Passion for awakening

I think that tangents are fine if they exist for the purpose of bringing some clarity. This is relevant to the issue you mentioned of mumuksutva (intense desire for liberation), which Advaitins regard as the first step towards moksha (liberation).

So what are the aspects of Advaita with which you feel more sympathy, which you feel are ‘insightful and true’?

It would be helpful to have some more specifics. Feel free to respond to each of the following points/questions with a few brief words (or if you agree with a point, and have nothing to add, just say, ‘I agree’):

  • For example, you have often written about the importance of the ‘self’ to you. In Advaita they talk about Atman - which is often translated as ‘self’, but can also be translated more simply as pure awareness. What do you feel about this notion?

  • They also talk about jivatman (an individual living being), which they think of as the reflection of this pure awareness (of atman) in an individual brain-body. What do you feel about this notion?

  • They also say that a mind that thinks in terms of ‘I am this’ or ‘This is mine’, is living in a state of ignorance (avidya); and that liberation (moksha) is liberation from this ignorance. What do you feel about this notion?

  • Another aspect they talk about is “the fourth [state],” Turiya (which is distinct from the waking state, the dreaming state, and the state of deep sleep); which some describe as pure consciousness or pure awareness (similar to atman). What do you feel about this notion?

Say you’re right. Provided it helps ‘get you there’ does it matter?

The Hero’s Journey.

What does a retired questor have to live for?

In narratology and comparative mythology, the hero’s journey, or the monomyth, is the common template of stories that involve a hero who goes on an adventure, is victorious in a decisive crisis, and comes home changed or transformed. Wikipedia

Mixed. Seeing the ‘true self’ as pure awareness resonates theoretically, but not practically. In other words the idea feels right, but I resist ‘doing’ it.

About the same resonance theoretically, but way more practically, probably since I have such high regard for the individual.

Resonates quite strongly. The idea that suffering comes from ignorance makes lots of sense for me.

Turiya is essentially the same as brahman, so my troubles with brahman come into play.

Things I like* about Advaita:

I am the Divine.
The world and small self (ego) are mirages.
The ultimate (highest) goal of life is to realize the true nature of reality.
Self-inquiry is the (I would say “a”) path to liberation.
Both study and contemplation are part of that path.
I like the methodology of the traditional Advaita teaching approach: slow gradual progress.

* Liking things within a tradition/philosophy doesn’t mean I subscribe to them, and doesn’t mean that I don’t like conflicting or even contradictory things in another tradition/philosophy.

Bingo! Retired Questers are like ronins: purposeless, untethered, lost.

When the Truth appears right in front of the Quester who Quests for the sake of Questing, they tear things down and start again. “The hunt must go on!”

Why does someone committed to questing for its own sake take an interest in K’s teaching which is all about ending - not continuing?

Might there be an unconscious desire to be rid of your obsession for good? Or are you looking forward to moving on to the Happy Hunting Ground?

The Quester for the Sake of Questing (who goes by Rick) values what Krishnamurti offers and enjoys having different feet (toes) in different worldviews. He’s a dialectical learner.

There might be.

Thanks for this Rick. It helps me understand your approach a little better.

In the absence of brahman, what does ‘the Divine’* signify here?

Does this sentence signify that ‘I’ (atman/jivatman), as pure awareness, is divine?

*divinity is a word meaning “of or pertaining to a god”

Well it’s quite similar to “I am the world” with ‘the world’ being the totality, all-that-is, reality, truth.

Somehow, mysteriously, unfathomably, I am both a wave and the ocean.

It’s more feeling than thought, more intuition than logic.

I’m not an expert on the matter, but isn’t this what the word ‘brahman’ is pointing to?

Etymologically the word brahman just means ‘great’, ‘greater’, or ‘greatest’. What is greater than the totality, all-that-is?

The culture we have been born into is one of individual achievement. This is our conditioning, who we are, what we do, what drives/thrills us - it is libertarian individualism (the other side of the coin being burnout, loneliness & depression).

Fulfilling our conditioning is never “getting there” in the context of awakening. Blindly fulfilling our mechanistic drive is not a path to understanding and freedom from that drive.
Though the experience of empty success or burnout can sometimes be a wake up call.

The word brahman doesn’t have any particular content for me, apart from being a word that points to the totality, all-that-is. But I understand that for people within the Advaita tradition it probably has a lot of baggage around it, a lot of dogma, so there’s no need to use it.

I like words that point to the totality though - the universe, for example, or a word like infinity, or the immeasurable (K uses this word), or the whole. Maybe because, like you, I find it interesting that

(ocean signifying the totality here).

Essentially. But for me there is a distinction that makes all the difference!

