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Two Spiritual Languages
Deva: Dear Ram, thank you for taking your time for answering my question. Your answer as well as the treatise on Ramana’s teaching and the article What Is Vedanta? are incredibly refreshing and of course deeply informative. I haven’t read anything as clear as your teachings on the subject, in particular the absolutely necessary discernment between the language of experience and the language of identity. I have read some of Swami Dayananda’s works, including Introduction to Vedanta. However, according to my understanding, he wasn’t able to pinpoint the MAIN DIFFICULTY for a student of Vedanta: the clear discernment between the two languages.
Ram: It is gratifying to me that somebody understands the importance of the role of language in the quest for enlightenment. Although Swami Dayananda and the many great mahatmas in his lineage understand this point, as far as I know he has not spoken of it in quite the way I have. He’s dead-center in a great tradition of jnanis stretching back to Shankara and beyond and as such would see Yoga as an important but secondary issue. Yoga, in our tradition, is encouraged as a means of anta karana suddhi (purification of the mind) only and not as a means of self-knowledge, so there is no reason to consider its language. You do the practices and you get certain results. It is experience-driven.
I’ve known him for thirty-three years and he has been using the language of identity exclusively because our tradition views Vedanta as a pramana, a means of knowledge, not a means of experience. The thousands of students that come to him are taught the self in the language of identity from the beginning and never have the problem of seeing the self in experiential terms and becoming confused by the language of experience. Consequently there are many enlightened mahatmas in his lineage. Ninety-nine percent of seekers come to the quest for enlightenment through Yoga, and while it is useful up to a certain point as a preparation, samadhi cannot give you what you already have. You are the self and the self is sama-dhi, the vision of non-difference.
The purpose of chasing experience is to give you something you don’t have. But you cannot attain the self, because you already are it. Only a means of knowledge that indicates the identity of the seeker and what is being sought will work. In the Yoga tradition enlightenment is conceived of as an attainment. To attain something there has to be an attainer. So Yoga is for doers. It takes a non-existent entity, an ego/individual, and it promises that individual something it thinks it doesn’t have. So one is always striving to gain a certain “state.” Even though there are samadhi states, the attainment of them does not end one’s search. The search continues in the form of a need to make the state “permanent.”
I make the distinction between these two languages because I live in the world and most people I meet have Yoga-based notions that are preventing them from enlightenment so the need for the language of identity is apparent. But Dayananda is a sanyassi who wields the Vedanta pramana exclusively. The people who come to him in general do not come from the Yoga tradition – they come from the Vedantic tradition either in this or in previous lives, and if they do come from Yoga they are ready to surrender the way they see things to gain the knowledge – or they leave immediately and dismiss Vedanta as merely “intellectual.” This is why there are not many Westerners appreciate Dayananda.
Deva: I thank you from my heart. I must say that I agree wholeheartedly with you in this regard. I have battled for years with Papaji, Ramesh Balsekar, Lakshmana Swami, Annamalai Swami and even Gangolli. I just couldn’t pinpoint where I was stuck (and they are/were too). Today I feel a veil has lifted and now I am truly ready to die (let us see how that is when it really happens…). You and your teachings are a gift beyond words. They are God-sent. I want to thank you.
Ram: Well, it is to your credit that you have an open mind after all the seeking you have done. Most people who have been in the spiritual world a long time are very attached to their beliefs and opinions and are not willing to actually consider ideas that force them to re-examine their beliefs. So my hat is off to you.
~ Love, Ram