3bob

"The concept of God in Hinduism"

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A wonderful overview:

 

"The earliest statement of the Nature of Reality occurs in the first book of the Rig-Veda: Ekam Sat-Viprah Bahudha Vadanti. "The ONE BEING, the wise diversely speak of."

 

The tenth book of the Rig-Veda regards the highest conception of God both as the Impersonal and the Personal: The Nasadiya Sukta states that the Supreme Being is both the Unmanifest and the Manifest, Existence as well as Non-existence, the Supreme Indeterminable"....

 

continues at:

http://www.swami-krishnananda.org/disc/disc_14.html

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Seems like a whole lot of definitions and terminology. How exactly does learning a new set of terms and expanding our Sanskrit vocabulary,... actually help anyone in their day-to-day living ?

 

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Edited by ThisLife
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You got that right.

Any path requiring learning a foreign language isn't necessarily the right path for us.

All these different words tend towards the same experiences anyhoo.

Labels are just labels.

Edited by GrandmasterP
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Seems like a whole lot of definitions and terminology. How exactly does learning a new set of terms and expanding our Sanskrit vocabulary,... actually help anyone in their day-to-day living ?

 

*

 

I hear the quote as giving a great appreciation and recognition of many schools (and a small but very important part of the teachings) that are included in "Hinduism", along with the wide ranging and tolerant views that do and are meant to exist among same! Such an attitude of appreciation, recognition and tolerance could be applied in other (or across) various religions or systems if or where it is not practiced... such is one of ways that these "concepts" (and more than just concepts) could help us in our day to day living. I also think that learning a little Sanskrit and related terminology, even only a small number of words is a small price to pay to help one gain some appreciation for the vastness of Hinduism and its many peoples!

 

Om Shanti

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I tend to look at the Supreme Being as a verb rather than a noun…

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You got that right.

Any path requiring learning a foreign language isn't necessarily the right path for us.

All these different words tend towards the same experiences anyhoo.

Labels are just labels.

Unfortunately, I'm not aware of many spiritual texts originally written in English…

I will agree with you about the labels though, practice and direct experience are where it's at for me.

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Unfortunately, I'm not aware of many spiritual texts originally written in English

I will agree with you about the labels though, practice and direct experience are where it's at for me.

Julian of Norwich's 'Revelations of Divine Love' is a Zen text.

That's in middle English and the first book ever published in English written by a woman.

Good read.

 

e.g...

"He shewed me a little thing, the quantity of an hazel-nut, in the palm of my hand; and it was as round as a ball. I looked thereupon with eye of my understanding, and thought: What may this be? And it was answered generally thus: It is all that is made. I marvelled how it might last, for methought it might suddenly have fallen to naught for little. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasteth, and ever shall for that God loveth it. And so All-thing hath the Being by the love of God.

In this Little Thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it, the second is that God loveth it, the third, that God keepeth it. But what is to me verily the Maker, the Keeper, and the Lover, I cannot tell; for till I am Substantially oned to Him, I may never have full rest nor very bliss: that is to say, till I be so fastened to Him, that there is right nought that is made betwixt my God and me."

 

Agree with you that 'our' TTB- interest literature tends to start out in a foreign language.

The Zen guys in Japan use a form of Japanese for their rituals that's equivalent to middle English.

Nobody much can understand it without having studied it so different is it from modern Japanese.

Thing is we can read modern translations in our own language.

My point such as it is stems from my puzzlement at chums who feel the need to dive into an alien culture when the texts are available in their own language.

For some ( Western Tibetans and those 'off the shoulder frock' wearers who won't eat after 11am) maybe it's the lure of the exotic, esoteric or good old masochism but for Tao, Pure Land, Chan or Zen I just can't see the point as those are universal cultivations transcending language and culture.

If cultivation's doing not believing then surely we can simply do it using our own native tongue as and where necessary.

Edited by GrandmasterP

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I'm happy to find quite an interesting discussion developing here. All four of us participating in it each freely chose to join and spend a good deal of our free time in a group like Tao Bums, (whose purpose is to provide a meeting place for spiritual seekers). So we each share a common 'root interest.' What I find interesting is that once this 'root' pushes through the interface that separates our sub-conscious thought from our conscious thought,... each of us then looks at the 'foliage' atop the others, and we start to discuss the differences in leaf, stem and branch. The general line of discussion is usually a variant on, "From my experiences / beliefs,... the type of foliage I happen to have sprouting from my root I think is more likely to bear fruit than the type of leaf that you seem to be promoting."

 

This is just a sample from the standard pattern of what happens anywhere that you find people with different religions, beliefs or philosophies in communication with each other. It is 100% normal human behaviour..

 

Of course, I'm no different. I can only know my conscious thoughts once they push through into my awareness. And all I can know of others thoughts, is what has now had to push through two layers,.. first this 'external person's' awareness,... then through his personality's way of expressing his thoughts. (in our case, in written English via a keyboard and computer in an internet chat room).

 

But about eight years ago I came across my first Advaita, (or Non-Duality) teachings. They quite blew me away because they seemed to engage in utter blasphemy towards every belief about spiritual pathways that I had unconsciously held to be true, throughout all my life. (I'm quite attracted to periodic 'shock therapy' in my spiritual searching, as it happens. It's an antidote to my tendency to suffocate myself in layers of self-created comfort.)

 

Anyway,... suddenly, here was someone saying that they were living in simultaneous and equal awareness, of their 'root'. And what they found was "Everything is one, There is no separation."

