and there never was. Everything is LIGHT. Experientially, that is all there is!
Following lots of positive feedback from both the online and in person meetings over the last 2 weeks, I will continue to go over some essential basic teachings that focus in on directly pointing out one’s True Nature in upcoming meetings, both online and in person.
As always, details of all my events are listed here: https://www.meetup.com/Non-duality-Kingston-London/
While these pointings are simple, there is something about experiencing them in person with a real-time direct interaction that makes these teachings so especially powerful. There are many teachings you can read in books or watch online, but the pointing out the true nature teachings usually have to be done in person to really hit home. This is why with this teaching I often get comments like ‘I’ve heard the same words before but this time it really made sense!’.
For those of you who already have come this far, we will take the teachings deeper still…
So, do come along to the next meeting if you are able to. If you have never been to a meeting before, I highly encourage you to attend this week’s meeting (London) or the week after (Online). We are going to meet at the Druid’s Head this Thursday at 7pm.
Hope to see you then
In Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi’s Upadesa Saram (The Essence of Instruction), we have in concise form all we need to know in order to attain liberation in this life. The teaching is densely packed in, making the teaching all the sweeter for the ripe seeker of Truth.
Here you will find universal teachings for enlightenment, the true Vedanta.
I have made some comments to hopefully make the teachings clearer. but have attempted to keep them to a minimum. They are in italicised red.
!Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya Om!
1. कर्तुराज्ञया प्राप्यते फलम् ।
कर्म किं परं कर्म तज्जडम् ॥ १॥
kartur ājñyayā prāpyate phalaṃ
karma kiṃ paraṃ karma tajjaḍam
- Action yields fruit,
For so the Lord ordains it.
How can action be the Lord?
It is insentient.
Cause and effect (action and fruit, karma) is essentially a mechanical process, insentient, subject to change, and not at all the Divine.
2. कृतिमहोदधौ पतनकारणम् ।
फलमशाश्वतं गतिनिरोधकम् ॥ २॥
2. The fruit of action passes.
But action leaves behind
Seed of further action
Leading to an endless ocean of action;
Not at all to moksha.
This here is a very important verse. All actions are limited, and therefore give rise to limited effects. These effects then in turn become the cause for another limited effect, and so on. Limited actions cannot give rise to That, in which there are no limits, so no limited actions can lead to Moksha. The unstated implication is THAT which we are looking for -The Absolute, Brahman, call IT what you will – THAT is already fully and completely here – no action is required to attain the Self, as we are already THAT.
3. ईश्वरार्पितं नेच्छया कृतम् ।
चित्तशोधकं मुक्तिसाधकम् ॥ ३॥
īśvarārpitaṃ necchayā kṛtam
3. Disinterested action
Surrendered to the Lord
Purifies the mind and points
The way to moksha.
Becoming increasingly disinterested in things that happen in the world, carrying out your social and ethical duties whilst surrendering all to Him, this is conducive to Liberation.
4. कायवाङ्मनः कार्यमुत्तमम् ।
पूजनं जपश्चिन्तनं क्रमात् ॥ ४॥
pūjanaṃ japa-ścintanaṃ kramāt
4. This is certain:
Worship, praise and meditation,
Being work of body, speech and mind,
Are steps for orderly ascent.
Bhagavan gives us a hierarchy of practice, starting with worship (which utilises the body), then going to use praise (which utilises speech), and the to the higher practice of meditation (which utilises the mind). We are not to greedily jump straight to meditation as it is the higher practice, unless we are naturally ripe for this, but to start where we are for ‘orderly ascent’.
In the next few verses Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi will explain these practices to us in greater detail:
5. जगत ईशधी युक्तसेवनम् ।
अष्टमूर्तिभृद्देवपूजनम् ॥ ५॥
jagata īśadhī yukta sevanaṃ
aśṭa-mūrti bhṛd deva-pūjanam
5. Ether, fire, air, water, earth,
Sun, moon and living beings
Worship of these,
Regarded all as forms of His,
Is perfect worship of the Lord.
