Saturday, 8 November 2014

Sravana, Manana and Nididhyasana (Hearing, Reflection, Meditation)


There are different kinds of teacher. The prolix sort will explain everything down to the last detail with take aways and handouts. That is the classic academic, scholastic. Another works by questions, hints and puzzles that you must work through yourself to get to the point where you inhabit an understanding.. I think here of the koan exercise where you demonstrate an understanding in a way that isn’t a cog. The first is the examined life for examinations, a tourist’s eye view of the country with some beautiful snaps of the main attractions. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but a truly examined life produces aporetic gravidity.

I forget now where I read an account of a guru teaching the Bhagavad Gita. Together they would read a verse and then fall silent to reflect on it. Sravana and Manana. Then after a while the teacher would ask: Have you all understood? Then they moved to the next verse.

Nididhyasana is the third leg of the classic path. It is the meditation on what has been heard and reflected on. It seems to be a non-discursive immersion in an understanding until it is as familiar as your home weather.

Sravana has its own mysteries. As the Vedas have the authority of being a pramana or valid means of knowledge, a true hearing of a Mahavaka or distillation of their purport ought to be immediately grasped. (Tat Tvam Asi - that thou art) The claim is that a student who was sufficiently ripe could realise the truth of the mahavaka simply by hearing it. The tricky part is that a mere intellectual understanding is not sufficient to bring one over the line to realisation because you are already over that line. I could never find out whether anyone had ‘achieved’ enlightenment through sravana.

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