NDM: Can you please tell me how you became
interested in Jivanmukti?
Ramesam Vemuri: Perhaps it was smeared on to my
brain cells even when I was a young boy! Being born
and brought up in a family steeped in philosophy (my
father was a Theosophist and author) and having been
exposed to Mr. J. Krishnamurti’s talks early in my
life (even before I could fathom their full import)
could have triggered my interest in Jivanmukti. It
is rather difficult to mark a specific date or
relate to an event; it happened as a process of
nature and nurture in the general atmosphere of
Indian cultural milieu I grew up with.
NDM: What would you say Jivanmukti is exactly?
Ramesam Vemuri: As the word connotes, Jivanmukti is
release or freedom (in Sanskrit ‘mukti’) when
one is still living (in Sanskrit ‘jivan’)
with a body. The immediate question that comes up
will then be: is there release after death also?
The answer is yes. It is called Videhamukti or
Liberation without the body.
But what ‘exactly’ is the freedom or release from?
This is the most critical point to be appreciated.
release is from the ‘bondage’ of the world. But the
world does not bind one down with any ropes. The
body of the person is as much a part of the world
wherein it moves and works unfettered. How then is
the person bound by the world?
A person living fascinated by the world is a
“Worldly person” or in Sanskrit a “Samsari.”
(S)he is driven by his mind and senses captivated by
various objects of the world. He struggles for his
continuity and perpetuation. One of the survival
tools that the mind quickly discovers in nature is
the pattern of causation.
The mind detects a cause-effect relationship even in
random unrelated happenings in the world. He
entwines himself in these imagined cause-effect
relationships weaving several theories around them
and building prediction mechanisms. He ends up ever
struggling, ever chasing. His happiness and sorrow
depend on the success or failure of what his
expectation was. He is thus caught up in or totally
“bound” by the apparent cause-effect machinations in
the world (in Sanskrit ‘samsara’).
Is there any other way of living in the world? Yes,
there is. It is being “not-bound” by the
cause-effect equation. Even after one is unbound,
the world and the things in it (including his body)
continue. So do all the other natural processes
including the hunger, pain and aging of the body.
However, two big changes take place. For one, he
clearly understands the falsity of the cause-effect
relationship and other such calculations of patterns
conceived by the mind. He also becomes free of the
limitations and constrictions imposed by the mind
isolating him as a separate creature here confined
to his body-mind fragmenting him from a world
sitting out there from which he needs to be
protected and saved. Just as you see a man in
totality as a man and not as an ensemble of separate
legs, hands, eyes, ears etc. etc., he “sees” the
entire world (inclusive of his body-mind) as one
Please notice the quotation marks used on the word
sees. The word “sees” is used only to convey a
sense of what it will be like. In fact he does not
‘see’ or cognize’ anything after being unbound. He
is not a ‘seer’ or ‘cognizer’ seeing an object
located out there separate from him. The whole
thing, whatever that is (including his body) just
remains as is. Just as ‘seeing’ takes place without
the ‘seer’, actions also happen without a ‘doer.’
If things are experienced by him, the experiencing
takes place without an ‘experiencer.’ He is thus
not any more ‘conscious’ of a separate body with an
independent ID to be taken care of, to be
protected. So no more struggles, no more chasing or
being bound by cause-effect and expectations. He
takes all things in his stride as they come to
happen on their own accord without any effort on his
part. This is the second big change.
The earlier contracting and confining mind with its
tendency to reify and deify does not any more
isolate the individual. It melds and dissolves into
the very Consciousness that cognizes everything and
that is everything. He does not identify himself
with the limited body-mind and he is synonymous with
Oneness without any other. This infinite expansive
mind is Jivanmukti.
One who firmly abides in it is a Jivanmukta or
Sthitaprajna or Arahant (in Buddhism).
NDM: When you say “he
clearly understands the falsity of the cause-effect
relationship and other such calculations of patterns
conceived by the mind” Are you also referring to
saMskAra-s and vAsanA-s and can you please explain
what these are?
Ramesam Vemuri: That is right. Jivanmukta
understands the unreality of samskaras and vasanas
Let us see what these words stand for.
Samskaras and vasanas are the learned behaviors. If
I wish ‘Good Morning’ to Mr. X, my samskara
(culture) expects an appropriate response from him.
If I run away in disgust at the sight of a rotting
carcass giving off unbearable stink or if a baby
cries with fear on seeing a dark scary spider, it is
as per the blueprint (vasanas) of the learned
behavior stored in the genes.
