Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

The Teaching of Sri Atmananda Krishna Menon
Prakriya 8 - Merging Back

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Note that the following commentary is provided by Ananda Wood, a disciple of the sage Atmananda Krishna Menon (1883 - 1959). The material is not copyrighted and may be freely used by any true seeker. It is extracted from a discussion, led by Ananda, on the Advaitin Egroup during Nov - Dec 2003 and the text for the complete discussion may be downloaded by members.

In his 'regular talks', Shri Atmananda gave an ordered introduction to some main prakriyas -- from the three states to the changeless background. The prakriyas show different aspects of the same truth, to which they each reflect. Each prakriya relates back there, to that truth where each must point and get dissolved.

It's only thus, by merging back, that different prakriyas relate. The order that relates them is a subtle one, which cannot be constructed as a formal system. It can only be unfolded naturally, by a repeated merging back into that single truth from which all prakriyas arise.

In fact, as shown by the background prakriya, we merge back into truth at every moment of our various lives. But, through blind habit of conditioned ego, we don't see just where it is that we are merged, continually. What an advaita teacher does is to take a sAdhaka to truth, through a higher reasoning that makes it plainly and completely clear just what truth is in itself, as the sAdhaka is merged back there.

When a sAdhaka thus merges back with complete and utter clarity, Shri Atmananda describes the experience as a 'visualization' of truth. And here, it must be understood that the word 'visualize' is being used in a special way. It does not refer to any partial seeing, of any physical or mental perception. Whenever truth is rightly visualized, the visualizing is an utterly impartial seeing, with no last remaining trace of partial mind and body still confusingly mixed up with it. At the time when it occurs, that visualizing is complete and clear, with no smallest trace of any partiality or misunderstanding.

But, as the sAdhaka's mind and body are thus left behind, to visualize the truth, this mind and body may yet still retain impurities of possessive ego, which have not yet been eradicated from the sAdhaka's character. If so, the lingering impurities will later reassert themselves, so that the visualization gets obscured. Then, more work of sAdhana is needed.

Using the teacher's prakriyas, or any other prakriyas that may be discovered or invented, the sAdhaka must keep returning back -- from ego's straying, to the truth that has been shown. By thus refreshing the visualization, over and over again, the truth keeps being emphasized, at the expense of mistaken ego.

As lingering impurities of ego get removed, the visualization gets to be steadier and less easily obscured. Eventually, the ego gets completely eradicated and the visualization stays completely steady and uninterrupted. That unbroken seeing of the truth is called the 'sahaja' or 'natural' state. The truth is then spontaneously understood, without the need of any clarifying effort, no matter what may happen or appear. In such a sahaja or natural state, the confused sense of a 'sAdhaka' or a 'seeker' is no more. This confusion has then gone -- by seeing it as a facade of partial personality, whose changing tricks of made-up show have made no real difference. In place of this personal confusion, the 'j~nAni' or the 'sage' has irrevocably taken charge, upon a changeless stand that is utterly impartial and spontaneous.

To describe the steadying of visualization into irrevocable spontaneity, Shri Atmananda spoke of 'establishment' in truth. And towards that establishment, he encouraged his disciples to discover or invent new prakriyas for themselves.

By way of an example, he spoke of an idealist prakriya, which investigates the role of memory, in our experience of the world. This prakriya points out that all such experience depends upon past memories that come into the present through our minds. So, at any point of time, what's actually present of the world can be seen as an idea, made up from current memory in mind. There's nothing here additional to present consciousness.

The outside world is thus reduced to inner mind. And then what's left is only mind, with no outside things and no outside influence. In that pure mind, there's nothing found to make it in the least bit different from the present consciousness that knows it. Accordingly, the mind is in its turn identical with the present reality of consciousness. And that is no seeming triviality of physical or mental ego. Instead, it is the non-dual truth of knowing self and everything that's known, including the entire world.

