Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Blueprints for Awakening

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'Blueprints for Awakening' is a beautifully produced book (including color photographs) in which Premananda visits 16 modern Indian gurus and asks them the same questions, based upon Ramana Maharshi's booklets 'Who Am I?' and 'Self Enquiry'. In this way, a number of key issues are addressed from different angles increasing the likelihood of clarification in the mind of the reader. A brilliant idea, brilliantly realized! There is also a DVD available in which all of the teachers take part, answering a few of the questions contained in the book. Although this only acts as a 'taster', prompting you to buy the book, the presence, wisdom and humor of the sages shines out through the screen. See my review of the book.

Does the mind need to be destroyed?
- Swami Suddhananda

The following is an extract from the dialog with Swami Suddhananda.

Swami Suddhananda

Premananda: It has been suggested that the mind must be destroyed for liberation to occur. Do you have a mind? Sri Ramana used the term manonasha to describe the state of liberation, meaning destroyed mind. How to 'destroy the mind?

Swami Suddhananda: You see, it is really difficult to comment because if you attribute a statement to a person and I don't agree, it will be seen as disrespectful to that person, and the people who are holding onto that statement as sacred will say I must be an idiot.

But do you have a mind?

Of course I have a mind! How else am I going to function? How am I listening to you, and how am I talking to you? These are the functions of the mind.

But there is a strong spiritual idea that the mind must be destroyed. For example, thousands of Buddhist monks are sitting every day in meditation trying to attain no-mind.

You must first know what exactly you are talking about. I will give a simple example. When you see a bead for the very first time (holding a bead on his mala), some thought takes place. When the thought takes place, naturally you have a mind. The thought is taking place in you. That thought is knowledge. First, your mind will throw you the thought 'What is this?' because there is no information on it. Just like a computer it will say 'Data not found.' I tell you it's a bead so you now name that thought as 'bead'. That is knowledge. Previously, if somebody had said 'bead', that thought would not have come to your head, but now when somebody says 'bead', the thought comes to your head. That is not a problem.

Do you know when problems begin? When I say, 'I want that bead!' A simple thought becomes a desire. When the thought of the object is converted into a desire, the object of thought becomes desirable. Then the struggle begins. Who should have it? Because ten people want it, the price goes up. Okay? So now you are in deep trouble. You have to have it! You have a very strong desire to have this bead. Other people will make you very angry because they are not helping you to satisfy your desire. So now, from desire, comes your anger. You are destroyed.

Who created this desire, anger or hatred? Who converted the thought into a desire? ‘I’ did. Now if you want to remove the desire, which one should you remove: the object, the thought of the object, or the one who is converting the thought to desire, this ‘I’? What are you destroying the thought for? What are you destroying the mind for? What are you destroying the object for? What are you destroying the world for? You don't even have to destroy the ‘I’ either. Just understand what this ‘I’ is. Then it becomes a functional ‘I’.

When water is flowing we call it a river. When there is just water which is not flowing, is that water a river? Water is not a river, but flowing water is a river. Consciousness is your Self, a flow in consciousness is the mind. You can see the water in the river. You can see the water as it is or you can see the flow. We need both. Be your Self, the changeless, and enjoy the changes, use the changes! This type of idea, 'the mind should not be there, thoughts should not be there' puts people into such a huge mess because you end up trying to destroy something which is natural. People must learn how to think, not 'not' think at all. Thought is needed. How are you going to know you are hungry and how will you satisfy your hunger? Very little will be possible if we don't know how to think. When you start analysing statements like that they do not stand up to the test.

But it is quite common to hear that saints or sages have no mind.

As a figure of speech it is fine, perhaps, but if you take it literally you are in trouble.

Let's say you are a billionaire and you have everything at your disposal. A poor man comes to you and says, 'Sir, today I had a very nice piece of bread and a little cheese as well.' Do you say to him, 'What a stupid fool you are, eating bread and cheese! You should have a five-star breakfast.' No. If that is what he had, it's fine. 'Oh, that is very nice! I am so happy you enjoyed it.' Same thing with knowledge. When you are happy and comfortable in yourself, you don't have to dismiss anybody's standpoint. If a person is using his mind, don't tell him, 'You should not use your mind.' If he doesn't use it then what does he do? Who you are is not a state of mind.

So you are actually pointing to an understanding that is needed, not a practice. This image of spiritual life with monks sitting for hours trying to destroy the mind, it's not what you are suggesting?

No, no. I don't want to suggest or not suggest. Please see what I am saying. The moment we get into that it will be like I am dismissing something. Okay, let me say I'm giving you a statement for yourself. You look out for yourself. Let anyone else who is reading this think for him or herself.

First observe what the problem is, then go to a solution. If your tyre has a puncture they pump it up and put it in water. Wherever the tyre goes 'ssss', that's the point they patch.

Now, what is the point in your life where everything is leaking out? Where is the emptiness, where does it come from? Your body is not a problem, the world is not a problem, your perception is not a problem. Isolate this ‘I’ and see what it means. When you are trying to see yourself, that is the time that other thoughts keep coming up. That is where different practices are suggested, like how to make your mind slow down. When you learn to drive, you don't start at a hundred kilometres per hour. You learn driving at ten kilometres per hour, but the purpose is not to drive ten kilometres per hour for the rest of your life.

Like that, when you want to understand yourself, slowing down the mind is needed. So you can sit down quietly, you can listen to music, you can do a practice, anything that slows down the mind. But simply slowing down the mind does not solve the problem. Simply removing thought does not solve the problem. It is to help the person recognise himself, know himself. That is the teaching: the person must know him or herself. Most spiritual people will talk as if this is the ultimate: (blissfully) 'Oh there is nothing.' In deep sleep your mind is suspended for eight hours. Do you wake up enlightened? So how do you think by suspending your thought for half an hour you will be enlightened?

You sleep for eight long hours but nothing changes, and still you wake up ignorant. You sit down quietly, maybe the mind goes away somewhere, and thoughts don't happen. Somebody must be there to instruct you. That is where the teacher comes in, somebody who helps you to understand. No teacher can 'give' it to you because it is already yours; it is already you! I wouldn't say, 'I don't need a guru.' No. That's not right. You have learnt nothing in your life by yourself. Think about this - nothing. In everything that you know, somebody knows better. You have a house, but your architect knows better than you about your house. Your doctor knows better than you about your body. Same thing with your mind. You have a mind, you have all the thoughts. Yes, you know your thoughts better than anybody, but you don't know how to think.

There is a difference between thought and thinking. This is a weak point until it is understood. I can give you a thought, but you don't know how to think. Most religions and most secular studies give us thoughts, but they don't teach us thinking. Why is science so beautiful? Because it gives us thoughts and helps us to use the thoughts and experiment with them. Painting and music are like this too. But most religious thoughts are unquestioned thoughts. This is the root of fanaticism: you have a thought and you have to defend your thought instead of the thought defending you. This is the right thought! Who said? Somebody has told you that you have no right to question it. Wonderful! When you are given the thought 'no thoughts should be there', naturally you try to fulfill that promise. What a headache!

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Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012