If I Speak in the Tongues of Men or of Angels – A Commentary on I Corinthians 13 and Bible’s Connection with Advaita Vedanta

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Hi people! Is there anything that is greater than love? Can there be anything ever that is greater than Love itself? No! I don’t think so! Love is the only thing that connects us… No matter which part of the world you are from… You need to understand that we belong to the same family! I am your relative no matter where you are from… This whole earth is one family and our family!

Let us all unite together, be happy and treat everyone as our own family members. I love you guys… We as humans have to stand up for a global unity and peace.

We CAN make this world a better place to live..

I don’t see any difference between John 14: 19-21 and Bhagavad Gita 9:29. I have no idea why people are fighting…
 
Gita 9:29:
I am equal to all living beings; I don’t have anyone that I hate or anyone who I told dearer than the others. But whoever worships me with devotion, they are in me and I am in them
 
John 14:19 -21:
Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

What we call as God is beyond time and space; but we understand him or imagine him as a person. This is because human mind always detects an agent for everything; this agent deduction in the human mind imagines God in human form or an invisible personality that has human psychology. But this is due to our limitation, not God’s! God is not a person but a personification that points to a direct experience and presence beyond time and space.

Also, most of the scriptures got distorted because of later interpolation, poor translation, lost verses, edited verses and testimony from people who are not direct eyewitnesses. Even the testimonies of eyewitnesses can be biased and memory can be biased too! But regardless of all that, the essence of the scriptures have been realized by millions of sages before us and their teachings can guide us to salvation.

Here is a riddle for you: 

He sees through the eyes of every being, knows through the awareness of every manifest organism and walks using the legs of every piece of life.

As an Octopus he has eight legs; as the son of Man, he has two legs; as the son of God, he is the inner light of every little thing that eats, procreates and decomposes!

He is beyond time and space.

He exists as the love of every mother, as the care of every father, as the company of every brother, as the support of every sister, as the closeness of every wife and as the convenience of every servant.

He shakes hands with you through every friend you see and he pays your wages as every boss you work for. He is the one who eats and he is the one who gets eaten, yet he neither eats; nor gets eaten. He is the essence of every word, every sound, every sentence, every contradiction, every confusion, everything that is good and bad; NOT EVEN AN ATOM MOVES WITHOUT HIS WILL…

He is the one who robs, which gets robbed and the act of robbing; yet he neither robs nor gets robbed. He is beyond the limits of human intellect even though intellect itself is a manifestation of him; he is beyond the power of human vision, even though human vision itself is one of his manifestations!. He is beyond the power of human ears and yet he is everything that you hear…

He is She; She is it, and it is You!  … His kingdom is within you and He is closer than the mane behind your neck! All praise ultimately goes to him and no one else.. He is the good shepherd and the sheep, he is the Gopalan and the Gomata; he is the Pashu and he is the Pathi! He is the Kartha, the doer; every biochemical living piece on planet earth is just a puppet; this puppet show is going on for aeons as a holy game of God…. you suffer, you laugh, you enjoy, you grow, you sin and someday you may even become a saint.. but you know, it is all in the game… in the eyes of God, there is no discrimination!

He is the sweetness of the milk and the sourness of the toddy; He is the intoxication and he is the clarity.. everything happens to according to His will and His will alone.. He is both the uppercase and the lower case letters and the one who is beyond, before, beneath, below and in the middle of all the letters.. He is the first and he is the last, yet He has no beginning and no end!

He expands through and from you in all directions and pervades everything, including every single stone pillar on earth, every single speck of dust and every heart that beats…

He is every mistake and he is every correction … He is… Only He is… He is the one truth which is known, spoken, and understood by various means, forms, names and practices by wise people…

He is not a person but a personification!

Who is He?

Clue: The answer is inside you, within you and lies very close to you; close your eyes and keep looking until you find it…

When you find it, your expression certainly will be, ‘Oh My God!’….

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Some Wonderful lyrics of Tamil Poet Vairamuthu Regarding Spirituality

Generally, I prefer movies which show reality as it is, like a mirror. A lot of Indian movies are usually anti-reality, but things are getting better. There are a few Tamil lyrics written by Tamil poet Vairamuthu, who is currently the top lyricist in Tamil Movie Industry.

