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Vipassana and Vedanta Meditation
Meditator: Dear Ramji and Sundari, while meditating the other morning, a strong feeling arose that I should contribute my knowledge and experience of nididhyasana to students of Vedanta. If I may say so, I am pretty good with the technique, having done many silent Vipassana retreats, including a 30-day one. My experience is that Vipassana and Vedanta are like a two step progression. Vipassana focusses, Vedanta liberates.
I assumed everyone studying Vedanta would automatically do meditation. Not so!! If you want me to share with students and do some extra training with a few whom you choose, who have the knowledge, they can then help you by leading a meditation, if and when you think appropriate, during your teaching circuit.
Ramji/Sundari: It is not the dharma of a guru to “select disciples who have the knowledge” and tell them what to do. A guru’s job is to remove ignorance, not to instruct jivas as to their actions. If someone receives knowledge, it will be very clear what is to be done. If somebody comes to us and asks for a sadhana, then we will try to help them find the best sadhana for them. If someone needs meditation, we instruct them in Vedantic meditation. I know you are familiar with it. Vedanta meditation is not Vipassana; it is contemplation of the teachings. None of the swamis in the Vedanta tradition teach Vipassana, owing to its defects, the defects being that there is a meditator, a doer trying to improve himself/herself through meditation, seeking an experience of the Self.
Meditation is not a valid means of knowledge. Meditation is a tool to aid self-inquiry, but it does not equal self-inquiry. I know you know this. Meditation is no different from any other activity done to achieve a specific result – unless it is practised with karma yoga.
The knowledge that the meditation points to is that you are the knower of the one who meditates, the one who thinks it is the doer/meditator. Meditation is just another object appearing in you, allowing the reflection of the Self to appear in a still mind. However, seeing as no experience can take place without you, awareness, and because as awareness you are actionless, no special experience is required to experience the Self. You are always experiencing the Self, whether you are meditating or not. You just don’t know this. And no action the doer takes can produce Self-knowledge.
Self-inquiry is the application of knowledge. Self-Inquiry states that awareness is our true nature and all objects arise from, appear in and are dependent on you, awareness, including meditation. Keeping this knowledge in mind and continually contemplating it is self-inquiry, which is different from meditation because the knowledge is maintained by an act of will, whereas in meditation the knowledge appears during a particular experience and usually disappears when the experience ends.
Self-inquiry is superior to meditation because the doer does not need to maintain a particular state and wait for the knowledge. He or she has the knowledge already and applies it continually. Meditators do not know the value of knowledge, whereas inquirers do. That is why the meditators are meditating. Knowledge may arise in meditation or it may not. If it does, we say meditation is a “leading error.” But even if meditation does lead to knowledge of the “unbroken I-thought” (akandakara vritti), the knowledge does not always stick, as I point out above.
The scriptures say that a Self-realized person does not initiate new projects, that he takes what comes and doesn’t try to enlighten the minds of the ignorant. So I’m curious why you want to teach Vedanta students Vipassana insofar as no Vedanta students are asking you. And I am curious why you would think that a traditional Vedanta teacher like me would teach my students Vipassana when I believe that the traditional Vedantic meditation is suitable and superior.
~ Love, Ram and Sundari