My Views on the Debate between Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev and Javed Akhtar : ‘Faith, Reason and Inner Engineering’

I am republishing the Quora answer that I wrote. You can read my answer in Quora here.

 

First of all, I see a small problem in the crux of the whole debate. The debate is titled Faith, Reason and Inner Engineering’. Also, moderator Shoma Chaudhury when introducing and concluding the debate makes it clear that the debate is about faith and reason. She also seem to understand Sadhguru as a man of faith and Javed Akhtar as a man of reason. (You can hear Sadhguru’s voice in the background correcting her statement when she concluded the debate)

But actually, by going by their own words, both Sadhguru and Javed Akhtar are men of reason and are against faith. Both are in agreement towards how belief implies not accepting that one doesn’t know. Then what are they really debating about?

The debate would make more sense when it is about whether spirituality is necessary or not. I think that is how this debate should have been titled and introduced. Because, that is exactly where Javed disagrees with Sadhguru. There is no doubt that Javed Akhtar is an intelligent man and a great lyricist. But he doesn’t seem to agree with the fact that there is a way to get liberated from human suffering.

Javed Akhtar’s views on spirituality

Here is what Javed Akhtar said about spirituality in another talk:

Plato in his dialogues has said many a wise thing, and one of them is – before starting any discussion decide on the meanings of words. Let us try to decide on the meaning of this word spirituality. Does it mean love for mankind that transcends all religion, caste, creed, race? Is that so? Then I have no problem. Except that I call it humanity. Does it mean love of plants, trees, mountains, oceans, rivers, animals? The non-human world? If that is so, again I have no problem at all. Except that I call it environmental consciousness. Does spirituality mean heartfelt regard for social institutions like marriage, parenthood, fine arts, judiciary, freedom of expression. I have no problem again sir, how can I disagree here? I call it civil responsibility. Does spirituality mean going into your own world trying to understand the meaning of your own life? Who can object on that? I call it self-introspection, self assessment. Does spirituality mean Yoga? Thanks to Patanjali, who has given us the details of Yoga, Yam, Yatam, aasan, pranayam…We may do it under any name, but if we are doing pranayam, wonderful. I call it healthcare. Physical fitness.

Now is it a matter of only semantics. If all this is spirituality, then what is the discussion. All these words that I have used are extremely respectable and totally acceptable words. There is nothing abstract or intangible about them. So why stick to this word spirituality? What is there in spirituality that has not been covered by all these words? Is there something? If that is so then what is that?

Somebody in return can ask me what is my problem with this word. I am asking to change it, leave it, drop it, make it obsolete but why so? I will tell you what is my reservation. If spirituality means all this then there is no discussion. But there is something else which makes me uneasy. In a dictionary, the meaning of spirituality is rooted in a word called “spirit”. When mankind didn’t know whether this earth is round or flat, he had decided that human beings are actually the combination of two things. Body and spirit. Body is temporary, it dies. But the spirit is, shall I say, non-biodegradable. In your body you have a liver and heart and intestines and the brain, but since the brain is a part of the body, and mind lies within the brain, it is inferior because ultimately the brain too shall die with the body, but don’t worry, you are not going to die, because you are your spirit, and the spirit has the supreme consciousness that will remain, and whatever problem you have is because you listen to your mind. Stop listening to your mind. Listen to your spirit – the supreme consciousness that knows the cosmic truth. All right. It’s not surprising that in Pune there is an ashram and I used to go there. I loved the oratory. On the gate of the lecture hall there was a placard. Leave your shoes and minds here. There are other gurus who don’t mind if you carry your shoes. But minds?…sorry.

Now, let me address something very important before I talk more about the debate that happened. I have seen a lot of comments in that Youtube video (Faith, Reason and Inner Engineering) attacking Javed Akhtar and labeling him idiot and stupid. First of all, just because someone doesn’t understand what spirituality is, it doesn’t mean that he is idiot or stupid. There are too many factors into play, which makes a person to get frustrated with running on a hedonic treadmill and search for a way to get liberated.

A lot of Jaggi Vasudev’s own followers don’t understand what spirituality is. Before Osho died, he has said that only a very few people understood his message. I read somewhere that J.Krishnamurti said something like ‘Where did I go wrong, why didn’t these people understand me’.. Many people who think themselves as seekers actually start the journey with a curiosity or sometimes even with blind faith.Many people think that being religious is being spiritual. And all these people are not idiots..

A lot of you may have trouble explaining such things to your mom, dad, sister and friends.. Would you call all of them as stupids? If you consider for a moment that Javed Akhtar is also someone like your dad or granddad, you will not indulge in personally attacking him while sitting in your arm chair.

What is Spirituality?

When you talk to the skeptics, it is very important to not to talk about things which sound like woo woo or which are ambiguous. So, let me talk about what authentic gurus actually mean when they use the word spirituality. We can take two very popular words in our tradition to inquire into its actual meaning. One is ‘moksha’ which means ‘liberation’; the other is ‘nirvana’ which means ‘extinction’. Before I explain what exactly we mean by that, let me explain another concept.

Human beings are always running on hedonic treadmill. What is it?

Hedonic adaptation is a process or mechanism that reduces the affective impact of emotional events. Generally, hedonic adaptation involves a happiness “set point”, whereby humans generally maintain a constant level of happiness throughout their lives, despite events that occur in their environment. The process of hedonic adaptation is often conceptualized as a treadmill, since one must continually work to maintain a certain level of happiness.

For most of the people, living our lives is like running on a treadmill. You think you will be happy after getting a job. You feel happy for a while but then you run for something else.. You may think marrying the love of your life will make you happy. But the excitement of your marriage fades away and now you want to buy a car. Then you want to buy a house.. But you never get the ultimate satisfaction that you are aiming for. It is like a fire that is burning continuously; the extinction of this fire is nirvana. It is a prison that keeps you trapped. The liberation from this prison is moksha.

Why Javed Akhtar is not open to the idea that such a liberation is possible?

From this debate and from other talks of Javed Akhtar, I have understood one thing. He might have seen a lot of fake gurus. He might have noticed a lot of cultish behavior from their followers too. Sadhguru also mentioned in the video that just because one has seen some bad apples, that doesn’t mean all apples are bad.

But we also have to understand a reality. Most of the people today who are posing as Gurus are frauds or somehow fooling themselves that they are enlightened. Some of them may be intelligent , have good intentions and might have even had some spiritual experiences. But they might have taken up a guru role before the actual liberation has happened. Though there is no foolproof way to find out if someone is enlightened, there are lot of indications that show that someone is not, which will be obvious especially for people who are more advanced in the path. After seeing the way such gurus are, it is not surprising to me that Javed is not open to the fact that there is actually a way to get liberated and that it is quite possible.

Because of this hardwired concept he has about gurus in general, I don’t think he will be ever open to something that comes from anyone who is called as a guru. And a debate is certainly not a situation where such a thing can happen. He may be more open to someone like J.Krishnamurthi. Or a better option would be to gift him the book ‘Waking up – Spirituality without religion’ written by Sam Harris. 🙂 I have read testimonies by some people who said that they were skeptical about the truth of spiritual enlightenment but they became seekers after reading this book.

Some comments about the debate and the points discussed:

  1. I appreciate Javed for determining or mutually agreeing with the meaning of the words in the beginning. Because, this is very important since a lot of debates are semantic and happen because of each person using a word to mean something different from what the other person uses. A lot of confusion happens because of confusions in the terminology. So, it is important for both the parties to come to an agreement on what the words actually mean.
  2. Sadhguru says philosophy is just a fantastic explanation of aspects of life which can never be explained. He also says that he doesn’t have any philosophy. Thanks to him for mentioning what he means by the word philosophy. This is again an example of point 1, because he uses the word ‘philosophy’ the same way Osho used it. But coming up such fantastic explanation of aspects of life is only one aspect of Philosophy. Epistemology, a subject that deals with how knowledge should be acquired is philosophy. Scientific method that science uses is actually a philosophy. Logic is also a part of philosophy.
  3. Sadhguru says that there were no teachings in this country but only methods. And he says that there were no believers in this country but only seekers. This may sound good to hear but it is not true. There have been countless teachings, philosophies and even a lot of absurd ethics in this country. There has been contradictory metaphysical theories in each school. What is Manusmriti? It is not only a book of teachings but it had the most cruel ideas about the caste system. The whole vedanta and mimamsa schools are based on the belief that Vedas and Upanishads are eternal , infallible and revealed through divine revelation. I have talked more about it here: Shanmugam P’s answer to Which philosophy personally appeals more to you, Buddha’s Pratityasamutpada or Advaita Vedanta? . Also, there has been countless wars based on the beliefs. For example, wars between Shaivites and Vaishnavites, murders of countless jain monks by the believers of Shiva etc. I am mentioning this because many people who follow Sadhguru are so blind and they never accept that Sadhguru can also be wrong.
  4. After a few minutes have passed, you will notice personal attacks from both sides. But do you see who started it? After Javed talked about agreeing on terminology, Sadhguru ridiculed him for no reason and commented about his intelligence. There is no reason to do that. It doesn’t look good for a man like Sadhguru.
  5. Moderator asked a question to Sadhguru regarding the followers who engage in wars and ready to kill. She is actually talking about many people creating a ‘cult of personality’. I feel Sadhguru should have addressed this issue because this is actually becoming very ugly now. You can witness this in the comments of that youtube video itself. I have talked more about this here: Shanmugam P’s answer to What advice would you like to give to the followers of Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev?
  6. She also asked regarding charging money for the courses and if such courses are available for poor people. I don’t have any issue in charging money for the courses because it is difficult to conduct courses like this without money, especially in metro areas. But Sadhguru also mentioned that such courses are conducted in rural areas for free. I have been hearing this quite a lot, but has anyone questioned how true it is? How many such free programs are conducted on a regular basis and how many villages are covered? How often do they happen? Sadhguru himself says that if one wants to attend such courses for free he has to go to a village. But which village and when? No such information is available in the course schedule of the Isha website. I once sent an email inquiring the details but got no response. Once you make a commitment to provide free courses for poor people, there should be someway for those poor people to find out about those courses. Don’t you agree?
  7. In the middle of the debate, you will hear Javed saying the most anti-spiritual statement which is ‘you are your mind’.. 🙂 You can’t really convince him anymore in a debate. 🙂 But anyway, I think the way Buddha approached this issue might have worked in this scenario. Buddha didn’t say ‘You are not the mind, you are not the body’. He said, “There is no ‘you’ in the mind and there is no ‘you’ in the body. Buddha’s approach was empirical and he put it in a different way. And scientists and Buddha are in agreement here. He said:

