Transcendentalism and the Introduction of Advaitayana
Realization and Belief
The Emanationist tradition has developed many forms of practice, according to the stage of life represented by the concerns of each particular school. One major common element that can be found in all of the Emanationist schools (or the Emanationist cultures of the first six stages of life) is the idea that faith (or the affirmation of belief) is the necessary basis for practice and the precondition for the attainment of the ultimate Revelation or Realization.
This basic notion is to be found in all the religions and all the magical and mystical systems of the first five stages of life. It is even the basis for the materialistic and social idealism of the first three stages of life (as can be seen in the fact that all atheistic political movements focus their first and primary efforts on the propagandization of a belief system and an idealistic orientation of self toward social altruism). Even Buddhism has historically accepted cultural modes and practices that reflect the "idealistic" motives of the first five stages of life (rather than the "realistic" disposition that characterizes the original Buddhism of the sixth stage of life), and in doing so, the affirmation of belief (or faith) in the Eternal Buddha and/or the "ideal" of Enlightenment was made an important part of Buddhist culture. And the tradition of Advaitism (which is, in its basic form, a sixth stage epitome of the Emanationist or "idealist" tradition) is also an epitome of the Way of faith (or affirmed belief), and, in its case, faith involves the affirmation of belief in the existence of the Transcendental Reality and Its unique identity with the inner self-essence or consciousness.
A practice cannot be based on the affirmation of belief (as a precondition for attaining the Revelation or Realization of Truth) unless it is presumed that there has already been an historical or universally applicable Revelation that justifies and calls for belief. Indeed, previous general Revelation is the basic means generated in the Emanationist cults for justifying and propagandizing the method of belief, or belief as means, for attaining the personal Revelation.
People in the West are profoundly familiar with this tactic in the domain of religion, politics, and science. The lives, incidents, and words or Revelations of such individuals as Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Jefferson, Darwin, Marx, Lincoln, Freud, and Einstein are the standard basis for propagandizing and motivating the mass culture of the Western world, and more and more of the total world. Indeed, the popular or exoteric mass culture of mankind has always depended on belief systems (or the motive and method represented by prior belief). And, therefore, there are so many historical Revelations of the "ultimate and final Truth" that the Truth Itself has become all but impossible to discern.
What I call the "Great Tradition" is that entire mass of traditions, reflecting all of the seven stages of human existence, that is the common inheritance of all of mankind in this time of universal communication, interrelatedness, and interdependence. It is no longer appropriate or even possible for individuals, cultures, or nations to justify absolute independence from other individuals, cultures, or nationsand it is no longer appropriate or possible to grant absolute or ultimately superior status to any historical Revelation, belief system, or conception of how things work. The entire Great Tradition must be accepted as our common inheritance. We need not (as a method for achieving Realization or Enlightenment) base our lives on the affirmation of belief in the Great Tradition (in part or as a whole) as Revelation, but we must overcome the provincialism of our minds (and, ultimately, the provincialism that is mind itself).
In most of its features or movements, the Great Tradition (whether materialistic or religious, secular or spiritual) bases itself on (1) the propagandization of a particular historical Revelation as a unique and sufficient, if not final, presentation of the Truth Itself (and not merely the Way to Truth), and (2) the propagandization of a Way of achieving personal Realization of that Truth via disciplines that express the affirmation of belief in the previous historical Revelation.