Let us start with a wonderful movie ‘Anbe Sivam’ (2003). The movie itself comes with a strong spiritual message and seems to be inspired by the Hollywood movie ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles ‘. You can compare the stills, they look alike:

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Now, let us see a song in the movie with its English translation:

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“யார் யார் சிவம்? நீ, நான், சிவம்!
வாழ்வே தவம்! அன்பே சிவம்!
ஆத்திகம் பேசும் அடியார்க்கெல்லாம் சிவமே அன்பாகும்!
நாத்திகம் பேசும் நல்லவருக்கோ அன்பே சிவமாகும்!
அன்பே சிவம்! அன்பே சிவம்! என்றும்,
அன்பே சிவம்! அன்பே சிவம்! எங்கும்,
அன்பின் பாதை சேர்ந்தவனுக்கு முடிவே இல்லையடா!
மனதின் நீளம் எதுவோ, அதுவே வாழ்வின் நீளமடா!

  • கவிப்பேரரசு வைரமுத்து

Who is Shiva? You and I are (essentially) Shiva!
Life is a penance; Love is Shiva!
For theists who surrender to the Almighty, Shiva is love!
For atheists who are good at heart, Love is Shiva!
Love is Shiva, Love is Shiva forever!
Love is Shiva, Love is Shiva everywhere!
If you walk on the path of life, there is no end for you..
The length of your mind (heart) is the length of your life!

  • Vairamuthu, The Great King of Poets

(If you do a search, you may be able to watch the movie online with English subtitles. I recommend watching both ”Planes, Trains and Automobiles ‘ and ‘Anbe Shivam‘ if you are interested in both movies and spirituality.

Then there is another song from the movie Padayappa (1999). Here is just a part of that song, which I like very much:

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தங்கத்தை பூட்டி வைத்தாய் வைரத்தை பூட்டி வைத்தாய்
உயிரை பூட்ட ஏது பூட்டு?
குழந்தை ஞானி இந்த இருவர் தவிர இங்கே
சுகமாய் இருப்பவர் யார் காட்டு!
“ஜீவன் இருக்கும் மட்டும் வாழ்கை நமது மட்டும்”
இது தான் ஞான சித்தர் பாட்டு!
இந்த பூமி சமம் நமக்கு;
நம் தெருவுக்குள் மத சண்டை ஜாதி சண்டை வம்பெதுக்கு?

  • கவிப்பேரரசு வைரமுத்து

You can lock the gold, you can lock the diamond,
but you cannot lock your life inside a body!
Is there anyone who is blissful except a child and a Jnani (self-realized person)?
Only as long as life is in the body, you can say that life belongs to only me.
This is the song of the Jnana Siddha!
Everyone has equal rights on the earth (like a family)..
Why should there be quarrels in our street based on religious and caste discrimination?

  • Vairamuthu, The Great King of Poets

 

Controversies on Vairamuthu

People, especially politicians in Tamil Nadu have been trying to malign and defame Vairamuthu because of an absurd reason. Vairamuthu wrote a research article about a Tamil saint Andal, completely praising her Tamil poetry.  He also quoted a researcher who said that Andal was a Devadasi who lived and died in Sri Rangam temple in Tamil Nadu. Devadasi literally means, a slave to God! A huge community called Devadasi community existed in South India and the women who belonged to this community were brought up in temples right from the young age and were taught fine arts. Women are usually good at fine arts like dancing, singing, painting etc. You can check out Sreeja Renganath from Quora for example: https://www.quora.com/profile/Sreeja-Renganath. For me, she seems to be the living manifestation of Goddess Saraswathi, the Goddess of wisdom. I am not being polite, I am being brutally honest. Read this answer of hers, you will know what I mean: https://qr.ae/TUhfF0 (an English name which represents wisdom is ‘Sophia’. This can be said like the English concept of Sarasvathi.)

