A step by step first exposure to advaita through a dialogue of 1008 entries
Important note: The following rambling conversation has been composed as an attempt to bring to the lay reader some truths of advaita, without venturing into long passages. So a conscious effort has been made to reduce each bit of the conversation to a single line (with just eight exceptions). It has turned out to be a no-holds-barred dialogue, long and continuous. In the modern days of desire to learn ‘without tears’, this perhaps would carry a message to those of us who, inspite of their intelligence in everything pertaining to the world, think of themselves as dummies in advaita. Incidentally I imposed on myself another restriction, namely I will not exceed 1008 entries in this conversation. And thus it has been a useful ‘nidhidhyAsana’ (Contemplation on what I have learnt) exercise for me. And one may notice, the whole treatment goes in slow motion, step by step. Concepts are brought in, one step at a time. I think this is good for a purposeful nidhidhyAsanA, especially for a beginner on the spiritual path. I apologise for not breaking it into smaller sections or chapters, because the continuous flow of thoughts would not admit breaks.
My PraNAms to all the Great Gurus of the world and the Guru of Gurus, Shri dakshhiNAmUrti.
1. Shishhya: Om namo gurubhyaH (Prostrations to The Guru)
2. Guru : JnAna-vairAgya-siddhir-astu (May you achieve Wisdom and Dispassion)
3. S: I wish the painfulness in the world were unreal.
4. G: What makes you wish so?
5. S: Because I feel the pain.
6. G: Who is this that feels the pain?
7. S: I, myself.
8. G: Did you say ‘yourself’ or ‘your self’?
9. S: What is the difference?
10. G: There is a lot of difference. But please answer my question.
11. S: I don’t see any difference.
12. G: That is the problem; in fact it is a disease called ‘samsAra’.
13. S: I don’t see it as a disease, but I see you are hinting at something. Can you explain?
14. G: Your self is different from yourself.
15. S: I see you are referring to that something called my self, which is not myself ?
16. G: You may better call it your Self, with a capital ‘S’.
17. S: Where is it? I have not seen it or felt it.
18. G: You have never seen it because it is you yourself.
19. S: Just now you said there is a difference between myself and my Self.
20. G: But you said you don’t see any difference.
21. S: So what is right? You are confusing me.
22. G: Good, that is where you have to start. State your confusion clearly.
23. S: What is the difference between myself and my Self?
24. G: One is perishable, the other is not.
25. S: I see. Yes, myself is perishable. But I am not clear why my Self is not perishable.
26. G: You are jumping the line.You have not yet accepted there is a Self other than yourself.
27. S: I thought you said that my Self is myself.
28. G: It depends on what you mean by the words ‘myself’ and ‘my Self’.
29. S: Are you not playing with words?
30. G: No. ‘yourself’ is what you ordinarily think you are. ‘your Self’ is what you are.
31. S: Then what I am is my Self. Is that right?
32. G: Yes, that is the final teaching of the Upanishads. Better to call it ‘The Self’.
33. S: What difference does it make to my daily life?
34. G: It makes this difference; if you don’t absorb this teaching, you are bound to suffer.
35. S: Are you referring to ‘me’ or , ‘my Self’ – which you are calling ‘The Self’.
36. G: The Self will never suffer; it is you who will suffer.
37. S: I am still not clear why you are making this distinction between ‘me’ and ‘my Self’.
38. G: When I talk to you as ‘you’ I am only talking to you as a body, with mind & intellect.
39. S: And in the other case?
40. G: I am referring to the Self or the Atman that is permanently within you – not the body, mind or intellect.
41. S: Is it then the Atman that is leaving the body at death?
42. G: Atman does not leave anything or come to anything.
43. S: Then what is it that leaves the body?
44. G: It is the manifestation of the Atman in the body, that leaves the body.
45. S: Where is this Atman manifested in my body?
46. G: It is not a physical entity that can be assigned a location in the body.
47. S: Then is it in my mind, brain or my intellect?
48. G: In one sense it is in none of these; in another sense it is everywhere.
49. S: How can that be?
50. G: Because without the Atman, neither the mind nor the intellect has any locus standi.
51. S: Why did you now leave out the body and the brain?
52. G:The mind and the intellect are more subtle than the visibly perishing body and brain.
53. S: Even those subtle things (mind and intellect) – can’t they subsist without the Atman?