Suppose the strong smelling spice asafoetida is
stored in a container. Even after the spice is used
up completely, its flavor (in Sanskrit
clings to the container and lingers on, though the
container may be broken. The learned behaviors (the
lessons drawn, the results of prior actions etc.)
are called ‘vasanas’ comparing them to the
asafoetida smell left in the container. Very roughly
speaking, we can view the stored ‘impressions’ of
samskaras and vasanas are the ancient technical
terms indicative of what in modern biology are
phenotype and genotype.
[Paraphrasing from various sources: Phenotype is
the outward, physical manifestation and behavior of
the organism. Genotype is the internally coded,
inheritable information carried by the organism. To
explain these terms with an illustration:
Differences in the genotypes can produce, say, cats
to have normal ears or curled ears. The pinkness we
often see in flamingos is not encoded into their
genotype. The food they eat makes their phenotype
white or pink.]
The mind views its own imagined characteristic of
“pattern recognition and development of conceptual
models” as an effect of something and looks for that
cause somewhere ‘outside.’ Pop comes the answer
‘samskaras and vasanas’ as the cause. This answer
may not have come to ‘my’ mind; it may have occurred
to some mind and handed down as a meme! Thus the
words samskaras and vasanas have come as
appeasements for a mind that is searching for a
cause for its own behavior. They are lollipops.
The most basic point to remember is that in order to
talk in terms of vasanas and so on, one has to first
believe in the ‘reality’ of the existence of a
cause, an effect and a relationship between them.
Looked at from the position of a Jivanmukta, there
are no different entities, one as a cause and
another as an effect and a formula expressing a
relationship between them. The entire thing is
One. And that is the only Truth. Not so many
different things and their inter-relationships which
are all imaginary.
NDM: Do you believe it’s possible to be a Jivanmukta
and still be "acting out" on
and vAsanA-s? Such as lusting after
objects, money, selfish ambitions, fame, spiritual
reputation, worldly success and so on? Or to have
aversions of any kind? Fear, anxiety and so on?
Ramesam Vemuri: May I first make explicit the
assumptions behind some of the terms in the
“Acting out”: You have put very aptly “acting out”
in quotation marks. For a ‘me’ - positioning myself
as an aloof observer, a separate distinct individual
- a Jivanmukta may ‘appear’ to act. But a
Jivanmukta does not act. Actions just happen by
their own force. There is no sense of doership, a
motive for action or expectation of an outcome on
his part. The supernova explodes, the sun shines,
the earth rotates, the ocean waves. A Jivanmukta
acts. Things just happen.
Classification of positive/negative or
desirable/undesirable or sin/merit and so on
requires an a priori
standard in relation to
which we can compare and judge the things. Who and
what for does one set these standards? Are the
standards not highly contextual, local, artificial
and subjective? Does qualifying anything - vasanas
or actions – based on such purely judgmental aspects
have any holiness? A society’s imposition of rules
and regulations, howsoever high may be the value and
whatsoever may be the morality and nobility, does
not have Absoluteness. They may have a societal
sanction but lack intrinsic Sanctity. Who to say
right or wrong or good or bad? Things just exist.
Nothing is positive or negative until a ‘thought’
Osama is as much a part of the world as Obama is!
Perhaps I should even omit “a part of” because
Oneness does not have parts in it. It is simply
indivisible. Non-duality is not exclusive. It does
not sieve out, winnow or filter. It is all
I shall now try to answer the question in the light
of the above disclaimers.
Perchance I should answer at three levels: from that
of a Jivanmukta; from the position of his body; and
from the viewpoint of the rest of the world.
From the position of Jivanmukta: Jivanmukta is
Brahman. He does not carry any individuating ID.
He does not “act out” or even act. Brahman is
immutable, actionless and utterly stable. He is
complete and has no lack. He does not have to seek
or run after so called good things, name, fame,
wealth, lust or status. Nor has he to avoid
undesirable things. It is a ‘choiceless’ life with
no likes and dislikes, attractions and aversions,
acceptance and rejection.
The Jivanmukta’s body works just for its bare
maintenance until it meets its natural end. He has
no ‘fears’ including the fear of death. If we, say,
try to push his body into a burning fire, it may
because of its inherent nature resist the push. But
there may not be a sense of ‘fear’ felt by
Jivanmukta. Or he may even jump into the fire. Who
From the position of Jivanmukta’s body: A Jivanmukta
carries the same physical body that he had before
his mukti. Externally there are no visible
changes in it either in its appearance or normal
functions. But does Jvanmukti bestow a license on
his body for a free run of all whims and fancies as
per its so called vasanas?
