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Re: Swami Dayananda interview about Advaita

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  • texasbg2000
    ... where ... Dear Steve: This is a terrific article. Thank you. I disagree with the person who wrote the introduction that it in some way invalidates Sri
    Message 1 of 2 , Jun 28, 2003
      --- In meditationsocietyofamerica@yahoogroups.com, "steve"
      <spirit5562000@y...> wrote:
      > I found the interview between Andrew Cohen and Swami Dayananda
      > he talks about Ramana Maharshis inauthenticity and the correct path
      > of Advaita. For those interested: http://www.wie.org/j14/daya.asp

      Dear Steve:

      This is a terrific article. Thank you.

      I disagree with the person who wrote the introduction that it in some
      way invalidates Sri Ramana. Swami only adds excellent reasons for
      understanding vedanta in addition to the 'experience' of the mystical.

      What caught my eye was the following paragraph about what I take is
      the "Yoga Sutra"-

      !~~~~AC: Before Shankara there were no written commentaries?

      SD: There were some. In fact, what I'm teaching every morning now is
      a commentary on one of the Upanishads, by Shankara's own teacher's
      teacher, Gaudapada. There are a few others also, Vyasa's sutras.
      These sutras are analytical works in a style of literature that has
      very brief statements, one after the other, so that you can memorize
      them. But these, again, are part of the tradition of teaching, so
      they are always backed up. You write the sutra and then you teach it
      to a group of people, and these together are what is handed down.
      Then, when you recite the sutra, you remember what we call "the
      Tradition." In fact, the whole of Advaita Vedanta is analyzed in the
      sutras. ~~

      He is apparently giving the authorship of "Yoga Sutra" usually given
      to Patanjali to the sage Vyasa. Feuerstein in his commentary on
      Patanjali frreely uses Vyasa as a translator of 'Yoga Sutra' and even
      mentions that some attribute the works to Vyasa.

      Of most interest to me is the idea from a foremost authority on
      Advaita that the 'Yoga Sutra' analyzes the whole of Advaita Vedanta.

      This was so good I copied and pasted it here.

      Bobby G.

      Advaita 101

      An Interview with Swami Dayananda Saraswati
      by Andrew Cohen

      The interview that follows was excerpted from over eighty pages of
      transcripts documenting a series of dialogues between Swami Dayananda
      and Andrew Cohen in February 1998.

      What is Advaita?

      Andrew Cohen: In the last twenty years or so there has been great
      interest in Advaita in the West, as you know, and it's my impression
      that there has also been a lot of confusion about this teaching, that
      it has been very misunderstood and even abused in some cases. We
      wanted to speak with you so that we could present an authoritative
      traditional view. So, to begin, could you please explain what the
      philosophy of Advaita Vedanta is?

      Swami Dayananda: The word "advaita" is a very important word. It's a
      word that negates dvaita, which means "two." The "a" is a negative
      particle, so the meaning would be "that which is nondual." And it
      reveals the philosophy that all that is here is One, which means that
      there is nothing other than that One, nor is it made up of any parts.
      It's a whole without parts, and That they call "Brahman" [the
      Absolute], and That you arebecause the nondual cannot be different
      from you, the inquirer. If it is different from you, then it is dual;
      then you are the subject and it is the object. So it has got to be
      you. And therefore, if you don't recognize that, you'll miss out on
      being the Whole.

      AC: Can you please explain the historical background?

