Words, words, words

This post is primarily in response to Ray’s comment of 12/31. Ray was commenting on ramesam’s remarks of 12/26. These are followed by the more recent comments of Anonymous on 1/1 (all repeated below). Thanks very much for all the comments.

Ray said: “I fully agree with Ramesam’s comments and would appreciate it if you could verify it is indeed the same as your teachings.”

ramesam had said: “…the Great Sage, Venerable Gaudapada (c. 8th Century), the ‘solitary philosopher’ who [even] before Sankara gave a rational explanation of Advaita Vedanta which is the objective of the Upanishadic teachings:”There is no dissolution, no birth, none in bondage, none aspiring for wisdom, no seeker of liberation and none liberated. This is the absolute truth.” — Verse 32, Chapter II, Karika on Mandukya Upanishad.

The same Karika says in Verse 48, Ch. III and again at Verse 71, Ch. IV:”No kind of individual is ever born nor is there any cause for any such birth. The ultimate Truth is that nothing whatsoever is born.”

Verses 44 and 46 in Chapter III give helpful hints: Awaken the mind if it gets into a state of deep oblivion (= deep sleep like stance). If it is distracted, bring it back to the state of tranquility. Let the mind be not get attached to the happiness of Samadhi. Then the mind verily becomes Brahman.

Swami Nikhilananda gives the following comment on mind: “The truth is that mind is identical with Atman. It is only through ignorance we separate the mind from Atman.”

Anonymous said: “What teachings? Who’s being taught? Where? When? Who became ignorant? When? Who’s doing the teaching? All silly questions. God, reality, truth, use whatever word, it matters not. Reality is NOW. NOW means NOW. NOW is not a “was” or a “will be”. NOW is NOW. In truth, there IS only truth and thus no one is learning anything from the information on this website or any website or book, etc. It’s neither important nor is it unimportant. There is nothing here that needs to be emphasized nor deemphasized.

First, in response to Ray…

On the level of words, yes, what is said here is in many ways the same as Advaita Vedanta and Upanishadic teachings, and more particularly, the writings of Guadapada. I do not profess to be an expert in those areas, so there may be some aspects with which I’m not familiar. Based on what I have read and heard, there are many similarities. There also are differences, especially with the quotes cited above, although I know the quotes are not fully representative of Advaita or the Upanishads. Most differences are along the line of what Anonymous said. It is due to semantics and the use of words.

What counts is that Pure Present-ness Itself is not any word, not any body’s teaching—and only Pure Present-ness is, eternally.

The Present’s utterness being Truth, leaves no others to talk about Truth—only the unchanging actual alive Presence that Truth Itself is. One is always alert (because this Alive Present is fully alert as Itself) that there really never are any to talk about Truth—even though such Truth-talking may appear to be going on all day long right under one’s nose!

All so-called writing (even this writing here), all talking, all “teaching” uses words—words still seem necessary at “this stage of the game” as long as there appear to be books and blogs and talking. At best, these words are only pointers as “we” all know. Yet some words are better pointers than others. Even Anonymous had to use words in making that succinct comment—but why those particular words?

The following is speaking in general terms and is NOT referring to, or singling out any particular “person” or whether “anyone” is using more conceptual words than others—for, again, there is only the Present Itself.

Words are tied to thoughts, and the use of a particular word is indicative of a particular underlying thought—or it could indicate the absence of thought. A few words (such as Present, Now, Being) point to non-conceptual Truth (the absence of thoughts).

Most words point not to Truth, but “point back” to a concept or thought; they point to the very thought or concept that gave rise to the use of those words. For example, the thought of dinner arises, and then the word “Italian” is uttered. It is a particular thought that gives rise to the very use of a particular word.

In Truth, there is only the Present-Itself-As-All, to Whom not a single prior thought or word has occurred. And not even the Present Itself occurred or has been before, because where only Present-ness is present, there is no “before”! So absolutely nothing has happened before—nothing on which a single thought or word could be based!

The Pure Present Itself being thought-less, is why It is word-less, teaching-less.

So, to this Present Awareness, even if there appears to be a using of words, certain words simply do not apply. Many “formerly used words,” even so-called spiritual words, have to be “dropped” because they have too much conceptual baggage—too much reference to “time” or to “otherness.” (Even this makes it sound as if there is something besides the Pure Present where such could go on, and there isn’t!)