The answer is an emphatic and unambiguous NO.
Then what happens to the samskaras and vasanas?
They are all there only in form but totally
ineffective. Vedanta offers two metaphors to
exemplify the ineffectiveness of samskaras and
vasanas in a Jivanmukta. They will be like roasted
seeds that cannot germinate even if all other
conditions (water, soil etc.) are favorable. They
will be like a burnt out rope that retains the shape
of the plaid of its strands but has no strength to
If we extend the analogy of phenotype and genotype,
can we expect changes in the genes or neuronal
connections in the brain of a Jivanmukta’s body? We
do not have any scientific data on this point. This
is completely a virgin area of research that needs
to be actively taken up.
We normally notice that as one stays more and more
with Self-inquiry, many of the usual temptations and
desires diminish. One does not hanker after power,
prestige, privileges etc. Mundane desires and
pursuits automatically drop down.
From the view of the rest of the world: Though it
is all One world including me, you or any observer
for the Jivanmukta, we do see him ‘acting.’ It is
so because we view the world with the filter of our
mind. Our mind first conceives us to be distinct
entities separate from the body of Jivanmukta. Next
it imagines motives for his actions and judges the
motives with reference to our anticipations. So it
is we who see those actions on the part of
NDM: When you say: Who and what for does one set
these standards? Are the standards not highly
contextual, local, artificial and subjective? Does
qualifying anything - vAsanA-s or actions – based on
such purely judgmental aspects have any holiness? A
society’s imposition of rules and regulations,
howsoever high may be the value and whatsoever may
be the morality and nobility, does not have
Absoluteness. They may have a societal sanction but
lack intrinsic Sanctity. Who to say right or wrong
or good or bad? Things just exist. Nothing is
positive or negative until a ‘thought’ interferes.
But what about dharma? The natural laws of the
universe or God as some would call it. Some vAsanA-s
violate dharma, others do not. Such as a vAsanA for
smoking cigarettes like Nisargadatta had, is an
unhealthy vAsanA but it’s only going to injure his
lungs at most. Someone like the American guru Adi Da
had extreme vAsanA-s such as having sexual
relationships with his students, physically and
psychologically exploiting and abusing them. How
does dharma play into this equation?
Ramesam Vemuri: ‘Dharma’ to me in the context of
Advaita is synonymous to Brahman, undefinable,
ungraspable. The Sanskrit word for the “Natural
Laws of the Universe or God” is ‘niyati.’
Thus these two words are not the same for me.
Dharma being whatever “Is”, and there being no
second, there is no question of some other ‘thing’
violating It. The natural laws being inexorable and
inviolable there is no question of violating them
either. (These Laws are said to be embedded in the
very first thought that kicks off (imagines)
‘creation’ of an “I” and a visible world.)
Tendency for addictions (smoking etc.) and
promiscuity do appear to have some genetic basis as
biology tells us. These therefore may qualify to be
termed as vasanas in the light of the analogy
Now the question is what relation does Dharma have
with the vasanas?
Genes, world and all objects (perceivables) are a
creation of I-consciousness. I-consciousness
originates when Brahman (abidance in or being
Brahman) is ignored. In other words ‘ignore-ance’,
as Peter puts it so beautifully, engenders “I”.
Subsequent thoughts of claiming some perceivables as
“me or mine” and some others as not “me or mine”
consolidates the entity “I” and cocreates an “other”
which is the world. So the relation of Dharma and
vasanas is that of Brahman and the world.
NDM: How does one measure these vAsanA-s or draw the
Ramesam Vemuri: Any “measure” whether of vasanas or
any other thing has only a relative value. One can
sit down and evolve measures like we have traffic
rules to move about on roads. I do not need them in
my house, however.
NDM: Would they all not get burned out? Why would
some remain over others?
Ramesam Vemuri: This is a very interesting
question. I would like to cite the famous
illustration from Vedanta. The rope seemingly
appears to be a snake because we forgot that it was
a rope. The realization that ‘it is actually a rope
and not a snake’ does not happen in steps – first
the tail, then the wiggly body and finally the hood.
The whole snake disappears at one go.
