Shining World

Intellectuals Vedanta and Philosophy

Johan: In answer to your question about what I want from Vedanta, I would say that I am seeking knowledge, freedom, and security. I thought that, because you and James often criticize the experiential concept of enlightenment, that this would imply an intellectual approach. By your own admission, the concept of God is central to Vedanta–but then, some of the things you say about Him appear contradictory. How can something be possessed of omniscient intelligence and yet be just “an impersonal force, like electricity”? 

Sundari: We criticize the experiential notion of enlightenment because it does not work if the desired goal is moksa, not because Vedanta has an intellectual approach. As I said in my last email to you, there are seeming paradoxes in Vedanta which all resolve upon investigation when the teachings are unfolded by a qualified teacher and the inquirer is qualified to assimilate them.  The fundamental problem is not that the teachings are contradictory, but that the inquirer is questioning nonduality from a dualistic perspective, which is impossible to do. There is no way to understand nonduality from within the box of duality. Satya and mithya are in different orders of reality, and the two never meet, as both James and I  explained to you. This is why the qualifications for self-inquiry are of paramount importance.

Ask yourself, who is asking the question above:  Is it the jiva identified with the body/mind, or is it the Self?  In your case, it is Johan who has a doubt about his own nondual nature, and thus, a doubt about God, or Isvara. The scripture, Vedanta, is the means of knowledge to remove that doubt.  It does not give you anything you do not already have. You say you are seeking knowledge, freedom, and security. You will not gain knowledge, freedom, or security because they do not exist outside of you, the Self.

There is no ‘Him’ in Vedanta, referring to the God topic, which we discussed at length. Isvara is not gender-dependent because there is no personhood involved. Isvara’s omniscience is not human. Isvara is Consciousness and Consciousness is the witness of all, but what is it witnessing?  Itself.  Therefore, Consciousness cannot be said to know objects because it does not modify to knowledge or experience. Consciousness in association with Maya, Isvara, is the conscious principle and the knower of all that is known and unknown to the individual Subtle body, which is why we say Isvara is omniscient. Reflected Consciousness, the Subtle body – i.e., the reflected medium is not conscious. The jiva, which is part of the reflected medium (the Field of Existence) seems sentient because the light of Consciousness shines on it, converting unknown objects to known objects.  Isvara alone knows all factors in the field, which is run by and made up of, the three gunas, rajas, tamas, and sattva.

When the gunas manifest, pure Awareness operating Maya in the ‘role’ of the Creator, meaning Isvara, knows the world – the reflected medium – because Isvara is conscious.  Why? Because with the appearance of Maya there is something to be conscious of – an apparent creation, the reflected medium. Isvara is in fact, the only knower. The reflected medium is the Field of Existence in which the jiva perceives, experiences, and works out its karma.  We can infer that the Field is intelligent and must have an intelligent creator because we know that we are conscious, and the Field is intelligently designed. Consciousness makes everything possible, everything depends on it, but Consciousness is unaffected by everything.

Johan: I have to say, also, that I do believe Advaita Vedanta is a philosophy. This would place it alongside other schools of traditional metaphysics like stoicism, Neoplatonism and, indeed, the other schools of Vedanta such as the Dvaita school, which raises some of the same objections to Advaita as I do. When you say that your school of Vedanta is not a philosophy, you are merely claiming that is it is THE true philosophy. You may be right, but since your claim avowedly rests on dialectic and not some ineffable experience, it is open to rational criticism. 

Sundari: You are incorrect. Vedanta is the court of last appeal, and not a philosophy because it is a means of knowledge for the Self. As there is only one Self reality being nondual, the scripture is the knowledge that ends the quest for knowledge. Unlike any school of philosophy, Vedanta is not up for debate. If you lack the primary qualification for self-inquiry, faith in the scripture as the last word on THE truth, it will not work for me to try to convince you. You are more than welcome to your ideas and opinions, we have no problem with that.  But they are contrary to your stated primary objectives. We have no interest in debating philosophical ideas with you, how will that help you? 

