ADVAITA DIALOGUE    Continued from Page 2

 

 

401.                    S: Shall we therefore say that Brahman is the commonality of everything there is?

402.                    G: Now go back to the Atman, the Consciousness in all that is animate.

403.                    S: I see where you are leading me. You are going to connect this Atman with that Brahman?

404.                    G: You have just missed the mark. Not just ‘connect’; I am going to say They are the same.

405.                    S: What! Atman and Brahman are the same?

406.                    G: Exactly. This is the fundamental conclusion of the Upanishads.

407.                    S: It is too much!

408.                    G: What is your reservation?

409.                    S: Atman is our  inner essence. Brahman is what is everywhere. How can they be the same?

410.                    G: What is everywhere can be in your core also!

 

411.                    S:  That doesn’t seem to be enough logic for me.

412.                    G: That is why our elders resort to the authority of the Upanishads for this.

413.                    S:  But the concept of Brahman is then again unclear.

414.                    G: Well, you cannot hope to understand Brahman purely by your intellect.

415.                    S: How else do I understand it?

416.                    G. Brahman is not an object of knowledge.

417.                    S: Then what is it?

418.                    G: It is itself pure knowledge.

419.                    S: You are only playing with words.

420.                    G: No. Brahman cannot be known in the usual way by which everything else is known.

 

421.                    S: Even by observation and experiment?

422.                    G: Because, Brahman is beyond cause and effect, substance and attribute.

423.                    S: Is it then just a void?

424.                    G: Not at all, because it is a bundle of consciousness.

425.                    S: Then how are we supposed to become familiar with it?

426.                    G: Why familiarity? You are It.

427.                    S: You mean I am Brahman?

428.                    G: Of course. But you have to qualify that ‘I’.

429.                    S: In what way?

430.                    G: The ‘I’ has been covered and  camouflaged by so many other things.

 

431.                    S: Earlier you said there are two selves, namely the outer (BMI) and the Inner.

432.                    G: The Inner Self is the Atman. It witnesses all your actions but is never involved in any of them.

433.                    S: Is that the one which is the same as Brahman?

434.                    G: Yes. We shall discuss that point  later in more detail.

435.                    S: Now that you have mentioned ‘actions’, I have several questions.

436.                    G: You may ask them. But remember to include your thoughts in the category of ‘actions’.

437.                    S: How can actions and thoughts belong to the same category?

438.                    G: Because thoughts are also actions --  actions of the mind.

439.                    S: Who is responsible for my thoughts and actions – most of which I would like to disown?

440.                    G: You can never disown any of your thoughts or actions. You have to be responsible for them.

 

441.                    S: In what way?

442.                    G: Thoughts and actions leave their vAsanAs in your mind.

443.                    S: What are vAsanAs?

444.                    G: VAsanAs are imprints of earlier tastes and tendencies. They form the cause of future birth.

445.                    S: And the state of no future birth is supposed to be moksha!

446.                    G: Moksha, release from births, cannot be attained until vAsanAs are exhausted.

447.                    S:  How do I exhaust all my vAsanAs?

448.                    G: It is a good question. But let us do some organization of our discussion.

449.                    S:  I am ready.

450.                    G: As you exhaust earlier vAsanAs you also acquire newer vAsanAs.

 

451.                    S: That is unavoidable.

452.                    G: But there is a strategy to avoid this acquisition.

453.                    S: I thought Vedanta is far from being a game of strategies!

454.                    G: But Lord Krishna is a strategist. He tells you how to avoid future vAsanAs sticking to you.

455.                    S: You mean in His Gita?

456.                    G: Yes.  He says: Do your actions with detachment.

457.                    S: I have heard this word very often in religious expositions. Please  tell me about it, Guruji.

458.                    G: The word ‘non – attachment’ is more expressive. Let us use it.

459.                    S: Does non-attachment mean that we should not be attached to anything?

460.                    G: It is the attitude of non-attachment that is recommended.

 

461.                    S: But if I am not attached to my work, how do I do it efficiently?

462.                    G: Actually only then you can do it efficiently.

463.                    S: It is perplexing. How can that be?

464.                    G: Because attachment will cloud the issues, as it did for Arjuna on the battlefield.

465.                    S: But how does Vedanta resonate with this idea of non-attachment?

466.                    G: It is Vedanta that gives the right rationale for non-attachment.

467.                    S:  Shall I try to reason it out?

468.                    G: Go ahead, that is what I like.

469.                    S: Vedanta says that there are two selves in me: the perishable BMI and the imperishable Atman.

470.                    G: You have begun well.

 

