Mistakes against the Shankaracharya Tradition

Discussion of the SES, particularly in the UK.
Gerasene Demon
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Re: Mistakes against the Shankaracharya Tradition

Postby Gerasene Demon » Sat Jan 19, 2013 2:18 pm

Dr Alan,

Just as you deleted "Study Society" for "another group", you changed "real Shankaracharya" to "real Guru". You have also deleted a whole post and your talking nonsense. You have made many mistakes and I am happy to leave them just where they are for everyone to see. I am not angry, that stopped when I understood the con. Thanks for the concern but I'm really not interested but I am happy to have had the opportunity to catch you out. Many thanks.

Dr.Alan
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Re: Mistakes against the Shankaracharya Tradition

Postby Dr.Alan » Sat Jan 19, 2013 2:24 pm

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SES - London 1964-1974 left due to SES interference with private life.

Dr.Alan
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Re: Mistakes against the Shankaracharya Tradition

Postby Dr.Alan » Sat Jan 19, 2013 3:42 pm

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Last edited by Dr.Alan on Sun Jan 20, 2013 8:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
SES - London 1964-1974 left due to SES interference with private life.

Gerasene Demon
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Re: Mistakes against the Shankaracharya Tradition

Postby Gerasene Demon » Sat Jan 19, 2013 4:12 pm

Be my guest. Anybody reading this thread will now know that it doesn't matter whose in charge the philosophy is the same as Maharishi.

Dr.Alan
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Re: Mistakes against the Shankaracharya Tradition

Postby Dr.Alan » Sat Jan 19, 2013 10:47 pm

Dear MOTS, your post to Ahamty2 was interesting especially where you asked, "The real issue is the verification of these truth-claims."

I can enlarge on that as far as my 50 years of trying can take me, aided by those things which I have also been taught to do etc.

It comes down to the first question in a series of questions, to get to the bottom of this.

Do we believe that there is a "truth" which would lead us to understand all we need to know about our lives? If we do not believe that there is one. Then the book is closed, or that is the end of the enquiry. Those who do not think there is one need not read on.

If we do believe there is a "truth" as described above, then the next question is:- Can it be known by us humans? If we believe it can we can move on - if not -- close the book.

Then the next question is :- As we now believe it can be known, do we believe that someone knows what it is? Here again - if anyone does not believe that it is known then the book is closed.

If we do believe that someone knows it, the next question is:- Is that person, whoever he or she might be, able to explain it to me, or teach it to me? This is where it gets tricky. For example -- I know what the taste of an apple is. But if you have never tasted one, it would be very difficult for me to explain it to you. Suppose I decided to try, because there were no apples immediately available. It might involve mentioning all sorts of tastes which you were familiar with. Then saying - well it is a bit like taste A but more like taste B, or -- but then if you were to mix taste D with a small bit of taste C then that might be nearer to it. --- and so on and so on. But all this would depend on my experience of tastes A, B, C & D; and if we were talking theoretically without examples of these four tastes to try in front of us, then neither of us could be sure that what you finally held in your mind about the taste of an apple, was what it really tasted like. This is just about a simple thing which is possible to be verified with one of our five senses. How much harder would it be if the subject was not verifiable by the five senses.

Of course with the apple - it is easy - the next time one is available you can taste it for yourself. But you would have the same problem after that if you were asked to explain it to someone else. So the knowledge related to the first question, we asked above, cannot be passed easily from one generation to another. If it could be only passed from one who knows it to two other people in their lifetime ---------

Well I guess you know the story about the grains of wheat on the chess board. To cut a long one short - if you put one grain on the first square and two on the next then four then eight etc doubling each time. The fact is there probably is not enough wheat produced in one year on this planet to put on the last square -- the 64th (the answer is about 9223 with 15 zeros after it)- presuming the square was big enough - which it isn't -- But that is not the point.

What I am saying here is quite simple - the same calculation applies to the number of people being told the answer. After 64 generations, if it were possible to tell two others each generation then we would all know the answer by now. 64 generations is between 1,500 and 2,000 years - not long really if we are saying Advaita Vedanta has been around 5,000 or more. So what is the problem here???

Firstly I am sure we can easily be convinced that the answer, even if known, cannot - and has not -- been passed on to anyone from anyone, from the above calculation.

So to recap - for those who read this far - who must have (A) accepted there is a truth. (B) accepted that it can be known and (C) accepted that someone knows it. But that they can't tell me and be sure that I would understand. So now what do I do ?? This is where the tradition of Arundhati Nyaya comes in.

