Friday, 25 July 2014

What should we believe?

In my previous article, What is enlightenment, liberation or nirvāṇa?, I wrote:
Since experiencing ourself as we really are is what is called enlightenment, liberation or nirvāṇa, if it dissolves this dream that we call our waking state, then it would also dissolve the appearance of the rest of humanity whom we experience in this dream. If the dreamer wakes up, not only is he or she liberated from the dream, but also all the people who seemed to exist in that dream world will also be liberated from it.

All this reasoning is based upon our supposition that this world is all just our dream, but we cannot know for certain whether or not this is actually the case until and unless we investigate ourself and thereby experience ourself as we really are. So at present all we can say for certain is that if we attain enlightenment, liberation or nirvāṇa, it will not do any harm to the rest of humanity, and that if this world and all the people in it are just like the world and the people we see in a dream, then our own liberation will in effect liberate the whole of humanity.
Commenting on these two paragraphs, a friend wrote to me:
If we deeply reflect on it, it appears to be quite true and logical especially if we consider Bhagavan’s teachings. Since this world and all the people in it is our dream, when we wake up from this sleep of self-forgetfulness there will remain no world or no people in this non-existent world. Thus, as you say, our liberation or nirvana will be the liberation or nirvana of the entire world and all the sentient beings in it.

In our spiritual beliefs it is said that if one attains liberation, his seven generations will simultaneously attain liberation. However this is just a belief with no logic to proof it, but what you say appears quite logical therefore there is not much of a problem in believing it.

Therefore, a person who is striving for liberation is in effect striving for liberation of the entire mankind. What more worthy job can one undertake?
The belief he mentions about seven generations attaining liberation is a widely held belief that is based on a claim made in some Hindu texts to the effect that if someone attains liberation, all their forebears and descendants for seven generations in each direction will thereby automatically attain liberation. Taken at face value, this belief is dubious, to say the least, because it seems to be based on several dubious assumptions, such as that other people actually exist (which is in turn based on the dubious assumption that this world is not just a mental creation like any world that we experience in a dream) and either that all one’s forebears and descendants for seven generations actually want liberation (the complete annihilation of their respective egos) or that liberation can be forced on anyone who does not want it.

This belief could perhaps be interpreted as a metaphor that signifies that if we (the one person who now experiences himself or herself as ‘I’) ourself attain liberation, everyone else will simultaneously be liberated, just as if a dreamer wakes up, everyone in his or her dream will thereby cease to exist. However, if it is intended to be taken literally, we have to assume either that whoever first made this claim just wanted to believe that it is true, or that they made this claim in order to encourage others to try to attain liberation. Whatever be the case, it is obviously not a belief that we need to take seriously at face value.

The following is adapted and expanded from the reply that I wrote to my friend who referred to this belief:

Regarding the seven generation belief, as you say this is something that can be believed only on the basis of faith, because there is no logical basis for believing it. However, it is just one among the countless beliefs that are prevalent in the vast ocean of diverse beliefs, philosophies and practices that is called ‘Hinduism’, but one thing that is very good about the Hindu religion is that it consists of so many different and often conflicting or directly contradictory beliefs that we can easily understand that they cannot all be true, so we are free to choose whichever ones we want to believe, and if we are wise and cautious in what we choose to believe, we should choose only those that are actually useful to us.

When Sri Ramana was once asked why there are so many different and conflicting accounts of creation given in the Vedas, he replied that if the Vedas considered creation to be real they would have given only one account of it, and hence since they have given so many different accounts of it, we should understand that the real conclusion of the Vedas is that creation is unreal.

From this we should understand that what the wide diversity of traditional teachings, philosophies and ideas is actually teaching us is that we should not accept any belief blindly, but should be sceptical about all of them. As Sri Sadhu Om often told me that Sri Ramana used to say: ‘Do not believe what you do not know’. Only when we are ready to be sceptical about everything that we may believe, will we be ready to conclude that the only thing we know for certain is that I am, so the most important thing for us to investigate is who am I.