“Bhikkhus, feeling is not-self…

“Bhikkhus, perception is not-self…

“Bhikkhus, determinations are not-self…

But he never said what is actually ‘You’.. He left that to people to find out. He was silent when people asked him metaphysical questions. He won’’t answer if anyone asks ‘What is the source of existence, why am i here”

There is a beautiful parable called ‘Parable of the poisoned arrow’ which is about what Buddha said when someone asked metaphysical questions:

It’s just as if a man were wounded with an arrow thickly smeared with poison. His friends & companions, kinsmen & relatives would provide him with a surgeon, and the man would say, ‘I won’t have this arrow removed until I know whether the man who wounded me was a noble warrior, a priest, a merchant, or a worker.’ He would say, ‘I won’t have this arrow removed until I know the given name & clan name of the man who wounded me… until I know whether he was tall, medium, or short… until I know whether he was dark, ruddy-brown, or golden-colored… until I know his home village, town, or city… until I know whether the bow with which I was wounded was a long bow or a crossbow… until I know whether the bowstring with which I was wounded was fiber, bamboo threads, sinew, hemp, or bark… until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was wild or cultivated… until I know whether the feathers of the shaft with which I was wounded were those of a vulture, a stork, a hawk, a peacock, or another bird… until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was bound with the sinew of an ox, a water buffalo, a langur, or a monkey.’ He would say, ‘I won’t have this arrow removed until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was that of a common arrow, a curved arrow, a barbed, a calf-toothed, or an oleander arrow.’ The man would die and those things would still remain unknown to him

Buddha was not interested in mystic musings. He was only interested in showing people the way to liberation. It is because of the empirical approach taken by Buddha, a lot of psychologists are interested in Buddhism more than any other tradition.

Anyway, overall the debate was very entertaining and fun to watch. Javed’s posture and reaction was very funny. He seemed to be restless too. Needless to say, Sadhguru made many insightful points in the debate.

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What Advice would you like to give to the Followers of Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev?

(I am republishing the answer that I wrote in Quora)

Disclaimer:

  1. I don’t really like to advise. So what I am going to write here is just to make certain people think about what they are doing.
  2. This is only addressed to the ‘followers’, especially those who blindly follow him and show the kind of behavior which is quite incompatible to being spiritual. This answer is not addressed to the true spiritual seekers, who are earnestly seeking liberation as the only priority and doing the Sadhana and methods given by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev.

Ok, here we go…

  1. Don’t judge others

Sadhguru usually tells a joke about a typical tea master in a teashop. The tea master talks about how Sachin Tendulkar should have played in a match and what decision the prime minister should have taken. He criticizes all the celebrities, judges them and says what they should have done. So, he sounds as if he knows more about how to play cricket and how to rule a country. But he doesn’t know how to make a good tea. 🙂

But these followers don’t realize that they are doing exactly what that tea master does. They indulge in discussions to judge who is stupid, who is spiritual and who is ignorant. They have a huge spiritual ego and just because they now know certain things that they didn’t know before and do certain things that they didn’t do before (like kriyas), they unconsciously develop an attitude that makes them to think that other people are somehow inferior. Their two favorite words are ‘stupid’ and ‘idiot’.

There is a famous video in Youtube that shows a debate between Sadhguru and Javed Akter. If you see the comments of that video, you will know what I am talking about. After reading those comments, I really can’t stop myself from leaving the following comment:

I see a lot of judgmental comments here, commenting on the intellect of Javed Aktar.. Why are you all people judging another person and calling him stupid? Who gave you the right to judge? Did Sadhguru ask everyone of you to go out and judge every person and find out who is spiritual, who is stupid and who is intelligent?

If someone thinks that he doesn’t need spirituality, he is entitled to have that opinion. If he says he is quite happy with his life and doesn’t need spirituality, let him be.

To most of the people who are commenting here saying that he is stupid, idiot and ignorant, let me ask you this question: Were you all born with some great spiritual wisdom the day you came out of the womb? Your life situations might have brought you to spiritual seeking for some reason. But it doesn’t happen to everyone simply because whatever happened in their life didn’t prompt them to seek any further.. That doesn’t mean that they are idiots or they are in anyway inferior to you…

You all have such judgmental thoughts about another person and you still think that you are spiritual? Don’t ever think that you are in anyway superior to another person just because you think you are a seeker now and that you have been meditating for a while.. There is no room for the concepts of superiority and inferiority in the realm of spirituality. You don’t have any business to comment or judge another person… Minding your own business is all about being in a spiritual path, because enlightenment is all about YOU AND YOU ONLY…

2. Don’t become a Guru yet

Another thing that you will notice from these people is that, you can get a lot of spiritual advice from these people, way more than what you can get from Sadhguru himself. They will sound as if they know even more than Sadhguru. They think they can now interpret and explain what Sadhguru says. They think they can explain to people why Sadhguru says certain things and clarify their doubts. They now think that they know more about enlightenment.

After taking just a few steps into a dense and wide forest, if you think you know the entire forest, thats really funny. But when people talk about the forest without taking a single step in, that is a big joke.

3. Don’t become a victim of ‘SIWOTI’ syndrome

Have you heard of SIWOTI’ syndrome? It is a real psychological problem that many people have. The full form is ‘Someone is wrong on the Internet’. You can witness this syndrome in many of the blind followers of Sadhguru.

According the the Rational Wiki, here is the definition for it:

SIWOTI syndrome is a strange psychological affliction affecting many Internet users – more likely an immune response than something viral.

The abbreviation comes from “Someone is wrong on the Internet“, a phrase used in #386 (“Duty Calls”). The syndrome manifests in persistent attempts at convincing people who are (definitely and indisputably) wrong that they are wrong. It is suspected that, analogous to the role of toxoplasmosis

In human aggression, the syndrome is the underlying reason for the existence of Internet flame wars, of the organized skeptical movement and of this very wiki.

I am reminded of a guy, whose name is S.P (name shortened to initials). He asked a question in Quora about the atheist’s opinion of what Sadhguru says about God. Then, he requested answers from many well known atheists on Quora. Once they gave their answers, he started an internet war with those people, trying to prove them wrong. Why??? First of all, he didn’t properly understand what Sadhguru says. He pretended he understood and started fighting with others. Sadhguru’s main intention was to make people understand that they should not pretend to know or believe in things that they really don’t know. But Sadhguru obviously didn’t ask anyone to preach this to people and try to correct everyone in the world. I don’t think that he ever said he is running a missionary.

4. Don’t create a Cult of personality

Definition of cult of personality from Wiki:

A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods [which?] to create an idealized, heroic, and at times worshipful image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. Sociologist Max Weber developed a tripartite classification of authority; the cult of personality holds parallels with what Weber defined as “charismatic authority“. A cult of personality is similar to divinization, except that it is established by mass media and propaganda usually by the state, especially in totalitarian (or sometimes authoritarian) states.

It happens a lot. You can also witness this in many of Sadhguru’s followers. Some of them even have a mild ‘Celebrity worship syndrome ’ .

Here, I want to mention quote of Lucretia Mott:

“… my convictions led me to adhere to the sufficiency of the light within us, resting on truth as authority, rather than “taking authority for truth.”“, quoted in “Eminent women of the age

Sadhguru himself said it in a podcast: Truth is Authority. Authority is not Truth

Why am I mentioning it here? Sadhguru is not asking you to spend your time in idealizing and worshiping him. He says that he offers tools and methods for your well being. Your valuable time should be spent on trying those methods to liberate yourself and be enlightened first. The truth that you see, the absolute reality that you realize as the result of your Sadhana is the authority, not Sadhguru himself.

5. Don’t comment on internet posts without reading and understanding it fully.

This actually happens as a side effect of cult of personality that I explained in #4. In their attempt to obsessively defending their leader, they quickly comment on internet posts that criticizes their leader without reading the full post. Don’t be surprised if you witness this in this answer, it may happen 🙂 . Because, the followers of Sadhguru do this a lot.

I recently witnessed a hilarious example for this. One guy, who wanted to support Sadhguru, uploaded a video in Youtube which was in response to some of the allegations against Sadhguru. But he actually worded the title of the video in a different way so that it sounds like the video is about defaming Sadhguru. He intentionally did that as he mentioned later in the comments, because he wanted the critics of Sadhguru to watch that video and understand the truth. The content of the video actually explains that those allegations are false. But something unexpected happened. The comments which later appeared for that video were from the followers of Sadhguru. They started abusing the uploader in their comments. This, obviously is the result of commenting on a video without watching it.

They also upvote or like the posts blindly. They don’t really worry about the validity of the content of a particular post. They just skim through the content quickly and think ‘Does this post criticize Sadhguru in any way? let me downvote it.. Does it praise him in anyway? Let me upvote it’… Sometimes they upvote a content just because it praises Sadhguru, even if the content is completely contradictory to what Sadhguru says.

6. Don’t ridicule Logic and Reasoning

This is an important point, because a lot of Sadhguru’s followers have a weird aversion towards logic and reasoning.

You may have heard many mystics say that logic and reasoning is not helpful in understanding absolute reality. You can’t understand the nature of enlightenment with logic and reasoning alone. It is true. But it only applies to the ultimate reality, the eternal witness, the absolute truth (or Brahman, nirvana or by whatever name you want to call it).. It doesn’t apply to anything that is objective. And, your thoughts, emotions, perceptions and sensations are also objective because you can witness them. If you want to understand the truth of anything that is objective, you need to use logic and reasoning .And, if you want to understand that which is the eternal witness, you need to meditate..

