The uses of th

Jonathan Bricklin brickmar at EARTHCOM.NET
Fri Jul 18 01:10:37 CDT 1997

Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian wrote:

>[ ...]  My question is simple:

>1. It is advisable to disregard the belief in freewill in order to
>attain advaita siddhi.

I am sorry to be so dense but I do not find your question simple, beginning
with your preamble.
While I believe that a disregard for the belief in free
will is a manifestation of advaita siddhi, the notion of disregarding this
belief--a belief  which is the basis of  the belief in an independent
"I"--in order to attain anything, even non-attainment, is like trying to
free yourself of the weight of an anvil by dropping it on your foot.

>2. In this case the path of dharma, as dictated by shastra, should be
followed and the results ("good" or "bad") must be accepted with

"must be accepted with equanimity", is, to me, an oxymoron.  "Should" is a
useful word only in hypothetical (or suppressed) hypothetical statements.
("If I want to keep dry today then I should carry an umbrella.")  The
validity of the should is the validity of the result it is meant to bring
about.  .
My American heritage might be shining through here, but I don't see
evidence that any given set of shoulds leads anyone to
enlightenment as if it was some kind of Ph.D. program.  Moreover, I agree
with Nisargadatta's
assessment that anyone who tells anyone else what they should do is
Now clearly I have a bias here, beyond my belief in the non-reality of free
will.  My bias is toward the plainest form of meditation possible:
Vipassana.  If there are injurious thoughts then Vipassana says
to look at them.  When you are sitting so still that you feel disconnected
from your muscles, then all kinds of injurious thoughts are suddenly free
to exist (perhaps, for the first time) because you are clearly, in your
present state of disengagement, not going to act on them.  The "Shastra
that you set forth in your follow-up post ("abstinence from injury,
truthfulness, non-stealth, purity and restraint of senses") run the very
serious risk of being a
formula for repression.

>Do you agree that the path of dharma has to be _strictly_ followed or

No.  Not before enlightenment nor after.  Being breathed, being walked,
being the knower and not the known, there will be great heat coming off of
your body, there will be an infinite feeling of bliss, but there may also
be much foolish behavior and judgement.  Such is lila.
The perception that, say, Sri Ramakrishna was a true guru because he was
mannered is as erroneous as the perception that Rajneesh was a false guru
because he was a rascal.  Strictly observing lila seems a better path than
strictly following dharma.  And it has the added benefit of being
ultimately pathless.  But if you are born into Indian culture, and
following dharma comes naturally to you, then by all means.  And if it
doesn't come naturally to you, but forcing it does, then by all means.  But
I, for one, can accept advaita's description of the ultimate truth of the
universe without accepting any prescription for how such truth may be
ultimately realized.  I don't think I am alone in this.  Nisargadatta, for
one, has said:  "Anyone who tells you what you should do is dangerous."

>> The desire to realize naiskarmya siddhi, being a desire, not only has no
>> absolute, transcendental value, and there have probably been as many
>> who have reached some sort of enlightenment by landing at the bottom of
> >hedonistic induced despair, than by striving to climb toward spiritual
> >purity. And those who don't come through the bottom to the top are not
> >turned around by an act of will (whatever that is) but by seeing clearly
> >what their condition is.  An alcoholic tells many lies to himself, but
> >telling him he has free will to turn his life around would just be
>>dding to the pile.  The one truth that can change his life is that he is
> >alcoholic, and often it takes a crisis, like running his car into a
>>tree, for him to realize that.  Once he does realize that, the change
>>by itself.  Will is not part of the equation. .

>While there may be some examples of people being hedonistic and changing
>later, that's of no consequence. All such people _had to change_ after
>they _realized_ the folly of their ways. That involves effort. In any
>case this has little, if no relevance to my question.

Before judging the relevance of my response to your question you need to
show evidence that you have understood it.  A diet doctor in America once
wrote "It's remarkable how much easier it is to change bad eating habits
once the person has become fully conscious of them.  You don't have to give
orders either.  Once a person becomes fully aware of his bad eating habits,
he can usually figure out for himself the practical way to change them."
The corollary to this is that the desire to change things often manifests
itself as an attempt at rigid self-discipline which represses what is
actually there so that it can no longer be seen.  As Krishnamurti puts it:
"Effort is a distraction from what is."