Devadasis were wonderful women. Usually, they grew up to be extraordinarily devoted and consider God as the master and themselves as slaves. This is called Dasa Bhavana, the attitude that Hanuman is shown to have towards Rama in Indian epic Ramayana. These girls saw the Almighty as their husband. But later on, some people who were in charge of some temples started enslaving these Devadasis, took advantage of them and used them for prostitution. People who are so attached to the forms of deities (without realizing that all forms represent one truth), who claim that their ‘God’ can be insulted, should first realize that this tragedy that happened to Devadasi community was the actual insult to Goddess Saraswathi. Over the years, the word ‘Devadasi’ earned a bad connotation. The word ‘Devadasi’ can be very easily misunderstood nowadays as a synonym for prostitute. So, thousands of people who didn’t even read Vairamuthu’s essay started to verbally abuse him, threatened to kill him, forced him to apologize to Andal by coming to Andal’s temple in Srivilliputtur and made his life difficult after that for no reason. Vairamuthu didn’t do anything wrong in this regard!

Recently, he also has been accused of sexual harassment by a singer Chinmayi in Tamil Nadu, via the METOO campaign. Chinmayi made an allegation on him and the poet denied it.  Chinmayi says that it was something that happened more than a decade before. I have no idea who is saying the truth! But the impression that singer Chinmayi has made in general among the people of Tamil Nadu is not good. I sense a dominative character in Chinmayi and I suspect that she can lie or at least exaggerate something and make a mountain out of the molehill. Generally, after looking at the METOO issue, everyone gets this question: ‘Is this campaign really helping common men and women or is it only targetting celebrities? Because I know very well that most of these common people in India do not use Twitter or have never heard about it. Also, what makes these people to think that a person is exactly the same as how he was more than a decade ago?’

People change… But forgiveness, which seems to be the backbone of all the world religions is becoming an out of date concept these days!

The truth will win one day! No matter what the truth is, it will win! I just wrote this post to help people see and focus the positive side of poet Vairamuthu. He is a legend..

For the sake of the argument, let us say that Vairamuthi was indeed guilty of things that he is accused of. We need to still realize the fact that every saint was once a sinner and every sinner has the potential to become a saint. A human being is not a static entity, it is a process! Even Valmiki, who wrote Ramayana is said to be a robber before he became a saint!

This post is an expression of gratitude to Andal herself. The month of Marghazhi (16 Dec 2018 – 13 Jan 2019) which is considered to be special for Andal is also approaching. The name Andal reminds me of my English teacher at Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal Golden Jubilee Matriculation higher secondary school, Sankarnagar, Tirunelveli -627357. My English teacher in my seventh standard was a teacher named Andal. Whenever someone says my English is good, please understand the whole credit goes to her. Folded Hands on EmojiOne

These are the letters  that she wrote to me many years before:

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Wow, the first one is dated on 24th of  November, 1997. I didn’t realize that the anniversary of this letter was over just a couple of days before until I began to write this paragraph… (I have already mentioned about this letter and a few other letters in my Quora answer here: https://qr.ae/TUhfPb )

Satyameva Jayate!

The Origin and the Meaning of the Word ‘Avyakta’ – The Unmanifest

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This infographic explains the meaning and the origin of the word ‘avyakta’ (unmanifest) and it’s connection to the spiritual path and spiritual enlightenment.

Avyakta is a Sanskrit word. The verb root present here is ‘anj’ (a~nj), which means smear with, anoint, to apply to ointment or pigment.

The word ‘anjana’ which means kajal, a pigment applied to the eyebrows to blacken them comes from this verb root ‘anj’.

Kajal makes the eyebrows distinct and well defined. Once applied, the eyebrows become more manifest with clearer boundaries.

The word ‘akta’ is an adjective, which also comes from the root ‘anj’. It means ‘smeared’.

When you add the prefix ‘vi’ to ‘akta’, it becomes ‘vyakta’; vyakta means anything that is manifest, defined and has a boundary. Anything that can be observed or witnessed through sense organs and mind and by the awareness is vyakta or manifest.

The word ‘vyakti’ means identity, person, distinct or defined. It also comes from the same root. When you identify yourself as a person, you automatically feel separate from the universe. According to Vedanta, this sense of separation is the cause of the psychological suffering.

Avyakta is the opposite of vyakta. Avyakta is the undefined and boundlessness. When you lose the sense of separation, you realize that you are avyakta. You realize that this avyakta is the only truth there is. Avyakta is synonymous with absolute reality, Brahman, Tao, Satchitananda etc. When you realize you are that, you no longer identify yourself with a person, a mind or body, or anything that is manifest or defined. If anything has any definition or seen as distinct from the rest of the world, avyakta is not seen anymore.