 

Of course, this message is not new. I'm sure everyone who hangs out at a place like this is aware of it as the basic message all mystics have been bringing us throughout the ages. Another way to look at it is that it is an alternate way of expressing the awareness that most of us hope to attain to after all our years of dedicated spiritual practices.

 

But the message that these chaps deliver after their insight, is NOT about the surface practice we should engage in to reach our common root. Instead, well.... at this point let me give you a direct quote from someone, (Richard Sylvester), who's actually gone through what I'm trying to describe here 'second-hand' :

 

*

*

 

 

"You cannot earn liberation. I have not earned liberation. No one will ever earn liberation. You cannot become good enough or work hard enough or be sincere enough to deserve it. Liberation has not happened to me and it will not happen to you. Yet there is liberation. There is only ever liberation. Perfection is already here. What you are is already divine.

 

Searching will not get you anywhere, but there is nothing wrong with searching. In this apparent process it may be heard that searching is meaningless,…but searching cannot be given up until it stops. Then it is over and it is seen that what you were searching for has always been with you, in fact it has always been what you are.

 

But to suggest that you give up searching in order to find is pointless. It does not matter whether you get drunk, meditate, read the paper, sit with the guru or go to the races. None of these will make liberation any more or any less likely. Searching or not searching, misses the point. For there is no one who can choose to do any of these things. If meditation happens, it happens and it will go on happening until it does not. It is the same for getting drunk. You may as well give up the belief that you can choose anything.

 

Except that you cannot do that either.

 

Until it happens."

 

*

Edited by ThisLife
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I'm happy to find quite an interesting discussion developing here. All four of us participating in it each freely chose to join and spend a good deal of our free time in a group like Tao Bums, (whose purpose is to provide a meeting place for spiritual seekers). So we each share a common 'root interest.' What I find interesting is that once this 'root' pushes through the interface that separates our sub-conscious thought from our conscious thought,... each of us then looks at the 'foliage' atop the others, and we start to discuss the differences in leaf, stem and branch. The general line of discussion is usually a variant on, "From my experiences / beliefs,... the type of foliage I happen to have sprouting from my root I think is more likely to bear fruit than the type of leaf that you seem to be promoting."

 

This is just a sample from the standard pattern of what happens anywhere that you find people with different religions, beliefs or philosophies in communication with each other. It is 100% normal human behaviour..

 

Of course, I'm no different. I can only know my conscious thoughts once they push through into my awareness. And all I can know of others thoughts, is what has now had to push through two layers,.. first this 'external person's' awareness,... then through his personality's way of expressing his thoughts. (in our case, in written English via a keyboard and computer in an internet chat room).

 

But about eight years ago I came across my first Advaita, (or Non-Duality) teachings. They quite blew me away because they seemed to engage in utter blasphemy towards every belief about spiritual pathways that I had unconsciously held to be true, throughout all my life. (I'm quite attracted to periodic 'shock therapy' in my spiritual searching, as it happens. It's an antidote to my tendency to suffocate myself in layers of self-created comfort.)

 

Anyway,... suddenly, here was someone saying that they were living in simultaneous and equal awareness, of their 'root'. And what they found was "Everything is one, There is no separation."

 

Of course, this message is not new. I'm sure everyone who hangs out at a place like this is aware of it as the basic message all mystics have been bringing us throughout the ages. Another way to look at it is that it is an alternate way of expressing the awareness that most of us hope to attain to after all our years of dedicated spiritual practices.

 

But the message that these chaps deliver after their insight, is NOT about the surface practice we should engage in to reach our common root. Instead, well.... at this point let me give you a direct quote from someone, (Richard Sylvester), who's actually gone through what I'm trying to describe here 'second-hand' :

 

*

 

*

 

 

"You cannot earn liberation. I have not earned liberation. No one will ever earn liberation. You cannot become good enough or work hard enough or be sincere enough to deserve it. Liberation has not happened to me and it will not happen to you. Yet there is liberation. There is only ever liberation. Perfection is already here. What you are is already divine.

 

Searching will not get you anywhere, but there is nothing wrong with searching. In this apparent process it may be heard that searching is meaningless,…but searching cannot be given up until it stops. Then it is over and it is seen that what you were searching for has always been with you, in fact it has always been what you are.

 

But to suggest that you give up searching in order to find is pointless. It does not matter whether you get drunk, meditate, read the paper, sit with the guru or go to the races. None of these will make liberation any more or any less likely. Searching or not searching, misses the point. For there is no one who can choose to do any of these things. If meditation happens, it happens and it will go on happening until it does not. It is the same for getting drunk. You may as well give up the belief that you can choose anything.

 

Except that you cannot do that either.

 

Until it happens."

 

*

 

Ok Thislife,

 

Although I think that your post would fit or be more applicable under the general forum since a key part Vedanta and or "Hindusim" is the recognition of and importance of a true guru and the many related steps or practices of various yoga's and or schools for a students preparation... having said that I agree that the tipping point of an over-whelming of Grace can not be earned or forced in any way yet even the Dharmic preparations have a measure of grace if one can see it that way.

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Julian of Norwich's 'Revelations of Divine Love' is a Zen text.

That's in middle English and the first book ever published in English written by a woman.

Good read.

 

e.g...