In the debate between Sadhguru and Javed Akter, you may hear Javed saying ‘One of the things that these spiritual leaders do is to advise people not to use their minds’.. Sadhguru, in response to that, said ‘I never said anyone not to use their minds.If you have gone to wrong gurus, then I am not responsible.’… Understood? Sadhguru never told you not to use your mind!

You may want to this answer for more clarification: Shanmugam P’s answer to There is an article on Nirmukta website that critically analyzes Sadhguru’s statements. Is the way Sadhguru was exposed by Nirmukta community genuine?

7. Done talk about anything that is not in your experience

Here is an excerpt from Sadhguru’s book ‘Enlightenment – An Inside Story

Questioner: What is the difference between mind and atma?

Sadhguru: Oh! (Laughs). Which atma are you talking about? What atma have you experienced? You know the function of the mind to some extent, but atma — what do you know about it? You are talking about stories that other people have told you. To put it very bluntly, the moment you start talking about what is not in your experience, you are just lying to yourself, is it not? So don’t talk about atmas. About mind, we can see.

I just want to remind what Sadhguru says to these followers. Because, when they begin to act like gurus (refer #2), they talk about all kinds of things that they have heard from Sadhguru. But Sadhguru really doesn’t ask you to do that.. He wants you to try the methods that he has given to you.

Sadhguru asks you to be skeptic. He says that skeptics are the true seekers . It is true.. A believer can never be a seeker.

8. Don’t make assumptions about the questioner based on the question.

There are two kinds of questions. There are some troll questions that I have seen which presupposes something in the question itself. In Quora, I have seen such questions. They are asked to troll people, not because the questioner genuinely expects an answer.

But I saw a Youtube video where the questioner asked Sadhguru ‘How do I know if you are not Ram Rahim?’.. Do you think there is anything wrong with the question? Do you think the questioner was stupid just because he asked this question? No!

The questioner doesn’t seem to know about Sadhguru. He probably heard about him for the first time. Since there has been many abuses in the name of spirituality and since the case of Ram Rahim is very recent, it is natural for such a question to arise to many people when they meet a new spiritual leader. The questioner didn’t accuse Sadhguru of anything, he didn’t have any preconceived idea about him. He just asks a question that starts with ‘How’… But if you read the comments on that Youtube video, you will see that people accuse him of being a stupid…

A commentator starts by saying this:

Some idiots find joy in equating Ram Rahim with Sadhguru, Open your freaking eyes and go around the country.

And that comment has 16 likes!!!

9. Don’t create unnecessary prejudice against anything

Prejudice and spirituality don’t go together…Prejudice is anti-spiritual. But I have witnessed some people show prejudice against science, other gurus, people who are not spiritual etc.. The worst thing happens when they show prejudice against foreigners.

Consider the following comment that I saw online from a follower:

You shall be proven wrong, and you obviously don’t know what I mean by common sense, no physicist today can compare themselves to tesla and Einstein, why Is this? Becuse they are materialistic, arrogant and think they know everything and everything exists in the 3d world.

He is very confident that all physicists are materialistic, arrogant and think they know everything. Really? How many physicists in the world did he meet to come to this conclusion? How can all of them arrogant? This is prejudice..

Let me show you a worst case.. A question was asked to a famous Quoran to know what he thinks about Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev. Here is the answer given by him:

I had never heard of him before someone mentioned him in one of his answers. I am listening to the Sadhguru videos on YouTube now. I think that Yogis like this spend most of their time thinking about stuff so they usually have some interesting insights.

This video about awareness is interesting.

And, here is a comment posted by a follower in response to this answer:

How did this follower guy come to a conclusion that the person who answered the question as ‘bitter arrogant American’? Prejudice! When I read his answer, I only sense some admiration for Sadhguru.

10. Do the programs of Isha Foundation

Enough of the don’ts… The above 9 points have sufficiently addressed them. But this point is very important…

Do you understand the purpose of all the youtube videos of Sadhguru? Do you understand the purpose of his talks and what he really wants you to do? Do you understand what he means when he says ‘I don’t have any teaching, I only have methods’ ? Do you understand how you can actually try those methods?

Sadhguru spends all his time talking and lecturing because he wants you to do the programs in Isha more than anything else. He wants you to focus on your spiritual practice. He doesn’t want you to argue with people, label them with names, start a missionary, preach others and worship him. He wants you to do Isha programs, period!

I am reminded of a guy who started an argument with me to prove me wrong on my answer that I wrote against blindly following an authority. All I wanted to stress in that answer was that no person is infallible, even if they are enlightened and that blind following is a big problem. But he seemed to be a severe victim of ‘SIWOTI’ syndrome (refer point 3). He even gave me some spiritual advice. He answers a lot of questions about Sadhguru and gives spiritual advice to many people. He even used a lot of abusive words in some comments. And I was surprised to read one of his answers where he declares ‘I have not done any programs in Isha yet’.. What???

Hope you get my point!

You may also be interested in this answer of mine: Shanmugam P’s answer to What is your review of Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev (Indian yogi)?

 

Which Philosophy Personally Appeals More to You, Buddhism or Advaita Vedanta?

(This is a repost of the answer that I wrote in Quora for the same question)

Both point to the same truth!

I have noticed that many people don’t agree when it is said both are the same, because they are only looking at both of them in philosophical level. When it comes to ultimate reality, no matter what words we use, they can be always misleading.

I am talking from my own experience. Oneness with the rest of the existence is a living reality for me. But I will back up my statements by quoting both Vedantic and Buddhist scriptures.

The main source of suffering in our lives is caused by identification. We get identified with our mind, our body, our thoughts, our emotions etc. This identification of mistaking something that is not Self as Self is termed as Avidya or ignorance. Ignorance causes us to think that there is a separate individual self which needs to be protected and enhanced.

In other words, we feel experientially that we are separate from the rest of the world. This separation causes us to crave for fulfillment. That is why Buddha said craving is the root cause of suffering. It is Avidya, the ignorance which causes craving. Buddha is talking about the immediate cause and Vedanta is talking about the original cause.

Some people will object to this by saying that Buddhism doesn’t say that there is something eternal. First of all, when you realize that time itself is an illusion, you will also realize that eternity is only an idea. Buddha was more specific and straight forward, while Vedanta is little compassionate and gives you something that your mind can grasp.

When anyone asked Buddha any metaphysical questions such as ‘Is there anything eternal’, Buddha was silent. It is called Noble Silence .He talked about the impermanence of aggregates, but what we call in Vedanta as absolute reality is not one of the aggregates. It is not anything that is objective. It cannot be put into words. But both Vedanta and Buddhism has actually hinted about this absolute reality with striking similarity.

See the below examples:

Vedanta:

“It is this Akshara (the Imperishable), O Gargi, so the knowers of Brahman say. It is neither gross nor subtle, neither short nor long, not red, not viscid, not shadowy, not dark, not the air, not the ether, not adhesive, tasteless, odourless, without the sense of sight, without the sense of hearing, without the vital principle, mouthless, without measure, neither interior nor exterior,. It eats nothing, nobody eats it.”

– Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 3-8-8.

Buddhism:

“There is that dimension, monks, where there is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor wind; neither dimension of the infinitude of space, nor dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, nor dimension of nothingness, nor dimension of neither perception nor non-perception; neither this world, nor the next world, nor sun, nor moon. And there, I say, there is neither coming, nor going, nor staying; neither passing away nor arising: unestablished, unevolving, without support [mental object]. This, just this, is the end of stress.”

– Buddha (in Nibbāna Sutta: Unbinding (1))

Buddha directly talks about something that is eternal too, but he uses the word ‘unborn’:

There is, monks, an unborn— unbecome — unmade — unfabricated. If there were not that unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, there would not be the case that escape from the born — become — made — fabricated would be discerned. But precisely because there is an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, escape from the born — become — made — fabricated is discerned

– Buddha (in Nibbāna Sutta: Unbinding (3))

So, why did Buddha reject Vedas when Vedanta says that Vedas are the only authority?

We need to take Buddha’s time into account. Buddha lived sometime around 800 BC- 600 BC. It was during those times when many rishis were able to realize that there is something beyond the benefits that was got from mere rituals..Vedic rituals only focused on materialistic benefits that people could enjoy in three worlds. They were never about ultimate reality. That is when two great upanishads, Brihadaranyaka upanishad and Chandgoya upanishads were compiled. It must have taken a century or two; Buddha started talking to people at the same time period. So, we can safely conclude that when Buddha was alive, upanishads were not a part of Vedas.

This will raise many objections. Because, many people believe that Vedas are eternal and infallible. Even Shankara believed so. But, consider the following verses from Brihadaranyaka upanishad and the commentary from Shankara:

From chapter 6, section 4:

Verse 6: If man sees his reflection in water, he
should recite the following Mantra : ‘ (May the
gods grant) me lustre, manhood, reputation,
wealth and merits.’ She (his wife) is indeed the
goddess of beauty among women. Therefore he
should approach this handsome woman and
speak to her.

Shankara’s commentary:

If perchance he sees his reflection in water, he
should recite the following Mantra : ‘(May the gods
grant) me lustre,’ etc. She is indeed the goddess of
beauty among women. Therefore he should approach
this handsome woman and speak to her, when she has
taken a bath after three ‘nights.

Verse 7 : If she is not willing, he should buy her
over; and if she is still unyielding, he should
strike her with a stick or with the hand and
proceed, uttering the following Mantra, ‘I take
away your reputation,’ etc. She is then actually
discredited.

Shankara’s commentary:

If she is not willing, he should buy her over,
press his wishes through ornaments etc.; and if she is
still unyielding, he should strike her with a stick or
with the hand
, and announcing that he was going to
curse her and make her unfortunate, he should ·proceed,
uttering the following Mantra : ‘I take away your
reputation: etc. As a result of that curse, she comes
to be known as barren and unfortunate, and is then
actually discredited.

