Enlightenment and the nature of reality
Q. If enlightenment happens, by which I mean the disappearance of the notion of the personal self, who is there to know and to state that it has happened?
A. Enlightenment is the event in the mind of the person when self-ignorance is dispelled once and for all. Subsequently, it is known with certainty that �who-I-really-am� is not the mind or person but the non-dual Consciousness. Nevertheless, the appearance and functioning of the person remains until the death of that body. It is Consciousness, functioning through that mind which �knows�.
Your problem is the habitual one of confusing absolute and relative reality. From the standpoint of absolute reality there is only Consciousness (and enlightenment has no meaning); from the standpoint of the world, there are objects and people (some of whom are enlightened).
Q. Thank you for your answer but still some confusion remains. From what I understand by what you say, there are two sorts of reality: absolute reality and relative reality. How can reality be two? Is not oneness the only reality in which everything (the world) is appearing, without itself ever being affected by the appearances? Are appearances real? Appearances come and go, like thoughts. Is there really a standpoint of the world? Can an appearance, a thought, have a standpoint? And can people, who are nothing but objects, appearances as all other appearances, thoughts, ever be enlightened? Is enlightenment not the waking up of that which never slept and the putting to rest of that which never was?
A. These are all good questions but they have been answered in various forms many times in the Q&A section. I will therefore very briefly answer below:
Q. From what I understand by what you say, there are two sorts of reality. Absolute reality and relative reality. How can reality be two?
A. There is only ONE reality, and it is non-dual. However, the person (because of ignorance) sees the world and thinks it dualistic (i.e. does not realize that all is brahman).
Q. Is not oneness the only reality in which everything (the world) is appearing without itself ever being affected by the appearances?
Q. Are appearances real?
A. Appearances are simply name and form of brahman but, to the ignorant mind, seem to have separate existence.
Q. Is there really a standpoint of the world?
A. What is meant by this is the standpoint of the ignorant mind, perceiving the world as separate.
Q. Can an appearance, a thought, have a standpoint?
A. No � see last answer.
Q. And can people, who are nothing but objects, appearances as all other appearances, thoughts, ever be enlightened?
A. It depends what you mean by �enlightenment�. The traditional definition is the one I gave you in my previous answer. Do you consider yourself to be an object? Enlightenment is meaningful at the level of the world. The person who previously saw the world as separate but who now knows that the world is only name and form of brahman, is enlightened.
Q. Is enlightenment not the waking up of that which never slept and the putting to rest of that which never was?
A. Sounds good, but what does it mean? The Self is ever-free. Everything was brahman, is brahman and ever will be brahman. brahman is the reality, the world is mithyA, the self of the person is not other than brahman.
Traditional Advaita versus Neo-Advaita... once more
Q. With reference to non-duality/Advaita, how do I handle a painful experience of a great financial fake (and also self-deception) some years ago? Since that time, there is an increasingly contempt for other people; I am also suffering from the great financial loss, which destroyed 90% of my reserves for my retirement years (I am 65). What would be your advice?
A. I�m not quite sure what you are asking. Regret and resentment are futile emotions. The past is �all deception� and �irredeemable� as T. S. Eliot said. There is only, always NOW and that is where we have to start. If you have your health, and sufficient money to live, that is good! Total dissatisfaction with life is almost an essential requirement for the seeker, driving him to look for meaning elsewhere. The Self-knowledge that is gained from the teaching of traditional Advaita brings one to the realization that all is already, always perfect. So, as with many enquirers, all I can suggest if it is not possible to find a suitable teacher where you live is that you read some good books and/or join an Egroup such as Advaitin. Certainly, there are unscrupulous people out there who will defraud the unwary, given the opportunity.
Q. I wanted to express my dissatisfaction with the human condition (me inclusive of course), which especially came up after that great deception destroyed my reserves for old age. This resentment is tremendous and I have great problems in handling it. I know (and like) Tony Parsons very well, as I do Richard Sylvester and Karl Renz - for me, they are the 'best' Advaitins; unfortunately, I have missed the opportunity to meet Ramesh. Despite contact with them, the 'realization that all is already, always perfect' (what you are also saying) doesn't happen for this character. Your first book I have read (in German) and I am thinking about buying your latest one, which is so highly recommended.
A. Unfortunately, teachers such as you mention merely tell you �how it is� without giving you any way of reaching that understanding for yourself. What I know of Karl suggests that he may be a little better than this but even Ramesh seemed more interested in the lack of free will than in presenting a logical, step-by-step approach to enlightenment. Really, only traditional Advaita has such a methodology. Outside of India, there are not many places where you can access this. The disciples of Swami Dayananda, the Chinmaya Missions and The Advaita Meditation Center in Massachusetts are the only sources I am aware of. A Charitable Trust (Advaita Academy) has just been set up in the UK with myself as �guide� but it will be years before anything can result from this, if at all.
Regarding my own books and where you seem to be, I would recommend that you wait for the second edition of Book of One, due in April. This is much revised from the first edition, with lots of new material. On the other hand, Was ist Advaita was an abridged version of the first edition. Enlightenment: The Path through the Jungle is really about the teaching of Advaita and explaining why people like Tony Parsons can rarely help seekers. The most comprehensive book is Back to the Truth, which covers most of the material in Advaita and has extracts from the work of many teachers, including those mentioned above.
Q. You may be right with your attitude concerning Tony and others in that they cannot show somebody 'the way'. But is there really a way to 'teach' at all? I will look for the second edition in April as you recommend but have you any other recommendation(s) - except for your Back to the Truth, which is available immediately in English or German?
A. Indeed there is a �way to teach�. It is called sampradAya teaching and it has been going on for at least the past 1500 years. It has been validated time and again throughout the generations and uses a proven methodology originating from the scriptures. The books that I recommend are listed at my website.
Q. Finally, can you help me with so-called sampradAya teaching that you mention. Is there an understandable book or paper available; the whole material is quite unclear.
A. sampradAya is the system of teaching whereby the methodology and understanding is passed on from guru to disciple in an unbroken chain. Shankara is regarded as the originator, though this was going on before his time anyway, stretching back to before the upaniShad-s were written down. I am only aware of one book specifically on this topic but it is very good. See also Wikipedia for general information about sampradAya.
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