Most of our beliefs — whether mundane beliefs about everyday matters, scientific beliefs, metaphysical beliefs, religious beliefs, spiritual beliefs or whatever — are based upon testimony: that is, upon what we have heard, read or learnt from others. However, though there is general consensus among the beliefs that most people hold about certain mundane matters (such as that rain is water that falls from clouds), there is a huge diversity among the beliefs that they hold about numerous other matters, particularly about metaphysical, religious, spiritual and other philosophical matters, because there does not seem to be any obvious means of verifying or falsifying whatever anyone may believe about such matters. Therefore we should be sceptical regarding any testimony about any matters that we cannot verify from our own experience or reasoning.

However, even what we believe on the basis of our own experience or reasoning is not entirely reliable, because whatever we experience (other than our own existence, ‘I am’) may be an illusion, and the premises on which we base our reasoning may not be true or reliable. Therefore whatever we may believe about anything other than the indubitable fact ‘I am’, we should believe only tentatively and with caution.

Whereas anything else that we may experience could be an illusion, ‘I am’ — which is our primary and most fundamental experience — cannot be an illusion, because in order to experience anything, whether real or illusory, I must exist. Therefore the only fact that is absolutely indubitable is ‘I am’, so our knowledge ‘I am’ is the only certain knowledge that we have.

However, though we know for certain that I am, we do not know for certain what I am, because in our present experience ‘I’ seems to be mixed and confused with other things, such as our body and mind. Whereas ‘I’ itself cannot be an illusion, our body and mind could be illusions, because we experience our present body only in this waking state, and our mind only in waking and in dream. Since we now experience ‘I am awake’, and since we remember that at other times ‘I was dreaming’ or ‘I was asleep’, waking, dream and sleep are all experiences that were experienced by essentially the same ‘I’. Therefore, ‘I’ endures and experiences itself in all these three states, whereas our present body is experienced by us only in waking, another body is experienced by us only in dream, and our mind is experienced by us only in waking and dream but not in sleep, so ‘I’ cannot be either this body or this mind.

Since we experience things other than ‘I’ only when we mistake a body and mind to be ‘I’, and since our experience ‘I am this body’ and ‘I am this mind’ is an illusion, we have good reason to suspect that everything that we experience other than ‘I’ is illusory. Therefore if we are wise, we should be sceptical about everything other than ‘I’, including even the body and mind that now seem to be ‘I’.

This is why Sri Ramana used to say: ‘சந்தேகி யாரென்று சந்தேகி’ (sandēhi yār-eṉḏṟu sandēhi), ‘Doubt who is the doubter’. That is, the reality of even the ‘I’ that believes or doubts anything is doubtful, because it is not our pure ‘I’, but is only an adjunct-mixed ‘I’ — that is, it is our pure ‘I’ mixed and confused with extraneous adjuncts such as a body and mind. Therefore the only thing we should believe is ‘I am’, and not ‘I am this’ or ‘I am that’.

In order to experience ourself (this ‘I’) as we really are, rather than as we now seem to be, we must experience ourself alone, in complete isolation from everything else, and to experience ourself thus, we must try persistently to focus our entire attention upon ‘I’ alone. This persistent attempt to experience ‘I’ alone is what Sri Ramana called ātma-vicāra or self-investigation, and it is the only means by which we can discover who am I (in other words, what I actually am).


Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, another belief in Hinduism is that if one gives up his or her life in the ancient city of Varanasi, he or she will attain moksha or liberation.

Yes, taken at face value, this belief also appears dubious. However this claim may also be made due to similar reasons as you have mentioned in this article. Namely that whosoever first made this claim just wanted to believe that it is true, or more likely they made this claim in order to encourage others to try to attain liberation at least in their old age by giving up all their family and professional responsibilities.

Varanasi is considered a very holy city, therefore they just thought it will be the right place where one should retire in his or her old age and live amongst sadhus listening to their sermons, in the banks of holy Ganges. Therefore their intention may be correct as per their understanding of what sanyasa is.