Different views have different degrees of non-duality. Advaita is radically non-dualistic. When they say that “Brahman is the only real existent” they are not speaking metaphorically, brahman is everything and everything is brahman, period! Brahman is said to be changeless and attributeless, beyond time and space. It is not an object that can be experienced or even found. How then can it be known that brahman is the only real existent rather than, say, a lovely metaphor or fairy tale? Because it is written thusly in the Vedic scriptures, whose texts are seen as infallible, straight from Ishvara, Advaita’s version of God.

Otoh when I say “I am the Mystery” I’m sharing my view-feeling, my story of reality, I’m not asserting any kind of certainty. I am also not saying that the Mystery is beyond verbal description then writing giant tomes filled with verbal descriptions of IT. I’m not even saying it is dualistic or non. I am only saying it is the Mystery, that which is not known, possibly not knowable.

‘Bhutatathata’ (the reality or suchness of things as they are), ‘Dharmakaya’ (body of ultimate reality), ‘Tathagatagarbha’ (Buddha nature), and ‘Tathata’ (suchness) are concepts within Buddhism that may serve to communicate better about the totality than a word-concept like Brahman.

I just posted at the same time as you again, so haven’t read your replies properly (and may only reply to them tomorrow, as it’s late here - but they look interesting)

And there are plenty of Neo-Advaita teachers that don’t (or rarely) use it, probably to avoid the mental traps I kept falling into. Thing is I studied traditional old-school Shankara-type Advaita, and they talk about atman and brahman all the time.

I’m good with all sorts of pointers to the unknown. And I understand their necessity for teaching. But when the pointers are reified by potent words, made into verbal icons and magical objects, I’m outta there!

I am talking about the conditioned mind kicking off the process. That’s what happens 99% of the time: I am sad, I hear about a way to be happy, I investigate. Eventually, if I stay with it for however long I need to, the power of my conditioned mind lessens, and my free, primordial mind strengthens. It’s the raft metaphor, Buddha got that right I think!

I understand what you are saying. It’s the same thing with the word ‘God’, or, in the Buddhist world, with the realms of demi-gods and bodhisattvas, etc. At one point there was just a word that someone used to point to some experiential state, and then that word grew a life of its own, divorced from any first-person experience.

However, there are words we use like this. No-one has ever experienced the whole universe, and yet we have words that point to it: ‘whole’ and ‘universe’. We have a sense of what wholes are by looking at smaller ‘wholes’ - and then extrapolate from that to point to something beyond what we can observe or know for sure.

Perhaps the word ‘brahman’ started out like that too. Originally, I believe, it was a word that described the power of the Vedic fire ritual. Then later, during the composition of the early Upanishads, the same word began being used to point to the power of the cosmos - a poetic usage with which one can be somewhat sympathetic - eventually becoming reified to mean a magical dogma, a noun object of faith.

The words that Buddhists have used are, for me at least, less dogmatic because they exist within a tradition of criticism that is anti-essentialist. So even though they may be an attempt to point to some essence, the the very words are more modest in what they communicate. For example, take a word like tathata, which means thisness, thusness, suchness. What is suchness? It’s just the way things are. What is Bhutatathata? That suchness which truly is.

Other Buddhist words that point to the totality often incorporate the ambiguous word ‘dharma’ - which in Buddhist culture can mean anything from the teachings of the Buddha to the fundamental order of things (especially in East Asia where it became somewhat synonymous with the concept of the Dao).

So what is Dharmadhatu? It is the ‘dimension’ of the Dharma (where this ambivalent word can be understood to mean the order of the universe, or absolute reality itself). It can also be understood to mean the “total field of events and meanings”. What is Dharmakaya? It is the ‘body’ of truth, the true nature of things as they are (i.e. emptiness, suchness, etc).

Obviously, if one makes suchness or ‘dharmakaya’, etc into a reified substance or magical dogma (as can be done), then it is no different from brahman. But I find it interesting that multiple human cultures have tried poetically to point to the nature of the totality, of the whole in all these different ways. One may keep the poetry, while jettisoning the dogma.

Anyway, back to the main topic.

Yes, I think this is along the right lines - although even without hearing of a way “to be happy”, the very suffering itself has the energy to begin an inquiry.

Aside from the obvious etymological connection between passion and suffering, I think Krishnamurti was insightful in connecting the awareness of suffering with passion, because it is really this awareness that forces the mind to engage with what is causing the suffering, how to deal with it, what is its nature, etc.

It is no surprise that Buddhism - budh comes from PIE root meaning “be aware, make aware” - is founded on the noble truth of the fact of suffering; while in India the search for liberation, moksha, is similarly based on the search for an end to suffering (construed as samsara, the continuity of birth and death).

So passion is essentially related to the disruptive fact of suffering itself. When we escape from the fact of suffering (however we understand this fact), passion is dissipated.

That would be the way to go, I think. Take the kernel of (poetic) truth and leave the rest behind. Not easy for someone who is prey to authority, as most of us are. But doable.

That would mean something like understanding brahman to be a symbol that points to reality. And leaving the ten thousand questions around the nature of that (nature-free) pointer behind.