Unraveling of Neo-Indianism : Case of BRAHMAN (1312)
The following appears to respond to recent Q’s about definitions of awareness and consciousness and something about 3 “I’s`’……..
I enjoyed reading it……criticism welcome……:-)
by Philip Renard
In the first part of “`I’ is a door” I described the striking phenomenon
that in Advaita Vedanta the term `I’ is maintained to indicate even the
higher levels of reality, the levels `beyond the person’. The help given in
doing so is that by maintaining the term it is indicated that the notion
`I’, so obvious for experiencing the person, in fact is deeper than the
person presenting itself temporarily, and that this notion is there
continuously, also now already. So in order to be able to get in contact
with That which you really are, nothing needs to be eliminated or excluded
first. In the first part I examined the approach of Shri Ramana Maharshi,
and this time I should like to pay attention to the way Shri Nisargadatta
Maharaj (1897-1981) articulated this matter.
In my opinion Nisargadatta was one of the greatest teachers of the twentieth
century. What makes him so great is particularly his fabulous ability to
show that everything that was asked him is made up of concepts, and to
annihilate these concepts by exposing their uselessness. Whatever question
or response the visitor or disciple came up with, Nisargadatta pointed out
that it boiled down to clinging to patterns of thought or concepts and he
referred to its origin, its seed. Everything, everything really was
undermined as being a concept and consequently not true, and that included
also something he had himself just said. As he emphasized, the only thing
true is the conceptless.
Since he is not alive anymore, the only way to learn from him is by reading
his books (apart from a few moments of darshan through some video
fragments). And whilst reading, it becomes evident that in fact it can be
called humorous, that he himself, the great underminer of concepts, is
continuously offering concepts. He jumped from level to level, used numerous
Sanskrit terms for a certain level, used the same or closely related terms
for another level, and then had the whole matter dissolved in what he called
`the deep dark blue state of non-experience’.
Unfortunately this resulted in a lot of seekers that have caught a glimpse
already of who they really are, to continue their search, because of the
message `you are only the Absolute’. They assiduously claim that they `know
consciousness already’ but they also express frustration that they have
failed to take `the next step’.
I dare to say here: there is no next step.
It is all about going to the limit of what can be experienced, and to remain
still there. One should not be led astray by any comment on the Absolute and
be lured to go in search of it.
But, as can be argued, Nisargadatta is making comments exactly on the
Absolute all the time, and shows again and again that everything else is
unreal! This surely is the impasse: to hear that we are That, and not be
able to experience it, let alone search for it. That is the paradox: Maharaj
is presenting us with all the time. How are we supposed to deal with this
Maharaj himself is answering this question – and that by offering a concept.
One specific concept, which he indicated by using the term `the knowledge I
Am’, or `I Am-ness’. Earlier in this article Nisargadatta Maharaj was called
`great’ especially because he fearlessly undermined each and every concept.
Burt really he can be called so just as well because in turn he presented
this one concept. He considered this concept, `I Am-ness’, as something to
be digested, swallowed, dissolved. And so he described it as `the ultimate
medicine’. It’s true he called it `the disease itself’ at least as often, or
even `itself a misery’, but in the same respect he indicated in many places
the very same concept is exactly the medicine, and is the indicator to
freedom. So again we are facing here with a paradox: something being a
disease yet in its essential nature is the medicine itself.
There is a quote that holds the key to the entrance of this paradox. In my
opinion it is the most beautiful quote there is, because the whole mystery
of existence is described in a few sentences, including the handle to enter
the mystery. Everything is in it, and all further texts of Maharaj can be
interpreted from this perspective.
“This touch of `I Amness’ is in each being; this beingness has that touch of
love for the Absolute, and it is a representation of the Absolute. (…)
Only the Absolute prevails. The truth is total Brahman (Para Brahman) only,
nothing else but Brahman. In a total Brahman state the touch of beingness,
`I Am’ started, and with that, separation started, otherness has come. But
this `I Amness’ is not just a small principle; that itself is the Mula-Maya,
the primary illusion. (…) The great Maya principle is making you do all
her tricks, and you are also abiding in what she says, and finally, that
light of yours, that beingness, gets extinguished. (…) That Maya is so
powerful that it gets you completely wrapped up in it. Maya means `I Am’, `I
love to be’. It has no identity except love.
