Welcome. I’m delighted to invite you to the sixteenth edition of our Guest Teachings Series, and the eighty-fifth post on Awakening Clarity. As most of you will know, this Guest Teaching Series is sort of a “Who’s Who and What They Teach” of contemporary Nonduality. We host this without any allegiance to any particular school of Nondual thought. Certainly there are a lot of approaches to discovering Reality: almost 7,000,000,000 of them according to Google. In my mind, Nonduality is openness. We invite people we think have some of the sharpestapproaches, so to speak, to share their views with us here every week. We provide the teachers, and you provide the personal discrimination. We also do a bit of research for you, and provide a library of links at the bottom of each article so that you can easily pursue that teacher or teaching.
DENNIS WAITE is another of the fundamental architects of Nonduality on the Internet, in conjunction with Jerry Katz and Greg Goode. That trio has brought awareness of Nondual teachings to countless numbers. Dennis declares he is not a Sanskrit scholar, but he is certainly a very well educated layman, so you’ll see a lot of Sanskrit terms in this article that you may be unfamiliar with. I am too! I have only a passing acquaintance with “the language of God”, as Sanskrit is often called, though I do have Dennis’ excellent book, The Seeker’s Essential Guide to Sanskrit. It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you’re interested in following a traditional teaching back to its original sources, it’s a must. One of the great values of learning a bit of Sanskrit, as Dennis mentions in his terrific (27 page!) interview with Non Duality Magazine is that Sanskrit terms deliver a message without having to tear through layers of conflicting associations in conventional language. So it is precise. It is also a sort of shorthand. The term sampradAya means, at least roughly, “retaining the essence of a lineage’s methodology, and transmitting to each successive generation of followers the core practice, views, teaching stories which has been proven to work.” One word supplants twenty-five and we see that it is efficient.
DENNIS IS an adherent and advocate of traditional Advaita Vedanta. I love his definition of Advaita, which I’ll reprint here from our Pointers section: “Advaita is an extremely simple philosophy. It’s complete essence is summed up in its Sanskrit name: a – not, dvaita – two. In a very real sense, there is no need for a book to explain it. It can be summed up in a single sentence: There are not two things.” It doesn’t get any better or clearer than that.
FOR THE CURIOUS, the second term, “Vedanta”, means “end of the Vedas,” which is where the Upanishads fall–at the very end of that vast block of Hindu hymns, rituals, and teachings that are chiefly formulaic and ritualistic, though their study and practice are said to lead one to mokSha, or liberation. “Veda” means “knowledge,” and there is no knowledge higher than Self-knowledge.
THE UPANISHADS, the Indian scriptures that came behind the Vedas, could be said to be the foundation stones of modern Nonduality, though they themselves are now thousands of years old. So we can say that Advaita Vedanta is the set of Nondual teachings that arose when some probably disillusioned and certainly very wise men found the Vedic teachings to be incomplete, shall we say, and thus they went the way of the mystic–the way of direct individual experience.
I DON’T MEAN to come on like a scholar here; I’m certainly not. I’m sure someone who knows much more than I–of which there is a great horde–will happily whack me on the head for historical errors I’ve perpetrated here. Nonetheless, my introduction will have to do. What I am trying to do is provide a bridge between much of what you may be finding on YouTube and your local bookstore and what you’ll find on Dennis Waite’s marvelous website, Advaita Vision, and in his teaching here today. To my mind, Advaita Vision is the most authoritative and in-depth Advaita Vedanta site on the Internet. I love the fact that with the recent relaunch it is now far more open and eclectic. My plan is to have Dennis back here again in July with an excerpt from his upcoming book, Advaita Made Easy, so stay tuned. We’ll see if he can deliver on that promising title!
I CONTACTED DENNIS a month or so ago about doing an article for us. He immediately responded with this wonderful piece, which for the moment is exclusive to Awakening Clarity, though it will be featured soon on Advaita Vision. It’s on a core Advaitic teaching (via Ramana Maharshi, no less). I’ve been a fan of Dennis’ work since August of 2004, which is when Amazon tells me I bought the first edition of The Book of One. If there’s a better introduction to Advaita, I don’t know about it. It’s one of the seminal works on Advaita to arise from this Internet generation, and I recommend it with both thumbs held up enthusiastically. His Back to the Truth: 5,000 Years of Advaita is on my living room table in the to-be-read-again stack. It’s a landmark book. Ah, so many books, so little time…it’s ever the bookseller’s bane.