      SD: The Vedas [sacred Hindu scriptures] are the most ancient body of
      knowledge we have in humanity. And the tradition looks upon the Vedas
      as not having been authored by any given person, but given to the
      ancient rishis [seers] as revealed knowledge. It is considered that
      the Vedas are traced ultimately to the Lord as the source of all
      knowledge, and it is this body of knowledge that is the source of
      Advaita. The Upanishads [the concluding portions of the Vedas] talk
      about God realizationand they not only talk about it, they
      methodically teach it. What I am doing today is what is taught in the
      Upanishads. The Upanishads themselves are a teaching and also a
      teaching tradition. And it's a communicable traditionthere's nothing
      mystical about it.
      But I don't think advaita is only in the Vedas; I think it's
      everywherewherever there is the idea, "You are the Whole." That is
      advaita, whether it is in Sanskrit, Latin or Hebrew. But the
      advantage in Vedanta is that it can be taught and it is taught. We
      have created a teaching tradition, and it has grown. Whereas in
      America, when suddenly people turn vegetarian, for example, all that
      they have is tofu and alfalfa and a few other things, because there's
      no tradition of vegetarian cooking. It takes time. You can't create a
      tradition overnight!

      AC: Who are considered to be the foremost exponents of the Advaita

      SD: There have been a lot of teachers who have maintained this
      tradition whose names we don't know. But from the Upanishads down we
      can say: Vyasa, Gaudapada, Shankara, Suresvarathese are the names we
      repeat every day. But Shankara occupies a central position because of
      his written commentary. It is the written commentary that gives you
      the tradition of teaching and the method of teaching, and the method
      is very important in this tradition: How do you teach? There are a
      lot of pitfalls in this process, and one of them is the limitation of
      the languagethe linguistic limitation. But the teaching has to be
      conveyed through words, which means that you must have a methoda
      method by which you can be sure that the student understands, because
      the enlightenment takes place as the teaching takes place and not
      afterwards. That's the tradition. So Shankara occupies an important
      place because of his commentaries, because he left written
      commentaries on palm leaves for us. But I wouldn't say that the other
      teachers were any less important.

      AC: Before Shankara there were no written commentaries?

      SD: There were some. In fact, what I'm teaching every morning now is
      a commentary on one of the Upanishads, by Shankara's own teacher's
      teacher, Gaudapada. There are a few others alsoVyasa's sutras. These
      sutras are analytical works in a style of literature that has very
      brief statements, one after the other, so that you can memorize them.
      But these, again, are part of the tradition of teaching, so they are
      always backed up. You write the sutra and then you teach it to a
      group of people, and these together are what is handed down. Then,
      when you recite the sutra, you remember what we call "the Tradition."
      In fact, the whole of Advaita Vedanta is analyzed in the sutras.

      The Self is already present in all experience

      AC: Why is it that you feel the study of the scriptures, rather than
      spiritual experience, is the most direct means to Self-realization?
      SD: Self-realization, as I said, is the discovery that "the Self is
      the whole"that you are the Lord; in fact, you are God, the cause of
      Now nobody lacks the experience of advaita, of that which is
      nondualthere's always advaita. But any experience is only as good as
      one's ability to interpret it. A doctor examining you interprets your
      condition in one way, a layperson in another. Therefore, you need
      interpretation, and your knowledge is only as valid as the means of
      knowledge you are using for that purpose.
      As the small self, we have no means of knowledge for the direct
      understanding of Self-realization, and therefore Vedanta is the means
      of knowledge that has to be employed for that purpose. No other means
      of knowledge will work because, for this kind of knowledge, our
      powers of perception and inference alone are not sufficient.
      So I find that by itself there is nothing more dumb than experience
      in this world. In fact, it is experience that has destroyed us.

      AC: It has been my experience as a teacher that for most human
      beings, generally speaking, simply hearing the teaching is not
      enough. Usually they do need to have some kind of experience that
      makes the meaning of the words obvious in a very direct, experiential
      way. And then the person says, "Oh, my goodness, now I understand!
      I've heard this for so many years, but now I recognize the truth of