"He shewed me a little thing, the quantity of an hazel-nut, in the palm of my hand; and it was as round as a ball. I looked thereupon with eye of my understanding, and thought: What may this be? And it was answered generally thus: It is all that is made. I marvelled how it might last, for methought it might suddenly have fallen to naught for little. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasteth, and ever shall for that God loveth it. And so All-thing hath the Being by the love of God.

In this Little Thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it, the second is that God loveth it, the third, that God keepeth it. But what is to me verily the Maker, the Keeper, and the Lover, I cannot tell; for till I am Substantially oned to Him, I may never have full rest nor very bliss: that is to say, till I be so fastened to Him, that there is right nought that is made betwixt my God and me."

 

Agree with you that 'our' TTB- interest literature tends to start out in a foreign language.

The Zen guys in Japan use a form of Japanese for their rituals that's equivalent to middle English.

Nobody much can understand it without having studied it so different is it from modern Japanese.

Thing is we can read modern translations in our own language.

My point such as it is stems from my puzzlement at chums who feel the need to dive into an alien culture when the texts are available in their own language.

For some ( Western Tibetans and those 'off the shoulder frock' wearers who won't eat after 11am) maybe it's the lure of the exotic, esoteric or good old masochism but for Tao, Pure Land, Chan or Zen I just can't see the point as those are universal cultivations transcending language and culture.

If cultivation's doing not believing then surely we can simply do it using our own native tongue as and where necessary.

 

GrandmasterP, No one is keeping you from your English choice, would you keep someone from their Sanskrit choice?

 

(Btw, Sanskrit has important aspects that are related to communication between the human and various heavenly worlds and its beings... thus a very powerful form of communication using intonations filled with a certain measure of what can be called spiritual power; I would also say such should be more or less obvious when listening to empowered mantra, kirtan, and or Vedic chants and music given by those specially trained and qualified to do so! That is not saying that English can't have whatever measure of such communication also via its heartfelt speech but I tend to feel it is more applicable for communication among us human beings - then again I'm no expert on these matters)

Edited by 3bob

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Empowered is maybe a slippery term.

Bit like our powerful chums who set their students to shaking and such by a single touch.

If you believe that the Pali or Sanskrit texts contain magic powers in and of themselves then that's fine.

Likewise 'empowered' people, if one accepts them as such then of course empowered they are.

Power is always given, never appropriated.

There's room for us all here on TTB for sure.

Edited by GrandmasterP

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Ok Thislife,

 

Although I think that your post would fit or be more applicable under the general forum since a key part Vedanta and or "Hindusim" is the recognition of and importance of a true guru and the many related steps or practices of various yoga's and or schools for a students preparation... having said that I agree that the tipping point of an over-whelming of Grace can not be earned or forced in any way yet even the Dharmic preparations have a measure of grace if one can see it that way.

 

*

 

What a curious way to start off your reply to someone that you're involved in a discussion with,.... stating that my post would fit better somewhere else. Nothing too subtle about that chess move, eh wot ? Why not just squarely address what life has brought your way instead dismissing it as being in the wrong pigeon hole ?

 

To me, this seems to confirm my initial reaction to all the terminology and Sanskrit vocabulary. It strikes me as a fascination for playing with words, ideas, and theories about life rather than the "living ", breathing, aspect of it,... which is no further away than the breath you're engaged in right now, or the post that pops up on your monitor.

 

But I suppose that idea probably doesn't fit comfortably into your Vedanta pigeonhole either ?

 

Oh well. Perhaps my words are just cluttering up your soliloquy and I should go find an empty slot somewhere else.

 

*

Edited by ThisLife

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My what thin skin you have, anyway imo lumping Sanskrit and all of its related import into "playing with words and fascination" is way off the mark...

 

Good fortune on your search.

Edited by 3bob

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It's not thin skinned, really. It's just a different type of chess move to see if I can bring the person I'm talking to out from behind the comfortable and protective screen of anonymity we enjoy in an internet chat room,... by trying to provoke enough of a response that I can get a clearer idea of where the other person is coming from.

 

My experience of many spiritual practices is that they end up being just comfortable substitutes for actually engaging in this dance of life that Hinduism calls "lila". (Does that Sanskrit term now make my thoughts acceptable ?)

 

Of course I'm NOT "lumping Sanskrit and all of its related import into "playing with words". Sanskrit is just an inert language, a useful tool. But like any tool,... it's the use it is put to by the wielder which determines whether, (for example), a knife is a murder weapon, or a common cutlery item which allows us to eat our evening meal.

 

I guess I keep coming to 'spiritual' chat rooms like this hoping to find people who are driven by this same irksome craving to understand the nature of our existence, as I am,... and actually have a conversation where I feel I can "see" the other person. But what happens so often resembles more a hand-puppet theatre, where we each put on a hand-puppet dressed up in whatever regalia we think makes it look like the best facsimile of our beliefs. Afterwards, no person is actually ever on stage any more. Just hand-puppets acting out roles and confidently declaiming scripted lines of doctrine and dogma.

 

Probably I am not one whit different. This is just my recurring moan about the emptiness of all these computer connections, this 'virtual reality stuff',... that somehow has edged aside so much of my human connections. It's like the difference between a Facebook 'friend', and a genuine friend.

 

Maybe I'm just simply barking up the wrong tree. Do you think that this kind of relationship is actually even possible on the internet, or is this desire just like hoping to one day meet a koala bear on the ski slopes of Norway ?

