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What Is Vedanta?
Question: You say Vedanta is a methodolgy, a logical teaching in steps. Could you please elaborate about these steps. What are they, etc?
Answer: Just as the eyes are a means of knowledge for forms and colors, and the ears are a means of knowledge for sounds, Vedanta is a proven impersonal means of knowledge for existence/consciousness, the Self. Because the Self, the essence of everyone and everything, cannot be objectified, like the objects that present themselves to the senses mind, and intellect, it cannot be known by perception and inference. It can be directly known, however, by Vedanta. Vedanta does not give experience of the Self, because it is always experienced. It only removes an individual’s ignorance of the Self, revealing the fact that there is only one self, the nature of which is limitless non-dual bliss.
Question: You said: “Vedanta is retraining your mind. I teach you by showing how you think.” Could you explain what is a thought and what is thinking, according to you?
Answer: There are many kinds of thoughts but Vedanta focuses on transforming the thought “I am separate from the material objects and the conscious beings that I experience.” The thought that I am separate from everything and therefore am caught in a web of subtle and gross actions, i.e. thoughts, emotions and situations, is called duality. Duality is the thought behind all other thoughts and feelings. Because reality is non-dual existence/consciousness, our thinking is not in harmony with it, which creates suffering. So, using a number of simple but sophisticated methods of reasoning, Vedanta teaches us how to think from the Self’s non-dual point of view, thus removing our sense of separation, alienation and conflict from our ego selves and others.
Question: What is the mind? Can we train the mind or is it an unconscious tool that cannot be changed?
Answer: The mind is both conscious and unconscious. It is the stream of thoughts, feeling, desires, fears, dreams, situations that we experience in the waking and dream states. It is our tool for gaining knowledge and experience of objects, i.e. anything other than our true Self, existence/consciousness. Our subjective experience is created by the tendencies stored in the unconscious portion of the mind, which is created by our conditioning. Our conditioning causes our desires and fears, which generate our thoughts, which cause us to act. Our actions leave unconscious traces, tendencies, that are stored in the unconscious portion of the mind and which manifest as our subjective experiences. The conscious mind can be transformed by utilizing one’s free will to change the way one thinks and acts, thus programming the unconscious portion of the mind. The basic methods for transforming the mind are: karma (action) yoga, bhakti (devotional) yoga, ashtanga yoga (meditation and right living) and jnana yoga (Vedanta, or Self-inquiry).
Question: Do you consider yourself a teacher or a living master?
Answer: I am a teacher of Vedanta who has mastered the mind. In Vedanta we do not use the word “master’ in its conventional sense, which is to say someone who controls others, i.e. followers. Our method of teaching is friendship. We consider people who are practicing
Self-inquiry to be equals, as friends do. This is because we see reality as non-dual, meaning that there is no difference between one person and other. The master idea, which is based on duality, creates a slave-like mentality, a fearful, desire-ridden tension in sheep-like people that is not conducive to the rational clear thinking that is necessary for Self-realization. It is responsible for the parade of disgraced “masters” that is a permanent feature of the spiritual world, men and women who have not mastered their lust for money, sex and power.
Question: How do you deliver the message of liberation? According to what you said, it is not just cognition.
Answer: To qualified people, I teach the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the prakarana texts, which are the commentaries of great sages on the topic of the nature of reality. These texts are an analysis of three aspects of the one non-dual reality: the material world, the psychological world and existence/consciousness.
Question: What is the meaning of belief?
Answer: Belief is unverified knowledge. It may correspond with fact or not. For instance, God is generally an object of belief. But the teachings of Vedanta give clear knowledge of God.
Question: You referred to “transformation.” What is it, according to you, and how is it to be recognized?
Answer: Vedanta transforms a dualistic, limited, inadequate, unconscious, small, self-centered life into a conscious, spacious, accommodating, loving live. This is why we don’t advertise. The transformation that an individual experiences when he or she commits to Self-inquiry has a very positive impact, which attracts others to the teachings. The teachings of Vedanta have remained the same for thousands of years because they transform lives. It is not a philosophy or a belief system, which are contentions of individuals or groups of individuals. It is proven means for direct knowledge of the non-dual nature of the Self, which is tantamount to unconditional love of one’s self and the world.
Question: In the Munduka Upanishad (Swami Nikhilananda) it is said: “Vedas are not messages, but direct knowledge.” How do we know it is direct knowledge?
Answer: How do you know that you exist? How do you know that you are conscious? It is your direct experience. No one ever told you these two essential facts, because it is self-evident. If reality is non-dual, as Vedanta contends, there is no difference between experience and knowledge. However, while everyone experiences their own existence/consciousness always, the Self is not appreciated for what it is, because one’s attention is riveted on the experiences that are unfolding in it. For instance, you never see the camera in the picture it produces, but you actually know that the presence of a picture implies the existence of a camera. Vedanta just makes you aware of the Self, the creator of the experiences that unfold in your life. It gives you knowledge of the Self. While inference is an indirect means of knowledge, it as good as direct knowledge because there is an inviolable connection between the consciousness that witnesses experience and experience itself. Where there is smoke there is fire. You do not experience and know without the blessing of consciousness. You are That.
Question: In one of your books you mention that “…the Vedas cannot be contradicted, because they are ‘apaurasheya jnanam’ (revealed knowledge). That comes from awareness, not from the human mind.” Could you explain in more detail?
Answer: Knowledge is either relative or absolute. Relative knowledge, knowledge of material and subtle objects, is subject to correction because the means of knowledge, the human mind, is limited. The more it knows the more ignorance is revealed to it. Furthermore, the objects of knowledge are in a state of constant flux, so they cannot be definitively known.
There are certain eternal principles that never change, however. The knowledge of these principles – gravity, light, heat, etc. – are “revealed” to the human mind and is absolute, meaning that it is always good. If the nature of electricity was variable, we could not rely on it and our modern world would grind to a halt because we completely depend on it. The Self – existence/consciousness – is unchanging, so the knowledge of the Self never changes. The mind, which is taken to be the Self by human beings, however, is always changing. This is why there are many theories, i.e. beliefs, about the nature of the mind. Vedanta removes the ignorance covering the ever-present unborn Self, which is available to everyone in the form of the “I.”
Question: In Agama Prakarana it is said: “The waker is be located in the right eye, its seat of experience. The dreamer is in the mind. The deep-sleeper sits in the space inside the heart.”
Could you please explain a little further?
Answer: The language is metaphorical. It does not mean that the waking-state entity is situated in the physical eye, etc.
The waking-state entity is consciousness under the spell of ignorance, fascinated with the objects of the senses, of which the eyes are the most prominent. The Mandukya Upanishad says that it “consumes” experience, meaning it is experience-hungry. It is an experience-hungry extrovert.
The mind is a dreamer. It is consciousness under the spell of ignorance fascinated with thoughts and emotions, which are abstractions of experience, subconscious tendencies produced by one’s conditioning. It is the subjective reality. The dreamer is an introvert, identified with thoughts and feelings, fantasies, etc.
The “space in the heart” is consciousness appearing in the form of the causal body (karana sarira in Sanskrit). “Heart” is a symbol of the essence of something, as in the saying “get to the heart of the matter.” It is the dynamic source of the mind and the material world, which make up our intelligently designed Creation. To use religious terminology, it is called God. My commentaries on Mandukya and Gaudapada’s Karika explain the three states and the three experiencing entities in detail.