Friday, November 18, 2016

Physics of Reality - 9: Complexity, Action, Time and Causation



  1. Why Doesn’t Time Flow Backwards?
  2. Do Cause and Effect Really Exist?
  3. Where Does Complexity Come From?
  4. What (or How Entropy) Powers the Earth?
  5. What Is the Purpose of Life?
The above are some of the questions that all curious and observant persons ask at one time or another. Those very questions are at the base of all human investigation – be it a scientific quest or a philosophical contemplation. 
Many such Questions were raised and answered by the ancient Indian Sages and Seers. What they narrate begins with ‘brahman.’ By definition brahman is a pointer to that primordial unknown and unknowable “Is-ness” which has the potential for anything and everything, but by Itself is simple, formless, featureless, homogeneous, non-acting and beyond space and time. Scriptures describe brahman to be the cause (kAraNa) and  the jagat(the world) as the effect (kArya). However, the shruti is vague on the transformation from One to many.
The principal difference amongst the various philosophical theories and propositions rests on this point of explaining the relation between brahmanand jagat. Advaita holds that the shruti is vague about brahman to jagattransformation because the very appearance of jagat is an illusory (bhrama) superimposition (adhyAropita) on the changeless brahman. It also says that a cause-effect relationship does not really exist because ‘time,’ without which causation cannot arise, itself is non-existent.
It is interesting to note that leading theoretical physicists also arrive at a similar argument like Advaita with reference to the unreality of the ‘arrow of time’ or the non-existence of cause-effect operation.  Causation is said to be no more than a name we give to a pattern we ‘think’ we observe in nature.
Here is a link to five short (3 min odd) Videos of Sean Carroll,  a well-known physicist from Caltech answering the five questions given at the beginning of this Post.  He explains in the Videos in simple terms the laws of Physics behind the emergence of complexity from simplicity; how there is no possibility of action in a simple system which is at its equilibrium; how we get a sense of the ‘arrow of time’ and other related phenomena.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Notice What You are Noticing by Sky Nelson

Notice What You are Noticing 
by Sky Nelson

[Please see here for an Intro about Sky Nelson - ramesam.]



“You” evolve out of the experiences you have

“Attention”, or “Noticing”, is something that seems to come from inside of us. When we “pay attention”, we “send” our focus to our environment. Just as when we pay money we get a product, when we pay attention we get information. Without paying attention, we can’t receive information.

 To see what I mean, try this. Sit quietly with your eyes open. Soften your gaze. Let your mind wander to your plans for tomorrow. Although your eyes are receiving light from the objects around you, you aren’t paying attention to them. Since you are not taking in that information, you may not even be aware of some of the things right next to you.

Now, keeping your eyes unfocused, notice something in your peripheral vision. You are taking in information about what you see. After having paid attention, you can describe what is around you. Before that, even though the same light was entering your eyes, you were not aware of your surroundings. Without paying attention, you cannot gain information.

Quantifying Attention

Let’s say the amount of attention you pay is equal to the amount of information you learn or gain. This is handy because information is easy to describe in physics.

If you gain information, “entropy” goes down. Although the entropy (or “disorder”) of the whole universe always goes up, this is not true for each individual thing. For instance, when you eat, even though a lot of food is destroyed, your body becomes more ordered as you grow. The world as a whole becomes more disorganized overall, but a tiny little slice of it called you becomes more organized. The world is full of pools of relative order and disorder, shifting and moving like the surface of the ocean, and attention is part of what drives that “shifting”.

Try looking at a bookshelf with focused attention. As you observe it, you learn definite facts about the bookshelf (e.g. all the books are fantasy novels), and remove other possibilities that can no longer be true (e.g. there are no books about physics). By paying attention, you have clarified the actual titles and removed other possible titles. You have created a small amount of order by applying your attention. Attention is paid, information is gained, and disorder goes down.

This may seem abstract, but it can be very practical.

