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THE CELIBACY QUESTION

 

ADVAITA VEDANTA

 

 

 

 

14. SITARA

 

Sitara’s teaching is inspired by Advaita Vedanta and Direct Path. She writes here  www.advaita-vision.org/category/sitara/

 

and here www.astro-sitara.de/engl_advaitavedanta11_2010.html

 

 

 


 INTERVIEW

  

NDM: In spiritual terms, where are you coming from?

 

Sitara: Since my childhood religion/spirituality has always played a prominent role in my life. Raised in a (loosely) protestant Christian family with a father who leaned more and more towards Buddhism and the philosophy of G.W.Leibniz, I first took to Christianity. But by the age of 21 I dropped Christianity altogether.

 

I was 23 when I first heard about Osho, then Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and a few months later went to see him in India. I was initiated by him into Neo-Sannyas and lived in the Neo-Sannyas-context for the next 22 years. In these years I worked as a therapist/astrologer and/or as a journalist/translator. In 2002, I met Dolano, who had been an Osho-disciple about the same period of time as me, and from then on discovered Western-style Advaita teachings.

NDM: What was it exactly about these teachings that did not work for you? I know about Osho with his neo sanyasins, but what about Dolano.  Was she celibate by the way?

Sitara: As far as I am concerned everything worked perfectly well, except for the final analysis. I am deeply thankful to Osho for opening up the realm of freedom to me. The main message I got from him was: “Even if the whole world tells you that you are wrong, stand up for what you have understood to be true. You can correct it if things need correction; so remain open to the possibility that your understanding is faulty, but never corrupt your truth.”

This has become the “mantra” of my life. This is why I have always moved on if I felt that no further progress was possible for me with the teaching at hand. I see Osho as someone who was able to address Westerners, especially young people and to eventually open them up for spirituality. Young Westerners at that time needed a mind opener, because they were caught up in the age-old trauma that Christianity with its concepts of sin and atonement had left in their lives. They wanted to free themselves from this burden but they were throwing out the baby with the bath water: Religion was reduced to nothing else but the opium of the people.

 

Osho opened up a different view on spirituality, saying that you can remain free AND be spiritual. This is his invaluable gift to the world today.

He offered and explained to us a huge amount of different spiritual schools of thought. Although he only presented the non-dual aspect, he was not an Advaita teacher, let alone an Advaita Vedanta teacher. He did not follow any methodology or tradition and was much more a “stirrer up” than a teacher in the conventional sense.

 

The downside of being exposed to such a lot of different perspectives was that in my mind they started to become one big conglomerate. Basically I did not make much of a distinction between Buddhism, Taoism, Jainism, Sufism, Chassidism etc. or Vedanta. To me, what was severely missing was exactly determining what is what, using logic and to thoroughly thinking things through. I contented myself with whatever somehow felt right or true.

 

That’s why I have found the relentlessly logical approach of Advaita Vedanta so valuable, especially for those who got stuck with Osho’s teachings. As for me, Osho prepared the ground: I went through a school of karma yoga with him, but true understanding happened with Dolano. She, too, is not an Advaita-Vedanta-teacher but she cut through all those imprecisions in my, then, poorly developed buddhi. To answer your question, Dolano is a celibate by nature, at least she was when I met her. But she certainly does not hold celibacy as a necessary ingredient to the spiritual quest.

 

Whatever Dolano offered when I visited her in 2002 bore fruit with me – this fruit, she calls it awakening, which is not yet enlightenment.[1] With awakening you have realized who you are, but this realization is not yet stable in all circumstances. Now I would put it like this: you know clearly that you are sat-chit whereas the ananta-aspect remains somewhat vague which can still trigger short-term identification with a separate I. The root of identification with a separate I has been cut but temporarily it may give the impression of being restored again.

 

After Dolano’s teaching I went through five years of “spiritual schizophrenia” as I call it, i.e. I knew, and at the same time I knew not. In one way it was a fundamental relief because something had come to a close. In another way I felt split because it undeniably did not mean the ultimate end of the journey.

After those five years two sentences from two of Gangaji’s books closed the split.

