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God and The Self: What is True?

God and The Self

A continuation of Learn to Discern the True and False in What is Taught as “Advaita”

The same friend [who sent the questions in the previous post] sent the following quotations from a very famous Swami’s commentary on the Ashtavakra Gita, requesting my views regarding them.

Gods like Shiva, Durga, Vishnu, Lakshmi are also the formless Self and their temporary forms are only for religious stories.

The gods are really aspects of the Absolute, and are symbolic forms of the qualities or tattwas within Brahman. The Bhagavad Gita (9:15) describes Brahman as “variously manifested.” Prabhavananda’s interpretive translation is: “Others worship me, knowing Brahman in all things: some see me one with themselves, or separate: some bow to the countless gods that are only my million faces” (Bhagavad Gita 9:15).

In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (3.9.1) we find this:

Vidagdha Sakalya asked him [the sage Yajnavalkya] “How many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?” He answered: “Three hundred and three, and three thousand and three.” “Yes,” he said, “but how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?” “Thirty three.” “Yes,” he said, “but how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?” “Six.” “Yes,” said he, “but how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?” “Three.” “Yes,” said he, “but how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?” “Two.” “Yes,” said he, “but how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?” “One and a half.” “Yes, said he, “but how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?” “One.”

The numbers are according to the perceptions of the individual.

The individual (jīva), the universe (jagat) and the Lord–the Creator (Īśvara)–are all different manifestations of the same infinite Consciousness.

No. The jiva is co-eternal with Brahman and not a manifestation of Brahman. Yet Brahman is the essence and the basis of the jiva’s existence.

The universe is a concept within Brahman, and Ishwara is an expansion of Brahman as a conceptualization within Brahman. But since the limited intellect cannot understand this, I am in a sense saying nothing.

Light is my very nature. I am nothing other than that Light.

No. Consciousness is our essential nature. Jyoti (light) is a sensory experience within samsara.

The life, as consciousness, brings to our awareness all our experiences–physical, mental and intellectual.

No. All our experiences are are within consciousness–are consciousness. It is our conclusions about them that are erroneous.

The sense of individuality (ego) is experienced, within one’s own bosom, as the “I-ness” and the very same “ego” experienced, in terms of the objects around it, is the “mineness.”

True awareness of oneself as a conscious entity is known as Asmita: I-ness; the sense of “I am;” “I exist;” the sense of individuality. And the true awareness of the Self is expressed as “Soham asmi.”

The combination of this ‘I’ and ‘mine’ is the individuality, which is a product of the ‘ignorance’ of the nature of the Self.

No. Asmita is recognition of the truth of our being. Aham, the root of ahamkara (or ahankara), arises from ignorance of the Self. That is the ego.

The Self is always existent–actually self-existent–within the Supreme Self. They are inseparable but not identical.

So long as the ego exists, it asserts itself in the sense of “doership,” and in the sense of “enjoyership.”

No. Although those two exist in potential form before the experiences of “I do” and “I experience” occur, the ego itself is their basis and empoweror.

To stand as a “witness,” detached from all that is happening within and without us, is one of the most effective early exercises in meditation.

No. This experience is a result of the practice of meditation, not a “meditation exercise.” That would only be a mind-game, like a child pretending to be an adult.

Meditation is an attempt to consciously withdraw our identification with the body, and “abide ourselves in Consciousness.”

No. Genuine meditation is not an attempt at all, but is itself the experiencing of ourselves as consciousness. Whatever does not do this is neither meditation nor yoga.

There is no need to set in mind the idea of ending false identification. That happens automatically (spontaneously) through meditation.

Sri Ramakrishna gave a very homely simile regarding this: “Going to bed, a child said to his mother, ‘Mother, please wake me up when I feel the call of nature.’ ‘My son,’ said the mother, ‘that urge itself will wake you up. I don’t have to wake you.’”

One of our problems in considering these matters is that we tend to reverse the true order of cause and effect and thus misunderstand the process.

Soham sadhana–japa and meditation–is the way.

We have to renounce all our desires and aversions; these two feelings (likes and dislikes) represent the entire activities of the mind.

We do not renounce raga/dwesha, desire/aversion, but we rise above them–free ourselves from them–naturally through meditation. Intellectually renouncing something is concentrating on it and strengthens our bonds to it. Rather, we turn from it and lose all attraction for it through the atmic experience in meditation.

The mind does a great deal more delusive things than just engage in desire and aversion!

