Q: On the topic of experience and knowledge,
"You are the substantive of jIva-Ishvara-jagat. That is
true whether one understands it or not. When one understands
and firmly abides in that understanding, then duality is recognized
"This teaching is understood, and firm abidance in that
understanding occurs, by constant listening, reflecting and meditating
on the scriptural teaching."
Apparently, according to your words, one cannot just ‘understand’ (maybe
because it may be intellectual understanding) , one has to also ‘firmly
abide’ in that understanding. Bhagavan Ramana used this
expression all the time as you may know, but is definitely linked
to the experiential nature of Pure Awareness – what we
would call an ‘experience without an experiencer’ which,
in the case of the j~nAnI is present ‘all the time’ since
nothing is obstructing it any more.
Could you explain the meaning of ‘to firmly abide’ in
the context of the posting?
A: Bhagavan Ramana provides a beautiful explanation
in his SATDARSHAN text, calling it dRRiDhaiva
niShTha – firm abidance in that knowledge
[dRRiDha means fixed, firm, resolute etc.]
Let us take the example of sunrise and sunset. My experience
says that the sun rises every day and sets every day. When
I learn from science that the sun does not rise and it is the
earth that is rotating around its axis that give the impression
of sunrise and sunset, that is shravaNa - listening to the
science or scriptures through a teacher who can explain to
me clearly. I have understood. But if there are still doubts,
these have to be eliminated by reflecting on that teaching.
Now firm abidance on that knowledge would involve abidance
in the understanding that there will never, under any circumstances,
be a doubt that that is not real, whatever contradictory experiences
may arise or questions come.
Of course, the sunrise example is an objective fact and abidance
occurs quickly since there are no contradictory experiences.
But when it comes to the subjective fact that ‘I
am the totality or Brahman’, which contradicts all my
day to day experiences, there is a big problem. I have to understand
advaita in spite of my continuous experience of dvaita. When
I hear the teaching (shravaNa), I may initially understand
the essence of it. Sometimes, the scriptures themselves appear to
be contradictory but, by listening to a competent teacher,
I am able to resolve these apparent contradictions and appreciate
the samanvaya or self-consistency in the teaching – this
is the result of manana or reflection on the teaching.
In spite of all the listening and the study of scriptures,
abidance in the knowledge may not happen because of the pressure
of vAsanA-s or due to habitually falling into the trap of dvaita
due to the multitude of day to day experiences. I may get a
glimpse of that understanding when all is well and I am sitting
in meditation and no one is there to bother me at that time.
I may feel that I am experiencing that advaita state. But advaita
is not about experience. I do not become an advaitin suddenly
and then a dvaitin in the next moment. What is happening is
here is that I am enjoying my own true nature of non-duality
when the duality is not disturbing me and dislodging me from
my understanding. But, as soon as some problem arises, I fall;
I am disturbed and that so-called experience of advaita has
slipped out of me.
How can I not experience myself at any time?
It is not about lack of experience. The problem
is that I am getting contradictory experiences
and not able abide in my clear understanding
that I am beyond any experience of duality. Hence
nididhyAsana is required and Krishna advocates
abhyAsa [mental discipline] and vairAgya [detachment
or dispassion] - constant practice to ‘re-abide’ myself
in my true understanding and give up the wrong
notion that duality is a reality for me to be
There are no direct paths or short cuts here.
shravaNa, manana and nididhyAsana are the only
accepted means for one to abide in that knowledge.
Otherwise people say ‘I have experienced
non-duality in some moments’. One does
not lose knowledge; one only loses experiences.
In fact, if I am always longing for some experience,
I get hooked on the experience and miss the knowledge
that ‘I am that which is experienced all
the time and every time in all experiences’.
This requires clear understanding; this is knowledge.
Abiding in that knowledge alone means that the knowledge is
ever available at any time, since I am available all the time
as existence-consciousness. What I am conscious of differs
but, that ‘I am existent-consciousness’ is independent
of any experience. It is like the shruti in the classical Indian
music. The singer’s voice will go up and down but, throughout,
that background shruti provides the constant anchor for the
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