Mystic Advaita and Non-Mystic Advaita
Some estimated Swamis gave high importance to the Yogic practices which culminates in Samadhi;
The Rishis of India that had the first revelations of the Vedas did acquire this Knowledge by Mystical Means:
The concept of the teacher or the Guru is presented in Dakshinamurthy.
Lord Shiva took this form in order to satisfy the thirst of knowledge of the Rishis who were created by Lord Brahma. […] Dakshinamurthy is the personification of spiritual wisdom and knowledge. His teaching is through the subtlest form of speech called para vak – sound which is beyond the physical hearing. Para vak can be felt in the vibrations of silence. The silence which envelopes the entire cosmos is called the para vak. This endless silence is beyond the human intelligence, logic, queries and meaningless questions. His teachings are beyond words and thoughts and the listeners sit in silence and let the wisdom light up their inner self.
From SpeakingTree.in (https://web.archive.org/web/20220718090112/https://www.speakingtree.in/blog/the-silent-guru)
Dakshinamurthy as the manifested form of Shiva was silent and yet transmitted knowledge (if this has to be taken literally), therefore Yogis did acquire Knowledge by other means.
The conscious Will of Knowledge
Here an important question arises: “Is it possible to acquire this Knowledge by the will?”
Jaideva Singh commentary on Shiva Sutras of Kashmir Shaivism says that once the time to awake is right there is nothing that can stop Shiva, on the other hand the seeker is nothing more than Shiva playing to be a seeker.
This is an open question which I did not find any answer but I will propose two different approaches;
“You are unconditioned, immutable, formless, unimpassioned, of unfathomable intelligence and unperturbed. Desire for Chit alone.” Ashtavakra Gita II, 17.
In this case “Desire for Chit alone” seems to imply that the Jiva has to desire Brahman to become That.
On the other hand we have all the sages, gurus, rishis, yogis and so on who never said “I discovered” but rather;
“It has been revealed”.
This seems to imply that the discovery is a conscious act while the reveletion happens only in certain conditions.
Can it be so?
Could it be that the Knowledge only arises when the Jiva is ready to recieve it?
In the same way, hearing only happens when there’s the mind behind the hears, when there is a sound, where the sound is not far away from me…
I cannot “will” to hear, it rather happens.
Therefore a mind has to be prepared to recieve Knowledge, in the case of the Self what are the requirements? sAdhana chatuShTaya;
viveka (discrimination of Real from unreal)
vairAgya (detachment or dispassion from sense objects)
shamAdi ShaTka sampatti (a collective group of six behavior traits)
mumukShutva (intense desire to achieve permanent bliss)
If all these conditions are met then the mind is eligible to receive Knowledge.
Where does the ignorance arise? It arises in the mind, with the wrong identification of the self; As Ramana Maharshi used to say:
“The wrong knowledge is the false identification of the Self with the body and the mind. This false identification must go, and then the Self alone remains.”
How do you remove ignorance? With knowledge.
Ignorance is birthless and can only be removed with knowledge; a very simple example can be found in ourselves already, take something you don’t know such as the Spanish language.
Since when you didn’t know about Spanish?
Since birth? Does that mean you knew Spanish before being born? No. Ignorance is birthless.
When does it stop? When you start taking Spanish lessons.
In the same way, since we are ignorant of our own true nature, the only way to remove it is to acquire the knowledge of it.
The problem that arises here is the Mystic vs Non-Mystic approach to Vedanta:
- Nirvikalpa Samadhi is needed to understand Knowledge.
- (Śravaṇa, Manana) Nididhyāsana is/are needed to understand Knowledge.
It has to be noted that samAdhI it is not a means of knowledge or pramaNa.
Therefore nothing new comes out of it.
First let’s analyse what is Nididhyāsana;
Nididhyasana is a stage in the journey towards awakening and realisation within Advaita Vedanta and Jnana Yoga. It is described as a rational, cognitive process that involves an effortless and spontaneous meditation on the mahavakyas, which are profound statements from the Upanishads, such as “That art Thou”. Nididhyasana is the final step on the path to correctly understanding the meaning of the Mahavakyas.
The word nididhyasana is derived from the Sanskrit root word dhyai, which can be translated as “to think,” or “to call to mind” or “to brood.”
From: Yogapedia (https://www.yogapedia.com/definition/8497/nididhyasana)
Nididhyasana is therefore a mental process which involves thinking upon what we heard before.
Nididhyasana acts in this regard the same as Samadhi not bringing any new Knowledge to the Jiva but rather sticking his mind to ideas.
However it happens that Vedanta is completely understood; the individual knows the ultimate reality but something is not “clicking”.
This is due to residual impressions on the mind or Vāsanās, these impressions conditioned the mind since birth, complete stop of these Vāsanās requires either a good mind or a very strong impression that somehow deletes the others.
It’s like hearing from a child that there’s a monster outside.
The parents listen to this “monster knowledge”, think on this “monster knowledge” and eventually don’t believe in it.
The child keeps insisting, telling that outside there’s a monster and starts bringing some logic:
“The monster is what took the family chickens the other night!”
