Agony of the soul (?) etc

Gummuluru Murthy gmurthy at MORGAN.UCS.MUN.CA
Wed Jan 8 12:48:41 CST 1997

I am most grateful to Shri Vidyasankar for two thoughtful presentations in
this thread. I like to respond to the various points raised.

1. Agony of the soul (?)

I see Shri Vidyasankar's point. For a beginning student, like me,
sometimes, this causes uncertainty, with various acaryas (from various
schools of thought) using the word "soul" with different meanings.
Confining to advaitic thinking only, what would be the answer to my
original question ? Isn't it the ego that feels the emotions ?

2. Do not seek anything (happiness or sadness)

Shri Vidyasankar interprets my question as due to thamasic laziness rather
than sattvic nirapeksha. Implicit in this interpretation seems to be the
belief (seems to be held by Shri Vidyasankar and many others) that one
cannot have nirapeksha unless one literally takes up sannyasa ashrama.
I do not subscribe to that thinking. I believe that a person can be
completely free from all shackles right in the middle of a city,
surrounded by family. In my view, there is no need of sannyasa ashrama
for nirapeksha (not seek anything, neither happiness nor sadness).

Shri Vidyasankar further writes on this topic

> 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.

There indeed seems to be some confusion here. I think Shri Vidyasankar
mis-read my posting as well as Shri Vyas'. I am not advocating inaction.
I am advocating performing one's duty without getting entwined in it.

I argue for: Being a grihastha and doing one's duties without getting
entwined in the intricacies (a la King Janaka) is possible.

Shri Vyas argues: Being in samsara leads to sukha and dukha and the only
way to be away from sukha and dukha is to take literal sannyasa ashrama.

I argue that a literal sannyasa (sannyasis as we see in India) does not
mean anything. Manasa sannyasa, exemplified by the grihastha in the above
example is as superior a state as the literal sannyasa which Shri Vyas

I could not grasp Shri Vidyasankar's view on this point from his posting.

On Tue, 7 Jan 1997, Vidyasankar Sundaresan wrote:
> 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.
> 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.

I think I used the word "definition" inappropriately in my earlier
posting. Further, I mean to differentiate between Shri Shankara and other
great acaryas on one hand and the mere mortals and List members on the
other. My statement is not, in any way intended to belittle the
contributions of post- or pre-Shankara acaryas. I cannot put myself as
having the same mission as the great acaryas, contrary to what Shri Vyas
says. Thus, my attempt to differentiate. I see now, it might have caused
other castigations on great acaryas (other than Shri Shankara) for which
I regret. It is not what is intended.

> 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.

Stillness of mind, in my view, is not inoperation of the mind. I used
the phrase "stillness of the mind" to mean curbing the wandering nature
of the mind. Once the wandering nature is stopped, it will gain peace
concentrating all the time on Brahman, the ultimate reality. That does
not mean inoperation, but simply being in the control of I.

> 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.

There have been discussions between dualists and non-dualists from time
immemorial. If the discussion is taking place with an open mind, I am all
for it. I am afraid, the minds had been made up and vanquishing the
opponent (or turning the other person to one's own line of thinking)
seems to be the only goal. The recent discussion on this topic in our
List (the thread: "An interesting article: Any response ?) is a good

I believe in the truth of advaita. That truth need not be defended. It
always prevails. I would like others to be benifitted by the recognition
of the truth as well. But that truth has to dawn on them. Advaita jnana
will be showered on a person with an open mind wishing to enquire into
the truth, not on a person who wishes to propogatean already-set dvaitin
mind. The time when that advaita varsha will shower on the person is
pre-ordained. If a debate is the trigger that causes that shower, the
debate shall take place. I am not advocating what anyone do or not do.
If a person feels duty-bound to get into a debate, so be it. It has been
pre-ordained in any case, what is to take place.

> 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.

If you know the truth and the other does not know, you are certainly
superior to the other. But, if you really know the absolute truth, you
do not feel superior.

> Regards,
> Vidyasankar

Gummuluru Murthy
Adau ante ca yan nAsti vartamAnepi tat tathA !
                                GaudapAda in Mandukya kArika
What did not exist at the beginning and what is not going to exist at the
 end is as good as non-existent even in the present.
> >
> > 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.
> >

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