In part 29 we addressed two concerns. Role of the guru. And if absolute Truth, as revealed in Upanishads, is just another point of view.
Let's revise them before moving onto the most controversial topic – if Advaita (non-duality) is matter of experience or knowledge.
If we don't answer this, fellow seeker will remain unsatisfied no matter what progress is made.
1) Can't the truth of my self be known through own studies? What is the benefit of a teacher?
Self is the sum total of all the beauty in existence, in all worlds, multiplied by limitlessness to the power of eternity.
Self is the most attractive. Ever-complete. Radiant. Full of itself as unwavering infinite bliss.
These words don't do justice to the vastness of the ever-intoxicated unfathomable joy which knows no bounds, that the self (brahman) is.
Human life is but for a single purpose, to recognize “I” and this reality are not-two.
In terms of directly enjoying it's full glory, for that, one has to wait for body to naturally die. To demonstrate…
As one wave-form in the ocean attains mokṣa while living — when it falls (end of wave-form) — the wave, as though, merges into the ocean — never again assuming another wave form. Now the whole ocean is itself. And itself is the whole ocean.
While non-liberated waves, or waves who thought they were liberated, will be reborn to experience another wave-form of limitation.
So don't think an enlightened person is in some kind of a bliss dimension. Some gurus in India and West have given this false impression to seekers – knowingly or unknowingly.
Please understand one fact: The body-mind is limited. It can only contain so much “bliss”. Thus why chase or give reality to any kind of bliss-es. They are but a drop in the ocean.
Don't insult the infinite by pretending “I am the infinite” (even though it's true in absolute sense). Just to say that is to limit “Infinite” within time and language.
Such statements encourage living in superficial heightened states of mind. They stifle the motivation for continued growth as a human being.
Think Rāma. Think Kṛṣṇa. Think Jesus. Think Buddha. Read their stories. They're not elevating their status. Instead, they are activists amidst world dramas.
Are they embodiment of pride or humility?
This is where the role of a teacher comes…
Because if the teaching of non-duality is properly captured and assimilated, there is a personality transformation of ever-expanding humility.
Humility is usually the last trait a human masters. Because it's the highest expression of divinity in a human form.
It's developed only through uncompromising honesty with yourself and others.
Humility is opposite to pride (or sense of “my” self-importance, “my” self-worth, “my” accomplishments).
So many my-ness'es. Which is a contradiction to true vision of Oneness.
Humbleness means being WITH humanity. Relating WITH worldly situations. Rather then dismissing them.
A common sign of it's lack is choosing to not participate. Not to engage. Or unwilling to share one's vulnerabilities.
Whereas let's look at Arjuna's attitude…
A warrior indeed who could alone decimate the entire Kauravas army with his divine weapons.
And despite his unmatched glory, purity, prowess, valor, strength and fame… he openly and honestly shared his deflated feelings with Lord Krishna.
Only such humbleness was worthy of receiving the Lord's TOTAL knowledge of Reality, in form of the Bhagavad Gītā.
Arjuna was so sincere, he wasn't even satisfied after Chapter 2, which spells out the highest knowledge of reality, being “I”.
He then asked, “How do I integrate this knowledge in every aspect of my life?”. This is answered in CH3-18, majority of the text.
Compare Arjuna's attitude to a half-hearted seeker who also hears CH2 (likely on YouTube or through reading books) — and presumptuously concludes “I'm awakened“.
Only to realize five to ten years later, life is still filled with emptiness and disappointments.
Therefore the purpose of a teacher is to help you evolve from many different aspects. To help you see blind spots which no amount of self-study can reveal.
We all need a living-breathing teacher. That's a truism until last breath.
2) Isn't Brahman (Consciousness) just another point of view in the Vedas?
Brahman is not a point of view which can be negated by a different philosophy like Taoism, Sufism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Buddhism, Kabbalah, etc.
Brahman is a non-negatable reality because of which all points of views about Brahman are possible.
For example, it's only because of the WHOLE elephant, that blind men could say, “It's a pillar”, “It's a wall”, “It's a snake”.
Whether they call it a snake or a trunk, the point is, they're only ever talking about the elephant.
Meaning the elephant remains independent of their opinion about it.
In the same way, Vedas reveals the vision of the entire existence, which you are not away from even now… which doesn't exclude the elephant, man, atom, sound, letter, thought, emotion, memory.
How do Vedas reveal the reality when taught by a teacher?
Seeing yourself (as the body) in the mirror… we know the reflection is not actually THIS body. But the reflection is the very means which gives clarity of you (as the body).
Similarly, Vedanta is like a mirror, which gives clarity of you as Brahman (the ultimate reality). It confirms what you always knew, but couldn't grasp completely.