      SD: Yes, but even that experience is useless without the correct
      interpretation. Suppose your sense of being a separate individual
      falls away for a moment or ten minutes or even an hour, and then
      suddenly that apparent duality seems to come back again. Does that
      mean the one true Self gets displaced? Of course not! Then why should
      enlightenment require an experience? Enlightenment doesn't depend
      upon experiences; it depends upon my shedding my error and
      ignorancethat is what it depends upon, and nothing else.
      People say that advaita is eternal, that it is timeless, and at the
      same time they say that they are going through an experience of it at
      a particular time and under certain conditions. That's not
      traditional! But that is what we hear everywhere. The tradition
      says: "What you see right now is advaita."
      Suppose a fellow has an experience and then he comes out and says, "I
      was one hour eternal." No time means timeless, and timeless means
      eternity. Whether it is one hour eternal or one moment eternal, it is
      always the same. So confidence in truth cannot depend upon a state of
      experience. Confidence in truth is in your clarity of what is.
      Otherwise what will happen is, "I was non dual Brahman for one hour
      and then I came back and now it's gone." Then every thought becomes a
      nightmare because when I am not in nirvikalpa samadhi [ecstatic
      absorption in nondual consciousness], then I cannot even relate to
      the world; I have to be stoned forever, you know? Whereas
      enlightenment is just knowing what is. That is called sahaja, which
      means "natural"; it means just seeing clearly. If people insist on
      having a particular experience, that simply means that they have not
      understood the teaching. Even right now, for example, we are
      interpreting our experiences. For example, you are experiencing me
      right now.

      AC: True.

      SD: And your experience seems to reveal two things: one is the
      subject, the other is the object. But let us suppose that both of
      them happen to be one reality.

      AC: All right.

      SD: Then you don't have any lack of raw material here. The experience
      of seeing me or seeing anybody, seeing anything or hearing anything,
      thinking about anythinginside, outside, whateverthat experience is
      advaita. And if that is so, then we are not lacking experience, and
      therefore we need not wait for any experience to come. Whatever
      experience you encounter within yourself, that experience reveals
      advaita, reveals nonduality. And if your interpretation of that
      experience is that there is an object other than yourself, then it is
      your interpretation itself that is duality. Therefore, it's a problem
      of cognition, and that problem of cognition is to be solved.

      AC: Cognition of?

      SD: Of this nondual! Am I talking about something that is absolutely
      unknown to me? No. Unknown to anyone? Not at all. Right now, for
      instance, you see me and you say, "Swami is sitting here." How do you
      know? You say, "Because I see you, I hear you; therefore you are
      here." Therefore I am evident to you because you have a means of
      knowing, you have a means of seeing, you have a means of hearing;
      therefore Swami is. Swami is because he's evident to you, just as
      anything is because it's evident to you. Sun is, moon is, star is,
      space is, time isall these are evident to you.
      The same is true of your experience of yourself. Suppose I ask
      you, "Do you have a physical body?" "Yes," you'll saybecause it's
      evident to you. "Do you have any memory of being in such-and-such a
      place?" Yesbecause it's evident to you. To whom are all these
      evident? To you! To yourself. That means you are self-evident.
      When are you not self-evident? Tell mewhen? It is because you are
      self-evident that you don't need to become self-evident at any time.
      All my experiences are because of my self-evidence. Therefore, the
      Self is already experiencedthat's what I say. Self is experienced as
      the ultimate content of every experience. I say, in fact, that our
      very experience is the Self.
      In all experiences, therefore, what is invariably present is
      consciousness, and no object is independent of that. And
      consciousness is not dependent on and has none of the attributes of
      any particular object. Consciousness is consciousness, and while it
      is in everything, it transcends everything. That's why I say: this is
      advaita, this is nondual, this is Brahman, this is limitless;
      timewise it is limitless, spacewise it is limitless. And therefore it
      is Brahman, and therefore you are everything already. This is the
      teaching, and what it means is that I need not wait for any
      experience because every experience is Brahman, every experience is

      AC: But this is a subtle point that is not necessarily easy to grasp
      without some previous direct experience of the nondual.