So also on the realization of Brahman, the Non-dual
Oneness dawns at one go. But scriptural evidence
and experience of many individuals suggest that firm
unwavering abidance in Brahman is obtained only
after some back and forth swings. If one falters
here, he may continue to retain a “memory” of seeing
the rope at one time (i.e. realization) and exhibit
an intellectual understanding of it. But he may
have practically slipped back again into the
phantasm of the mind’s creation (world) and indulge
himself in the worldly temptations. Scriptures warn
a seeker to observe utmost care and vigilance to
avoid such a fall when once realization dawns.
Why should such a time gap be there between the
first realization and complete abidance in Brahman?
Watch here the tricky mind playing once again its
cunning role! It is looking for a cause outside
itself. So in order to provide an explanation to
the mind, a reason is invented using the artifacts
of vasanas. We say some vasanas are hard to burn,
they take time, long habits die hard and so on.
Just a bunch of explanations. Actually what is
happening is, the mind keeps popping back even after
the first realization.
The Sevenfold Path to Realization described by some
Sages says that the first realization happens at the
fourth step. (The first step is Intense yearning
for Enlightenment). They spell out the
characteristics and tendencies of a seeker at each
stage. The seekers at different stages are even
christened as “Knower of Brahman; Better knower of
Brahman; Master Knower of Brahman; and Excellent
Knower of Brahman.”
An important caveat, though. These gradations and
stages are not for ornamentation as titles. They
are purely meant to help the seeker in one’s own
self-assessment and self-guidance and not for
judgment. The Sevenfold Path too thus indicates the
existence of time delay between the first
realization and the final stage.
When we discuss a Jivanmukta, we usually talk with
reference to the one at the Sixth or Seventh stage.
Some of the Jivanmutas may sometimes let a few
habits of their body to linger. They ignore those
habits totally unable to draw themselves from “being
Brahman” towards their body to rid it of its
residual habit. Maharaj’s smoking could be of this
NDM: When you say: “The most basic point to
remember is that in order to talk in terms of
vAsanA-s and so on, one has to first believe in the
‘reality’ of the existence of a cause, an effect and
a relationship between them.
Looked at from the position of a Jivanmukta,
there are no different entities, one as a cause and
another as an effect and a formula expressing a
relationship between them. The entire thing is
One. And that is the only Truth. Not so many
different things and their inter-relationships which
are all imaginary.”
So are you saying that the Jivanmutkta no longer
acknowledges that there is an empirical relationship
of cause and effect on this relative level. (samvriti-satya
That they only recognize or acknowledge the absolute
perspective? (pâramârthika-satya). That they in fact
deny that a relative level even exists like some of
the neo advaitins do.
Ramesam Vemuri: The terminology of Absolute Truth,
transactional reality and dream-like reality and
stories around them are inventions for appeasing a
seeking mind. They have as much value, meaning and
significance as the conversations and technologies
of a dream experience have in the wakeful world.
You may dip into a river and next thing suddenly be
flying over a mountain peak in a dream. You could
do so in the dream because you possessed that
technology in your dream. But what relevance has it
in the wakeful world? Similalry, the terminologies
and classifications and theories used in the wakeful
world carry no meaning or relevance to a Jivanmukta.
A Jivanmukta does not have to even acknowledge the
absolute perspective or deny relative levels. He is
Alone - All + One. What and whom does he have to
perceive when there is no other?
Nevertheless, we should also be aware of another
important aspect. As Rupert would put it, it is
disingenuous to claim that there is no one to seek
or search as long as there is a sense of lack, a
feel of void. That lack itself is the seeker.
NDM. As far as the brain changes after
enlightenment, are you familiar with the work of
Todd Murphy. He says that there are changes in the
amygdala, also the anterior commisure, the two-way
communication between the two amygdala(s). As well
as changes in the hippocampus and so on.
Ramesam Vemuri: Thanks, John for the link. I am
aware of the studies by Dr. Persinger whose work
Todd heavily draws upon. As you know Dr. Persinger’
s research was a bit controversial (Swedish
scientists could not replicate his results; also
John Horgan’s report). Apart from it, most of his
work was done in the pre-fMRI days and before single
neuron studies. His research was based on magnetic
stimulation of large parts of the brain.
At the present day, much more sophisticated
technologies are available and we could study
hundreds of individual neurons in a network at one
time and also interactions that take place at
protein level. Trans cranial and Deep Brain
stimulation studies and modern imaging techniques
are throwing up new information. Many of the
concepts presented at the web page appear to need
updating. Moreover Neuroscientists are yet to get a
handle on Consciousness. Are we really ready now to
translate the meager neuroscientific knowledge into
meaningful applications and pedal instruments in the
NDM. It seems that anyone who is a Jivanmukta often
talks of a sense of no-self, (anatta), also
unconditional love, (maîtri), bliss and not being
the doer. As well as no likes and dislikes but this
can also be just talk.
