The Poṭṭhapādasutta is a direct response to Yājñavalkya

DN 9 Poṭṭhapādasutta begins with a discussion among various wanderers, and Poṭṭhapāda asks the Buddha about the cessation of perception. This launches an interesting discussion about how perception was seen by the various philosophers at the time, and how the Buddha responded to that.

It deals with a rather specific topic in a specific way. Why were these wanderers so concerned with the cessation of “perception” per se? Is this just a random topic? Later, the sutta distinguishes perception (saññā) from knowledge (ñāṇa); again, why is that here, as we do not find this distinction framed in this way elsewhere.

Even more interesting, why is the topic prefixed with abhi-? Previous translators have misunderstood this as having the sense “higher” cessation of perception. But here the prefix abhi- means not “higher”, but rather “about, concerning”. Compare the text here (abhisaññānirodhe kathā udapādi) with mn32:8.6: dve bhikkhū abhidhammakathaṁ kathenti (“two mendicants engage in discussion about the teaching”).

Just as abhidhamma means “about the Dhamma” in a specific sense, i.e. about the formal teachings of the suttas; and just as abhivinaya means “about the Vinaya”, i.e. concerning the patimokkha rules, etc. it seems that “about the cessation of perception” refers to a specific textual passage.

Of all the many passages in the vast corpus of Brahmanical literature, there is one that stands out as the most important, the most profound, the most cited and influential, and the one with the most pervasive set of connections with early Buddhist texts. And that is the dialogue between the sage Yājñavalkya and his wife Maitreyī on the occasion of his going forth. The passage is at Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad 2.4.12, repeated with small changes at 4.5.13. You can read it with text, translation, and commentary here:

To anyone familiar with early Buddhist texts, virtually every sentence and phrase will echo in some way with what is found in the suttas.

Yājñavalkya dismisses all of the phenomena of the world as mere symptoms rather than the Self, and in the culminating verse states clearly what the true Self is:

As a lump of salt dropped into water dissolves with (its component) water, and no one is able to pick it up, but whencesoever one takes it, it tastes salt, even so, my dear, this great, endless, infinite Reality is but Pure Intelligence. (The self) comes out (as a separate entity) from these elements, and (this separateness) is destroyed with them. After attaining (this oneness) it has no more consciousness. This is what I say, my dear. So said Yājñavalkya.

The word translated here as “intelligence” is vijñāna (Pali viññāṇa), normally translated as “consciousness”. This is, as in Pali, said to be ananta (“infinite”) but also, unlike Pali, apāra (“with nothing beyond”); for the Buddha, of course, Nibbana was beyond even infinite consciousness. And the word translated as “consciousness” is saṁjñā (“perception”, Pali saññā). It’s worth noting that at this point in Brahmanical literature, there was no readily standardized psychological vocabulary such as we find in Buddhism.

Let me give a more literal translation of the second half that uses the familiar terminology.

This great reality, infinite, with nothing beyond, is but a sheer mass of consciousness. Having arisen with these elements, one vanishes along with them. Having departed, there is no more perception.

Here we find the Buddhist ideas of arising and ceasing, but the “infinite consciousness” is that from which one arises with the diverse elements of conditioned reality, and into which one vanishes again.

The final statement about the ending of perception is challenging, and it might be read a number of ways:

  • There is no consciousness after death, i.e. affirming an annihilationist view. One encounters this interpretation often, but it seems to me utterly implausible.
  • Per the translation on the linked site, which follows the traditional commentary, it refers to the particular consciousness of the individual self, which vanishes for one who has realized the truth.
  • Or it is equivalent to the Buddhist idea of parinibbana, i.e. what happens to a realized sage at death. The word pretya does indicate “after death”. I think it is saying that after death, one who has realized the truth of Brahma will no longer have any “particular consciousness” (saññā) but only the “infinite consciousness” (viññāṇa).

Let’s assume this last reading is correct, for now at least.

Clearly this statement was not easy, for even the wise Maitreyī interrupted to object. (From here, let me insert the standard translations for clarity).

Maitreyī said, ‘Just here you have thrown me into confusion, sir—by saying that after attaining (oneness) the self has no more perception.’ Yājñavalkya said, ‘Certainly I am not saying anything confusing, my dear; this is quite sufficient for consciousness, O Maitreyī.’

Then he makes the final statement of the whole passage, ending on a note of solemnity and profound insight.