Information Changes You

Awareness is necessary to gain information. But how does the information affect you? Information has to have an impact on you, or it is not information! According to a leading theory by Giulio Tononi, “effective information” is the relative increase in information that comes from your measurement. A key feature of a conscious being is the effective information that is generated with each interaction. When you receive information, you change in a measurable way. You literally become a different person with each bit of information you take in because you integrate it into who you are.

Tononi says “Information that is not integrated is not associated with experience, and thus does not really exist as such.” Information only has existence in relation to a “conscious observer who exploits it to achieve certain (goals).” Without you, the world around you does not evolve. Without the world, you do not evolve.
Integration can be thought of as the blending and balancing of new information with the information that, until this moment, you called “you”. As you integrate new information, you assume a new concept of yourself.

The process of “I”-dentification

Who is that mysterious yet familiar person called “I”? You know it intuitively from your direct experience. It is you, your ability to observe, choose, and experience the world.

We might say that “you” are the information that you “I”-dentify with.
Take the recent campfire I had with my daughter. It was a cold night, with a warm fire, and the sticky-sweet taste of burnt marshmallows. All of this information was taken in by her senses.

Let’s say she didn’t like the cold air of the night. She may have subconsciously thought “I am someone who doesn’t like being outdoors at night.”
But when she took in the warm fire and friendly people she may have thought, “I am someone who likes being around a warm campfire with my friends and family.” Then she tasted the sticky marshmallow, and identified with that experience by thinking “I love roasting marshmallows!” Her identity was changed by her experiences.

“I”-dentification with experience is what creates the “I”.
You are what your mind eats. In other words, every piece of information you receive changes your sense of who you are. Where you put your attention determines who you become. Since attention can be quantified, we might say that the more you pay attention the faster you evolve.

Use Your Attention Effectively

To notice the quantity and quality of your own attention, try these steps:
     
     1)   Sit quietly. Allow the first thoughts to come and go. Begin to notice the things around you.
     2)   Notice your attention. Pick something to notice. What is it like to “see” that thing? What is it like to gain information about that thing? Can you imagine looking at it and not learning something about it? Is it possible to turn off your attention?
     3)  Think about how you are changed by the things you pay attention to. Notice small changes. If you read the title of a book off a shelf, it may remind you of a book you read in high school. It has an effect on your thinking and maybe your emotions. It may inspire you to read the book, or remind you that you are in the middle of a book you are enjoying. The information you gain can actually cause you to take some kind of action, so it has changed you.
     4)  Now, pay attention to your attention. Instead of sending your attention outward, send your attention back to itself. Notice yourself noticing. This is very powerful. You may notice your body relax, and your spine spontaneously straighten on its own. By training the power of your attention back on itself, you gain information about your awareness itself. This induces a natural settling and sense of well-being.

     As you go through your day today, notice where your attention goes, and how you change as a result of the information you gather. How have you identified with your experiences? Since your attention is busy every waking moment of the day, make conscious decisions about what experiences you turn your attention to. Those experiences influence who you become.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Up The Creek With No Canoe By Elena Romanoff


[Elena is an accomplished concert pianist by education and training. Her life took a new turn when she listened to UG's dialogs.  After 30+ years of being a pianist she no longer practices or plays piano and hardly even listens to the classical music which was her field of expertise. I am grateful to Elena who has been kind to share at our Blog a few tidbits of her experiences - ramesam.] 


 I never looked for any moksha, liberation and yet what Ramesam describes….., it hits home every time. I first come across something extraordinary for me and then some time later an explanation comes from unexpected sources. 

Not only I have not realized at that time that I am "realized," I didn't even stop to notice all the bewildering phenomena that started leaking into my daily life seemingly out of nowhere, creating symmetrical events that were intertwined also with dreams. And also having recognition of this same thing permeating my earlier life, but without recognition. Now I see it. Knowing that I was not likely to find a satisfactory explanation for those, I never asked or mentioned it. 