The parents listen again and this time meditate on what the child said; is it possible that this monster took the chickens?
The child keeps going and the parents understood, everything makes now sense and there has to be a monster outside.
However, the parents are not kids anymore and know fully well that monsters do not exists.
Therefore the “monster knowledge” even though is perfectly known and understood is still unbelievable.
Why’s that? Because the mind has residual impresions (Vāsanās) that monsters are not real.
Now let’s take the same story but insert a new variable;
The child tells his parents about the monster and bring them outside in the night.
The parents witness the monster and start running away!
I believe this story makes sense in terms of Nirvikalpa vs Nididhyasana.
In neither of them there’s new knowledge, there’s only knowledge “validation”, either you reasonate on it and it makes sense and you are fully convinced or you take one step further and see this knowledge yourself.
Both approaches are good to realise That Brahman.
Essentially one has understood Vedanta but not able to abide in that understanding and has to resort to directly experiencing it (Nirvikalpa Samadhi), while the other gets fully convinced without any doubt (Nididhyasana).
Conviction is key here.
To support the view that conviction is the only element that is really necessary we can resort to the Ashtavakra Gita:
Burn down the forest of ignorance with the fire of the conviction, “I am the One and Pure Intelligence”, and be free from grief and be happy.”
Ashtavakra Gita (CH: I, Verse: 9)
Of course either path you chose has efforts to be made: Ashtavakra once again states:
Effort is made for concentration when there is distraction of mind owing to superimposition etc. Seeing this to be the rule, thus verily do I abide.
Ashtavakra Gita (CH: XII, Verse: 3)
On Support of Nididhyasana
Some texts support Nididhyasana as the best method to achieve that conviction we talked before; I am going to list some of them:
आत्मा ब्रह्मेति वाक्यार्थे निःशेषेण विचारिते
By a thorough analysis of “Atman is Brahman” the direct knowledge “I am Brahman” is achieved (Panchadasi VII.58)
This is very direct
आत्मा वा अरे द्रष्टव्यः श्रोतव्यो मन्तव्यो निदिध्यासितव्यो मैत्रेयि, आत्मनो व अरे दर्शनेन श्रवणेन मत्या विज्ञानेनेदं सर्वं विदितम् ||
“The Self, my dear Maitreyi, should be realized – should be heard of, reflected on and meditated upon; by the realization of the Self, my dear, through hearing, reflection and meditation, all this is known.”
(Brihadaranyaka Upanishad St.II.iv.5)
This explains us that Nididhyasana is a proper method to achive Self Realization.
Shankara gives us a proper understanding as well:
- Even after the Truth has been realised, there remains that strong, beginningless, obstinate impression that one is the agent and experiencer, which is the cause of one’s transmigration. It has to be carefully removed by living in a state of constant identification with the Supreme Self. Sages call that Liberation which is the attenuation of Vāsanās (impressions) here and now.
- As the mind becomes gradually established in the Inmost Self, it proportionately gives up the desires for external objects. And when all such desires have been eliminated, there takes place the unobstructed realisation of the Atman.
This kind of reasoning includes the hearing of the texts (Sravana), thinking about their meaning (Manana), and meditation on them (Nididhyasana). This leads to intuition. By intuition is meant that mental modification (Vritti) of the mind (Chitta) which destroys our ignorance about Brahman. When the ignorance is destroyed by this mental modification in the form of Brahman (Brahmakara Vritti), Brahman, which is self-luminous, reveals Itself.
Shankara, Brahma Sutras (Chapter I, Section I, Adhikarana II)
On Support of Nirvikalpa Samadhi
There seems like we have many and many resources, it seems rather easier to just “see” than “think” (I know these terms are not the best but bear with me…)
- To the Sannyasin who has gone through the act of hearing, the Shruti passage, “Calm, self-controlled.” Etc., prescribes Samadhi for realising the identity of the universe with the Self.
Shankara elaborates further:
- Even wise men cannot suddenly destroy egoism after it has once become strong, barring those who are perfectly calm through the Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Desires are verily the effect of innumerable births.
- When the Ātman, the One without a second, is realised by means of the Nirvikalpa Samadhi, then the heart’s knot of ignorance is totally destroyed.
- Such imaginations as “thou”, “I” or “this” take place through the defects of the Buddhi. But when the Paramātman, the Absolute, the One without a second, manifests Itself in Samadhi, all such imaginations are dissolved for the aspirant, through the realisation of the truth of Brahman.
- Through the diversity of the supervening conditions (Upadhis), a man is apt to think of himself as also full of diversity; but with the removal of these he is again his own Self, the immutable. Therefore the wise man should ever devote himself to the practice of Nirvikalpa Samadhi, for the dissolution of the Upadhis.
- (This Ātman is) beyond all expression by words beyond all acts of mind; (It is) all peace, eternal effulgence free from activity and fear and attainable by concentrated understanding (of the Jīva).
Gaudapa, Mandukya Karika, verse 3.37
When the five organs of perception become still, together with the mind, and the intellect ceases to be active: that is called the highest state.
