Two types of sAdhanA can be practiced by Advaita Vedantin
In advaita, there are 2 types of sAdhanA
1. Pratik upasana: OM
2. Neti-Neti (Negation, Self Enquiry)
Sadhaka meditates on the mantra OM. By meaning to meditate may first be considered as Japa
So it is chanting of OM. Sadhana begins with verbal chanting, then followed by mental and later followed by just observing mantra OM.
After one regularly meditates, and is able to meditate for long hours, say 3 hours, then OM chanting continues by itself. One does not have to make an effort to chant OM. Even if thoughts come, just ignore them. Even if one is involved in thoughts, if one quickly realizes that one should be aware of OM, then slowly and smoothly shift your focus on OM and just be aware of it. Thoughts will automatically fade away or dissolve. Meditation continues. If OM does not continue, then chant it mentally. After a few chants, it goes on automatically.
For Advanced sadhaka
After on is able to be aware of OM, and the force of thoughts of very less, one can be aware of the source of the mantra. chanting of OM, the pitch, spandan (gap between 2 OMs), uprooting of thoughts and desires is done by OM itself and you as an individual has no hand in it, except that you are allowing it to happen. you allow thoughts to come, do not give importance by neglecting them and be aware of the source of mantra. Now there is transformation from effort to effortless, as one does not chant. When one is putting mental effort in chanting, it is done with the help of mind, but when the chant continues by itself, there is no effort of mind. If chanting is done with the help of mind, which is the obvious thing to do in the beginning, then there will be a saturation point. There is a limit to put an effort. But when there is no effort, mediator remains fresh and can extend the duration of meditation.
This requires God's and Guru's grace. Of course it requires vivek-yukta-vairagya (renunciation accompanied by power of discrimination - sorry about bad translation), total dedication and moksha as the only goal. If all these are present then meditation becomes easy. Renunciation helps one to neglect thoughts and not give importance to any thoughts. Dedication, faith and surrender to Brahman is extremely important and without surrender, God will not take over your mind in meditation. Entire thing is controlled by God. This takes time, as all these factors may be present but not to the fullest extend.
Just like one can find the ocean shore by moving in the direction of sound of waves, one can go into the source of OM, which is Brahman / Atman. After that even OM rests. There is only you and nothing else. This is advaita sthiti called as nirvikalp samadhi. But again mind rises, as it was sleeping or temporarily subdued, and one is again in duality. The process repeats until everything that is dumped into the mind is uprooted by OM. After that there is mano-nASa (destruction of mind). This is sahaj samAdhi. After this state, when one opens eyes, he / she sees that the world which we thoughts as an illusion, is nothign but Brahman itself (sarvam khalu-idam Brahman --> everything 'Else' is (also) Brahman ). Meditation is over. One is Jivan Mukta and has achieved moksha.
Practically, initially, when one is taught - I am not this not this, my family is not mine, my friends are not mine, nothing is mine, etc, one feels that suddenly the joy, enjoyment, ananda, etc is been robbed away and one feels that nothing is meaningful. This is vairagya. It happens. It produces fear and insecurity. When one jumps into this insecurity, one realizes that one is most secured. Slowly the truth unfold, and one gets clarity. After passing through this phase one becomes steady i.e. mind becomes steady.
Advaita asks one to rise from duality. It is said from Atma bhAva and not Jiva bhAva.
Practically, mind becomes peaceful, OM continues in mind throughout the day or most of the day. Peace and bliss unconditionally flow, as they are a result of renunciation and so do not depend upon any external factor. Advaitin lives on minimum requirements. As one advances, mental renunciation increases. One may or may not renounce physically, but mental renunciation is a must.
After one has purified the mind with karma-kand and bhakti, one can step into advaita.
The journey of an Advaita Vedantin is:
1. Verbal chanting
2. Mental Chanting
3. A-japA japa i.e. Mantra goes on by itself
4. Mano laya: Experience of Nirvikalp Samadhi
5. Return to duality. Meditation continues
6. Repeated attempts to be in samadhi. Period of samadhi increases
6. Mano-nASa: sahaj samadhi
7. Meditation is complete. After opening eyes, one experiences: satvam khalu-idam brahman - Everything else (this world) is brahman
8. Moksha: Experience of both nirvikalp and savikalp samadhi - Jivan Mukta
9. Videhi Mukti (after death, connection with body drops permanently)
1. If a person quits body in nirvikalp samadhi, still he attains moksha.
2. There is no technical different between jivan mukti and videhi mukti
This is actual advaita, as taught in Yog-Vasista and Sri Ramana Maharshi. There is no OM. One thinks of Brahman constantly. e.g. is nirvANa shaTaka by Adi SankarAchArya. Some 10 verses on Brahma bhAvanA are given in Vivek Chudamani. In this type of sadhana, one enters into samadhi knowingly whereas in case of OM, one enters achAnaka (suddenly with surprise - again bad translation). But the result is same.