I now witness the world as if my mind itself is symmetrically  shaped.  Earlier, there was a me, a dog, a cat, a president out there - all standing on their own. Now the feeling is we are all drawn in one stroke by some giant pencil that never ever was taken off paper at all. And I see symmetrical events appearing almost daily. People, fabrics, buildings, cars, jobs, actions of myself or others, photographs, plants, all intertwined, often in the funniest of ways, logic-forgotten and irrelevant. It is totally bewildering.

My life began immersed in music and piano. I was called a "prodigy," a "talent," was accepted into one of Russia's most prestigious and rigorous music schools of the time. Later I delved into philosophy as well. 

I did a lot of reading all by myself. I liked solitude, reading, playing piano. I did have friends and was highly secular and social, partly due to constantly performing.  From Kant and Schopenhauer to Goethe, Metherlink to Thomas Mann, to even Marx and Lenin - my reading was paramount. I was not satisfied. I never thought of looking into bible.  There was no bible in Russia. Later, when I could look into it, I experienced complete aversion, closed it and never went back to it. 

At some point in the 90's, I read Bhagavad-Gita and Mahabharata, because someone put these two books in my hand. I think I got rather deeply impressed; I even went to a couple of Hare Krishna's meetings, appreciated what was said there, declared to my parents that Krishna alone was God. That unsettled them terribly. God was never talked about in my family, not at all. But nothing happened, life went on, nothing developed into anything.
I immigrated to US in 1993 after the collapse of the USSR.

*** 

 I had my share of difficulties before establishing my piano studio, launching on a lucrative teaching career, performing, working in UW School of Music, recording, playing with orchestras etc. I was a busy piano teacher with a lot of students, bringing up my son from first marriage, divorce from the second husband etc. During that time, I came across UG Krishnamurti's video. I picked it up in a library thinking that it was another Jiddu Krishnamurti talk. 

Making long story short, 11 years of listening to UG's every word followed, internalizing it and holding up to it all the daily events like a cashier might hold to light a $100 bill to check if it is real. Three years on into this practice, though no one told me what I should do, I stopped teaching. I stopped most of piano activities. I let go of that piano-self, the only self I've known. Not that I would recommend this sort of thing to others. In my case after hearing to UG, piano just could not stay.

A barrage of odd jobs followed.

 One week I was without any cash after having paid rent and bills. The next paycheck was several days away. With 50c in my pocket, I went to the store to get a banana. Upon exiting the store I saw a sealed cold gallon of milk, standing right by the door on the street side. I waited. No-one came. I took the milk. Now looking back I call it Brahman's Milk! This - after being able to afford two cars, a luxury apartment in Kirkland, pleasure trips etc. I was a self-made pauper, and was aware of it. But I never once thought of going back to piano or teaching. Since that time objects started to appear in a strange way, or come into view at just the moment of corresponding thought appearing - as if there is a person there responding to me.

At 49, I had my own ‘calamity’ in the form of advanced cancer. But because I was already out of dualistic thinking patterns, I treated it as unreal. I didn't even realize I was that ill. It then felt like I was just a salt doll falling down the ocean. There was no more thinking - and yet I was still there. I thanked the cancer for showing me the depth of that ocean...It was right after that I started getting rapidly much better to everyone's shock and surprise.

About a week before I saw Ramesam’s Video “You are Brahman," I was in a strange state.

I kept asking myself: if I am here and I go over there, did I go over there? No, because when I am over there, in that "over there," I will still be “here.”  So I cannot really stay ‘here,’ go over ‘there’ and from ‘here’ say to myself - I am over ‘there.’  I can never be "over there" and look at myself from ‘here.’ So I am only and always “here.” Then how come I can also go over there at the same time? That is like I am already there, waiting for me to go there, and meeting myself that is coming there. That means that “I” am some sort of a ‘space’ that is here, there and everywhere. And these hundreds of spatial and time coincidences I have been witnessing for some time in bewilderment  fell somewhat into this "I am a space" formula. I am a place I said to myself, and was done. 