To contemplate upon the Self as the one constant witness of all agitations of the mind, intellect and body, is to bring about complete dissolution of the ego and the world interpreted by the ego.

No. You do not “contemplate the Self” you attain/experience true Self-awareness through meditation. Enlightenment is not an intellectual exercise. It is the intellect that has tied us up!

We must KNOW the Self as the witness by experiencing it in meditation. Without meditation there is not even simple understanding, much less awakening into reality.

The universe is the common field where all the existing minds can experience freely their own individual worlds of joys and sorrows.

So?

The total universe is not the projection of an individual mind but it is the play of the total mind, or we may call it as the universal mind. All disturbances in the individual life and in the universal life around are all illusory confusions projected by the individual mind and the universal mind.

This is just the babble of the childish intellect fully in the grip of the ego and its attendant delusions/illusions. It is no more than childish prattle.

Slavish obedience of the individual to the endless demands of the body, mind and intellect for sense gratifications, among the objects of the world outside, is the state of bondage.

What is described is only a small part of bondage–as deep consideration of one’s own mind will reveal!

Freedom is attained when the mind does not desire or grieve, does not reject or accept, does not feel happy or angry at anything.

Of course not. Dreamless sleep is not liberation, and there the mind does not engage in these things. Numbness of mind is not freedom of the mind.

Indifference to the enchanting objects of the outer world is a discipline for the body.

That is really mistaken. It is not the body that draws us to folly, but the mind–which likes to blame the body and make itself guiltless. I had a friend whose church had taught him to say: “I do not sin; my body sins.” That is utter perversity, however well it might sound to the ego, which is guilty. Sri Ramakrishna used to say: “Mind is everything.” That includes both the manas, the lower, sensory mind, and the buddhi, the intellect. These have to be purified and freed by a great deal of japa and meditation of Soham.

Equanimity, maintained by not allowing the mind to dance to the rhythm of its likes and dislikes, is an exercise for the mind.

No. After a while the mind will go right back to where it was before–and be even more powerful for negative influence. Meditation alone does the needful.

To learn to logically reason out the illusory nature of the world around and to come to detect the eternal Self is a training for the intellect.

And then what will you have? A trained monkey. The idea that the mind (intellect) can perceive the Self is truly is like setting the thief to find and arrest himself. It is mistaking the shadow for the object.

The giving up of desires is the renunciation of the world.

Yes? And? The world is not at fault, it is the ego and its delusions. Desire is not the problem–that is a symptom of the problem: delusion. This is like the Positive Thinking of the negative to make themselves Better Persons. Again, it is mistaking the effect for the cause.

Vāsanā is essentially the very seed from which a “desire” springs forth. All the vāsanās put together in an individual, constitute his “causal body”–that which determines the nature and quality of that individual’s subtle and gross bodies.
The “total vāsanās” of all living creatures together becomes māyā.

This is just “spiritual” techno-talk that has no basis in reality. This and most of the foregoing is just a manifestation of the delusion that if we “understand” the situation that will clear it up. It like thinking that if you define and understand the causes of the sinking of the ship you are on you will not drown. You will.

God (Self) is the Creator of all and there is none else here.

Oh, yes? Then who are you talking to? And why?

All Masters, after their advice, leave the student to plan out his life, according to his own inner impulses.

Yes. All true masters tell the student the way to enlightenment and leave him free to either follow it or not. He must be totally self-motivated and self-activated and self-actuated.

You are not the body, nor is the body yours. You are neither the “doer” nor the “enjoyer.” You are Consciousness itself, the eternal, indifferent witness.

Yes.

We must avoid both our sense of “I-ness” and “mineness” with the body.

We must dissolve–not just avoid–all sense of I-ness and My-ness whatsoever, and not just in relation to the body.

One is not the ‘doer’ who does his activities through the body; nor is one the ‘enjoyer’ who enjoys the outer world, the ‘doership’ and the ‘enjoyership’ together constitute the ego sense in us.

No. They are functions/illusions of the ego. The ego (ahamkara) is even more basic. It must be realized that we do not “get rid of” or “suppress” the ego. When we attain atmajnana–direct knowledge of the Self–the ego mirage is dissolved and is no more.

Passions and aversions are the qualities of the mind. The mind is never yours. You are Intelligence itself free from all fluctuations.
The passions and lusts, likes and dislikes, joys and sorrows – these are all fluctuations in the mental stuff and they all belong to the mind.
The twin expressions of the ego are the ‘I-ness’ and the ‘my-ness’.