Because when there is duality, as it were, then one smells something, one sees something, one hears something, one speaks something, one thinks something, one cognizes something. (But) when to the knower of Brahman everything has become the Self, then what should one smell and through what, what should one see and through what, what should one hear and through what, what should one speak and through what, what should one think and through what, what should one cognize and through what? Through what should one cognize That owing to which all this is cognized—through what, O Maitreyī, should one cognize the cognizer ?

Philosophy tends to work in cycles. Questions once answered are asked again, and answers to hard problems rarely satisfy everyone. We know that Maitreyī struggled with this point, and it is unlikely she was the only one. The extensive commentary is evidence of the liveliness of interpretation.

Yājñavalkya makes a profound philosophical statement, but he does not really address the questions as to why the limited self should arise from a mass of consciousness, and how is it that we might return. And this, I believe is the discussion “about the cessation of consciousness” that is recorded in the Poṭṭhapādasutta.

Now, it seems clear that Yājñavalkya is implicitly distinguishing between viññāna as “infinite” (= vi-) knowing and saññā as “constrained” (saṁ-) knowing. The former is identified with the supreme cosmic Self, while the latter is the delusional personal self.

Some opine that perception arises and ceases by chance, or by identity with the self, or by the power of a sage or a god. The Buddha of course rejects all of these, though he only treats the first case in detail.

He treats perception as a purely psychological process that is developed through meditation. The entire discourse reframes the normal meditation teaching in this way. Ultimately, they “touch cessation”, but the Buddha avoids saying that perception ceases by absorption into the ocean of infinite consciousness. It just ceases.

There is much more of interest in this sutta, and many more connections with Yājñavalkya that might be traced, but I think the outline is clear.

Yājñavalkya made a brilliant psychological and philosophical insight about the relativity of the personality in its relation to perception. But it was still bound by his commitment to the metaphysics of the Self. Moreover, he left open the practical questions of how to realize such a state. This stimulated ongoing discussions in the leading Brahmanical communities, some of which is recorded in the Poṭṭhapādasutta. The Buddha adopted the distinction between the limited awareness of perception as compared to infinite consciousness, but rejected the metaphysical aspects, instead supplying a detailed psychological praxis that showed how to surmount perception through meditation.

It would be worth revisiting such meditation states as “neither perception nor non perception” in this light also.


Not exactly related, but it afforded me some light amusement. The commentary on the “ascetics and brahmins”, which it identifies as Arthavana practitioners who insert and remove perception is fairly dripping with contempt.

Allegedly, the Āthabbaṇa practitioners cast a spell, showing a creature’s head as if cut off, or their hand as if cut off, or as if dead. Then they show them back to normal; imagining so, they say, ‘From cessation they have arisen.’


Hi Bhante,
I know there is a lot of confusion that inhabits the long and interminable duel between what Buddhists call eternalism and what Vedantins (among others) call the Self (though capitalizing the word, itself, causes confusion).

Reification may seem like a valid crtiticism of such Vedantic views but there is a lot of confusion in the different perspectives within Vedanta itself. It boils down to the differnce between the rare few who have truly extinguished themselves (or the ego, not in a Freudian view but in the description of the five pancha koshas) and realised that consciousness of itself alone is what remains.

I wouldn’t do it justice to just write a few words on this and not get into the full teaching of Ramana Maharshi. But that would be too laborious and I understand that most readers on your forum would not be interested. Yet I mention this because if anyone is ever serious about seeing the distinctions – and possible similarities – of what Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi experienced and the Buddha possibility experienced, the following links by scholar Michael James explains a perspective-- Ajata Vada – that both might have in common.

The interesting thing with Ramana is that he lived not too long ago and wrote a few seminal texts that can be verified accurately today . Michael James lived in the same village where Ramana lived and spent 8 years learning Tamil, Sanskrit (and a few others like Telugu) with Sadhu Om, a disciple that lived with Ramana and his foremost disciple Muruganar. Michael James and Sadhu Om worked on transcribing and translating the texts into English. Unfortunately, only a small portion of people interested in the popular version of Ramana are knowledgeful of this. Instead, there are several books written with rather bad English translators (and who nothing of Tamil, the foremost language used with Ramana); they comprise the vast majority of books that are still sold and abvailable today on Ramana. Though such authors (like Arthur Osborne) meant well, they actually often distrorted what Bhagavan Ramana really said, meant and intended.

I am relating this to give a minimal context to a great sage whose original written material is available today when one knows where to look. (The obvious advantage is that one does haven’t to filter through milenia with text critical analysis to find out what he ‘really’ said and meant). The long and very detailed website is given below (plus hundreds of Youtube videos with Michael James are also availble), which also goes into the subject of your post.