Ramji: If you are dependent on situations, possessions, relationships, obligations, and transactions for your happiness in life, it doesn’t help to read a book of philosophy because philosophies are the contention of individuals or groups of individuals about life.  For every solution, there are others who have different views.  Who is to say who is right? 

If your suffering is due to one of the karmic factors I mentioned above, then all you have to do is find a practical solution and do what is required.  But if your suffering is due to an erroneous notion of who you are, the only thing that will work is to remove that notion.  Vedanta is a means of knowledge, not a philosophy.  To compare it to a philosophy is like comparing oranges and computers.  They are not in the same category.  Vedanta is a means, not an end. 

If you like coca-cola you drink the coke and throw away the bottle.  Vedanta is a disposable container.  When the knowledge ‘I am unborn ever-free eternal existence shining as blissful consciousness’ is firm Vedanta has done its job.  It has set you free of dependence on the above-mentioned objects.  If you are seeking truth, it reveals the fact that the seeker is what he or she is seeking aka the truth. 

Maybe you are a happy person.  If so you don’t need Vedanta.  If you are happy then pick any philosophy you want and enjoy it.  Or enjoy all philosophies as they are. Sometimes a person thinks they are happy when they aren’t.  So, a great deal of honesty is required to admit that one seeks because one isn’t happy.  Happy people don’t seek.  They enjoy the happiness that they are experiencing.  It so happens that there is only one whole and complete Self and its nature is the bliss that makes happiness happy.   Vedanta takes away the ignorance of this fact and disappears, once it is known.

It works.  If you don’t understand this fact, I can’t help you.  You can keep seeking but if you do understand what Vedanta is, your seeking stops.  Vedanta removes all the existential questions that motivate one’s seeking.  But to qualify for teaching you need to know that Vedanta is a means of knowledge, not a philosophy.  It only works on qualified people.  If you want to know more read my book, Essence of Enlightenment without the philosophical filter. Read it like a child, with an open mind.  Don’t move to chapter 2, until you have fully assimilated chapter one.  If it makes sense write me and I will tell you what to study next.  Once you get up to speed you will know what kind of questions to ask.  This argument about the means is futile.  As the Bhagaved Gita says, “the one who sees, sees.”

Johan: You ask if my intention is merely to impress you. In answer to that, I must say, no, I am not really interested in impressing anybody. My scholarship is shallow but the thoughts I have shared with you go deep, at least for me.   

Sundari: There was no intended criticism of you, nothing personal in my questions regarding your interest in Vedanta, they are standard questions we ask some inquirers who do not understand the qualifications required for self-inquiry.  I am sure you are very sincere.  Clearly, you are an intellectual with a very good mind and you write extremely well. But if you understood what self-inquiry entails and were truly interested in the true nature of reality and moksa above all else, you would listen to what we say regarding Vedanta, not because we say it, but because you trust the scripture. You interpret everything we say according to what you think you know. You have not surrendered to the teachings or to the teacher.  Perhaps it has not occurred to you that if you get a reply from us that does not gel with your thinking it could be your understanding that is faulty, not the teachings?

If you are still comparing notes with other teachings and teachers and trying to fit Vedanta into your ‘intellectual’ understanding, then Vedanta will not work for you. As I said to you before, all teachings require an intellectual understanding. But the difference with Vedanta is that it is not a theory, an academic or philosophical thought system. You cannot ‘study’ Vedanta because it is who you are. There is no distance between the subject matter of Vedanta and you.  

Vedanta requires a certain kind of intellect – one that is refined, purified and surrendered so that it is capable of assimilating the meaning of the teachings, which are extremely subtle and therefore, very counter-intuitive. We have some inquirers who are in love with their ability to think and have a lot of ego around their own ideas and intelligence, so it is harder for them to put their thinking aside. These are the hardest people to teach.

Self-inquiry requires training the intellect to think differently and to want different things. While we need an intellect, it is not the intellect that removes ignorance. It is just an object known to you, the Self. You cannot ‘think your way to ‘enlightenment’ because it is the ego, the doer, doing the thinking. The ego must surrender to a qualified teacher and the teachings and trust Self-knowledge to scour the mind of ignorance. 

Om tat sat


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