SO WHAT? As long as these are theories–mere mental concepts–they are worse than nothing because they fool us into thinking we really understand and are “jnanis,” when we are just ignoramuses spouting ignorant “wisdom” about something of which we have no real insight or experience. Only the enlightened yogi knows these things truly. Otherwise it is like thinking the recipe for a cake is a cake!

Individuals may be different from each other, the tree is not the animal; the animal is not the human. But the ‘Existence’ in a stone, in a flower, in an animal, in a plant, in the star and in the sun and moon seems to be one and the same. This Existence is the expression of the infinite Reality behind names and forms. This one Self is your real nature.

No. The Paramatman is all these things, not the jivatman which is a part but not the whole. The jiva is eternally finite and the Paramatman is eternally infinite. They are one, but they are not the same. Again, only the buddhi of the yogi is able to comprehend these things. Otherwise it is like someone merely reciting the alphabet and thinking they are speaking intelligent words.

The idea of ‘this is mine’ takes you to bondage; the idea ‘I am not’ leads you to Liberation.

Only direct experience of the Self reveals its ever-present state. And that revelation is liberation.

To end in the knowledge of the Self, all perceptions of the world, and to destroy all our desires for sense objects, is the unique state of Liberation.

Stones do not perceive the world or desire sense objects, and they are not liberated. The same with basic life-forms. Only direct experience of the Self is knowledge of the Self. And nothing “leads” to it–it is ever-present. We only awaken in and into it.

Ashtavakra does not recognize the existence of anything as God or the universe or the ego other than the one transcendental Self.

How nice for him. Cosmic Unconsciousness.

In the Self there is no universe of plurality.

There is no universe of plurality in the consciousness of those with total dementia, either. In fact, in Omkareshwara a man was found wandering around unaware of anything. He has to be force fed and looked after like an infant in all things. He shows no awareness at all. So fools are coming and prostrating before him as a liberated being with non-dual consciousness, when he has no consciousness at all.

“When a man thinks of objects, attachment for them arises; from attachment desire is born; from desire arises anger; from anger comes delusion; from delusion loss of memory; from loss of memory the destruction of discrimination; from destruction of discrimination he perishes.”
More correctly translated:
“For a man dwelling on the objects of the senses, attachment to them is born. From attachment desire is born. And from [thwarted] desire anger is born. From anger arises delusion; from delusion, loss of memory; from loss of memory, destruction of intelligence (buddhi). From destruction of intelligence one is lost” (Bhagavad Gita 2:62-63).

True. But if we merely reverse this process and go no further, the man is not “found.” Only sadhana does that.

Even if Śiva, Viṣṇu or the lotus born Creator–Brahmā–be your instructor, yet, unless you forget all, you cannot achieve abidance in the Self.

You cannot achieve conscious abidance in the Self except through becoming established in the consciousness that is the Self. “Forgetting” has nothing to do with it. It is a positive, not a negative, state. “Not this, not that” will take you nowhere but into “Not.” Atmajnana is not the absence of something, but absolute consciousness itself.

There is no meaning in complaining about the quality and ability of the spiritual Teachers. Their capacity to convey experiences to the students are limited and the grace lies not in the guru but in the students themselves.

Indeed so.

Even if you get direct instructions and guidance from the Trimurti (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva) themselves, yet, the student cannot awake to the higher plane of Godhood unless he, himself, cuts off his attachments to his past memories.

There is no “higher plane of Godhood.” This is the language of ordinary Western philosophy. There are two states: knowing and not knowing. The very concept of “godhead” is not part of genuine advaita or yoga.

When the mind’s passion is satisfied, the intellect regains its command and the mind feels a deep regret at the honest criticisms of the intellect!

What is “the mind’s passion?” What is the “command of the intellect” that is “regained”? The rest is anthropomorphic mythology.

The Liberated in life is no ‘doer’, but only an indifferent ‘observer’, a patient ‘witness’.

Not so. There is a great deal to enlightenment, not just some quality.

It is the ego which arrogates to itself the false attitudes of the doership and the enjoyership.

No. The ego is both the author and the product of those attitudes.

‘Thought’ upon the Self, is not, in fact, a ‘thought’. A thought must have necessarily an object. The thought of the Self is a ‘thought’ on the subject and, therefore, it has no object.

No intelligent yogi or teacher of Sanatana Dharma has ever advocated “thinking a thought” about the Self. This is mere verbiage like the Renzai Buddhist koans that are meant to baffle the mind, leaving the ego and its ignorance very much intact.