 

*

Edited by ThisLife

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I can see this issue from both sides, but I have to say that when it comes to understanding the subtlety and nuance of a system like vedanta, it's necessary to learn certain Sanskrit terms. Sanskrit is the language of consciousness, incredibly beautiful and nuanced, there are simply no English equivalents for so much of it. Or if there are equivalents, they are unhelpful as they have so much 'baggage' associated to them: words like enlightenment, God, ego, even consciousness. Wide open to interpretation, which doesn't work with vedanta...you gotta be on the same page if it's going to work.

 

Vedanta is a science of consciousness and like any science uses language very precisely to avoid ambiguity and misunderstanding. I saw a thread where someone was asking how to get enlightened; but I think the problem was probably just about everyone involved in the thread had a different definition of enlightenment, which can lead to all kinds of crossed wires and confusion.

 

I think part of the power and efficacy of vedanta is it uses words with great clarity and precision; which is dualistic yes, a dualistic means of realising non-duality! but that's how it goes. There are a number of traditional vedanta teachers who now teach in English thankfully, but there is danger in completely de-contexualising this system...as seen in neo advaita. It's not really enough to do as the Neos do and just say 'you're awareness, all the rest is an illusion'...that doesn't explain a damn thing. It's not just the terminology they lack, but the actual logic behind the statements such as "You are That". Vedanta explains the workings and relationship of the apparent individual, awareness and maya...which is really necessary to grasp the 'mechanics' of non-duality, existence and identity.

 

It's not necessary to learn sanskrit as such (although I'd actually like to - it's beautiful!! I adore the sound of it) but certainly it's important to be open to expanding our vocabulary, there are simply no appropriate English equivalents for very important terms. The word enlightenment itself has been interpreted a million different ways by a million different teachers but vedanta uses the term moksha...very clear, very precise, very understandable. The way we use words is so pivotal to our understanding and entire outlook. Words are immensely powerful... :)

Edited by amoyaan
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Very clearly and pleasantly explained, Amoyaan. Thank you for an interesting insight into a path that I have not really come across before. So many ways we humans strive to re-connect ourselves with,.... (?). The only life form on this planet that seems to be plagued with this enigmatic, bizarre, and Herculean task.

 

Lucky us, eh ?

 

*

Edited by ThisLife
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Glad it make sense, ThisLife. I'm so grateful for finding vedanta, or it finding me as was probably more the case...it's helped me immensely and I genuinely love it and love sharing it.

 

It can be a truly Herculean task! And for something as simple as knowing that we are awareness! Maya is just so darn, devilishly immersive and extroverting....the answer is there for us, hidden in plain sight, but life just keeps coming at us with all its amazing, beautiful, sexy and monstrous distractions! The pull of samsara is so immense. Yet that drive to seek beyond it is the pearl in the oyster, so to speak

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"...I think part of the power and efficacy of vedanta is it uses words with great clarity and precision; which is dualistic yes, a dualistic means of realising non-duality! but that's how it goes. There are a number of traditional vedanta teachers who now teach in English thankfully, but there is danger in completely de-contexualising this system...as seen in neo advaita. It's not really enough to do as the Neos do and just say 'you're awareness, all the rest is an illusion'...that doesn't explain a damn thing. It's not just the terminology they lack, but the actual logic behind the statements such as "You are That". Vedanta explains the workings and relationship of the apparent individual, awareness and maya...which is really necessary to grasp the 'mechanics' of non-duality, existence and identity..." by amoyaan

 

Not a bad way to put it!

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I'm finding it very interesting reading two side-by-side explanations, written by keen enthusiasts, about a practice that I'm unfamiliar with. It's a bit like hearing two people describe a favourite author that they share.

 

Of course, my mind being constructed the way human minds are, I see this new description through the filter of my pre-existing beliefs and end up comparing and evaluating all this new information to that which was already comfortably in place in my own head. Thus, the judgements I make about what I see are purely relative to the arbitrary ones I hold,... but a 'personal viewpoint' is the only view know-able to me. So, for that reason, my bringing it to the discussion is valid. Because it's true.

 

My nature finds itself more attracted to Amoyaan's description because its flavour, to me, in essence is carried by the one beautiful line you wrote,.... "It's helped me immensely and I genuinely love it and love sharing it."

 

Again, from purely my narrow, relative standard, it appears to be in harmony with a statement that my current, favourite teacher, (Wayne Liquorman), wrote in one of his books,... “ When the understanding comes, it is always intuitive and instantaneous. In fact, this whole process of seeking is just designed to keep us busy while we’re waiting for something to happen.”

 

I also appreciate the probably equal enthusiasm with which 3bob approaches his explanation of the merits of Vedanta in his life. But my nature being what it is, I confess to being somewhat put off by two aspects of what you say. (or perhaps more accurately, the way you say it).

 

Firstly, the pejorative use of the word "neo". Yes, it is 'advaita' teachings that I'm drawn to, but I certainly don't ever think of it as "neo" advaita, or myself as a "Neo". It smacks of the same use of that prefix in the term 'New Age thinkers'. To my way of think, the advaita I'm attracted to is the basic, stripped-to-its-essence ancient variety as taught in India millenia ago. Advaita Vedanta is what happened to advaita when it was turned into a religion, so that AV now contains doctrine, dogma, specialized vocabulary, priests and a religious hierarchy. If that is an accurate description of Vedanta, I see absolutely nothing wrong with that as a path, any more than I do the way that Christ's oral teachings were turned into Catholicism. Many people like a structured approach to religion. HOWEVER, whenever its proponents feel it necessary to point out the imagined 'superiority' of their particular belief system in comparison to other approaches,... then my hackles begin to rise just a little.