As only Pure Present-ness is, then if words appear to be used, they will be those most consistent with this Present-ness. For example, Utter Present-ness leaves nothing besides Itself to be refuted or negated. Thus even the words “there is no” and “nothing” do not really apply (and yet they get used a lot, even here). In Truth, there is only definite, specific Presence. This Present-Itself-As-All only can be unthinkably New, as unthinking Alive Presence.

Now, as Present-ness, look at the words in the quote from the Karika:

“There is no dissolution, no birth, none in bondage, none aspiring for wisdom, no seeker of liberation and none liberated… No kind of individual is ever born nor is there any cause for any such birth. The ultimate Truth is that nothing whatsoever is born.”

Again, the Present Itself (existing alone) cannot negate anything else—for there is only Itself and nothing else to negate! So there is no need for, or possibility of, negating “dissolution, birth, bondage, aspiring for wisdom, nothing born, etc.”

Sometimes this “negating” is referred to as the neti-neti (not this, not that) approach, which at times may appear helpful. Yet as Utter Present-ness already is Itself, is ALL, who is there to approach the Present via a neti-neti approach? When did such a need occur?

Admittedly this may sound like nit-picking, and words are sometimes used here in similar ways—but it does make clear this point about there being too much negation (even here). Not to the Present Itself of course, but when it comes to words. And to the Present, no points are being made clear, either! Present-ness only is Alive, It cannot negate nor compare Itself to anything else, for all there is, is Itself-Now.

Also, how could Pure-Present-ness-As-ALL, or Truth, be “ultimate,” as said in the quote above? There being only Truth Itself, where is there a lesser state to which Truth could be compared “ultimate”? There being only Truth Itself, to whom would Truth be an “ultimate”?

Pure Present-ness is not a teaching. I don’t know enough about Advaita Vedanta to say if it is considered a “teaching” or not. If it is, there would definitely be disagreement here with that notion. The very notion of “teaching” is a red flag—starting with a “lesser mind” that could be taught. Only the Present Itself is present to begin with—and It cannot be taught to be the Present It changelessly IS. Nor does It leave another to teach, or to do any teaching. Isn’t it great that the ALLNESS of the Present doesn’t even allow for another to mistakenly call something a “teaching”!

See, even in these last few statements—more negation! Actually impossible, and totally unnecessary, to the Pure Present!

Similarly with these other quotes:

“…Awaken the mind if it gets into a state of deep oblivion (= deep sleep like stance). If it is distracted, bring it back to the state of tranquility. Let the mind be not get attached to the happiness of Samadhi. Then the mind verily becomes Brahman.Swami Nikhilananda gives the following comment on mind: “The truth is that mind is identical with Atman. It is only through ignorance we separate the mind from Atman.”

NOW-As-All cannot “awaken the mind.” As only NOW is, where is anything besides? To attempt such is to assume there is a lesser mind to activate or awaken from its slumbers. Only NOW is, and NOW never slumbers. Is NOW Itself designating this as “mind” and this as “Atman” and this as “Brahman”? No. (By the way, I have seen Atman and Brahman described in different ways, depending on who’s doing the talking. The same with Consciousness, too, of course! Ha!)

It seems that Advaita Vedanta and the Upanishads often are treated as a tradition. Also in this tradition there sometimes seems to be a sense of veneration for “great seers” and “great works.”

Where the Present Itself is ALL—and this Absolute-Present-ness only is present NOW, completely precluding history—where is there a tradition, or anyone who would think in such terms? As this very Present Awareness present here, now, is absolutely history-less, and is ALL—when were there any previous “great seers” and “great works” to be venerated? Who would do the “venerating”—the Present Itself being All?

Wouldn’t all of that, at most, be only a mere thought image that tries to arise now—for the first time ever?

As none of this is Present Truth, why go there? Why use words that “point” to such things?

Again, this is not said as a criticism—for any use of words can be criticized, even all of those used here. For all I know, there could be many other quotes that point more “accurately.” The only point here is the inadequacy of all words, the pitfalls of semantics, and that all so-called “techniques” are impossible, un-occur-able in Reality. The Pure Present is utterly “technique-free”—yet never fails to fully be.