One day coming home I was stopped in my tracks with the "You are Brahman" video. As I was watching it, Ramesam was describing exactly the processes that were happening and I have been trying to get my mind around for several years. "That's IT" I said to myself. 

For you to realize how deeply unfamiliar I am with Brahman discussions outwardly - I only heard the name Brahman from Ramesam's video. I never ever heard what satsang meant until now. I only listened to UG and was deaf to everyone else until Ramesam came into view.

Tears came down spontaneously. It was like there was UG Krishnamurti in the beginning of being instructed from within, putting UG there, next to one's heart, and closing all other venues of influence. And now this video saying “You are Brahman” after an incubation of about 11 years. I didn't know of Brahman, because I never heard UG using this word in his interviews. I did never aim at being “brahman.” That’s why I say my story is certainly up the Creek with no canoe.  

*** 
I am of the view that there is no thought and no mind separate from the body. It is one whole process. And the body consists of just diamond-like eternal structure, completely symmetrical, completely objective. That's THE BODY. This structure has a way to squeeze impurities out of itself – a mechanism of nature. I don't know more. But the direct experience of the diamond structure is very clear, in hundreds of incidences, I lost count. It is funny that UG never talked about such things, and they appeared in my life without warning.

For example, the other day "I" thought of going out and getting a white paper for the printer. "I" is going to a Safeway store. On the way suddenly it sees a posh car.  The car is making lots of noise, and as "I" is looking on, the car makes an unauthorized U-turn, goes into a parking lot in front of 7/11 store that "I" is passing by at that moment. The car begins to park facing the "I" whereas all other cars are parked the opposite way.

"I" proceeds to its Safeway destination. On its way "I" thinks, "I should also get a candle wick, and Safeway won't have it, but the Rite Aid might". "I" heads in another direction, enters Rite Aid store, searches for candle wick, does not find it, takes some white printing paper and the cashier at the register says the total to be paid is $7.11. 

I that wanted something, went somewhere, changed its mind – it was like surfing through symmetrical structure of some sort . At no point in this occurrence a preplanned ‘thinking’ can be pinned on me. Was 7/11 and $7.11 just waiting out there on the street for me to come and check it out? "I" doesn't even come into it.

A more recent example is what happened when I went for a walk after attending to some e-mail correspondence with Ramesam. I found a white paper lying on the sidewalk with the word "Free". I liked the word. I picked it up, put it in my purse. After some time I am returning home, and a bus, an empty bus, suddenly stops as I happen to pass by the bus shelter. A friendly driver offers a ride, says “I am going this way anyway, and it is the end of my shift. The ride is Free.” 

I think at that moment:  "This is a new one. After a lifetime of waiting for the bus, running after the bus, collecting the right fare for the bus, being in over-crowded buses, especially in my years in Russia, as there were not too many cars back then, suddenly here is the bus, just for me, and I didn't have to wait for it, I didn't do anything. And it is Free!  It was then I remember the paper with the word "Free" in my purse.   

***

I decided to make a mala the other day,  gave it to my son. In the next few days his girlfriend is finding a new job position, her new boss's name is Mala. It goes on and on here. Drawn with one pencil-all the way through. All-pervasive.


Friday, August 19, 2016

'manana' on brahman and ahamkAra

'manana' on brahman and ahamkAra

Question: When I say that I exist and I am that existence and the knowing principle which is the same as Brahman, am I referring to my 'ahamkAra' or to the ultimate Witness Consciousness ? Can I experience this Awareness? 

Kindly assist by sharing your thoughts.

(From the Discussions of a Group on What'sup)

***


 That is a great way of "manana" that our scriptures recommend to all sAdhak-s who have already heard the Non-dual message. One way of 'manana' is to reflect and analyse the message internally in one's own mind. Another way is to discuss with like-minded people and this is recognized to be far better - a true satsanga.