 

Only then I discovered Advaita Vedanta. After reading “Back to the Truth” by Dennis Waite in 2007, I started to study traditional Advaita Vedanta (main influences being Swami Paramarthananda, Swami Dayananda and Swami Chinmayananda).

 

NDM: What was it about this book that made you want to switch from neo advaita to traditional advaita?

 

Sitara: I was not a seeker anymore and I wanted to convey to others, what I knew to be true. I browsed through the websites and books of Western Advaita teachers and found them unsatisfactory because all of them seemed to offer the same, ultimately vague, material. I did not want to add my own version of it: if you knew what they were talking about, it made sense. If not, you had to believe them. Basic questions remained unanswered, the main one being why, when there is only one reality, we do experience a world. (At that time I had not come across Direct Path teachers like Greg Goode, Francis Lucille or Rupert Spira).

 

Reading Dennis’ book I discovered Advaita Vedanta and on top of that its unique methodology that possibly was exactly what I had been looking for. The next step was going through the “Introduction to Vedanta” series by Swami Paramarthananda on his website[2]. This made all the difference to me and I decided to explore this teaching more deeply. Yet it also became increasingly obvious how little I knew and how much I was still to learn.

 

In Germany there are no traditional teachers with whom I could have studied. On the other hand I also felt that because I did not want to learn for my own sake but in order to be able to teach, the normal route designed for students of Advaita Vedanta was not the way for me to go. Mainly it would have taken too long because meanwhile there where students who I taught the best way I could, i.e. Western style, which was fine to start with but I definitely wanted to offer more.

 

I have always been naturally drawn to self-study, so I simply started to study Vedanta the best way I could. In 2010 I found support by meeting a spiritual fellow traveller who was a student of a traditional Vedanta teacher in England. We intensely studied together for almost three years until he died.

By now I teach several students, mainly on a one-to-one basis (Western-style teaching inspired by Advaita Vedanta and Direct Path).

 

NDM: Do you see a danger with a guru teaching a member of the opposite sex in private?  Or on a one to one basis. Such as conventional boundaries being violated in some way through temptations of sex, or other means.

 

Sitara: If the Guru is truly accomplished I do not see any danger. Otherwise the danger of abuse is always there, no matter whether the teaching is private or public. Even in the latter case the teacher can call the student in for “private darshan” and abuse the situation.

 

I initially teach (so far) on a one to one basis because I have found this to be the most efficient way for the seeker. People’s minds are different and if a beginner not only has to understand what I say but also needs to follow the half-baked ideas of others, or needs to wait for someone much slower than himself, valuable time and energy is wasted. Maybe at some point I will have to change the way I teach but as long as I can manage[3], I prefer to go along these lines:

First – in terms of Dennis’ book – “the jungle”[4] needs to be cleared, i.e. the ideas about their personal problems, about spirituality, enlightenment etc. need to be sorted out. This is done in open talks or on the basis of my essays published on my own website. Seekers need to understand what is relevant or irrelevant for their spiritual quest. In the course of this process, all my students realize who they are (in the sense of Dolano’s awakening). Usually only after this has happened we systematically start with the basics of Advaita Vedanta, continually relating them to that particular student’s mind frame and life, deepening and crystallizing the understanding. I also go with them through the script of a book on Advaita Vedanta for Western seekers that I have written, which is still unpublished. This prepares the ground for the study of scriptures in small groups.

 

NDM: In the Tatvabodha, Adi Shankara mentioned that there are certain prerequisites, or sAdhana chatuShTaya sampatti.

 

One on the list is samAdhAna, or what is known in the west or other traditions as simply  "samadhi". Or ultimately nirvikalpa samadhi, or some refer to it as Asamprajnata Samadhi.

 

Swami Sivananda of the Divine Life Society has said "Asamprajnata Samadhi is possible when there is perfect Nirodha of mind. Para Vairagya brings complete rest to the mind. All Vrittis stop. This is the highest end of Raja Yoga which gives freedom."

 

As a result of this the akhaNDAkAra vritti is understood.

 

It is also understood that as a result of the attainment of asamprajnata Samadhi, this will help in purifying the vasanas and samskaras, cleaning the mind of past karma?