This type of meditation is extremely difficult and so most of them take AdhAra (support) of OM. Maandukya upanishad takes about OM. OM is one tatva that can effortlessly take one above maya (as maya was created by OM or from OM). OM up-roots both good and bad desires. So even desires like serving humanity or any sattvik desires are also up-rooted. Even sattva gUNa is a dosha.
Pure mind and renunciation are pre-requisites for Advaita. Hence Advaita is not for everybody. One can purify by doing karma-kand (rituals) and doing bhakti on personal God. Later depending upon prakruti one can shift to either Advaita (for logical reasoning type people) or continue sAkAra bhakti (emotional characters).
Hence advaita do not rejects dvaita but asks one to rise above it. Khandan is done with the intention that one rises.
For Beginners: Please read The Difference between Japa With and Without Japa Mala (External Link)
Is Sri Ramana Maharshi's Teaching Traditional?
There is often a confusion regarding many sAdhaka-s whether Sri Ramana Maharshi's teachings are traditional or not. Many people just stick to the words brahma satya, jagat mithyA. Adi Shankara's life was much much then this. It will be discussed briefly in Dispelling Doubts section. If possible, a new page with will dedicated to the like of Adi Shankara in different light. Traditional people believe that Study of Scriptures is compulsory and that Sri Ramana was neither initiated nor did he studied any shastras. He gave importance to Meditation and Self Experience than shastras. This is due ot incorrect understanding of Mahashi's life and teachings.
As explained in first section Understanding Advaita, Adi Shankara did not just hold on to Brahma satya jagat mithyA. He gave definition of anitya and that definition does not have the word illusion.
So Brahma SAtya Jagat Mithya does not fully reflect Adi Shankara's views.
One has to understand that
1. Focussing on one part does not mean other parts are automatically refuted.
An e.g. will make it clear.
A Husband says to his wife, "I love you'.
Does this mean that, "I hate my mother, I hate my daughter, I hate my sister"??
No. When attending wife, he is playing the role of husband and for time being just focussing only on his wife.
In the same way, Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi focus only on Self Enquiry. This does not mean that he does not support scriptures or did not considered them as authority. Infact Sri RAmana Maharshi when requested by devotees, translated Vivek Chudamani into Tamil, as Tamil version was out of print. Later on he even composed his own shastras like Upadesha SAram and Sad Dasrhan Chalisi (40 verses on reality).
2. Sri Ramana Maharshi also said that one should have Guru
When someone asked that," J Krishnamurti says that Guru is not needed", Sri Ramana Maharshi replied, " Who said so, you can say that after Self Realization but not before"
3. Upadesha-s are given from adhikAra bheda
All those to whom Sri Ramana Maharshi answered were very learned like Ganapati Muni, etc. They had knowledge of shastras and meditated over years. Still they had doubts. It is well known that finally shAstra vAsanA also has to be dropped and after knowing everything i.e. understanding essence of shastras, one has to drop them and practice meditation. To them Sri Ramana Maharshi has given upadhesha-s which would give importance to Self Enquiry.
It should be noted that Sri Ramana Maharshi's teachings are not applicable to everybody. They are only applicable to uttam adhikAri or at most madhyam adhikAri. It is a sad part that now-a-days everything is noted, printed and tossed into wild, that too for free. Internet has it;s advantages, but it has it's disadvantages too.
Not all Shastras are like Bhagavad Gita which focus of many parts. There are other smritis like AshTAvakra Gita, which focus only on Self Realization and rejects everything. It is based on ajAta vAda. Even GAuDapAda taught ajAta vAda in Maudhukya kArikA. Adi Shankara preached vivarta vAda. Doe this mean that both of their thoughts clashed? No. GauDapAda focused on ajAta vAda while Adi Shankara focus on vivarta vAda and at times adopted other vAda too for exlpaining advaita to beginners. Just like Teachings of AshTAvakra Gita are revered with all Advaitins and are not contradictory, Sri Ramana Maharshi's teachings which focus of Self Enquiry are also traditional and found in Ribhu Gita, Yog Vasista and ashTavakra Gita.