Forget for a moment what the content of the question or the answers is. Let us find the "source" from where they (both the question and the answers) are arising.

Can they come up from the body which is apparently mouthing them?
After all the body consists of 'matter' which is inert. An inert thing is not sensitive and intelligent to be able to raise questions or give answers.
The body is  like the instrument Telephone. If you hear sounds (words) do you ever think that it is the phone speaking and giving raise to the words?  So the source cannot be the body.

Can the source be the mind?
Just like the body is made up of inert matter, the mind is nothing but thoughts. A thought does not perceive - a thought is perceived, much like you perceive any other object out there.

Can any object "shine" by itself, as though, announcing its own presence and asking you to notice it?

How do you see an object? You see it only when there is an illuminating medium - light for seeing. For other senses you need an appropriate illuminating medium like pressure (for touch) or sound (for hearing), some organic chemical compounds for smell and taste etc.

What is it then which illuminates the thoughts? It cannot be the mind because mind is nothing but a bunch of discrete thoughts. Clearly mind or thoughts are insentient like matter.

Hence, there has to be some other "Thing" illuminating the mind or thoughts.

Whether a thought is in the form of a Question or an answer, basically they are all varieties of "thought." An interrogative thought is labeled as a Question and an informative thought is called an answer. Except the difference in the name, there is no difference in the substance between them. It is like seeing two objects - a dead rat or a flower. Whether it is rat or flower, you are actually 'seeing' the light photons only. A rat or a flower are never known to you. What is known is  only the reflected light. Does the reflected light by itself, by its own nature,  differ depending on where  it is coming? Clearly no.

Therefore, what is "actually illuminating" both the  question and answer has to be one and the same.

That "illuminating thing" cannot have another illuminating thing behind it -  It will then become an object only leading us to an infinite regress. So let us take that  very last "illuminating thing." That thing has to be "Self-illuminating."

Can any inert 'object' which is matter "see" the illuminating light in which it is appearing? Again clearly No.

The bodies and minds (of the people ....) are "objects" which are perceived. So the bodies and even the mind cannot "know" that "Illuminating Thing," whatever that is.

The "illuminating thing" is the only One thing in town which has the capacity to "know." So it knows Itself by 'being' Itself.

All objects 'seen' in day light are actually the reflected 'sunlight' seen, all words 'heard' are actually 'sound vibrations' and so on.  Similarly, all questions and answers are that "illuminating thing" appearing in that form at that moment - much like the light appearing as a rat or a flower modulated by those objects. Your throat and mouth modulate the exhaled air into different sounds (which are cognized as words having a specific meaning).

Hence it is the "Illuminating Thing"  appearing in the form of thoughts when It gets "expressed" as statements - I exist, I ask, I answer.

Our interest is to know the "Illuminating Thing," the real "source," and not be carried away by the form in which it is 'perceived.'

Now you apply the above model to your questions/answers and see what happens.



Friday, July 22, 2016

ABC of Advaita

ABC of Advaita:


The concept of  a 'me' as an 'independent self' (
supported by a 'mind') is required in the service of the upkeep and maintenance as well as feeding of the body-organism. That sense of 'self' as the center of actions helps in the performance of all actions that are required for the minimum maintenance of the body for the span of its life. If a sense of a 'self' is absent, one does not know whether one's hand is feeding into one's own mouth or into that of a dog nearby!

 All such actions that go for the above specific purpose do not have 'carry-forward' effects as Krishna explains in the Bhagavad-Gita.

Therefore, one need not consider those actions for philosophical discussions.

A seeker needs to watch all other actions that go with a motivation, a purpose, a desire for self-aggrandizement or self-protection (from insults etc.) of the self-image. These actions go with a deep sense of ownership for things, doership for decisions taken and agency for all the actions done.