That knowledge of `I Am’ is the greatest foe and the greatest friend.
Although it might be your greatest enemy, if you propitiate it properly, it
will turn around and lead you to the highest state.”1
The sense of `I Am’ is a universal principle, in exactly the same way
present in each being, prior to the interpretation `I am John’ or `I am
Ann’; in other words, `I am this person’. Nisargadatta (that is, his
translators) used to indicate this sense of `I Am’ with the term
`consciousness’ (chetana). It makes sense to linger over the meaning
Nisargadatta ascribed to this term, just because he often called this
consciousness illusory and because the term `consciousness’ has been used by
other teachers to indicate exactly the Ultimate (indeed as the translation
of the term chit in stead of chetana; see for instance “`I’ is a door, Part
1″). He supplied numerous synonyms for it like `knowingness’, `Krishna
state’, `child consciousness’, `seed’, `witness’, `God’, `being’,
`beingness’, `sattva’, `the chemical’, `Saguna Brahman’, `the manifest’,
`the supreme principle’: they all come down to the same. It is about a
touch. Without any reason, something arises spontaneously, within something
that is no experience, no knowledge, no form, not `a thing’ whatsoever. Only
when you notice it, you can say `something arises’, not before. So
manifestation and the noticing of it are one and the same. This is called
the `touch’. It is this very first vibration, this most subtle form of touch
which Nisargadatta called `consciousness’, the principle `I Am’.
The crucial element of this quote is to be found in the last paragraph: The
knowledge of `I Am’ is the greatest foe and the greatest friend. It includes
everything – and consequently you can be left here with an overwhelming
feeling of disorientation. Very often this disorientation is only reinforced
in other passages, by the emphasis on the illusory element (`the greatest
enemy’), because that which indeed is real, the Absolute, is described as
`something that can not be experienced’. However here it is most strongly
said that indeed, although it might be your greatest enemy, you would do
well to fully worship it. So whether illusion or not, at this moment it does
not matter at all, because ultimately it is only God, the ever creating
principle that brings about everything. It is true this means that you can
be seduced to cling to a form, but also by the same token you can be
liberated from this clinging by the same principle.
In one of the Purana’s, the `old books’ of Hinduism, we find a passage that
bears resemblance to the quote. “She, when pleased, becomes propitious and
the cause of the freedom of man.”2 It is all about worshipping this
principle as totally as possible, to pay attention to it, to please it. The
sense of `you are’ is so common, so ordinary, that you overlook it easily
and hence Nisargadatta is strongly emphasises not to do so, but on the
contrary to fully honour precisely this, to worship it as the highest God.
He keeps hammering at it uninterruptedly to keep quiet here and to devote
yourself fully to this consciousness, to this touch.
“Worship atman (`you are’) as the God; there is nothing else. You worship
that principle only; nothing else needs to be done. This very knowledge `you
are’ will lead to the highest, to the Ultimate. This `you are’ is there so
long as the vital breath is present. And when you worship that `you are’ as
the manifest Brahman (Saguna Brahman) only, you reach immortality. (…) You
must continually remember, `chew the cud’. (…) You must continually think
We wonder what exactly is `worship’, because the rise of a verbal prayer is
associated with this word. In fact worship is `paying attention continuously
to something with your whole heart’. The best example of this in the world
is being in love. If you are in love, your attention is totally going
towards your beloved, whether you `want’ to do so or not. You are full of it
and everything that is going in the direction of the beloved occurs
effortlessly. This you may call worship. So now we are invited to practice
this worship, this being in love in regard to our ordinary consciousness
itself, to formless experience as such, `the touch of beingness’, `the
feeling of beingness’. How are we supposed to put this worship into
It means that you totally merge with this beingness, with this primal
vibration. Take all of your passion to this unlocatable `place’, cheer this
vibration, and do not be worried about the fact that this is still a form of
duality, a form of energy or `corporality’. Worship Her, cheer Her, do not
hold back anything, give yourself totally to Her, so that you may melt with
Her. Then She shows you, within the merging, that `two’ ceases to exist. She
being an enemy can only be the case if you let yourself be carried along by
Her temptation. “The very source of all happiness is your beingness; be
there. If you get involved with the flow of Maya there will be misery. (…)
Be still in your beingness.”4
It is here Nisargadatta points out how in the `supreme principle’, the `I
am’ principle, the liberating element can be distinguished from the
seducing, binding element. Sometimes I compare this with a fountain in a
pond. The `I Am’ principle is the mouth of the fountain. At that point the
water is powerfully spouting up high, causing thousands of drops being
shaped to form together what is called `fountain’. The fountain’s mouth has
hardly taken form yet; there is only the experience of the propelling-force
to be, the drive towards form. Then the advice is: stay at the fountain’s
mouth, abide there, and surrender to its formless vibration. Do not try in
any way to manipulate the force itself. “What natural processes can you
stop? Everything is spontaneous. Presently you are in the consciousness,
which is stirring, vibrant. Don’t think you are something separate from this
stirring, vibrant consciousness.”5 By staying at the fountain’s mouth,
worshipping That which is giving all this, unfoldment, you are set free.
