Edited by Jerry Katz
Some new books from Non-Duality Press:
This issue of the Nonduality Highlights follows a discussion between Dhanya Durga Moffitt and Jody Radzik held in the Nonduality Highlights group on Facebook (which all readers are welcome to join, by the way) and inspired by the interview with Jody featured in the previous issue of the Highlights.
Dhanya Durga Moffitt Hi Jody, et al.
Jody, I think you made a very good point at the beginning of the interview (if I remember it correctly) that a lot of the misunderstandings of what nondual realization is come from the thousands of years old scriptures (the Vedas) which form the basis of Vedic culture.
In this particular case, it would be from the Upanisads–which contain the scriptures which describe the nature of reality (i.e. nonduality), and which are found at the end of, and comprise the second half, of the Vedas.
I remember one course, which my teacher, Swami Dayananda, gave, unfolding some verses from Brhadaranyka Upanisad. The verses basically say “The ananda–[the happiness or fullness] of nondual realization is greater than that given by any experience found in within the creation.” This Upanisad goes on to give all of sorts of examples of superlative happinesses which might be found within the dual world of experience (including in celestial realms), and then it says that the happiness of brahmananda (the Self) is greater than any of those.
Most people are seeking happiness within the dual world of experience (known as samsara). That is samsara’s trick–it occasionally seems to deliver happiness. I think that many spiritual seekers are really seeking a kind of uber experiential happiness. The problem with that type of happiness is that it comes and goes.
The teachings of Vedanta would say that the first step for someone who is mature enough to recognize the truth is that person needs to have understood that the dual world of experience cannot give the type of happiness which one truly seeks (one which is lasting). That’s called having an initial type of viveka (discrimination).
Why do people seek happiness in the first place? Because happiness really is one’s true nature. It doesn’t feel okay to be unhappy.
Does recognizing the truth of existence mean that one will be happy all the time? No it doesn’t. One’s mind (which is where happy and sad thoughts, i.e. emotions, take place) will not always be happy.
However, I think it isn’t correct to say that the recognition of one’s true being as nondual does not lead to happiness, because IMO it does.
So how to explain or reconcile those two apparently opposing views? IMO (and according to my teachers, Carol Whitfield and Swami Dayananda) the problem really lies in unresolved psychological problems held in the unconscious mind. These problems kind of cloud or as though block what is called in Vedanta ‘the fruits of jnanam’ (the fruits basically being happiness). So the more these unresolved psychological issues are dealt with, the happier one will be–one could say–the more the reality of who one is will get reflected or shine in the mind.
Perhaps long ago, in ancient India, family structures were more together and people didn’t have so many psychological problems, so when someone recognized the truth of existence the happiness of the Self shone more clearly and readily in that person’s mind. But now, with all of the screwed upedness found in modern day society, more work needs to be done on the level of the psyche before the fruits of jnanam (i.e. happiness) are fully evident.
Luckily we have psychology, which Swami Dayananda feels is the modern day gift of duality.
Alienation is the problem. Even after recognizing the truth of existence, one can still suffer tremendously due to unresolved psychological issues.
So everyone seeks happiness, because it is one’s true nature. Recognizing the source of happiness as one’s being is the fruit of nondual realization. Does this mean one will always be happy all of the time? No it doesn’t, but if one is mature in that recognition then the effects of the slings and arrows that duality throws one’s way will be felt and processed more like writings on water rather than like writings carved in stone.
(Too much going on in the house right now, but I hope what I’ve written is clear)
Jody Radzik “So everyone seeks happiness, because it is one’s true nature.”
I disagree. Everyone seeks happiness because it’s the highest form of comfort, and we are biologically driven to find comfort. It’s ultimately the primary factor in all human behavior.
The problem arises because enlightenment is projected to be the ultimate comfort, giving folks many hooks upon which to hang conceptual scaffolding, thereby erecting their own avidya constructed entirely out of the terminology of Vedanta and what they believe it means.
One solution is the measured approach of the Vedanta tradition, but there are way more enlightenment seekers than there are truly qualified Vedanta teachers to service them all, thus, there is always going to be a conceptual marketplace where folks trade in ideas that keep them in ignorance.