Speaking relatively, while Advaita speaks of THAT which is “without a second” and is time-less, creation-less—I somehow get the “feeling” from the writings and most non-duality that this “without a second” is a Self that is said to be time-less—yet which is assumed to have been around a long time! Or, it is assumed that Advaita has been around a long time.

It is like saying Self always has existed timelessly—which would be a contradiction. Or, that Self is time-less, but that there also is time going on somewhere, if only in a dream. The writings give more of an impression of, “Yes, Self is timeless—but there is also a realm of time here, in which there is a ‘we’ who are learning and knowing that the True Self is timeless.”

It could be that I’ve just not come across it, but I cannot recall having seen it said in Advaitin literature that not even Self, All Itself, the Present Itself, is so much as a nanosecond old! I haven’t seen it said that not even Self has been before. There doesn’t seem to be any mention of this, yet it is a huge distinction. Again, it could be that I just haven’t seen or heard it.

To this Present Awareness, has there been a past in which there was one known as Guadapada, or Ramana Maharshi, or Nisargadatta, or Jesus or Buddha—and that “they” saw more, or had a greater “in” with Self than this Present Awareness? Yet how often does it seem that this is unwittingly accepted? And isn’t it great that there being only just-now Present-ness, not even any unwitting acceptance has happened before! The simplicity of NOW is “enough” for this Now that is NOW. Is there anything besides?

This is not said out of any kind of insincerity or disrespect of “great ones,” but rather out of Self-Respect—meaning this is speaking from or as Present Self’s absolute, undeviating wholeness and “integrity.”

And of course, as Pure-Present-ness, One has to say, “Were there even a few minutes past, in which a blog post was read, talking about words and teachings and differences?”

ONLY Present-ness is!

11 thoughts on “Words, words, words

  1. Dear Peter,

    I am reading your book now, and you have done a great job to write your (may i say) master work of our nature. This it is, a book of sweet silence with S.
    Interesting this topic about Advaita Vedanta and how words can confuse us in the terms of culture tradition etc.etc. The Advaita literature was translated and explained by westerners because some of these teachers could not write or speak English.
    It is part of that culture then and there, during these conversations. And nowadays we are used to more direct talks in word and writings, our language culture has evolved. I would like to add this excerpt just as example of translation during the 50’s and their use of language there en then. (it is from Spiritual Discourses of Shri Atmananda (S.K. Menon) and taken by Nitya Tripta) these lines are from 1950.

    1. I see Me where the ‘where’ is not.
    2. I see Me when the ‘when’ is not.
    3. I see Me when ‘I see me not.’

    Explanation: (not mine)
    1. I shall see Me only when I transcend the gross body idea, which is governed by space as well as by time.
    2. I shall see Me only when I transcend the subtle body or the mind, which is governed by time alone.
    3. I shall see Me only on leaving both the gross and the subtle bodies – when I stop
    my objective search and turn inward to find myself as one with that which I was searching for; in other words only when the subject-object relationship vanishes.

    I.m.h.o. the risk of confusing and even more questions than the originator S.K. Menon possibly meant.
    Since foreigners came in contact with these sages , their translations of talks and sometime a collection .
    But still an explanation and interpretation made by English visitors/translators and book editors later. The Eastern culture is not so direct as ours. And translated during the ’40-’60’s.
    My Best Wishes, Menno

  2. Greetings Peter,

    Such a beautiful, smooth, crystal clear response! I am left with blessed tears and eternal praise of the Simplicity of Now!!!

    I have a sense the beautiful body/minds mentioned above, did not think of themselves as great or venerable.

    In any case, Thank you Peter!!! So grateful to be Here for This!

    Hymns To The Simplicity Of Now,

  3. The question of suffering.
    Does full awareness prevents or diminishes pain and suffering?
    I feel _or it seems I feel – Oneness ( I am a zen practiser – but I(i?) feel overwhelmed by suffering, particularly before innocent victims, humans or animals.
    Could you be so kind to give me any light about this crucial problem? Thank you heartedly. Jean

  4. Thank you very much for the comments Menno, Julian and Jean. Menno you made an excellent point about how meaning can be even further distorted when words are translated. Isn’t it wonderful that in Truth, ONLY AWARENESS ITSELF IS, and AS ALL, It leaves no others–none to translate It to, or to do any translating!