 

The second area of uneasiness I have can again, like I did with Amoyaan's text, be summed up in one of the lines you wrote, ..."Vedanta explains the workings and relationship of the apparent individual, awareness and maya...which is really necessary to grasp the 'mechanics' of non-duality, existence and identity."

 

WHY is it necessary to grasp the mechanics of non-duality ? To me, your description leaves out the unspoken inference that "Knowledge is power." It seems to me like 'spiritual materialism'. An attempted transplant of our western, scientific view that if you study hard to understand how nature works, then you can manipulate it to get the things you want from it.

 

But, to my way of thinking, though all around us we can see how man has successfully manipulated the physical world around us,.... I don't believe it is possible for anyone to manipulate the Tao, (to call it the only remotely-suitable word I know to describe it). Because no you 'separate' from the Tao. It would be like trying to pick yourself up with your own bootstraps. Or the familiar analogy of the 'tongue trying to taste itself'.

 

Of course this idea- if it works for you, is fine. Each of us will find a belief system that agrees with our own personality's make-up.

 

Purely as a comparative I'll show you an "advaita" quote, (again from my same source), which just happens to appeal to the way I'm constructed. There's no right or wrong, higher or lower, accurate or inaccurate evaluation intended. It's just in the spirit of a group of Pokemon collectors getting together every second Thursday evening to show off and compare each others card finds.

 

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Enlightenment, (or awakening), happens when the mind surrenders. The mind – (and when I say the mind, I mean that aspect of the mind that believes itself to be the author of its thoughts, feelings and actions) - when that is destroyed, that is what we call awakening. It is a happening. This event happens through an organism. And prior to this event happening are other events, other things that happen – experiences, practices, intentions, desires.

So we tell a story about that, and say that various things that came earlier caused the awakening. But it’s only a story. My understanding is that if this awakening is to happen as part of the functioning of the universe, then the necessary ingredients will be provided. If it is to be facilitated through surrender, then the surrender will happen. If it is to be facilitated through a guru, then the guru will appear. If it is to be facilitated through a practice, then the practice will be presented and the energy necessary to sustain that practice will also be there.

There are numerous techniques that exist within the structure of the world that may facilitate your getting to where you want to go. The pointer of this teaching is that the existence of those techniques, the interest on the part of someone to practice those techniques, and the effect of the technique on that person, are all connected with the destiny of that individual. While there are many techniques, none carry any guarantees and, in fact, all have widely different effects depending upon who is practicing. So, we can say that these techniques exist and they are part of the nature of “what is” – this manifest world. They will have some kind of effect, but we have no way of predicting in any particular case what will be that effect.

So the bad news is there is nothing you as an egoic individual can do to bring about this 'enlightenment' that you want. The good news is there is nothing that you as an egoic individual can do to inhibit or stop that from happening, if it is the destiny of your body/mind organism to have such an event happen.

 

*

Edited by ThisLife

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"But my nature being what it is, I confess to being somewhat put off by two aspects of what you say. (or perhaps more accurately, the way you say it)."

 

Thislife, We may not be on the same page? Anyway I was quoting amoyaan previously or before you put another ship in the water.

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...and I confess to being put off by your self-described attitude as seeing things from an "irksome, and plagued with this enigmatic, bizarre, and Herculean task" viewpoint which includes and rationalizes provoking people (or me) with some kind of quasi-"neo" warm and fuzzy variation of a nihilistic summary given by what to me is a pretentious sounding person along with your description of Vedanta being a comfortable "pigeon hole". (which was done after you must have read the title of the thread and the opening post)

 

Of course you are free to pursue your line as you please by starting your own post to hash such out with others who are interested... this is a pretty wide open forum with lots of space and you will probably find some birds of a feather here to preen with.

Edited by 3bob

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I'm finding it very interesting reading two side-by-side explanations, written by keen enthusiasts, about a practice that I'm unfamiliar with. It's a bit like hearing two people describe a favourite author that they share.

 

Haha. I'm glad you've been finding it of interest ThisLife. You seem genuinely interested in learning more, and I'm happy to share what I know, not with the intent of changing your viewpoint but simply to explain vedanta a bit. I've been immersed in not only the study of vedanta for 3 years but in applying it to my life and living it. That said, I'm still a student and certainly not the ultimate authority, so maybe if I say anything that doesn't tally with vedanta someone else can chip in and better elucidate.

 

Of course, my mind being constructed the way human minds are, I see this new description through the filter of my pre-existing beliefs and end up comparing and evaluating all this new information to that which was already comfortably in place in my own head. Thus, the judgements I make about what I see are purely relative to the arbitrary ones I hold,... but a 'personal viewpoint' is the only view know-able to me. So, for that reason, my bringing it to the discussion is valid. Because it's true.

 

When one approaches vedanta the tendency to evaluate what we're hearing in terms of what we think we already know has to be set aside, at least temporarily. The first stage is called sravanna...in which we just expose ourself to the teaching and LISTEN, setting aside all preconceived notions, including all our existing beliefs and opinions of and ideas about truth. Because otherwise, as you say, we evaluate what we're hearing and filter it through the net of our existing beliefs -- which invariably contain both elements of truth and ignorance.

