Author Topic: Enlightenment - Revellng in the Eternal Experience: July - Sept. 2016 of M.P.  (Read 2941 times)

Subramanian.R

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The above article is by Swami Tanmayananda Saraswati.

*

The Magnificence of Pratyabhijnaa, the Experiential Awakening.

Preamble:

In the last issue, we saw how Bhagavan Ramana in His dialogues with seekers in Talks
with Sri Ramana Maharshi shed light on the real nature of the so called Enlightenment
and the principal means to unravel its mystery.  We discovered the paradoxical truth that though He was recognized as a great Sage of modern times who perpetually
dwelt in the Sahaja Samadhi, He was consistently engaged in demystifying the nature of spiritual Awakening, called Pratyabhijnaa.

Rendered as 'Recognition of the Self', this accurate translation does simplify the meaning of the term in the linguistic sense.  Lest we construe this recognition as merely an intellectual appreciation of the higher Truth as revealed in the Upanishads,
we would do well to recall an anecdote in Lord Buddha's life.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.     


   

Subramanian.R

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When Buddha attained Enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya and then proceeded to Saranath for delivering his first sermon that commenced his life long spiritual ministry, people were awe struck by his unearthly effulgence.  Wondering whether he was a divinity descended on earth, they queried him as to who he was, for
he seemed far too godly to be one among them.

The Buddha answered with a prescience and simplicity that he was neither a Deva,
nor a visitation or apparition from any other celestial domain and was much a normal human being as they were but the perceived difference lay in his awakened to the Reality of his true nature.  Thus he came to be called the Buddha, meaning 'the Awakened One'. Such was the spell he cast that multitudes of seekers and animals too stood transfixed in his powerful presence of Self absorption.  Even the elements of nature like plants and trees reportedly became still in his vicinity.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.         

Subramanian.R

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Defining the One True Experience:

Such a phenomenon was observed in Bhagavan Ramana's Sannidhi (presence) too.
As Paul Brunton wrote with compelling beauty, words lost their narrow grip and relevance, and the mind lost its habitual infatuation with the thinking process in His Presence. All the profound questions Brunton carefully had gathered lost their urgency. This illustrates the power of Pratyabhijnaa and the spontaneous consequences of it as an Experiential Awakening. (see Ulladu Narpadu, Anubandham, Verse 29).

In the graphic, yet matter of fact description of His Death Experience, Bhagavan Ramana reveals the riveting attention brought upon the Self shining as the spiritual Heart, in the wake of His intense inquiry that lasted perhaps less than half an hour.
In the aftermath of this transformative Awakening, His life long dwelling on the witnessing Presence without a pause during all the external changes of His physical existence, bore testimony to the magnificence of Pratyabhijnaa, extolled as such in the sacred lore.         

Later Bhagavan defined such an abiding Self Awareness as the only True Experience,
(anubhava), being eternal, changeless and self luminous.  He averred that it is a misnomer to call all 'perceptions and feelings' in the empirical plane (that fall within the purview of sensory and mental domains, indriya-maanasa-pratyaksha) as 'experiences'.  (Talks No. 92 and 469).  For, they are entirely dependent on the Self which illuminates them by virtue of being pure consciousness.  Self Experience (Saakshi Pratyaksha) is truly the 'mother of all relative/empirical experiences', which are mere cognitions (Prateeti) and do not qualify as 'experience' per se.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.             

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A Quick Recap of Part One:

We saw in the last issue that Bhagavan constantly reiterated two principal insights:
Firstly, understand the nature of Realization to be the Essence of one's own Reality and secondly, devote yourself to the unremitting practice of Self Abidance as the very means to recognize that Reality as the Self.  These two strains of Bhagavan's teachings were then elucidated as the 'know why' and 'know how' stages in the practice of Self inquiry. The first strain of Bhagavan's teaching pertains to clarity in the understanding of Vichara Marga in its subtler aspects and therefore this would correspond to Paroksha Jnanam (as it is derived from a thorough analysis of the 'know why' stage.)

