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' .

Enlightenment, meditation and mithyA

Q. I have a few questions I would like to ask you:

  1. You have said previously: 'I wouldn�t say that one can *cause* one�s own enlightenment. All that I can do is optimize the conditions.'

    Why can I (jIva) not directly cause my own enlightnement? Surely if I'm a qualified seeker, and pursuing Self-knowledge under the guidance of a qualified teacher, I can by putting effort into creating this scenario at a vyAvahArika level, cause my own enlightement? You have admitted that you feel the concept of Ishvara is unnecessary (personally, I disagree with this); hence I don't see what other extraneous unknown factor there is in the enlightenment of a jIva, which means I (the jIva) cannot cause my own enlightenment?

  2. You have also said previously: 'Meditation is extremely valuable as preparation.'

    Maybe I am not advanced enough a seeker to appreciate this, but why is it that I feel my meditation practice does not have as much spiritual utility (on the road to mokSha) as sitting down and reading and contemplating on a book on advaita theory? I agree, it may have utility in calming an extremely rajasic mind... but if I already have the capacity to sit and learn (which I do to an extent)... then isn't meditation a waste of time ? Or are there some deeper levels of the inquiry that can ONLY occur in meditation (I suspect so)?

  3. In your book, Enlightenment: The Path through the Jungle, you say: 'It is knowledge of mithyA that brings about enlightenment, NOT knowledge of satyam.' (Stanza 185). However, you then proceed later on to seemingly contradict this statement in many places, e.g.: Stanza 424-5: 'If these (negating prakriyA-s) were the only techniques used, it would not be clear what it is exactly that remains after all-that-we-are-not has been negated... accordingly positive pointers are used... '

    But I thought that: what we are NOT (indicated by 'neti, neti' techniques) = mithyA; what we are (i.e. indicated by positive pointers) = satyam? So surely, according to Stanza 185, we ONLY need to understand what-we-are-not (= mithyA); and then knowledge of who we are (i.e. satyam) arises spontaneously?

I hope you can see my confusion because I'm pretty sure I have missed something major here!

A. I can see that you are thinking about all this very deeply!

  1. I think you are interpreting the word �cause� too loosely, while I , perhaps, am interpreting it too precisely. One of the key pre-requisites for enlightenment is mumukShutva, which means the desire to achieve enlightenment. If this is not your most desired aim in life, you are unlikely to get it. Indeed, I think it has been said that you should want it more than life itself. So, in a sense, you could say that you are yourself the cause.

    However, first of all, it could be argued that what has brought about this desire is not of your own making. It is often the case that it comes about as the result of repeatedly trying to gain happiness out of life in the usual ways and being continually thwarted, finding instead only misery. In such a case, I suggest that it is not really you being the cause! Also, if your mind is not suitably prepared, with some degree of sAdhanA chatuShTaya sampatti, then no matter how hard you try you will not be able to gain enlightenment. And, even if your mind is prepared and you really want it, it does not follow that you will automatically get it, even with the guidance of a qualified teacher. This serendipity is usually referred to as �grace�, i.e. it is often said that you only get enlightenment by the grace of God. I do agree that, having already said that I did not feel that the Ishvara teaching was absolutely necessary, this might seem to be contradictory. But that is not a problem in advaita! Let us simply call it serendipity and leave it at that.

    Finally, though, Self-knowledge comes about by the removal of Self-ignorance and for that external teaching is required. It is that teaching which is more reasonably the cause in my view and, indeed, you could say that this stems from the guru paramparA and thence the shruti itself. Ultimately, of course, the only �cause� is the Self itself, showing itself the way � but this is to talk about the absolute from the relative level and therefore a bit of a cop out.

  2. The value of meditation has been shown in 1) really. It is extremely useful in stilling the mind and viveka only functions reliably in a still mind. So, yes, if you are naturally able to listen to teaching without continual questioning chatter going on the background of your mind, you can manage without meditation. You certainly don�t use meditation directly for any �deep inquiry�. But if there is some aspect that you don�t understand, it is not impossible that dropping the conscious inquiry and meditating for a while might allow the answer to arise.

  3. There is no contradiction here. The positive pointers that are referred to, which are used after the �negating prakriyA-s� are *also* mithyA. *All* of the teaching is mithyA. Everything in the apparent creation is mithyA. Ultimately, everything has to be dropped, including concepts such as advaita and brahman until there is only silence. Who-we-are is satyam but anything that we could say or think about it is mithyA.

If you want to ask a question, and do not object to its being included in this section, please email me.

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Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012