Arundhati Nyaya tradition relates to a small, almost invisible star in the sky. But on a very clear night it is just possible to see it. A man, who knows which one it is, is supposed to show the star to his new wife sometime after the wedding on a clear night. But how is that possible? It is almost invisible and there are thousands and thousands of them up there on a clear night. Fortunately there is a traditional method.

They both stand, so that they are partly under a tree, and with their heads close together. The type of tree has to be with many small branches sticking out. The man then makes sure they are both in such a position that the Arundhati star is not far from the tip of a larger branch. He then directs the attention of his wife to that branch. He might need to check that they are both looking at the same branch by describing other branches nearby and very bright stars which are near to them etc. He can use any method of description which is suitable to the shapes etc of the branches.

When he is sure that she is looking at the tip of the same branch as he is, then he begins slowly to move her attention from the brightest stars near to the tip of that branch, outward to less bright ones each time checking by describing stars and their patterns etc around the ones he wants her to look at. Finally when he has her attention on the next nearest (but maybe slightly brighter) star to the Arundhati, he then says "It is the very faint one just to the left". That is it. She can now see Arundhati.

Obviously you can work out what the various terms above relate to : "Husband" = teacher - "Clear night", "under the same tree." "traditional method" "heads close together" "moving to finer and finer stars". So the Arundhati Nyaya is a way of getting to see something very subtle by a traditional method. The true teacher is one who knows that method and how to direct the attention of a true seeker so that he or she will see it for him/ herself. But who is a true teacher ??

A quote given to me from a book (sorry no title given) "In addition we should add that in matters connected with this book, a higher level of being would mean an increase in love and consideration for others and in the development of humanitarian sentiments. This also means an understanding of how human selfishness is very subtle and having made concerted attempts to eliminate it in himself entirely." If you find these qualities in a teacher - it is more than likely he is a good one. Also -- never asks for money; not really interested in disciples. (i.e. they have to prove themselves genuine to him first). not interested in fame; is only interested in the progress and welfare of those he has accepted to be disciples; never gets angry; has little or no interest in material possessions. All these qualities. But such people are rare. That is why the 64 generations calculation doesn't work. I have never understood why it is that, if this thing has been going for so long then someone should have made things easier by now. But that's how it appears to be. What can we do??
SES - London 1964-1974 left due to SES interference with private life.

ManOnTheStreet
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Re: Mistakes against the Shankaracharya Tradition

Postby ManOnTheStreet » Sun Jan 20, 2013 2:31 am

Dr. Alan, thanks for your interesting post. In the spirit of mutual understanding I will attempt to characterise my own view on this:

1.
Dr.Alan wrote:Do we believe that there is a "truth" which would lead us to understand all we need to know about our lives? If we do not believe that there is one. Then the book is closed, or that is the end of the enquiry. Those who do not think there is one need not read on.


I think the main thing here is that there may be an objective "truth", but it may not be the kind of "truth" which is described by the Vedantins. Since we do not know what the "truth" is, the only thing we can really do is examine the various characterisations of it in philosophy and religion with a view to eliminating those conceptions which are not valid. (Something like "neti neti"). For my part, I think that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and there is no doubt, at least in my mind, that the metaphysical claims of Vedanta/Advait-Vedanta are quite extraordinary. What I do not see is the extraordinary evidence to back them up. Essentially what I am saying is that Shankara et al could have been genuinely mistaken, and in the absence of evidence to the contrary it seems unreasonable to believe their claims on the basis of a fundamentally subjective experience of the world. That said, I am not suggesting that Shankara's claims are definitely false - I am only saying that they are not verifiable. In other words, there is nothing to distinguish the validity of those claims from any other claims that are made by other philosophers/theologians.

I don't think anyone can honestly say that there is or is not a "truth". It is really a completely open question. For that reason, I agree with you when you say that the book is closed when we decide there is no truth. However, I would also say that the book is closed when we say there is a truth, because when we say this we imply a particular characterisation of that truth (it could be Shankara's, or someone else's). This limits the inquiry, and presents the danger of confirmation bias overruling reason. This same principle applies to your second point regarding our epistemic access to "truth". It is again an open question.

2. Your third point strikes to the heart of the issue: Can this knowledge be taught?

This reminds me of the familiar "colour perception problem" in psychology: When I say "red" and you say "red" we don't know that the thing we are calling "red" is the same for both of us. I think a similar issue presents itself with regard to this "knowledge". When one 'wise man' says "truth" and the other wise man says "truth" we really don't know that they are describing the same thing. This applies to Arundhati Nyaya: the assumption is that the star is the same for the husband and the wife, but I'm not this assumption is justified. After all, we don't really have a proper picture of our own experiences - are we really going to say that we know enough about truth to be able to say we know of what the 'wise men' speak when they talk about their experiences? I think the more humble (and more accurate) approach is to say we don't know, and start our inquiry from that point.

