Author Topic: Vedantic Sadhana and the Practise of "Who am I?"  (Read 1239 times)


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Vedantic Sadhana and the Practise of "Who am I?"
« on: March 01, 2009, 10:16:06 AM »
I was prompted to write this post after reading the posts “Why do I not realize the truth?” started by srkudai. I wanted to address the issues there in from a broader perspective hence I have started a new topic.

Vedantic Sadhana

Shravana, Manana and Niddhidhyasana form the main body of Vedantic Sadhana. The presence of a living master is indispensable in this Sadhana. Vedantic literature which is taught mainly consists of Prasthana Traya which includes the main Upanishads, the Bhagvad Gita and Brahma Sutras. These are studied along with the commentaries of Advaitic masters like Adi Shankaracharya.
Shravana: This is usually taken to mean listening to the scriptures as the literal translation of the word would mean. It is the stage where the master explains what the scriptures are talking about. Here by careful study and applying logic the master explains to the student, the purpose of human birth, the goal in which it should culminate, and how to achieve it etc.
Manana: Although the substance of the scriptures is made clear, the student will have his own doubts about different aspects of the teachings. In this stage the master guides the student into repeatedly dwelling on topics which the student has doubts. Here discussions and arguments within the framework of the scriptures are encouraged and dealt with by the master. The student is made to study Shankara Bhasya (commentaries by Adi Shankaracharya), as almost all the doubts and opposing views are dealt with in his commentaries. The culmination of this stage results in the student having a clear intellectual understanding that he is the Self.

Niddhidhyasana: Although the student has a clear understanding of being the Self, he still suffers from taking himself to be the body-mind complex due to habitual behavioural patterns in his psyche. The student is asked to be alert to such manifestations of behaviour based on false knowledge and negating the same by reminding himself as to who he is in reality. The student is introduced to different meditation techniques, which result initially in absorption in a particular thought (Savikalpa Samadhi) and then ultimately culminate in a thoughtless state where the Self alone shines (Nirvikalpa Samadhi). This results in the destruction of all ignorance and establishes the person in Gnana.

From the above it is quite clear that a living guru is very essential in Vedantic sadhana. The guru should not only be a Shastravit (knower of the scriptures) but also Brahmavit(knower of Brahman). Just knowledge of scriptures without knowing the ultimate truth, such a master will be quite disastrous for the student. Particularly in the manana stage the student comes to a false feeling of having realized the Self. The student than indulges in activities like trying to interpret the shastras, write commentaries, trying to teach others etc.
Only a teacher who is a Gnani can recognize this problem in a student and take the necessary steps in guiding the student further towards Realization.

Another aspect of this Sadhana is the extensive use of the intellect till the very end. The development of logic and analytical skills is nurtured and encouraged. A well developed intellect forms an integral part of this sadhana. From the starting of the sadhana until almost the end, the false is to be negated(neti neti) and the aspects of truth(like Satyam, Gnanam, Anantam) are to be affirmed using Viveka (discrimination).

The practise of “Who am I?”.

The practise starts with the premise that if I am not the body-mind complex, then who am I?
The purpose of the question “Who am I?” is to direct one’s attention to the “I”. That is the only purpose. Once the attention is fixed on the “I”, the question has no further use. The question is repeated if the attention is slipping away from the “I”.

The question is not asked to elicit any answers. Even if the mind throws up an answer or a doubt it is dealt with by asking “who is answering this question” thus bringing the attention back to the “I”.

The mind has a tendency to answer any question thrown at it from its gathered knowledge. Even if the mind is trying to say “I am not this body” etc. the correct thing to do at this point would be to ask the question, “who is saying I am not this body?”. The purpose being again to bring the attention back to the “I” and not to indulge in any mental dialogue or Vichara.

That is all there is to this practise that one has to do, or one can do. The rest is taken care of by the Sadguru residing in each one of us.
Hence we see this practise does not involve the intellect or mind in any way except maybe to just ask the question “who am I?”. This practise does not depend on the smartness or intellectual capability of the person.  It requires the ability to just put one’s attention on oneself.
If the practise is properly understood and done according to the way laid down by Bhagavan, then a living guru is not absolutely essential for this Sadhana. The practise itself takes us to a point where the Sadguru takes over.

The purpose of this post is to highlight the differences in the two practices and not in any way compare their efficacy. The suitability of a sadhana solely depends on the person’s inclinations and mental makeup.

Om shri Ramana