But in Bhagavan’s path all this is not required, as simply attending to self is ‘listening directly to the sermons of God’ as it were. And remaining as our true non-dual self-awareness is true sanyasa, and this sanyasa can be taken remaining wherever we are.
Thanking you and pranams.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, in the context of this article, I remember one of your comment in which you were quoting Sri Sadhu Om. You had written in one of your e-mails to me:

As Sadhu Om often used to say, all other spiritual paths require us to believe so many things that we do not know, whereas Bhagavan's path requires us to believe only 'I am', which is the only thing that we actually know for certain. Therefore Bhagavan helps us to shed so many unnecessary beliefs, which helps us greatly in our effort to be interested only in 'I'.

It is very important for us ‘to be interested only in I’, otherwise our interests and beliefs will be pulling us in different and often contradictory directions. Thus our effort to be interested only in ‘I’ will not be sufficiently deep, intense and one-pointed.

Suppose if we believe that our being present at Varanasi at the time of our death will confer us liberation, we may not make the necessary effort here and now to attend only to ‘I’, but wait to go to Varanasi for our liberation. Similarly if we feel that our visiting various holy shrines will help us attain moksha, we may, in effect, only be going from one place to another. These holy shrines may help us attain some chitta-shuddhi, but for our liberation we have to destroy our ego, and this can only be destroyed by atma-vichara.

Therefore as Sri Sadhu Om says, ‘Bhagavan’s path requires us to believe only I am’. Sooner or later every other interest and belief has to be rejected for us to merge only in ‘I am’.

Thanking you and pranams.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, since we are discussing the topic: What should we believe, I thought to bring the topic of our faith and believe in the physical name and form of Arunachala into our discussion.

Many devotees of Bhagavan are not much attracted to the philosophy and practice of atma-vichara, but are devoted to the hill Arunachala. They are devoted to the singing of Sri Arunachala Aksharamanamalai and going around the hill regularly. Some feel that these are enough and as and when required the power of Arunachala will direct them to the practice of atma-vichara.

What is your opinion on this topic?

Thanking you and pranams.

Michael James said...

Sanjay, the question you ask in your latest comment cannot be adequately answered from a one-dimensional perspective, because what Bhagavan said and sang about Arunachala can be interpreted and may help spiritual aspirants and devotees in a range of different ways. Therefore, rather than attempting to answer this in a short comment, I will write a separate article in reply to it. Though I do not have time to do so immediately, I will try to do so as soon as I can find sufficient time.

Josef Bruckner said...

Michael, we all hope you will find sufficient time
to write about Arunachala in His many aspects.
Indeed, Arunachala seems to help us in a wide
"range of different ways" as you say.
Even reading that announcement about such an article
let me look forward.

Sankarraman said...

You have stated that the statement ' cogito ergo sum' ' I think, therefore I am' of Descartes is also correct to the extent of all thinking being a pointer towards the existence of the a priori ' I am' eternally existing, but that ' I am' existing despite the absence of thinking. Is the expression of Descartes a metaphysical in exactitude? Further, Jean Paul Sartre, the French existentialistic philosopher, has uttered the statement ' I am, therefore I think.' Does his statement presuppose his understanding of the nature of the pure Self,or it is an intellectual philosophy? If you are not familiar with the teachings of Sartre, you needn't answer the question. I request to be excused for thar.

Michael James said...

Sankarraman, I assume this comment of yours refers to another article, Only ‘I am’ is certain and self-evident.

I am not sure what you mean in this context by ‘a metaphysical inexactitude’. ‘I am’ is the only metaphysical truth that we can say that we know for certain. Descartes’s statement cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am) is a logical argument that tries to prove that the conclusion ‘I am’ is true, which it does, but it is actually a superfluous argument, because this conclusion is proved more simply and directly by our experience ‘I am’. In metaphysical terms, his argument is a strange one, because it is trying to prove a conclusion that is certainly true using a premise that is not certainly true. Though we seem to be thinking, our thinking could be an illusion.