 

In doing so, making it easier for the insight to occur as well as gaining other fruits?

 

Why do you feel that this path of samadhi is not practiced today in Vedanta as it is with "neo Vedanta" or yoga, but the teachings seems to rely more on scriptural pointing, reflection and so on?

 

I ask this because some would refer to this as more of a philosophical understanding only. In the Buddhist tradition, this is known as “dry insight” Or like a ladle in a pot of soup, that has never truly tasted the soup.

 

Sitara: There are several aspects to the question. One is the basic understanding of Advaita Vedanta as such. The second is about sadhana chatushtaya sampatti. The third is about samadhi.

 

The first, Advaita Vedanta as such:

 

As a preliminary point two definitions: Akhandakara vritti is not something to be understood, akhandakara vritti is the understanding as such. Any kind of practice is an action.

 

Understanding cannot be brought about by action. Understanding happens by deploying one’s mind. This is not abstract or dry; it simply is how things are. Action can help qualifying the mind for the task of gaining the understanding; it can also help finding a teacher or studying scriptures. But the mind, in fact the buddhi, is going to deliver the understanding and not a practice, whatever it may be.

 

If the understanding is like a ladle that will never be able to taste the soup[5], then it is not akhandakara vritti.  The understanding that goes hand in hand with akhandakara vritti is existential and irreversible because it is the one and only objectless thought.

 

To make it more clear: everyone knows that he is. But he does not really know who he is because whatever he may attribute to himself is subject to change in the course of time. For example as a 5 year old you attribute different things to yourself than as a 50 year old. But the knowledge that you are is unshakable and no-one will be able to convince you of the contrary. If the knowledge of who you truly are is as unshakable as the knowledge that you are, only then akhandakara vritti has occurred.

 

Practice is for preparatory purposes. In due course this karma yoga will qualify the seeker for jnana yoga, the path of knowledge. This is because being equipped with certain qualities will make him realize that whatever he does (karma=doing) will always a) generate objects, which on top of it are b) always going to change and thus pass. If the seeker has reached a certain maturity he will be able to see that this is not what he wants. He will understand that what he seeks is a) not an object but the subject, the true Self, and he will be able to, at least provisionally, accept b) that this subject is never going to pass because it is is-ness itself.

 

As to the second aspect: Sadhana chatushtaya sampatti

 

Those certain qualities and the maturity resulting from them, both mentioned above, are brought about by karma yoga. One instrument of karma yoga is sadhana chatushtaya sampatti. This sadhana (=discipline) enlists nine qualities that enable the seeker’s mind to be calm and clear enough to embark on the path of knowledge (=jnana yoga).

 

They are called prerequisites but there is no seeker who has got them in perfect measure. As much as you can pass the entrance test to a school with ‘excellent’ or just with ‘passed’ you can set off on the path of knowledge with more or less of those qualities. But not with none of them; preparation is needed. In fact, Western Advaita seekers already have got enough of those qualities to start the journey. Otherwise they would not even be interested in the enquiry into their true nature. The difference between traditional Advaita Vedanta and Western Advaita is that the tradition goes about it systematically. Western Advaita simply relies on only those people coming to it who are ready enough to ask the question about their true nature.

As to the qualities enlisted in sadhana chatushtaya sampatti I refer to the following essay about them

http://advaita-academy.org/blogs/Sitara.ashx?Y=2011&M=May

 

As you mentioned, samadhana is one of those qualities. In Advaita Vedanta samadhana has little to do with the practice of certain techniques to reach a state of samadhi. On the path of knowledge this attempt would distract the seeker who will start to place undue stress on reaching something that only in the context of yoga is considered an end in itself.

 

In the context of Advaita Vedanta we are happy if through practice the seeker’s mind gets reasonably cleared, i.e. cleared enough to be able to follow the teaching and develop authentic understanding of his/her true nature. There is no need for perfection or for states like samadhi. Samadhana means focusing on what contributes to the path of knowledge alone – and not getting sidetracked into running after experiences or reaching certain states. Samadhana – understood as the attempt of reaching a state – in fact would be the opposite of how it is understood in Advaita Vedanta. And the idea that a certain state, which is most difficult to gain, being the door to ultimate understanding is even more foreign to Advaita Vedanta.