The sixth stage Way of Advaitism is simply an epitome of the Way of belief in the original Revelation that characterizes the Hindu approach to Truth in the first five stages of life. All the Hindu schools of the Emanationist tradition found their particular conceptions of the Way on the basis of what they conceive to be a faithful and orthodox appeal to the ancient "Holy Books" of the Vedic and Upanishadic eras. The Vedas and the Upanishads are granted the same status in Hinduism that is granted to the Bible in Christianity or the Koran in the religion of Islam. The traditional "Holy Books" are all considered to be the "Word of God," given through prophets and seers, and eternally applicable to all human beings (if not binding on them). The trouble is that those ancient books were produced in times in which cultures could develop in relative isolation and independence from one another, and as a more and more intimate world civilization has developed during the course of the last one or two thousand years, the self-contained cultures of the ancient times (and their books) have entered into more and more open contact (and conflict) with one another. The result has been a seemingly interminable sequence of absurd wars, all based on the efforts of one or another anciently (or modernly) independent system of mind and culture to achieve a state of power and dominance over all other systems. (Historically, Christianity and Islam are, among religions, the most conspicuous in their consistent pursuit of world-wide political power and universal cultural dominance, whereas the capitalistic and communistic political systems, each in league with the amoral and transcultural technical idealism of scientific materialism, are, in the modern era, the most conspicuous secular enterprises engaged in usual pursuit of power and dominance.)
By allowing the process of world culture to develop through the conflict of self-contained systems we have, in effect and in actuality, placed the world in the hands of self-centered lunatics (as if all of the madmen and madwomen who imagine themselves to be Cleopatra, Jesus, or Napoleon were given principal offices in each government and institution in the world). Therefore, I call for the universal acceptance of the total tradition (or Great Tradition) of mankind as the common inheritance of mankind. And, rather than merely put all these eggs in a basket to be sampled at random (or in one soup, to be tasted all in one bite), I have communicated a critical approach to understanding and transcending the limitations of the Great Tradition of human existence.
Therefore, all the "Holy Books" are our books, and all of us must go to school and be transformed in our minds by the Great Tradition. Only a critical approach to our inherited and traditional cultural and philosophical limitations of mind and action can purify us of the habit of brute conflict and self-delusion.
If we go to school with the Great Tradition, we must go through a trial of self-transformation. My Teaching provides the critical basis for that school of self-transformation. In the beginning, I call you to consider and overcome the provincialism of your mind, and, therefore, I Argue the Way in relation to the traditions and stages of life. (And this is the justification for my consideration of my own Teaching in terms of the Great Tradition as a whole and the ultimate traditions of Buddhism and Advaitism.) But my Argument finally goes beyond this schooling of the provincial or conventional mind. The radical Argument of my Teaching is a consideration that transcends the mind itself, even the entire body-mind, the apparent world, and attention itself. Therefore, my Argument considers the Great Tradition positively and critically, but it ultimately transcends all the conventions of the Great Tradition and all of the systems of approach to Truth based on either beliefs (as in the Emanationist or "idealist" schools) or problems (as in the non-Emanationist or "realist" schools).
I have already considered the limitations inherent in the "realism" and the problem-based conceptions of sixth stage Buddhism. In this essay I want to consider an aspect of limitation that pertains more specifically to the tradition of Advaitism. To be sure, the sixth stage considerations of original Buddhism have commonly been used as, in effect, a belief system for the followers of Gautama. The "realist" propositions of Gautama are a conceptual framework for progressive practice, and they are commonly affirmed simply because they are overtly propagandized. And the "problem" that motivates the usual seeker for Nirvana is a belief (or mental state) that he simply has not yet understood. But Gautama's fundamental approach was not one that appealed to belief in the conventional propaganda of Revelations and means that were the common basis of the culture of his day. He called simply for a direct exercise of present insight and intuition (rather than the exercise of belief) as the means for Realization. And Gautama's orientation is thus, at least in principle, remarkably free of the limitations of the first five stages of life. However, the efforts toward Realization via sixth stage means are also founded in the conventional or yet un-Enlightened mind, and Gautama's Way (as practiced by yet un-Enlightened individuals and schools) is, therefore, reflective of the problems and beliefs of ordinary mind. In any case, we should understand that Gautama's Way at least calls for the direct exercise of insight and intuition, rather than the method of belief in Transcendental Being, God, gods, immortal self, or the efficacy of magical and mystical techniques for transforming the self or its conditions. (But we should also understand that Gautama did not otherwise deny the ordinary factuality of cosmic and subtle powers, the continuation of existence after death, or the conventional reality of psychic, magical, and mystical abilities, processes, and states.) Gautama's call for the exercise of insight and intuition rather than conventional belief represents a unique orientation that also characterizes the Way of the Heart. (And this likeness is one of the reasons for considering the Way of the Heart to be a form of Buddhism.)
