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 Release Technique?

Q. I recently read on the Internet something about �The Release Technique�, which was marketed as the �ultimate tool for knocking out all attachments and aversions around one�s relationships with oneself and other people.� Moreover, an inference was made that Ramana Maharshi offered a parallel technique. Did Ramana speak of such a technique?

A. We believe that we are separate and limited as a result of ignorance about our true nature. The *only* remedy for this is Self-knowledge. A degree of mental preparation is necessary prior to this but, apart from that, nothing that we can *do* can bring about realization. You can safely accept that anyone who tries to tell you otherwise � that they have a special technique or are able to transmit enlightenment for example � is a charlatan.

Ramana was a brilliant teacher and had a particular knack of being able to gauge his words for the particular level of understanding of his questioner. Accordingly, it is very dangerous to take his words out of context. You should always read his complete answers to complete questions, ideally within the context of the larger discussion in which the question took place. Even then, there is a danger of jumping to the wrong conclusion. I did not find any reference to the source of the quotation in the article, so it is not possible to see that context. Essentially, though, Ramana was a traditional teacher, but not part of a sampradAya and not always therefore using the proven techniques for unfolding the scriptures.

Nondualism - a question of definition

Q. In your review of Rupert Spira's book, you make the following comment: �Any experience must involve an experiencer and an experienced thing (otherwise, how can there be an experience?) I.e. it is firmly rooted in a dualistic world.'

This statement is at odds with the nondualism of many other traditions: there is a nondualism of subject and object that does not necessitate the monism of systems like Advaita. The nondualism of Buddhism is such a case � it's the realisation that the duality of an agent/doer in relation to the object/world is an illusion. In other words, the world is not given twice � it is of 'one taste'.

In relation to Direct Path teachings, I would suggest re-reading the chapter 'Your Experience' from Greg Goode's excellent book, Standing as Awareness. The last four paragraphs express clearly this insight that ALL experience is already nondual � without a subject/object split.

Another book that I would very much recommend to you is Nonduality: A Study in Comparative Philosophy by David Loy, where he discusses the various meanings of nonduality.

A. In the review, I pointed out that I was looking at what had been written from a traditional viewpoint � this means the accepted distinction between paramArtha and vyavahAra. Thus, an experience has a beginning and an end in time as well as having a subject and an object, So yes, it *is* firmly rooted in the dualistic world. Of course, from the pAramArthika standpoint, there is *only* the nondual reality, there has never been any creation, there are no subjects and objects. But then neither is there such a thing as experience.

The problem of any teaching is to reconcile the experience of duality with the reality of nonduality. I am well aware that Direct Path attempts to argue the nondual even in the apparently dualistic experiences of life. And, where it succeeds, I have no argument. I wrote the foreword for Greg's book (although he may have omitted it in later issues) so had no argument with that presentation. I have also endorsed Atmananda's work. (I also have a copy of David Loy's book, but I confess to having abandoned it because most was not relevant to my studies and I found it very difficult to read.)

Finally (if I didn't already say this in the review), since our problem is one of self-ignorance, only self-knowledge can remedy the situation. We already experience the Self in deep sleep but we still wake up to the same old dualistic world.

I have no significant knowledge of any other nondual teaching so all I can do is speak from the standpoint of traditional Advaita.


Subsequent to replying to this question, I have been extensively revising and updating The Book of One for a second edition (due end April 2010). In it, I have added the following 'proof' from Shankara that there can be no such thing as an 'experiencer'. It seems appropriate to record this here:

'(The following argument is made by Shankara in his brahma sutra bhAShya I.ii.12, though I am indebted to Swami Paramarthananda for the explanation in his recorded talks.) From the standpoint of the world, there are two things: Atman, or Consciousness, and everything else (anAtman). The process of doing something (or enjoying or knowing something) necessitates that some sort of change take place. We move from a state of 'not knowing' to one of 'knowing' for example. It follows, therefore, that whoever or whatever 'does', 'knows' or 'enjoys' has to be subject to modification. 'Change' in Sanskrit is called vikAra (transformation, modification, change of form or nature). Something that undergoes change is called savikAra � 'with change'; something that cannot undergo any change is called nirvikAra � 'without change'.

'When we discuss the nature of the Self in chapter 17, we will see that it is eternal, unlimited and ever the same � it is nirvikAra. It is only the limited, finite, apparently separate things of the world that are born, grow, decay and die, i.e. undergo change � they are savikAra.

'If you think about it you will appreciate that, in order to do, enjoy, experience, know etc., I also have to be conscious and intelligent � chetana in Sanskrit. So it follows that there are two conditions for the doer, enjoyer etc.: firstly, it has to be conscious; and secondly, it has to be able to change � it has to be chetana-savikAra. But, to go back to the beginning of this discussion, there are only two things � Atman, which is chetana-nirvikAra, and anAtman, which is achetana-savikAra (inanimate things have no consciousness of their own). Consequently, there can be no such thing as a knower, enjoyer, experiencer, thinker.'

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Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012