After successfully assimilating this, a Mumukshu is expected not to rest on mere comprehension of the path (and indulging in preaching to others) but is advised by Bhagavan to plunge sincerely into the second stage of actual practice of Atma Nishtaa (Self abidance), which is called Jagrat-Sushupti during the period of Abhyasa (which corresponds to the 'know how stage). (Talks 227). Bhagavan states that this alone can eventually bestow Aparoksha Jnanam (direct knowledge) that releases the seeker from the travails of Samsara. (Ulladu Narpadu, Verse 22 and Verse 27.).

Traditionally indirect mediated knowledge (Paroksha Jnanam) of the Self is derived from a study of Prasthana Trayam (the triple Vedantic scriptural canons viz., Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Brahma Sutras) and allied Prakarana Granthas written by later day Acharyas like Adi Sankara. This does not mean that everyone must necessarily plod through all these and master them before commencing the practice of Self abidance.  If you understand Bhagavan's teachings clearly (in line with scriptural reasoning) with full faith in His words, even one book will be enough viz.,Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi for actual practice!  This is akin to the traditional saying that the Mandukya Upanishad (the shortest Upanishad containing only 12 mantras) alone is enough to achieve liberation. (Muktikopanishad, 'Mandukyam eva alam mumukshunaam vimuktaye'.)

Among the principal works of Bhagavan, Upadesa Saram, Ulladu Narpadu, Guru Vachaka Kovai were hailed as the Ramana Prasthaana Tryam by His direct disciples like Muruganar and Sadhu Om. Each of these texts and other works like Naan Yaar?
and Self Inquiry are complete in themselves and bestow invaluable insights on every other work of Bhagavan, just as the phenomenon of holography is described by the remarkable observation that 'Each is in All and All is in Each.'

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.           

       

   

Subramanian.R

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Role of Sastra Jnanam in Vichara Marga:

Enlightenment depends mainly on fitness with regard to clarity and ripeness with regard to one's natural inclination -- and not how much one requires to read -- in order to plunge headlong into the inescapable practice of Atma Vichara.  As Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa said metaphorically in the context of scriptural erudition, to kill oneself one does not need any more than a blade or a needle but to conquer others in battles one needs to wield a mighty sword!

Put simply: To teach serious students and to preach a large, it is helpful and even mandatory to acquire a great proficiency in scriptural knowledge, for expounding this esoteric wisdom in a lucid manner; however, for one's own salvation, such erudition is hardly essential and oftentimes it can become counterproductive, (Ulladu Narpadu Anubandham Verse 34), by generating new and unnecessary arguments.  Too much reading makes the mind restless while our aim is to quieten and sink it in the Source! One could say that Self Knowledge means committing hara kiri (suicide) by the ego.
Too much bookish knowlege often can nourish the ego, the seed of Samsara, through pride of learning.

Ashtavakara roars similarly that a wise seeker attains Self Knowledge through a few incisive instructions from a Sadguru (Ashtavakra Gita, Verse 15.1; Also Talks No. 275), whereas an aspirant with a restless intellect remain deluded all his life chasing endless bookish knowledge!  Nisargadatta Maharaj was one such rare seeker; he read very little but hung onto his Guru's dying words and was illumined within three years.
Bhagavan gave a tremendous confidence to many of His close disciples to pursue Vichara Sadhana when they were faced with major task of grasping Sastra Vichara, (Talks No. 230; Talks No. 513.), as illustrated in the cases of Desur Akhilandammal and Natanananda.  He told Kunju Swami that the supreme good would accrue if one pursues the former, accomplishing with whatever one utters subsequently would be in consonance with scriptural saying. Bhagavan quoted Ozhivil Odukkam. Verse 1.5) which says, 'Thannizhappai enna katru saadippan?' (By learning which scripture, can one achieve the loss of individuality?)               

contd.,         

Arunachala Siva.

Subramanian.R

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Bhagavan was nuanced in His reply when someone asked Him if He condemns outright all scholastic pursuit in the realm of spiritual sadhana.  He said His view is not to condemn Sastra Vichara per se but only the Vidyaabimaana (Talks No. 253 and Talks No. 565) that usually creeps in a subtle manner.  This tempts the seeker and propels him outward to win recognition, fame and all attendant blandishments, (Viveka Chudamani Verse 60) that make external life addictively enjoyable.  One could then lose focus on what really matters.