Avyakta is like the screen of infinity where the everchanging manifest world is being played. It is the unmanifest which manifests itself as distinct objects or things. The essence of anything that is manifest is the unmanifest or avyakta. The objects on a screen doesn’t have any separate existence other than the screen itself.

Tat Tvam Asi – You Are That

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For more elaboration of this screen analogy, read the following links:

Ramana Maharshi and the Cinema Screen Analogy

The Meaning of Truth, Consciousness and Bliss – Satchitananda

The Good News – A Poem Connecting Biblical and Vedantic Thoughts

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Your life is the most beautiful mystery
And the screen which plays your private history;
Your life is the truth, consciousness, and bliss
That can’t be pointed out as that or this.

The life screen is the only truth you know;
All that are manifest move in its show;
This essence of life is your true nature;
Knowing this ends the distress and torture.

The one truth that pervades the time and space
Shines in the heart and showers love and grace;
By the veil of darkness it is concealed;
By nonstop inquiry, it is revealed.

That one truth is called by various names;
Deep inside you, it eternally flames;
It is the immortal life and the way;
Look inside, you can find its sparkling ray!

From the dawn of life, seers have seen this
And were reborn by its transforming kiss;
Unless you’re reborn as a wide-eyed kid,
It remains tucked away by a dark lid.

Those who mourn will be appeased by its shade;
Their craving thirst will be killed by its blade;
Those who cleaned their heart are blessed by its touch;
The mere words can convey only this much.

Neither moth nor rust can impair this truth;
None can steal it and none can cause your ruth;
No spade can cut it and fire can’t burn it;
Water can’t wet it and wind can’t dry it.

The birds of the blue sky don’t sow or reap;
About tomorrow, they don’t grieve or weep;
Like those blissful birds, you can become free
Then You’re not the wave, but the boundless sea!

Listen to this good news and wipe your tears!
Wake up from your dream and destroy your fears!
The guiding good shepherd is inside you
As a light that shines with a golden hue!

Whoever has ears, let them hear this song;
With their friends and foes, let them get along!
The kingdom of heaven is filled with love
where the peace descends on you like a dove!

 

Bhavacakra – The Wheel Of Life: Infographics

Bhavacakra or Bhavachakra, known as the wheel of life is painted in the Buddhist temples in Tibet and India. It is a symbolic representation of the wheel of life.

Here is the gist of Bhavacakra:

  1. Ignorance of mistaking non-self as self-leads to aversion and attachments.
  2.  This, in turn, leads to volition, action and the pleasant or unpleasant consequences of the actions.
  3.  Depending on the consequences, a person enjoys or suffers the fruits of his action.
  4. The 12 nidanas give a clear picture of dependent origination. It states that everything is interconnected with various casual links. Nirvana or liberation is the only thing which is not affected by dependent origination.
  5. The five aggregates are impermanent and clinging to them causes suffering.
  6. There is a way to get liberated. It is called as eightfold path.

This is a mandala and can be used for meditation. To know more about the mandalas, read the following posts:

(I will make a detailed video about this shortly. Subscribe to my Youtube channel to watch the videos in time: http://bit.ly/shanmugamy )

Bhavacakra Mandala

Bhavacakra Mandala

Here are some useful infographics which give the details about various aspects of Bhavacakra mandala.

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(You can also interpret these realms as the periods of your current life. For example, a person might be in any of the following realms for a few months:

Sometimes we are like devas, very happy and pleased;

Sometimes like asuras, even though happy we don’t feel content and this leads to craving, attachment and aversion;

Sometimes like humans, being more responsible and showering love to friends, families and others;

Sometimes like animals, just eating and sleeping;

Sometimes like a hungry ghost, deprived of our needs and feel totally dissatisfied, frustrated and helpless;

Sometimes like beings of the hell, going through extreme suffering that seems to be endless.

The idea is to convey that none of these states are permanent and a proper spiritual practice is the only way to find permanent bliss in life.)

 

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Logic And Spiritual Enlightenment – An Overview of Anekantavada, Saptabhangivada (Seven Valued Logic) and Syadvada of Jainism

In this post, I am going to address a very important topic. Because there is a certain misunderstanding that exists among the spiritual seekers when it comes to logic and reasoning. Many blind followers of certain cults accept whatever nonsense that is said by their leader as the truth; They do not want to use their reason for any reason at all. So, I am going to address the following question in detail: What is the place for logic and reasoning in spiritual path?