3.
Dr.Alan wrote:A quote given to me from a book (sorry no title given) "In addition we should add that in matters connected with this book, a higher level of being would mean an increase in love and consideration for others and in the development of humanitarian sentiments. This also means an understanding of how human selfishness is very subtle and having made concerted attempts to eliminate it in himself entirely." If you find these qualities in a teacher - it is more than likely he is a good one. Also -- never asks for money; not really interested in disciples. (i.e. they have to prove themselves genuine to him first). not interested in fame; is only interested in the progress and welfare of those he has accepted to be disciples; never gets angry; has little or no interest in material possessions. All these qualities. But such people are rare. That is why the 64 generations calculation doesn't work. I have never understood why it is that, if this thing has been going for so long then someone should have made things easier by now. But that's how it appears to be. What can we do??


The description above is indistinguishable from that of a very moral/good person, but I think when Shankara exhorts us to find a "knower of Brahman" he means more than just "an exceptionally moral person". This is again a problem of epistemic access - even if 'realised sages' existed, you could never know who they were because there are no distinguishing features of such people. To put it another way - a person could have all of those qualities and not know anything about the "truth". This is why I think we all need to develop our own discrimination and reason out the "truth" (if there is such a thing) for ourselves. Relying on others is, as many of us have experienced, a very dangerous path to follow. Through reasoned discussion, debate and self-inquiry we can perhaps begin to understand something more about the world around us and within us - and perhaps some ideas in Vedanta are helpful in that pursuit. I do not think however that it is possible to take Vedanta as a whole to be an accurate reflection of "truth" - there are simply too many holes and inconsistencies for that to be the case. For my part, I think we should use what we can from it and continue our journey slightly more informed than we were previously.

MOTS

Dr.Alan
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Re: Mistakes against the Shankaracharya Tradition

Postby Dr.Alan » Sun Jan 20, 2013 9:12 am

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ManOnTheStreet
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Re: Mistakes against the Shankaracharya Tradition

Postby ManOnTheStreet » Mon Jan 21, 2013 12:12 am

Dear Dr. Alan,

1.
Dr.Alan wrote:I think maybe it doesn't do to analyse too much - but the method seems to involve pointing out more things which are NOT the thing being sought. So eventually the wife was left with the only thing which it could be, perhaps.


Doesn't this assume that there are a finite number of things that can be known? I'm not sure that we can say that with any certainty.

2.
Dr.Alan wrote:So if I am the one who is seeking the knowledge of myself - then what am doing seeking in the first place ???


Yes - but this is where Avidya etc. comes into it. I suppose there are so many different uses of the words "I", "me", "myself" etc. that it can get confusing as to what questions like that mean. The words "I" and "myself" in that sentence mean two very different things in Vedanta (as I'm sure you know). It should really read: "So if the Ahankara is the one seeking the knowledge of the Atman - then what is the Ahankara doing seeking in the first place?" This no longer has that 'self-evident'/'paradoxical' implication that the first version did. The same goes for statements like "we think we are other than our true Self - all that is needed is to let go of this idea". This should really read: "The Ahankara thinks it is separate from the Atman - all that is needed is for the Ahankara to let go of this idea". The second part of the statement now does not follow from the first - the Ahankara really is separate from the Atman (at least as far as Vedanta is concerned). It doesn't make sense to let go of an idea which is in fact true.

Gerasene Demon
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Re: Mistakes against the Shankaracharya Tradition

Postby Gerasene Demon » Mon Jan 21, 2013 5:28 am


Dr.Alan
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Re: Mistakes against the Shankaracharya Tradition

Postby Dr.Alan » Mon Jan 21, 2013 2:03 pm

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Gerasene Demon
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Re: Mistakes against the Shankaracharya Tradition

Postby Gerasene Demon » Mon Jan 21, 2013 8:08 pm


Jo-Anne Morgan
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Re: Mistakes against the Shankaracharya Tradition

Postby Jo-Anne Morgan » Mon Jan 21, 2013 9:21 pm

8th mistake – treatment of women (although this one is unfortunately in accordance with the Shankaracharya tradition)

SES set up a culture, based on the conversations with the Shankaracharya I believe, in which women were the possessions/chattels/vassals of the men. Women were to surrender to and obey (without question) their husbands. If they didn’t have a husband, they were to surrender to the School. This culture led directly, in my opinion, to the situation where children were abused in the schools without check or intervention from concerned adults.