The Advaitist tradition, like the Emanationist tradition as a whole, calls for the exercise of belief based on an appeal to the Revelation of Truth represented by the Vedic and Upanishadic "Holy Books" and traditions. The technique of practice in the schools of Advaitism is apparently a very subtle and direct exercise of insight and intuition, but that subtle and direct exercise is founded on the prior affirmation of two primary philosophical beliefs: (1) Reality is Transcendental Being, Consciousness, and Bliss, and (2) that Reality is identical to the immortal or eternal essential self (or "atman") of every living being.
These two beliefs are presumed to be the core of Revealed Truth that was first made Evident to the seers of the Vedic and Upanishadic epochs. And the Way that is proposed is not merely a direct Way to Realize what may also have been Realized by others in the past. The Way the Advaitists typically propose is based upon prior and continuous affirmation of the Revealed Truth in the form of propositions believed by the yet un-Enlightened mind.
I have Argued that the Obvious Truth, or the Transcendental Truth that is Realized in the seventh stage of life, is not merely a factual Truth that can rightly be believed by those who have not yet Realized It. Until the Truth is Realized, It cannot, as an alternative, be wholly believed (or believed to the degree of being Realized). One of the basic limiting errors of traditional Advaitism is that it proposes a Way basedon belief in the Transcendental Reality and the concrete and exclusive identification of that Reality with the essential or most internal self. As a result, the Way in practice (previous to ultimate Awakening) becomes one of conventional (and inherently Narcissistic or contracted) self-inherence rather than self-transcendence.
The Transcendental Reality is not, in any unique or exclusive sense, the essential self-nature of the individual being. That essential self-nature is only one among all of the conventional and conditional forms of contraction that comprise the "samsaric" or yet un-Enlightened awareness of existence. The Transcendental Reality is Realized to be the Condition of the individual being (or the total self) and the entire realm of Nature (or the not-self). The Transcendental Reality cannot be conceived in the mind. Therefore, It cannot, previous to Realization, be wholly believed in, or affirmed as It is, to the degree of Realization. The Transcendental Reality is not a proposition in the mind, to be believed or confronted in or by the mind The Transcendental Reality is not to be believed, but It is to be Realized. It cannot be concentrated upon, as if It were one among the possible objects of attention. It is not an object (or Object) of attention. It is not factual, or a fact, but Transcendental. And It cannot, therefore, be directly concentrated or meditated on in the form of the self-essence (which is only one possible and factual object or direction of attention), or in any other form of self, not-self, or contraction. It is Realized only in the case of utter self-transcendence, not self-inherence or inherence in any form of self or not-self.
The Transcendental Reality or Condition is Obvious only in Enlightenment (or self-transcending Awakening). Apart from such Awakening to the Obvious, there is no wholly real or most profound presumption that there is, as such, a Transcendental or Ultimate Divine Condition. Such cannot be wholly believed by the ego (which is utterly contracted from the Transcendental Condition) and is not completely believed by anyone (or any mind). It is only doubted and otherwise wondered about, until it is Realized. Therefore, all propagandized beliefs in the Ultimate or Transcendental Divine Being and Condition are nothing more than hopeful and apparent beliefs, or conditional, easily mutable, and chronically doubted structures of mind. Apart from Enlightenment, those apparent belief structures are merely bits of mimicry, or inherited mind-forms, prattled in the midst of an endless conflict between themselves and other inherited mindforms that propose, even with equal force, totally other and even antagonistic beliefs or presumptions.
Those who propose ultimate beliefs as a means for attaining or assigning the Truth are merely trying to make the Truth seem to be compatible with the ego and with the world as it seems to the conventional view. And those who claim utter belief in the Condition of Transcendental Being without yet Realizing It are merely glorifying the face (or lie) of Narcissus in the pond. The Way of the Realization of the Transcendental Condition cannot be based upon propositions of belief, but only and directly upon the understanding and transcendence of the conventionally presumed self, mind, body, world, and God. All other approaches are merely consolations for the ego in the un-Enlightened stages of life.