The above verses show how totally male dominative the society was those days.. Even though this doesn’t have anything to do with enlightenment, this example shows how one should not take everything just because it comes from a scripture or a person who is regarded as an authority.

And I don’t think that such infallible and eternal upanishads can advice someone to beat his wife if she doesn’t agree for sex.

You may say that these were later interpolations. But if that is the case, how could we trust Vedas in the first place?

But I know that Vedic verses such as Nasadiya Suktha and almost all upanishads have immense wisdom. We have to see them as collection of various poems composed by different people, instead of seeing them as infallible and eternal scriptures. I know that it is very difficult for many Indians to accept, because we are deeply blinded by pride and confirmation bias.

So, Why did Vedanta say that Vedas are only pramana (means of knowledge)?

Let us talk about three different methods of acquiring knowledge in general. (Vedanta uses six, but let us talk about three important ones here)

  1. Direct experience
  2. Inference
  3. Testimony from an authority.

In our daily life, we can get to know about many things through direct experience and inference. But we would never know the path to end the suffering unless someone tells us, simple!

So our ancient Indians selected the Upanishads as the only reliable authority to teach us the path towards liberation. It is just a standardization made by humans to avoid any conflict. And according to the social structure that prevailed those days, instead of relying any random person’s words as authority, it was reasonable to accept Upanishads as authority.

But we live in 21st century now. We are aware of things like confirmation bias and we are more keen towards human rights. While we do appreciate and show immense reverence to our ancient scriptures, it is nothing wrong in changing certain things to suit our modern society.

Also, Vedanta uses a certain teaching method called Adyaropa Apavada while Buddhism teaches directly and precisely. Vedanta is poetic where as Buddhism is empirical. Buddhism gives you the raw truth but Vedanta offers to you with added sweets and flavors. The only problem in Vedanta is that people may get stuck with the words and concepts.

You can find more details in my post here where I have included some additional points: Buddhism and Vedanta are the Same – A Detailed Comparison

If you are looking for a great spiritual authority to confirm the validity of Buddha’s message, then I will quote some of the words from Bhagwan Ramana Maharishi:

Disciple: Research on God has been going on from time immemorial. Has the final word been said?

Maharshi: (Keeps silence for some time.)

Disciple: (Puzzled) Should I consider Sri Bhagavan’s silence as the reply to my question?

Maharshi: Yes. Mouna is Isvara-svarupa.Hence the text: “The Truth of Supreme Brahman proclaimed through Silent Eloquence.”

Disciple: Buddha is said to have ignored such inquiries about God.

Maharshi: And for this reason was called a sunyavadin (nihilist). In fact Buddha concerned himself more with directing the seeker to realize Bliss here and now that with academic discussion about God, etc.

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev And Water Memory – The Quora Question And My Answer

I am republishing an answer that I wrote in Quora for the question “What are scientists’ opinions on Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev’s IIT Madras talk about water having memory and his abilities to manipulate its taste via telekinesis?” . The question had already received many answers when I answered it but I wanted to address some key issues using my answer. Here we go:

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I am going to answer this question with a totally different perspective. I am going to be neutral throughout this answer and I have made some suggestions too. I request you all to read the complete answer.

There are a lot of great answers from people like Asher Nitin who are well versed in science; there are also answers from people who love Sadhguru , who wants to prove that Sadhguru was right. They are not able to stand negative criticisms against their beloved leader who has been their inspiration; They have no doubt that the guidance from their leader has been life changing for them.

But as a consequence, I see that Sadhguru lovers have taken some of these answers very seriously and personally, feel offended and even write comments like ‘Some sick dogs are barking at Sadhguru’.

So, let me talk about it a little bit before I begin..

While I do understand your feelings, please remember that this kind of abusive comments are not expected from people who are really practicing the techniques from Isha. And I see this as a growing trend among some people who support Isha. They constantly judge people, call them ‘ignorant’, ‘arrogant’, ‘stupid’, ‘fool’, ‘haters’ etc.

(Please note that I am not saying everybody does it. There are probably thousands of people who have become peaceful, less reactive and more compassionate because of regular practice.

In fact, I wonder if these people who use such abusive language ever practiced the kriyas taught there. These people are probably the ones who just watched some 10–20 youtube videos of Sadhguru but never did any serious spiritual sadhana)

Anyway, I would like to answer the question in such a way that the nature of this answer does not in anyway belittle Sadhguru, ridicule or criticize him. I am going to be as kind and as friendly as possible and I apologize in advance if this answer hurts your feelings in anyway.

If your mind is not clear now and if you think that you cannot read this answer line by line with neutral mind, then please don’t continue. If after reading a paragraph, you find yourself mentally preparing a comment for my answer instead of paying attention to everything that is said and considering it, then please don’t continue. May be you can try later. The better time would be probably just after you finish doing a session of Shambhavi Mahamudra. Don’t comment anything without reading and understanding the complete answer.

……………………………

Here is my answer:

Let us Understand the Question that was put to Sadhguru First

First, if you read the link in the Isha website, you can see that the questioner wants to know if there is some kind of evidence for the water memory so that it can be verified:

You said that water has some memory. Is there any viability to bring that memory level to our life or something? Is there any scientific evidence or spiritual evidence or some other evidence is available for that? Basically, as I’m a chemist I’m telling this.

Note that the questioner is not asking if water memory is true. The questioner is asking if water memory has any verifiable evidence. I hope you understand the difference; but let me give an example from our life to distinguish between the two.

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What is an Evidence?

Let us say you have written an exam. You know you have written it very well and you are going to pass the exam. You can tell others that you will pass the exams and it is guaranteed. But there is no evidence yet. The evidence is obtained only when you get the results in your hand.

Also, as you know, exams are written in controlled conditions so that no one is allowed to copy, carry any written material, speak to anyone etc. And extreme care is taken to make sure that the question paper is not leaked out before the exams. All this is done so that the results of your exams are not influenced by anything else.

……………………………

Science- Experiments, scientific control and peer review

Same works for a science experiment. The experiments are conducted in completely controlled conditions to make sure that there are no errors and that the results of the experiments are not influenced by any other variables. You can read more about it here: Scientific control – Wikipedia

Once the experiment is done, it has to be published in the appropriate journal for peer review. For example, you can find a list of Physics journals here: List of scientific journals – Wikipedia .

The results of the experiment can be challenged by future experiments anytime. The results should be always reproducible. If the results are not reproduced by future experiments, then it is not considered as evidence. (science people, please correct me If I have made any mistakes or missed out anything here. Feel free to suggest edits).

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The Quality of online articles that claim scientific evidence

This is very important to understand. Because, not everything that you find online is a genuine scientific evidence. Just because an article describes an experiment done by a scientist and shows the results of an experiment, it doesn’t mean that it is a scientific evidence. That is why you can find a lot of things in Google Search which seem authentic to many people even though they don’t have any strong scientific evidence.

If you haven’t read the above paragraph, please read. If you have read it, then remember this for the rest of your life.

……………………………

Sadhguru’s answer

The scientific nature of Sadhguru’s answer has been already analyzed brilliantly by others. But some people still seem to think that there is a scientific evidence for it (the comment ‘Some sick dogs are barking at Sadhguru’ was made by one of my Indian brothers, because of this misunderstanding). So, I am going to address that alone here.

Here is what Sadhguru said at the end, about the evidence part:

There’s substantial scientific evidence today about how the molecular structure of the water can be rearranged without changing the chemical structure, even with a simple thought or a touch.

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The nature of the experiments which were claimed to support water memory

  1. Luc Antoine Montagnier is a French virologist who won Nobel prize for discovering HIV virus. He published a controversial paper called ‘Electromagnetic Signals Are Produced by Aqueous Nanostructures Derived from Bacterial DNA Sequences’ which concludes the following:

Diluted DNA from pathogenic bacterial and viral species is able to emit specific radio waves and these radio waves [are] associated with ‘nanostructures’ in the solution that might be able to recreate the pathogen.

The paper has been met with harsh criticism for not being peer-reviewed, and its claims unsubstantiated by modern mainstream conventions of physics and chemistry. No third party has replicated the findings as of March 2015.

Supporters of homeopathy claimed that this experiment supported homeopathy but this claim was criticized by the scientists worldwide.

For example,

On 20 October 2010, Harriet A. Hall responded specifically to these claims by homeopaths: “Nope. Sorry, guys. It doesn’t. In fact, its findings are inconsistent with homeopathic theory… Homeopaths who believe Montagnier’s study supports homeopathy are only demonstrating their enormous capacity for self-deception.” She went on to analyze the studies and pointed out a number of flaws, stating: “…even assuming the results are valid, they tend to discredit homeopathy, not support it… Homeopathy is a system of clinical treatment that can only be validated by in vivo clinical trials.”

Please note that this paper is about bacterial DNA sequences and nothing to do with water memory anyway. I included it because someone quoted it as a direct evidence for water memory.

2. Jacques Benveniste

From wiki:

“In 1988, Jacques Benveniste published a study supporting a water memory effect amid controversy in Nature, accompanied by an editorial by Nature’s editor John Maddox urging readers to “suspend judgement” until the results could be replicated.

In the years following publication, multiple supervised experiments were run by Benveniste’s team, the United States Department of Defense, BBC’s Horizon programme, and other researchers, but no team has ever reproduced Benveniste’s results in controlled conditions.”

3. Masaru Emoto

I think Sadhguru’s statement was mainly due to this guy Masaru Emoto. Emoto claimed that different water sources would produce different crystalline structures when frozen. For example, he claimed that a water sample from a mountain stream when frozen would show structures of beautifully-shaped geometric design, but those structures would be distorted and randomly formed if the sample were taken from a polluted water source.

He did an experiment but he did not publish the result in any authentic mainstream scientific journals. Also, it met with harsh criticism from scientists stating that the experiment lacked controlled conditions, was prone to manipulation or human error influencing the findings. Emoto was personally invited to take the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge by James Randi in 2003, and would have received US$1,000,000 if he had been able to reproduce the experiment under test conditions agreed to by both parties. He did not participate.