>Further, the desire to attain advaita siddhi has no permanent value. But
>it has the effect of "removing a thorn with a thorn and then discard
>both" ...It is one of the foremost prerequisties
>for realization (see any advaita text).

It may also have the effect of sticking another thorn in.  See any number
of followers of advaita texts.

> > I often hear the objection you have raised against belief in the
>> non-reality of free will, but I have never once met or read of anyone
who actually manifested it.  A divine bum, like Ashtavakra, does not
>>in will, and manifests that belief by expressing a disinterest in any

>Ashtavakra was supposedly a realized soul beyond desires. My question
>does not concern such people.

Well, he had at least one desire, the desire to communicate the folly of
"shoulds" and "musts", the desire to steer those who read his words away
from shastra

> >The hedonists you mention sound like the ordinary kind, filled with the
>> separate sense of self that a belief in will engenders.  Do you actually
>> know, or have you ever heard of anyone acting *badly* and using a belief
> >the non-reality of free will to justify it?  This is an earnest
>> Do you actually know anyone who repeats ad nauseum "there is no free

>Yes, I have (to both your questions).

Well, in my country, at least, where over 1 million people are in prison, I
have never heard of belief in the non-reality in free will used as an
excuse for anything.  But then, no one believes in it much, here.  I, for
one, can not imagine that if such a belief were to begin to take hold, on
whatever level, that it would not do my country a lot of good.  Things can
hardly get worse.  By the same token, it may well be that India does not
need to have this ultimate truth emphasized.  At any rate, I have never
seen it as a foreground belief.


>The visitor said: "One must satiate with the fulfilment of desires
>before they are renounced.". Sri Bhagavan smiled and cut in: "Fire might
>as well be put out by pouring spirit over the flames. (All laugh). The
>more the desires are fulfilled, the deeper grows the samskara. They must
>become weaker before they cease to assert themselves. That weakness is
>brought about by restraining oneself and not by losing oneself in

Well, perhaps the visitor was to polite to offer the obvious retort--that
fire is not put out by a partial cover-up, but actually made to increase.
"Restraining oneself" can lead to a most dangerous backdraft.

>M: Every time you attempt satisfaction of a desire the knowledge comes
>that it is better to desist. Repeated reminders of this kind will in due
>course weaken the desires.

If such knowledge comes, great.  If it doesn't, beware trying to make it
seem as if it does.  Has anyone out there denied themselves a small piece
of candy in the afternoon, only to have eaten a bigger one in the evening,
a sort of reward for the good behavior of showing restraint?

>The desire to attain moxa itself is a desire. However it is a good
>vAsana and does not stand in the way of realization

The story goes that the Buddha did not attain moxa until he gave up looking
for it.  I would be very happy to hear from you authenticated stories of
actual realization.  My own belief is that it is grace.

>Anyway, this is the way to get beyond both dharma and adharma according
t>o my understanding of advaita. However, what do we have in some cases?
>Mere lip service is paid to advaita and then we have people going about
>doing whatever they please and justifying it by some high sounding
>(mostly nonsensical) phrases.

Lip service to anything gets you nowhere.  Again, there is, as Vidyasankar
had pointed out, a real cultural divide to consider.  The non-reality of
free will is such an accepted part of Indian culture that it can easily
degenerate into the shallow version you speak of.  In my culture (despite
Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Mark Twain and others) it is a revolutionary
concept.  The same danger is not there.

>So even if one does not follow sAmAnya dharma, but accepts that he has
>free-will, then there is scope for him to realize his mistakes and
>change. However, if such a person convinces himself that every thing
>happens automatically, then there is _no_ scope for him to change. Such
>a person typically states things like "everything is ephemeral, happens
>spontaneously, etc, etc" and is firmly convinced that whatever he does
>is completely correct.

Anyone who sincerely believes in the non-reality of free will is, by
definition, reducing the sense of self that is the root of all the negative
behavior that worries you.  I am not convinced you recognize the danger
inherent in the inverse.  To avoid that danger, I would consider
Vidyasankar's suggestion that absent the belief that we and God are one
(which is what the belief in the non-reality of free will ultimately
implies) Advaita gurus do well to advise their disciples "let God's will
direct my actions."  It sounds a bit like the AA pledge, which has an
impressive record of changing lives:

"1.  We admitted we were powerless over alcohol--that our lives had become

2.  Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to

3.  Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God
as we understood him."

Jonathan Bricklin


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