With the arising of 'agency' of actions, you become the 'karta' (doer) and hence you will necessarily experience the consequences of the actions done by you (i.e. you will be the 'bhokta' (experiencer)). There is no escape from this.


When you are the bhokta, you will find that some results will be pleasant and some unpleasant. You desire to welcome the pleasant ones and avoid the unpleasant ones. You then struggle with what is 'happening' - judging the happenings in terms of what is 'good' for you or 'bad' for you. You create a world of your own where you keep running away from (i.e. avoiding with fire walls) what is not good and building 'welcome gates' for what is good. All this struggle will result in suffering for the 'bhokta.'

You want freedom from that 'suffering.' You seek powerful 'gods' who can protect you and you create elaborate belief systems and processes (e.g. rituals) not only to perpetuate but also to reinforce the belief in your gods as well as your faith.

Gita suggests that you should "give up" all such actions. If you cannot, at least practice performance of action without looking for the 'fruits.' If even this is not possible, begin actions by offering whatever you do to brahman (brahmArpaNa mastu). If you follow a personified god, perform all actions offering them to Him (e.g. KrishnArpaNa mastu).

Hopefully, this process will retrain your mind and gradually lead to dropping all motivations and desires (achieving vairAgya (dispassion)) and thus naishkarmya siddhi (being unaffected by the results of actions done). naishkarmya siddhi is "action in inaction." It refers to performing actions without the sense of "I am the doer" like a river flow. The river does not say that 'I am flowing.' The 'flow' itself is the river.

By this way, you may or may not successfully achieve reorientation of your mind and obtain naishkarmya siddhi right in this life of yours.

What do you do then?
You will hope to achieve naishkarmya siddhi sometime in the future, maybe in the next life and that 'hope' requires you to necessarily believe in rebirth, a continuity of the same 'me' and all the story that goes with it.

Therefore, while we may continue to adopt the above method, we should also find out who that ahaM ("I") is when Gita says ahamkAra vimUDhAtmA karta ahamiti manyate (III-7) -- who or what exactly is that foolish fellow (the 'me') who thinks that "I am the doer"?

What to do to find out who am "I"?

One is the traditional way to find out who is it that thinks "I am the doer." 

In this method, you first listen to the final answer from a reliable source (Apta vAkya) -- a Guru / scripture).  This is called shravaNa

Next you mull over in your mind what you heard and deeply reflect over it until you get fully convinced (to the extent that not even an iota of doubt is left in you about the 'teaching'). This is called manana

After that you adopt all sorts of techniques to constantly remember every moment of your waking, dreaming, deep sleep life about what you got convinced -- the One-ness of the individual and brahman (jIvabrahmaikyatva). This is called nididhyAsana.

[The three steps (shravaNa-manana- nididhyAsana) need not go one after another in a progressive or gradational fashion. One may skip some step or other, all the three may happen simultaneously and so on - many variations can occur.]

I will like to give an analogy to help in our remembrance of Oneness.

Think of a large uniform clean, neat shining white bedsheet nicely stretched and spread flat without wrinkles. Is any one particular spot on the sheet distinguishable from the other? No, all spots (locations) are uniform, identical and homogeneous -- in fact, there is no possible way to demarcate or distinguish a specific spot to be unique with a set of contours giving a shape to it. Every spot you may select is indistinguishably within that One continuous whole sheet which is undivided into parts.

Now give a shake holding a corner or a side of the sheet.
What will happen?

 Some waves will form and as you lay the sheet down, the flatness is gone. The sheet gets folded. It raises up as hills in some places. At some other places, it shows depressions. Some depressions may be big; others narrow and small. Some hills may be conical and so on and on. Many shapes and sizes can be distinguished. The One huge uniform sheet lost its absolute symmetry. Several shapes and boundaries for those shapes can be identified. You can give distinct names to those shapes like a hill, a cone, a depression, a long valley etc. It looks like a composite of several shapes conglomerated together (See the figure at the right). The sheet does not look as an undivided whole anymore. 