To conclude, there is not even a week scientific evidence for water memory as of now contrary to Sadhguru’s statement that there’s substantial scientific evidence today about how the molecular structure of the water can be rearranged without changing the chemical structure, even with a simple thought or a touch.

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My opinion on this

As many people have said, we can’t expect a yoga guru to be scientifically correct. No one goes to Sadhguru to learn science either. In this particular instance, the actual question that was asked to Sadhguru was that if there was a scientific evidence for water memory and hence Sadhguru had to talk about science.

While we don’t have any evidence that water has memory, Sadhguru’s statement that science does have evidence is obviously incorrect. This probably came from what he has heard or read. And, considering a hearsay or a random article as an authentic source is due to a lack of awareness on how scientific experiment and peer review works. Not only Sadhguru, majority of well-educated Indians are not completely aware of how to discriminate between a real scientific evidence and false claim. (I learnt about it only last year, by the way).This is just due to the lack of general awareness on this topic among public.

But I have also come across instances where Sadhguru voluntarily talks about science and claims that many things the science is discovered now has been already discovered by yogic methods. He may be probably doing this to create more appeal to yoga and spread it to more people with good intention.

But this is what creates a lot of arguments and questions among people. First, we don’t have any evidence for the fact that any kind of factual knowledge can be obtained through practices like meditation or yoga, even though we have been hearing such stories since ancient days. This claim and claims to do miracles have been misused by many fake spiritual leaders in our country which naturally makes people to be extra cautious and even harshly criticize all spiritual leaders. Until there is a solid evidence that such claims have any scientific basis, such criticism will even continue in the upcoming generations. This will actually make Yoga to become less appealing in the future. There is no way to stop it unless we do something about it in this generation especially when an influential public figure like Sadhguru, who claims to be able to do many things that a normal man cannot do, is alive. I can actually offer a simple solution for that. But before that, let me tell you something very important that many people are not aware of.

Burden of Proof

This is an important concept to understand. Because, I have noticed many people saying that ‘If Sadhguru has made a claim, it is the responsibility of the person who is opposing the claim to disprove it’. In other words, they say “If you don’t believe it, then prove that it is wrong’..

It is absolutely necessary to correct this common misconception. Actually, if somebody is making a claim, it is the responsibility of the person who makes the claim to prove it. It is an universally accepted fact in philosophy, logic and science. You can read the citations given for more details.

The Solution

Now, imagine if just one of the claims made by Sadhguru is proved to be true. Just if one claim gets scientific evidence, it will create a lot of world wide attention, appeal and a respect for what Sadhguru says. People who have been accusing Sadhguru for different things may start to wonder, ‘there must be a lot of truth in what this man is saying’.

I remember an interview that a reporter had with Sadhguru. The reporter asked ‘Is this Adiyogi statue that you have created has been created to seek attention?’ For that, Sadhguru said ‘yes’ and explained to the interviewer that it has been created to attract worldwide attention to yoga so that a lot of people will be interested in yoga. And he clarified that it has not been created for a personal attention seeking but rather for a good cause, to create worldwide attention to yoga. While it indeed created attention, it also raised a lot of questions and accusations.

Well, there is actually a better way to create such an attention.He can start with just proving one of his claims to science. Remember, this is not a problem unless people make it a problem. It is actually something very simple to do.

Sadhguru has claimed many things which are extraordinary . He has done it indirectly by quoting incidents where he could do things like that. I will quote a claim mentioned in the same article that is given for this question, that can be very easily verified with an experiment.

So this lady in the house brought water for me and she’s like Kali suddenly, not just kathak, she’s like Kali. I looked at her – she’s a nice lady, today she’s in the Kali form – so I looked at her and she offered water to me and I said, ‘Amma, I don’t need this water. I don’t need to drink this water. You’re like Kali right now, I don’t need Kali’s prasadam right now, I’m fine.’ She said, ‘Why, will I poison it?’ I said, ‘No, you don’t have to poison it, it’s already done.’ Then I told her, ‘You take a sip from this glass.’ She took a sip from the glass, then I said, ‘Give me the glass to me.’ I held in my hands for two minutes and I just gave it to her, ‘You drink it now.’ She drank one sip and burst into tears and started crying, she said, ‘It’s sweet.’ I said, ‘That’s all the difference it is.’

This is an extraordinary claim! But all he has to do is get a glass of plain water from you, hold it in his hands for two minutes and give it to you. If it tastes sweet, that is all there is to prove.

It can be verified with a scientific experiment very easily. Proving such a thing has many advantages too. Other then getting attention, Sadhguru and Isha foundation will gain more trust. It will stop people from turning way from Isha just because these claims are made. It will stop unnecessary hot criticisms filled with hatred and verbal abuses that we see all over internet. Sadhguru may win a nobel prize and Isha people will love that. He may earn millions of dollars which can be used for social welfare. Because we all know that Isha foundation already needs money for upcoming projects and currently have to rely on donations alone. In fact, many people who oppose him will start to trust that he is doing everything with a genuine interest for people’s well being and willing to donate even more. Tell me one reason why this is not a good idea!

If you understand this and are genuinely interested to make it happen, we can find a way to pass it on to Sadhguru. You can republish this answer anywhere, share this answer, upvote it or directly send an email to Isha. If each missed call can count, each upvote can count too.

Thank you for taking your time to read this.

Buddhism and Vedanta are the Same – A Detailed Comparison

Buddhism and Vedanta are two big schools which have dominated the spiritual world till date.  Among many schools which have existed in the past, only these two have made a great influence all over the world and still continue to exist. But they seem to be contradictory to each other in many ways.

But based on my own experience and based on what I have read, these two schools only seem to differ because they use different conceptual languages. They also have different teaching methods. But the essence is the same.

When it comes to Vedanta, Prasthanathrayi, consisting of main Upanishads, Brahmasutras and Bhagwad gita is  the authority. In Buddhism, Tripitaka, consisting of Vinaya Pitaka, Sutra Pitaka and Abidharama Pitaka, is the source of all conceptual details. When you go through the scriptures with an open mind and with the support of your own spiritual realization, you will see that both are essentially the same.

Both schools talk about the cessation of suffering. The process of the cessation of suffering is called Moksha in Vedanta and Nirvana in Buddhism. Now let us see how these two schools define the nature of this liberation and the ultimate truth:

Vedanta

“It is this Akshara (the Imperishable), O Gargi, so the knowers of Brahman say. It is neither gross nor subtle, neither short nor long, not red, not viscid, not shadowy, not dark, not the air, not the ether, not adhesive, tasteless, odourless, without the sense of sight, without the sense of hearing, without the vital principle, mouthless, without measure, neither interior nor exterior,. It eats nothing, nobody eats it.”

– Brihadaranyaka Upanishad  3-8-8.

Buddhism

“There is that dimension, monks, where there is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor wind; neither dimension of the infinitude of space, nor dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, nor dimension of nothingness, nor dimension of neither perception nor non-perception; neither this world, nor the next world, nor sun, nor moon. And there, I say, there is neither coming, nor going, nor staying; neither passing away nor arising: unestablished, unevolving, without support [mental object]. This, just this, is the end of stress.”

– Buddha (in Nibbāna Sutta: Unbinding (1))
Do they sound similar? Yes, Because they talk about the same thing.

Now consider the following quotes:

There is, monks, an unborn— unbecome — unmade — unfabricated. If there were not that unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, there would not be the case that escape from the born — become — made — fabricated would be discerned. But precisely because there is an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, escape from the born — become — made — fabricated is discerned

– Buddha (in Nibbāna Sutta: Unbinding (3))

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Verily, that great unborn soul, undecaying, undying, immortal, fearless is Brahman

–        Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.25

 

This Sunyata or the ultimate truth doesn’t have any attributes. It is the conscious space in which everything takes place. It is the substratum of everything that is in the reality, like a movie screen that acts as a substratum to show the moving pictures on it.

This substratum itself is empty of anything that we can call as a ‘thing’, including abstract things. A ‘thought’ is a thing; a feeling is a thing’ a sense perception is a thing; and an experience is a thing too. All these are witnessed as the existing things or stuff that occupy the space of consciousness itself. This underlying consciousness is called shakshin ( witness), satchitananda (truth -consciousness -bliss), nurguna brahman, sunyata and so on.

 

Buddhism and Vedanta
Buddhism and Vedanta are the same!

Adyaropa Apavada – The Teaching method of Vedanta

 

So, when Buddhism calls it as sunyata, why does Vedanta defines the reality in positive terminology?  Because, Vedantins  use a different teaching method called ‘Adhyaropa apavada’. The teaching method intentionally superimposes some attributes to the ultimate reality first to distinguish it from everything that it is not. So, even though no concept can define something that lacks any kind of thing that is conceived by a concept, these intentional attributes are made in order to help the mind to grasp it  as a concept at the initial stage.

Then Vedantins negate everything that it is not. They reject the body as not it because body can be witnessed as a thing. They reject the mind as not it because mind can be witnessed as a thing too. You first understand that you are Brahman and then you negate everything that is not ‘You’ by closely monitoring the mental processes every moment, with the detached witness attitude.

Finally, even the intentional attributes are also rejected. This helps to drop the initial concepts that were formed to understand Brahman. Once you let go of all the concepts of reality and narrow down to the bare reality of yourself, people say that you have realized the truth.

