Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

When Tom realizes, why doesn’t Dick?
Dr. Kuntimaddi Sadananda (ed. Dennis Waite)

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Dr. Kuntimaddi Sadananda


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(From a post to the Advaitin Egroup, Feb 2009)

There are only two things in the world. One is Atma the real one and the other the anAtman (whatever is not Atma), i.e. the false or mithyA.

Within vyavahAra, Atma is not perceived or should I say cannot be perceived and anAtma is perceived (or should I say only it can be perceived).

The BMI and world therefore come under anAtma. anAtma being jaDa or inert can be known but cannot be the subject knower.

The ever existing consciousness-existence – the only reality – is never perceived or can never be 'known'. Nor can it ever be a 'knower', since it does not have knower-known distinctions of any kind.

Then where does knowledge or j~nAnam take place?

First of all, any knowledge can only takes place in the intellect - there is no other instrument available in which knowledge could take place. But intellect is jaDa - how can an inert thing know anything? Nevertheless, it seems to know somehow, since knowledge seems to takes place in the intellect. All the knowledge of chemistry seems to takes place only in the intellect.

The only explanation is that I, the conscious entity, enliven the inert intellect in order to make it dynamic in my presence and that activated intellect is able to gain knowledge, providing that a pramANa or proper means of knowledge is available. But I am the all-pervading, existence-consciousness, which should be enlivening all of the BMI simultaneously. That is exactly what Krishna said: kShetraj~na, cha api mAm viddhi sarva kShetreshu bhArata - know ME as the knower of all fields (and that includes all BMI's). A knower ( kShetraj~na) is there only with reference to a known (kShetra). Otherwise, I am the pure, immaculate, knowing principle, or conscious principle; one without any knower-known duality.

But then if there is only one knower…? Then if Tom realizes, Dick should also realize, if there is only one knower in all fields. How do we unravel that puzzle?

In a way that is true – though of course only from Tom’s point of view – since, when Tom realizes, there is no Dick left to realize since He, Tom, has realized that there is nothing other than him, brahman.

But, if we go by that argument, there is no one left for any discussions to take place! Let us assume that at least one must have realized since the beginning of the universe. If so, then we should not have the world of jaDa as well as the Dicks and Harrys left in the world, even to have this internet discussion.

Since we are discussing j~nAnI-s and aj~nAnI-s, there must have once been some j~nAnI who was realized, leaving the world behind for others to realize, if they are interested (or to simply 'enjoy' the world, forgetting any realization, since who needs realization when there is nothing to enjoy)! Unfortunately, it seems that j~nAnI-s have left behind the world without destroying it by their realization!

Coming back to the concept of realization then, what exactly happens or should happen, since Atma need not realize and anAtma cannot realize?

I, the conscious entity, am reflected in the medium of the Intellect and from intellect through the mind and body. Thus, the BMI is enlivened as a dynamic jIva. The reflection occurs as long as a BMI is there and the quality of the reflection depends on the purity of the instrument of reflection. Reflection of consciousness is knowledge, and thus reflection of a vRRitti or a thought is the knowledge of that thought. Here we have two reflections, as discussed in the knowledge series:
1. The general reflection of the Intellect, called chidAbhAsa, happens in the waking and dream states.
2. Specific reflection of the vRRitti-s (thoughts) that is taking place where the thought content consists of the attributive content of the objects perceived through the senses. This is how each thought rising in the intellect is known as idam, ‘that’.

Thus, these two reflections give rise to what Bhagavan Ramana calls 'aham vRRitti' and 'idam vRRitti' or 'I-thought' and 'this thought', since in the knowledge of any object there are two thoughts that arise: one is 'This is a pot' and the other is 'I know this is a pot'. The first reflection is by the vRRitti and the second reflection is the background intellect itself as the knowing locus. One could say that the second, the aham vRRitti, is also some kind of objective or 'knower' thought but it is not exactly like the idam vRRitti, which comes and goes.

So, what happens when I reject 'idam' as neti or not this? When the idam vRRitti arises, I do not pay attention to the reflective thought of the idam but to the back ground 'aham vRitti' that also arises in the knowledge of that idam. The idam vRRitti has form (AkAra) that depends upon the qualities of the object to which idam refers. The aham vRRitti has no form, since it is the general reflection of the intellect in which 'I know' arises. Firstly then, if the intellect is not there, there is no reflection either. Secondly, the reflection in each intellect is specific to that intellect and depends on the purity of that intellect. Hence Shankara says in the Atmabodha:
sadA sarvagataH Atma, na sarvatrAvabhAsate|
budhyevAvabhAseta svachcheshu pratibimbavat||

- although Atma is all pervading, it does not shine everywhere; It shines only in the intellect depending on its purity just like the light reflecting on a mirror.

Now we have heard of akhaNDAkAra vRRitti. AkAra means form, since we are taking about 'I know' and not 'I know this'. akhaNDa means unbroken and refers to the general reflection of the consciousness in the intellect which reflection is there as long as the intellect is awake. Thus, akhaNDAkAra vRRitti is the unbroken, reflecting consciousness in the pool of the intellect.

The facts to be known:

1. Without the intellect, there is no reflection and hence no realization.
2. But it is not the reflection of idam, since idam keeps coming and going; idam involves an object and the idam vRRitti involves objective knowledge.
3. Knowledge can only take place in the locus of the intellect.
4. All pervading Atma does not have to realize since it is pure existence-consciousness-limitless Brahman.
5. anAtma or intellect by itself cannot realize since it is jaDam - it has no light of its own.
6. Hence, the all pervading consciousness gets reflected in the intellect as general chidAbhAsa and also gets reflected in the vRRitti of the object thoughts.
7. An aj~nAnI is one who focuses his attention on the idam vRRitti and takes idam as aham.
8. A j~nAnI is one who shifts his attention from idam as ‘not this’ to the general reflecting consciousness as ‘I am’. When that shift occurs, he realizes that reflection is only from the pure ‘I am’ that is the all-pervading self. it is like pot-space realizing that its seeming limitation is only because of the upAdhi of the pot but, as space, ‘I am the pure infinite space’ - akhaNDa or unbroken space. Or it is like the fact that pure light can be only be realized by virtue of the reflections.

Hence, the akhaNDAkAra vRRitti involves a general reflecting consciousness in the pool of intellect due to the presence of the ever effulgent consciousness ‘I am’. Since the reflection is localized, and since an intellect is required for both the reflection and for realization of that reflection, Tom realizes only by using his intellect. That does not free Dick – poor Dick has to realize on his own!

Hence, who realizes? Atma does not need to and anAtma cannot.

Realization is only the realizing of I the jIva, who is the reflected consciousness in the pool of the intellect recognizing that I am not idam (i.e. dropping all the notions about myself as ‘I am this’) but I am the general unbroken, reflection in the pool of the intellect. Hence, without an intellect, there can be no realization, since we have only the Atma that does not have to realize. Hence the shloka from the amRRitabindhu Upanishad: mana evam manushyAnam – the mind alone is responsible for both bondage as well as realization. (Here, ‘mind’ implies the intellect.)

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