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Happy new year!
Hi Presearch. I noticed your edit to Lectio Divina. I was wondering lately if classical Advaita Vedanta is somehow akin to Lectio Divina; what do you think? Best regards, Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 04:35, 14 April 2015 (UTC)
- Hmmm... Well to me they seem like two different things, or at least have two different emphases: I think of Advaita Vedanta as primarily a philosophy, whereas Lectio Divina is primarily a practice. And whereas Lectio Divina is centered around a text -- or at least uses it as a point of departure -- my impression is that Advaita Vedanta doesn't have any special place for texts. Am I missing something? Nice to hear from you. Best -- Presearch (talk) 04:47, 14 April 2015 (UTC)
- I've got this edition of the main Upanishads with Shankara's commentary; it's a wordt-for-word explanation. And there's swami Dayananda and his students, Anantanand Rambachan and Michael Comans, who describe Advaita Vedanta as the close reading of the sacred texts - as a practice. The texts, and their correct interpretation, are central here.
- I even started wondering (and I'm setting foot on holy ground here, so apologies in advance) if Shankara was "enlightened", or "just" merely an erudite scholar, who could give lenghty explanations, but without the insight into Brahman/awareness/sunyata. For him, as far as I know, the study and interpretation of the texts was about understanding the menaing they were supposed to carry: the Upanishadic Brahman is consciousness/awareness/prajna, c.q. consciousness/awareness/prajna is Brahman, the highest reality (not necessarily a "thing", but more like a "quality." Still following me in my associations? ;)). Best regards, Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 03:46, 30 May 2015 (UTC)
- Hi Jonathan -- again, your comments and questions are mostly outside of where I know much, though I recognize most of the names you mentioned (except Comans, whose name was new to me). But if you want a grab-bag of reactions on the basis of my little knowledge: 1) This is the first time I've ever heard anyone suggest that Shankara was "just" an erudite scholar. If so, he'd certainly be one of the most remarkable scholars who ever lived. What other mere scholar has founded a monastic order that endured about 14 centuries? Etc. My recollection is that various biographical details are recounted that would be consistent with illumination (and some with the sorts of siddhis that aren't illumination but aren't mere scholarship either), so to argue that he was a mere scholar, you'd have to somehow discount those. But I imagine that a view that he was merely a scholar might have appeal in certain Buddhist circles who are miffed at his role in ending (or assimilating?) Buddhism in India.
- 2) It certainly makes sense that scriptural reading could be seen as one possible practice, consistent with Advaita, to help attain realization. But presenting it as a practice sufficient by itself would be a different claim. And presenting it as a sin qua non (absolutely necessary) practice would also be a different claim - one that would beg lots of questions, such as "what if I read 9 of the 10 principal upanishads and omit one?" or "what if I read them in translation and not Sanskrit?" etc.
- 3) I only have a smattering of understanding about the role that shruti plays in Shankara versus other views - an understanding mostly just from seeing the debates discussed by Malhotra and the recent response by Rambachan. But it is commonly said that raw mystical (unitive) experiences require a process of assimilation into one's personality. I'd be inclined to interpret the difficulties described by Gopi Krishna (yogi) in his writings in that perspective (I seem to recall he experienced horrendous difficulties assimilating his experiences). The 21st century researchers on psychedelics (psilocybin) also feel a need to supply cognitive/interpretive resources to help their research participants assimilate their entheogen-induced mystical experiences. So one might argue that if "illumination" means experiencing complete mystical unity -- which is perhaps in some sense the "hardest" step -- then maybe "shruti" (as interpretive resources) is unnecessary; but if one wants to fully assimilate that experience, then, unless one wants to split hairs, maybe "shruti" (or some other interpretive resources from others who've had those experiences and assimilated them) is indeed necessary.
- 4) Based on my observation of Hindu teachers and tradition, Malhotra's notion of Hinduism as an "open architecture" does indeed evocatively capture the big picture of how Hinduism operates -- and within that fold, teachers use words in ways that are directed at helping their more proximate audiences in whatever task is at hand, rather than in all cases trying to erect a philosophical edifice. So words from long ago (as well as more recent words) should be interpreted in that light. I hope these thoughts/responses are useful. --Presearch (talk) 20:14, 30 May 2015 (UTC)
Hi Presearch. Of course Buddhists can't be completely trusted in this matter ;) yet there are even people who have claimed that it was not Shankara himself, but some later teachers who were responsible for the ascendency of Shankara's teachings. That's indeed partly part of the quarrels between various schools and factions. Regarding Michaels et al, I'll post some links/articles here later; it's interesting, this "orthodox" interpretation. And I totally agree with you that "mystical experiences" have to be assmilated; thanks for mentioning Gopi Krishna; I'll read him, nad hope he may be helpfull for my personal seeking. Best regards, Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 20:28, 30 May 2015 (UTC)
- Comans, Michael (1993), The Question of the Importance of Samadhi in Modern and Classical Advaita Vedanta. In: Philosophy East and West Vol. 43, No. 1 (Jan. 1993), pp. 19–38.