How could one tell, know if someone were a true
Jivanmukta or was just putting on an act and faking
it. For example a western avatar once said " Each
tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not
pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers"
Can you judge a Jivanmukta tree by its fruit?
Unfortunately, we do not have any clear cut
indicators for identifying a Jivanmukta by an
external agent. Several scriptures do however leave
large hints for self-assessment and
self-improvement. A tabular statement comparing the
traits of a Jivanmukta and an ordinary individual is
at the very end of the article.
I hope modern scientific technology can help us in
identifying a few parameters as “markers” for a
Jivanmukta. We have to establish the validity and
range of such parameters and build a database. As
you pointed out already, maîtri, absence of
‘doership’ etc. could be such markers. (also vide:
The possibility of detecting a fake Jivanmukta was
discussed in Yogavaasishta. Sage Vasishta declares,
not in exasperation but in encouragement, that it is
good even if somebody pretends and playacts as a
Jivanmukta. He says that such pretension eventually
will lead him to Brahman!
The American philosopher Ken Wilber said. A schmuck
before enlightenment, a schmuck after enlightenment.
Do you think it’s even possible to be enlightened
and be a "schmuck". (A Schmuck is most often used in
American English as a pejorative or insult, meaning
an obnoxious, contemptible person; one who is
stupid, foolish, or detestable)
This can be true in view of the wide range of people
and personalities and the stage they are in. We
have in a way discussed such a possibility under Q
NDM: What is the difference with simply being
enlightenment in the advatin sense, knowing one is
Brahman, infinite, eternal non-dual awareness and so
on and being a Jivanmukta?
The first and foremost thing is the knowing of
information “I am Brahman.” This has to be
understood by the mind intellectually. It is the
Shravana (Listening) phase. Next is to assimilate
it and internalize it to the extent that no doubt
remains in one’s mind about the Truth of that
statement. This is the Manana (Reflection) phase.
After being firmly convinced and free of doubts, one
needs to continuously stay with it as Brahman (not
become Brahman but be Brahman). This is the
Nidhidhyasa (Contemplation and Meditation) phase.
Jivanmukta is one who unwaveringly and unbrokenly
abides as Brahman.
NDM: Why would one
person become enlightened and get the added benefits
of bliss, no aversions, fears, desires and being a
Jivanmukta, while another may not? Is this grace,
karma, or because of one’s practice or some other
If one continues to mistake the rope as snake or
understands only superficially, the understanding is
Perfect understanding is not a ‘phala’ (fruit or
result) of an action. So looking for reasons of one
obtaining it and another failing to do so is of no
help. We may supply some theories and lame
explanations using the words karma, lack of grace
etc. but they are all just that – unfalsifiable
fiction. So what has one to do? Scriptures advise
to go back, start with shravana, manana and
NDM: Do all Jivanmuktas exist in a fourth state of
turiya or the fifth state, turiyatita?
If I may point out, I am sure you are already aware,
Turiya is not a state. It does not come and go as
the word state would imply. The other three –
awake, dream and deep sleep states – may come and
go. Turiya is ever there. The other three states
exist in Turiya. Turiya is Brahman.
If Turiya is Brahman, what can be there as the fifth
state or turiyatita? Strictly Vedanta does not
admit the word turiyatita. Turiyatita acquired
common parlance even in some important ancient texts
for the purpose of emphasis only to prime the seeker
to look beyond the three states and be ever
established in Turiya.
Some people equate Turiya to Brahman and turiyatita
to Parabrahman (Supreme Brahman). But Brahman is
Parabrahman. It is just a poetic expression.
Turiya is Jivanmukta.
NDM: Can you please take a look at the first 3
minutes of this video on Wayne Liquorman talking
about the difference between a sage and a saint?
What do you see is the difference with a sage and a
Wayne defines a Saint as the embodied person of a
set of high values believed in by a group. The
Saint becomes the role model for virtuous behavior
for that group and may not gel with another group.
A Sage is defined by him as one in whom the
individuating “I” has collapsed.