All this to say that what Ramana taught as a practice – self enquiry, but which is better translated as self invetigation or self attentiveness – coincides with Vivarta Vada, which is for all of us who are far from such a rare liberation as Ramana’s. But his experience was Ajata Vada, which in many respects I suspect as possibly similar to the final experience of the Buddha’s teachings. One might see it as two different paths that both lead to Rome.

No worries, I am aware of the temptation to conflate perspectives and I am very weary of syncretism and eclecticism of all sorts. That is not my perspective. I am bringing this up because there is a lot of confusion on what is meant by the Self and I thnk it is because we have milenia of disputes between theoreticians (like with the Visuddhimagga, Vedantic literature is full of Commentaries, Commentaries on the Commentaries, Commentaries on the Commentaries of the Commentaries, etc). Ramana broke through all of this in a clear language that dispels much of the clap trap; much of what he said flies in the face of many Vedantic tropes). In other words, it boils down to the difference between philosophizing in all manners and the lived experience.

That is the difference: the teaching of one who has truly lived it (though a person living it is a contradiction in terms, as no person or ego is left to live it) compared to the millions of pages written by theoriticians through milenia. I think the same very much applies to Buddhism or any other long dating religion.

According to Bhagavan the experience of the ātma-jñāni is not that the ego and world once seemed to exist and have now ceased to exist, but that they never seemed to exist at all, because what actually exists is only ātma-svarūpa , which is anādi (beginningless), ananta (endless, limitless or infinite) and akhaṇḍa (undivided) sat-cit-ānanda (as he says in verse 28 of Upadēśa Undiyār ), so in its clear view nothing else whatsoever could ever appear or seem to exist at all. Therefore though he taught vivarta vāda as the theoretical foundation on which our practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra ) should be based, and consequently as the most beneficial view for us to adopt if we wish to free ourself from this illusory ego, he explained that his own experience was only ajāta , the ultimate truth that no illusory appearance has ever been ‘born’ or come into existence (or even seeming existence) at all.

Anyway, if anyone is ever interested, this website is a treasure trove on the original teachings of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi:

If you are short on time, this video goes into some fundamental pointers on Ajata Vada:

Thanks so much for this. I’m not familiar with Maharishi’s teachings myself, but I know there are many, including monks, who are deeply moved and impressed by him.

Including myself.

However, after reading much about Maharshi’s life and teachings many years ago and sharing Q&A emails with Michael and David Godman, both devoted and knowledgeable followers of Maharshi, there are several significant differences with respect to the Buddha’s teachings.

First, the Mahashi taught a strict form of determinstic kamma. The only possible “choice” is for the Self - sat-chit-ananda - to turn towards Itself, leading to liberation/realization. Otherwise, everything else, including all actions, thoughts, events, etc. are completely predetermined. Similar to how the Jains explained kamma in the suttas.
The Buddha, of course, taught otherwise.

Secondly, the Self, being “outside” time and space; being, in fact, the only Reality in Maharshi’s teachings, follows along the lines of the Self taught in the Brihadaranyaka and Chandogya Upanishads.

This teaching reflects the debate among some Buddhists between those who teach/believe in a “timeless citta” or some form of ineffable bliss after the death of an arahant and those who express parinibbāna, final extinguishment, as just that.

Still, the testimony of many who actually encountered the Maharshi points to his heart-moving presence, profound and deeply inspiring.


The question of karma and the role of will as taught by Ramana is no simple matter; it is filled with nuances.

Again , much too complicated to get into here. For those interested, here is one of Michael’s longest (and possibly, best) posts that goes into the complexities of discerning how will and karma sometimes converge…and sometimes don’t.

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3. Will is the key to both bondage and liberation, so we must use our will wisely by choosing to turn back within in order to merge forever in our real nature

Will is the cause of both bondage and liberation, self-ignorance and self-knowledge, doing and being. By misusing our will we have risen as this ego and thereby got ourself entangled in the web of doing (action or karma ), which is bondage and self-ignorance, and by using it correctly we can subside back into our real state of just being (summā iruppadu ), which is liberation (mukti ) and self-knowledge (ātma-jñāna ).