Worship of God can be worship of Him in any form, as long as we realised that the object itself is not Him, but just a divine expression of Him.
6. उत्तमस्तवादुच्चमन्दतः ।
चित्तजं जपध्यानमुत्तमम् ॥ ६॥
cittajaṃ japa dhyānam uttamam
6. Better than hymns of praise
Is repetition of the Name;
Better low-voiced than loud,
But best of all
Is meditation in the mind.
The practice becomes, in time, increasingly subtle, starting from coarser practices involving the body and then speech, to subtler practices of the mind, as per verse 4.
7. आज्यधारया स्रोतसा समम् ।
सरलचिन्तनं विरलतः परम् ॥ ७॥
ajya-dhāraya srotasā samam
sarala cintanaṃ viralataḥ param
7. Better than spells of meditation
Is one continuous current,
Steady as a stream,
Or downward flow of oil.
Over time, meditation should move from the sporadic to the continuous. A wonderful traditional metaphor of a continuous current of a stream of oil is used so there is no mistake as to what this means. What what exactly is this meditation, and how can it be done? Worry not! Bhagavan will explain all to us in later verses. How lucky we are to have these beautiful teachings of His!
8. भेदभावनात् सोऽहमित्यसौ ।
भावनाऽभिदा पावनी मता ॥ ८॥
bhavana’bhidā pāvanī matā
8. Better than viewing Him as Other,
Indeed the noblest attitude of all,
Is to hold Him as the ‘I’ within,
The very ‘I’.
A key part of the teachings is this – to realise that all is non-separate from Him. Furthermore, He is none other that the essence of You, the ‘I’ within. You are not praising a divine entity that is separate from your Being. All this is implied in verses 20 and 23, and more clearly stated in verse 26.
The next verse also states the same:
9. भावशून्यसद्भावसुस्थितिः ।
भावनाबलाद्भक्तिरुत्तमा ॥ ९॥
bhāva śūnyasad bhāva susthitiḥ
9. Abidance in pure being
Transcending thought through love intense
Is the very essence
Of supreme devotion.
10. हृत्स्थले मनः स्वस्थता क्रिया ।
भक्तियोगबोधाश्च निश्चितम् ॥ १०॥
hṛtsthale manaḥ svasthatā kriyā
bhakti yoga bodhaśca niścitam
10. Absorption in the heart of being,
Whence we sprang,
Is the path of action, of devotion,
Of union and of knowledge.
For the more intellectually inclined, this verse can be illuminating. Bhagavan is stating here, in line with the Upanishads (eg. Amritabindu Upanishad verses 2-5) and Bhagavad Gita (eg Chapter 5 verse 4), that all the main yogas are, at this stage in the practice, all essentially the same. Abiding as the Self IS the path of action, abiding as the Self IS Devotion, abiding as the Self IS Yoga (‘union’), abiding as the Self IS Knowledge.
Amritabindu Upanishad, verse 5: ‘The mind should be prevented from functioning, until it dissolves itself in the heart. This is Jnana, this is Dhyana, the rest is all mere concoction of untruth.’
Bhagavad Gita 5.4: ‘Only the ignorant say that the yoga of knowledge and the yoga of devotional action are different, wise people do not. One who is perfectly established in one, obtains the result of both.’
11. वायुरोधनाल्लीयते मनः ।
जालपक्षिवद्रोधसाधनम् ॥ ११॥
vayu-rodhanāl līyate manaḥ
11. Holding the breath controls the mind,
A bird caught in a net.
Absorption in the heart.
A key teaching that regulation of the breath is a useful aid to Abiding as Self. The invitation is to take up this advice an incorporate it into your practice.
12. चित्तवायवश्चित्क्रियायुताः ।
शाखयोर्द्वयी शक्तिमूलका ॥ १२॥
śā khayor-dvayi śakti-mūlakā
12. Mind and breath (as thought and action)
Fork out like two branches.