 

This can be very difficult because we may have spent decades amassing all kinds of spiritual ideas about what constitutes 'truth' (which obviously can't be truth, or at least the whole truth, otherwise we'd be free and no longer seeking haha!). Often in new age type circles (not meaning any offence to said circles) there's a notion that you just take what 'resonates' and leave the rest. This doesn't work with vedanta. It's a full, comprehensive teaching and it requires at least a temporary setting aside of what we think we know in order to actually hear what's being said. This is quite easy to do when you spend time with a self-realised teacher, and when you meet others who have been liberated by the teaching. It's extremely humbling. When I first encountered my teacher, James Swartz and got to know him and people who had been liberated by the teaching I suddenly realised that I knew nothing...even after having amassed all kinds of spiritual 'knowledge' and experience over the years. So humbling...it just stripped everything away from me and left me wide open and willing to learn. I found it easy to set aside all the notions I'd collected over the years and just listen and be open to learning, because I could see the power, purity and efficacy of the teaching.

 

The second stage is called manana and involves clear reflection upon the teaching -- we take our old beliefs and then evaluate them in the light of what vedanta says. And if we have a really good, qualified teacher, then the logic of vedanta is pretty much ironclad. we can ask whatever questions you need to build a clear picture in your mind. And we tend to see that many of the old definitions we had of enlightenment, etc, are erroneous. I mean, they'd have to be...otherwise we'd already have been enlightened :P

 

To make it clear, vedanta isn't about adopting a new set of beliefs. It's simply an analysis of the unexamined logic of our own experience...which leads us to not just believe, but to see ad fully KNOW that we are not this apparent body/mind/ego entity, but pure awareness, limitless, whole and complete. It starts of with an element of taking the teaching on faith, until we examine it in light of our own experience and then see, realise and integrate its truth.

 

My nature finds itself more attracted to Amoyaan's description because its flavour, to me, in essence is carried by the one beautiful line you wrote,.... "It's helped me immensely and I genuinely love it and love sharing it."

 

Again, from purely my narrow, relative standard, it appears to be in harmony with a statement that my current, favourite teacher, (Wayne Liquorman), wrote in one of his books,... “ When the understanding comes, it is always intuitive and instantaneous. In fact, this whole process of seeking is just designed to keep us busy while we’re waiting for something to happen.”

 

True, depending on the way you look at it. I'll say more later :)

 

I also appreciate the probably equal enthusiasm with which 3bob approaches his explanation of the merits of Vedanta in his life. But my nature being what it is, I confess to being somewhat put off by two aspects of what you say. (or perhaps more accurately, the way you say it).

 

Firstly, the pejorative use of the word "neo". Yes, it is 'advaita' teachings that I'm drawn to, but I certainly don't ever think of it as "neo" advaita, or myself as a "Neo". It smacks of the same use of that prefix in the term 'New Age thinkers'. To my way of think, the advaita I'm attracted to is the basic, stripped-to-its-essence ancient variety as taught in India millenia ago. Advaita Vedanta is what happened to advaita when it was turned into a religion, so that AV now contains doctrine, dogma, specialized vocabulary, priests and a religious hierarchy. If that is an accurate description of Vedanta, I see absolutely nothing wrong with that as a path, any more than I do the way that Christ's oral teachings were turned into Catholicism. Many people like a structured approach to religion. HOWEVER, whenever its proponents feel it necessary to point out the imagined 'superiority' of their particular belief system in comparison to other approaches,... then my hackles begin to rise just a little.

 

I don't believe this to be true at all. Vedanta is not in itself a religion, although it does form a kind of philosophical basis of Hinduism. Interestingly, I know a few Hindus, and largely find theirs to be a devotional religion -- I don't even know how many Hindus even know much about vedanta, much less use it as a means of self inquiry, self knowledge and liberation. It seems to me that much is based on the karma kanda section of the vedas rather than the upanishads.

 

There's simply no comparison between vedanta and catholicism; vedanta is not about dogma, priests or religious hierarchy. It's simply a means of self knowledge involving a dialogue between a student and a teacher, examining the nature of consciousness/self and one's understanding of reality (which is essentially the same thing). There may appear to be religious trappings -- the teaching is based upon a scripture and bhkati/devotional attitude is encouraged as a means of preparing and purifying the mind the assimilate the teaching. But any comparison with catholicism is completely erroneous once you actually know what vedanta is about and how it works. They are like night and day.

 

Harsh though it may sound, criticism of neo advaita is legitimate. It sounds terribly spiritually undemocratic but all paths are not equal -- in terms of clarity of the teaching and the results they get. The Neos have cherry picked elements of vedanta but without the full picture to back it up and a time-tested methodology to actually realise and integrate the teaching...it just, by and large, doesn't work.

 

My teacher is renowned as something of a lion in this matter and this is a well-known article that succinctly outlines the issues -http://www.shiningworld.com/top/files/satsang-4/(1)%20A%20Critique%20of%20a%20Neo-Advaita%20Teaching.pdf It makes for an interesting read. He never hesitates to pull his punches, and I think rightly so.