Let us see some excerpts from Vedantic scriptures which support this:

“Who so knows the Self, thus described, as the fearless Absolute (brahman), himself becomes the Absolute, beyond fear. This is a brief statement of the meaning of the entire Upanishad.  And in order to convey this meaning rightly, the fanciful alternatives of production, maintenance and withdrawal, and the false notion of action, its factors and results, are deliberately attributed to the Self as a first step. And then later the final metaphysical truth is inculcated by negating these characteristics through a comprehensive denial of all particular superimpositions on the Absolute, expressed in the phrase ‘neither this nor that’. Just as a man, wishing to explain numbers from one to a hundred thousand billion (points to figures that he has drawn and) says, ‘This figure is one, this figure is ten, this figure is a hundred, this figure is a thousand’ , and all the time his only purpose is to explain numbers, and not to affirm that the figures are numbers; or just as one wishing to explain the sounds of speech as repre sented by the written letters of the alphabet resorts to a device in the form of a palm-leaf on which he makes incisions which he later fills with ink to form letters, and all the while, (even though he point to a letter and say “This is the sound “so and so”‘) his only purpose is to explain the nature of the sounds referred to by each letter, and not to affirm that the leaf, incisions and ink are sounds; in just the same way, the one real metaphysical principle, the Absolute, is taught by resort to many devices, such as attributing to it production (of the world) and other powers. And then after wards the nature of the Absolute is restated, through the concluding formula ‘neither this nor that’, so as to purify it of all particular notions accruing to it from the various devices used to explain its nature in the first place’.

– Brhadaranyaka  Bhasya IV.iv.25  – by Shankara

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“Nor can the Absolute be properly referred to by any such terms as Being or non-being. For all words are used to convey a meaning, and when heard by their hearers convey the meaning the speaker had in mind. But communicable meaning is restricted without exception to universal, action, attribute and relation….

The Absolute, however, does not belong to any universal (genus), so it cannot be expressed by a noun such as ‘Being’ or ‘non-being’. Being without attributes, it cannot be described by any adjective denoting an attribute. And being actionless, it cannot be expressed by any verb denoting activity.

For the Upanishad speaks of it as ‘Without parts, without activity, at rest’ (Svet .VI.19) . Nor has it any relation with anything. For it is ‘One’, ‘without a second’, ‘not an object’ and ‘the Self. Hence it cannot be expressed by any word. And the upanishadic texts themselves confirm this when they say ‘That from which words fall back’ (Taitt .ll.9) , and in other passages.”

– (Bhagwad Gita Bhasya XIII.12) – Shankara

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And because the Absolute has no particular characteristics, the Veda indicates its nature by denying of it the forms of all other things, as is shown, for instance, in the following pa sages: ‘And so, therefore, the teaching is “neither this nor that”‘ (Brhad.II.iii.6) , ‘It is other than what is known, and above the unknown’ (Kena I.U), ‘That from which words fall back without obtaining access, together with the mind’ (Taitt .II.9)

And the Vedic texts also relate how when Badhva was questioned by Baskalin he gave his answer merely by not speaking. ‘Sir, teach me in words’, Ba§kalin said. But the Teacher remained silent. Finally, at the second or third time of asking, Badhva replied, ‘I am telling you, but you do not understand. This Self is utter silence’

– (Bramasutra Bhasya III.ii.17) – Shankara

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(a) In order to disclose the nature of the self as Brahman in itself Srutis like the following negate all specific features superimposed on it by the unenlightened common mind :-

“It is this Akshara (the Imperishable), 0 Gargi, so the knowers of    Brahman say. It is neither gross nor subtle, neither short nor long, not     red, not viscid, not shadowy, not dark, not the air, not the ether, not    adhesive, tasteless, odourless, without the sense of sight, without the    sense of hearing, without the vital principle, mouthless, without measure,   neither interior nor exterior,. It eats nothing, nobody eats it.”    – Br.3-8-8.

(b) Lest, by this strict denial of all properties it may be taken to be absolute nothing (s’unya), it is taught by means of illusory attributes seemingly pertaining to it owing to Upadhis (apparently conditioning factors).

(c) At the close of the teaching the rescission of even the imputed attributes used as a device for purposes of teaching, lest it should be regarded as actually belonging to it.
Hence that Brahman cannot be denoted by the epithet ‘jnanam’ (knowledge) either. Nevertheless, it is indicated though not expressed, by the word ”jnanam’  denoting the semblance of consciousness which is really a modification of the mind. It is not directly denoted by that term because Brahman is devoid of genus and other specific features which alone are the occasion for the application of words to a thing. So is it with regard to the term ‘Satyam’ (truth). For Brahman is by its very nature devoid of all specific features. The term Satyam really refers to the genus ‘being’ inhering in external objects, and when Brahman is described as ‘Sat yam’ (Real), it is only indicated by that term. But Brahman is not actually expressed by the term ‘Satyam’.

Tai. Bh. 2-1, p. 285 – Shankara

 

Atman and Anatman – The difference

 

Whatever you  observe in our conscious field is not You.. Therefore they are not the Self (or Bhrahman).. That is what the word ‘Anatta’ (Anatman) means..  Atman is Self. Anatman is that which is not Self.

This Atman or Brahman or Self cannot be put into words. Any name that is given to it is actually misleading to some extent. Thats why Buddha only talked about Anatta- that which is not the Atman.

Read this excerpt, it will make sense:

“Objection : “Is not even Atman denoted by the word ‘Atman’ ?

Reply: No. for there are Srutis like ‘From which words fall back’, ‘That in which one sees nothing else’.

Question: How then do texts like ‘Atman alone is below … .’ and ‘It is Atman’ reveal Atman ?

Reply:  This is no fault. For, the word (Atman), primarily used in the world of differences to denote individual soul as distinct from the body it possesses, is extended to indicate the entity which remains after the rejection of body and other not-selfs as not deserving that appellation, and is used to reveal what is really inexpressible by words”.

– Shankara – Ch. Bh. 7-1-3, p. 542.

Neti -Neti in Buddhism

 

Now, let us read Atmashatkam, a vedantic short poetry attributed to Shankara and Anattalakhana sutta, a Buddhist Sutta that discusses the Buddhist teachings on Anatta – no self.  Once you read it carefully, you will realize that both say exactly the same.

AtmaShatkam

1) I am not mind, nor intellect, nor ego, nor the reflections of inner self (citta). I am not the five senses. I am beyond that. I am not the ether, nor the earth, nor the fire, nor the wind (the five elements). I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, the auspicious (Śivam), love and pure consciousness.

2) Neither can I be termed as energy (prāṇa), nor five types of breath (vāyus), nor the seven material essences, nor the five sheaths(pañca-kośa). Neither am I the organ of Speech, nor the organs for Holding ( Hand ), Movement ( Feet ) or Excretion. I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, the auspicious (Śivam), love and pure consciousness.

3) I have no hatred or dislike, nor affiliation or liking, nor greed, nor delusion, nor pride or haughtiness, nor feelings of envy or jealousy. I have no duty (dharma), nor any money, nor any desire (kāma), nor even liberation (mokṣa). I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, the auspicious (Śivam), love and pure consciousness.

4) I have neither merit (virtue), nor demerit (vice). I do not commit sins or good deeds, nor have happiness or sorrow, pain or pleasure. I do not need mantras, holy places, scriptures (Vedas), rituals or sacrifices (yajñas). I am none of the triad of the observer or one who experiences, the process of observing or experiencing, or any object being observed or experienced. I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, the auspicious (Śivam), love and pure consciousness.

5)  I do not have fear of death, as I do not have death. I have no separation from my true self, no doubt about my existence, nor have I discrimination on the basis of birth. I have no father or mother, nor did I have a birth. I am not the relative, nor the friend, nor the guru, nor the disciple. I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, the auspicious (Śivam), love and pure consciousness.

6) I am all pervasive. I am without any attributes, and without any form. I have neither attachment to the world, nor to liberation (mukti). I have no wishes for anything because I am everything, everywhere, every time, always in equilibrium. I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, the auspicious (Śivam), love and pure consciousness.

Anatta-lakkhana Sutta

“So, bhikkhus any kind of form whatever, whether past, future or presently arisen, whether gross or subtle, whether in oneself or external, whether inferior or superior, whether far or near, must with right understanding how it is, be regarded thus: ‘This is not mine, this is not I, this is not myself.’

“Any kind of feeling whatever…

“Any kind of perception whatever…

“Any kind of determination whatever…

“Any kind of consciousness whatever, whether past, future or presently arisen, whether gross or subtle, whether in oneself or external, whether inferior or superior, whether far or near must, with right understanding how it is, be regarded thus: ‘This is not mine, this is not I, this is not my self.'”

……………………………………………………………………………..

It is obvious.. Both say the samething. This is called Neti Neti method in Vedanta – rejecting whatever that is observed as not-self. Here, it is important to see the thoughts, emotions and feelings etc are different from you, as they arise and pass away. As you witness these thoughts, you see yourself as a witness instead of identifying with thoughts and mental processes.

 

Nididhyasana  and Mindfulness  are the same

 

I understood that  Nididhyasana which is prescribed in Vedanta and Mindfulness that is prescribed in Buddhism are exactly the same, when I read Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswati’s interpretation of Nididhyasana.

 

You can read the book ‘Adyatma Yoga’ of Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswati to know how he explains it. He was a Sanskrit scholar and vedantic monk. He dedicated his whole life in bringing out the kind of teaching method that was actually adopted by Shankara. He lived up to the age 94 and has written over 200 books. He has worked hard enough to bring out the true teachings of Shankara.

 

Conclusion

 

We can compare Buddhism and Vedanta to two languages that evolved from a parent prolanguage. They split into two when Buddha refused to accept the authority of Vedas.

As centuries passed and different things evolved in each school, they became like two mutually unintelligible languages which belong to the same parent.

 

Oldest Teaching Of Advaita – Excerpt from Chandogya Upanishad

Upanishads are the basis for Indian schools of thought.  Of this, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and Chandogya upanishad are the oldest. These are the earliest available literature in India which teach non-duality. I have been reading these texts for the past few days and I came across this wonderful section, which is the 6th prapathaka of Chandogya Upanishad. I found it very impressive and it brought tears in my eyes as I read it. So, I am sure you will enjoy this as well.

