Agony of the soul (?) etc

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Tue Jan 7 12:50:58 CST 1997

> The only objective of a true practitioner of Advaita is to gain stillness
> of the mind by seeing oneness in all. There is no need of one-upmanship by
> vernacular juglery. [Shri Shankara is excluded from this definition
> because His mission is different.]. If a person gains peace of mind by
> being dvaitin, so be it.

With all due respect, I think there is some confusion here. Firstly, there
is no real need for such definitions which differentiate Sankaracharya
from others. Secondly, the goal of Advaita is not just peace of mind. The
peace of mind is a natural outcome of the learning, but is not its main
goal. Seeing oneness in all, i.e. samadr.shTi, is not identical to
stillness of mind. One can see the same Atman in every thing, and yet be
moved by compassion for another's suffering or be impressed by a guru's
scholarship. These reactions to different situations indicate the
operation of the mind.

Finally, a discussion between a dualist and a non-dualist is not always
vernacular jugglery. There has been a long line of commentators and
writers after Sankaracharya, some of whom were not even sannyasis (e.g.
Vacaspati Misra, Appayya Dikshita, Rangoji Bhatta, etc.), who have written
in defense of advaita and found fault with dvaita. There is no rational
process by which we can exempt only Sankaracharya and call everything else
vernacular jugglery or one-upmanship. We need not consider ourselves the
equal of Sankaracharya in anything, but on what basis do we exempt his
works from all the other works in the advaita tradition? If not for the
writings of all the others right up till today, Sri Sankaracharya's
mission would have been in vain and advaita vedanta would have been
all but forgotten. If we belive in the truth of advaita, we have a duty to
understand and uphold its scholarship. In the Indian context, this
necessarily involves discussion and debate with others.

It is true that silence is best, but that silence has to come after deep
understanding. There is a world of difference between the silence of a
mute or of the unlettered man and the silence of the jnAnI. So long as we
are all capable of talking, discussing, and using words, we can use the
words themselves to reach the state where words are unnecessary.

Thus, if a person can gain peace of mind by being a dvaitin, fine.
However, if the dvaitin is not content to just gain peace of mind, but is
interested in finding fault with advaita, I believe I have a duty to enter
into the discussion to the best of my ability. It is a rather weak
argument to say that I believe that advaita is correct, but that I am not
going to defend it, because what I say is just one-upmanship. True, with
all my faults, there might be the element of one-upmanship. However, it is
better to express this verbally and get it out, rather than keeping silent
and feeling all superior and holier-than-thou inside.

> I clearly remember and try to practice Shri Chinmayananda's explanation
> (which might have followed Shri Ramana's teachings). Every argument is
> correct at the level of understanding of the person who makes it. Leave
> it to the person to recognize the Truth in his/her own time. At that time,
> the person will see for himself/herself the fallacy of the arguments that
> were made.
> Reading technical treatises on advaita or dvaita and parroting the views
> does not make any difference. Only when a person's mind is properly tuned,
> the knowledge will pour in from all directions. If the mind is not tuned,
> however much of reading does not take a person anywhere. When or how and
> by whom the mind is tuned is a mystery (to me).

Reading itself provides an opportunity for tuning the mind, no?


> months ago. Being a grihastha and doing one's dharma as a grihastha
> without being entwined in it is not fatalism and shirking of one's duty.

Again I think there is some confusion between different things here.
Performing one's duty without getting entwined in it is nishkAmya karma.
It is not the same as the state of inaction (naishkarmya). There is a
difference between inaction induced by laziness, or by a desire for
avoiding the fruits of karma, and inaction at the state where all karmas
fall away. I touched upon this in an earlier post yesterday. I think
Jaldhar's point is similar, i.e. the inaction of sannyasa is different
from performing karma in a state of detachment. With the exception of the
very few, most of us on this list are neither sannyasis, nor in a position
where we can become sannyasis today. We always have to bear this in mind.


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