- Dalal, Neil (2009), "Contemplative Practice and Textual Agency in Advaita Vedanta", Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 21 (2009) 15-27
- Rambachan, Anant Anand (1984), The attainment of moksha according to Shankara and Vivekananda with special reference to the significance of scripture (sruti) and experience (anubhabva) (PDF), University of Leeds
- Rambachan, Anantanand (1991), Accomplishing the Accomplished: The Vedas as a Source of Valid Knowledge in Shankara, University of Hawaii Press
- Rambachan, Anatanand (1994), The Limits of Scripture: Vivekananda's Reinterpretation of the Vedas, University of Hawaii Press
Rambachan you know of course already. Also have a look at Michael James, who seems to follow this "traditional" Advaita vedanta methodology in his explanations of Ramana Maharshi's sayings. Best regards, Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 09:37, 31 May 2015 (UTC)
Here's another one: Joël André-Michel Dubois, The Hidden Lives of Brahman, SUNY. I haven't read it (yet), but it's on my wish-list. Best regards, Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 07:08, 1 June 2015 (UTC)
- Hi Jonathan, thank you for all these ideas and references. You've got me intrigued about the relationship between Advaita Vedanta and text-based (i.e., text-employing) spiritual practices. These references look like a good place to start delving further into the topic -- though I imagine it might be quite slow in my case (though potentially with a few "fits and starts"), because of lots of competing real-life stuff. But regardless of the pace at which I move, I do appreciate the ideas and references. Thanks again -- Presearch (talk) 05:05, 2 June 2015 (UTC)
- PS BTW, with regard to Gopi Krishna (yogi), my impression is that his experiences and writings were quite timely for the epoch in which they appeared -- which I think of as the 1960s (his page says his first major book appeared in 1967), which was a time in which unreconstructed scientism was perhaps more powerful than it is today. My impression is his writings may have been especially powerful and intriguing for people with little prior contact with living spiritual/mystical traditions. I have, however, heard it said that the notion of love is largely or entirely absent from his writings. That seems consistent with the bit that I've browsed him after hearing that idea. In that sense, he might perhaps (???) be put forward as an illustration of the idea in the Gita chap 9 (and in Ramakrishna) that the path of knowledge (especially alone) is much much harder than the path of devotion (bhakti). At least that's how I've filed away GopiKrishna in my mental files. Also vaguely in my mind is the notion that few people are beyond the need for psychological attachment, and this aspect of human nature might be somehow related to the phenomenon (if it is a phenomenon) that the path of knowledge, by itself, is very very difficult (I express this idea to you only because you are a psychologist and might be familiar with the notion of attachment). At any rate, Gopi Krishna had a hard time, and his writings can be quite interesting, as long as you approach them with appropriate expectations. --Presearch (talk) 05:48, 2 June 2015 (UTC)
- The notion of attachment is very interesting. According to Kohut and other psycho-analysts (this is another branch than those who "analysed" Ramakrishna), people always "need" human bonds and interactions. And remember the notion of karuna and the Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism: "higher" than non-attachment is 'working for the good of all humankind.' Non-selfish action may be a means to overcome the illusion of the "I" - or maybe jnana is a means to further non-selfish action, "higher" than delivery or moksha 'for oneself alone.'