When the sense of ‘doership’ and ‘enjoyership’ is completely eradicated, the ego disappears into the vision of the Self.

It takes a lot more than the erasure of some illusions. When the Self is experienced through yoga sadhana the ego is understood to be a temporary mirage.

Even in the absence of outer objects of temptations, the inner mind, through its own stored up memories of past experiences and its fresh imaginations of future indulgences, can create storms within all by itself!
It is the sense of ‘doership’ and ‘enjoyership’ that makes actions full of agitations and restlessness.
As long as we are identified with our physical body, we cannot really grow ‘desireless’ towards objects that are conducive for the happiness of our physical body.
Body-consciousness cultivates in us tremendous attachments, endless desires, vulgar passions and incorrigible lusts.

As an incisively-minded friend of mine used to say about such expositions: “Talk, talk, talk! When do we eat” meaning that philosophizing was not enough, we need experience of Reality to understand what is unreal.

For the Liberated in life there is neither attachment (rāga), nor lust for the objects of the world, nor has he any ‘aversion nor desirelessness’ (vairāgya). He has no identification with the body and, therefore, he is not aware of the objects of pleasures at all.

This is mere unconsciousness, not jnana. “With attraction and aversion eliminated, even though moving amongst objects of sense, by self-restraint the self-controlled attains tranquility” (Bhagavad Gita 2:64). Unawareness has no virtue at all. A brilliant aunt of mine once said to me: “I am more virtuous than George Washington. He said, ‘I cannot tell a lie.’ I, however, can tell a lie but will not.”

Vāsanās, expressing in the intellect, are called ‘desires’; desires expressed in the mind are called ‘thoughts’; the mind so agitated soon gets lost in its own fancies and imaginations. Mind can be controlled and brought under our command only when we rise above the mind. Mental control is the path.

This is just word juggling and completely false in conclusion. The statement “mental control is the path” is totally wrong.

To the realized sage there is no ego. He has neither the sense of ‘doership’, nor has he the attitude of ‘enjoyership’.

Read the Gita. Krishna absolutely has the sense of doing and enjoying, but on a transcendental level that cannot be comprehended by the unenlightened intellect.

These three qualities are essential for any seeker who dares to walk the spiritual path: (1) patience, (2) discrimination and (3) fearlessness.

Yes. But how does a seeker cultivate them? Through sadhana alone.

Every experience is a thought.
Every thought entertained is a subtle memory of the past.
Thought bundle is the ego–therefore, the ego is nothing but a heap of dead experiences, a mass of memories!!
There is no māyā nor ‘ignorance’ other than our own mind.
Apart from the mind there is no ignorance (avidyā). The mind itself is the ‘ignorance’, which is the cause for the bondage of rebirth.
When the mind is destroyed, everything else is destroyed. When mind manifests, everything else manifests’.

Ignorance in totality is what must go. And that goes when true Seeing arises through perfection in yoga.

Through faith, devotion and meditation you come to know yourself.

There is a great deal more required. And it would be good to put the word “right” before these three, as did Buddha.

In your email you said, “I think that it would be better that You explain the concept of Advaita as understood by You.” The truth is this: true advaita is an experience-realization. Concepts and descriptions are as pointless as attempts to describe how salt tastes or what light looks like. Salt tastes like salt and light looks like light. Nothing more can be said. So the person with no sense of taste and the person who is blind will just never know. As Yogananda wrote: “He who knows, knows. None else knows.”

The Upanishads give us a hint–but just a hint since the intellect cannot encompass or know the Self. They say:

“If you think that you have understood Brahman well, you know it but slightly, whether it refers to you [the individual Self] or to the gods. So then is it to be investigated by you [the pupil] [even though] I think it is known.

“I do not think that I know it well; nor do I think that I do not know it. He who among us knows it, knows it and he, too, does not know that he does not know.

“To whomsoever it is not known, to him it is known: to whomsoever it is known, he does not know. It is not understood by those who understand it; it is understood by those who do not understand it” (Kena Upanishad 2.1-3).

I know this sounds like word juggling, but it is not. True knowing is beyond our small mind’s idea of knowing. It is a matter of awakening.

Therefore: “The Self resides within the lotus of the heart. Knowing this, devoted to the Self, the sage enters daily that holy sanctuary” (Chandogya Upanishad 8:3:3).

All true paths of inquiry regarding the Self lead back to yoga sadhana.

There we are. Soham kevalam–Soham alone.

Further Reading:

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