It narrates the story, which is a conversation between sage Aruni and his son Svetaketu. It contains the famous mahavakya ‘Tat tvam asi’. It has some great pointers which are useful for the spiritual seekers. I am posting the entire 6th prapathaka here… (Translated by Swami Nikhilananda). You can find the entire text here: http://www.swamij.com/upanishad-chandogya.htm

Khanda I — The Non—Duality of the Self

  1. Om. There once lived Svetaketu the grandson of Aruna. To him his father said: “Svetaketu, lead the life of a brahmacharin; for there is none belonging to our family, my dear, who, not having studied the Vedas, is a brahmin only by birth.”

2—3. Svetaketu went to his teacher’s house when he was twelve years old and studied the Vedas till he was twenty—four. Then he returned to his father, serious, considering himself well read and arrogant. His father said to him: “Svetaketu, since you are now so serious, think yourself well read and are so arrogant, have you, my dear, ever asked for that instruction by which one hears what cannot be heard, by which one perceives what cannot be perceived, by which one knows what cannot be known?” Svetaketu asked: “What is that instruction, venerable Sir?”

4—6. “Just as, my dear, by one clod of clay all that is made of clay is known, the modification being only a name, arising from speech, while the truth is that all is clay; “Just as, my dear, by one nugget of gold all that is made of gold is known, the modification being only a name, arising from speech, while the truth is that all is gold; “And just as, my dear, by one pair of nail—scissors all that is made of iron is known, the modification being only a name, arising from speech, while the truth is that all is iron—even so, my dear, is that instruction.”

  1. “Surely those venerable men did not know that. For if they had known it, why should they not have told it to me? Therefore do you, venerable Sir, tell me about it.” “So be it, my dear,” said the father.

 

Khanda II — Brahman: the Cause of the Universe

 

  1. “In the beginning, my dear, this universe was Being (Sat) alone, one only without a second. Some say that in the beginning this was non—being (asat) alone, one only without a second; and from that non—being, being was born.”
  2. Aruni said: “But how, indeed, could it be thus, my dear? How could Being be born from non—being? No, my dear, it was Being alone that existed in the beginning, one only without a second.
  3. “It (Being, or Brahman) thought: ‘May I be many; may I grow forth.’ It created fire. That fire thought: ‘May I be many; may I grow forth.’ It created water. That is why, whenever a person is hot and perspires, water is produced from fire (heat) alone.
  4. “That water thought: ‘May I be many; may I grow forth.’ It created food (i.e. earth). That is why, whenever it rains anywhere, abundant food is produced. From water alone is edible food produced.

 

Khanda III — The Threefold Development

 

  1. “Of all these living beings, there are only three origins: those born from an egg, those born from a living being and those born from a sprout.
  2. “That Deity thought: ‘Let Me now enter into those three deities by means of this living self and let Me then develop names and forms.’
  3. “That Deity, having thought: ‘Let Me make each of these three tripartite,’ entered into these three deities by means of the living self and developed names and forms.
  4. “It made each of these tripartite; and how these three deities became, each of them, tripartite, that learn from me now, my dear.

 

Khanda IV — The Threefold Development further explained

 

  1. “The red colour of gross fire is the colour of the original fire; the white colour of gross fire is the colour of the original water; the black colour of gross fire is the colour of the original earth. Thus vanishes from fire what is commonly called fire, the modification being only a name, arising from speech, while the three colours (forms) alone are true.
  2. “The red colour of the sun is the colour of fire, the white the colour of water, the black the colour of earth. Thus vanishes from the sun what is commonly called the sun, the modification being only a name, arising from speech, while the three colours alone are true.
  3. “The red colour of the moon is the colour of fire, the white the colour of water, the black the colour of earth. Thus vanishes from the moon what is commonly called the moon, the modification being only a name, arising from speech, while the three colours alone are true.
  4. “The red colour of lightning is the colour of fire, the white the colour of water, the black the colour of earth. Thus vanishes from lightning what is commonly called lighting, the modification being only a name, arising from speech, while the three colours alone are true.
  5. “It was just through this knowledge that the great householders and great Vedic scholars of olden times declared: ‘No one can now mention to us anything which we have not heard, thought of, or known.’ They knew all from these three forms.

6—7. “Whatever, appeared red they knew to be the colour of fire; whatever appeared white they knew to be the colour of water; whatever appeared black they knew to be the colour of earth. “Whatever appeared to be unknown they knew to be the combination of these three deities (i.e. colours). Now learn from me, my dear, how these three deities, when they reach man, become each of them tripartite.

 

Khanda V — The Threefold Nature of Food

 

  1. “Food when eaten becomes threefold. What is coarsest in it becomes faeces, what is medium becomes flesh and what is subtlest becomes mind.
  2. “Water when drunk becomes threefold. What is coarsest in it becomes urine, what is medium becomes blood and what is subtlest becomes prana.
  3. “Fire when eaten becomes threefold. What is coarsest in it becomes bone, what is medium becomes marrow and what is subtlest becomes speech.
  4. “The mind, my dear, consists of food, the prana of water and speech of heat.” “Please, venerable Sir, instruct me further.” “So be it, my dear.”

 

Khanda VI — The Physical Nature of the Mind, the Prana and Speech

 

  1. “That, my dear, which is the subtlest part of curds rises, when they are churned and becomes butter.
  2. “In the same manner, my dear, that which is the subtlest part of the food that is eaten rises and becomes mind.
  3. “The subtlest part of the water that is drunk rises and becomes prana.
  4. “The subtlest part of the fire that is eaten rises and becomes speech.
  5. “Thus, my dear, the mind consists of food, the prana consists of water and speech consists of fire.” “Please, venerable Sir, instruct me further.” “So be it, my dear.”

 

Khanda VII — How the Mind consists of Food

 

  1. “A person, my dear, consists of sixteen parts. Do not eat any food for fifteen days, but drink as much water as you like. Since the prana consists of water, it will not be cut off if you drink water.”
  2. Svetaketu did not eat any food for fifteen days. Then he came to his father and said: “What, Sir, shall I recite?” His father said: “The Rik, Yagus and Saman verses.” He replied: “They do not occur to me, Sir.”
  3. His father said to him: “Just as, my dear, of a great blazing fire a single coal, the size of a firefly, may be left, which would not burn much more than that, even so, my dear, of your sixteen parts only one part is left; and therefore with that one part you do not remember the Vedas. Now go and eat and you will understand me.”
  4. Svetaketu ate and approached his father. Then whatever his father asked him, he showed that he knew it.

5—6. Then his father said to him: “Just as, my dear, of a great lighted fire a single coal the size of a firefly, if left, may be made to blaze up again by adding grass to it and will thus burn much more, “Even so, my dear; of your sixteen parts only one part was left and that, when strengthened by food, blazed up. With it you now remember the Vedas. Therefore, my dear, the mind consists of food, the prana consists of water and speech consists of fire.” After that he understood what his father said, yea, he understood it.

 

Khanda VIII — Concerning Sleep, Hunger, Thirst and Death

 

  1. Uddalaka the son of Aruna said to his son Svetaketu: “Learn from me, my dear, the true nature of sleep. When a person has entered into deep sleep, as it is called, then, my dear, he becomes united with Pure Being (Sat), he has gone to his own Self. That is why they say he is in deep sleep (svapiti); it is because he has gone (apita) to his own (svam).
  2. “Just as a bird tied by a string to the hand of the bird—catcher first flies in every direction and then finding no rest anywhere, settles down at the place where it is bound, so also the mind (i.e. the individual soul reflected in the mind), my dear, after flying in every direction and finding no rest anywhere, settles down in the Prana (i.e. Pure Being); for the mind (the individual soul) is fastened to the Prana (Pure Being).
  3. “Learn from me, my dear, what hunger and thirst are. When a man is hungry, as they say, it is water that has led (i.e. carried away) what was eaten. Therefore, just as they speak of a leader of cows, a leader of horses, a leader of men, so do they speak of water as the leader of food. So, my dear, know this offshoot (i.e. the body) to have sprung forth from a cause, for it cannot be without a root.
  4. “And where could its root be except in food (earth)? And in the same way, my dear, as food too is an offshoot, seek for water as its root. And as water too, my dear, is an offshoot, seek for fire as its root. And as fire too, my dear, is an offshoot, seek for Being (Sat) as its root. Yes, all these creatures, my dear, have their root in Being, they dwell in Being, they finally rest in Being.
  5. “When a man is said to be thirsty, it is fire that has led (i.e. carried away) what was drunk by him. Therefore as they speak of a leader of cows, a leader of horses, a leader of men, so do they speak of fire as the leader of water. So, my dear, know this offshoot (the body) to have sprung forth from a cause, for it cannot be without a root.
  6. “And where could its root be except in water? And in the same way, my dear, as water is an offshoot, seek for fire as its root. And as fire too, my dear, is an offshoot, seek for Being as its root. Yes, my dear, all these creatures have their root in Being, they dwell in Being, they finally rest in Being. “And how these three deities (fire, water and earth), on reaching a human being, become each of them tripartite has already been said. When a person departs hence, his speech merges in his mind, his mind in his prana, his prana in heat (fire) and the heat in the Highest Being.
  7. “Now, that which is the subtle essence—in it all that exists has its self. That is the True. That is the Self. That thou art, Svetaketu.” “Please, venerable Sir, give me further instruction,” said the son. “So be it, my dear,” the father replied.

 

Khanda IX — The Absence of Individuality in Deep Sleep

 

1—2. “As bees, my dear, make honey by collecting the juices of trees located at different places and reduce them to one form, “And as these juices have no discrimination so as to be able to say: ‘I am the juice of this tree,’ or ‘I am the juice of that tree’—even so, indeed, my dear, all these creatures, though they reach Pure Being, do not know that they have reached Pure Being.

  1. “Whatever these creatures are, here in this world—a tiger, a lion, a wolf, a boar, a worm, a fly, a gnat, or a mosquito—that they become again.
  2. “Now, that which is the subtle essence—in it all that exists has its self. That is the True. That is the Self. That thou art, Svetaketu.” “Please, venerable Sir, give me further instruction,” said the son. “So be it, my dear,” the father replied.