The Upanishads (Katha Upanishad Verse 1.3.14.) liken this path to walking on razor's edge because nothing outside is an impediment by itself but our own lack of alertness and vigilance to avoid falling for temptations, gross as well as subtle.  Jesus said words to the effect that one should be ready to lose all understanding. 'For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?' (Matthew 16.26).

Sage Ashtavakra exclaims with sarcasm that people who are very intelligent, eloquent and industrious in a spiritual lore shun the deeper pursuit of Self Knowledge,  (Ashtavakra Gita, Verse 15.3), as they fear it would make them 'dumb, inert and lazy'
thus foiling worldly enjoyments like name, fame and prosperity which hold them in fascination.  All Jnanis have their own unique way of revealing the enlightened state but achieve consensus in Silence,' (Praudaanubhutih Verse 5.) beyond all doctrinal disputations.               

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.

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Role of Semantics in Vedanta:  A Boon or a Bane?

Words are indispensable at one level but need to be set aside at advanced stages of practice once they have served their purpose. However, they are a double edged knife which can cut both ways in the context of Vedantic dissemination because the same set of words can be interpreted in different ways.  For instance, consider the statement:
'There is no one like an enlightened person  - only Enlightenment remains.'  This can be insightful in only one correct sense but can also be understood incorrectly or argued wrongly in other ways which are banal. So, does the fault lies with words themselves per se or does it lie in the unprepared mind that receives it or worse still, does it lie with the teacher who handles the words clumsily in explicating paradoxical
and dicey assertions?

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.           

Subramanian.R

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One needs to be dispassionate in objective analysis in order to avoid hasty conclusions.
Swami Vivekananda said true religion take you to the limits of reason and then  transcends it but never violates the canons of reason.  It is worthless to keep in mind a popular Subhaashitam (often cited by Bhagavan), saying that 'one should accept what is uttered by even a callow youth if it appeals to reason but reject as a trivial blade of grass anything that violates rational logic if uttered by Lotus born Brahma, the Creator. Hard core Advaitic understanding demands this fundamental tenet to be adhered to scrupulously, lest one gets carried away by sentimental attachments or emotional loyalties to personalities however famous they may be.

We can safely say that words can reveal knowledge when well used (Katha Upanishad 1.2.8) in line with scriptural reasoning but obfuscate when handled flippantly and divert the quest off the mark.  Perverse dialectics can turn out to be baneful if we are not vigilant.  If words themselves can reveal knowledge, then does it not amount to Enlightenment being purely a matter of intellectual understanding which negates all intuitive experience, mystical or supra mental that transcend the mind?

No, we say - words can 'reveal' (when taught by a Sadguru, charged as they are with his ineffable Grace) through the implication (lakshyartha) and right guidance by the so called 'leading error principle' (samvaadi bhrama) and not directly by their literal meaning (Vachyaartha).

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                 

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Sage Vidyaranya's Principle of 'Leading Error'- samvaadi bhrama.

In the celebrated Vedantic text Panchadasi, (Chapter 9. Dhyana Deepam, Verses 1-25.
30-35, 38-47, 122-130, 139, and 155) the renowned sage Vidyaranya of Sringeri Peetham, postulates a brilliant concept and expatiates upon it with several examples to elucidate the issue raised above concerning the role of Sastra Jnanam and meditation (nirgunaa Upasana) in triggering Pratyabhijnaanam, the immediate Knowledge. Consider a thick forest where two modest temples stand far apart. Two travelers are journeying separately through this wood by nightfall. Each one glimpses a bright gleam of light emanating from a distance through the keyhole of the door from each of the two temples.  They think mistakenly that the bright light corresponds to a precious gem fallen somewhere in the forest and desiring to possess it, each one follows the gleaming rays and respectively reach the spot where each temple stood.

The first traveler opens the door and indeed finds the gem that was throwing out the light and he is happy that what he 'knew' as a gem was indeed right, though the fact it was merely his hunch.  The second traveler also reaches the door of he other temple from where he saw the light coming out.  However, he is disappointed to find that the light was actually originating from an oil lamp and came out of the key hole in the door. He does not get the gem which he too was lying there.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.     

Subramanian.R

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Sri Vidyaranya comments that both the travelers believed they saw a gem at a distance lying unclaimed in the forest and undertook the same pursuit which however, ended with opposite results. For the first person, 'his so called knowledge' fortunately proved to be right while the 'same knowledge' proved fruitless for the other.