Shankara on Gaudapa, Mandukya Karika, verse 3.37
When the five organs of perception become still, together with the mind, and the intellect ceases to be active: that is called the Supreme State [Brahma-Vidya or Self Knowledge] Katha Upanishad 2.3.10
We also got some help from Swami Gambhirananda, president of Ramakrishna Mission.
We have thus distinguished upasana from karma and bhakti on the one hand and Jnana and Nididhyāsana on the other. The results of upasana, like those of rites and duties, are also said to be of two kinds –the perceptible and the unseen. Certain upasanas lead indirectly to Liberation by helping the meditator pass through the intermediates stages. The common result of all the upasanas is concentration of the mind, which culminates in samadhi.
Brahman is realised in the state of samadhi.
Upasana takes hold of man as a whole. It deepens his emotion, strengthens his will, and expands his intellect. But the maximum that can be gained through such expanding Upasana is identification with Hiranyagarbha or cosmic Intelligence-Will-Power thought of as a Person.
Swami Gambhirananda, Chandogya Upanishad page XXII (https://archive.theaum.org/books/advaita/chandogya-upanishad-swami-gambhirananda-rk.pdf)
The granthi (or knot) of the heart, full of ajñāna, is broken completely only when one sees his Ātmā as secondless through nirvikalpa samādhi.
Being the foremost expert on yoga and the author of the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali had to have gone through nirvikalpa samadhi where he must have experienced the end of subject/object duality.
Even after that, he remained on the dualistic Sankhya/Yoga path and did not switch to Advaita.
Nirvikalpa samadhi experience is insufficient for obtaining Advaita jnanam if even the greatest yogi, Patanjali, did not become an Advaitin after experiencing it.
There is only one alternative possibility; that it is a condition that is required but not sufficient, although that seems a little unlikely.
Nirvikalpa Samadhi is therefore not essential for Advaita Jnanam.
Keyword here is essential, it may actually help a lot though. (Thanks to chakrax!)
The final steps
Yoga sutras of Patañjali explain Samadhi beautifully in sutras 50 and 51;
तज्जस्संस्कारोऽन्यसंस्कार प्रतिबन्धी ॥५०॥
tajjas-saṃskāro-’nya-saṃskāra pratibandhī ||50||
The impression which is made upon the mind by that samadhi wipes out all other past impressions.
And now he goes on to tell us how to take the ultimate step into complete union with Brahman:
तस्यापि निरोधे सर्वनिरोधान्निर्बीजः समाधिः ॥५१॥
tasyāpi nirodhe sarva-nirodhān-nirbījaḥ samādhiḥ ||51||
When the impression made by that samādhi -is also wiped out, so that there are no more thought-waves at all in the mind, then one enters the samadhi which is called “seedless.”
As Sri K Giridhara Sarma states in his talk “Advaita and Sri Vidya: two intertwined paths to the Ultimate”, that contrary to popular perception, Advaitins are not limited those who have achieved the non dual experience. Any individual who has the conviction in the non dual experience is deemed an Advaitin. (Thanks to Kzhkd235)
“The impression which is made upon the mind by that samadhi wipes out all other past impressions.”
This is exactly the scope of Samadhi, having a strong impression on the mind that will delete all the other Vasanas.
It is therefore quite hard to apply Nididhyasana alone, that seems to be reserved to the good mind which is capable of destroying Vasanas only by logic and reasoning.
It is perfectly fine to do so and many sages have been doing it.
Other such as Ramana Maharshi gave very strong hints that Samadhi is definetely required in his talk 226:
A visitor from Tirukoilur asked if the study of the sacred books will reveal the truth. Sri Ramana Maharshi.: That will not suffice. Devotee.: Why not? Maharshi.: Samadhi alone can reveal it. Thoughts cast a veil over Reality and so it cannot be clear in states other than Samadhi. Devotee.: Is there thought in Samadhi? Or is there not? Maharshi.: There will only be the feeling ‘I am’ and no other thoughts. Devotee.: Is not ‘I am’ a thought? Maharshi.: The egoless ‘I am’ is not thought. It is realisation. The meaning or significance of ‘I’ is God. The experience of ‘I am’ is to Be Still.
And Swami Vidayarana as well:
“Whence could there be rest of mind till there is no gnosis; and gnosis too is impossible as long as the mind is not entirely at rest”
Jivanmukti Viveka - Swami Vidaya (https://lakshminarayanlenasia.com/articles/Jivanmukti-Viveka-Swami-Vidayarana.pdf)
Concluding, we have to keep in mind that Avidya arises only in the mind, there is nowhere else that ignorance arises.
So, the realization must also happen in the mind, there is no way around that.
Many sages with different opinions will state that either Moksha is gained is by the means of intellectual knowledge or by the means of Mystic knowledge by Nirvikikalpa, howerver that is I believe the end goal is the firm conviction that must arise in the mind which ends up in Brahmavṛtti (Brahma vritti).
This is said to be abiding in the absolute.