Onlyness and Brahman
The following is an email that was sent to me, along with my response. I
modified my response here quite a bit to try to make it a bit clearer for this site,
but be warned: it is still filled with a lot of technical Indian verbiage,
so it is not for everyone.
Modern Advaita and Waking Down
I viewed your Web site comments with interest. You are
fortunate to have found a path with such great satisfaction and efficiency.
My comment is really an observation about the many Poonja teachers I have
meet as well as the writings of Saniel and Ted regarding "Waking Down".
Basically, the point is that both strains of spirituality seemed to have
missed their potential depths by not understanding that there is a
impersonal source to consciousness. It is called the Absolute and it is not
pure consciousness but the absence of personal consciousness. Like a black
hole it is distinct by what is absent not what is present. When the
Absolute is experienced and embodied then one knows that Atman is Brahman.
It's clear that Sri Nissargatta (spelling?) spoke of this clearly but his
disciples seem to have missed the teaching. I know some I have told this to
say it's a matter of semantics but really the clinical differences between
conscious states as described by Waking Down teachers and the Absolute have
no similarity in experience. The contemporary teacher that is most
articulate on this matter is A.H. Almaas. I am not a student of his but I
have experienced the Absolute and its implications. I resonate with his
None of this is meant to project a value judgment. It is
merely an observation concerning the "vertical" depth of realization. Some
folks remain forever humanist. As you point out correctly, it is not what
you experience but what you embody. Keep up the good work.
Brahman, Onlyness and the White
I can't say that I agree with all
of your descriptions or assumptions here, but probably not for the reasons
you think . There actually are two issues here and I'd rather not confuse
The English word "absolute" is not
the "official" term for anything, it is simply the word Maharaj's
translator, Maurice Frydman used to translate the Marathi word meaning
This really does matter, because if
by hearing me (or any teacher) call consciousness "the absolute" you then
infer that we have no sense of the distinction between Atman and Brahman,
then that's an assumption based on language. To say "it is called the
absolute" will not allow for a real understanding of what is meant. If Almaas happens to use the same English word as Frydman (not Nisargadatta)
for Brahman, that's fine.
As I see it, in the language of
Waking Down, both consciousness and phenomena have both their Source and
Being as "Onlyness", that (as I see it) is our word for Brahman. Old words
are loaded with different assumptions by different schools so there is good
reason to coin new phrases. I am equating "Onlyness" and "Brahman" here for
the sake of this letter, but I would like to make clear how my
understanding of Brahman may be different from yours (and others)
understanding of it.
Also, I can appreciate some of what
you said. The polarity of consciousness/phenomenon is at the top of the
pyramid but is still a form of duality. Many neo-Advaita teachers seem to
be stuck there, forever drawing the distinction between consciousness and
phenomena without recognizing that consciousness/phenomenon have their
source in something that is beyond both: Brahman. Without a recognition of
Brahman this is not even a good understanding of Classic Advaita Vedanta. I
also agree that it is less important that people can't catalogue all these
distinctions if they are living them. However, I am describing something
else other than what is focused on by either neo-Advaitin language or
classic Advaitin language, so:
As far as Brahman (or Onlyness)
as simply being an absence, and impersonal . . . I can't agree.
So here it goes (in my experience):
Onlyness is both the Unmanifest Source and Manifest
Being. In other words Brahman is both Nirguna (Unmanifest Source) and Saguna
(Manifest Being). As Unmanifest Source it Transcends both Consciousness and
phenomena. As Manifest Being it is both Consciousness and phenomena.
Brahman (or Onlyness), as the
Source of both consciousness and phenomenon is simply beyond such
distinctions (nirguna). Absence/presence, personal/impersonal,
consciousness/phenomena, these only make sense as the realm of the manifest,
not the Unmanifest Source (Nirguna Brahman) .
Brahman (or Onlyness), as Being
both consciousness and phenomena is both simultaneously (Saguna Brahman).
Absence/presence, personal/impersonal, consciousness/phenomena, both of
these poles are Brahman (Onlyness) in Being the Manifest (saguna).
In Classic Advaita Vedanta language
non-duality is the non duality of Atman and Nirguna Brahman, and Maya is
From my perspective there is
non-duality between both Atman and Nirguna Brahman (beyond distinctions)
and Atman and Prakriti - Maya (with distinctions) in Saguna Brahman. One
can further say that since in Nirguna Brahman (Unmanifest Onlyness) there
are no distinctions of any kind that there is also non-duality of Atman and
Prakriti - Maya (or consciousness
and phenomena) dissolved into Unmanifest Onlyness (Nirguna Brahman).
Brahman or Onlyness is both the
Source (As Nirguna Brahman beyond distinctions) and Being (As Saguna
Brahman with distinctions). This is why I say that what is realized is not
simply non-duality, but the unity of duality and non-duality as Onlyness. In
our school after awakening to Onlyness as Being (Saguna Brahman, or manifest
onlyness as non separateness in the midst of distinctions), there is an
organic process that moves us into that which is beyond distinctions. Waking
Down has its own language describing the natural transition of Onlyness with
distinctions giving way into Onlyness beyond distinctions: the White Heat.
2006 Krishna Gauci