As to the third aspect, samadhi:

 

Your question: “… asamprajnata Samadhi, this will help in purifying the vasanas and samskaras, cleaning the mind of past karma?  Making it easier for the insight to occur as well as gaining other fruits?”

 

There is no need of cleaning the mind of past karma, in fact, it is impossible; all the while you go on living you will inevitably create new karma. Even the idea of ever being able to rid yourself of all vasanas/samskaras is a myth. And luckily there is no need of all this ‘for the insight to occur’. And ‘other fruits’ are of no interest once the insight is gained.

 

Your question: “Why do you feel that this path of samadhi is not practiced today in Vedanta as it is with "neo Vedanta" or yoga, but the teachings seems to rely more on scriptural pointing, reflection and so on?”   

 

Because ‘the path of samadhi’, as you call it, is considered to be a waste of time. This does not mean that samadhi is altogether useless but the effort required is in poor proportion to the result.

 

In this context I’d like to refer to what the Direct Path teacher Ananda Wood says in “Ways to Truth” under “Altered States”.

Downloadable as pdf here: www.advaita.org.uk/discourses/downloads/thought.pdf

 

Your question comes down to what it is that brings about enlightenment. Advaita Vedanta’s definite answer to this question is “understanding alone”. Yet Advaita Vedanta does not deny that enlightenment happens within all kinds of philosophical and religious contexts. There are supreme enlightened beings in Buddhism, Sufism, Christianity or wherever. Even though they may claim that ‘their’ enlightenment has been brought about by meditation, whirling, fasting or prayer, they – in the course of meditating, whirling, fasting, praying – have been exposed to their scriptures. Akhandakara vritti can only result from the insights gained through this exposure – while meditating, whirling, fasting, praying may have created a conducive, reasonably peaceful mental state, not more and not less.

 

NDM: When you say that “ There is no need of cleaning the mind of past karma, in fact, it is impossible; all the while you go on living you will inevitably create new karma. Even the idea of ever being able to rid yourself of all vasanas/samskaras is a myth.”

 

Yes, some traditions say there isn't a "you" on an absolute level either, but what about the fetters, or binding to various types of conditioning, or behavior, on a conventional level.  

 

For example if "someone" is saying they are liberated, have attained moksha, but are still acting out on their sexual impulses and hurting others in an inappropriate way.  What kind of moksha would you consider that to be?

 

Is this an adharmic sort of moksha, that’s not in accord with the laws of karma?

 

Sitara: Your interpretation is not quite right: cleaning or not cleaning happens on the relative level. I did not refer to the absolute level when I said that there is no need of cleaning the mind of past karma and that this is as impossible as getting rid of all vasanas/samskaras.

 

As to karma: the idea of clearing past karma is very prevalent in the West and it may be a yogic idea, too. But according to Advaita Vedanta karma gets cleared by experiencing. Nothing else will clear it. The law of karma is impartial: every action has a result, comparable to an arrow that has been shot; it will inevitably take its course and hit its goal, no matter whether you change your mind after you have shot it.

 

Having said this, I am aware that there are rituals and prayers that are supposed to alleviate the results of past actions. But the bottom line of the law of karma is that if something is part of your karma package for this life (prarabdha karma), there is no way to avoid the experience of it.

As to vasanas: maybe I should have made it more clear that what I mean to say is that it is impossible to get rid of all vasanas/samskaras.

In fact, it is very much needed to work on overcoming one’s vasanas/samskaras. First of all you have to eliminate those that are in the way of fully understanding who you are; and after the understanding did happen you still have to work on those that continue to reinforce habitual error.

 

But it will be impossible and unnecessary to render all vasanas inoperative. Vasanas, as well as karma, is what keeps the body going. If all the vasanas were overcome and all the karma cleared the body would instantly perish.

 

You say: ‘For example if "someone" is saying they are liberated, have attained moksha but are still acting out on their sexual impulses and hurting others in an inappropriate way. What kind of moksha would you consider that to be?”