- Also have a look, if you like, at Yoga Vasistha and Moksopaya, which originated in Kashmir, as a "syncretism" of Madhyamaka, Yogacara, Saivism and Advaita Vedanta. Very interesting, how these traditions were not totally different strands of thought, but interacted, and how the notion of sunyata was also applied to Brahman and Shiva. Best regards, Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 09:44, 2 June 2015 (UTC)
- Hi Jonathan, thanks for the additional references. When I mentioned attachment, I should have mentioned that there's now a substantial body of work applying the framework to "God attachment" -- the notion that the same mental systems/formations that (evolutionarily) were evolved for attachments between people, can also be directed to a personal God. There are questionnaires to measure this phenomenon -- i.e., to what degree do people feel a secure vs insecure attachment to God, and is the insecure attachment "anxious" versus "avoidant". See, for example, here (review), here (measure), here (Islam). Unfortunately, I don't think much work has been done to apply this framework to Hindu or Buddhist (e.g., perhaps "pure land") traditions, although it's equally applicable. Also, there seems to be little application as yet of the theory to attachments to a spiritual teacher, where it would also be clearly applicable. --Presearch (talk) 16:25, 2 June 2015 (UTC)
Jonathan, Presearch: I noticed this discussion and decided to add in some of my opinions -- and maybe a little bit of actual information too.
Jonathan, I agree with Presearch, that 'Vedānta' names a school of philosophy, or a darśana to use the Sanskrit term. I think we could translate that technical term, darśana, as 'viewpoint.'
Traditionally there were six such major schools in ancient India, collectively known as the 'ṣad-darśana'.
Another meaning for the term 'vedānta' would be the literal one, 'end of the Vedas.' And 'end' can mean 'final portion' or else 'goal' just as happens in the case of the word 'end' in English. The Upanishads come at the end of the Vedic texts, and are also considered 'final' in terms of presenting the perfect philosophy and also describing, as far as words can, the actual realization of the Absolute. The Vedas along with the Upanishads are thus considered as 'śruti', spelled as 'shruti' without diacritics; which can be glossed as 'direct revelation' or some such: 'heard' by the seer directly from the Beyond or however we want to name That.
There are several branches of Vedanta philosophy. Shankara espouses the Advaita (non-dual) sort. In that context he advocates a method for spiritual advancement, summarized in the triad phrase 'śravana, manana, nididhyāsana' as presented in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (BU2.4.5); the phrase means 'hearing, considering, meditating' by my translation; the 'considering' part refers to mental activity. Shankara summarized the meditation method in a single compound word, 'śruti-manana-nididhyāsana' which I would translate as something like 'spiritual-study-meditation.'
Long story shorter: to me this does look a lot like Lectio Divina, in practice.
As for the question, was Shankara illumined, we each get to decide that for ourselves, in my opinion. Surely it a matter of faith whom we decide to consider illumined. I do not think there are any useful 'litmus tests' for illumination; do you agree? We can only have our own opinions there, and also, needs.
This however seems clear, to me: no one can reasonably deny Shankara's dominant place in the history of Indian philosophy, and world philosophy, and in the history of Indian spirituality in general. We can hardly deny that Shankara was one of the most remarkable of human beings ever to show up, after noting how young he was when he achieved so many grand tasks that have transcended time and place ever after. A bare sketch of his life and accomplishments will confirm that point. Savitr108 (talk) 04:55, 7 June 2015 (UTC)
- Savitr, you might be interested in the new article I just created for the book Unifying Hinduism. While Shankara is not much mentioned in the book article, the book itself does mention Shankara. Definitely worth reading (though I haven't read every word myself, alas...) --Presearch (talk) 17:55, 10 June 2015 (UTC)
Presearch, due to your comments here and also the Wikipedia article you created, I have started looking at the book Unifying Hinduism. Very satisfying reading, so far. Savitr108 (talk) 18:24, 10 June 2015 (UTC)
Hi Presearch. My sincere thanks for your comments at Template talk:Hindu philosophy#Jainism, Buddhism, Carvaka and Ajivika part of Hinduism?. Also my apologies for involving you there; I did so precisely because of our diagreements on "dharmic traditions," knowing that you've always insisted on showing the relations between the various Indian traditions. I trusted, and do trust, that you appreciate the irony of me asking for your opinion and help on this.
I have to admit that my opinions on this topic are shifting, due to my prolonged reading and writing on these topics, including Unifying Hinduism. Best regards, and a heartfelt thanks, Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 03:28, 4 July 2015 (UTC)
- Yes, I did appreciate the irony.... but that's the sort of thing that can come to [your] mind (and be successfully implemented) when one has a degree of detachment from one's opinions. While I'm not looking to take on new WP activities (chronic time shortage, blah, blah, blah), I appreciated the invitation and chance to offer perspectives. Interesting to know your overall thoughts/perspectives are continuing to evolve (as are mine). Best --Presearch (talk) 17:56, 4 July 2015 (UTC)