I agree that the recognition of the nonduality of ordinary awareness is a great aid in finding happiness, but only because there is bliss combined with a greater ease in detachment. The way I read it, folks believe that they will always be happy—that they can never be unhappy—once realization has dawned. Thus, for my own purposes, I feel it’s important to keep notions of happiness aside when discussing nonduality.
Jody, It’s my impression that you have a lot of respect for my teacher, Carol Whitfield. It is from her that I first heard that one’s true nature is happiness. Perhaps one needs to define happiness in order to see whether that is true or not.
What is it that a person loves more than anything else. ‘Me,’ correct? Well who or what is this ‘me’ that one loves? Is ‘me’ the body/mind and sense organs individual or is ‘me,’ the nondual reality?
My understanding is ‘me’ is in fact the nondual reality, prior to recognizing this fact, taken to be one with and a product of the body/mind.
Okay, so is my true nature happiness? I would say that it is. I wrote an article about this once, my one and only article published in a print magazine. I’ll put a link to it here. It is not the happiness which comes and goes, but a kind of bottom line happiness, an okayness, or well-being, or if one wants to call it ‘comfort,’ I think one could because it is ever present, the mind’s refuge in the turbulent sea of changing experience (samsara).
It is that which is firmer and stronger than anything else for all changing things arise and have their being in it. Vedanta likens it to an anvil upon which all else changes but which itself never changes.
I think it’s good to make a distinction between the happiness produced by changing circumstances and the wellness of one’s own being. However, Vedanta would say, and I would agree that changing happiness is a reflection of one’s true nature which is why one is so addicted to it. I’ll post the article and you can see if you agree or not.
Jerry, IMO what you are talking about in Sanskrit is called ‘viragya,’ which translates as dispassion, which is a very bad translation of the word. It’s kind of like what is more important, the result of a fulfillment of a desire (which itself comes with the seed of suffering embedded in it for any temporary gain comes along with its loss), or resting the mind in one’s being, which is full and complete as it is? And that is comfortable. The ease of being (I believe someone once said), or the ease of one’s being to bring it home.
Dhanya Durga Moffitt Here is the article. It’s pretty much pure Vedanta. See if you agree or not with what it says, Jody: (from https://yogainternational.com/article/view/what-is-happiness
We all want a good and happy life. Most of our pursuits are geared toward that end. What we may not understand is that the happiness gained through changing experiences and actions is fleeting. The only way to gain the lasting happiness we seek is through the recognition that our true nature is happiness itself. This recognition is called moksha, Self-knowledge or liberation.
The Vedas are the world’s oldest-known scriptures. The essential subject matter of these revered texts is happiness and the nature of your Self. The Vedas are divided into two parts. The first part is by far the longer and contains instructions on how to achieve the best life possible in the world of changing experience known as samsara.
The second part of the Vedas is for those who have discerned that changing circumstances cannot deliver something that lasts. This part of the Vedas contains the Upanishads, the original source books of the teachings of Advaita Vedanta. (Advaitameans “not two, nondual.” Vedanta means “the end of the Vedas.”)
The entire teaching of Vedanta is encapsulated in the word upanishad. The Upanishads convey the very well-ascertained knowledge (ni) of that which is most near, the Self (upa), which brings about the disintegration of sorrow—along with its cause—when the truth is revealed (sad). In other words, it is Self-knowledge that delivers lasting happiness.
The teachings of the Upanishads tell us that the cause of sorrow is taking the ever-present changeless Self (Atman) to be one with—and a product of—the body, mind, and sense organs. Thus we take who we are to be limited, subject to birth, death, and change. Vedanta tells us this is not true. Who we are is not subject to any of these things; rather, we are birthless, deathless, changeless, limitless Atman. Not recognizing the Self as it really is, we suffer.
A student of Vedanta is guided by the teachings to distinguish between that which doesn’t change (the Self/Atman), and that which does (everything else). This is done through a dual process of negation and positive assertion. “Not this, not this” (neti,neti)is the negation of the notion that our Self has anything to do with the body, mind, and sense organs, all of which change. At the same time, positive assertion is used to point out that we are “that which is changelessly ever-present, illumining all of these.”