I do not speak of the Transcendental Reality as the essential nature of Man. This is a conventional sixth stage point of view, a reflection of traditional Advaitism, which is oriented to self-inherence rather than self-transcendence. The Transcendental Reality cannot be directly Realized by inverting upon the essential being. The Transcendental Reality can only be Realized when the essential being (and the motive to invert upon the essential being), as well as all the other psycho-physical extensions of the being, is understood and transcended. Ego-transcendence, and not ego-inherence, is the radical Way of the Realization of the Transcendental Reality.
In the literature of the Way of the Heart I constantly criticize the sixth stage method of inversion. If we are to Realize the Transcendental Reality, we cannot continue to make any feature of the world or any of the "sheaths" of the being into an object of ultimate belief or absorptive meditation. Therefore, I constantly criticize this tendency. The essential being of Man can, in the actual case of Awakening or Realized Enlightenment, be recognized in the Transcendental Reality. In that case, and in that sense, we may say that the Transcendental Reality is the "Nature" of Man, but such a proposition is true only in the case of Realization. And, in that same and only case, all of the parts of the world and all of the parts or "sheaths" of individual being are equally recognizable in the Transcendental Conditionbut apart from Realization, or the self-transcending recognition of the essential being in the Obvious Transcendental Reality, the Transcendental Reality is no more to be equated with the essential nature of Man than with any other "sheath."
I do not propose a Way of practice that is based on belief in the Transcendental Reality. The fundamental Argument of the radical Way of the Heart is not a description of the Divine or Transcendental Reality, nor a prescription for practice based on the affirmation of belief in that described Reality (or its equation with the whole or any part of the self or the not-self). My fundamental Argument is simply a criticism of the self-contraction in all its forms. I call for the practice of self-observation and insight into the self-contraction, until "Whatever" or "Whoever" or "Itever" It is that transcends it stands out as the Obvious. When my Argument has been thoroughly considered, when the self is discovered to be Narcissus or the activity of self-contraction, and when all the forms of self-contraction, appearing as self and not-self, have been re-cognized and transcended, then the Transcendental Reality is Realized as the Obvious. But only then.
The principal limiting error of the Advaitic point of view is the claim that the Transcendental Reality is identical to the essential nature (or "atman") of Man. This error transforms the Transcendental Reality into a proposition to be believed and a conventional object to be meditated upon rather than a Condition that is Obvious only in Enlightenment. This conventional Advaitist error is equivalent to the conventional Buddhist error of believing that "Nirvana and samsara are the same" as a matter of conventional fact rather than of ultimate Realization. And it is clear to me that Gautama's refusal to base his Way upon the idea of an eternal soul or "atman" was an expression of his unwillingness to found the Way on the basis of this "Advaitist error." (His refusal should not be interpreted to mean that he did not believe or know that there is actual survival of death, and so forth.) And he refused to support un-Enlightened belief in (or conventional description and affirmation of) the Transcendental Reality or Condition Itself for the same reasonnot because there is no Transcendental Condition, but because it is errorsome and useless relative to actual Realization to believe or affirm It via the necessarily un-Enlightened structures of mere mind.
A certain conventional level of belief in the Transcendental Divine and a sense of self-inherence in the Transcendental Divine are perhaps inevitable and also natural to the human condition as it matures in the first six stages of life. These propositions of mind and the feeling psyche may, therefore, appear at the beginning of the practice of approach to the Way of the Heart, in the form of the Way of Divine Communion, which is a beginner's practice offered to those who have not yet become fully mature in relation to the functions and conditions of the first three stages of life, and who, therefore, are not yet free to understand and directly transcend the mind of the self-contraction in the context of the fourth stage of life. In any case, such propositions or conventional beliefs are only reflections of the egoic mind of the earlier stages of life. They are not fundamental to the Way itself. Therefore, the approach to the Way of the Heart will eventually proceed (in the form of the Way of Relational Enquiry) on the basis of direct understanding, or insight and intuition, alone. In its ultimate or most direct and radical form, the Way of the Heart is simply to see that there is self-contraction and to re-cognize it utterly. When the self-contraction is utterly re-cognized, the Transcendental Reality stands out as the Obvious.