IT’S BEEN FUN to share exotic desk chair, bone joint, and general shut-in health tips with Dennis over the last month, because it’s clear we both live our lives in a small chair facing a large computer screen. No end of ailments arise from this constricted living. Jerry Katz, who along with Dennis and myself is also something more (or is it less?) than a youngster, must live in such confined quarters, too, since his work is everywhere, and more pointedly, because he recently shared a joint pain relief website with all of us in his Nonduality Highlights! I’m still looking into that for us, Dennis. As midnight-and-later emails will attest, Greg Goode spends most of his time in front of a computer as well, and traitorously appears to be the picture of fitness. But he is something of a bear of a man to begin with, as well as an athletic sort (we all have our faults), so the rest of us regard his healthy glow as both unnatural and unfair. Maybe in my next life…
EDUCATED TO DEGREE LEVEL in Chemistry, Dennis Waite has worked for most of his life in computing. Since 2000, he has devoted his life to writing. His first book on Advaita, ‘The Book of One’, was published in 2003. This was extensively revised and republished in 2010.
AN INTRODUCTORY BOOK on Sanskrit ‘The Spiritual Seeker’s Essential Guide to Sanskrit’ was published in India in 2005. ‘How to Meet Yourself’ was published in 2007, aimed at the non-specialist reader and addresses the fundamental topics of meaning and purpose. His major book on Advaita, also published in 2007, is entitled ‘Back to the Truth’. This is a systematic treatment of Advaita which, by using examples from many sources, helps the reader to differentiate between approaches and teachers. ‘Enlightenment: the Path through the Jungle’ was published in 2008. It contrasts the proven methods of traditional teaching with Western approaches. Dennis’ most recent book is ‘Advaita Made Easy’, and is scheduled for publication in the summer of 2012.
DENNIS MAINTAINS the most popular website on Advaita at www.advaita.org.uk. It has just been completely renovated and extended, following a two-year absence while he helped to establish the Advaita Academy Trust and its associated website at www.advaita-academy.org.
AND NOW . . .
Realization and Desire
(manonAsha – Not the literal death of the mind)
MOST SEEKERS who have investigated the teaching of Ramana to even a small extent will be aware of the concept of manonAsha. This is often presented as the idea that enlightenment is synonymous with the ‘death of the mind’. And indeed this is its literal meaning. Consequently, some writers claim that, following enlightenment, the j~nAnI literally no longer has a mind. This goes along with similar ideas such as that, for the j~nAnI, the world literally no longer exists.
THIS WAY OF THINKING is unfortunate. Shankara himself emphasised that we should not discount either our experience or reason, when it comes to interpreting the scriptures. And, speaking for myself, whenever I have encountered writings on Advaita which significantly contradicted my perception of what seemed to be ‘reasonable’, they have always proved to be misguided or incomplete, if not plain wrong.
AND SO IT IS in this case. Reason tells us that a j~nAnI would not be able to operate – move, eat, speak and so on – without a mind. There would be no motivation to do so either. And since there are no others, and no world, why and how would he teach? This is the reductio ad absurdum argument but, if we allow this (and of course the adherents of the mistaken view do not), then how can we understand the concept? What exactly can Ramana have meant when he used the term?
RAMANA is perfectly well aware that, from the standpoint of absolute reality, there is only Brahman. So there cannot be a mind (or body). Therefore the mind cannot be destroyed, since it never really existed to begin with. Despite this awareness, Ramana still uses the word manonAsha, so he must necessarily be speaking from the standpoint of empirical reality – our everyday experience of the world-appearance. But even here it cannot be taken literally.
AT THE LEVEL of paramArtha (absolute reality), it is the Atman that is actionless, not the body-mind. If we are attempting to speak at the pAramArthika level, then all we can say is that there is only Brahman. (Even that is saying too much!) And at the vyAvahArika level, even the enlightened have minds, walk and talk. Anyone who claims otherwise is misrepresenting the fundamentals of Advaita. Everyone is really Consciousness functioning through the reflecting medium of the mind. The simple difference between a j~nAnI and an aj~nAnI is that the j~nAnI knows this to be so. Outwardly, they remain the same, from the point of view of either.
A RATIFICATION of this point of view can be found by looking at the Bhagavad Gita: The balanced person who knows the truth thinks: ‘I do nothing at all; it is only the senses relating to their sense objects,’ even whilst seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, going, sleeping, breathing, speaking, excreting or grasping; even just opening or closing the eyes (chapter 5, verses 8-9).
