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Interview with non-duality magazine

July 2010

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.

The 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 seamless whole.

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 too. 

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 vasana) 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 negative  saMskAra-s 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 question? 

“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. 

Negative: 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’ interferes.

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 inclusive.

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 knows?

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 pull.

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 Jivanmukta.

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 discussed earlier.

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 line?

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 type.

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 or vyâvahârika-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 market?

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?

Ramesam Vemuri:  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 available at  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!

NDM:  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)

Ramesam Vemuri:  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 5.

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?

Ramesam Vemuri:  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 factors involved?

Ramesam Vemuri:  If one continues to mistake the rope as snake or understands only superficially, the understanding is obviously incomplete.

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 nidhidhyasa.

NDM:  Do all Jivanmuktas exist in a fourth state of turiya or the fifth state, turiyatita?

Ramesam Vemuri:  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 saint?

Ramesam Vemuri:  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 Jivanmukta.

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 Upanishadic statement 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) Consciousness.

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 indivisible thing.

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 take place?

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 Jivanmukta?

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 vAsanA-s?

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 unreal. 

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 training.

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 belief system.

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 observed trait.

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 ‘now.’

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 undesirable trait?

(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 ‘be.’

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 posing. 

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 this week:

 a) The mind is the body - tumor suppression by enriched environment

 b)  What You Really Feel (

 c)  Of bugs and brains: Researchers discover that gut bacteria affect multiple sclerosis


 Thus satsangatya, a facilitating environment and food, may help overcome the problem.

Finally, I can’t help but quote Peter Dziuban of Consciousness is All in response to 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 Life 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 apparent situation 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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