In both cases, the 'knowledge of gem' was erroneous to begin with, as neither of them saw the actual gem itself but merely mistook the emanating light as the gem. (This is a typical case of 'erroneous superimposition' discussed by Sri Sankara in Adhyasa Bhashya, his celebrated introduction to the Brahma Sutras. Snake-rope, silver-nectar, and ghost-post are popular examples of adhyasa.).  It was not a case of firm knowledge but only an optimistic suspicion, which was believed to be true initially.  But for the first one, pursuit of the 'erroneous perception' (bhrama pratyaksha) ended happily with a precious possession.  This then is a typical instance of a 'leading error' (Samvadi bhrama) because it did indeed 'lead' to the desired goal by a fortuitous coincidence.

It is this positive result that converts the 'initial premise' or 'erroneous knowledge' into 'true knowledge' (pramaa).  For the other one, the 'initial wrong knowledge' ended as
'final wrong knowledge' and so it was a case of 'misleading error' (Visamvadi bhrama).
The result, whether success or failure, then turns out to be ultimate arbiter of the 'soundness of the knowledge' while on the path.  The former is also called a 'beneficial'
or 'productive' error and the latter a 'deluding' or 'unfructifying' error.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva. 
                     

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Paroksha Jnanam and Aparoksha Jnanam in Advaita Vedanta:

Applying the cue from this example (drshtaantham) to the 'main theme' (daarshtaantham) on hand, Vidayranya boldly asserts that the paroksha jnaanam gained from the Sastras through Sravanam and Mananam -- that the Jiva is in reality Brahman only, as revealed by the Tat Tvam Asi Mahavakya -- comes under the category of Samvaadi Bhrama only because the seeker does not have direct or immediate knowledge of the Pramana and the Apta Vakya (teachings of the Sadguru) which pays off in the end, as he attains direct knowledge (Aparoksha Jnanam) in due course through unremitting nididyaasanam.  Therefore faith (Sraddha) in the revelation of the Sastras and Guru upadesa and commitment to the pursuit (mumukshatavam) and perseverance are indispensable ingredients for Enlightenment to manifest.

The mediated knowledge of the Self through the vision of the Advaita Vedanta Sastra corresponds to the 'erroneous knowledge' of the first traveler who eventually succeeds
in his pursuit of the gem in the above example.  But it is 'a leading error' because it
'leads us successfully' towards realization (Pratyabhjnanam) of the 'ever attained' goal (praaptasya praapti, verse 155).  But any other teaching not Advaitic in content or essence, from whichever source it has arisen, can only be a 'fruitless error' (Visamvaadi bhrama) for it can never liberate the seeker from the primal ignorance of the Self and consequently from the beginning-less Samsara. Sraddha is then a case of provisional acceptance of the Vedantic revelation giving it a benefit of doubt as it were, pending verification. It becomes superfluous upon eventual vindication in one's
experience because direct vision then supercedes the article of faith.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.             

Subramanian.R

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Thus all non Advaitic 'differential vision' (bheda drshti) corresponds to the 'erroneous
knowledge' of the second traveler which remains error-ridden till the end and must
inevitably disappoint the seeker.  Its only use is to disillusion him or her so that he or she seeks new pastures he or she seeks new pastures and inevitably gravitates towards the highest knowledge of Advaita Siddhana.   This is not to condemn dvaitic teachings found in every religion because they have their own use inasmuch as they ripen the mind to surrender to the Lord thus promoting chitta suddhi. But eventually it must yield way to the Advaitic vision in the last lap of Jiva Yatra.