ANYONE WHO HAS READ my ‘Book of One’ may recall that this is one of my favourite quotations, brought to mind especially when cycling up hills! I go on to say: “The Self is that which is behind everything but itself does nothing. The Kena Upanishad speaks of it at length: ‘By whom commanded and directed does the mind go towards its objects? Commanded by whom does the life force, the first cause move? At whose will do men utter speech? Which power directs the eye and the ear? It is the ear of the ear, the mind of the mind, the speech of the speech, the life of the life, the eye of the eye. … There the eye does not go, nor speech, nor mind. We do not know That; we do not understand how it can be taught. It is distinct from the known and also It is beyond the unknown.’ (Ref. 1)
THE SELF IS THE REALITY behind all appearances, itself unknowable. It does nothing, but all apparent activity takes place through its power and against its background. We are the Consciousness, which, by virtue of this body-mind instrument, is capable of seeing, hearing, speaking etc. The body-mind sees, hears, speaks and acts but ‘we’ do not. Everything takes place within this awareness; but the awareness itself, which is what we truly are, is beyond all movement, beyond space and time.” (Ref. 6)
DESPITE ALL OF THIS ‘doing’ that seems to be taking place, the j~nAnI knows that he is the Self, who is not doing anything. He knows that the body carries on ‘doing’, even if only breathing and circulating the blood. But he has the knowledge that ‘I am not the body or mind’; ‘I am that by virtue of which they are able to function’. The identification – ahaMkAra – has been ‘destroyed’ as a result of Self-knowledge.
‘WHO-WE-REALLY-ARE’ is the Self, Consciousness or Brahman. There is no such thing as a body or mind in reality and the ‘I’ does nothing. There are only the ever changing forms, whose substratum is always Brahman only. And the key difference between the realized man and the ‘ordinary person’ is that the former knows this to be so. He knows that ‘(in reality) I do nothing at all’ and, to return to the topic of this article, ‘(in reality) my mind has no absolute existence: without consciousness, it is as good as dead.’ It is alright to leave out those repeated phrases in brackets… but only so long as you understand what is being said.
IN THE GITA (II.54), the first question which Arjuna asks of Krishna is to describe to him how an enlightened person behaves. (Such a person he calls a sthitapraj~na – a man of ‘steady wisdom’ or firm knowledge; one whose mind remains established in the Self – samAdhisthasya. Shankara clarifies that sthita means ‘well-established’ and praj~na is the knowledge relating to the ability to discriminate between Atma and anAtma.) Krishna spends the rest of the chapter (II.55 – 72) answering the question. His first statement (II.55) points directly to the key element of this problem. He says that the enlightened person is one who ignores, or is not in any way distracted by those desires which arise in the mind (manogata). I.e. such a person still has desires and, more specifically germane to this article, he or she also has a mind in which those desires arise. The desire of Krishna, for example, was to relieve Arjuna of his angst on the battlefield.
SO THE REALIZED PERSON still has desires but, as they arise in his mind, he is no longer attached to them and is able to let them go without their distracting him. Whereas the ordinary person relies upon the satisfaction of desires for his happiness, the realized man knows he is already complete and unlimited, no longer dependent upon acquisition of worldly things and the like for what could only ever be temporary satisfaction. The ordinary person can be said to be ‘bound’ by his desires and, if thwarted, they give rise to anger, delusion and ultimate destruction (II.62 – 63). On the other hand, the ‘actions’ of a realized person, who knows that he does not act, are non-binding.
IT IS ATTACHMENT to external things, thinking that one is a doer and an enjoyer, which leads to desire and its dire consequences. This, in turn, is due to ignorance of one’s true nature. Knowing that one is everything, how could there be desire to attain anything? Accordingly, what we need to do is to negate all of these wrong ideas. What destroys ignorance is Self-knowledge; we need to investigate the Self, via the unfolding of the scriptures through the skills of a qualified teacher. At its successful conclusion when the realization dawns, the mind (in the sense of the dominion of wrong ideas) is effectively destroyed. More specifically, it is the ‘I notion’ – ‘I am this body’, ‘I am a teacher’, etc which goes. The ahaMkAra resolves into the truth of itself – sat-chit-Ananda, limitless existence-consciousness. Attachment ceases; desire no longer unbalances the mind. This, I suggest, is what is meant by the term manonAsha.