 

My answer:

First of all, just because someone says that he is liberated does not mean that he is liberated. Basically it is a question of how you define ‘liberated’.

Someone may have got a basic understanding of his/her true nature. This basic understanding usually consists of knowing that he/she is sat-chit (is-ness–consciousness) and is the ultimate subject, the witness-consciousness to everything else. This is a very valuable realization and on enquiry it is even seen that sat-chit is boundless.

 

But, very subtly, separation continues. There is still a ‘me’ and an ‘everything else’. If someone is in this state he may be able to help people and to teach, but as long as the last realization – of “Aham Brahmasmi”, of “I am all there is”, ananta (limitlessness) – has not happened, he is not altogether trustworthy. Such a one I would not call liberated.

 

The one who truly knows himself as sat-chit-ananta is unable to do harm to others. He may be having his lot of residue vasanas but the unconditional love that he is will outweigh them. Although he may be able to commit mistakes – he is neither all-knowing nor perfect – he will not cause pain to others on purpose or to his own advantage. But I admit that it can be a very fine line between a mistake and a hurtful act.

 

Your last question: ‘Is this an adharmic sort of moksha thats not in accord with the laws of karma?’

 

Firstly I do not believe in any adharmic (=unethical) sort of moksha (= liberation). I completely trust that someone who is fully liberated has lost his/her ability to act adharmically. Yet I have to say that I do not agree with all traditional ideas about what is supposed to be dharmic or adharmic.

I do not understand how your above mentioned ‘laws of karma’ come in here. I suspect that we hold different ideas about the law of karma.

 

NDM: Just going back to the Samadhi question,  Ananda Wood says:

 

“In its content, a nirvikalpa samadhi is exactly the same as deep sleep. There are no differentiated appearances in it. No differing perceptions, thoughts or feelings appear. There is no sense of passing time, in which appearances could come and go. There’s only pure experience: unmixed with any physical or mental things that are perceived in space or time. In short, a savikalpa samadhi is a special kind of dream; and a nirvikalpa samadhi is a special kind of deep sleep.”

 

What Ananda wood may be speaking of is "murcha", Yogic swoon, “murcha”, where the person becomes unconscious as a result.  A muddy sort of samadhi, practiced by one with an unpure mind or not much ability. Obviously this is not going to be conducive for any insight, not more than being in a coma, on drugs, or in deep sleep.

 

However in the mandukya karika, it says “For that mind loses itself in sleep, but does not lose itself when under control. That very mind becomes the fearless Brahman, possessed of the light of consciousness all around.”

 

In his bhashya on mandukya karika , Sankara says:

 

“When the mind becomes motionless, like a lamp in a windless place, it does not appear in the form of any object imagined outside; when the mind assumes such characteristics, then it becomes brahman; or in other words, the mind then becomes identified with Brahman.”

 

The Tripura Rahasya (Ramana Maharshis favorite book) says that "the mind is not there in deep sleep, but is like a mirror covered in tar so how can it see its true nature.  In the same way, the mind is covered with the darkness of sleep and is not able to illuminate thoughts...

 

“Would such eclipse of the mind reveal the glimmer of consciousness?”  

 

In either case, it appears today that many are taking a short cut, a “direct path" as with Zen or "neo advaita."

 

You call the practice of samadhi a "waste of time" but why did Adi Shankara and the ancient rishis before practice this way?  

 

Are you saying reflecting on scripture alone, or going to a satsang is a much better way?

 

If so, has modern day Vedanta deviated from the ancient path of the rishi is my question?

 

Sitara: To begin with let me clarify: whereas I may have experienced savikalpa samadhi without calling it that, I definitely have no experience of nirvikalpa samadhi. I do not know about murcha, nor do I have much knowledge of yoga. As I am neither able nor interested in countering one quote with another I will not go into a discussion of details on samadhi or/and what others have to say about it.

On top of all that, I cannot be considered a Vedanta teacher either because a Vedanta teacher is someone who has gone through sampradaya teaching, which I haven’t. I do lean on Advaita Vedanta and deeply appreciate it, but my teaching is tailored to the needs of a particular student, not to a particular teaching method or tradition. Basically I am talking on my own authority. And I am ready and willing to bring out my own viewpoint and have it questioned and discussed.