4. Sri Ramana Maharshi never claimed that his teachings substitute Adi Shankara's.
Other Acharya-s like SureshvarAhArya, VidyAraNya Swami and Madhusudan Saraswati created their own shastras, commentaries which complement Adi Shankara's teachings. They are never meant to replace traditional advaita. Sri Ramana Maharshi's upadesha-s and his compositions are complementary to teachings of Adi Shankara and hence complementary to Traditional Advaita.
5. Sri Ramana Maharshi did not preached ot live a life like he lived.
Another big problem is that people copy life and actions of acharya-s.
You will find exceptions like
1. Adi ShankarAchArya
2. Acharya hastAmalaka
3. JaDa bharat (from Srimad Bhagavatam)
They all did not had any official training and some were tatva Jnanis without being initiated.
This list includes Adi Shankara too. Remember how he spontaneously composed dasa sloki when upon meeting his Guru Sri GovindapAda for first time, his Guru asked Adi Shankara to give his intro. At this time, he was not even given initiation by Guru GovindapAda.
Acharya hastAmalaka was a mute boy after he was 2 years old and upon being asked by Adi Shankara to describe who he was, he created hastAmalaka stotra. It is the song of realized. Again he was not initiated by Adi Shankara nor was taught any shastras in this life as a boy.
JaDA bharat, was Jnani by birth form due to his sAdhanA in 2 births prior.
Druv was only 5 years old when he left his home. He had little or no formal education of scriptures.
VAlmiki did not knew any shastras but simply chanted Rama nAma that too in wrong way i.e. chanted ma-rA instead of rAma (in reverse order)
So there are exceptions. Each one hold one to one thought or hold on to the state of Self Realization constantly. Sri Ramana Maharshi also hold on to this state on Self Realization.
All these saints are pure by birth and hence need no scriptural knowledge in their last life.
But world copies them. They cannot meditate like Sri Ramana Maharshi did. Maharshi's meditation did not break even when his whole body was bitten by ants and other insects. Bold wa oozing out of his body and whole body was covered with blood. Maharshi was operated for cancer without anesthesia. People cannot remain neutral like him, cannot meditate like him, cannot stay in Atma Sthiti like him, yet they would copy him and take things for granted.
Fools would say, Since my Guru Sri Ramana Maharshi did not had Guru, I too will not have. Since Maharshi did not study shastras, I too will not and concentrate on Self Enquiry, as prescribed by him. They would say that since Sri Ramana Maharshi did not do any work, we wouldn't. Maharshi took care of his mother and so we will. Ramana Maharshi did not talked to his mother during his sAdhanA days. Since you too are sAdhaka, why don't to take maun when you mother calls? Ramana Maharshi did not respond upto 3 days and maintained maun.
Maharshi did not react when someone was making his statue somewhere.
Maharshi did not react when someone approached to him with wet eyes and pain that his teachings on 40 verses on reality are badly interpreted. Maharshi simply replied, 'everyone interprets according to their own understanding'
Maharshi stopped translating Vivek Chudamani when tamil translation was reprinted again. Later upon request to his devotees after many years he completed translation of balanced verses.
Maharshi did not build his ashram. It just happened. Later he just inaugurated it and stayed according to divine will.
Maharshi did not pass on a single comment against Britishers. During his time freedom struggle was at his peak. Yet he did not make any comments against them and remained neutral.
Maharshi allowed foreigners to have his darshan. He was impartial to all. At one time, when the owners of land started taking 'visiting fees', he simply shifted to another location. He did not fight with them.
Maharshi allowed animals to freely roam in his ashram.
Maharshi a;ways remained neutral and in atma Sthiti.
Laymen cannot live like he lived and yet they copy him.
Mahashi's upadesha-s are for advanced meditators and not for beginners. His upadesha-s complement Adi Shankara's teachings and hence complement Traditional Advaita. Maharshi's teachings just focus on Self Enquiry. Thats it. Nothing more than this. To my opinion, they are not universal.
Current (69th) Shankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti peetham Swami Jayendra Saraswati declares that Sri Ramana Maharshi was a Jivan Mukta.
Why is renunciation important from beginning?
If you keep giving importance to worldly activities, then thoughts about some thing or something whom you care or hate will some. Then thought process will continue ... one thought after another and one is lost in thoughts. Mantra is lost.