54. G: No. Without the presence of the Self or Atman, nothing in this world can subsist.
55. S: If nothing can subsist without the Atman, we must be able to feel Atman everywhere.
56. G: That is the point of the teaching. See Atman everywhere.
57. S: How do I see it? Nobody seems to be seeing it?
58. G: This is where the subject of Vedanta comes in.
59. S: So is it the contention of Vedanta that Atman is everywhere?
60. G: It is not just a contention. It is the Truth, the Reality.
61. S: How can it be proved to be the Truth?
62. G: What kind of proof are you looking for?
63. S: Of course, a rational, scientific proof.
64. G: But rationality and science are only products of the mind.
65. S: What is wrong with it?
66. G: Nothing is wrong; but the Truth of the Self is beyond the mind.
67. S: On what authority are you saying this?
68. G: On the authority of the Vedas and Upanishads.
69. S: OK. Let the Truth be beyond the mind; how then do we ever know the Truth of the Self?
70. G: By experiencing it.
71. S: What kind of experience? By the mind? You already said the body is perishable.
72. G: Mind also is perishable, though it takes a longer time. But the perishable mind serves as a useful tool.
73. S: Tool for what? To know the truth of the Self?
74. G: Yes. The perishable mind has to be used to seek the Imperishable Self.
75. S. There seems to be a logical fallacy here – Perishable thing seeking the Imperishable!
76. G. ‘Seems to be’ – that is right; the logical fallacy vanishes when you go deeper.
77. S: I don’t understand.
78. G: The Perishable perishes in the Imperishable.
79. S: Looks like a conundrum.
80. G: Yes, scriptural statements will look like conundrums. We have to meditate on them.
81. S: I have heard this word ‘meditation’ all the time. Is this what meditation is all about?
82. G: In one sense, yes. But let us take up the subject of meditation at a later stage.
83. S: Then please explain to me how ‘The Perishable perishes in the Imperishable’.
84. G: Like salt in water.
85. S: Then there would be no more salt. So does the Perishable vanish? Does only the Imperishable remain?
86. G: You got the point. The mind seeking to know the Truth, effaces itself, and ..
87. S: Becomes the Truth!
88. G: I like students who can comprehend so quickly!
89. S: But the whole thing looks like a made-up mathematical puzzle.
90. G: Puzzle certainly it is. It is the Grand puzzle of Life.
91. S: But I don’t see where all this leads to, in real life.
92. G: Say ‘in the reality of life’.
93. S: In the reality of life, I see pain and suffering all around.
94. G: Also some happiness.
95. S: Yes, happiness also; but happiness is so few and far between that it never surfaces.
96. G: Let us analyse this little happiness before we go to the ‘suffering’ part.
97. S: I am happy whenever I get what I wanted.
98. G: Were you happy when you wanted it?
99. S: Not fully. But I was excited at the thought of my pursuing what I wanted.
100. G: Were you happy before you started wanting it?
101. S: I don’t understand the question; I think the question does not arise.
102. G: Yes, you are right. Happiness was not in question then .
103. S: ‘Then’ means?
104. G: Before you started wanting it, you were not unhappy, because there was no want.
105. S: I think you are trying to trip me by quibbling.
106. G: No, I am saying, the moment you wanted something, happiness receded from you.
107. S: But you are putting words in my mouth.
108. G: What words?
109. S: You are making me accept that I was happy before I started wanting something.
110. G: Certainly. Is there any doubt on that?
111. S: But I had other wants.
112. G: Let us go to the situation when you had your first want.
113. S: There is no such situation.
114. G: But you said you were happy sometimes.
115. S: Yes, life is a mixture of happiness and unhappiness.
116. G: Analyse how you were happy when you were happy.
117. S: I did not allow my ‘want’ thoughts to disturb me when I was happy.
118. G: You were happy, and the fact of not ‘wanting’ anything, continued your happiness.
119. S: Well, I think that may be the right way to put it.
120. G: Thus you started from the position of happiness, and a ripple of a ‘want’ disturbed it.
121. S: What are you leading me to?
122. G: It is ‘want’ that disturbs the happiness which is with you.
123. S: So if I am to continue to be happy, I should not ‘want’ anything. Is that what you are driving at?
124. G: You are right on the dot.
125. S: But it is an impossible task not to want anything.
126. G: First accept it in theory.
127. S: In other words, it is ‘want’ or ‘desire’ that makes me unhappy.