Is it completely absurd to use your nature-given reasoning when it comes anything uttered by your so-called Guru who has a long beard and claims to be enlightened?

Absolutely No!

Everything has a place and use in life and also has its limitations. You cannot use your eyes to pick up things and you cannot use your hands to watch a movie! Anybody who is even debating if the hands are better than eyes or vice versa is being completely childish and immature.

So, why do certain Gurus keep saying that you cannot use logic to figure things out on the spiritual path? Because it is true in certain situations but not applicable to every nonsense you hear. Here are some reasons why reasoning alone will not help:

  1. Lack of premise

For any logical conclusion, you need a premise. For example, consider the following statements:

  1. There is smoke coming out of that house.
  2. Therefore, there is possibly a fire burning inside the house.

Statement #1 is the observation. Statement #2 is the logical conclusion you came up with based on the observation. But what premise is this conclusion based on? The premise is, “If there is smoke, there must be fire”.

So, the following two things have to be kept in mind:

  1. Without necessary premises, you may be missing the knowledge of something important. Without that knowledge, your conclusions could be wrong. If you think that smoke doesn’t need fire to exist, then you will not be able to infer that there is a fire in the house (after seeing the smoke).
  2. If the premise is wrong, your conclusions will be wrong. This is bound to happen even if your explanation is completely logical.

If you are not spiritually enlightened or self-realized yourself, you will misunderstand the behavior of an enlightened person. Because you will be interpreting his behavior while assuming that he is still functioning in duality or with a separate sense of self. You cannot understand how it feels like to function without a sense of separation when you yourself are bound by separation and duality. Why so? Because an important premise is missing here; only spiritual enlightenment can give that premise because the premise is not something intellectual; it is experiential. Read this for more info: Is Spiritual Enlightenment Known or Experienced?.

Only when you live as a liberated person, you understand how an enlightened person perceives the reality. This understanding is the premise you need to logically talk about that unaltered, unclouded, impersonal, unified, authentic non-dual experience of reality that lacks a sense of separation, sense of psychological time, sense of psychological lack and a self concept . Here, the problem is not with logic itself; the problem is just the absence of premise. You need to first work on getting to know the necessary premise before you can meaningfully and accurately talk about it.

Let me give you an example to make it even clear. A stomach pain is experiential. But you can logically talk about stomach pain to another person because you have experienced stomach pain and the listener has also experienced it. If you have not experienced stomach pain before, you lack the necessary premise to talk about it.  Read this for more clarity: Why Is Spiritual Enlightenment Indescribable?.

2. You cannot think your way to enlightenment

When it comes to spirituality, the means to liberation involves meditation. Meditation is of two-fold: 1) Practices that are designed to develop concentration, discrimination between the witness and the witnessednon-attachment etc. They make you completely prepared. 2) Insight-oriented practices which are called by many names such as mindfulness, self-inquiry etc which is a non-doing, inquiry and observation based meditation.

So, just thinking about enlightenment or analyzing a verbal testimony that attempts to describe non-duality will not clear any of your doubts. If you come to conclusions about the nature of non-duality only based on thinking alone, it will be wrong. Because, as we saw already, you are missing out on an important premise.

3. The spiritual practice is not about anything objective.

Here, by the word objective, I am talking about anything that can be observed with your awareness: the shape and color of the dog, the smell of bullshit, a thought, a feeling, a physical sensation etc.

In spiritual practice, our main interest is not on anything that is objective. You are supposed to first realize that there is a self-evident, attribute-less, pure conscious experience of reality in which everything that is observed has an ontological existence. And this is the pure subject. As for as your experience is concerned, it is like a screen of pure conscious experience  where the world along with matter, time, space, movement, non-movement etc happens. In the Jain philosophy, the witness, along with matter, time, space, movement and non-movement are called as dravyas. These six substances are considered as eternal. But this is not contradictory to the two fold truth of Purusha and Prakriti. The five substances apart from the witness are nothing but the further enumeration of Prakriti. The movement and non-movement already represents rajas and tamas respectively. Jain philosophy eliminated sattva because it is just a balance of rajas or tamas. Instead it added time, space and matter. These differences are not a problem since they are just working models which are used in spiritual practice. In fact, instead of 6 dravyas, one can try coming up with more numbers. This is how 24 tattvas in Samkhya, 36 tattvas in Kashmiri Shaivism, 6 koshas in Vedanta and 5 aggregates in Buddhism are defined. They are just enumeration of basic units of one’s conscious experience. I have explained more about it here: The Truth About Yantras, Chakras, Temples, Tantra and Agamas.