“The devotee with his firm determination and God by his fascination for
devotion are attracted towards each other, and the moment they come face to
face they merge, the one into the other. The devotee loses his phenomenal
consciousness automatically, and when it returns, he finds that he has lost
his identity – lost into that of God which cannot be separated again;”6 and
“I am the God, I am the devotee, and I am worshipping; all the same, one
God’s character of Maya, Seducer, is fading away as soon as you understand
that you need not let yourself be carried away by Her to Her forms of
creation. You just have to notice What is seeing Her. “Meditate on that
which knows you are sitting here. Your feeling that your body is here is
identification with the body, but that which knows that this body is sitting
here is the expression of the Absolute.”8
The liberating character of the `I Am’ principle is present as much in the
knowing aspect as in the aspect of surrender. At this point the approaches
of jñana (knowingness, understanding) and bhakti (devotion) are blending
totally into one another. Sometimes this means that surrender shows
discrimination is no longer necessary, and sometimes this means that
understanding prevents you from making the error that your surrender is
submission to manifestation itself, to the transient forms themselves.
Surrender is right only when it is surrender to That which is permanent.
“First, I have seduced Maya, and once the Maya surrendered to me, I had no
other use for Maya so I threw her out.”9
Notice, for instance, the body sitting here could be called `knowingness’.
This knowingness is in fact Knowing as such, and this is the liberating
element, because knowingness is literally the expression of the Absolute, as
said before in a quote (see note 8). Absolute Consciousness or Knowing10
expresses itself as `knowing something’. So `consciousness’ and `the
Absolute’ are not two different things, just as is often imagined on the
basis of much of Nisargadatta’s statements. There is only one Consciousness
(or Awareness; it depends on the language-framework of the speaker or
translator which term is considered `right’). It has an Absolute aspect and
a dynamic, living, experiencing aspect, the `touch’. The only thing needed
to see is that a certain vibration is always the knowing of that vibration,
and that the knowing itself is Absolute Knowing. That there is not any
separation in there. Within the Absolute there is just nothing to Know,
hence Nisargadatta is calling this the `state of no-knowingness’, or
`no-mind’, the state in which attention is dissolved in itself.
“There is only one state, not two. When the `I Amness’ is there, in that
consciousness you will have many experiences, but the `I Am’ and the
Absolute are not two. In the Absolute the `I Amness’ comes, and then the
experience takes place.”11
One could say that `letting you be carried away by the Seducer’ comes down
to giving credence to the power of your past, to the power of the
tendencies, the vasana’s, instead of enduring that you don’t go beyond the
`present touch’, the `present form’. The binding aspect of the `I Am’
principle consists in the creation of a personal history, the creation of a
`subtle body’, an `I’ figure, a form that has to persist. The binding force
itself could be called the `causal body’, the storehouse of the latent
tendencies and the primordial beginning of individuality, of a jiva.12 The
`causal body’ is a definition for the principle in us which causes now the
creation of a form, and which seduces us to maintain and consolidate this
form. It seduces us into not recognizing this form as `mere present form of
Consciousness’, as something which dies immediately afterwards and is
replaced again by another form. So this is what is meant by the term
`causal’. The causal body brings about your losing sight of the fact that
you are always new, unborn, now, now, now. And this `bringing about’ is
occurring through the latent tendencies, which make you cling to the
manifestations as soon as they are there, so that the form can continue to
exist. Owing to its veiling and binding character, the causal body has in
the Advaita tradition been equated with `ignorance’ (ajñana; also avidya).