128. G: The man who has no wants or desires is perfectly happy.
129. S: What has all this to do with Vedanta which talks about the Self?
130. G: Everything. We have to analyse who is it that wants and makes himself unhappy.
131. S: I guess it is myself.
132. G: I am glad you used the right word – ‘myself’.
133. S: I miss the point.
134. G: The Self has no wants and is always full of happiness or bliss.
135. S: You are asserting it without ascribing any reason.
136. G: Because the definition of the Self according to the scriptures implies that.
137. S: What is the definition?
138. G: The Self is Consciousness. The Self is Bliss.
139. S. This does not make any sense to me.
140. G: That is why we are going through this dialogue.
141. S: If the Self is Bliss, then I should not have any suffering.
142. G: True. You have no suffering.
143. S: Guruji, it is not enough for you to say so. I must be able to say I have no suffering.
144. G: Who feels the suffering?
145. S: I, certainly.
146. G: Not so fast. In order to understand, let us take a simple example of a suffering.
147. S: Alright. Suppose somebody pinches me. I feel the pinch. Don’t I?
148. G: Wait. Somebody pinches you. Strictly speaking, it is the body that is pinched.
149. S: But I feel it, because my mind recognises the pinching of my body.
150. G: So it is your mind that should suffer, not you.
151. S: But my mind is mine.
152. G: That is the point. Your mind is yours, it is not you.
153. S: Are you not just hairsplitting?
154. G: No, the entire Vedanta depends on this. Your mind is not you.
155. S: But when my mind suffers, I suffer with it.
156. G: Vedanta says: Let the mind suffer or experience. Don’t suffer or experience with it.
157. S: It is a tall order.
158. G: Who said it is not? The tall order is to bring your happiness back.
159. S: So Vedanta does not seem to remove my suffering; it allows my suffering to stay.
160. G: Vedanta intends to insulate you from your suffering.
161. S: What does that mean?
162. G: That which suffers is dissociated from you, the Self.
163. S: But in that case I have to be the Self.
164. G: Exactly. “Be your Self” say the scriptures. Then there is no suffering.
165. S: The remedy turns out to be more severe than the disease of suffering.
166. G: All that Vedanta tells you is to change your attitude to all experience.
167. S: When you say ‘experience’ do you mean both suffering and happiness?
168. G: Yes, whether it is happiness or otherwise, it is your attitude that is important.
169. S: Does it mean then, that I should simply be impervious to all experience?
170. G: Yes, that is the Gita teaching. You are not the experiencer.
171. S: According to Vedanta, then who is the experiencer?
172. G: The experiencer is the one who has identified with his body, mind, intellect (BMI).
173. S: Who is that one?
174. G: If there is one such.
175. S: It is not clear to me what you are saying.
176. G: If you don’t identify yourself with your BMI, you are not the experiencer.
177. S: Who is this ‘you’ that is being talked about now?
178. G: That is a good question. We have to start afresh now.
179. S: Where do you want to start?
180. G: From the BMI. The BMI is your outer personality.
181. S: I see where you are going. The inner personality is the Self . Right?
182. G. Yes. But the Gita says there are two such selves (Purushhas).
183. S: What? I thought I was only one person. How can there be two selves for me?
184. G: There is only one Self. But we make the mistake of thinking that our BMI is the Self.
185. S: Earlier we said that the BMI is not the Self.
186. G: That is right. But almost all of us all the time make the mistake.
187. S: Make the mistake of what?
188. G: Of thinking that our BMI is the Self.
189. S: So what?
190. G: And that mistake originates a false self for us. This false self is the other Self.
191. S: In other words, we ourselves create a false self for each of us.
192. G: Yes. That false self, is termed the Perishable Self.
193. S: Then the real Self is the Imperishable Self.
194. G: Thus there are two, the kshhara purushha (perishable self) and the akshhara purushha (imperishable Self).
195. S: So the kshhara purushha is the result of identification with BMI.
196. G: And the akshhara-purushha is the Self, that is Consciousness, Bliss.
197. S: Now tell me who is the experiencer.
198. G: The kshhara purushha is the experiencer. Incidentally the kshhara-purushha is also known by the term jIva.
199. S: In other words, he who has identified with BMI is the experiencer.
200. G: Perfectly. Vedanta says: You are not the experiencer.