Imagine one more thing. Think that the sheet is fluorescent.  When it was in the undisturbed flat disposition, it would have been appearing like a single sheet of self-luminescent brilliantly shining light plane. This luminescence has also the power to sense and know things like a sensor (detector probe).  But there is no-thing outside itself to sense or detect. It is all One Infinite wholeness.

After the perturbation (because of the shake), the hills and valleys cause apparent variations (shades) in the luminescent light. Some spots may appear slightly less bright (in a relative sense only - remember that the entire sheet is self-luminescent, there are originally no inherent differences in its luminosity). 

Now add another layer of imagination.
Think that one little depression, not exactly circular but having an odd shape imagines itself to be different and thinks that it exists as a separate entity from the rest of the sheet. 

Its ability to imagine, sense and know another (e.g. the hill nearby) still exists because of the self-luminescence at every spot of the big sheet.  

The small depressed spot begins to feel bad that its shape is odd, it is lying lower compared to the tall fellow, the hill, next to it. The hill appears to it as if shining with more light and spreading its brilliance to a greater distance. The little depression feels sad because it is not like that hill. It wants to become like that hill. When it learns finally that it cannot succeed in its aim, it may even want to destroy the hill.

You can concoct all sorts of stories further. Say a sudden gust of wind and water eroded or altered the size or shape of that hill. The depression may misappropriate to itself some power for having reduced the size of the hill. Or it may think that its worship of a powerful 'Storm God' helped achieve its desire ---------- and so on. 

Stop here for a minute. Hold your horses of weaving imaginative stories.

Question yourself now.

Was that 'depression' at any point of time separate from the totality of the sheet? Is it really different and independent of the hills and other shapes which it imagined to be outside itself?

Is there any action it has to take to become the whole one sheet again? Has it at any point of time stopped being the whole sheet?

What action should it have to take to feel itself to be within the Totality of Oneness?

It has to just remember that it never left the whole Oneness. It is only its fanciful thinking that it is separate that brings in the "feel" of separation.  Actually no rigid brick-wall like boundaries exist around itself but for its own mistaking of the 'shades' (caused by the changes in relief) as walls of separation.

Yes, when the depression feels hungry needing some energy input, it may look for food. It eats what it gets. But it knows one day that the boundary wall around itself will collapse and it will die. When the (imagined) wall is gone, it is automatically within the whole Oneness. [Some even imagine five layered walls - panca kosha.]


Even after it realized that it was never a separate entity, the past memory of being a 'separate ' may come back to it out of sheer habit.  It then has to make an effort not to forget that it was never separated from the Totality.

The shravaNa-manana-nididhyAsana method is called the Cosmological or progressive Path which is taken up after an intensive pre-requisites are fulfilled. In the Direct Path -- essentially taught by Sages like Atmananda Krishna Menon, Nisargadatta Maharaj and to some extent Ramana Maharshi -- the most important key element is to first totally UNDERSTAND and be convinced that the small luminescent depression (the separate self, a Me) is non-different and within the totality of the planar sheet, the Oneness which only exists. And then to abide in that understanding.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Teaching Vedanta in Germany

Teaching Vedanta in Germany

By Sitara Mittag

[I am grateful to Sitara for her ready consent to post her article at our Blog. For an Introduction about Sitara please see here -- ramesam.]