The conclusion ‘I am’ could be called ‘a metaphysical exactitude’, because our experience ‘I am’ (or any other experience that we may have) makes our existence necessarily true (since we could not experience anything if we did not exist), whereas the premise ‘I think’ could be called ‘a metaphysical inexactitude’, because our thinking is not necessarily true, since it is possible that the ‘I’ that seems to be thinking is not actually thinking. For example, we could be temporarily experiencing our existence as if it were thinking (just as we can perceive a rope as if it were a snake).

The statement ‘I am, therefore I think’, which you say was uttered by Jean-Paul Sartre, could be interpreted in more than one way. It seems to imply ‘I think because I am’, which could be interpreted to mean either ‘I am able to think because I am’ or ‘I necessarily think because I am’. The first of these interpretations is true in the sense that if I did not exist I could not think, but the second is not true, because my existence does not logically entail that I must be thinking. I could exist and be aware of my existence without being aware of any thinking. Therefore this statement does not presuppose any understanding of the nature of our pure self. So long as anyone believes that thinking is real, they have not understood the true nature of ‘I’, which is only to exist and to be aware of its own existence.

Sankarraman said...

You are right that the ' I am' need not entail a need for thinking, which is because it exists in itself and for itself, not being in need for something else extraneous to it, as against ' I think' being dependent on ' I am' and not having an independent ontological reality. In that the statement of Descartes 'cogito ergo sum' posits an a priori reality for the thinking process, which is not intrinsic to the Self, but only adventitious in view of one existing in deep sleep as pure Self despite the absence of thinking process, in a way giving Descartes sum credit assuming that he stumbled upon truth, one could say that there is some terminological inexactitude in his language. The phrase ' metaphysical inexactitude' used by me is rather loaded. Regarding the utterance of Jean Paul Sartre the statement ' I am, therefore I think' it has been given some credence by Echkart Tolle in his book ' The Power of the Now' wherein Echkart states that Sartre had corrected the position of Descartes which was inaccurate. Sartre also uses the famous phrase 'Existence precedes Essence.' I don't know whether Sartre had made that statement from a higher view point, which if it were, he wouldn't have been attracted to intellectual philosophy like Bertrand Russel even though there is some truth in that statement. Subsequent to coming to understand the teachings of Bhagvan I lost interest in these intellectual ideas in view of absence of liberating knowledge in them. I think there is a communication gap between us. I didn't suggest the idea of ' I am' being metaphysical inexactitude. The statement ' I think, therefore I am' alone is sort of metaphysical inexactitude, rather terminological inexactitude in that it has in it the illegitimate assumption that thinking is the first principle of life which is a philosophical suicide.

Sankarraman said...

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa has been reported to have said as regards one being the absolute Self bereft of the tinge of any duality that it is like one becoming sugar itself as against one having to taste sugar being more devotional, which I believe might be a wrong attribution or a concession to given to sum not being able to appreciate the truth of one not capable of existing in the state of self-realization. Even Manickavachakar, while singing in praise of Lord Siva addresses him as the one who is dead to everything.

"முழுதும் இறந்த முதல்வா போற்றி. துரியம் இறந்த சுடரே போற்றி."

Sankarraman said...