Being strongly influenced in his linguistic usage by the Samkhya tradition,
an old Indian school of Dualism, Nisargadatta sometimes explained this
process of becoming bound by means of the terms sattva, rajas and tamas,
borrowed from Samkhya. These are the three guna’s, the qualities determining
and colouring all our actions (rajas is the exciting, the restless, that
which incites to activity; tamas the inert, the solidifying, obscuring; and
sattva the quality keeping the balance, the quality of beingness,
knowingness, and lucidity).
Nisargadatta described the transition proceeding from sattva as follows:
“During the waking state, to know that you are (sattva) is itself a misery;
but since you are preoccupied with so many other things, you are able to
sustain that waking state. This quality of beingness (sattva), the knowledge
`I Am’, cannot tolerate itself. It cannot stand itself, alone, just knowing
itself. Therefore, that rajas-guna is there. It takes the beingness for a
ride in various activities, so that it does not dwell only in itself; it is
very difficult to sustain that state. And tamas-guna is the basest quality.
What it is doing is that it provides one with the facility to claim
authorship for all the activities – the feeling `I am the doer’. Rajas-guna
takes one into all the activities, and tamas-guna claims authorship or
doership for those activities.”13
One could say that in fact the power of rajas originally is a rather free
power, which in itself does not necessarily need to hook on to something. It
is the effect of tamas only that makes things glue together. This quality
causes us to be fixated, that we are attached to something, that we isolate
ourselves, that we worry, etcetera. Because of tamas we come to stick a
personal story, a history onto a spontaneous activity.
One could interpret Nisargadatta’s advice as follows: you can not but allow
rajas to arise, because that is inherent to the spontaneous creative power;
but welcome her and keep on recognizing its starting point, the very first
`touch’. Nisargadatta called this touch also the `pinprick’. That is sattva.
That is also the term `consciousness’ as is used by Nisargadatta, the
pinprick, `the experiencing the touch’. That is what I called `the mouth of
the fountain’: here you are witnessing as it were the marriage of sattva and
rajas.Remain in stillness (sattva) in the splashing power (rajas).
By dedicating yourself to this, by honouring this pinprick, this
`consciousness’, your search ceases to exist. Here you can let go of the
`doing’, of the attempt to let yourself pass beyond this consciousness,
because really that won’t help. “You can never isolate yourself from the
consciousness unless consciousness is pleased with you and gets rid of you.
Consciousness opens the gate for you to transcend consciousness. There are
two aspects: one is conceptual, dynamic consciousness which is full of
concepts, and the other is transcendent consciousness. Even the concept `I
Am’ is not there. Conceptual, qualitative Brahman (Saguna Brahman), the one
that is full of concepts and is qualitative, is the outcome of the
[reflection of Awareness (Nirguna Brahman) in the] functioning body.”14
So although it originally is important and correct to distinguish between
consciousness (chetana) and Consciousness (or Awareness; Chit), it makes
sense at a certain moment just to embrace consciousness in its being `the
touch’, so that all resistance melts away, and with it all duality. The
touch is the Helper which anoints you in your and Her surrender; it shows
you that you have always been unaffected and unimpaired, free and
unseparated, without the need to strive for it. So on the one hand Maharaj
emphasizes: “I, the Absolute, am not this `I Amness’,”15 but on the other
hand: “Understand that this `I’ is not different at different levels. As the
Absolute it is the `I’ which in manifesting needs a form. The same Absolute
`I’ becomes the manifested `I’, and in the manifested `I’ it is the
consciousness, which is the source of everything. In the manifested state it
is the Absolute-with-consciousness.”16
It is striking that here, as in many other places, Maharaj keeps on using
the word `I’ as a word for the Ultimate. Apart from calling himself very
often “I, the Absolute”, he says for instance: “Nothing exists except me.
Only I exist”,17 and “When the state of beingness is totally swallowed,
whatever remains is that eternal `I’.”18
So `I’ appears to be the term for us on all three levels: the person thinks
and feels `I’, the touch of beingness is the experience of `I’ without
thinking (without `mine’), and the Ultimate is `I’, without experiencing it.