In Sanskrit, this witness is called as Atman. There is another meaning for Atman which is spirit. But in many spiritual traditions, people did not use that word to mean ‘spirit’ at all. In fact, the actual meaning of the Sanskrit word ‘Atman’ is ‘Self’. The sentence ‘he saw himself in the mirror’ is translated as ‘sah darpane Atmanam pasyati’ in Sanskrit. Here, Atman is declined in objective class as ‘Atmanam’. But this word is translated as ‘soul’ in English, which actually gives a wrong meaning. Because, soul in English is always associated with a spirit or some invisible entity that lives in the body. But in Jain philosophy, Atman is just a witness.

“That which is the soul is that which knows, that which is the knower is the soul, that by which one knows is the soul”

     – Acharanga sutta – 171 (A Jain text of 5th-4th century BCE compiled based on the teachings of Mahavira.

Here in 6 dravyas of Jain philosophy, the witness is the subject and the five other substances are objects. When you are thinking about something,  your thought is certainly dealing with something that is objective. Even if you think about absolute reality, it is still objective because you are only dealing with a concept that is imagined or cognized in your mind. Above all, the thought process which is employed here is also objective because you can observe it.

Spiritual practices like self-inquiry require being a passive witness to everything that is objective; When you do that, you don’t identify yourself with the thinker but see the thought process as separate from the space of pure awareness in which everything is happening.

Here, your intellect actually plays an important role in helping you discriminate between the witness and the witnessed. But the practice of witnessing or self-inquiry itself doesn’t require a contemplative thought process or a series of logical steps. It just requires a choiceless awareness of your mental processes.  So, an obsession with thinking or analysis will make you miss the point and stop you from doing meditation at all.

Anekantavada and Seven Valued Logic In Jainism:

Have you heard contradictory statements in the context of spiritual enlightenment similar to the following?:

  1. a) There is free will;  b)There is no free will
  2. a) You cannot do anything to be enlightened; b)You have to do many things to be enlightened.
  3. a) You are already enlightened; b) You are not enlightened.
  4. a) There is self; b)There is no self.

How do you resolve these contradictory statements? What if I told you that both a) and b) are true in each case?  In a way or in some sense, both are true.

I will explain it completely. Before that, take a look at this infographic:

anekantavada

Blindmen and the Elephant:

“A group of blind men heard that a strange animal, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form. Out of curiosity, they said: “We must inspect and know it by touch, of which we are capable”. So, they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it. 

In the case of the first person, whose hand landed on the trunk, said: “This being is like a thick snake”. For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan. As for another person, whose hand was upon its leg, said, the elephant is a pillar like a tree-trunk. The blind man who placed his hand upon its side said, “elephant is a wall”. Another who felt its tail described it as a rope. The last felt its tusk, stating the elephant is that which is hard, smooth and like a spear.”

This story is a very famous one and present in almost all the spiritual traditions. Now, the question is, is the elephant’s tail same as the elephant itself? In some sense, they are the same and in some sense, they are not.  Each part of an elephant is a distinct feature and points to one specific aspect of an elephant. Jain tradition calls it ‘Naya’. A naya is a partial presentation of the nature of the object and is relative. But ‘Pramana’ is a comprehensive presentation of an object and it is absolute. Here, the elephant is the pramana and its leg is a naya.

Let us say you are looking at a real elephant right now. Is the elephant that you see this moment the same as the elephant you see the next moment?  In some sense, yes but in some sense, no. In a practical sense, it is the same elephant that you have been staring at for the past few minutes. But in reality, the elephant which was present one second before and the elephant which is present now is not identical because some change has taken place there.

