kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Sun Jul 23 21:05:38 CDT 2006

Experience and Knowledge:

Another obstacle a Vedantic student encounters is his longing for
experience of that supreme state or supreme self.  It is commonly
believed that experience of non-duality (advaita anubhava) is the goal
of Vedanta where the mind is absorbed in a state of thoughtlessness or
nirvikalpaka samAdhi.  What is involved is not the experience of advaita
but understanding the advaitic (nondualistic) and dvaitic (dualistic)

Everyday, everyone experiences dvaita and advaita. During the waking and
dream states one experience duality or tripuTi – the three-fold aspect
of experiencer, experienced and experiencing.  These three are mutually
exclusive and therefore mutually limit each other.
In the deep sleep state, there is complete absence of dvaita, duality,
where concept of space, time and all problems associated with duality
are absorbed.  Here the experiencer and experienced are absorbed into
one.  In the experience of deep sleep, one is momentarily free from all
duality although these exist in potential form as the mind was folded. 
Due to the absence of duality one is relatively happy.  However, there
is no knowledge of advaita in deep sleep state, since instrument of
knowledge, the mind, is also folded.  Hence, it is not the lack of
experience of advaita but lack of understanding or knowledge of the
advaitic nature of the reality.  

Vedanta teaching can only give knowledge of advaita and not experience
of advaita.  It is a common misunderstanding that after learning
Vedanta, that one has to sit and meditate on that to experience advaita
for self-realization.  ‘advaitic experience’ is a contradiction in term,
since in any experience there is an experiencer, experienced and
experiencing.  In some systems of philosophy the nirvikalpa samAdhi
involving elimination of thoughts is glorified to the degree that the
seekers struggle to gain that experience.  Hence, it is understood by
some that after studying Vedanta one has to sit for meditation to
experience the advaita-state.  Any experience is time bound, involves
duality or potential duality, and does not involve understanding of the
reality.  As one swami puts it ‘ignorant agitated individual’ has become
‘ignorant quiet individual’ in the nirvikalpa samAdhi, remaining
‘ignorant’ in both states.  There are some who think that all one has to
do is to sit in meditation enquiring ‘who am I’ and that is the direct
path, and there is no need of scriptural study.  Inquiry of Brahman is
not thoughtless affair; it involves deep analysis of duality that one
experiences recognizing the underlying reality using the scriptural
knowledge.  ‘State of absence of duality’ is not advaita but only a
potential dvaita since all duality in deep sleep state are only in the
potential form.  Non-duality in spite of duality involves an
understanding that duality is only apparent and is not a reality.  The
reality is the existent-consciousness that ‘I am’ is limitless eternal
entity and is the substantive for all duality.  Hence, it is
non-negatable knowledge or absolute knowledge, which is of the nature of
Brahman.  We can briefly state the difference between experience and
knowledge to insure that we are not longing for experience but
knowledge.  In principle, listening to a teacher ‘shravaNam’ should
accomplish the fact since the truth is eternal ever-existent principle,
provided the mind is pure enough to accept the teaching as the fact. 
The strong preconceived notions of the mind, that I am this body, I am
this mind or I am this intellect, make the mind not to recognize that I
am the subject and not an object.  It requires an unbiased mind or pure
mind to accept I am ‘that’, which is unqualified existence-consciousness
principle, since all qualifications belong to objects, which are finite,
and not the subject I.  Hence, dhyAnam or meditation is only for
internalizing the teaching by continuous contemplation on the teachings
of the Vedanta until the mind is purified enough to see the truth as
truth.  Scriptural study and contemplation on the teaching are the only
means to assimilate the understanding that ‘I am’ the
existent-conscious-unlimited, sat-chit-Ananda and not the
body-mind-intellect complex that I habitually identify as I am this. 

For our benefit, we can summarize the differences between knowledge and
a) Experience is time bound while knowledge is eternal. 
b) Experience can be contradicted by another experience. 
d) Relative knowledge is valid at relative level and not at absolute
e) One relative knowledge can supersede another relative knowledge (like
    mechanics superseding classical mechanics).
f) Knowledge should resolve the contradictory experiences. 
g) Absolute knowledge cannot be contradicted. 
h) All knowledge we know of .. is an attributive knowledge. 
i) Attributive knowledge is only relative knowledge. 
j) All attributive knowledge is supported by the absolute knowledge.
k) Brahman, as well as the subject ‘I’ cannot be known, since both are
not objects to be known.
l) Brahman cannot be different from the subject ‘I’ since absolute
infinite cannot exclude anything.
m) Brahman is sat-chit-ananda and the subject ‘I’ is also
n) sat-chit-ananda is indivisible, and identity of Brahman and ‘I’, the
subject is established. MAnDUkya upaniShad confirms that the self ‘I’ is
Brahman, ‘ayam Atma Brahman’. 
o) Objects have no other substantive other than Brahman. Moreover no
other substantives other than Brahman can exist, since Brahman is
absolutely infinite. Scriptures confirm that ‘sarvam khalvidam Brahma’,
everything is indeed Brahman. And ‘neha nAnAsti kincana’, there is
nothing other than Brahman.
p) If one sees some thing other than Brahman, then that is mithya. Since
it is seen, it is not asat, and since it is not real, it is not sat.
Hence, it is called mithya (sat asat vilaxanam). 
q) Conversely, anything that is seen is mithya. Anything that is
experienced is mithya, since Brahman cannot be seen or experienced since
it is not an object for experience. 
r) All objective knowledge is only attributive knowledge since
substantive Brahman cannot be perceived. Hence all attributive knowledge
is mithya. 
s) Ignorance is 'not knowing who I am', as a result of which, taking
what I am not, as I am. 
t) Bondage is due to the ignorance of my self.  Because of this, I take
something other than myself as myself and suffer the consequence of that
misunderstanding.  Liberation is knowing my self as myself and for that
Vedanta is the only pramANa or means of knowledge. 
u) Knowledge can destroy only ignorance. Misapprehensions resulting from
non-apprehension are removed by the knowledge that I am the substantive
Brahman for everthing.  There is no more delusion that the apparent
plurality is reality. 