Maybe my knowledge is limited. I am familiar that
the Sanskrit word Sanyasi (an absolute renunciate
who renounced even thoughts and counter thoughts) is
usually translated as Saint. The word Rishi (a
realized man) is translated as Sage. Maharishi is
now accepted into English (Oxford Dictionary).
Sanskrit scriptures use Rsihi, Maharishi, Jnani,
Jivanmukta, Sthitaprajna, Drik, Muni etc., a whole
variety of such names interchangeably.
But one thing is clear. When one is a Jivanmukta,
he is already a complete renunciate – has no
desires, preferences, likes and dislikes, wants and
fears. There is a natural nobility and a
spontaneous morality in a Jivanmukta – not any showy
or artificial morality sanctioned by an authority.
Acquiring many embellishing qualities but retaining
a Himalayan ego can hardly make a person a
NDM: So what exactly
happens in the Nidhidhyasa (Contemplation and
Meditation) phase? Does some kind of shift take
place? Is this like an intuitive understanding or
gnosis of some kind?
Ramesam Vemuri: Nidhidhyasa is an umbrella term. It
subsumes under it whatever it takes on the part of
the seeker to achieve permanent abidance in Brahman.
The twin acts of Listening and Reflection bring
about clarity in thinking and consequently result in
a better appreciation of the meaning of the
Tat tvam asi. That in
turn helps in comprehending unambiguously the
essence of Brahman. However, one’s intellect does
not get unwaveringly established in Truth by this
process. Negative thoughts keep emerging and become
impediments for enduring abidance in Brahman.
The foremost thing for the seeker is to appreciate
that Consciousness which enables “me” to be
conscious of objects is not an entity confined
somewhere within my body-mind and also that It is
not something I own. The next thing is to
understand that the various objects I perceive are
not disparate elements distributed in space but it
is my thought that assigns a name and a form by
abstracting part by part of what otherwise is one
whole undivided space. If I see an object and
recognize it two things have happened. First is
being aware of something and then adding a name to
it. The quality of being aware, the sensitivity, is
by virtue of Consciousness. Adding a name, a form
and recognizing it as a specific object is the job
done by the mind.
But how do I know that I am ‘conscious’ of a thing?
When do I know I am conscious at all? I know I am
conscious only when I observe (using any of the five
senses) a thing (even a thought observed is a
‘thing’ for this analysis). So it is only that
thing that is telling me I am conscious. Or in other
words, the thing is no thing but my Consciousness
appearing in the form of the thing. Therefore, the
so called object is no different from (my)
Closer and careful investigation will show that for
me to be conscious of a thing, I have to first exist
or more generally the quality to “be” (not as an
adjective but as a noun, i.e. “beingness”) has to be
present prior to being conscious.
Eventually it will be seen that “me being conscious”
and “consciousness of my being” are not two distinct
things but one and the same. That means that I
understand that my Beingness, my Consciousness and
the objective world around are all just One
After the first glimpse of this realization,
non-attachment to the objects of the world has to
intensify. With decreasing attraction to the
objects (of all the five senses), the mind develops
a tendency to be a non-cognizer. It settles into an
intensive meditative state described as
‘non-perception of objects.’ As a matter of fact
all the above processes keep running parallel, not
strictly one after other. ‘Non-perception of
objects’ is the sixth stage in the Sevenfold
Knowledge Path to Self-realization. The seeker has
hardly to do anything from this stage as this stage,
by itself, will lead him to the final Turiya.
The above is a very quick run of the things.
Graphic descriptions of individual
experiences/struggles in Nidhidhyasa phase are
available in literature. They vary considerably and
we need not be concerned with the details.
NDM: What about an energetic shift? Does this also
Ramesam Vemuri: A particular individual may call
his experience as ‘energetic shift’ and only he can
tell what those terms signify. Most people may
figuratively express “realization” as a change in
perspective, a sort of re-orientating, rather than
anything extra-ordinary or dramatic.
NDM: So if the
understanding isn't crystal clear, are you saying
this is the reason why one may not become a
Ramesam Vemuri: That is true. Absolute clarity
without even a speck of confusion or doubt on the
teaching (shall we call the “theory”?) of advaita is
a must and is the primary step. Lack of
clarity or misunderstanding can lead one astray into
pursuit of false mental states, fancy expectations
and may even result in unhealthy minds or dead ends.