 

Here's another very in-depth and insightful critique of neo advaita - http://www.enlightened-spirituality.org/neo-advaita.html

 

This is not to say it has no merit. A lot of the neo teachers are well-intentioned and genuine people, and may even be enlightened. If someone enjoys listening to them talking about awareness and doesn't mind shelling out cash to attend their satsangs etc, then I say great! I have a great fondness for Eckhart Tolle as his stuff helped get my foot in the door and eventually led me to vedanta. I believed he's a realised guy...although as vedanta states (and this will sound horrifying to some) just because you are enlightened doesn't automatically qualify you as a teacher. You have to have a legitimate teaching and methodology...q&a satsangs and some vague unstructured talk about the self and awareness aren't going to enlighten anyone unless they are already highly primed and 'qualified'. I've known many devotees of Eckhart and Adyashanti (who I think is actually generally a good teacher), etc, but I've never actually met anyone who was set free by the teaching. It's generally not enough for most people. Vedanta on the other hand has built up as a kind of science of consciousness over the millennia, and like any science it is precise and its results replicable. I know this may sound very elitist to the uninitiated...but in my experience it is true.

 

 

 

 

The second area of uneasiness I have can again, like I did with Amoyaan's text, be summed up in one of the lines you wrote, ..."Vedanta explains the workings and relationship of the apparent individual, awareness and maya...which is really necessary to grasp the 'mechanics' of non-duality, existence and identity."

 

WHY is it necessary to grasp the mechanics of non-duality ? To me, your description leaves out the unspoken inference that "Knowledge is power." It seems to me like 'spiritual materialism'. An attempted transplant of our western, scientific view that if you study hard to understand how nature works, then you can manipulate it to get the things you want from it.

 

Knowledge IS power. This has nothing to do with western scientific materialism. Knowledge has always been power -- early mankind developing the knowledge of how to create fire, for instance. With vedanta you are not trying to gain anything from the world -- so it's totally not spiritual materialism. It's not like The Secret or law of attraction, which IS spiritual materialism. When you come to vedanta you gotta be clear that NOTHING in the world can actually give you lasting happiness/fulfillment/joy -- and that includes any experience, including spiritual experiences!! If reality is nondual, as vedanta teaches, then we are already experiencing the self/totality/wholeness right now. It's impossible to experience anything else. We already ARE everything, so what can we possibly add to that?

 

Our problem then is not an experience problem, it's a knowledge problem. The problem is we lack self knowledge -- we don't know that we are the self, that we are whole and complete, limitless, non dual awareness. Vedanta is about self knowledge, the ultimate knowledge. When we know what we are, that there's nothing we can possibly add to ourself and that nothing can ever be taken from us, then the seeking stops...and we experience the wholeness that we are.

 

It's necessary to understand the 'mechanics' of it, the mechanics of maya because the key component of vedanta, the real crux of liberation is what's called discrimination; being able to differentiate between the 'real and the only apparently real; between satya and mithya, the self and maya. Maya makes us appear to be limited, lacking, inadequate little entities and this is the source of all our sufferings. This however is taking the rope to be a snake, the apparent to be the reality. It's not about manipulating anything or trying to become more/better/different...it's about simply knowing the truth of reality.

 

 

But, to my way of thinking, though all around us we can see how man has successfully manipulated the physical world around us,.... I don't believe it is possible for anyone to manipulate the Tao, (to call it the only remotely-suitable word I know to describe it). Because no you 'separate' from the Tao. It would be like trying to pick yourself up with your own bootstraps. Or the familiar analogy of the 'tongue trying to taste itself'.

 

Hope my explanation above clarified :)

 

Of course this idea- if it works for you, is fine. Each of us will find a belief system that agrees with our own personality's make-up.

 

Purely as a comparative I'll show you an "advaita" quote, (again from my same source), which just happens to appeal to the way I'm constructed. There's no right or wrong, higher or lower, accurate or inaccurate evaluation intended. It's just in the spirit of a group of Pokemon collectors getting together every second Thursday evening to show off and compare each others card finds.

 

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Enlightenment, (or awakening), happens when the mind surrenders. The mind – (and when I say the mind, I mean that aspect of the mind that believes itself to be the author of its thoughts, feelings and actions) - when that is destroyed, that is what we call awakening. It is a happening. This event happens through an organism. And prior to this event happening are other events, other things that happen – experiences, practices, intentions, desires.

 

So we tell a story about that, and say that various things that came earlier caused the awakening. But it’s only a story. My understanding is that if this awakening is to happen as part of the functioning of the universe, then the necessary ingredients will be provided. If it is to be facilitated through surrender, then the surrender will happen. If it is to be facilitated through a guru, then the guru will appear. If it is to be facilitated through a practice, then the practice will be presented and the energy necessary to sustain that practice will also be there.

 

There are numerous techniques that exist within the structure of the world that may facilitate your getting to where you want to go. The pointer of this teaching is that the existence of those techniques, the interest on the part of someone to practice those techniques, and the effect of the technique on that person, are all connected with the destiny of that individual. While there are many techniques, none carry any guarantees and, in fact, all have widely different effects depending upon who is practicing. So, we can say that these techniques exist and they are part of the nature of “what is” – this manifest world. They will have some kind of effect, but we have no way of predicting in any particular case what will be that effect.

 

So the bad news is there is nothing you as an egoic individual can do to bring about this 'enlightenment' that you want. The good news is there is nothing that you as an egoic individual can do to inhibit or stop that from happening, if it is the destiny of your body/mind organism to have such an event happen.