And finally, as a summation of Advaita reasoning, Shri Atmananda said that it reduced all of the world and all of its perceptions, thoughts and feelings to pure consciousness, which can only be realized as one's own self. But, from this summing up, a question may arise. Why is it centred upon 'cit' or 'consciousness'? What about the other two aspects, of 'sat' or 'existence' and 'ananda' or 'happiness'?

An answer comes from the nature of the prakriyas. They proceed through reason -- starting with the assumptions and constructions of lower reason and then going on to the reflective questioning of higher reason. Such reasoned prakriyas are centrally concerned with knowing, where consciousness comes first. To examine existence and happiness, it must be asked how they are known. They are thus examined by reflecting back to consciousness, and observing them from there.

This is not much of a problem for existence, because it is natural to verify existence by observing it. But where happiness is concerned, the same does not apply. For it is more natural to feel happiness, rather than observing it. And such feeling implies a motivating depth of knowledge, which we call 'love'.

Accordingly, the aspect of happiness implies a further and deeper approach, which concerns the motivating heart of reason and enquiry. This deeper approach is of course the devotional love of bhakti. For Shri Atmananda, advaita bhakti is a very delicate matter, between teacher and disciple. He insisted that it is not subject to any mind-initiated reasoning. Thus, he treated it as a deeply emotional issue, which must be left to itself, beyond the reach of thinking intellect.

All that he would say is that a teacher stands for truth itself, at the centre of a disciple's heart. Once truth has been shown by an advaita teacher, all further sAdhana proceeds from there and comes back there. Without that living guidance from within, no sAdhana is rightly meaningful.

For sAdhana towards establishment in truth, his general advice to disciples was in two parts. First, to face squarely whatever may come up to confront the disciple in the world. And second, having faced each occurrence squarely, to reflect upon it spiritually, thus returning to the truth that stays always unaffected by what happens in both world and personality.

But there is also a particular sAdhana which he described by two short injunctions: 'Sleep knowingly' and 'Sleep in consciousness.' To give an idea of this sAdhana, a series of quotations are appended below, from Shri Nitya Tripta's 'Notes on Spiritual Discourses of Shri Atmananda'. These quotations may also help to relate this sAdhana to some practices and conceptions of traditional meditation.

1950, note 1

... we get to our real nature by relaxing our mind from all forms of activity, and at the same time not losing sight of the happiness and peace experienced in deep sleep.

This positive aspect saves us from the probable shroud of negation and slumber. We should not allow the mind to be active and at the same time we should see that it does not become inactive. In other words: 'Sleep knowingly.'

Thus, deep sleep can be utilized directly for establishing oneself in the real centre.

1951, note 2

The poet Tennyson says [in the poem 'Ulysses']: Pursue 'knowledge, like a sinking star, beyond the utmost bound of human thought'. It will take you a long way if you think deeply about what Tennyson meant by this statement.

'Sinking star' may mean this. Sinking implies relaxation. You have only to retreat and retreat into the 'I'-principle, and rest there. Allow yourself therefore to be led on. Sink, sink, sink... Sink from the body, sink from the senses, and sink from the mind...

Ashtavakra says, in a similar context:

yadi deham prithak-kritya citi vishrAmya tishThasi adhunai 'va sukhi shAnto bandha-mukto bhavishyasi ['Ashtavakra-samhita', 1.4]

This means: 'Separating body from you, if you take rest in Consciousness, you stand liberated here and now.'

1951, note 75

'... Sleep away the whole world, clinging on to Consciousness,' said the Sage [Ashtavakra].

The use of the word 'sleep' in the transitive form, though peculiar, is specially meaningful. It means give up name and form, and rest in the background.

1952, note 294

yadi deham prithak-kritya citi vishrAmya tishThasi adhunai 'va sukhi shAnto bandha-mukto bhavishyasi ['Ashtavakra-samhita', 1.4]

This means: 'Sleep in Consciousness.' This is the royal road to the natural state.

1952, note 296

How to sleep knowingly?