NDM: Will crystal clear knowledge wipe out all
Ramesam Vemuri: Crystal clear Knowledge will once
for all establish without any scope for a doubt that
‘vasanas’ is just a conceptual term and like all
concepts, it is purely imaginary, fallacious and
Please notice that I capitalized Knowledge. This is
to show a distinction from the type of knowledge we
acquire and accumulate in brain like Physics or
carpentry. Knowledge with capital K is
Self-Knowledge, not accumulative. It is not
something hoarded. It is never of the past. It is
always in the present, alive and afresh. It is
prior to the concepts of space and time. It is the
experiential Knowledge that what all exists
(including the seeker) is One whole undivided
Consciousness or Brahman.
Description of Nirvana as equivalent to total
annihilation of vasanas appears to be a model more
popular in post-Upanishad period. Vasanas is a
concept developed to explain the accumulated and
stored knowledge, the behavioral pattern of
responses based on habituation. The stored knowledge
with lower case k is a function of time and
Knowledge of Self gets inputted, undoubtedly,
through knowledge (using language, words, symbols).
When Knowledge takes root, It does not go piling up
like worldly knowledge or expertise. It destroys
knowledge and destroys itself too in the end. What
then remains as residual is Brahman. Vedanta gives
several metaphors to explain the process.
The paste of ground Water-purifying Fruit
(Knowledge) added to turbid water, precipitates the
turbidity (knowledge). Along with turbidity, the
added paste too is sedimented. It does not remain
and add on to the turbidity. The second example is
fire (Knowledge) and firewood (knowledge). Fire
initially burns the logs. When the logs are fully
burnt, fire also gets extinguished. It does not
remain and continue as ‘fire.’ A third is the
washing dirt off a cloth. A detergent is added to
the dirt. But the detergent too is washed away
along with the dirt.
NDM: What exercises can
one do to wipe out their vAsanA-s? Do mantras, japa,
meditation help at all? What would you suggest?
Ramesam Vemuri: Mantras, japa, meditation, etc. are
all actions that help in the reduction of
vacillations in a mind and are conducive towards the
development of a focused mind. Pilgrimages, holy
dips, rituals, donations, service etc. may help in
the development of detachment and also free one from
too narrow an outlook and loosen the vice grip of a
For a reasonably analytical, intelligent and
disciplined mind with an above average I.Q.,
cultivation of any of such exercises is superficial,
irrelevant and of no concern for attainment of
Nirvana, IMHO. A balanced diet and limited exercise
that can contribute to a healthy body-mind are more
necessary so that Self-inquiry may proceed unimpeded
by health problems
Coming to the question of Vasanas: What I am
presently ‘conscious’ in the now is an undesirable
trait. (Let us not for the present question the
legitimacy in branding the observed trait as
‘undesirable.’ We discussed this aspect under
Question 4). I am not ‘conscious’ of the vasana
which is an imagined cause for the undesirable
Vasanas are just fictitious ‘culprits.’ Further, we
place them not only outside us but also so far away
from us in time (in an unknown past). Why is it so?
If something (a good or bad trait) arises in my
Consciousness in the ‘now’, it is Consciousness
which has taken the shape of that trait ‘now.’ Is
it then correct to link it to a past? Does this not
imply that Consciousness has a past and a history?
Let us take a detector of temperature. We call it
thermometer. Can a thermometer ever detect a
temperature of yesterday or even the temperature a
minute ago? It can only and always function in the
So also Consciousness (which for the present
analysis may be viewed as a multi-sense,
multi-parameter detector) can function always and
only in the ‘now.’ What it detects is always new,
fresh, alive, never dead or in the past.
Consciousness has no memory, no history. Even if a
thought or image about a past event occurs, that
thought itself is detected (i.e. we are aware) in
the ‘now.’ That thought is a new, live arising.
So the trait, desirable or undesirable, appearing
‘now’ has no past history. The imagined causal
vasana is a concept that has arisen ‘now.’ A concept
is just another thought. Each thought is highly
ephemeral, has no true existence. A thought comes
and as easily disappears in a flash. Why should we
make any effort to wipe it?
In fact any effort to cleanse a thought, or offer
resistance to it, is surprisingly
counterproductive! Our resistance gives strength to
it. So best thing is just to observe the trait
arise and let it go just by ignoring it.
Looked at from another way, my search for a culprit
and effort to kill it is avoidance of taking
responsibility. At the moment the trait arises, it
is ‘me’ who is conscious of it. ‘Me’ is my
Consciousness. The observed trait is the shape
Consciousness has taken as an arising. So ‘me’ is
the trait at that moment. There is no separate ‘me’
here possessing an unwanted ‘trait.’ Me is the
trait and the trait is me. Is it at all possible
for me to wipe out myself naming ‘me’ as an
(I hope the logic is not too confusing. If I need
to elaborate, I shall do so).
