Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

The Teaching of Sri Atmananda Krishna Menon
Prakriya 8 - Some Questions

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Madathil Nair:
May I take what you said [about establishment in truth] as the stitaprajnatwam of the Bhagwad GItA that results when the seeker virtually *becomes* the prajnAnam of Aham BrahmAsmi?

Yes, I would say that the 'sthita-prajnya' described in the Gita 2.54-57 could be interpreted as one who is 'established in truth', in Shri Atmananda's use of this phrase. But, for that, the stanzas would need to be interpreted from a j~nAna approach. Here is how I would go about it:

Arjuna asked: What may be said of one who is established in true knowledge and stands there absorbed? How does that person speak, sit down and move about? [2.54]

Krishna replied: When all desires, going deep into the mind, have finally been given up, a person comes to lasting peace and happiness: in self alone, all by itself.

When someone gets to live there quite spontaneously, remaining always undisturbed, no matter what takes place; that someone is then said to be 'established in true knowledge'. [2.55]

Such a one, of steady understanding, stays unshaken inwardly: no longer driven by possessive want, nor by desire, fear and rage, through all the miseries and joys that mind gets into.

Such a one, who stands upon unchanging ground, is called a sage. [2.56]

Whatever happens, good or bad, someone whose knowledge is established stays impartial everywhere: quite unaffected by complacency when things go well, or by frustration at receiving ill. [2.57]

You may well ask what might be so special about a j~nAna interpretation, to make it different from more usual interpretations. Well, I would say that the usual interpretation is the one you imply in your question, when you speak of realization as resulting "when the seeker virtually becomes the prajnAnam of Aham BrahmAsmi".

The word 'becomes' here indicates a transformation of personality, which implies a yogic approach of mind expansion and character improvement through meditative exercise. And, quite rightly, you qualify the '*becomes*' with the adverb 'virtually', in order to indicate a shift towards an advaitic j~nAna approach.

In such a j~nAna approach, it is acknowledged that the seeker already is the truth which is sought, so that there is no need to attempt any 'becoming' through yogic meditation. The only need is for the sAdhaka to realize that she or he was never bound, and to keep returning to that realization until it becomes steady and spontaneous.

As Shri Atmananda put it, even after a disciple has been taken fully to the truth, she or he may lapse into a remaining phase of identification, as one who still thinks that she or he has realized. A mistaken identification thus persists for a while. But the mistake of ego has been cut at its very root, so that the mistake does not go on being replenished as before. Instead, it is irrevocably on the way to working itself out.

The working out is then best assisted by returning back to realization, over and over again, through a direct enquiry whose sole target of concern is only truth and nothing else. All character improvement is thus left behind, to function as a mere side effect, in the seeming paradoxes and confusions of partial personality and world.

Madathil Nair:
With regard to memories of the past, does AtmAnandaji acknowledge the
*traditional* vAsanAs and saMskAras of past lives? This is asked because I find myself confronting at outside world of situations that are not warranted by the memories of this life alone.

Yes, Shri Atmananda did sometimes use ideas of transmigration and he did have insights into the past life saMskAras of particular persons. But he did not generally require or even encourage his disciples to get involved with this conception of past lives. In fact, he specifically told his disciples that they would be better off seeing this conception as a metaphor for the more immediate death and rebirth that each person keeps experiencing in the present -- as each thought dies into pure consciousness, from which alone all thoughts continue to be born.

Madathil Nair:
There is a visualization of my body with only the sense of tactility supporting it.... The object slowly vanishes taken in by the light that lights it up. Then, there remains only the light.... I am pure light. No thoughts that worry about its physical properties of size and magnitude of brilliance. Only light. Let us call it the light of awareness.... Then, something unfortunate happens. The oblivion of sleep greedily gulps the light down making the whole scenario a blankness about which I can be aware only when I awake. That is no different from an ignorant man's sleep! How then to sink down and down a la Tennyson? Any personal tips that you have would be really helpful to all of us.... is there a need to *sleep knowingly* whatever that implies?"

I use the word 'visualization' in a way that is quite different from your description above. What you seem to be describing is a process of meditation which progresses from bodily tactility to clear light and pure awareness, before getting engulfed in the blankness of sleep.

For me, the word 'visualization' refers to a timeless understanding that is reached at the background of experience, where all sense of time and process has completely disappeared. That timeless understanding is not built up through any meditative process. Rather, it's more like a sudden throwback into timelessness, which somehow follows doubting reason or some other stimulus to inner reflection.

And this 'throwback' happens in a quirky and paradoxical way that undermines any talk of its location or duration in time. It must after all be a paradox to talk of when or for how long one has been thrown out of time. Or, indeed, to talk of what one is in that timelessness -- where no change occurs so as to make comparison possible.

The throwback is indeed into utter dissolution of appearances, and in that sense it is into an oblivion of the world. But it is not into a blank and meaningless nothingness. Instead, it is into peace and light, which somehow means just that for which all things are done. And it means that without saying it, or thinking it, or feeling it.

But, of course, it is completely absurd and utterly inadequate to describe such a visualization in this way. The whole thing happens in a flash, so that it's over as soon as it started. And there can be no memory of it afterwards in mind. So it always must get lost and quite misrepresented, whenever it is drawn out into some long-winded description in words, or when some big thing is made of it in grand ideas or sentimental feelings.

Such a visualization does its work best when it is done quietly, by relaxing into it. That is the aim of trying to 'sleep knowingly'. This sAdhana is intended to promote an increasingly relaxed visualization of the truth. When the visualization gets to be completely relaxed, the visualization occurs with utter spontaneity, of its own accord. Then it is permanent, with no effort required to induce it. The sAdhaka has then dissolved, established in the truth.

prakriyA-s in this Section:
Atmananda Krishna Menon home page.
1.  Universal and Individual - the 'cosmological' and 'direct' paths.
2.  The three states - enquiry from everyday experience.
3.  'I am consciousness' ('Prajnyanam asmi') - reflection back into the 'I'.
4.  Witness of thoughts - change and the changeless.
     -- Consciousness and Enlightenment
     -- Memory
     -- Higher and Lower Reason
     -- Knowing
     -- Further Comments on Deep Sleep
5.  All objects point to consciousness - 'Existence has the chair.'
6.  Happiness - not in objects or the mind, but coming from the real 'I'.
     -- Love and Devotion
7.  The background - where all experiences arise, abide and subside.
8.  Merging back - 'Sleep in consciousness.'
     -- Some Questions
Ananda has provided an updated version of these essays May 2007 and this may be downloaded as a PDF file (251k); it has a linked Table of Contents and a glossary (unlinked).
"Notes on Spiritual Discourses of Shri Atmananda" now available for download - see 'modern books'.
Selected discourses from Shri Atmananda
Page last updated: 07-Jul-2012