II.65 STATES THAT ‘in tranquility’ (i.e. at the dawn of enlightenment), all sorrows are destroyed. The word used here is hAniH, nominative singular of the feminine noun hAni, meaning ‘destruction’ or ‘injury’ (Ref. 2). Destroy the ignorance and the attachments, realize that I am not a doer or enjoyer, and the sorrows, too, are destroyed.
SWAMI DAYANANDA says, commenting on this verse: “…the mind of a person with self-knowledge stays. And because the knowledge stays, the mind no longer causes any problem. The knowledge stays because there is nothing to oppose or inhibit it. The mind of such a person becomes a useful instrument. Because the mind is tranquil, it no longer causes trouble.” (Ref. 3) The mind, though still very much present, is now an instrument rather than a controlling force. The dominion of the attachments and aversions (raga-dveSha-s) has been forever destroyed. As II.71 says: “That man who, giving up all attachments, moves about desirelessly, without owning anything, and without egoism – he goes to peace.” (Ref. 4)
SHANKARA ELABORATES Shankara elaborates on this: “That man of renunciation who, entirely abandoning all desires, goes through life contented with the bare necessities of life, who regards not as his even those things which are needed for mere bodily existence, who is not vain of his knowledge – such a man-of-steady-knowledge, who knows Brahman, attains peace, the end of all the misery of mundane existence. In short, he becomes Brahman.” (Ref. 5)
manonAsha, then, refers to the figurative death of the ahaMkAra, the ‘I thought’ that identifies with body and mind etc (‘figurative’ because there is not actually anything to die in reality). It is ‘death’ in the sense that this mistaken idea is dissolved as a result of gaining Self-knowledge. But it is a metaphorical death only. Rather, it should be said that the mind ‘resolves’ into Atman. Nothing actually changes, just as the appearance of the wave does not change once we realize that it is only water. The mistaken idea (that I am the body-mind) was in the mind and the Self-knowledge is also in the mind. This is the meaning of ‘enlightenment’: the event in time when the mind realizes that we are already free.
SO IT IS NOT TRUE to say that the ‘destroyed’ mind does not exist. What we should say is that the mind does not exist separate from its substratum, Brahman. The mind is mithyA, as is everything else. Brahman alone is real.
Ref.1 Four Upanishads. Swami Paramananda. Sri Ramakrishna Math, Madras, 1974. ISBN 81-7120-233-0, Part 1 verses 1 – 3.
Ref. 2 Critical Word-Index to the Bhagavad Gita, Prahlad C. Divanji, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt Ltd. 1993. ISBN 81-215-0545-3.
Ref. 3. Bhagavad Gita Home Study Course Vol.2, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Arsha Vidya Research and Publication Trust, 2011, ISBN 978-93-80049-39-7 (9 volume set).
Ref. 4 Bhagavad Gita, Nitya Chaitanya Yati, D. K. Printworld (P) Ltd, 1993. ISBN 81-246-0010-4.
Ref. 5 The Holy Geeta, Commentary by Swami Chinmayananda, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, 1996. No ISBN.
Ref. 6 The Book of One, Dennis Waite, O-Books, 2010. ISBN 978-1-84694-347-8.
Copyright 2012, Dennis Waite
All Rights Reserved, Used by Permission
Dennis’ website: http://www.advaita.org.uk/
Dennis’ Advaita Vision blog: http://www.advaita-vision.org/category/dennis/
On Amazon: http://amzn.to/PZ21Js
On Barnes & Noble: http://goo.gl/DBMk1
On O-Books: http://www.o-books.com/authors/dennis-waite&i=1
Selections from the Book of One: http://www.advaita.org.uk/discourses/thebook/thebook.htm
Resources on Dennis on Jerry Katz’s Nonduality.org blog: http://nonduality.org/tag/dennis-waite/
Interview with Dennis on Non Duality Magazine: http://goo.gl/tVems
Article by Dennis on Nirmala’s Endless Satsang website: http://goo.gl/mXD5S
Dennis’ listing on numii.net: http://www.numii.net/word_press/people/dennis-waite
Article on Advaita Vedanta Meditations: http://goo.gl/BPGfI
My belated review (among those of others who went before) of Back to the Truth: http://goo.gl/gCxjL
Welcome to Georgia, Kuwait and Panama, who this week became the 80th, 81st and 82nd countries to join us on and in Awakening Clarity.