      SD: If the person doesn't see, then that means I have to teach
      further; or maybe they do see but in spite of that they say, "I still
      have got some cobwebs here or there." But that is not a problem; they
      just need to be cleared away.
      First, you have an insight that is knowing, and then, as difficulties
      arise, we take care of them. I don't say it is not a matter of
      experience, but I say that experience is always the very nature of
      yourself. Consciousness is experience, and every experience reveals
      the fact of your being Self-evident. And what is Self-evident is, by
      definition, nondual. So subject and object are already the same.
      Here is a wave, for instance, that has a human mind. It thinks, "I am
      a small wave." Then it becomes a big wave, swallowing in the process
      many other waves, and begins boasting, "I am a big wave." Then it
      loses its form, and again becomes smallfiles a "Chapter Thirteen," as
      you say in America, you know, bankruptcyand now it wants to somehow
      get to the shore. But from the shore, other waves are pushing into
      the ocean, and from the ocean, waves are pushing to the shore, and
      this poor little wave is caught in between, sandwiched, and begins
      crying, "What shall I do?" There is another wave around, a wave that
      seems to be very happy, and so the first wave asks him, "How come you
      are so happy? You also are smallin fact, you are smaller than me! How
      come you are so happy?" Then another wave says, "He's an enlightened
      wave." Now the first wave wants to know, "What is enlightenment? What
      is this enlightenment?" The happy wave says, "Hey, come on! You
      should know who you are!" "All right. Who am I?" And the enlightened
      wave says, "You are the ocean." "What?! Ocean? Did you say that I am
      the ocean, because of all the water by which I am sustained and to
      which I will go back? That ocean I am?" "Yes, you are the ocean." And
      he laughs. "How can I be the ocean? That's like saying I am God. The
      ocean is almighty, it's all-pervasive, it's everything. How can I be
      the ocean?"
      So we can dismiss Vedanta's statement of the non dual reality, or we
      can ask, "How come? How come I am That?" The nondual teaching is not
      necessary if our identity is obvious, if what is apparent to us is
      not a difference but an essential nondifference. Here, there is
      nondifference. There is no wave without water, and there is no ocean
      without water. Every other wave, and the whole ocean too, is one
      water alone.


      Nondual realization and action in the world

      AC: One of the subjects I'm very interested in is the relationship
      between the nondual realization that you've been describing and
      action in the world of time and space. For example, in the empirical
      world, in empirical reality, even the realized soul who has no doubt
      about his true nature finds that he still must take a standagainst,
      in opposition tothe forces of delusion and negativity operating

      SD: We need not impose a rule like should and musthe may take a

      AC: May take a stand?

      SD: Yes. Because once he's free, who is to set rules for him? You
      see, if he is free enough to do, then he is just as free not to
      dothat is what I say. He will spontaneously do what he has to do.
      Perhaps he thinks that everybody is all right. In fact, that's what
      the truth is. Because until you tell me that you have a problem with
      me, I don't have a problem with you.

      AC: But let's say, for example, that the realized soul is sitting in
      a room and then a killer comes in and starts killing people. Some
      people might say, "Well, it's all one Self and there's no opposition,
      so there's no need to interfere." But someone else would say, "I have
      no choice; I have to interfere."

      SD: Why should he not interfere? Clearly, at that level, there is

      AC: Yes.

      SD: And maybe he is not even killing, maybe he is only using abusive
      language. Why should this realized soul not say, "Foolish man, change
      your language. What are you doing?" So he can help him; he can help
      him to change. And he can do it without creating any big problem for
      him; he can be angry without causing anger to this fellow, he can
      talk to that person and make him see that he is abusive because of
      his background and help him to change. So that's what he will do. But
      we cannot say that he should correct. For that, who is to set the
      rule for me? Suppose one is enlightened; who is to set the rule for
      that person, for the enlightened person? Nobody has to set the rule,
      because he is above all the rules.

      AC: He's above the rules?

      SD: Yes, he's above the rules and not subject to any rule. Nobody can
      objectify the Self; there is no second person to objectify the Self.
      And therefore the Self is not subject to hurt nor guilt, and
      therefore is free from hurt and guilt. In other words, it is neither
      a subject nor an object, and if that is so, then "should" does not
      come into the picturenot even into the picture of empirical
      transactionbecause it's just not an issue. The issue is: Here is a
      person who has a certain problem and therefore he is abusive, and
      that person can be helped. So of course he will help!