 

Khanda X — The Absence of Particularized Consciousness in Deep Sleep

 

1—2. “These rivers, my dear, flow—the eastern toward the east and the western toward the west. They arise from the sea and flow into the sea. Just as these rivers, while they are in the sea, do not know: ‘I am this river’ or ‘I am that river,’ “Even so, my dear, all these creatures, even though they have come from Pure Being, do not know that they have come from Pure Being. Whatever these creatures are, here in this world—a tiger, a lion, a wolf a boar, a worm, a fly, a gnat, or a mosquito, that they become again.

  1. “Now, that which is the subtle essence—in it all that exists has its self. That is the True. That is the Self. That thou art, Svetaketu.” “Please, venerable Sir, give me further instruction,” said the son. “So be it, my dear,” the father replied.

 

Khanda XI — The Indestructibility of the Jiva

 

  1. “If, my dear, someone were to strike at the root of this large tree here, it would bleed but live. If he were to strike at the middle, it would bleed but live. If he were to strike at the top, it would bleed but live. Pervaded by the living self, that tree stands firm, drinking in again and again its nourishment and rejoicing.
  2. “But if the life (i.e. living self) leaves one of its branches, that branch withers; if it leaves a second, that branch withers; if it leaves a third, that branch withers. If it leaves the whole tree, the whole three withers.
  3. “In exactly the same manner, my dear,” said he, “know this: This body dies, bereft of the living self; but the living self dies not. “Now, that which is the subtle essence—in it all that exists has its self. That is the True. That is the Self. That thou art, Svetaketu.” “Please, venerable Sir, give me further instruction,” said the son. “So be it, my dear,” the father replied.

 

Khanda XII — The Birth of the Gross from the Subtle

 

  1. “Bring me a fruit of that nyagrodha (banyan) tree.” “Here it is’ venerable Sir.” “Break it.” “It is broken, venerable Sir.” “What do you see there?” “These seeds, exceedingly small, “Break one of these, my son.” “It is broken, venerable Sir.” “What do you see there?” “Nothing at all, venerable Sir.”
  2. The father said: “That subtle essence, my dear, which you do not perceive there—from that very essence this great nyagrodha arises. Believe me, my dear.
  3. “Now, that which is the subtle essence—in it all that exists has its self. That is the True. That is the Self. That thou art, Svetaketu.” “Please, venerable Sir, give me further instruction,” said the son. “So be it, my dear,” the father replied.

 

Khanda XIII — The Invisibility of an Existent Object

 

  1. “Place this salt in water and then come to me in the morning.” The son did as he was told. The father said to him: “My son, bring me the salt which you placed in the water last night.” Looking for it, the son did not find it, for it was completely dissolved.
  2. The father said: “My son, take a sip of water from the surface. How is it?” “It is salt.” “Take a sip from the middle. How is it?” “It is salt.” “Take a sip from the bottom. How is it?” “It is salt.” “Throw it away and come to me.” The son did as he was told, saying: “The salt was there all the time.” Then the father said: “Here also, my dear, in this body you do not perceive Sat (Being); but It is indeed there.”
  3. “Now, that which is the subtle essence—in it all that exists has its self. That is the True. That is the Self That thou art, Svetaketu.” “Please, venerable Sir, give me further instruction,” said the son. “So be it, my dear,” the father replied.

 

Khanda XIV — The Means of Self—Knowledge

 

  1. “Just as someone, my dear, might lead a person, with his eyes covered, away from the country of the Gandharas and leave him in a place where there were no human beings; and just as that person would turn toward the east, or the north, or the south, or the west, shouting: ‘I have been brought here with my eyes covered, I have been left here with my eyes covered!’
  2. “And as thereupon someone might loosen the covering and say to him: ‘Gandhara is in that direction; go that way’; and as thereupon, having been informed and being capable of judgement, he would, by asking his way from one village to another, arrive at last at Gandhara—in exactly the same manner does a man who has found a teacher to instruct him obtain the true knowledge. For him there is delay only so long as he is not liberated from the body; then he reaches perfection.
  3. “Now, that which is the subtle essence—in it all that exists has its self. That is the True. That is the Self That thou art, Svetaketu.” “Please, venerable Sir, give me further instruction,” said the son. “So be it, my dear,” the father replied.

 

Khanda XV — Ultimate Liberation

 

  1. “Around a dying person afflicted with illness, my dear, his relatives gather and ask: ‘Do you know me? Do you know me?’ He knows them as long as his speech is not merged in his mind, his mind in his prana (breath), his prana in heat (fire) and the heat in the Highest Deity.
  2. “But when his speech is merged in his mind, his mind in his prana, his prana in heat and the heat in the Highest Deity, then he does not know them.
  3. “Now, that which is the subtle essence—in it all that exists has its self. That is the True. That is the Self. That thou art, Svetaketu.” “Please, venerable Sir, give me further instruction,” said the son “So be it, my dear;” the father replied.

 

Khanda XVI — Liberation for the Knower of Brahman

 

  1. “My dear, they (i.e. the police) bring a man whom they have seized by the hand and say: ‘He has taken something, he has committed a theft.’ When he denies it, they say: ‘Heat the axe for him.’ If he has committed the theft but denies it, then he makes himself a liar. Being false—minded, he covers himself with falsehood, grasps the heated axe and is burnt. Then he is killed.
  2. “But if he did not commit the theft, then he makes himself what he really is. Being true—minded, he covers himself with truth, grasps the heated axe and is not burnt. He is released.
  3. “As that truthful man is not burnt so also one who has known Sat is not born again. Thus in That (Sat) all that exists has its self. That is the True. That is the Self. That thou art, Svetaketu.”

 

Gems Of Wisdom From Ashtavakra Gita

Ashtavakra Gita is a famous scripture of Advaita Vedanta which was written as a conversation between sage Ashtavakra and king Janaka. Ashtavakra was the grandson of vedic sage Aruni. ( Aruni was the guru of vedic sage Yajnavalkya and Yajnavalkya was believed to be the teacher of Janaka.). Sage Ashtavakra has been mentioned in both Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Exact date of composition of Ashtavakra Gita is not known. While the text is traditionally attributed to Ashtavakra himself, some scholars believe that the text was composed a little before Gaudapada’s period or after Shankara’s time.

Both Ramakrishna Paramhamsa and Ramana Maharshi have quoted and appreciated Ashtavakra Gita for its deep wisdom.

Ramabhadracharya_Works_-_Painting_in_Ashtavakra_(2010)

Image credit – Wiki

Osho identified the similarity between Ashtavakra’s teachings and the teachings of Lao Tzu:

“Just a few days ago I was talking about Ashtavakra. Yes, he is exactly like Lao Tzu; he also praises the quality of sublime laziness. He calls it ALASI SHIROMANI. the emperor of laziness, a great king of laziness, the highest peak of laziness. But remember, inactivity plus energy, plus vitality. And not a single effort has to be made, because in the effort so much energy will be wasted that you will be less radiant. And God comes to you only when you are so vital — optimumly vital, optimum… at the peak — that you cannot be any more vital. At that peak you meet the divine. Your highest energy comes closest to God’s feet; God’s lowest energy is closest to man’s highest energy, and there is the communion.”

– Tao: The Pathless Path, Vol 1, Chapter #2

The English translation of the book is available for free here:

http://www.holybooks.com/wp-content/uploads/Ashtavakra-Gita-ebook.pdf

Here are some of the verses that I found to be very useful for seekers and deep in meaning:

1.8 The thought: “I am the doer” is the bite of a poisonous snake. To know: “I do nothing” is the wisdom of faith. Be happy.

1.13 Meditate on this: “I am Awareness alone–Unity itself.” Give up the idea that you are separate, a person, that there is within and without.

1.19 Just as a mirror exists both within and without the image reflected, the Supreme Self exists both within and without the body.

1.20 Just as the same space exists both within and without a jar, the timeless, all-pervasive One exists as Totality.

2.5 Look closely at cloth, you see only threads. Look closely at creation, you see only Self.

3.10 A great soul witnesses his body’s actions as if they were another’s. How can praise or blame disturb him?

15.6 Realize Self in All and All in Self. Be free of personal identity and the sense of “mine.” Be happy

15.11 Let the waves of the universe rise and fall as they will. You have nothing to gain or lose. You are the ocean.

16.1 You can recite and discuss scripture all you want, but until you drop everything you will never know Truth.

16.8 Indulgence creates attachment. Aversion creates abstinence. Like a child, the sage is free of both and thus lives on as a child.

16.9 One who is attached to the world thinks renouncing it will relieve his misery. One who is attached to nothing is free and does not feel miserable even in the world.

16.10 He who claims liberation as his own, as an attainment of a person, is neither enlightened nor a seeker. He suffers his own misery.

17.4 Rare in the world is one who does not relish past enjoyments, nor yearn for enjoyments to come.

17.5 Those who desire pleasure and those who desire liberation are both common in the world. Rare is the great soul who desires neither enjoyment nor liberation.

17.17 The liberated one neither avoids experience nor craves it. He enjoys what comes and what does not.

18.9 Knowing for certain that all is Self, the sage has no trace of thoughts such as “I am this” or “I am not that.”

18.37 Because he desires to know God, the ignorant man can never become That. The wise man is God because he is free of desire and knows nothing.

18.40 For he who thinks knowledge is things and ideas how can there be Self-knowledge? The wise do not see separate things– only the timeless Self.

18.42 Some believe in existence; others believe nothing exists. Rare is the one who believes nothing and is never confused.

18.43 Weak intellectuals may believe the Self is One without other. But being mired in illusion they do not actually know Self, so live out their lives in misery.

18.49 The sage does whatever appears to be done without thinking of good or bad. His actions are those of a child.

18.55 Though his servants, sons, wives, daughters, grandchildren and all his relatives ridicule and despise him, the yogi is undismayed.

18.56 Though pleased he is not pleasured; though pained he does not suffer. This wonderful state is understood only by those like him.

18.58 Even doing nothing the dull one is anxious and distracted. Even amidst great action the wise one remains still.