But both spring
From a single root.
Both the mind and breath or actions, in fact all phenomena, arise from a single Source. The implication is that finding the source of the mind can also be done by finding the source of the breath.
13. लयविनाशने उभयरोधने ।
लयगतं पुनर्भवति नो मृतम् ॥ १३॥
laya vinaśane ubhaya-rodhane
laya-gataṃ punar bhavati no mṛtam
13. Absorption is of two sorts;
Submergence and destruction.
Mind submerged rises again;
Dead, it revives no more.
The implication is that death of mind is the goal, rather than just a mere temporary quiescence of mind.
Next the method by which the mind can be killed is given:
14. प्राणबन्धनाल्लीनमानसम् ।
एकचिन्तनान्नाशमेत्यदः ॥ १४॥
14. Breath controlled and thought restrained,
The mind turned one-way inward
Fades and dies.
Why kill the mind? It is through killing the mind that one abides as the Self and returns to one’s own ‘natural being’, which is without action:
15. नष्टमानसोत्कृष्टयोगिनः ।
कृत्यमस्ति किं स्वस्थितिं यतः ॥ १५॥
kṛtyam asti kiṃ svasthitiṃ yataḥ
15. Mind extinct, the mighty seer
Returns to his own natural being
And has no action to perform.
Yoga Vasishta, one of Ramana’s favourite traditional texts, says: ‘Supreme Bliss cannot be experienced through contact of the senses with their objects. The supreme state is that in which the mind is annihilated through one-pointed enquiry.’ and elsewhere it also states: ‘Every moving or unmoving thing whatsoever is only an object visualised by the mind. When the mind is annihilated duality (i.e. multiplicity) is not perceived.’
Now we are half-way through the text. The essential teaching has already been given. In the second half further elucidation and clarification will be lovingly dispensed:
16. दृश्यवारितं चित्तमात्मनः ।
चित्त्वदर्शनं तत्त्वदर्शनम् ॥ १६॥
citva-darśanaṃ tattva darśanam
16. It is true wisdom
For the mind to turn away
From outer objects and behold
Its own effulgent form.
What is true wisdom? It is for the mind to turn away from all objects and phenomena and abide as the Self.
Some confusion may arise as to how the mind, the nature of which is thought (verse 18), can behold it’s ‘own effulgent form’. When the mind is turn outward, occupied with objects such as thoughts, feelings, the body and the outer world of objects, it is called the mind. When the mind is no longer occupied with these things, it is none other than the Self.
Yoga Vasishta states: ‘Consciousness which is undivided imagines to itself desirable objects and runs after them. It is then known as the mind.’ and also elsewhere states: ‘After knowing that by which you know this (world) turn the mind inward and then you will see clearly (i.e. realize) the effulgence of the Self.’ and elsewhere states: ‘O Rama, the mind has, by its own activity, bound itself; when it is calm it is free.’
17. मानसं तु किं मार्गणे कृते ।
नैव मानसं मार्ग आर्जवात् ॥ १७॥
mānasaṃ tu kiṃ mārgaṇe kṛte
naiva mānasaṃ mārge ārjavāt
17. When unceasingly the mind
Scans its own form
There is nothing of the kind.
For every one
This path direct is open.
Another key verse here. The insight here is that the mind is not a real entity, just an imagined one. When searched for, it cannot be found as a distinct entity. What a wonderful and essential teaching is presented here! It is further expounded on in the next two verses:
18. वृत्तयस्त्वहं वृत्तिमाश्रिताः ।
वृत्तयो मनो विद्ध्यहं मनः ॥ १८॥
vṛttayo mano viddhayahaṃ manaḥ
18. Thoughts alone make up the mind;
And of all thoughts the ‘I’ thought is the root.
What is called mind is but the notion ‘I’.
The mind is nothing but a bundle of thoughts, and it is founded upon the I-concept. The concept of a separate ‘me’ or ‘I’ is the mind.
