Thursday, February 17, 2022

Comans on Shankara on Gaudapada on Samadhi

"There is also the problem that the word samadhi has been reified to the extent that it embodies a “mystical” state of consciousness which is seen to be the goal of all spiritual practice, as it forms the necessary condition for the realisation of Brahman. In the literature extolling the importance samadhi the word is frequently translated as “super consciousness”, a meaning that has nothing to do with the etymology of the word samadhi. Such translations succeed only in further conditioning the seeker by fostering an imagination as to what Self-knowledge is like, and what is its precondition. The problem with this whole enterprise is that the seeker then assiduously tries to cultivate a particular type of experience, the nature of which is in the imagination, and this is done at the cost of neglecting the Self that, according to the Advaita of Sankara, is simply Awareness itself. In short, the whole search for a “mystical” samadhi experience can be a mistaken adventure, in that it can amount to an ignorant denial of the Self, for in searching for an experience of the Self the searcher overlooks the fact – and the teaching of this fact is made explicit in such Upanişads as Brhadaranyaka and Kena- that Brahman, the ultimate subject, pure Awareness, cannot be experienced objectively like a sense object, because it is Experience itself.

According to the second explanation in the commentary, i.c.. “samadhi is that in which one is resolved”, Gauḍapada is using the word samadhi as a description of the nature of Brahman, rather than the idea that Brahman is to be gained through a samadhi experience. In this interpretation, which seems to be the one the commentator prefers judging from his introduction to the following verse (“Since it was said that Brahman itself is samadhi, motionless, without fear…”), Brahman is said to be samadhi itself, just as the turiya -Self was described earlier as “free from all division” (nirvikalpa) (2.35). According to this understanding, the turiya -Self is inherently nirvikalpa and as such it is “samadhi” by nature. What this means is that the turiya -Self, as pure Awareness, is Experience per se (anubhūtisvarüpa), or in the words of the Brhadaraṇyaka Upanişad: “This Self, the experiencer of everything (sarvänubhūh), is Brahman” (2.5.19). In this statement of the Upanisad the Self is presented as Experience itself. Thus there are two views in Advaita, and at a certain level they are quite divergent: the first, more “yogic” view, advocates realisation through the cultivation of a samadhi experience: the second takes its stand on the Self as self-revealing Awareness, as Experience per se, and while it does not deny the value of meditation it looks somewhat critically upon the samadhi-oriented search for a special experience of the Self. I believe that the latter view accords more closely with the teachings of Sankara and his disciples."

from The Method of Early Advaita Vedanta: A Study of Gaudapada, Sankara, Suresvara and Padmapada by Michael Comans

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