, In the blog of David Godman Siddeshwarananda, a monk of the Ramakrishna Order of France, a devotee of Bhagavan also, has been reported to have said that the ' Dhrisht-Shrishti Vada' very much attributed to Bhagavan, was a degenerate philosophy, which Bhagavan didn't actually teach, but was a misunderstanding laboured under by some. The Swamy has expressed the opinion that this thought borders on the solipsistic philosophy expounded by the British academic philosophers Bishop Berkely and Bradely, the latter having written a book called ' Appearance and Reality' very much quoted by Dr S.Radhakrishnan, the late President of India and an exponent of Advaita to the Western mind. I think that what Bhagavan has taught isn't solipsism or the subjective idealism of the Yogachar Buddhism, but is a practical way to highlight the truth of the objective world having no existence bereft of the subjective ' I' thought, the world being no more than an expansion of the first person ' I' thought.' In this context, I am of the view that there are not several subjective ' I' thoughts, as one may believe by virtue of the extroverted vision one is accustomed to by virtue of the identification of the ' I' with the body, but is the one undivided error of which no multiplicity can be predicated. I think that just as there is only one absolute self, so also there is only one unreal ' I' identified with the body. Even the word one is only semantically real void of any reality. The solipsistic philosophy expounded by these Brtish philosophers may be only academic, bu the ' Eka -jia- vada' taught by Bhagavan is very close to truth, I believe. Would you expatiate upon this and state as to what is your understanding in this regard, and what has been said by Muruganar and Sadu Om? There are strong evidences in the work of Muruganar to suggest very much the idea of this single Jiva having been espoused and approved of by Bhagavan, and further one finds the recorded talks of Munagala replete with this idea. Further, I don't think that in any traditional text other than the ' Mandykyakarika' of Gaudapada this idea has been unequivocally stated.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry to interrupt Mr. Sankararaman here. As I understand from reading Sri Ramana, his stand point was ajativada, a natural consequence of which is there is no any jiva. Further, Sri Muruganar reinforces this point in Guru Vachaka Kovai, Verse 100.

Sankarraman said...

Anonymous is absolutely correct in his averment that the position of Bhagavan is ' Ajada,' there being no second opinion about it whatsoever. I attempted to understand it in my own crude way.

Michael James said...

Sankarraman, regarding your comment of 3 September 2014 15:17: I do not know much about Sartre or existentialist philosophy, but from what I have read it appears that most so-called existentialist philosophers assume that all or many things that seem to exist (such as the world that seems to exist outside ourself) actually do exist, and that in spite of the name ‘existentialism’ they do not adequately consider the essential question: what does actually exist?

As I have argued in many articles such as Only ‘I am’ is certain and self-evident and Establishing that I am and analysing what I am, what certainly exists is only ‘I’, and whatever else seems to exist could be an illusion. If ‘I’ alone actually exists (as Bhagavan wrote in the seventh paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? and in verse 5 of Ēkāṉma Pañcakam), whatever else seems to exist is actually just a misperception of ‘I’ (that is, what we experience as many things is actually just our single self). We obviously cannot prove by logical argument that this is the case, so in order to ascertain whether or not ‘I’ alone actually exists we must investigate ourself and thereby experience what this ‘I’ actually is. By logical argument we can only conclude that I alone certainly exist, and that other things may or may not exist.

Therefore if we want a philosophy based on existence (that is, on உள்ளது (uḷḷadu): what is), it should be a philosophy centred only around ‘I’ and not one that assumes that anything else actually exists. In other words, it should be a philosophy that is sceptical about the existence of everything other than ‘I’. In this sense Bhagavan's teachings offer us a truly existentialist philosophy, and any philosophy that blindly assumes the existence of anything other than ‘I’ does not deserve the name ‘existentialism’, because what it is concerned with is only phenomena (what seems to exist) rather than existence (what actually exists).

Regarding Sartre’s claim that ‘existence precedes essence’, this presupposes that ‘existence’ is something that somehow exists independent of essence. If ‘essence’ means what something essentially is (that is, what it actually is), there can be no existence independent of essence, because ‘existence’ must be existence of something, and what that something essentially is is its essence. Since there is no existence other than what actually is, and since any real essence must be what actually is (because if it were not, it would not exist and would therefore not be the essence of anything), existence cannot be anything other than essence. Therefore from a metaphysical perspective, ‘existence precedes essence’ is a meaningless statement, the falseness of which can be logically demonstrated by simple analysis of the terms it employs. Within the limited terms of reference of Sartre’s rather mundane philosophy, ‘existence precedes essence’ may have some meaning, but whatever meaning it may have for him, it is not metaphysically significant.