19. अहमयं कुतो भवति चिन्वतः ।
अयि पतत्यहं निजविचारणम् ॥ १९॥
ahamayaṃ kuto bhavati cinvataḥ
ayi patatyahaṃ nijavicāraṇam
19. When one turns within and searches
Whence this ‘I’ thought arises,
The shamed ‘I’ vanishes –
And wisdom’s quest begins.
The above verse states this is but the beginning of self-enquiry, ‘the quest’. How do we proceed after we have searched for the source of the I-concept and found it to be non-existent? Let us see:
20. अहमि नाशभाज्यहमहंतया ।
स्फुरति हृत्स्वयं परमपूर्णसत् ॥ २०॥
sphurati hṛt-svayaṃ parama-pūrṇa-sat
20. Where this ‘I’ notion faded
Now there as I–I, arises
The One, the very Self,
The Self is defined as that in which there is no I-concept. This can only be realised non-verbally through practice and direct experience.
21. इदमहं पदाऽभिख्यमन्वहम् ।
अहमिलीनकेऽप्यलयसत्तया ॥ २१॥
21. Of the term, ‘I’, the permanent import
Is That. For even in deep sleep
Where we have no sense of ‘I’
We do not cease to be.
A pointer here that what is known as ‘I’ is actually none other than THAT, ie. God or the Absolute, the Infinite. Even in deep sleep, whilst there is no I-concept, our BEINGNESS persists, BEINGNESS being the true I, or true Self, as per verse 23.
22. विग्रहेन्द्रियप्राणधीतमः ।
नाहमेकसत्तज्जडं ह्यसत् ॥ २२॥
nāhameka-sat tajjaḍam hyasat
22. Body, senses, mind, breath, sleep –
All insentient and unreal –
Cannot be ‘I’,
‘I’ who am the Real.
Rather late on in the text Ramana introduces to us the teaching of discerning the Self from the non-Self (Viveka, or Atma-anatma-viveka). The essence of what we are, which does not change, which is ever-present and ‘Real’, cannot be that which changes and that which has no consciousness of its own (ie. ‘insentient’). The real is that which illuminates the unreal, ie. is consciousness or sentient.
23. सत्त्वभासिका चित्क्ववेतरा ।
सत्तया हि चिच्चित्तया ह्यहम् ॥ २३॥
sattva-bhāsika citkva vetarā
sattyā hi cit cittayā hyaham
23. For knowing That which is
There is no other knower.
Hence Being is Awareness;
And we all are Awareness.
Awareness needs no second light to illuminate it. We may need a light source to illuminate a common everyday object in darkness, but the sun needs no secondary light source to be seen. It is self-shining, self-aware. To know the Self, THAT, is not really a knowing in that there is no second object to be known (hence non-duality), but knowing the Self really just being BEING the Self, or BEING AWARENESS.
24. ईशजीवयोर्वेषधीभिदा ।
सत्स्वभावतो वस्तु केवलम् ॥ २४॥
sat-svabhāvato vastu kevalam
24. In the nature of their being
Creature and creator are in substance one.
They differ only
In adjuncts and awareness.
Ramana makes some clarifications here so we are clear on what is being said. He is stating that the nature of the individual or jiva (ie. ‘creature’ which is actually a translation of jiva) is the same as the essential nature of God or Ishvara (‘creator’, which is a translation of Isa or Isvara, ie. the Lord). The difference is only in the phenomenal appearance, but both are in essence BEING-AWARENESS. This reasoning is taken further in the next verse:
25. वेषहानतः स्वात्मदर्शनम् ।
ईशदर्शनं स्वात्मरूपतः ॥ २५॥
25. Seeing oneself free of all attributes
Is to see the Lord,
For He shines ever as the pure Self.
