Advaita, Nirakara, and Nirguna

[Recorded on Nov 18, 2014.]

Someone asked Guruji what is dvaita (duality) versus advaita (non-duality.)

Indian philosophy is inundated with long-winded discussions, explanations, and arguments about these basic terms. Numerous text books have been written and so many schools of thoughts started by self-proclaimed philosophers, acharyas, expounding their subtle philosophical differences – advaitashuddha (pure) advaita, vishishta (special) advaita, dvaita-advaita, etc.

Guruji gave a simple answer which cut through all the smog. “There will be dvaita, duality, within you as long as your conscious and subconscious are separate. When your subconscious is also conscious and you have full consciousness that will be advaita, non-duality.

“Sākāra and Nirākāra: What we have not seen or don’t know yet is nirākāra, formless. When we see them and know them it is sākāra, with form.

“Saguṇa and Nirguṇa: Whose guṇa, qualities, we are not familiar with is nirguṇa, without qualities. When we become familiar with their qualities it becomes saguṇa, with qualities.”

Genius and the Story of a Hen

The following phone conversation was recorded on Sep 5, 2006 around 8:30pm PST.

I asked Guruji what is the right definition of genius. My friends and I had a long debate about it in the afternoon and I thought only Guruji can resolve it. His answer was not only spot on, but also gave us a new perspective to think from.

Guruji said, “A genius is someone who has unlimited vision or imagination, who has awakened their consciousness way more than ordinary people. See, imagination is the strongest force of the mind. A genius is one who has the super combination of intellect and imagination, and the capacity to realize it.

“Another thing to consider: All scientific truths that are being discovered today, they have been around since forever. The laws of physics or the rules of mathematics or arts, they have always existed. We were not aware, so we were not able to understand them. The genius who discovered a scientific truth had a developed mind, and he became aware, or conscious, of it and was able to express it. It depends on the level of consciousness. To be stupid or a genius, it’s all in the mind. Whatever our mind conceives, that’s how we behave and express in our lives. When someone says ‘blessing from above’, it really means their own mind.”

I asked Guruji if it is the same as when we sit idly and let our minds wander.

Guruji said, “Idle imagination is not the same thing. That is building castles in the air which never materializes. The fundamental principle is that when the mind comes across a truth or a fact, like an object or a specific form or some event, which triggers some thought, that will lead to real imagination. The Yoga Darshan principle applies here, ‘what the mind attaches to, it absorbs its essence.’ It fires up your imagination, that this is possible and that is possible, and you keep following that to reach the truth. And see, only that person advances in life who can think through a problem from all angles. A man should not be like a hen. Most of them are.”

I asked, “How so, Guruji?”

Guruji then told me an amazing story how he found this wisdom. “My brother kept a poultry farm in Gwalior of White Leghorn chicken,” Guruji said. “One day a veterinarian doctor was visiting. He showed us this experiment. He put a hen on a table and drew a line in front of it with white chalk. Then he touched her head and beak to the line 3-4 times to make sure she has seen it, and then released her. He claimed that the hen will not move; she will keep seeing the chalk-line and think that she is confined in it.

“Even though it was not a wall – it was just a chalk-line and she could have easily walked over it and moved about – the hen stood there for hours. I was shocked! Isn’t that what is happening with all of us? In our society, religion? In our minds? Whatever lines we have drawn we feel confined in them. We are open on all sides but we never explore that. That’s why I say, open your mind, change your point of view and then everything will be okay. Most people live their lives like that hen; their beak has touched the line and now they can’t cross it.”

“Wow!” That’s all I could say.

Guruji continued, “It was an amazing experiment. And the hen literally stood there the entire day and didn’t move. She could have easily flown away. But she got trapped behind that line. Just like we get trapped in our mental limitations. What is bondage? Which limits our freedom to explore the great world. It’s like that story: A man called on his neighbour, ‘Did you know that Neil Armstrong went to the moon?’. The neighbour replied, ‘Even I might go somewhere if I could get a moment free from the daily grind.’”