Now let's return to our three students, of whom one of them disagree with validity of Vedas. She strongly believes only experience is a valid means of knowledge, and not the sacred texts.
Let's see what happens…
Student counters the teacher, “I cannot agree with you. No amount of book reading (with or without teachers and teaching), will help us understand the One. Experience is the key to knowing. If we can sit in meditation, watching our breath in concentration, keeping the mind free of thoughts and in total still silence — then we can come to understand that we are One Consciousness.
It's not because of your books and scriptures! They are just more words, better suited for scholars and debaters. Only practice is the way, a life of constant alertness. Words and books would be meaningless without a meditative life. The scriptures were and still are second hand knowledge.
You need to taste the sugar to know it's sweetness. Neither books nor the wisest of teachers can help in understanding what is sweetness. The same is true of Consciousness. It be be understood only by experience.“
” What you call experience is only knowledge.
Touch, taste, smell, sound and sight… together with the mind… bring us knowledge experience of the world.
Every experience must resolve into knowledge.
If not, we will remain restless until we know for certain the context of our experience.
For example, remember a past experience with a flu or some general pain…
Even though you generalized your experience as a “condition” — why did you still go to the doctor, besides seeking treatment?
To get knowledge about the experience-condition known to you.
We can't stand an experience we have partial knowledge about. We're not at peace until our experience is backed by accurate knowledge.
In other words, when I experience an unknown ‘something' – it is recorded in my memory as a feeling.
That feeling is something I-sense, but don't know exactly it's nature.
With knowledge imparted by the specialist – how will I know precisely what that ‘something' is?
I have no bases to understand or know what my experience has shown.
Therefore unable to accept an uncertain state, I seek a valid means of knowing to remove the not-knowing. Thereafter I can know with certainty and enjoy peace of mind.
This is the role of our Vedic books and texts.
Knowledge is the key to understand the Truth.
What Truth? That Limitless Consciousness (Brahman) and I (individual conscious being; atman) — are One and the same, being the source of the entire universe.
Now let's consider having a spiritual experience WITHOUT knowledge…
Suppose haven't had exposure to self-knowledge.
But have an experience or sense or feeling of Oneness. Or an out of body adventure. Or the best Ayahuasca trip. Or savikalpa samādhi.
Although it will leave me bewildered, elated and exhilarated… longing for a repeat performance… I will not be at peace.
Instead I will wish to know (with absolute certainty) what I have experienced.
In fact, I have no choice.
Thus our sacred books and masters are the only recourse.
Through them I can know and understand the content of my sense of Oneness.
But if I think that true knowledge lies in achieving sensations or mind-induced-trances, I would be mistaken and it reveals a fatal flaw in my understanding.
What is the fatal flaw? Every sensation or experience which begins in time, will end in time. Now you have it, now you don't.
Doesn't that contradict the meaning of LIMITLESS Existence?
Again, how can I experience the One, when I am ALREADY that very same One?
Accordingly, my job is NOT to try to experience the One. My job is to remove notions which deny me from accepting — that what I am experiencing — is already the One.
Let's demonstrate it…
Every experience is a trinity. It has three components.
- Experiencer: subject / consciousness.
- Experienced: object / anything other then subject.
- Experience: mind / where subject and object meet and cognition of object (tree, feeling, though, memory, bird, hot, cold) arises.
In short, subject (experiencer) and object (experienced & experience).
Who or what lends existence the the entire trinity?
It can only be the subject (the conscious being, consciousness).
It just happens this very subject (which is illumining all your experiences) — is the cause of the universe.
But to know this, we need a valid means of knowledge (pramāṇa) — which brings us back to our sacred books and texts.
Furthermore, what do you mean by experience?
Because the word “experience” can be refer to any life occurrence which leaves an impression on my mind. Such as psychological, physical, happiness, pain.
In other words, we often understand experience as an observed fact. An object acquired through the senses and mind.
But when it comes to the Limitless One (Brahman), we are already that All-Pervading Absolute.
In reference to the Limitless One, were is the question of it being an observed fact?
How can the Limitless be an object? It can't. Because if it was, it would become limited. Now there's two.
However, when we say the word “experience” — and what you mean is “knowledge acquired over time” — then…
Yes, in reality, knowing the Limitless One is a growing clarity.
And in reference to this clarity, our experience and perception of the world purifies accordingly.
But what's important to understand is…
Knowing Brahman is NOT a one-off experience. Because old stubborn notions in the mind will continue veiling or contaminating the Truth.
This is indeed contrary to “pop spirituality” — giving impression that liberation (mokṣa) is a sudden flash of discovery. And it's supposed to manifest, full and complete, all at once.