Therefore, if you ‘see’ yourself devoid of all phenomena and ‘attributes’, which means to be aware but to be devoid of thoughts, feelings, body and worldly objects, then you are seeing your essential nature, which is to see God (Isa or Ishvara). Your essential nature is Him. Remember, the word seeing doesn’t mean you are seeing something, for there is no duality here. Ramana, out of his love and compassion for us, tells us as follows:
26. आत्मसंस्थितिः स्वात्मदर्शनम् ।
आत्मनिर्द्वयादात्मनिष्ठता ॥ २६॥
26. To know the Self is but to be the Self,
For it is non-dual.
In such knowledge
One abides as that.
He reminds us that this is not a dualistic knowing (of objects), but just BEING THAT. The word ‘know’ is just a dualistic phrase used, dualistic as it implies a knower and something that is known, whereas here there is no knower or know, just BEING-AWARENESS:
27. ज्ञानवर्जिताऽज्ञानहीनचित् ।
ज्ञानमस्ति किं ज्ञातुमन्तरम् ॥ २७॥
jñānam-asti kiṃ jñātum-antaram
27. That is true knowledge which transcends
Both knowledge and ignorance,
For in pure knowledge
Is no object to be known.
True Knowledge is simply a synonym for the Self, and there are no objects in the Self.
The Amritabindu Upanishad says, in verse 4: 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.
28. किं स्वरूपमित्यात्मदर्शने ।
अव्ययाऽभवाऽऽपूर्णचित्सुखम् ॥ २८॥
kiṃ svarūpamit-yātma darśane
avyayābhavā” pūrṇa-cit sukham
28. Having known one’s nature one abides
As being with no beginning and no end
In unbroken consciousness and bliss.
Importantly, this state is to be ‘abided in’, for want of better wording, meaning that we are not to be attracted to sense-objects and become involved with thoughts and feelings and things and so give birth to the mind (see verse 16 and commentary), but to remain in Truth as Truth, as BEING-AWARENESS (sat-chit) devoid of any objects, which is known as BLISS (written as sukha here, which means happiness in Sanskrit, often called ananda, which also means happiness.)
29. बन्धमुक्त्यतीतं परं सुखम् ।
विन्दतीह जीवस्तु दैविकः ॥ २९॥
bandha muktyatītaṃ paraṃ sukham
vindatīhajī vastu daivikaḥ
29. Beyond bondage and release,
In service of the Lord.
Again, like in verse 28, verse 29 implies a continuance in remaining in this stateless state which is transcendent to both liberation and bondage, which are both to do with phenomenal existence. In verse 28 the language of knowledge is used, ‘Having known one’s nature…’. here in verse 29 the language of devotion is used. In verse 10 Ramana has already told us that true devotion and true knowledge are simply to abide as sat-chit-ananda devoid of adjuncts or phenomena, so this is written here poetically as ‘steadfast service of the Lord’. Continue to abide as the Self, that which is beyond dualities of liberation and bondage, that in which there is no change, that which is the nature of ‘unbroken consciousness and bliss’ (verse 28).
30. अहमपेतकं निजविभानकम् ।
महदिदंतपो रमनवागियम् ॥ ३०॥
mahadidaṃ tapo ramaṇa vāgiyam
30. All ego gone,
Living as that alone
Is penance good for growth,
Sings Ramana, the Self.
Remaining as the Self, that in which there is no ego, is the only way to Moksha. It is the culmination of the path of devotion, knowledge, yoga and action. It is the highest Knowledge and highest Devotion.
To abide as the self, that is devoid of objects, that is of the nature sat-chit-sukha, until the ego is destroyed never to arise again (cf. verses 13-15) is Moksha (liberation) itself.
So says Guru Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi.
!Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya Om!
!Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya Om!
!Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya Om!
There are many ways to liberation, and all true paths join together in the end. In the Advaita Vedanta framework, 4 attributes or qualities are required to be developed before one can sufficiently progress on the path of Jnana or Enquiry.
In Shankara’s Vivekachudamani he outlines four practices or qualifications (sadhana catustaya) that are required in order for liberation to successfully occur. First he lists the qualifications, and then he explains each one in turn.