One cannot perfectly believe in the Transcendental Reality, but one can Realize It. It cannot be Realized by concentrating upon and identifying It with any conditional form at all. It is only Realized when It Reveals Itself as the Obvious. Therefore, the Way is to understand and re-cognize conditional existence. When the play of conditionality is thoroughly understood and re-cognized, then the Transcendental Reality is Revealed as the Obvious.
In the Way of the Heart, there is Help for those who once "hear," or understand, and then continually practice that same understanding. The life and Teaching of the Spiritual Master are not offered as conventionally objective Revelations of Truth, merely to be believed and imitated. They are offered as Argument, or the means of consideration. And relationship to the person of the Spiritual Master is likewise offered as a living means of Transmission or Help (and not merely as an objective symbol or surrogate for belief in the Divine Being). Those who understand and practice in the Company of the Spiritual Master also naturally experience the Transmission of Helping Power and the Grace of Awakening, and so they cultivate that relationship in a naturally responsive manner. But the Way that is served by all of that Help is not a conventional and self-based believer's path. It is the Way of practice of self-transcendence, founded on direct understanding (or insight and intuition) only.
The Radiant Transcendental or Divine Being is not Obvious to the un-Enlightened mind or being. Therefore, It is not merely to be affirmed or believed. Such affirmation or belief is always superficial, a consolation to the ego, a supporter of egoity (rather than a means for transcending ego-centeredness), and an illusion of mind. Belief may console the ego, but is also deludes it and supports it. Therefore, the struggle with the ego (or the discipline in which it is understood and transcended rather than consoled) is useful for Realization, whereas belief is more of a vacation or relief from the struggle itself. The Radiant Transcendental or Divine Being is only Revealed as the Obvious after one has considered the Argument of the Teaching, discovered self to be Narcissus, and seen or re-cognized and transcended all of the forms of self-contraction (or all of the conventions and illusions of the first six stages of life). It is only in the case of actual Awakening (or insight that goes beyond the self-contraction) and Enlightenment (or free, direct, and radical intuition of the Condition of self and not-self) that the Radiant Transcendental or Divine Being is Obvious. Only then are all conditions recognizable in the Transcendental Condition. Only then are the conditional self and the "samsaric" or mechanical round of Nature discovered to inhere in Radiant Free Divine Love-Bliss.
Only Realization is true faith. It is not necessary first to believe ultimate propositions in order to Realize the Transcendental Condition. Such affirmations of belief tend to appear as psychological and psychic phenomena in the stages of life, but they are nothing more than the poetry of philosophical mind. The fundamental process of the Way is simply a matter of "hearing" (or understanding) and "seeing" (or quickening via Transmission) in the Company of the Adept. That hearing and seeing are expressed via self-observation and insight into the mechanism of self-contraction. The practice progresses as re-cognition and transcendence of all the forms of self-contracton, until energy and attention are free of the conventional bondage of the first six stages of life. Then energy and attention are themselves recognized in the Radiant Transcendental Being the Divine Self, the Transcendental Condition, the Love-Bliss or Happiness of the Real.
Therefore, do not settle for belief or mere ego-consoling faith. Do not vacate the struggle for long with the dope of pleasures and mind. Such a life is merely a cycle of motivation and frustraton, wth occasional moments of imaginary attainment and mock-releasea calendar of wants, incarnate memory, no ease. Not even doubt, but the struggle with doubt is the sensation of real practice. And that very doubt is transcended in every moment of real understanding.
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"The perfect among the sages is identical with Me. There is absolutely no difference between us"
Tripura Rahasya, Chap XX, 128-133
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