I get the impression from earlier posts on this forum and Clara Salaman’s book, that very many SES wives were leading desperate lives, cowed by the culture which was inimical to them and exhausted by the excessive demands on their time. They were isolated from friends, neighbours and the wider community and had nowhere to flee to in order to escape what amounts to domestic abuse. Those who tried to protect their children were ultimately prevented from doing so. They were rendered powerless by a culture which treated them as second class citizens. Their teenage daughters were married off to older SES bachelors.

The balance of power was skewed completely in favour of the men leading to that old adage – power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

These Eastern traditions/religions ( that includes Christianity, Islam, Judaism) are written by men for men. They put women firmly in a subordinate position and call it ‘natural law’; for ‘natural law’ read ‘control’.

By its actions with regard to women, the SES caused damage to very many people. Some of those people have not recovered and I suspect will never recover.

Dr.Alan
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Re: Mistakes against the Shankaracharya Tradition

Postby Dr.Alan » Mon Jan 21, 2013 10:59 pm

Jo-Anne Morgan

THE EIGHTH MISTAKE - NOT TREATING MEN AND WOMEN EQUALLY

You are correct that the monastic orders of the Shankaracharya tradition are not in favour of contact with women, for obvious reasons connected with celibacy etc. However, you are right we should also include the grihastha tradition (grihastha = householder) of Advaita Vedanta in with SES - grihastha tradition is strictly not part of the Shankaracharya tradition.

Thank you very much for raising this issue - I did not mention it before as I was keeping only the Shankaracharya aspect, and therefore I missed this very important topic. And of course not being a lady myself I have not really experienced the SES approach to ladies, first hand as it were. My wife has filled me in on the details.

SES is not a monastic order so they should not include the Shankaracharya traditional aspects where contact with women is not allowed (the spin off from this at SES is their denigrating attitude to ladies). SES often say that they are the way of the householder. This is grihastha in Sanskrit. In this tradition women are actually treated the same as men. But we should not say it that way, as it sounds like a concession for women. It is not to be thought of as a concession - as both are equal from the beginning.

The correct traditional expression is ."Men and women are treated equally in every respect since the human soul has no gender." If the householder tradition is correctly applied then everyone would be treated as a seeker after truth without any distinction. This is the Advaita Vedanta traditional grihastha approach. SES do not seem to be aware of this.

I went to India on separate occasions with each of my daughters, my sister and my wife. Our teacher there was fully conversant with the grihastha tradition and he did not treat the ladies any different to the men. Also there were often Indian ladies present in our meetings, they all took equal part in the discussions and our teacher never showed any difference towards them in any way. I have witnessed this to my joy on every occasion that I was with Him. Our teacher would often refer to mother's love, as being the most potent thing on Earth. If you had been there you would have known what real equality was like.

This is one part of SES which I think is appalling. But it really stems from MacLaren's egoistic approach to the running of the whole school.
Last edited by Dr.Alan on Sun Jan 27, 2013 11:14 am, edited 1 time in total.
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bluegreen
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Re: Mistakes against the Shankaracharya Tradition

Postby bluegreen » Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:42 pm

But the Baghavad Gita was written by men. Fallible people who possessed the 'Truth' as much as any of us do.
Wise men and women, learned, educated men and women, highly intelligent and experienced men and women, can teach us something. But only about facts. No-one can know any supernatural 'Truth'. Why does there have to be a reason? What is the meaning of life? Why do you need to know? It is. It is wonderful. It is real. The universe is real and wonderful. We are 'lucky' to be here. Isn't that enough? I don't get this need to seek. This dissatisfaction with what we do know, all that moves me everyday, often to tears. The wonders of the world, of love, of children, of beauty. I don't need answers. The answer is... we are here. We evolved from something else. You only live once. When you're dead - that's it. Live life, love life. Take care of others. Be humble. Open your eyes....
But I am a mere atheist so what do I know.

Don't seek for someone else to tell you what to do. To tell you what the truth is. They don't know. Even if they lived thousands of years ago. Even if they're Indian. They don't know. There isn't a Truth. There is just truth.
St James Girls School 1977-1981

Dr.Alan
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Re: Mistakes against the Shankaracharya Tradition

Postby Dr.Alan » Wed Jan 23, 2013 8:14 pm

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