 

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This is true from one level but can be open to misinterpretation. True, a large part of the enlightenment or self-realisation process is grace; it happens (or it doesn't) and it's not up to us. The doer simply cannot control the outcome of the result. However, this doesn't mean that we can simply sit on the couch, eat pizza, scratch our ass and play Xbox for 20 years and enlightenment will come. It does happen when the mind surrenders...but a lot of groundwork has to be laid before that can happen. It's not the nature of the mind to automatically surrender unless we've perhaps gone through some enormous trauma. Really, vedanta is about educating and re-orienting the mind and the locus of our experience of self...shifting it into identification with the pure awareness that we are.

 

This doesn't come easily, which is why of all the millions of seekers out there, there are so few 'finders'. I takes work, it necessitates 'qualifying' the mind (vedanta elucidates these qualifications very clearly)...adopting the appropriate lifestyle etc that will purify the mind, learning dispassion and how to discriminate the real from the apparently real...dealing with the unconscious content of our own mind and all the subtle layers and levels of ignorance and mis-identification. Learning to train oneself to 'stand as awareness' and to embody that truth in every area of one's life and experience. It's really not for the faint of heart. Seen from the absolute perspective, yes, it's all just doing itself......but from the relative perspective, there's a heck of a lot of work!

 

WHEW! Hope this makes some sense. Again, not my intent to change your mind or convince you of anything -- what you think is your business, not mine -- I just wanted to clarify some misunderstandings about vedanta and how it works.

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Amoyaan,

 

Thank you for an exceptionally thorough and absolutely fascinating description of a spiritual path that is clearly bringing you a great deal of satisfaction. You've taken a great deal of time and care, and not got yourself personally 'worked up' about any of my sometimes, 'in-your-face' way of expressing myself. I guess my lack of consideration can be a bit hard to take for many people,... but to me, trying to find genuine connections in an internet chat room, (where everyone is invisible and living under a false name), calls for unusual tactics to try and gain some idea of where one's interlocutor is genuinely coming from. I know from much personal experience over years in various spiritual chat rooms,,.... that the protective cocoon of invisibility tends to bring out a bit of the puffed-up, soap-box orator in me. (But I feel safe in assuming that I am NOT alone in this Jekyll and Hyde split between chat room persona versus real-life 'me')

 

Anyway, I find myself quite intrigued by your explanation and now surprisingly curious about Vedanta. I see from your profile that you live in Scotland. I am just below the border in Cumbria, so probably not that many miles separate us. You said your teacher, James Swartz, you find to be quite an exceptional example of the what sincere Vedanta practice can lead to. Does he teach in Scotland ? To the uninitiated ? Or does he just have a small group of dedicated practitioners ? Do you have any internet links to his teachings so that I can a bit of a shufty ?

 

Once again, thanks for a most entertaining explanation

 

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You're welcome ThisLife, I'm glad you found it interesting and that it made some sense to you. I don't spend much time online but for some reason felt like I wanted to take the time to discuss it a little bit and share what i'd learned. I should have said that your comments and perspective from 'the outside in' with regards to vedanta, are understandable and common..I shared similar sentiments in the past. There's a general reticence in the west I think when it comes to what might be perceived as 'institutionalised' or structured paths...lone figures like Adyashanti and Mooji somehow appeal more to the average Joe because they have their 'own teaching', which is somehow seen as preferential to musty old teachings dating back centuries. What I found though, was that...well, these guys figured out consciousness, enlightenment and the nature of life centuries ago! They expressed it so beautifully and completely, covering all bases that continually trying to reinvent the spiritual wheel is unnecessary and sometimes counterproductive. The purity of the teaching has been preserved by the remarkable way it has been passed through the centuries via sanskrit mantras in a way impervious to corruption and tampering; really, the method of transmission is an incredible art in itself!

 

James was taught by Swami Chinmayananda and Swami Dayananda, two of the most celebrated vedanta teachers of the past century (it's no exaggeration to say they are both spiritual giants). He's living in Spain at the moment and teaches in Europe, the US and in India sometimes. I've travelled to Spain to see him twice the past year. His book 'how to attain enlightenment' (don't be put off by the slightly naff title :P) is astounding - I can't recommend it highly enough, I understand it was the first book in English to cover the entire breadth of the teaching of vedanta, in a very clear, concise and relatable manner. If you take a look at the contents page you'll see the scale of what's covered http://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Attain-Enlightenment-Non-Duality-Spirituality/dp/1591810949/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1400091021&sr=8-1&keywords=james+swartz It did take me a couple of reads for it to start sinking in, it's pretty immense....

 

His website www.shiningworld.com has a wealth of stuff on it.

 

You can download free books on the Publications page, I recommend 'Knowledge of Truth (Tattva Bodha)' http://www.shiningworld.com/top/images/stories/1_Knowledge_of_Truth_Tattva_Bodh.pdf

and 'Meditation: Inquiry into the Self' as a good starting point http://www.shiningworld.com/top/images/stories/pub-pdfs/Books/(3)%20Meditation%20Inquiry%20Into%20the%20Self.pdf

 

There are hundreds of hours of free audio seminars to download and thousands of 'e-satsangs' covering every topic conceivable in the form of his response to questions and emails. I don't think there's another spiritual website like it, in terms of the sheer amount of stuff on it, freely available. James is the clearest and most skilled teacher I have ever met, his energy and ability to communicate incredible and his bluntness and tendency to be outspoken rather refreshing. His seminars are open to anyone, and he teaches by donation. If you're interested, definitely check out his book/s and the free audio.

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Wonderfully refreshing response. Thank you very much, Amoyaan. I'll definitely be checking this geezer out over the next few days !

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