Since all these are the result of our own will, the choice is ours, and we are always free to make whichever choice we prefer. Which do we want more: self-knowledge, liberation and just being, or self-ignorance, bondage and doing? At present we still prefer bondage, because of our avivēka or lack of clear judgement, but if we patiently and persistently follow the path of self-investigation and self-surrender as taught by Bhagavan, our mind or will (cittam ) will be gradually cleansed of its outgoing desires or viṣaya-vāsanās (inclinations or urges to be aware of phenomena) and thereby we will gain the clear vivēka (discernment, discrimination or judgement) to recognise that true happiness does not lie in anything outside ourself but only in ourself, as a result of which our love just to be as we actually are (sat-vāsanā or svātma-bhakti ) will become stronger than all our viṣaya-vāsanās , whereupon our mind will instantly turn back 180 degrees towards ourself and will thereby merge forever in and as our real nature (ātma-svarūpa ), which is the source from which it arose.

As Bhagavan often used to say, bhakti (love) is the mother of jñāna (true knowledge or pure awareness), because without all-consuming love to be as we actually are we will not be able to turn our entire attention back within and thereby surrender ourself forever to pure, infinite and immutable self-awareness, which is our real nature. Since love to be as we actually are is the correct use of our will, by saying that bhakti is the mother of jñāna Bhagavan clearly implied that the key to knowing and being what we actually are is to use our will correctly by desiring nothing other than to be aware of ourself alone.

dukkhe loko patiṭṭhito(sn1.68)

What the world thinks is a Pratiṣṭhā, is actually dukkha.

Does Buddhist view of ignorance and Ramana Maharshi’s view of ignorance somehow coincide and ‘world’ refers to the same person(s)?

Or does Buddhism go even further, and the above includes Maharshi type teachings as well?

Personally I think it’s the latter. In Buddhism there is the teaching(s) on dependent origanation. There is no ‘ground’ but there is making an end.

It is a common trap to immediately view any other perspective than our own as ignorance which, conveniently, has the tendency to push our view as superior.

In Ramana’s perspective, ignorance is not only linked to but finds its source in ego.
Ego in Ramana’s perspective, however, is very different from our Western interpretation and understanding. It is composed of the five sheaths or pancha koshas.

The ego cannot rise or stand without grasping the form of a body as ‘I’, as Bhagavan implies in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu :

உருப்பற்றி யுண்டா முருப்பற்றி நிற்கு
முருப்பற்றி யுண்டுமிக வோங்கு — முருவிட்
டுருப்பற்றுந் தேடினா லோட்டம் பிடிக்கு
முருவற்ற பேயகந்தை யோர்.

uruppaṯṟi yuṇḍā muruppaṯṟi niṟku
muruppaṯṟi yuṇḍumiha vōṅgu — muruviṭ
ṭuruppaṯṟun tēḍiṉā lōṭṭam piḍikku
muruvaṯṟa pēyahandai yōr

பதச்சேதம்: உரு பற்றி உண்டாம்; உரு பற்றி நிற்கும்; உரு பற்றி உண்டு மிக ஓங்கும்; உரு விட்டு, உரு பற்றும்; தேடினால் ஓட்டம் பிடிக்கும், உரு அற்ற பேய் அகந்தை. ஓர்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): uru paṯṟi uṇḍām; uru paṯṟi niṟkum; uru paṯṟi uṇḍu miha ōṅgum; uru viṭṭu, uru paṯṟum; tēḍiṉāl ōṭṭam piḍikkum, uru aṯṟa pēy ahandai. ōr.

அன்வயம்: உரு அற்ற பேய் அகந்தை உரு பற்றி உண்டாம்; உரு பற்றி நிற்கும்; உரு பற்றி உண்டு மிக ஓங்கும்; உரு விட்டு, உரு பற்றும்; தேடினால் ஓட்டம் பிடிக்கும். ஓர்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): uru aṯṟa pēy ahandai uru paṯṟi uṇḍām; uru paṯṟi niṟkum; uru paṯṟi uṇḍu miha ōṅgum; uru viṭṭu, uru paṯṟum; tēḍiṉāl ōṭṭam piḍikkum. ōr.

English translation: Grasping form the formless phantom-ego comes into existence; grasping form it stands; grasping and feeding on form it grows abundantly; leaving form, it grasps form. If it seeks, it will take flight. Investigate.