Guruji laughed and said, “Now I am surrounded. Vakeel Sahab has come for reporting.” Vakeel Sahab is Guruji’s lawyer who would come in the morning and discuss events and plan for the day over a cup of tea. That would usually be the end of our phone conversation. I said Pranam. He said, “Khush raho.”

Moments of Realization

Guruji: “Gorakhabodha is an amazing book! Discusses some of the heaviest truths about yoga sādhanā.

Q: “Guruji, what happens in samādhi?”

Guruji: “Your consciousness becomes one with Earth’s consciousness. That’s why they say you are everywhere and nowhere at the same time.”

Q: “In Tripurā Rahasya Jñāna Khaṇḍa, it says everybody experiences samādhi every moment, when the mind goes from one subject to another.”

Guruji: “That’s also going on. Every moment of realization is a moment of samādhi. Any new thing you’ve understood is a form of samādhi only.

Q: “It says in the book that whenever you are stunned, you also experience samādhi.”

Guruji: “Because it’s a moment of realization. Every moment of realization can be termed as samādhi. Even when you suddenly discover a new thing in your laboratory, that’s also samādhi. Refer to Yoga Darśana: the combination of dhāraṇa, dhyāna, and samādhi is saṁyama. Samādhis are many.”

Q: “I have the same question as is posed in the book: If samādhi is happening every moment, then why doesn’t everybody become all-knowing?”

Guruji: “Well, knowledge increases with these momentary samādhis. The common concept that in the moment of realization you know everything, in my opinion, is not true. It’s a journey of realization, step-by-step. With each realization your knowledge will increase. Every samādhi experience makes you more mature. What you are today is not the same as what you were yesterday. You are not the same person. Because, since yesterday you may have understood a few more things that you knew then. It’s a gradual progression.”

Q: “So it’s not like a switch suddenly turns on and you become all-knowing.”

Guruji: “These beliefs have become more popular after Ramakrishna Paramhansa talked about samādhi and when Yogananda described it a little. Before then, there was no such misconception. Otherwise why would people practice samādhi everyday, if only one experience was enough? Refer to Yoga Darśana: it gives the exact description of samādhi. And the experience that Paramahanda Yogananda has described, even LSD users have the similar experience.”


Manifesting the Immortal Substance

Q: “Guruji, are mana (mind), buddhi (intellect), viveka (discrimination) the same or different?”

Guruji: “In totality it’s the Mind. Just like hands, legs, head, etc are different organs of the same man, similarly buddhi, viveka, etc are different parts of the mind. Mind is basically one.”

Q: “Then why do we have conflict in the mind?”

Guruji: “It’s actually a mechanism induced by Nature inside us to gain knowledge. How will you draw a conclusion if you don’t think from different directions? Without friction there’s no energy, and every conflict is created by nature to generate energy. Without conflicts we’d all be leading a vegetable life.”

Q: “Does that mean conflicts are induced from outside?”

Guruji: “It just means that the mind is processing what you are experiencing. Those who don’t understand that get worried about the conflicting thoughts in their mind. See, as soon as you see or hear anything, you are mentally involved. The mind will store and process the information, and until it reaches some conclusion there will be conflicts appearing in the mind.

“Quiet mind doesn’t mean an inert position. Einstein said when an object travels at the speed of light, it is in the perfect rest condition. Those who appear quiet, may be the speed of their mind is way too high. This means that their mind is working or vibrating at a rate which is beyond our imagination, so we think it is inert, but it is too fast for us. When we say that someone has become inert in samādhi, it may mean that they have gone in the perfect rest condition, and their consciousness has gone beyond the light-speed and is vibrating in a very high realm. This is exactly what happens.

“It is like the story of the caterpillar and the butterfly. Caterpillar is not trained to see the butterfly who will fly away leaving the cocoon behind when the time comes, while the caterpillar mourns for the cocoon. Life is a deep thing.”

Q: “Sometimes there are conflicts between different actions as well, which has different results. For example, should I eat tasty food or do some exercise.”