Does a self-exist? A solid, concrete self doesn’t exist when you look at it objectively. At any point in time, what you observe in your consciousness is an ever-changing phenomenon which includes thoughts, emotions, sensations etc. Each of them has an independent existence as they arise and pass away. The same occurs in the body. Your body 24 hours ago is not identical to your body right now, because, certain things have disappeared, certain things have appeared and certain things have changed locations in the body. So, whatever you call as self can only have momentary existence because the collection you refer to as ‘self’ doesn’t exist in the same form the next moment. But Self as the underlying pure awareness hasn’t changed even a bit. If you call this awareness as Self, it does have a continuous, unchanging existence.

So, Self as the substance or essence exists continuously as awareness. But self as a form only has a momentary existence. Because, the next moment, you have a slightly different form. Jain philosophy calls the substance as ‘dravya’ and the form as ‘paryaya’. So the correct answer to the question ‘Does a self-exist?’ would be this: In a way, self-exists; in a way, it doesn’t exist.

But the problem with such two-fold description is that it usually ends up getting misunderstood.  This is very true when it comes to spirituality. The language cannot faithfully convey the true ontological nature of anything. So, in a way, it is also indescribable and this has to be conveyed along with the two-fold description, making it a three fold one.

With what we have seen, we can come up with three different premises which are equally true:

  1. In some sense, self exists.
  2. In some sense, self does not exist.
  3. In some sense, it is indescribable.

Apply the same to free will. Does free will exist?

Certainly, you aren’t a robot. At every moment, there appears to be a choice. So in a practical sense, free will does exist as it appears to exist for everyone. But does free will really exist?

Think about any action that you decided to do today. Did you have complete control over the decision you made? It appears so. Ask yourself, ‘Why did I do that?’. Today  I went to a movie. Why did I do that? Because I felt bored. Why did I feel bored? Because the television was not working today in my home, due to some technical problem. Why was there such a technical problem?

When you inquire this way, in two or three steps, you will reach something that you had no control over. I did not have any control over my television set going bad.

If you think about it, you would see that you have no control over even what the next thought of yours is going to be. What you think the next moment is based on what your brain spots as a retrieval cue or something that needs to be reminded to you.  If your boss scolded you harshly yesterday, you would be getting those thoughts many times today. This way, each and every reaction is tied to a previous cause or a co-related factor which has a previous cause. There are countless such interlinked cause and effect relationships in the universe which cannot be traced back to its origins. Because past means infinity.

Every decision you make has its roots in multiple factors that you had no control over in the first place. In fact, everything happens according to the natural laws that govern the universe. You can’t decide anything against the natural law; because your decision itself is controlled by nature.

People keep asking me if one becomes like an autopilot after enlightenment. What makes you think that you are not in auto-pilot right now? But talking about this is kind of tricky because people usually misunderstand it. Saying that you don’t have a free will gives a nihilistic view or a pessimistic view. But that comes from a misunderstanding. Because in some sense, you do have a free will.

With what we have seen, we can come up with three different premises about free will which are equally true:

  1. In some sense, free will exists.
  2. In some sense, free will does not exist.
  3. In some sense, it is indescribable.

Each of the above statement is a ‘naya’. It expresses partial truth but incomplete by itself. But the complete and comprehensive truth or Pramana cannot be put into words; it has to be seen or understood by yourself.

The concept of free will is tied to an idea of a separate, personal self. So, you get a complete picture of the nature of the free will only after enlightenment. Because enlightenment removes the sense of separation or duality from the equation.

With these two examples, we get the following basic format. (Replace anything with the word ‘that’:

  1. In some sense, that exists.
  2. In some sense, that doesn’t exist.
  3. In some sense, that is indescribable.

As I said, the above three statements are equally true and each of  them convey the truth from one point of view only. So, each statement is incomplete by itself. But when we accept these three statements as true at the same time, then it is possible to come up with four more statements based on these three premises. Logically, all the seven statements should be true as they are based on these original three premises:

(1) In some sense, that exists. (syadasti). 

(2) In some sense, that doesn’t exist  (syatnasti ).

(3)In some sense, that exists and that doesn’t exist (syadasti nasti  ca ).

(4) In some sense, that is indescribable (syadavaktavyah).

(5)In some sense, that exists and is indescribable (syadasti ca avaktavya sca ).