Liberation is understanding that I am limitless Brahman.  The apparent
plurality remains the same,  but there is no more misunderstanding in
the mind that the apparent plurality is reality. Hence it recognition
that I  am beyond the thoughts - thoughts raise in me, sustained by me
and go back into me.  Knowledge destroys ignorance means it is the
destruction of notional mind which is nothing but ignorance.  The
objective mind remains which understands that plurality that appears is
only appearances and not real. Hence Upanishad says that 'manaeva
manuShyANam kAraNaM bhada moxayoH', mind is responsible for both bondage
and liberation. Some of these concepts become clearer when we analyze
the Upanishad mantras.    


There are several meanings for the word upanishad – it is normally split
as upa + ni + Shad. upa can mean ‘guru upa sadanam’ meaning it is the
knowledge that should be gathered by approaching a guru (that is, it
cannot be gained by just self-study). upa also means close and closest
to one is oneself.  Hence it can also mean self-knowledge.   ni stands
for ‘nischaya jnAnam’ that knowledge which is free from any doubts. Shad
means ‘ava sAdayati’ can mean carrier or destroyer. It caries the
student to knowledge of the truth or it destroys the ignorance because
of which one see the truth as truth.  Hence, purpose of the study of the
upaniShad is indicated by the very word.  

MAnDUkya upaniShad is from atharvaNa Veda and is attributed to a sage
ManDUka. ManDUka means one who revels or who is ever happy. He revels in
himself by himself – Atmanyeva AtmanA tuShTaH since himself that he
revels is nothing but limitlessness or happiness itself. It is very
small and comprehensive upaniShad.  Because of its importance AcArya
GauDapAda has written kArika or gloss on the upaniShad and the upaniShad
is generally studied along with kArika.  GauDapAda is considered as
teacher of Shankara’s teacher, GovindapAda or grand teacher of Shankara
bhagavadpAda. Shankara has written commentary on both the upaniShad and
kArika and down the line Anandagiri has written notes on Shankara
bhAShya.   upaniShad with kArika has four chapters called prakaraNa. The
first chapter is called Agama prakaraNa consisting of all upaniShad
mantras and few kArikas on them. The second chapter is called vaithathya
prakaraNa discussing the mitya aspect of the world. The third chapter is
called advaita prakaraNa dealing with the advaitic nature of the self
and non-creation aspect the world.  Finally the fourth chapter is called
AlAtashanti prakaraNa where in GauDapAda refutes others philosophies
existing at that time.  
Invocation Mantra: 
Om! bhadram karNebhiH shRNuyAma devAH
bhadram pashyemAxabhiryajatrAH|
sthirairangaiH tuShTuvAgm sastanUbhiH
vyaShema devahitam yadAyuH||
svasti na indro vRiddhashravaaH|
svasti naH pUShA visvavEdAH|\
svasti nastArtarxyo ariShTanemiH|
svasti no bRihaspatirdadhaatue,
Om! ShantiH ShantiH ShantiH|

Oh! Gods, May we hear through our ears what is auspicious: Oh!
Worshipful ones, may we see through our eyes what is auspicious. May we
live our allotted life hale and healthy glorifying thee. May the ancient
and famous Lord Indra, the all-knowing Lord Sun, and the fast moving
Lord VAyu and the master of spiritual wealth Bruhaspati all bless us so
that our intellect can understand the scriptures and our heart can
follow the teachings. Let there peace without any disturbance from
sources unknown (Adidaivika) and let there be peace without any
disturbance from all external sources (Adibhautika) and let there be
peace from all disturbances from within (aadhyaatmika). Peace! Peace!

The prayer is essentially for three things. 1) May we live long enough
to complete our spiritual journey. 2) During this time may we live hale
and healthy with all the equipments functioning without any problem and
all the sense organs and mind involved only in learning auspicious
things. 3) May we be free from all obstacles, at least during our study,
so that we can listen with balanced mind and intellect, the truths
expounded in the scriptures. 

With that prayerful attitude, invoking Gods grace on us, let us study
the scriptures 

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