Explanatory paraphrase: [By] grasping form [that is, by projecting and perceiving the form of a body (composed of five sheaths) as itself] the formless phantom-ego comes into existence [rises into being or is formed]; [by] grasping form [that is, by holding on to that body as itself] it stands [endures, continues or persists]; [by] grasping and feeding on form [that is, by projecting and perceiving other forms or phenomena] it grows [spreads, expands, increases, ascends, rises high or flourishes] abundantly; leaving [one] form [a body that it had projected and perceived as itself in one state], it grasps [another] form [another body that it projects and perceives as itself in its next state]. If it seeks [examines or investigates] [itself], it will take flight [because it has no form of its own, and hence it cannot seem to exist without grasping the forms of other things as itself and as its food or sustenance]. Investigate [this ego] [or know thus].
The first form that the ego grasps is whatever body it takes to be itself, and since such a body is always a living body that seems to be awake, it consists not only of a physical form but also the life that animates that form and the mind and intellect that shine within it, and since it seems to us to be ‘I’ only because of our inner darkness of self-ignorance, it is a form composed of five sheaths or coverings (namely the physical form, life, mind, intellect and darkness of self-ignorance), as Bhagavan says in verse 5 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu :

உடல்பஞ்ச கோச வுருவதனா லைந்து
முடலென்னுஞ் சொல்லி லொடுங்கு — முடலன்றி
யுண்டோ வுலக முடல்விட் டுலகத்தைக்
கண்டா ருளரோ கழறு.

uḍalpañca kōśa vuruvadaṉā laindu
muḍaleṉṉuñ colli loḍuṅgu — muḍalaṉḏṟi
yuṇḍō vulaha muḍalviṭ ṭulahattaik
kaṇḍā ruḷarō kaṙaṟu

பதச்சேதம்: உடல் பஞ்ச கோச உரு. அதனால், ஐந்தும் ‘உடல்’ என்னும் சொல்லில் ஒடுங்கும். உடல் அன்றி உண்டோ உலகம்? உடல் விட்டு, உலகத்தை கண்டார் உளரோ? கழறு.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): uḍal pañca kōśa uru. adaṉāl, aindum ‘uḍal’ eṉṉum sollil oḍuṅgum. uḍal aṉḏṟi uṇḍō ulaham? uḍal viṭṭu, ulahattai kaṇḍār uḷarō? kaṙaṟu.

அன்வயம்: உடல் பஞ்ச கோச உரு. அதனால், ‘உடல்’ என்னும் சொல்லில் ஐந்தும் ஒடுங்கும். உடல் அன்றி உலகம் உண்டோ? உடல் விட்டு, உலகத்தை கண்டார் உளரோ? கழறு.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): uḍal pañca kōśa uru. adaṉāl, ‘uḍal’ eṉṉum sollil aindum oḍuṅgum. uḍal aṉḏṟi ulaham uṇḍō? uḍal viṭṭu, ulahattai kaṇḍār uḷarō? kaṙaṟu.

English translation: The body is a form of five sheaths. Therefore all five are included in the term ‘body’. Without a body, is there a world? Say, leaving the body, is there anyone who has seen a world?

Explanatory paraphrase: The body is pañca-kōśa-uru [a form composed of five sheaths, namely a physical structure, life, mind, intellect and what is described both as the darkness of self-ignorance and as the will, the totality of the ego’s vāsanās (propensities, inclinations or urges), which are the seeds that sprout as its likes, dislikes, desires, fears and so on]. Therefore all five [sheaths] are included in the term ‘body’. Without a body [composed of these five sheaths], is there a world? Say, without [experiencing oneself as such] a body, is there anyone who has seen a world?
Since the ego therefore mistakes itself to be a compound form consisting of these five sheaths, it cannot but experience any actions done by any of these sheaths as ‘I am doing this’. For example, it feels I am walking and talking (acts of the physical body or sthūla sarīra ), I am breathing and living (acts of the life or prāṇa ), I am thinking and feeling (acts of the mind or manas ), I am reasoning and discriminating (acts of the intellect or buddhi ) and I am desiring, hoping and fearing (acts of the will or cittam , which is a function of the ānandamaya kōśa or darkness of self-ignorance, because will arises directly from self-ignorance, and hence the ānandamaya kōśa or kāraṇa śarīra is said to be the abode of all vāsanās or propensities, which are elements that constitute the will).

Is it possible the vi- connotes two or both here pertaining to the unity of salt+water as opposed to just samjna for the lump of salt? I ask because is do not see a connotation of infinite in the Online Pali English Dictionary when I look up ‘vi’ or ‘vinnana’ or is the ‘vi’ as infinite from the sanskrit?

This great reality, infinite, with nothing beyond, is but a sheer mass of dualistic knowing

I don’t think so.