    Jean, interestingly, the notion of “an end of suffering” was going to be the subject of the next post…please allow a day or two…
    Thanks, Peter

  5. Dear Peter,

    I am a bit late in my intervention. Nevertheless, I felt a couple of points are worth highlighting before your Posts shift towards a discussion on “an end of suffering.” Hence the following comments.

    I thank Ray for his concurrence with my earlier note. What Anonymous spelt out in terms of the uselessness of words too is true but for the judgmental statement (s)he used, viz.: “All silly questions.”

    The moment judging mind pops up, obviously it indicates a shift. The Pure Pristine Isness is blemished.

    As Peter so aptly titled the Post, words are totally inadequate. No words fail completely, to tell of Brahman, the Pristine Presence, the Isness.

    In fact the Upanishads declare unequivocally that Brahman is inexplicable, indescribable because of not only the failure of words but also because ‘mind’ itself cannot reach there (judgmental or otherwise). The famous quote from Taittiriya Upanishad says: “Yato vaco nivartante aprapya manasa saha.” It means: That without grasping which speech along with the mind turns back.

    Brahman is said to be ‘agrahya’ meaning It cannot be grasped by the organs of knowledge or conceived by mind.

    Thus true Advaita does not differ from what Peter said. He is also perfectly on the dot when he indicated that Presence (Brahman) cannot be a ‘teaching’. Whether ‘neti-neti’ or any other words used in the context are pointers only and those ‘words’ become a ‘teaching.’

    Upanishads use ‘Tat’ (in Sanskrit – means That without a name or gender) for Brahman (a word more popular in the West in Non-dualism circles). Here too what Peter talks about and what Upanishads indicate do match. That is Tat, nameless, formless, genderless, …..

    The third point made by Peter was about the ‘time’ aspect. The Begininglessness or Infiniteness of Brahman is precisely, as Peter said, historylessness. There is no ‘time’ present as a dimension because Brahman is never born, nor does It change and is ever new.

    Therefore, to my understanding, what Peter talks about is That indescribable, undefinable, inexplicable “Tat” which is All that Upanishads strive to point out. Thus I find no difference.

    Veneration for so called teachers, indicative of respect, comes from the Teacher – disciple (Guru – sishya) “tradition.” That tradition goes back to the days when transmission of material was only oral (no books etc.). The word ‘tradition’ particularly refers to a line of explaining (roughly a school of thought). Veneration is indicative of the ‘faith’ that the learner has to have in grasping what the teacher says.

    I am aware all of the above note is irrelevant and immaterial to Presence. But these expressions may sometimes help in clarifying certain concepts in circulation.

    Once again with many thanks to Peter and warm regards,

  6. Sorry for the typo in my previous post. The meaning seems to indicate differently compared to what I wanted to say!

    In the fourth paragraph, instead of “No words fail completely, to tell of Brahman, …”,

    the sentence should read: “No. Words fail completely, to tell of Brahman, …..”

    Thank you Peter for the kind understanding and with warm regards,

  7. Dear Peter,
    While you’ve clearly explicated our “state of being”, is there a “why” to this awareness?

    Sorry if this has been asked before.

    Thank you.


  8. Hi Sofia,

    Thanks for the comment. Similar to your other comment on the “dream” post, I would suggest taking a look at the writings I suggested. Awareness IS, preclusive of time. It is present as Timeless Being, Infinity Itself. Notice very closely–when the word Awareness comes up, usually there is instantly some thought of the “aware of” part, not Pure Awareness Itself. Awareness Itself has no form, nothing that was caused in time–It is “acausal” as sometimes said. It Itself is not a cause, nor was Awareness caused by something else. Take all the superimposed thinking in terms of “time” out of consideration completely.


  9. Dear Peter,
    Thank you for taking the time with my questions.

    I quite understand that Pure Awareness is absolute, and that time/space/everything is nothing more than conscious thought.

    But is there a reason for this awareness? Is there some purpose for the whole exercise? I know that such answers will fall outside the realm of Pure Awareness, but why isn’t Awareness aware of why it is aware?

    And also, is this a solipsistic deal, or is Awareness multi-faceted, being aware through all conscious manifestations?

    I thank you again.


  10. Hi Sofia,

    Thanks for your comment–my reply was too big to fit here as a comment, so I had to make a new post. Please see, “There is no ‘why’ to Awareness, the Present.”

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