      AC: Everything that you're saying obviously is completely true
      because, ultimately, the nondual cannot be affected and has no
      preferences. But what I am saying is that there is always a profound
      effect on the human personality of the one who has realized that
      nondual, and I'm using this extreme example only to make the point
      that some criterion has to be there. For example, historically,
      individuals who have deeply realized this nondual Absolute have
      expressed sattvic nature, have expressed egolessness. So even though
      I know that enlightenment takes many forms, and the expression of
      enlightenment is different in different people, still, fundamentally,
      there is always an expression of selflessness and compassion which
      allows us to say that if someone was truly a realized person they
      would not be able to act in a profoundly self-centered manner.
      Therefore, there are certainly things a person wouldn't do if he or
      she was an enlightened person. That's my point.

      SD: So how will you judge an enlightened person?

      AC: Well, if he was raping and killing people, then we could at least
      say, "This is not an enlightened person." Correct?

      SD: But that doesn't come into the picture anyway because in the
      traditional system he has to have gone through a life of rigorous
      moral and spiritual training, and only then is he enlightened, and
      this fellow has not done that, so clearly he still has some problems.
      There is a statement, though: "It takes a wise man to know a wise
      man." If you are a wise man, then you don't need another wise man to
      become wise; if you are otherwise, you need a wise man, but because
      you are otherwise, you cannot discern him. So you are in a helpless
      situation. Therefore, the criterion for a wise man, I tell you
      finallythe way to find out whether he is wise or notis if he makes
      you wise. Then he knows. That is the only criterion, and there is
      none other because the forms his compassion can assume are very
      varied, and with all our actions we don't always console people.

      The Mystic and the Vedantin

      AC: Shankara and Ramana Maharshi are generally considered to be two
      of the greatest exponents of Advaita teaching and advaita
      realization. And yet I've always wondered why Shankara's teaching
      gave rise to a monastic system in which one is encouraged to renounce
      the world in order to pursue the spiritual life in earnest, while
      often when people would ask Ramana Maharshiwho was a renunciate
      himself"Master, should I give up the world?" he would encourage them
      to inquire into the nature of who it was that wanted to give up the
      world, and discourage them from trying to make any external changes
      in their lives.

      SD: Shankara is just a link in the tradition, as I said before. He's
      not the author of any particular system or monastic order. It's true
      that he himself was a sannyasi, a renunciateas a young person he
      renounced everythingbut a sannyasi is different from a monastic.
      A sannyasi doesn't belong to any monastic order. He is simply a
      noncompetitor in the society. He is a person who has gained a certain
      maturity, a certain discriminative understanding, which drives him to
      pursue spiritual knowledge in a dedicated fashion. In Shankara's
      time, such a person was absolved from all familial, social and
      religious duties by a ritual in which he said, "All is given up by
      me. I don't compete. I'm not interested in money or power or security
      or in anything else here." That is a sannyasi. He is not a member of
      an organization or order. There is no monastery to protect that
      fellow. He's "under the sky."
      But there is still a deeper level of renunciation which this
      sannyasi, this renunciate, has to gain, and that is the knowledge
      that "I am not the doer, I am not the enjoyer, I never did any karma,
      any action, before"direct knowledge of the nondual Self, which is
      also actionlessness. Action is always there as long as doership is
      there. Even "not-doing" is an action. So the freedom from doership
      that comes in the wake of knowledge of the Self is not an act of
      giving up. It is: "I know and therefore I am free. And so there is no
      choice." This is what is called the real sannyas, the true
      renunciation of all actions at all times, and that is enlightenment.

      AC: It's not true that Shankara started a monastic tradition?