I’ve noticed there are a small but growing number teachers of Vedanta who claim to be traditional teachers but they change the definitions of the qualifications and so alter the meaning of the teachings to suit different ends. These teachers tend to downplay the need for prolongued meditation on the Self, whereas the actual Vedanta texts and true traditional teachers of Vedanta tend to emphasise this.
So, as always, it pays to read the source texts for yourself and learn how the teachings were originally defined if you want to understand the original intentions of the Vedanta teachings. As usual, my comments are in red:
Shankara states there are 4 things that are required to attain liberation. More than that, he states that without these 4 things, liberation will not be attained. So let us learn about these 4 qualifications and how they are defined:
18. Regarding this, sages have spoken of four means of attainment, which alone being present, the devotion to Brahman succeeds, and in the absence of which, it fails.
19. First is enumerated discrimination between the Real and the unreal; next comes aversion to the enjoyment of fruits (of one’s actions) here and hereafter; (next is) the group of six attributes, viz. calmness and the rest; and (last) is clearly the yearning for Liberation.
Traditionally the 4 Qualifications are:
(1) Viveka or discrimination
(2) Vairagya or dispassion
(3) Samadi-satka-sampatti or the six disciplines consisting of Shama, Dama, Uparati, Titiksha, Shraddha and Samadhana in which the mind is progressively withdrawn from the sense objects and focused onto the pure sense of being (‘Sat’ or ‘Pure Brahman’)
(4) Mumuksutva or the yearning for liberation.
Shankara also adds a further qualification – the most important in his view – Bhakti, or devotion, which he defines in verse 31 as seeking or turning away from what is unreal (defined in the next verse) and turning towards one’s True Nature.
20. A firm conviction of the mind to the effect that Brahman is real and the universe unreal, is designated as discrimination (Viveka) between the Real and the unreal.
This is a clear definition of viveka that forms the foundation for the rest of the qualifications. Next Shankara defines vairagya in a very absolute way, which is essentially renunciation of all worldly objects ranging from the everyday to desires to be reborn in the heavenly realm of Brahma (the creator-deity who resides in heaven).
21. Vairagya or renunciation is the desire to give up all transitory enjoyments (ranging) from those of an (animate) body to those of Brahmahood (having already known their defects) from observation, instruction and so forth.
The notion is that because all such worldly or heavenly objects are transient, they will eventually go and therefore not lead to the eternal ever-existing peace of Brahman or Moksha.
In another text called Aparokshanunhuti, Shankara describes Vairagya as follows in verse 4: ‘The indifference with which one treats the excreta of a crow – such an indifference to all objects of enjoyment from the realm of Brahma to this world (in view of their perishable nature), is verily called pure Vairagya.’
Verses 22-25 will outline the 6 disciplines of Shama, Dama, Uparati, Titiksha, Shraddha and Samadhana. We can see that the gist of the 6 disciplines is to turn away from objects and the world and turn towards the Self:
22. The resting of the mind steadfastly on its Goal (viz. Brahman) after having detached itself from manifold sense-objects by continually observing their defects, is called Shama or calmness.
In Aparokshanunhuti Shankara in verse 6 writes: ‘Abandonment of desires at all times is called Shama‘.
23. Turning both kinds of sense-organs away from sense-objects and placing them in their respective centres, is called Dama or self-control. The best Uparati or self- withdrawal consists in the mind-function ceasing to be affected by external objects.
24. The bearing of all afflictions without caring to redress them, being free (at the same time) from anxiety or lament on their score, is called Titiksha or forbearance.
25. Acceptance by firm judgement as true of what the Scriptures and the Guru instruct, is called by sages Shraddha or faith, by means of which the Reality is perceived.
26. Not the mere indulgence of thought (in curiosity) but the constant concentration of the intellect (or the affirming faculty) on the ever-pure Brahman, is what is called Samadhana or self-settledness.