Also note that the parallel has prajanana (= paññā). This is the case in Pali too, while paññā and viññāṇa have different technical senses they can sometimes be synonyms. In both cases the prefix can be understood as intensifying or amplifying.

(To be clear, I’m pretty sure the reading prajanana is spurious, as the following conversation always uses vi-.)

The prefix vi- is about the third-most common prefix in Pali and can have a whole lot of meanings. Here it is an intensifier.

That viññāṇa is “infinite” is not because the prefix requires it, but because the text describes it as infinite, exactly as the Pali tradition does in talking of the formless attainments.

The problem is that Pali sources look at the reductive argument and take that to be the basic meaning. The Buddha is saying that “that ocean of consciousness that brahmins take to be an infinite reality is in fact nothing more than one variety of the consciousness conditioned and arisen by the senses.” Then people mistakenly say that vi- means “separative”, despite the fact that “infinite consciousness” is most definitely a thing.

I’ve heard people for many years say that what Maharishi taught is the same as Buddhism, then when I see what he said, I’m like, “That’s literally just Advaita”.

The whole point of the Buddha’s response to such an approach is that there is no such thing as a “real state of just being”. There is no immutable “real nature”. There is suffering and the end of suffering.

If you experience Maharishi’s teachings as liberating, that is because of the nature of his teachings, not because they are the same as (or different to) Buddhism. Look for common ground, great. But the Buddha was a teacher by analysis, and he understood differences to be as real as similarities.

If modern Buddhist teachings sound like they agree with Maharishi’s “immutable real nature”, that’s because they have been influenced by Advaita, not because it’s what the Buddha taught.


or both may have been influenced by partial (mis-)understanding of a meditative experience, no? DN 1 comes to mind…

some recluse or a brahmin, by means of ardour, endeavour, application, diligence, and right reflection, attains to such a degree of mental concentration that with his mind thus concentrated, [purified, clarified, unblemished, devoid of corruptions], he…

Sure, meditation plays a role, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many meditators over such a wide space and time have gravitated back to the same formulations.

In modern Theravada, these ideas come from Thailand ultimately, which had contact with India directly in the south, and via the Sanskritic Hindu Khmer empire. And there has also been traffic in the north with the Yogacara meditation monks of China.

Then in modern times it’s influenced by mid-century syncretic mysticism via Californianism. Ajahn Sumedho, for example, read DT Suzuki in his young days as a monk, as they didn’t really have the Pali canon. So this links from (Advaita-influenced) Yogacara → Chan → Zen, then infused with 20th century modernism and mysticism through Suzuki’s association with Paul Carus and his marriage to a Theosophist and later becoming one.


Maharshi (not Maharishi) did not teach traditional or classical Advaita. His perspective was more subtle and yet radical. Neither did he teach nor advocate meditation unless one meant self attentiveness. Except to those who couldn’t see it otherwise, Ramana downplayed any type of meditative state, describing it as manolaya: transient, changing and therefore temporary. Even if one can reliably get into a meditative state on a regular basis, one inevitably comes out of said state. Ramana pointed to the state which never changes, is not new. The term ‘state’ therefore does not do it justice. That’s one reason that words like “real nature” are used. They are just limited terms that point to the unlimited.

So yes, his teaching was different from the Buddha’s but not in the sense that most outsiders see it by qualifying it with blanket statements. Just think how often the Buddha’s words are mischaracterized with misinterpretations. Unfortunately, the same goes for much of what is communicated about Maharshi and what he originally said.

No worries, however. I knew I was probably barking up the wrong tree by bringing up his teachings in this forum. My bad. I thought that what Ramana really had to say might somehow contribute to the theme of your post. But for that, one would have to read the posts I referenced by Michael James. Admittedly, they are long but offer much of the nuance that explain the many differences that people have concerning the interpretation of what Ramana originally intended and Advaita.

I can only suggest that those who are interested in knowing a bit more than the habitual and popular tropes concerning Ramana and Advaita might dig a little deeper. Understandably, it will only be the rare reader of this forum as the vast majority are mostly interested in the Buddha and Buddhism.

All the best…

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Sorry! In a manner of speaking, I have no doubt that Maharshi was in possession of a seemingly unshakable degree of discipline that comes from citta bhavana. But whether true or no , it is my view that, irrevocable discipline that comes from Panna bhavana, only the four Noble ones in this Dhammavinaya are in possession. That is not to say Maharshi was not wise.