(6) In some sense, that doesn’t exist and is indescribable ( syatnasti ca avaktavyasca) .

(7) In some sense, it exists, it doesn’t exist and also indescribable (syadasti nasti ca avaktavyasca).

This sevenfold logic is called as Saptabhangi vada. The statements you see in the brackets are the Sanskrit translations. Notice that each sentence starts with ‘syad’. The word ‘syad’ generally means ‘maybe’ but in this context, it means ‘In a way’ or ‘In some sense’. That is why this doctrine is also called as syadvada.

The bottom line is that, when you don’t have the complete picture that gives you the absolute truth about anything, any verbal description of that would be only partial. So, multiple statements stated from different points of view are needed to even get the slightest hint of what the complete picture might be. Because of the requirement of such multiple statements, the doctrine is also called as ‘Anekanta vada’, which literally means ‘many-sidedness’.

When you hear contradictory teachings, this doctrine will remind you that it appears to be contradictory only because of the verbal expression. It is just an inadequacy of the language.  So, rather than getting confused, this doctrine will remind you to work towards your liberation so that you can get the direct perception of the truth. Until you see the elephant, don’t insist that what you are holding is the complete truth about the elephant.

Experiencing the reality non-dualy and living a life without a sense of separation is something indescribable. If a person hasn’t gone through a spiritual transformation and has not gained knowledge of non-duality by experience, then he wouldn’t understand it by any amount of verbal communication.

 He is missing an important premise that would allow him to logically analyze the non-dual experience of reality. Only self-realization can give him that premise. If he tries to capture the nature of non-dual reality without experiencing the reality that way, then his conclusions would be similar to the conclusions drawn by the blind men about the elephant. 

A spiritual seeker is like a blind man, who is groping in the dark and trying to follow the rays of light that are sometimes visible, which may lead him to the ultimate liberation.

For such a blind spiritual seeker, spiritual teachings may seem contradictory to each other just like the conclusions of the blind men seemed contradictory to each other. But those contradictions seem to exist simply because of the lack of a complete picture. Once the person acquires the vision to see the elephant there won’t be any contradiction.

So, it must be understood that these seemingly contradictory descriptions of non-duality are given to compensate for the lack of the complete picture. Each one of them is true in some sense but each of those contradictory descriptions in isolation is incomplete by itself. It is similar to how saying that an elephant looks like a pillar is an incomplete description but true in some sense (as the leg of the elephant is like a pillar.) This doesn’t in any way mean that there are multiple truths. 

I wrote this post for two reasons:

  1. Recently, I have been getting many questions which are all about how life and the experience of reality are going to be after spiritual enlightenment. Well, that is something that you have to see for yourself. Don’t try to grasp it with the mind, it won’t happen.
  2. When I write anything critical about some modern-day gurus regarding their misleading statements, I get a response from the guru’s followers saying that I am using logic to analyze those statements (as if it were a sin). Here is what I want to say to them:

a) Just because it is related to the spiritual path, that doesn’t mean that there is no room for reasoning at all. Using your reasoning is especially necessary when you are depending on a guru in someway, who has the potential to exploit you economically and psychologically. If a guru tries to convince you that doing a free labor for his organization or donating a huge fortune to them will somehow favor your spiritual growth, you need to certainly use your brain. Whatever I have explained above is not an excuse to be dumb and intellectually lazy. In fact, intellect plays a very important part in helping you to understand spiritual teachings and also to discriminate between the witness and the witnessed.

b) I do have the necessary premise to talk about non-duality because I am not living in duality anymore. So, I can very easily detect odd, misleading and nonsensical things said in the name of spirituality.

c) People need to understand the difference between something which is illogical and something which is beyond logic (something for which you don’t have the necessary premise).

Here is an example of something illogical:

1)all crows are black.

2)all crows are birds.

3)Therefore, all birds are black..

Now, if you try to make an 8-year-old boy understand about sexual pleasure, that is beyond his current level of understanding, simply because he has not experienced sexual pleasure. So, he cannot use logic to understand it until he experiences sexual attraction. (this is what I called beyond logic or to be more precise, beyond his current level of understanding).. Once he is 15 or 16 years old, he will understand. After this understanding, he can use logic to discuss it with other people who also know about it. Because he has a new premise now, based on his experience.