It is thus a matter of perspective from different levels, not absolute pronouncements or judgments. The Vedic vision  accommodates a spectrum of divergent perspectives and allows the seekers full freedom to choose that vision which best appeals to their conviction. Even variant is given a honored plane (including atheism) in the grand scheme of evolution and encouraged as a legitimate step in that ladder.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.         
« Last Edit: April 02, 2017, 12:18:21 PM by Subramanian.R »

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Nature of Enlightenment - Intellectual Understanding vis a vis Experiential Knowledge;

Vidayaranya Swami makes a nuanced refinement subsequently in Panchadasi (Verses, 139, 153-156) saying that Sastra Jnanam is indeed true knowledge (pramaa)) from its own perspective but only from the point of view the seeker, it called a 'leading error'
(Samvaadi Brahma).  This nails the fallacious but fashionable thesis that Enlightenment
is nothing but 'assimilation of the Sastra  Jnanam and there can never be an 'experiential' illumination' other than the former.  According to Vidyaranya, meditation on the Vedantic revelation of Jiva Brahma Aikyam can be called Nirguna Upasana, and this shall surely lead to Pratyabhijna, even if the seeker is not competent enough to practice the highest level of of Nididhyansa, which is Self abidance (bereft all Bhavanas or concepts) espoused life long by Bhagavan Ramana.

Thus the Sastra Jnanam is indeed a blessing for those seekers who are temperamentally Jnana Margis because it eventually culminates in Enlightenment in the form of Pratyabhijnam, an experiential Awakening. (Sankara Bhashya, Brahma Sutra, No.2). Until this happens, Sastra Jnanam would necessarily remain as a leading error'' but only as far as the seeker is concerned because he is yet to be delivered from Samsara, by Aporaksha Jnanam.

'The proof of the pudding is in the eating' is this context means that 'absolute release from the endless sorrows of Samsara' is known to one's conscience (which cannot be muffed or evaded for all time) and this intimate personal experience alone is the final proof of the validity of the Sruti Pramaanaa for oneself.  The celebrity status that grows around eloquent exponents cannot confer Jivan Mukti (Apaaroksha Anubhuti , verse 133)  nor vouch for its attainment. Societal praise and lavish recognition of such                       
skills constitute external validation (pratah pramaana) while Jivan Mukti is svatah pramaana.  Swami Chinmayananda exhorted, 'Take a close and honest look at yourself.  It pays to see where you stand.'

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.   

Subramanian.R

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Adi Sankaracharya declares: 'For an enlightened person, his identification with the
limitless Self, is as effortless and intimate as Dehatma Buddhi is for ignorant, with the result that it has completely negated his former Dehatma Buddhi; such a person is spontaneously liberated while living, even if he does not desire moksha.  (Upadesa Sahasri Verse 45, Panchadasi Verse 7.20)

By pondering deeply over this verse, one can easily recognize the fallacy in the thesis
that 'enlightenment is purely a matter of intellectual understanding' and has nothing to do with experiencing oneself as pure limitless Consciousness.  Vachaspati Mishra states in Bhamati, his commentary on Brahma Sutra Bhashya that since our ignorance is experiential (and keeps us in bondage), enlightenment must perforce be experiential too, for it confers the liberating knowledge!

Beatitude of Aporakha Jnanam:

It does not benefit us personally if countless Jnanis have vindicated the veracity of the scriptures before, because their experience cannot release us from the Samsara, just as others enjoying a sumptuous feast cannot appease our gnawing hunger. At best their experience reinforces our faith appease our gnawing hunger.  At best their experience reinforces appease and conviction in the revealed knowledge of the Vedas
and propels us forward with renewed vigor.  The ultimate vision has to be our own, for converting our Samvadi Bhrama into Prema, the true Knowledge.

Self Knowledge, as the very term suggests, is truly self referential (Svatah Pramanaa).  (Talks 189) and needs no validation from any external authority. This is the unique catholicity and humility of Upanishadic teachings (See Viveka Chudamani Verse 4.3.22), for they step aside after leading the seeker to the very portals of Advaita Anubhuti without binding him or her to the Revealed Word or the One Book for ever.
To sum up the present context, it can be safely said, 'Truth is That which sets you free' and can never be a matter of unverifiable beliefs.

Assimilation of the Vedantic vision surely transforms a genuine seeker into a great saint who can inspire and guide countless seekers in the same path that he himself has traveled. But only upon awakening through 'direct experience' (pratya bhijna)
and staying firmly anchored in it. does he become a full fledged Sage. Such an enlightened mahatmaa becomes a living embodiment of the Truth (like a Buddha,
Sankara or Ramana) in whose abiding vision of unity, and all differential notions (Bheda Buddhi) vanish without a trace, the true hall mark of the highest wisdom (Samyak Darsanam).

contd., from the next issue.

Arunachala Siva.