This is the reason why renunciation is important and so we say this world is mithya.
MithyA just does not mean illusion, though it is true from Brahma bhAva or advaita sthiti. But in that sthiti Sri Ramakrishna says one can only live for 21 days. After that connection with body drops permanently. Jivan muktas are the ones who return to this world for the good of all, that too upon instruction and guidance of divine power or Ishwara.
truth = true in all tenses and all states waking sleeping and deep sleep and in turiya
false = not there at any time or any state like rabit's horn.
mithyA = illusion like sea-shell as silver and rope and snake. Mithya also means that one which is not present at all times. So this waking state is absent in dream state and vica versa. Khandan is done with the intention that one develops vairAgya and so does not give importance to it. If glories of mAyA are sung then mind will remain attached and will be attracted towards it. We are taught to be neutral. Rest all is taken care by God
Sri Ramakrishna gives e.g. of pregnant women.
As month of delivery comes nearby, amount of work is reduced. After say 7-8 months very less work is given. After delivery of baby (Jnan), no work is given. Only work is to be with baby (Jnana).
So as one progress God reduces physical work and the responsibility. Always remember, the decision is not taken by the disciple, but Guru orders it. Many times the person himself distances from us, as we reach maturity. Decisions are taken by Guru. Even selecting a path and the way to meditate is decided by Guru. God who is inside us, tackles our mind when we meditate and up-roots desires. Just like we charge mobile for an hour and it goes not for a day, so does meditation charges you and keeps you connected with God even when you are fully concentrating in work. In such case, japa continues in sub-conscious mind. The moment you drop the work i.e. finish it, japa mantra (OM in this case) pops up without effort. Yes without effort. We sometimes listen to a song just before going out and then switch off TV. That song randomly pops up at any time (mostly when we are free). This happens to all our us, no matter how intelligent or concentration power we have or how brilliant one is in studies. If a song can pop up then why can't God's name, whom you have surrendered? If this happens then the mantra has continued through day in sub-conscious mind.
Again, before sleeping, if one does japa and then first thought after waking up is that mantra, then still the mantra has continued. It does not matter if dreams come. God handles it. This is the reason why it all depends upon God's grace. Guru also helps one understand shastras and makes one introvert. Gives direction. Guru is extremely important.
Not thinking about this world is enough, if we cannot accept that this world is nothing but illusion. As one matures, God will make one experience what Shastras say. Only than doubts will be up-rooted. Until then - Have Faith. Have faith in shastras, Guru and God. Have Faith and say - God Exist. Remember that you only feel lonely when you are not with God.
Consciousness or awareness is important. When one is sleeping, consciousness is in dream state, and so if thieves rob your house, you are smiling, because you are with a beautiful girl.
Where your mind is, is important, and not where your body is.
More you associate with body, more is the consciousness clinged / connected / attached to the body. More you associate with mind, chit or ego more will it be embed into them. If you think that you are Jiva, then consciousness will cling and embed into jiva and one will stay in jiva bhAva. Even scriptures will be interpreted from jiva bhAva. But if one thinks of Brahman and associates himself with Brahman, the consciousness will loosen it's grip with mind-body-intellect-ego, jiva,etc and merge with Brahman.
Just like we clearly see this world and experience it and do not see God, similarly, when our consciousness is merged with Brahman, then one clearly experiences that 'I Am Brahman' and one does not experiences or sees this world.
Also remember that you cannot negate your own existence, so it is not a shunya state, but sat-chit-ananda
Since one has to even detach from own body i.e. detach consciousness body, so even body is not given importance. Khandan is done for this purpose. This is what I feel and understand from my limited knowledge.
Not by parroting or by logically accepting but by merging with brahman one becomes Brahman.
'Direct Experience' v/s 'Intellectual Understanding'
People do not feel any need to meditate and remain satisfied with logical reasoning. They believe in shastras, but do not care to meditate. They presume that they are Brahman. Reading all shastras specially the ones on ajaata vaada may result into this behavior.
This is a big problem in Advaita. Consciousness is connected with physical body. You cannot prove anyone who claims to be a Jnani that he/she is not a jnani.
Again, surrendering to SELF would give rise to Ego if wrongly understood. Advaitins do accept NirGuNa brahman as supreme. It means that there is something above us. Advaita asks us to rise by meditation to know who you are. As I have said khandan is done with an intention to rise above it and not to presume logically that I am Self' and so above everything and so 'I am not the meditator' hence I will not meditate. Sadly consciousness is still attached to physical body and one cannot experience effortless meditation (a-japA-japa - i.e. OM continues by itself and destroys all vAsanA). But who will tell them?