This is not a conceptual exercise. The teachings are pointing us to recognize directly and without a shadow of a doubt the truth about the Self. People often say, “My body has changed and aged, but I feel as if I never have.” This intuitive feeling is accurate. Although the Self has never changed, it remains undifferentiated from the changing experiences of the body and mind until the teachings clearly point the unchanging nature of the Self out to you.
Guided by the teachings of Vedanta, the student examines the phenomenon of happiness in order to ascertain its source. When we obtain a desired object, for example, we experience a moment of pleasure. A variety of other experiences—such as meditating, listening to music, or watching a sunset—may also produce pleasure.
We naturally assume that the source of our pleasure lies in the situation, experience, or object that appears to have made us happy. Thus we keep trying to gain those objects and replicate those situations that seem to produce this effect. However, the same objects and situations please some people while displeasing others. Also, what once gave pleasure may later become a source of pain. Meditative experiences don’t last. In short, no object or situation is, in and of itself, a source of constant happiness at all times, for all people, in all places. How then does the experience of happiness arise?
The mind is composed of thoughts. The Atman is ever-present and illumines the mind. The nature of the Atman is pure happiness. In the instant a desire is fulfilled the mind relaxes, and the ever-present Atman is reflected in the mind in the form of ananda(pure happiness). This produces a moment of pleasure.
In the next instant another thought or desire may arise, replacing the reflected anandaof the Atman. Rather than recognizing the Atman as the actual source of happiness, the source of happiness is projected out onto the changing world of objects, and we try to gain happiness from them, an activity the scriptures compare to trying to drink water from a mirage.
Once the Self has been recognized as it truly is—ever-present, limitless, and full—we no longer need to project our well-being onto objects and experiences. We no longer need to pursue happiness; we know our nature is happiness and we can rest in that recognition.
There is only one Self, one Atman. This same Self shines in the hearts and minds of all. Step by step, as the teachings progress, using a process of logic and reason, we come to recognize that this same Self is Brahman. This very Self, from which the world has come, is the stable being of the entire world of changing experience.
Everything we see, perceive, and experience has for its actual being Atman, which is Brahman, which is the Self alone. Once we gain this recognition we know the truth of existence. Despite any appearance to the contrary, all is in reality only one, nondual, advaita: one being, one reality, one Self, which—due to the veiling power of maya—appears to be many.
This recognition takes place over time and through the teachings. Because the verses of the Upanishads are terse, and their meaning difficult to decipher, we require the guidance of a highly trained teacher who knows how to unlock the meaning of the words, and then how to use those words as direct pointers to the Self.
Having acknowledged that the changing world of experience can never be a lasting source of happiness, the Upanishads do not tell us there is something we need to do in order to be happy. The result of any action, being time-bound, will not provide lasting happiness. Once the Atman is recognized as it is—limitless, full, and complete, ever-present, never-sorrowful, and never-changing—we don’t need to look for happiness elsewhere.
The Upanishad is the revealer of truth. Moksha is that which is revealed. The meaning of the revealer and the revealed is the same. When that which is most near and dear(upa) is very well ascertained (ni), all sorrows disintegrate—along with their cause—in the knowledge that I am Brahman alone (sad). This is moksha—the discovery that your true nature is happiness.
The Vedanta Column is published in partnership with Advaita Academy, a nonprofit organization which aims to preserve and promote the awareness of traditional Advaita teachings through a comprehensive website and in collaboration with similar associations.
The first one is called artha. This is the pursuit of basic needs, like food, clothing and shelter. The things we need in order to survive.
The second one is called kama, which means pleasure. So if the first artha is covered we seek pleasure.
Animals also share these two pursuits with us. They seek to survive, and when that is covered, they can play and enjoy.
Humans have two more pursuits, dharma and moksha. Dharma means doing the right thing, living a moral life, helping others, etc.
And moksha means liberation (recognizing the true nature of all changing things).
So I would say comfort fits into the first artha, and it may fit into the second kama/pleasure.
But all of these themselves artha, kama, dharma, moksha are about happiness, IMO. The fruits of all of them are certain types of happiness. But it is only moksha which leads to the recognition that real happiness is not an experience to be gained through the manipulation of samsara, but rather it is the very nature of one’s being. And it is that being from which all of the other arthas borrow their spark.