Vedanta and intellect

nanda chandran vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Jan 4 14:59:33 CST 2000

>In a mind that is prepared by sufficient enquiry, discipline and desire to
>know, the knowledge of the Self as being not identified with (but not
>separate from) the doer or the individual 'I' starts to become clearer.  In
>one for whom this knowledge is well-
>established, there is no individual to whom a sense of doership can be
>assigned -- he can be called a 'sarva-karma sannyasi'.

The fundemantal doctrine of Advaitam is 'tat tvam asi' ie you're the
Truth - brahman. And that brahman is one without a second ie it only
exists - as YAgnavalkya says in the BrhadAranyakOpanishad, "When you're all
there is, what else is there to see, to hear ...".

But then we can hardly relate this to our empirical experience. We exist and
we see people, animals, trees, things all around us - quite distinct from
us. So how does Vedanta say that all this variety that I see around me is
nothing but me?

So what's that which makes us think that we're different from all that which
exists around us? It's our individuality - our personality - our sense of
being an entity by itself quite different from the rest.

So let us analyze the crux of this issue - ourselves - individuality,
personality, identity etc

Generally when you ask somebody who they are, they generally start off
with saying their name - but then name is just something which the
parents gave you. It's just a word - a label to address you. If my
parents had named me "Anand" instead of "Nandakumar", I would currently be
saying that my name is Anand.

So who am I?

People then generally start saying that they're the son of their parents,
the brother to their sisters, the officer in the organization they work in,
their role in the society etc

Even here personal identification is only with respect to something else -
as a son to the parents, as the brother to the sisters, as the position in
an organization - in relation to something, but never reveals what you're in

When people run out of options, they finally state that they're the body and

Accepted that in the waking state one is the body/mind and in the dream
state one is the mind, but in deep sleep state we lose consciousness of
ourselves and are neither body and mind. But then whatever we are we still
are, to the extent that when we wake up we're still able to retain our

So that which exists in deep sleep is what we are, but we have no
awareness of it. It's this which we are in essence which is the same in all
beings - living and non-living - brahman.

But if we are that, why is that we have our individuality - our personal
life, with its passions, desires, successes, failures, misery etc

If you take a new born baby - it just stares at us, without comprehension -
and AFAIK, all new born babies within a couple of months after their birth,
cannot recognize their parents and generally will go to anybody. It has no
sense of personality - it just is.

But then when it starts experiencing new things in the world - slowly its
personality builds up. It sees it father and mother identifies itself as
their son/daughter, its brothers and sisters and identifies as their
brother/sister, its house, surroundings, neighbours and play things -
develops a personality in relation with them.

This process continues with all that it experiences and slowly over a period
of time its personality is established - but only with respect to what it
had experienced in the world - but not what it itself is. In short, a person
is nothing but the sum total of all that he has experienced.

And this sense of selfhood - this individuality is the greatest mAyam. It's
due to this sense of selfhood that we develop attachment to objects,
experience pain and pleasure, happiness and misery in this world. This is
what YAgnavalkya means in his dialogue with Maitreyi, that it is only due to
the self that everything - parents, wife, children, property etc - are dear.
The self referred
to here is the personality, which was developed due to the life of
experience. This personality has no existence of its own apart from whatever
it has experienced in life - it only exists in relation to something else.

SamnyAsam is nothing but the negation of this life of experience to weed out
this false self. All activity - both physical and mental - only strengthens
this false sense of selfhood (and this is what is meant by accumulation of
karma - for the stronger the sense of selfhood, the farther one is away from
moksham, which is nothing but abiding in oneself). And as can be experienced
by anybody, even the slightest activity involves duality - a subject and an
object - you and that which you experience - and both the subject and the
object only exist in relation to one another. If the reader finds it
difficult to understand - it is because to know from somebody that
you as an individual don't exist, is quite different from knowing and
experiencing yourself that you as an individual don't exist.

Complete cessation of activity - karma - is what destroys or rather ceases
to give rise to this false self and lets us abide in ourselves - which is
without individuality. And don't think this is simple - the KathOpanishad is
not exaggerating when it says that walking the path is like walking on the
edge of a razor!

True philosophy - be it Patanjala Yoga or the MAdhyamaka school of Buddhism
or our Advaitam, is nothing but a reductionist movement - neti, neti - which
systematically negates whatever
you are not - the senses, the body, the mind and finally the personality -
to arrive in yourself - that which is beyond expression. It's beyond reason,
because reason presupposes you who reasons.

True knowledge is not mere bookish knowledge, but knowledge of oneSelf.
Whatever your status in life, always meditate - try to know and be yourself
- half an hour meditation is worth more than a month of reading. It's in the
silence in meditation - when all activity has ceased - when you cease to
even "know" or "be aware", that a subtler form of awareness (which is not to
be confused with psychological awareness, consciousness) arises. And You are

PS : It's my opinion that as long as we have our duties - as a son, husband,
father etc and are unable to take up renunciation, we can use what ever
method - offering all the fruits of our activities to God etc - to erase our
sense of selfhood or Ego. That way one will be well prepared when one's
ready to become the genuine VedAnti - a samnyAsin.

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