 

As to your claim that Shankara and the rishis practiced samadhi I must say that whatever I‘ve read of Shankara does not confirm this. Shankara stresses time and again that the path of knowledge is about understanding and not about practice. I also cannot detect any reference to the practice of samadhi in your quote from Shankara’s commentary of Mandukya Karika. I take him saying that the mind becomes identified with Brahman when it is like a lamp in a windless space, as referring to what happens in the moment of akandhakara vritti: the mind does not have any object anymore, it is pure subjectivity, i.e. Brahman.

 

I could imagine that samadhana or samadhi in some contexts may mean nidhidyasana. I do not know enough Sanskrit but this would make sense to me. Be that as it may: as far as I am concerned, if it is samadhi (no matter what kind of –kalpa), it is a state, i.e. something that will eventually go. If it is self-realization, it is the immediate recognition of who you are, which is what happens simultaneously with akandhakara vritti. No duration is needed, there is no time lapse between that vritti and enlightenment. Once akandhakara vritti happens, that’s it.

 

You say “it appears today that many are taking a short cut, a direct path as with Zen or neo advaita.”

 

Here I would like to add a definition of some crucial terms:

 

Advaita refers to every approach that considers reality to be non-dual, whether Zen, Taoism, Vedanta, most of Western Satsang and others.

 

Vedanta refers to those who accept the authority of the Vedanta, which is that part of the Vedas that is also called Upanishads.

 

Neo-Advaita refers to those who do not accept the Vedas or Vedanta or anything else except the ultimate reality. This Western approach denies the world of objects any reality whatsoever, even a provisional reality.

 

Neo-Vedanta is the approach of the followers of Ramakrishna, Sw. Vivekananda and Swami Yogananda.

 

Advaita Vedanta is the tradition based on Adi Shankara’s teachings. There are slight differences amongst different teachers, for example Swami Chinmayananda differs from Swami Dayananda/Swami Paramarthananda. Ramakrishna Mission, although having a different name to qualify their approach (Neo-Vedanta), also considers itself to be in the tradition of Adi Shankara.

 

Traditional Advaita Vedanta is based on the teachings of Adi Shankara; it only accepts teachers who have gone through a sampradaya teaching themselves and apply that teaching in their work with students.  Sampradaya teaching is a methodology taught by teachers in the lineage of the five mathas founded by Adi Shankara.

 

Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj are not traditional Advaita Vedanta, as their teaching does not follow the traditional methodology, even though Nisargadatta’s Guru belonged to one of the lineages.

 

Western Satsang-teaching usually is Advaita but not Vedanta. One can distinguish it from Neo-Advaita although there are overlaps.

 

Direct Path teaching – in the narrowest sense – is the school of Atmananda Krishna Menon that exerts self-exploration and logic. The teachers usually have some scriptural knowledge although this is not part of the teaching.

 

In a wider sense one can differentiate between the traditional and the direct approach. The traditional approach is gradual, the direct approach claims that anyone can go directly towards self-realisation.

 

In that sense neo-advaita is direct, whereas neo-vedanta is gradual.

 

There are many intermediate approaches, for example Ramana Maharshi recommended atma vichara (Who am I?) as a contemplative technique (direct) while at the same time recommending many other things for people unable to do this (gradual).

 

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Continued from above.

 

Now my answer to your question above: “it appears today that many are taking a short cut, a direct path as with Zen or neo advaita.”

 

I do not proclaim these kinds of paths. Zen anyway is altogether different. First of all it recommends action, i.e. meditation, as the means to self-realisation. And its goal, shunya, is neither what I consider worthwhile pursuing nor can I logically accept it.

 

When I talk of Direct Path I refer to whatever I know of Sri Atmananda Krishna Menon’s method, which is direct but neither illogical – something that I consider Neo Advaita to be; nor vague – something that I consider Satsang teachings to be.

 

You say “Are you saying reflecting on scripture alone, or going to a satsang is a much better way?”