Due to the limit imposed on the length of any comment, I will continue this reply in my next comment.

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Sankarraman:

Regarding my earlier reply to what you wrote about the ‘metaphysical inexactitude’ of the statement ‘I think, therefore I am’, I do not think there is any communication gap between us. I think we can both agree that a ‘metaphysical inexactitude’ is any metaphysical claim that is either demonstrably false or at least not certainly true. In this sense, the statement ‘I think, therefore I am’ is a ‘metaphysical inexactitude’, because though its conclusion ‘I am’ is certainly true, its premise ‘I think’ is not certainly true.

As you implied when you wrote about losing ‘interest in these intellectual ideas in view of absence of liberating knowledge in them’, we should not allow ourself to get distracted by any unnecessary and dubious philosophical arguments, but should concern ourself only with arguments that help us in our aim, which is only to investigate and experience what ‘I’ actually is. Until we experience ourself as we really are, whatever else we may know or believe we know about the world or anything other than ‘I’ will be of no real use to us.

Michael James said...

Sankarraman, regarding your comment of 3 September 2014 16:57: I believe that it was Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (the 16th century founder of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, to which ISKCON (the so-called ‘Hare Krishna movement’) belongs) who first said that he wanted to taste sugar and not become sugar (meaning that it is better to be a devotee of God than to become God, because only as a devotees can one enjoy the bliss of God), and that Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was only quoting him when he referred to this analogy, saying that this is the view of dualistic devotees.

Bhagavan said that this analogy was inappropriate, because it implies that God is jaḍa (insentient) like sugar, and because we can truly enjoy the infinite bliss that is God by merging and becoming one with him.

From many things he said, it is clear that Ramakrishna’s own experience was advaita, so I am sure he would have agreed with Bhagavan’s repudiation of this sugar analogy.

Sankarraman said...

Thank you for your clarification.

Sankarraman said...

Do the Sindhis spoken of in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, foisted very much on some recent Swamys claiming themselves to be special manifestation of God, have some relative significance, or mere illusions like the dream state as staed in ' Ulladu Narpadu Anubandam?'

Michael James said...

Sankarraman, as Bhagavan clearly implies in verses 15 to 17 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Anubandham and in verse 8 of Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ, siddhis are not only illusory but are also delusions for whoever believes they have such powers. And as he says in verse 35 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, they are no more real than any supernatural powers we may seem to have in a dream.

Michael James said...

Sankarraman, I have begun to draft a reply to your comment of 4 September 2014 16:07, but since it will be quite long, I will write it as a separate article, which I will try to complete and post here later this month.

Sankarraman said...

Regarding the idea of all the forbears and descendants for seven generations of an enlightened man would be vouchsafed enlightenment, such naive beliefs are being encouraged by many persons claiming to be Advaitins unfortunately. As you say it presupposes the idea of the objective world being taken for granted to exist in its own right, and others are not one's own mental projections, a hard nut to crack till one is able to be ready to accept the idea of the individual self being a false one. Strangely enough, one Visihtadvaitin indulged in an argument with me that with the realisation of Sankara, if Advaita were true, the world should have become null and void, and Bhagavan Ramana should not have incarnated. In Yoga Sutras also, there is very much this emphasis on the idea that with the liberation of one Purusa, the world of Gunas doesn't cease to exist, but exists for other Purusas not having been emancipated. In Brahmasutras also there is the idea of the bound souls being merged in the Unmanifest, and being again born in the Manifest, the deep sleep analogy being used. I think these are all only provisional truths, to which a deep seeker of the Self shouldn't succumb.

Sankarraman said...