      SD: No, he didn't start any monastic tradition. They said so
      afterwards, but that was because he was such a popular teacher and
      because he was a sannyasi. His disciples had maths [monasteries] that
      they had created, but it wasn't a new order. Some of his disciples
      were perhaps dispatched to different places, but we don't know
      whether he sent them or they went. My feeling is they wenthe didn't
      send anybody anywhere. That's how I would be, anyway, if I were
      Shankara; I'd say, "Go wherever you want!" Now if a small person like
      me would do that, then I don't think Shankara would have done
      anything else. So that's one perception taken care of.
      Then there's Ramana. Some people say that Ramana is the highest, the
      one who in the modern world has accomplished advaita. That's the
      perception because he's known to some people, but there could be
      unknown millions we don't knowsome may even be householders, people
      who are at home, some of them just your ordinary housewives. In
      India, you know, you can't take these people for granted; some of
      these women are enlightened. They are! And they may be housewives,
      mothers of ten children. We don't know. India is a different country.
      There are no criteria to find out whether this person is enlightened
      or not. And so Ramana is said to be enlightened, but we should ask
      him, "Are you enlightened?" And he will say, "Why do you want to
      know? Who are you who wants to know? Find out who you are." He
      discovered this way of speaking with people that did not require him
      to answer any questions. One fellow comes and asks, "What is God?"
      and he answers, "Who are you that is asking this question?" This is a
      way of answering questions that he adopted as an attempt to turn the
      person toward himself. Therefore, his attention was not toward any
      particular style of living. He neither encouraged sannyas nor
      anything else. He was only telling people: "Understand who you are.
      That's what is important."

      AC: In fact, if people would say that they wanted to leave their
      family and take sannyas, he would discourage that.

      SD: Every sannyasi will say the same thing, because otherwise all
      those people would end up in the ashram! Certainly I would say the
      same thing in this case, because anybody who says, "I want to give up
      everything," has got a problem.

      AC: Why?

      SD: Because he's doubtful! If he were not doubtful he would have left
      already; he wouldn't have come and asked me. Because the mango fruit,
      when it is ripe, falls down; it doesn't ask, "Shall I fall down?"
      Ramana was not dumb; he knew exactly what he had to say. If I were
      he, do you know what I would have said? I would advise the
      person, "Hey, come on, you need not change anything. Be where you
      are; it's a change of vision." Even Shankara would say the same
      thing. Shankara had only four disciples. He traveled up and down this
      country on foot, which means he met thousands of people, yet he had
      only four disciples! That means he was advising everybody, "Stay
      where you are."

      AC: Yet at the same time, from what we have heard, both Jesus and the
      Buddha encouraged people to leave everything and follow them in order
      to pursue the spiritual life. So this is an intriguing question.

      SD: They encouraged, they encouragedI don't know what for. Perhaps
      they wanted people to spend time with themselves. But the value of a
      contemplative life has always been there in the Vedic tradition, and
      a contemplative life can be lived anywhere. And you can be in the
      midst of all activities in the contemplative life, or you can be
      alone and not contemplative at all.

      AC: In one of your books, you make a distinction between a mystic and
      a Vedantin. When referring, for example, to Ramana Maharshi as a
      mystic, you seem to be distinguishing him in some way from a
      Vedantin, and since many people consider him to be the quintessence
      of Vedanta, I'm curious to know what that distinction is.

      SD: The only difference here is that a mystic has no means of
      communication to make you a mystic, an equally great mystic as

      AC: To clear up empirical confusionis that what you mean?

      SD: Yes. Suppose this mystic has got the knowledge of his being
      always Allthat kind of a mystic's experience. So that person is a
      mystic, but he has no means of communication to share that
      experience. If he has a means of communication by which to make
      another person equally a mystic, then there is nothing mystical about
      what he knows. Therefore, I will not call him a "mystic"; I will call
      him a "Vedantin."

      AC: In Ramana's case, everybody said that he communicated through

      SD: Again, this is an interpretation, because there are a lot of
      people I know who went to him and then came back saying that he
      didn't know anything.

      AC: But there are also many people who said that they had profound
      experiences in his presence.

      SD: Each one has to interpret in his own way. But we can only say
      someone is a Vedantin as long as they teach Vedanta!
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