 

My answer: (As to satsang, see above.)

 

Reflection on scripture and on one’s own understanding is the way, yes. It needs to be done with a teacher who does not talk from book knowledge but from his own knowledge, i.e. someone whose mind has turned into pure subjectivity in the above mentioned sense.

 

You: “If so has modern day Vedanta deviated from the ancient path of the rishi is my question?”

 

I cannot say much about “the ancient path of the rishis”. As I mentioned before, this may well be your interpretation. Ask a hundred people about the “path of the rishis” and you will get at least a hundred answers. The rishis channelled – but did not author – all four Vedas, including Vedanta. Any tradition in Hinduism that accepts Vedas (which most, but not all, do) will claim the Vedas as authority for their tradition.

 

Even though Advaita Vedanta has always recommended practices in order to clear the mind, as far as I know it has never focussed or insisted on a “practice of samadhi”. Its main focus has been on deepening the understanding through sravanana (scriptural study), manana (clearing doubts that come up in the course of that study) and nidhidhyasana (clearing away remains of habitual error, which are not in the way of understanding but in the way of complete peace and serenity in all circumstances). And this is what Advaita Vedanta does to this day. In case the practise of Samadhi is part of nidhidyasana it may well be useful for some people. But I cannot accept it as a must even then.

 

 

NDM:  When you said previously “This admittedly means a danger for the seeker of truth; but if one can meet the challenge, love offers a unique chance. Since it is not love itself that is a danger, not even the bond or desires that arise – the danger is identification. Identification with what? It is not the identification with love, but the identification with the emotional reactions that usually come along with the feeling of love.”

 

But what about at the point of death, if one still has these desires for sex and love? What will happen then? Will one be out of samsara or not?

 

Sitara: No, one will not be out of samsara. In the process of dying many issues may resolve but if these desires still come up strongly they will remain and they will keep you in samsara.

 

For a dedicated seeker of truth it is important to ask: why are these desires still there? I see two possible reasons:

One is that the seeker has been fighting those desires. Fighting the desires for love or sex is the surest way to keep them alive and thriving. Why? Whatever you fight needs your constant attention. This means you will keep on focusing on you desires, providing them with a continual energy supply.

The other is that the seeker has always wanted to go into love or sex and did not have or take the opportunity to do so. If a strong desire for love or sex is there but the opportunity is missing, we have to consider this as prarabdha karma.

 

My conviction is that, usually, you will not be able to transcend these desires without going through the experience itself. As you cannot force the desires out of your mind you can only pray for the opportunity to arise in order to transcend them. More in the essay “On Love”.

 

 

 

Love

Love and the path of knowledge do not seem to have a lot in common, except at the highest level, absolute love – a love of all. But love is part of life, not only the love of the divine, of humanity, of nature, of people in need, of friends and family. What we in the West usually understand by love is the love between two human beings in a love relationship that usually involves sex. What about that? What value does such a relationship have for the seeker of truth?

 

Almost all spiritual traditions either disregard it or treat it as a sort of adolescent phenomenon which, by all means, should not be given too much attention – a sort of pedeatric disease to which one hopefully becomes immune in the course of life. Those who have completely grown out of it take up the highest rungs in the spiritual hierarchy – be it in Christianity or in Eastern religions. 

 

Is it really necessary to transcend love relationships in order to become enlightened? Do they really pose a threat to the search for truth? Are they necessarily an obstacle on the spiritual journey?

 

Continue reading the rest of the essay here "on love

 

 

 

If in the process of dying these desires still arise you should simply relax with them. They are a fact, they show that something is not complete and this is just how things are. It does not help dramatizing the situation. Instead, see that along with these desires there also is the desire to complete the journey. The strongest desires determine our next incarnation. So there will be opportunity enough to go through the experience of love and sex as well as beyond the desire for them and complete the journey.

 

NDM: This is Stuarts question.  Vedanta, Taoism, Buddhism, Judeo-Christian Gnosticism, Mystical Sufism, all laud transcendence of duality and desire verified by transcendence of sex, from Buddha to Dalai Lama and millions of others in India over the millenniums. Has ...modern nondualism created something new where sex and desire are not transcended? 