In fact, this is how most imagine it happened to Buddha under the Bodhi tree. In reality, he lived a life of austerity. Lots of scriptural study, and contemplation.
Therefore knowing thyself is a deep understanding. And it gradually unfolds through one's study and contemplation.
So in conclusion…
Knowledge and experience do not contradict each other.
The clearer the knowledge, the purer the experience.
The purer the experience, the more it gives meaning to the knowledge. Which further refines the experience.
Because most minds don't understand above conclusion, it spawns numerous schools devoted to dividing ultimate knowledge into a twin system of theory and experience.
Anyone whose swam long enough in the spiritual marketplace, will recognize it's cold-war between KNOWLEDGE versus EXPERIENCE.
Knowledge is indispensable for the sincere seeker of truth. Until it removes all doubts. “
Student counters with, “The words of our books and texts reflect other's experience. We need to find out on our own by experiencing the truth ourselves. It is not a subject to be taught or learned – for that would make the One, and object. Your books are therefore quite redundant.”
” An experience, no matter how mystic or elevated, is momentary. A transient feeling within time and space. It has an ending.
If it comes and goes, can we call it limitless?
How can you enjoy your experience when there is silent fear in the background, that it'll go away?
Just how we all inherently know this body will go away one day. This very knowledge creates fear and distorts the life experience.
The true definition of “limitless” means, I am already that right now. I never was anything other then THAT.
Limitless is THAT which cannot come and go. It can't be destroyed. It remains in it's original condition in past, present and future. And beyond time.
Again, let's demonstrate…
Any experience (no matter how profound) — needs a knower (subject or experiencer).
The experiencer is that in whose presence, all experiences are AWARED.
Experiencer is a constant witness to all our body-mind functions. The unceasing watcher.
To understanding the knower “I” — we need a valid means of knowing.
Let's get a little technical…
Our books and texts now enter and say: ‘I' is Consciousness, All-Pervading Limitlessness (satcitānanda). The cause of all worlds, in all time.
Then the scriptures continue explaining how the Limitless Being (Īśvara) — manifests as the individual (jīva) — by a reflection on the mind (antaḥkaraṇa).
First individuation (apparently) occurs. Separating us from the world (Īśvara) — appearing as I-am-ness.
I-am-ness just means: Brahman with His Māyā power of multiplicity is activated.
This I-am-ness, in an instant, attaches to the body-mind – assigned to it according to it's past actions (karmās).
The I-am-ness then identifies itself with a mental frame (antaḥkaraṇa).
Thereafter, the “I-am-ness” becomes a knower (ahaṃ kāra).
Let's now ask, what is the cause of duality? Or why are we experiencing (apparent) duality?
Duality is a result of mis-identification. Meaning, the knower takes the dependent (knower) for the real (satyam brahman).
Why so? Owning to beginning-less ignorance.
And Since ignorance is the cause for the (seeming) sense of separation — then knowledge must result in union.
Although both “union” and “separation” are only apparent. Their status is dependent-real (mithyā).
Furthermore, what exactly is this “knower” (ahaṃ kāra) — I spoke of earlier?
The knower is the “I” thought. The sense of “I am”. The sense of “I exist”.
This I-thought, is a reflection of consciousness (brahman) on the mind (antaḥkaraṇa).
It is an apparent combination of consciousness and matter (māyā). Real (satyam) and dependent-real (mithyā).
Consciousness (brahman) — which is neither subject nor object — illumines both.
But in relation to I-thought, we call consciousness the subject, I. Or the knower, I.
Meaning even subject/knower/experiencer is an Object, since the “I thought” involves the mind.
So in reality, the subject is also mithyā, dependent-real.
Ok, end of technical talk. We come to a conclusion…
Again, from the standpoint of the world, entire reality can be simplified into:
- Subject, which we can't know, since it itself is the knower “I”.
- And Object. Meaning, all that is known to the subject.
Now if the subject “I” can't be known — how is a seeker supposed to figure out that the nature of the subject is actually — consciousness expressed through the mind (antaḥkaraṇa)?
Consciousness itself cannot inform me. Because consciousness has no action of it's own.
Nor can it be the individual (the knower) — since “I” is the subject to whom knowledge is revealed.
So how will we stop being a seeker?
Just as an eye cannot see itself, we need a mirror.
So too by ourselves, we can never know the truth of “I” — to the point of total clarity.
It's a situation only resolvable by our sacred book and texts, which serve as a mirror for the self, and are the only valid means to know for certain.
Their purpose is to show you that the truth of knower (subject “I”) — is All-Pervading Consciousness, the cause of the universe.”