471.                    S: The Atman is changeless, so does not do any action.

472.                    G: All action is done by the BMI.

473.                    S: But it is the Self that motivates the action.

474.                    G: No, the Self does not motivate the action. In the presence of the Self action takes place.

475.                    S: So who is responsible for the action: the Self or BMI?

476.                    G: BMI cannot act; it is inert.

477.                    S: Then it is the Self that is responsible.

478.                    G: That is where you miss a subtle point. There are two selves.

479.                    S: A self which identifies with BMI and a self which does not.

480.                    G: You be the Self which does not so identify.

 

481.                    S: But then who acts?

482.                    G: Action happens in the presence of You, namely the Self which does not identify with BMI.

483.                    S: But then I will become responsible.

484.                    G: No, You are only a witness, a silent non-participating, non-attached witness!

485.                    S: You mean: Let my mind think, Let my hand act ... Still should I remain just a witness?

486.                    G: Yes. That is the meaning of your identifying with the Inner Self.

487.                    S: This is walking on razor’s edge!

488.                    G: That is why a Krishna had to explain that strategy!

489.                    S: Looks like we are cheating ourselves!

490.                    G: There is no cheating here. In the presence of the Inner Self, because of that presence, action takes place.

 

491.                    S: In any case the doer is I myself, right?

492.                    G: No. You are not the doer. Your attitude is ‘na ahaM kartA’. “I am not the doer”.

493.                    S: But with this posture, I can go and kill somebody and say “I have not killed”!

494.                    G: First of all it is not a posture. But tell me, why would you kill somebody?

495.                    S: Because I need  to kill. I want to.

496.                    G: What is the need?

497.                    S: Oh, it could be several things. Revenge, maybe.

498.                    G: That is it. By bringing things like revenge, jealousy, etc. you have brought in attachment.

499.                    S: Attachment to what?

500.                    G: Attachment to the result of your action.

 

501.                    S: What is wrong with it?

502.                    G: Then you are not in identity with the Inner Self. The Inner Self is indifferent to all results; and it has no attachments.

503.                    S:  But suppose I need to kill because it is my duty, like that of a soldier on the front.

504.                    G: Are you doubly sure that you are only doing your duty and you have no hate of the object of your hurt?

505.                    S: You mean, like a doctor on the surgery table?

506.                    G: Yes, that is a right example.

507.                    S: So if hate is not there, is killing right when done as a duty?

508.                    G: It is on that basis, the military justifies itself.

509.                    S: You are now entering the political arena.

510.                    G. No, you are missing the most important point about the state of the mind.

 

511.                    S: What is it?

512.                    G: There should be no hate, no attachment. Then the sin or otherwise of the action  does not devolve on you.

513.                    S:  Is this what is known as Karma yoga?

514.                    G: Karma Yoga builds up on this idea and gives you a methodology to act up to this.

515.                    S: What is that methodology?

516.                    G: It is known as ‘yajna’.

517.                    S: I have no clear idea what it is. But I have heard the word.

518.                    G: How does a dedicated nurse in a hospital work?

519.                    S: You said ‘dedicated’. So she must be doing her work excellently well.

520.                    G: Does she have any self-interest?

 

521.                    S: Maybe she is interested in her monthly pay.

522.                    G: Suppose she works for the love of it and does not receive any salary.

523.                    S: She must be really a very dedicated soul.

524.                    G: Now what would you say about her work?

525.                    S: She must be great!

526.                    G: Leave aside the appreciation. Here is somebody working for the sake of work and is not having any self-interest.

527.                    S: Is this called the yajna-type of work?

528.                    G: Yes. Gita says every action should be done with a yajna spirit.

529.                    S: Easier said than done.

530.                    G: As usual Krishna tells you how. Dedicate all your actions to God.

 

531.                    S: I can certainly dedicate all my actions to God, but still be doing wrong things.

532.                    G: Dedication means you do only that type of work which your God of dedication would like you to do.

533.                    S: And avoid that kind of work which that God would not want me to do – I can see the game.

534.                    G: Perfectly right. Dedication means voluntary acceptance of discipline for the sake of your object of  dedication.

535.                    S: The concept of yajna is really great!

536.                    G: Not just great. It is the greatest contribution of Hinduism to the ways of living for the whole world.

537.                    S: But what is the point of all this, except to say it is good?

538.                    G: The bottom line is this. By doing every work as a yajna, you avoid the vAsanA of the work sticking to you.

