Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

We cannot think or talk about reality

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In order to think at all, an 'outside' object (perception, concept or feeling) has to be involved or there is no thought. (Francis Lucille uses the generic term 'mentation' for all of these.) 'You' are directing thinking to this external mentation. No mentation, no thinking. So how can you now begin to think about the 'I' that is doing this thinking without simply objectifying it as a new mentation, inevitably vastly limited and impoverished? This is what we do when reading the Upanishads. They direct us to some aspect of the Self. But, in thinking about it, it is only a concept, only an aspect of something vastly greater. Krishnamenon (who was the teacher of Jean Klein, who was the teacher of Francis Lucille) says that this thought, directed towards the Self or Reality, is 'meant to expire' so that the Consciousness that is the reality may be 'allowed to shine'.

When one 'perceives' something, be it an object, thought or feeling, there is an acknowledgement of subject and object and act of perception. But, when there is no perceiving taking place; when there is only stillness as in deep meditation, what then? In that profound stillness, there is (something approaching) only pure consciousness. And what happens in deep sleep? What is present there? Nothing? What is happening in between moments of perception or thought in waking consciousness?

You see, if you accept that there *is* something present 'between thoughts' or as the 'background' to waking, dream and deep sleep, it seems to follow that this is the real 'I'; the one that 'observes' the waking, dreaming and sleeping, thoughts etc. And if this is so, then this true nature is gaining its fullest expression only when there is no thinking or perception taking place. Therefore, how could that nature ever be investigated by the senses, mind or intellect?

The teaching of Ramana Maharshi is that the world and reality are effectively negations of each other. One can never be described in terms of the other. From our vantagepoint of being 'un-realised' it is simply not possible to talk about reality. Using the rope - snake metaphor, both do not exist simultaneously. We can describe the snake and run away from it in terror but once we have recognised that it is really a rope, the snake descriptions are seen to be irrelevant.

T. S. Eliot says:

There is, it seems to us,
At best, only a limited value In the knowledge derived from experience.
The knowledge imposes a pattern, and falsifies,
For the pattern is new in every moment
And every moment is a new and shocking
Valuation of all we have been

(Four Quartets, East Coker)

And so it must inevitably be. Kant showed how we can never see or know things as they really are through the sensory and mental apparatus of these limited bodies. Everything is modified, even distorted, to fit in with their particular design. For example, we only see a minute part of the electromagnetic spectrum yet often end up thinking that what we see is how it 'really' is. And so on.

Similarly with the way we think about things. We have to use the 'Cartesian grid' of our mind in order to be able to make sense of things but we forget that we are overlaying a pattern onto reality; that the concepts of space, time and so on are convenient fictions to make sense of the world 'out there'. And we repeatedly use the old pattern to make sense of new experiences - trying to see new things through old eyes. Habit dies hard!

On the face of it, it does seem strange how so-called 'Self-realised' Advaitins can say one thing and 'Self-realised' Dvaitins something apparently contradictory. One might have thought that 'Not two' or 'Two' were mutually exclusive and not open to misinterpretation.

But we are using the old patterns and standards by which to judge. And how can they report their experiences to us except through the medium of words - one step further removed from the thoughts which triggered them. (And those one step from the perceptions - and those one step from the reality.) Indeed isn't it amazing that any sense whatsoever can be communicated via such inadequate means? Perhaps they are both right (and both wrong). Or perhaps we should just follow the advice of Wittgenstein - "Whereof we cannot speak, thereof we should remain silent."

Other Discourses in this Section:
The Unreal Spiritual Path The Real
The Unreal The Spiritual Path The Real
We are not the Body A Brief View of Advaita Adhyaasa - the Nature of Error
Control of the Ego How to Act - Karma Yoga There is Only the Self
States of Consciousness The Process of Enlightenement Fate and Free Will
Meaning and Purpose   We cannot think or talk about Reality
Pleasure and Happiness   Time, Change and Memory
Desire for Objects    


Page last updated: 08-Jul-2012