From the beginning dvaita is not rejected. the very statement that
"Brahma Satyam Jagan Mithya Jivo Brahmaiva Na Aparah" says that Jiva is brahman. It means that Jiva exists (for ajnani, whatever is the reason). Only from pArmArthic satya, the statement that 'I am Brahman' is true as one is speaking from this state.
It is said to do brahma-bhAvanA and not just presume and sit and do nothing more. Meditation, Self Enquiry is the core of spiritual life.
'Negation' not 'Rejection'
There is a universal problem, but in advaita, technically there is no 'other' to surrender or fear to, but the fact is you are still in duality. Advaita asks to rise above dvaita and so things are neglected and 'NOT NEGATED'. Only initially, people are told negative points so they can leave samsAra from mind. Afterwards, when time passes, mind becomes neutral and the issue is left behind, same guru will say, Mr. X or your parents are not faulty. It is their prakruti and so do not have anything negative emotions (bhAva) about them. But this is said to a disciple who has stepped in and passed through the turmoil, but what will Guru say to a new one who has not yet passed through this 'dark night'? Can you see 'Beautiful sunrise' and experience it's beauty, if you do not pass through 'dark night'.
We are taught 'titixA' - titikshaa (be neutral in positive and negative circumstances). So you cannot remain negative about any thing. Being neutral is not negative. Only the one contemplating the advaita way will understand rest all will take the first upadeSa and remain stuck to it, for wrong reasons, forever, throughout their life. What can be done? Unfortunately, when there is no faith, no upadeSa can be given. It is the duty of disciple to approach Guru and humbly ask for direction and clarification.
Practically, a person has to neglect any impulse of senses or mind and stay calm. Soon the force of thoughts and impulse will face away. Now turn mind slowly and silently back to the mantra OM. Always have faith that OM is capable of up-rooting all desires and take care of anything and everything. OM can tackle all kinds of thoughts. With this faith chant OM. Thoughts will fade away. Be aware of OM, it's beginning and it's end and mind will try to find source and merge in it. Thoughts that are up-rooted will not come again in mediation. The effect of desires will soon fade away permanently. This process is called as 'negation'.
Reason behind saying everything is mithyA
Many people cannot digest this world as an 'illusion'. We all know that each one of us experience this world. So then what is the reason behind saints emphasizing on 'this world is mithyA'. There are two reason which I can think of.
As a guru, you may want to arise your SiSya (disciple) to advaita-sthiti.
You speak by abiding in advaita-sthiti
In first case, it is a conscious effort by guru to raise his disciple to non-duality. He knows that his disciple still gives importance to certain things in the world. To remove them from his disciple's mind, guru will emphasize on 'brahma-bhAvanA' - sajAtiya vrutti pravAh vijAtiya tirakruti meaning continuously think of similar thoughts (related to brahman) and do not let worldly thoughts into mind.
In second case, guru or GYAnI is speaking from his natural state, which is non-dual. It is said that the mind of GYAnI is brahman itself. What you see is a projection of your mind. e.g. an innocent person will believe in whatever other person is saying, while a wicked, diplomatic person will never have blind faith in anyone. He will do all kinds to analysis, get more info about the person and only after he gets convinced he will trust others. In this context, a GYAnI's mind experiences brahman everywhere and so he tries to equate everything to advaita-sthiti.
Advantage of Singing or Listening to Bhajans, Devotional Songs, Hymms and Stotras
Bhajans help one neutralize mind. There is an effect of environment. Say when we move into temple, the moment we step in, atleast for few seconds, we will feel peace and a change.
But we do not have the habit to remain silent. Hence thoughts will come back.
1. We do not talk about worldly matters so worldly thoughts are not present.
2. Atmosphere is purified by regular prayers, rites and rituals
3. Devotion pours in from hearts of devotees
4. Idol which is consecrated (prANa-pratisThA), has spiritual power i.e. vibrations and God recedes in it after we call him (AvAhana). This also has effect on devotees.
Mind and heart is purified. Same thing happens when one sings bhajans. Devotion cleans heart and removes thoughts.
After understanding advaita, lets dispel doubts and accusations put on by Vaishnavs, Gaudiya Vaishnavas and other schools.