539.                    S: Where did ‘vAsanA’ come here in this picture?

540.                    G: We were saying that when you work with detachment, sin or otherwise of the action would not devolve on you.

 

541.                    S: Does the yajna attitude give you detachment?

542.                    G: Exactly. When you dedicate your action to your God, it means you have no self-interest.

543.                    S: But aren’t you interested in the result of your action?

544.                    G: You are like an actor on the stage. Result on the stage, of the action on the stage, is the Director’s responsibility.

545.                    S: Oh! Here the Director is God! But Besides the example of a hospital nurse, can I have other examples of this?

546.                    G: During the pre-independence times of India, many of our freedom fighters had that dedication.

547.                    S: Some of them were not believers in God. Who or What was their God of dedication?

548.                    G: Mother India or BhArat-mAtA was their Goddess of dedication.

549.                    S: They even laid their lives for Her sake.

550.                    G: When every action  is done in this yajna fashion, work becomes worship.

 

551.                    S: What is so great about worship? Why worship?  Why God?

552.                    G: Are you taking me into a discussion of God?

553.                    S: I was only waiting for this opportunity.

554.                    G: Articulate  your doubts.

555.                    S: Earlier we concluded that Brahman is the Ultimate and it is nameless and formless.

556.                    G: Certainly. So what?

557.                    S: Then why do we worship several Gods and Goddesses with different names and forms?

558.                    G: Brahman is infinite in existence, infinite in knowledge and infinite in Bliss.

559.                    S: If Brahman were infinite in Bliss and is also all-pervading, then Bliss should be all-pervading.

560.                    G: Of course it is.

 

561.                    S: Don’t tell me that, Guruji. We have only to look at the tragedies in the world.

562.                    G: Tragedies are natural in world-life. They cannot but be there. You have to transcend them to see the Bliss.

563.                    S: It looks like  escapism from reality.

564.                    G: I am not asking you to run away from it.

565.                    S: What else does ‘transcending’  mean?

566.                    G: As a citizen of the world your duty is to go and do your best, first  to prevent and then  remedy, the tragedies.

567.                    S: Then  why are you asking me to look beyond them?

568.                    G: Looking beyond is not looking away. You should not turn your head the other way.

569.                    S: You are puzzling. Please make it simple.

570.                    G: Be in  the world. Be an honest citizen. Do your duty. But have an attitude  of transcendence.

 

571.                    S: How does that help?

572.                    G: It helps in your ascent to spirituality.

573.                    S: You have not yet told me why I have to be spiritual.

574.                    G: I thought you showed interest in spirituality.

575.                    S: I was only exhibiting an academic curiosity.

576.                    G: An academic curiosity would only lead to scholarship; it would not lead you to Mokshha.

577.                    S: I apologise, Guruji. I stand corrected.

578.                    G: In fact, in order to absorb advaita, there are four prerequisite qualifications prescribed by Shankara.

579.                    S: I would like to know them, certainly.

580.                    G: First, a capacity to discriminate between what is permanent and what is ephemeral.

 

581.                    S: Even the beginning seems tough!

582.                    G: Secondly, a dispassion towards desire for  acquisitions, here or in the world hereafter.

583.                    S: I see why you played down my academic curiosity!

584.                    G: The third one is an intense anguish for obtaining release from the cycle of births and deaths.

585.                    S: It is easy to agree with this, but it is the intensity of feeling that is in question .

586.                    G: And a conglomerate of six qualities: Equanimity, Self-control, Self-withdrawal, Endurance, Tranquillity and Faith.

587.                    S: Blessed are those indeed, who have all these!

588.                    G: Let us now come back to the topic of  transcendence of transience.

589.                    S: You mean whatever is transient must be transcended?

590.                    G: Good. The scriptures have a beautiful way of saying this.

 

591.                    S: I would like to hear that.

592.                    G: All that is transient is called mAyA, in Vedanta.

593.                    S: I thought mAyA meant Illusion.

594.                    G: What is illusion?

595.                    S: Illusion is something which appears but is actually non-existent.

596.                    G: Then mAyA is not Illusion.

597.                    S: Then all those expositors of Vedanta, who translate mAyA as Illusion, are wrong?

598.                    G: It is not a question of translation; it is a question of what impression is conveyed.

599.                    S: So if mAyA conveys the meaning of illusion, meaning appearance of falsity, then that is not right?

600.                    G: mAyA simply means whatever is transient, that is, comes and goes.

 

 

 

Continued  on page 4

Copyright ©  V. Krishnamurthy  August 20, 2004                                                                                                                     

 

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