 

Sitara: I cannot say much about modern non-dualism in general because there are too many varieties. I can only outline my own viewpoint:

Enlightenment requires dis-identification with who you are not. If desire means identification it is incompatible with truly knowing your non-dual nature. This refers to all desires, no matter what their object may be.

 

Basically there is no problem with renunciation, be it of personal desires for sex, riches, fame or whatever – if, and only if, the desire is not very strong. Similarly there is no problem even if these desires are strong but are not nearly as strong as the desire for moksha. But if none of these “ifs” apply there is only one option: going beyond it by going through it.

 

Maybe this is a relatively new phenomenon. Modern society places high value on anything personal, i.e. on personal desires and their fulfillment. This is how material, emotional and sexual gratification has gained a momentum that seems out of proportion compared to the past. But there is no use to lament this development. It is a fact now and will become more so in the future. So non-dualistic teaching needs to take it into account.

 

To my mind the chance to transcend strong desires for sex or love by traditional methods seems quite remote, at least in nowaday’s world. Coping with them in the traditional way they are more likely to become suppressed than transcended. For dedicated seekers I rather recommend passing through the “sadhana of love” pointed out in the essay ”on Love” – even though it is a hard sadhana and needs the guidance of a skilled teacher in order to be successful. Also, it is relatively new so there are not many who would be skilled enough to deliver that guidance.

 

The only other alternative I see is to go through the “sadhana of life”, which will work out in the end but may take many lifetimes of fruitlessly suffering one’s way through the ups and downs of the so-called “love-life”.

 

Any sadhana is an instrument that helps the seeker to transcend identification with what he IS NOT. In case of the “sadhana of love” this is the identification with the one who needs the love of the other to be complete.

 

But in order to know what one truly IS, you need more than a sadhana: you need knowledge. Only with the knowledge of who one truly is, the path can be completed. So, even though this sadhana is of immense value, it only clears the way for the knowledge to bear fruit.

 

The reason why I consider the sadhana of love so valuable is because the identification with the one that needs the other in order to be complete is universal and so far there are not many methods that can help to surpass it. And it definitely needs to be left behind.

 

One other sadhana that helps to overcome the identification with the one needs the other in order to be complete is bhakti. But it may not be able to help with the sexual aspect.

 

To sum up my answer: I do not see any need to transcend sex for enlightenment to happen but I do see the need to transcend the identification with anything one is not.

 

NDM: Is this a higher state than what Buddha and founder of advaita, Adi Shankara, taught to monks and lay people and lived personally?

 

Sitara: Shankara’s was a different time that needed different sadhanas. The teaching methodology of Advaita Vedanta is timeless. But the code of conduct recommended is subject to change. If it is not adapted to people living in nowaday’s world it will fail to get through to them.

 

NDM: Sitara, why do the Vedic monastics practice celibacy and have no material possessions?

 

Sitara: If it works for them it is because they are living in a different world and thus time than you or me or those who read these answers. If it does not work for them it is a sure sign that modern times have reached them and they, too, need different measures.

 

END OF INTERVIEW


[1] „Awakening“ in Dolano’s sense is „enlightenment“ in Rupert Spira’s sense, whereas „enlightenment“ in Dolano’s sense is „self realization“ in Rupert Spira’s sense. In traditional Advaita Vedanta we again have different terms, i.e. jnana and jivanmukti.

[2] Go here: http://www.vedantavidyarthisangha.org then scroll down und click on „For previous 4 talks click here“

[3] Talking on a weekly basis for an hour or more with each student takes time. As I also need to earn my livelihood, I have 12 students. If more came I am sure that I would find a way to work with them, too. Yet I do not accept everyone. I need to feel that he/she is a dedicated seeker, i.e. is ready to drop experience hunting in the realm of artha, kama and dharma.

 

[4] Dennis Waite: „Enlightenment, the Path through the Jungle.“

[5] In fact the comparison is flawed because ladle and soup are two whereas the recognition, the recognizer and the recognized are one. But I take it to mean „not the real thing.

 

END OF INTERVIEW