Shama is an initial detachment from sense objects after contemplating how impermanent objects cannot give rise to (permanent) liberation. Dama is about withdrawing the sense organs from sense-objects and also reducing one’s activities in the world (‘both kinds’ refer to the sense organs and organs of action). Uparati is when the mind is no longer affected by objects at all.
We can see that Shama, Dama and Uparati represent a step-wise sequence in practicing different levels of vairagya (dispassion) which culminates in Samadhana, which is defined as constant concentration on Brahman devoid of objects as opposed to mere curiosity towards Brahman. We know that the Brahman spoken of is devoid of objects due to the above definitions of Shama, Dama and Uparati. This is further made clear by the verse quotes in Aporokshanubhuti below in which it is stated that the mind should be made to focus on ‘Sat’ (existence).
Titiksha and Shraddha are aids to this sequential process of introversion, which we could call Bhakti or svasvarupanusandhanam (see verse 31 below).
27. Mumukshutva or yearning for Freedom is the desire to free oneself, by realising one’s true nature, from all bondages from that of egoism to that of the body – bondages superimposed by Ignorance.
Shankara now talks of 3 grades of mumukshutva: low, medium and high. If the desire for liberation is low-to-medium, one is to cultivate vairagya and the 6 disciplines. Then the desire for liberation will increase:
28. Even though torpid or mediocre, this yearning for Freedom, through the grace of the Guru, may bear fruit (being developed) by means of Vairagya (renunciation), Shama (calmness), and so on.
If the desire for liberation is high, then the goal will be attained:
29. In his case, verily, whose renunciation and yearning for Freedom are intense, calmness and the other practices have (really) their meaning and bear fruit.
If the desire for liberation is low, then all this is mere superficiality and liberation will (likely) not result:
30. Where (however) this renunciation and yearning for Freedom are torpid, there calmness and the other practices are as mere appearances, like water in a desert.
Lastly Shankara extolls the magnificence of Bhakti, and defines it as ‘svasvarupanusandhanam’, which can be translated as striving to seek one’s nature or constantly turning towards one’s nature.
31. Among things conducive to Liberation, devotion (Bhakti) holds the supreme place. The seeking after one’s real nature is designated as devotion.
Interestingly Sri Ramana Maharshi was asked about the nature of svasvarupanusandhanam in Talks 642, and he stated that it referred to atma vichara or Self-enquiry itself. In Aparokshanunhuti verse 11 Shankara writes: ‘Knowledge is not brought about by any other means than Vichara [ie. enquiry], just as an object is nowhere perceived (seen) without the help of light.‘
In his text Aparokshanunhuti, Shankara explains the same 4 qualifications (sadhana catustaya) in a more punchy way in verses 4-11:
4. The indifference with which one treats the excreta of a crow – such an indifference to all objects of enjoyment from the realm of Brahma to this world (in view of their perishable nature), is verily called pure Vairagya.
5. Atman (the seer) in itself is alone permanent, the seen is opposed to it (ie., transient) – such a settled conviction is truly known as discrimination.
6. Abandonment of desires at all times is called Shama and restraint of the external functions of the organs is called Dama.
7. Turning away completely from all sense-objects is the height of Uparati, and patient endurance of all sorrow or pain is known as Titiksha which is conducive to happiness.
8. Implicit faith in the words of the Vedas and the teachers (who interpret them) is known as Shraddha, and concentration of the mind on the only object Sat (i.e. Brahman) is regarded as Samadhana.
9. When and how shall I, O Lord, be free from the bonds of this world (i.e., births and deaths) – such a burning desire is called Mumukshutva.
10. Only that person who is in possession of the said qualifications (as means to Knowledge) should constantly reflect with a view to attaining Knowledge, desiring his own good.
11. Knowledge is not brought about by any other means than Vichara, just as an object is nowhere perceived (seen) without the help of light.
This video gives a summary of how the teachings often work, and explains about conceptual teachings and contrasts this to Silence. It also speaks of whether or not a teacher is required at all.
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