Advaita Vision


Advaita for the 21st Century

Questions and Answers
Dennis Waite

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How to Meet Yourself cover   The Book of One cover  Back to the Truth cover  Enlightenment: the path through the jungle

Read extracts from and purchase my books: For beginners to Advaita - 'How to Meet Yourself (and find true happiness);
For intermediate Advaita students - 'The Book of One';
For advanced students - 'Back to the Truth: 5000 Years of Advaita'.
For a comparison of teaching methods in advaita - 'Enlightenment: the Path through the Jungle' .

The nature of jIvanmukti

Q. I have come across several people who say, �I know without a shadow of a doubt that the world is mithyA, that Brahman is all there is and that I am verily Brahman.� And yet they vehemently refuse to claim liberation/enlightenment, because �something is missing� (while often not being able to clearly pinpoint what that something is). In Jiva Yatra 13, Swami Paramarthananda says that if a seeker goes through shravaNa manana properly, it will give clear knowledge, advaita Atma j~nAna. If he clearly claims that I am nitya mukta Atma, by that very knowledge itself gained by shravaNa manana, the journey is over. nididhyAsana is only internalizing of the end of the journey. It is not part of that journey?

[Ed. shravaNa � hearing the truth from a sage or reading about it in such works as the Upanishads (the first of the three stages in the classical spiritual path); manana � reflecting upon what has been heard (the second stage of the classical spiritual path) removing any doubts about the knowledge that has been received via shravaNa; nididhyAsana � meditating upon the essence of what has now been intellectually understood until there is total conviction (the third stage of the classical spiritual path.)]

A. What you say about not �claiming enlightenment� is very familiar. Basically, since the mind *does* continue post-enlightenment, the person is still susceptible to the habitual ways in which the mind works, including such things as false humility! And of course, I agree with Swami Paramarthananda in what he says on the matter regarding a degree of mental preparation prior to enlightenment. Also, there is undoubtedly a very strong feeling/belief in most seekers (prior to enlightenment) that something will be clearly experienced, that one will instantly move from a position of doubt to one of absolute certainty, and so on. I do not believe it is like this. The shravaNa-manana-nididhyAsana process is one of acquiring all the knowledge � clearing all the doubts � consolidating and changing one�s behavior accordingly. I guess the �enlightenment� comes after the second stage but the j~nAna phalam do not come until during/after the third, unless one was totally mentally prepared to begin with (fully acquired sAdhana chatuShTaya sampatti).

I think that perhaps the majority of �enlightened� people, certainly in the West, are in this position because the incentive to work fully for sAdhana chatuShTaya sampatti is not there. We no longer have the discipline. Especially, knowing that it is Self-Knowledge that brings enlightenment, we do not want to spend years doing karma yoga. I am a typical example of this! I was with SES [School of Economic Science] for many years, doing all the exercises and meditating etc. but felt I was not �getting anywhere� so left. I still believe leaving was the right thing to do but I was clearly not an uttama adhikArI when I left!

Q. I would appreciate your comment on the following consideration. Liberation IS there, even for the student who is not prepared, who has not chatuShTaya sampatti, who is madhyama adhikArI. He IS jIvanmukti. Is that so?

A. I would say no, because Swami Paramarthananda equates the word jIvanmukti with j~nAna phalam. I also don�t like the word �liberation� because it implies moving from a state of not being free to one of being free and, of course in reality, one is always free. As I indicated above, I would say that a madhyama adhikArI can be enlightened but not have j~nAna phalam. And it follows both the scruffy, grumpy one and the conscientious can be enlightened, irrespective of whether they openly admit it. As Swamiji puts it, in this position one continues to do nididhyAsana until such time as the sense of pUrNatvam is clear. Also, Swami Paramarthananda says that it is impossible to become enlightened with *no* sAdhana chatuShTaya sampatti. But, of course, one may naturally have some without having done years of karma yoga (tradition would say that you acquired it in a previous life).

shabdha pramANa

Q. Maybe I am mistaken, but some people believe that without shabdha pramANa there is no possibility of liberation. This must have been the position of Shankara. Yet there are many liberated ones who never even knew about Hindu scriptures and many more who never read them. How is your position regarding this?

A. I think the key word here is �shabda�, which Monier Williams gives as �scriptural or verbal testimony�. The point is that we already �experience� the Self, in that we already *are* the Self � we are already complete and unlimited. We just don�t know it. Accordingly, we need someone or something to tell us - in such a way as to convince us of course. In advaita, the �telling� source to which all refer as ultimate authority is shruti. This is the way the sampradAya method operates. But there are obviously other valid sources � the Tao Te Ching springs to mind � and enlightened people from other traditions will be able to pass on the pointers as they see them. The ultimate truth cannot be spoken of directly but there are many indirect ways to point people in the right direction. This is the �many paths up the mountain� metaphor. But this does not mean that one can avoid the climb! There are no helicopters in gaining enlightenment, as neo-advaitin teachers would have us believe!

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Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012