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I believe that the state of infinite consciousness is what Yājñavalkya would equate to the merging of the jiva with atman and is where the experience of subject-object dualism ceases. This state is entered with the cessation of sanna and from a Buddhist perspective would be evidence of the fiction of a personal self. In some parts of the canon this is called reaching the end of the world. The Atthakavagga seems to be interested in this.

The cessation of the experience of infinite consciousness or what Yājñavalkya would think of as atman would either be the state of nothingness or neither perception of non perception. I think the former is consistent with the Parayanavagga since it does not seem to refer to the state of neither perception nor non perception, but does refer to the state of nothingness and the cessation of vinnana. From the Buddhist perspective, I believe this would be evidence of the fiction of atman.

In any case, the Buddha rejects metaphysics most strongly in the nucleus of the Atthakavagga (Snp 4.2 - 4.5). There are many parts of the canon indulges in metaphysics quite a bit. That said, I think there is quite a lot of insight to be found in these deep states of concentration.

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Sorry to barge in on the parade again, but what Buddhists don’t seem to grasp is that some rare teachers associated with Advaita experience phenomona in a somewhat similar fashion to the no self experience of Buddhists. This was particulary expounded by Maharshi in his distinction between manolaya and manonasa.

Manolaya is temporary, no matter what the experience (including all meditative states, regardless of the tradition). In fact experience is by definition manolaya, as whatever we experience is ever changing and transient. Manonasa, on the other hand, is permanent. It is the final dissolution and destruction of the mind (ego). It never rises again, as in the case of Ramana Maharshi.

So what you call “the fiction of atman” (in the quoted paragraph) is actually a complete annihilation that goes beyond states, be it the state of neither perception nor non perception or of any other state. When you boil things down, any state is by definition transitory. But what knows that? I’m not refering to the mind/ego (in the sense intended by Maharshi) as most people would tend to think. So when I use the term knows, I’m not refering to intellectual knowledge. It is what is aware, beyond the sense that is meant by Buddhists like vinnana.

I guess this is where disagreements and different points of view converge to a game of intellectual diatribe and philosophical debate over which position is correct. We can play this game for another few thousand years (assuming humans will still be around, which these days seems rather uncertain) but that is not my point in posting here.

I’m just pointing to what I consider to be a misinterpreation of Advaita in general over the much shunned view of ‘The Self.’ Thinking it is a reification is a mistake. Awareness of awareness is what remains after manonasa. But it is not the consciousness or awareness of a personal self. The latter is done with, there is no self left.

One can continue beleiving one can get something from nothing…but that will reopen the can of worms with all its nasty debates. Maybe the two perspectives are irreconcilable. Yet there are similarities. A pity when the other side is not well understood.

As Bhagavan (Maharshi) says in [verse 13] of Upadēśa Undiyār :

இலயமு நாச மிரண்டா மொடுக்க
மிலயித் துளதெழு முந்தீபற
வெழாதுரு மாய்ந்ததே லுந்தீபற.

ilayamu nāśa miraṇḍā moḍukka
milayit tuḷadeṙu mundīpaṟa
veṙāduru māyndadē lundīpaṟa

பதச்சேதம்: இலயமும் நாசம் இரண்டு ஆம் ஒடுக்கம். இலயித்து உளது எழும். எழாது உரு மாய்ந்ததேல்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): ilayam-um nāśam iraṇḍu ām oḍukkam. ilayittu uḷadu eṙum. eṙādu uru māyndadēl.

அன்வயம்: ஒடுக்கம் இலயமும் நாசம் இரண்டு ஆம். இலயித்து உளது எழும். உரு மாய்ந்ததேல் எழாது.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): oḍukkam ilayam-um nāśam iraṇḍu ām. ilayittu uḷadu eṙum. uru māyndadēl eṙādu.

English translation: Dissolution [cessation or complete subsidence of mind] is [of] two [kinds]: laya [temporary dissolution] and nāśa [annihilation or permanent dissolution]. What is lying down [or dissolved in laya] will rise. If [its] form dies [in nāśa], it will not rise.
Since mind (and hence ego, which is the root and essence of mind, being its perceiving aspect) is absent in both manōlaya and manōnāśa , there is no difference between these two states except for the fact that mind will rise again from laya but will never rise again from nāśa . So why does mind rise again from laya but not from nāśa ? In nāśa ego is annihilated, which means permanently dissolved, whereas in laya it is just temporarily dissolved, and the reason for this difference lies in the cause for its dissolution in each of these states.