This means that the Real which we are is always so already, and now already.
Also in the midst of identification with a certain form there is the
invitation to recognize the most nearby, namely `I’, in its essential
Is `I’ a door? The Teacher answers: “There are no doors to Parabrahman, dear
(English translation from Dutch: Johan Veldman)
JELKE WISPELWAY (May 16, 2012 / forum “openawareness”/ thread of reply to BP’s “Confluence of Indus and Mississippi”) : Lots of words!! Are you trying to say that Shankara was a fake?? Just because he wrote something you do not like or don’t understand?
BHANU PADMO :
Unravelling Neo-Indianism : Case of BHAHMAN. We can*t come out of the infatuating grip of innumerable honey-sweet antithetic inconsistencies in guru-quotes as narrated/ acknowledged by Phillip Renard in his essay unless we pick up the individual notions (often expressed as Sanskrit terms) and unravel them ourselves with our own sovereign intelligence.
Take the case of BHAHMAN. This is the most fundamental elementary reality (most fundamental particle) of this real universe. Based upon this fundamentality, the universe rises as a hierarchy through expanding organization of constituencies into more and more complex conjugated constituents until all existences are absorbed into an all-inclusive universal hierarchy.
The *brick-house*-analogy of an entity would explain its hierarchical construction and its merger/ integration with the universal hierarchy. Also this analogy would help us look in the direction of BHAHMAN and to conceive its outline.
What is the cause of this house? It is made from brick. So, brick is the more elementary constituent occurring at a more fundamental level of construction (of house). Brick’s level of fundamentality with respect to house is the *next lower level* of universal hierarchy. The next higher level of fundamentality with respect to house is the township that may be deemed to constitute of many brick-houses. Pursuing the bottom-to-top constructional causality, we can safely say that brick is the *immediate cause* of house.
Assuming that a brick constitutes of sands and extending the above argument to the next lower level of fundamentality of the universal hierarchy, we come to a conclusion that sand is the second-step remote cause of house when brick is the immediate cause and that sand is the immediate cause of brick.
As our inspection transcends deeper and deeper levels (viz. molecular, atomic, sub-atomic levels etc) of fundamentality of the universal hierarchy, we head for the most fundamental level, the level of BHAHMAN, the level at which BHAHMAN would be the most fundamental (smallest of all) particle.
This discussion thus discovers a structural/ configurational identity creation in which hierarchical configuration (PRAKARANA) of BHAHMANs gives rise to various types (PRAKAARA) of entities that constitute the Universe (PRAKRITI). This is the earliest notion of evolution (ontological evolution) that the sages conceived.
As we check the lexical meanings of BHAHMAN, our observation about identity of BHAHMAN is vindicated. BHAHMAN = Ultimate Reality, the Ultimate that grows into many. Let*s now proceed to the possible deductions of this notion of BHAHMAN.
The common connotation of the prefixes viz. PARA, PARAM, PARAMA is *final* and thus the meaning of any of PARABRAHMAN, PARAMBRAHMAN, PARAMABRAHMAN is Great Brahman or the Whole Brahman Hierarchy or the Universe.
The two other phrases that multiply confusion when used indiscriminately to paraphrase BHAHMAN are *ultimate reality* and *absolute reality*. *Ultimate reality* may be interpreted as the most fundamental form of reality (BHAHMAN) or the highest/ greatest form of reality (PARABRAHMAN, the Universe). Its unqualified use is philosophically fatal, as cat is then mistaken for tiger and tiger for cat, thereby increasing fatal contingencies indefinitely. So is the case with the description *absolute reality*. It may be interpreted as stark reality and in this situation, both PARABRAHMAN and BHAHMAN would qualify for absoluteness.
Neo-Indianism (philosophy/ theology) is a non-intellectual or rather, anti-intellectual phenomenon in which fundamental definitions are skipped to abate reason and multiply confusion. A look out is always necessary against this phenomenon as it threatens to inundate the world especially when neo-Americanism is readily available as a void space.
Philip Renard should proceed to unravel neo-Indianism first before prescribing the same as a panacea.
discussion / sister site