I feel blessed to have the opportunity of teaching Advaita Vedanta to select students who are sincerely committed to explore the ultimate truth. The program I adopt is highly flexible and tailored to the particular needs of the students, yet I have a general approach that I apply with variations.
 I have to admit that my way of teaching is quite time consuming compared to other teachers. But it works. That’s why so far I keep sticking with it. In the future I may have to change it because with more and more students joining I will have to find more practical solutions.
Medium of Instruction:
The medium of instruction is German, and usually I do not give classes in English. Even though most Germans have a working knowledge of English, some don’t (especially those who grew up in Eastern Germany where they learned Russian, and not English, as the second language). Most of my students are very intelligent and educated, but I also have a few who failed in school and do not know English. What I look for in a student is whether he/she wants to discover the ultimate truth and yearns for liberation (mumukshatvam). So if they have mumukshutvam, I accept them as students, with or without English. However, as the student advances in his studies, it usually becomes necessary to shift to English because I find that there are no suitable German translations of Vedantic texts, let alone Shankara’s commentaries on the Upanishads etc. Fortunately for us, so far there has always been one or the other student who could translate the texts from English to German with me carrying out the corrections. I use these translations in my classes.
Outline of the usual Program:
To begin with so far it has always been necessary for me to correct the perspective of the Western student’s mindset consisting in numerous pseudo-spiritual concepts – be they psychological, esoteric, or certain religious ideas. I do this in open talks with each student where I encourage him/her to ask any question that comes to mind. This initial deliberation helps the student to develop enough trust in what is on offer in Advaita Vedanta.
After a few such meetings, we start to go through the spiritual essays I published at my website (there are many more than just the ones translated into English). We discuss the topics in detail answering all the questions that may come up. In the course of that I familiarize them with certain Vedantic concepts without going too much in depth at this stage. If more than one student happens to start at about the same time, I conduct these sessions for all of them together.
As the time ripens for them to take up Vedanta in a more intensive way I first provide them with the background of Vedic culture by exposing them to select videos about India. I explicitly point out to my students that in this context we focus entirely on the upsides of the Indian world. Without this step, I realized that many things mentioned in the scriptures remain a complete mystery, resulting in misunderstandings that become impediments later. At this stage I take up Sw. Paramarthananda’s introduction to Vedanta, adding my own texts on the same issues written with the Western perspective in mind. Ideally there is more than one student in these meetings. After these 16 lessons, I give out a questionnaire that helps in self-assessment about what they have grasped so far. Once they know the basic terminology and concepts used in Vedantic teaching we study other treatises (prakaraNa grantha-s) and also Upanishads as appropriate. I use the commentaries published by Arsha Vidya Gurukulam in these classes. If they are not available, I take those from the Chinmaya Mission.
My students come from many areas in Germany (and some from other countries). The classes are conducted through telephone or skype conferences, which works very well for us. I purposely restrict the number of participants to be small. Also I take care to see that as we study the different texts, all the questions of the students are answered. My experience is that these interactive sessions are very successful when done with 4-6 people. I carefully choose the participating students for a class because I do not want some to get bored while others feel overly challenged.
Vedanta Seminars
I also have been offering a 6-day Vedanta-seminar suited to all levels twice a year. The participants observe silence for most of the time with me introducing certain processes (prakriya-s) and related concepts for them to dwell on. The whole process is based on a structure that is a mixture of silent sitting, listening to me as well as to (Indian) music, movement, going for walks, resting. Also all through the seminar everyone gets a chance to have special short meetings with me in order to clear his/her mind of any questions and doubts. We are going to have more of such seminars during 2017 in other areas of Germany. Taking part in the seminars is essential to the students. 
Meer Suddorf
(Photo: By Kerstin)
So far the seminars have been conducted on an island (see photo above) with just the sea and the sky and very few people around helping the minds of the participants to become exceptionally alert and imbibe the teaching in depth. New students get a really good start into Vedantic study while the advanced ones report that with each time they go through this process their minds become more and more subtle and sharp.
´Western students usually require a bit of motivation in taking up Vedanta in a systematic manner because there is so much on offer promising big gains with little effort to be made by the student. But quite soon they realize the value of studying Vedanta with resolve and commitment. The results of such a study are truly solid and every committed student is making steady and often surprisingly fast progress.
Acknowledgement:  Ramesam inquired about the way I teach students in Germany. After receiving my answer he suggested to post it on Advaita Vision and also at this Blog site. He was so kind as to help me put it into better English.