In nāśa we as ego are dissolved by attending to ourself so keenly that we are aware of nothing other than ourself, and hence aware of ourself as we actually are (that is, as pure awareness), because (just as an illusory snake will forever cease to appear as soon as we see that it is just a rope) as soon as we are aware of ourself as we actually are, we will forever cease to appear as ego (the erroneous self-awareness ‘I am this body’) and will therefore remain forever as we always actually are. In laya , however, we as ego are dissolved by some means other than such pure self-awareness, so our dissolution is only temporary. For example, in sleep we are dissolved due to tiredness, because we no longer have the energy to continue projecting and perceiving phenomena, as we do in waking and dream, so though our attention is withdrawn from everything else when we fall asleep, it is not focussed keenly on ourself, and hence we as ego are dissolved without being annihilated.

Sleep is not the only state of manōlaya , but in each other state of manōlaya the ego is likewise dissolved by some means other than keenly focussed self-attentiveness. In coma it may be dissolved because of a head injury or drug overdose, in general anaesthesia it is dissolved because of some anaesthetic drugs, and in kēvala nirvikalpa samādhi it is dissolved by breath restraint (prāṇāyāma ) or some other kind of yōga practice.

Whatever be the cause of manōlaya , what shines alone after ego is dissolved is only pure awareness, but because it shines alone after ego is dissolved, it does not annihilate it. In the case of manōnāśa , on the other hand, ego is dissolved because pure awareness shines forth alone as a result of keenly focussed self-attentiveness, so its dissolution is then permanent. In other words, in manōlaya pure awareness shines alone as a result of the dissolution of ego, whereas in manōnāśa ego is dissolved as a result of pure awareness shining alone.

Therefore it is a matter of which goes first, the horse or the cart, in which the horse is pure awareness shining alone and the cart is dissolution of ego. If the horse goes first followed by the cart, the resulting state is annihilation of mind (manōnāśa ), whereas if the cart goes first followed by the horse, the resulting state is only a temporary dissolution of mind (manōlaya ).

Personally, I half jokingly refer to myself as an Atthakavaggan Buddhist. I subscribe to what in the canon that is consistent with what I called the nucleus of the Atthakavagga which includes some suttas not in it. I believe there is a reason why the Buddha took a no views stance in the Atthakavagga and it is the same reason why he only advocated the complete knowledge of sanna and not vinnana. I believe that the Parayanavagga came afterwards and reflects competition between Buddhists and Brahmans.

That said, I will never forget the time I first woke up after general anesthesia. I asked the nurse how much longer until I go into surgery. She laughed and said they finished hours ago. Unlike with sleep. I had absolutely no sense of the passage of time. I didn’t even remember going out or reviving from it. I actually thought I was still waiting to go in.

I don’t know if there was some vague formless awareness during those missing hours that I can’t recall because memories were not laid down of them. I don’t think I will ever know. We don’t know the how or why of consciousness. I am agnostic with regard to this. I suspect the Buddha of the Atthakavagga was too. There were reasons why he would not answer certain questions like is the jiva the body or not and what happens to the Buddha after death. For all modern Buddhists talk about not having metaphysics, they sure make a lot of metaphysical claims.

Added latter: this is a song that says it all as far as I am concerned.

my hot take is that “neither perception nor non perception” refers to the 4th leg of the undeclared points. no evidence or anything but.

If you ever have 25 minutes on your hand, you might take a look at this intro to analytic idealism. Though Bernardo Kastrup is well versed in both science and philosophy (phds in both), the point is that his perspective is partly what led me to the Advaitic view (and later to Ramana Maharshi).

It is very easy to scoff off the views of modern day Zen, conflate them with 20th century myticism – add a little New Age to the mix – and find oneself in an easy position to criticize such views. Not so fast. Don’t put the horse before the cart.

If you like you can go back to Hume (who you like) and contrast him with Schopenhauer (among others). Or you can fast forward to Kastrup. The matter (so to speak) in question here is about perception. What if matter had nothing or very little to do with it?

Seeing things the way they are is a favorite theme of Buddhism. But in the view of analytic idealism, perspectives like the six sense base of the Buddha is radically put into question.

What if we are not at all seeing things the way they are? If you give yourself a half hour (or go into this more extensively with the other parts of the course) you might see how the perspective presented by Advaita is not so jeuvenile. Analytic idealism is an initial avenue that can lead one to at least an intellectual understanding of what sages like Ramana where communicating.