Know that you are going to sleep. Let that thought be as vague as possible. Then empty your mind of all intruding thoughts, taking care not to strain the mind in the least. Having understood from the Guru that your real nature alone shines in its own glory in deep sleep, if you relax into deep sleep as already suggested, the deep sleep shall no longer be a state, but your real nature, even beyond 'nirvikalpa samAdhi'.

[This note is linked to the following statement -- from the appendix, 'Some Spiritual Statements ...':]

Sleep involuntarily and you will be taken to the ignorant man's deep sleep. Sleep voluntarily and you will be taken to nirvikalpa samAdhi.
Sleep knowingly and you will be taken right to your real nature (your natural state) beyond all samAdhi.

1952, note 365

In relaxation one should have something to hold on to. If you hold on to the 'I' and relax the senses and mind, you get to real sleep.

Let the mind be asleep to the whole world, and wakeful to the 'I'.

1953, note 14

See that either end of your sleep is saturated with the thought of your real nature, your native home.

1956, note 120

Experience is of two kinds: vastu-tantra [governed by reality] and kartRRi-tantra [governed by a doer].

1. Vastu-tantra is begotten of Atma.
2. kartRRi-tantra is begotten of doership.

All Experiences of duality, including even the yogin's nirvikalpa samAdhi, are kartRRi-tantra. The experience which takes me straight to my real nature, of Peace and Consciousness, is alone vastu-tantra....

Vastu-tantra, being Atmic, is beyond feeling. kartRRi-tantra, being mental, is capable of being felt, but is fleeting. Mental satisfaction can be derived both from Truth as well as from untruth. Vastu-tantra is not the result of any activity or inactivity. But kartRRi-tantra is always the result of activity, which takes the form of desire and effort for its fulfilment.

When the disciple -- who is a waking subject -- is told by the Guru that even his phenomenal satisfaction is not derived from objects, but that it is his own real nature shining in its own glory, his doership (which is the centre of kartRRi-tantra) crumbles for ever. Desires torment him no more, and satisfaction is transformed into permanent Peace.

When this sublime Peace, vastu-tantra, is sought to be brought down to respond to kartRRi-tantra, guided by varying tastes and tendencies, a host of new concepts in the form of religions, heavens, objects of pleasure and so on begin to appear. Therefore, give up your tastes, tendencies and desires -- not violently, but by knowing, and by knowing more and more deeply, that all satisfaction is the expression of your own real nature of Peace -- and you shall be for ever free.

The state of Peace in deep sleep is the most familiar experience of vastu-tantra in daily life. The annihilation of all kartRRi-tantra is the ultimate goal of Vedanta. This establishes vastu-tantra without any positive effort whatever. Look at deep sleep. You have only to give up your attachment to body, senses and mind, in the waking and dream states. Immediately, Peace -- vastu-tantra -- dawns, permanent and self-luminous.

Deep sleep comes involuntarily, and without the help of discrimination. Therefore it disappears, after a while. Establish the same state voluntarily and with discrimination. When once you visualize it this way, it will never disappear.

prakriyA-s in this Section:
Atmananda Krishna Menon home page.
1.  Universal and Individual - the 'cosmological' and 'direct' paths.
2.  The three states - enquiry from everyday experience.
3.  'I am consciousness' ('Prajnyanam asmi') - reflection back into the 'I'.
4.  Witness of thoughts - change and the changeless.
     -- Consciousness and Enlightenment
     -- Memory
     -- Higher and Lower Reason
     -- Knowing
     -- Further Comments on Deep Sleep
5.  All objects point to consciousness - 'Existence has the chair.'
6.  Happiness - not in objects or the mind, but coming from the real 'I'.
     -- Love and Devotion
7.  The background - where all experiences arise, abide and subside.
8.  Merging back - 'Sleep in consciousness.'
     -- Some Questions
Ananda has provided an updated version of these essays May 2007 and this may be downloaded as a PDF file (251k); it has a linked Table of Contents and a glossary (unlinked).
"Notes on Spiritual Discourses of Shri Atmananda" now available for download - see 'modern books'.
Selected discourses from Shri Atmananda
Page last updated: 07-Jul-2012