NDM: What would you say
are the odds of someone being "enlightened" also
becoming a Jivanmukta?
Ramesam Vemuri: Advaita holds that everyone is
already a Jivanmukta. Some scriptures unequivocally
declare that the mind is most important. If it
knows clearly that it is unbound, it is free. If it
thinks it is bound, it is in bondage!
And incidentally, the Advaita teaching does not say
one “becomes” a Jivanmukta. The teaching is that
“You are That.” It is not to ‘become’ but just to
Enlightenment or the first glimpses of ‘realization’
may entitle one to be called as a Jivanmukta. But
to be in Brahman unceasingly, one has to overcome
several of the distractions that the mind keeps
NDM: The one question
that really interests me is what someone can do
about their vAsanA-s if they are enlightened, but
still have problems with them?
Ramesam Vemuri: Yes, Sir. This is one question
that bugs every seeker at every stage until he is
firmly established in Turiya.
The first thing that needs to be appreciated is that
the seeker is conscious of the hindering behaviors
that are coming in his way and that he is not swayed
by them and pulled down back into the phantasmagoric
world. This Awareness itself will help him to
overcome the problem. But it will be useful to come
to grips with the impediment as perceived in the
‘now’ rather than attribute the problem to a distant
cause called vasana and try to kill the ‘enemy
hordes.’ I surely cannot be a Don Quixote!
Next is Nidhidhyasa – discussions with co-seekers
and or with established Jnanis are useful so that
the actual kink in the “Understanding” could get
identified. That identification of the
misunderstanding may act as a remedy to the problem.
A related and significant point is ‘sat sangatya’
or association with noble people. It is not merely
in terms of human relationships but also in terms of
the total environment which also needs to be ‘satvic’.
Such a facilitatory environment will and can bring
about changes even in the thought patterns and wean
away the seeker from the blocks being faced by him.
Present day science too recognizes the important
role that the environment plays in the genetic
expression. In fact the environmental influence
modifies the genetic expression from the very next
moment after the formation of a zygote. It is the
environment in the mother’s womb that exerts a great
influence on the developing fetus. There is not a
single week these days where significant research
findings relating the environment and brain are not
reported in scientific journals. To give an
example, these are some of the research findings
a) The mind is the body - tumor suppression by
b) What You Really Feel (http://neuroskeptic.blogspot.com/2010/07/what-you-really-feel.html).
c) Of bugs and brains: Researchers discover that
gut bacteria affect multiple sclerosis
satsangatya, a facilitating environment
and food, may help overcome the problem.
Finally, I can’t help but quote Peter
similar questions. It is hardly possible to better
his inimitable, direct and pointed expression.
A situation or problem may appear to present
itself, maybe it even seems to be recurring.
The only One who is conscious is Self Itself, NOW
Itself. The "apparent" situation really has no
prior status, no foothold of existing whatsoever, no
qualities of being lingering or tenacious, NO MATTER
HOW IT MAY SEEM. To this NOW-Awareness, there
having been nothing besides Itself, there can be
nothing besides Itself that NOW is interested in, or
that "gets Its attention."
Bodies are left entirely out of consideration. It
is ALL about NOW only, for IT is the only One being
conscious--not "us." There are no situations that
NOW has to "work over" or "be worried about" because
there have been no prior situations. NOW has to be,
in fact IS, "solely interested" in Its
"never-before-Alive Presence" because there simply
is nothing else present.
Then the thought may come, "Yes, but the problem
still appears to linger." This is where one must
"put one's spiritual foot down" and "stand one's
ground" as Never-before-ness, because only this is
"honest" and consistent with the way
actually NOW is present. The claim of
lingering-ness or tenacity isn't true--for that,
too, only would be a
current thought trying
to arise. There has been no long past in which
something could have lingered. Where we get unclear
is in accepting the seeming (and sometimes
seemingly very persistent!) suggestion that
there has been a prior time in which all this
began. And then, if accepted, this notion will add
feelings of guilt, inadequacy, etc. etc. because
there's a feeling that "I" haven't been spiritually
clear enough to have this
dissolve. That's why "Peter" is left entirely out
of consideration. The responsibility of being NOW
is entirely up to NOW--there is no middleman called
a Peter-awareness that has to be as good at being
NOW as NOW Itself is.
(Italics were by him only).
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