Guruji: “Instead of hankering after the memory of food, it’s better to eat it and be done with it. You should also remember that taste doesn’t fill your stomach. So fill taste, but not stomach. Stomach will fill only with bread, not with chocolate. This is a proof of the advancement of human civilization that we invented chocolate: No bird has been able to make omelette even though eggs come them them only. Similarly no cow can make yogurt or ghee even though it produces the milk.”

Q: “It makes sense. But sometimes I wonder if such processing actually means we are going from natural to unnatural.”

Guruji: “In a way it is not, as I’ve already said that to make ghee is like going from mortality to immortality.”

Q: “How?”

Guruji: “Here’s how: People say that the soul is omnipresent, and everybody has a soul which is immortal. But even though we have an immortal substance inside us, we still die. What is immortality then? Somebody asked me that so I gave them this answer:

“Cow gives milk. Milk has ghee in it, but in the raw milk it is not visible. And despite the presence of that immortal substance, the milk goes bad or sour. The process to extract ghee from milk is like a yogic discipline: first you heat milk then cool it off, then turn it into yoghurt, then churn the yogurt, then take the butter out, then heat the butter, and then the substance which comes out, ghee, is immortal. Pure ghee doesn’t go bad even in hundreds of years. Similarly, soul is in everybody which is immortal. But those who don’t go through this process, through yogic austerities, they’ll never realize its immortality nor will they ever experience their soul.”

Q: “Wow!”

Guruji: “Mind blowing, isn’t it? The soul is omnipresent, but to reveal it or to manifest it we have to do tapasyā. Just like ghee comes out of milk after so many transformations, similarly, with yoga sādhanā after so many transformations a man reaches his immortal substance, which was always inside him. But to bring it forth, he has to go through through these transforming processes.

“Anybody could wag their tongue that the soul is omnipresent. Yes, we know it’s omnipresent; who doesn’t know that? (laughs) But how to catch it, how to realize it, how to make it appear? That will not be possible without tapasyā. Everybody has a body and a soul; every cow gives milk. But here a realized master, a man of knowledge, a guru is needed, who knows how to extract ghee out of the milk, who can tell you everything about the body and it’s potential and how to transform it. Those who mislead people into philosophy shouldn’t be considered as gurus.”

Q: “This also proves why tapasyā is necessary for everyone.”

Guruji: “Tapasyā is only necessary for those who want to do it, who have understood. For someone who is beginning to understand his divinity, who is beginning to realize, ‘how I look is not really everything I am. I could develop to a much more sublime height, I could even be immortal. All the necessary ingredients are within me. I should learn all the processes for this development, and I am ready for all the physical and mental transformations as a result of these processes.’

“It takes time to understand these things – took me years. In the beginning, everybody repeats the common words: self realization or god realization. That’s all! But ‘self realization’ describes this exactly. God realization is a vague thing, but self realization is closer to the reality.”


Light: Gross or Subtle?

A disciple asked Guruji: Is light gross or subtle?

Guruji answered:

“Light is gross, because it can only illuminate 3 out of 5 elements of matter – Earth, Water, and Fire. It passes through the other two elements – Air and Sky – so they are not visible to us. According to the Indian thought, Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Sky are the five gross elements of material world. We are only able to see the first three, since they reflect light. Since light can only illuminate the grosser elements of matter, it is gross and not subtle.

“This also implies that anything we see, we only see 60% of it, since the two elements – Air and Sky – which light doesn’t reflect, we are not able to see. This means that even our physical appearance is only 60% visible; 40% remains invisible!

“Another important thing to note is that only those things which reflect light ultimately go through decay. Those things which don’t reflect light don’t. We don’t see the destruction of air or sky, but fire, which depends on material objects for its survival, eventually dies out. Water also gets evaporated or gets stale. And solid objects in all forms eventually disintegrate; scientists already have various forms of measurements for that.

“Decay is based on the rays of light. What doesn’t reflect light doesn’t get decayed.

“We’ve also read about Babaji that his shadow doesn’t form. This means what doesn’t reflect light must be immortal!”

[20111110] Nov 11, 2011