There is this question being raised by some that as against the transition from the dream state to the waking state being effortless,, why not the transition from the waking state to our natural state be not similarly effortless. I think that this question is being raised loosing sight of the truth that the waking state to which one enters from the dream state is similar to the very same dream state in a qualitative sense, one still being swayed by the ignorance of ' I' thought. Further, the testimony of the waking state in regard to there having been such an effortless transition from the dream state is very dubious and arbitrary, the dream state itself being a waking state, and such a question not arising in the dream state. Hence one should look forward to the true, unbroken state inter penetration the three states, rather being the only reality in and behind such fugitive states, such transient states being superimposed on the true Self not admitting of the three states. Hence the ' Who Am I' enquiry isn't , as is believed, is confined to the waking state, but has its ground on the timeless ' Now' transcending the three states. Such an enquiry isn't a sort of a time-bound phenomenon, but presupposes the questioning of the very reality of time in which process one should be able to transcend the sense of time, which is no more than the three states, and abide in the present. Since this subject is deeply inward, I am not able to adequately verbalise it.

Josef Bruckner said...

please do not misunderstand me as a rebuking teacher. Reading your comments and finding there many quotations and cross-references I feel it would be helpful to express the following advice:
A "deep seeker" goes deeply inward and tries to be immediately now the "Timeless Now".
Permanent philosophic discussions are very interestingly but primarily thought - exercises. Surely you know that by yourself : Trying to compare and verbalise all the ideas of all philosophers of all the world and all times is not the road which takes you to the subject of Self-enquiry. At the end of such efforts you will be the best "comparer".
But to be deep-rooted in Self-abidance trace the river - your mind-tendence to compare - to its source.
So you have to make your choice...

Sankarraman said...

Thank you, Bruckner for your well meaning advice. I appreciate your concern and deep passion for the abidance in the ' TIMELESS NOW.'

Venkat said...

Dear Michael,

Bhagavan said that ajata vada was the ultimate truth, in his experience. He also said that eka jiva vada (drsti srsti vada) was the 'closest' to ajata vada.

How did Bhagavan see these two being different, given that eka jiva vada says there is no existent creation, it is just the perceiving of it (i.e. it is a dream)?

Best wishes,

Michael James said...

Sankarraman, as promised I have replied to your comment of 4 September 2014 16:07 in a separate article, Metaphysical solipsism, idealism and creation theories in the teachings of Sri Ramana, which I have posted here today.

I hope this article answers satisfactorily all the questions you asked in this regard, and also some of the other comments above, such as the anonymous reply to your comment posted on 5 September 2014 08:12 and the question asked by Venkat in his comment of 14 September 2014 11:09.

Michael James said...

Venkat, you should be able to understand the answer to your question by reading my latest article, Metaphysical solipsism, idealism and creation theories in the teachings of Sri Ramana, so I will give just a brief reply to it here.

According to ēka-jīva-vāda and dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi-vāda, there is one ego or jīva who perceives this world, which does not exist except in the view (the perception or experience) of that one ego. Therefore what causes the appearance of creation (sṛṣṭi) is only the perception (dṛṣṭi) of the ego.

The rising or appearance of this ego and consequently of the world is the jāta (birth or coming into existence) that is explicitly denied by ajāta-vāda. That is, ēka-jīva-vāda and dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi-vāda accept the appearance of the ego and world (though they deny that their appearance is real), whereas ajāta-vāda denies even their appearance.

What ēka-jīva-vāda and dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi-vāda on the one hand and ajāta-vāda on the other hand agree upon is that the ego and world do not actually exist, but whereas ēka-jīva-vāda and dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi-vāda accept that the ego and world do at least seem to exist and are therefore a false appearance (vivarta), ajāta-vāda denies that they even seem to exist. This is why Bhagavan distinguished dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi-vāda from ajāta-vāda.

What you have wrongly assumed in your question is that ēka-jīva-vāda implies that there is no creation but only perception, whereas in fact if anything is perceived it will seem to have come into existence or been created. Ēka-jīva-vāda and dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi-vāda are complementary theories, because each implies the other, and according to dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi-vāda creation does seem to exist but is just a false appearance. Therefore though there is ultimately no creation according to this pair of theories, they do accept that there seems to be a world that has come into existence, and they say that it has been created only by ego’s perception of it, just as the world we see in a dream is created only by our perception of it.