The meditation method of neti neti, is something that took me a while to grasp but I think I have understood it with some help. Consciousness has been seen as a clear crystal ball, which gets colored by the mental vrittis that arise in the physical body. This clear entity, is the nirguna brahman, but as I understand, calling it nirguna entails that it doesn't have any properties, therefore it can not be a clear crystal ball(not even metaphorically).

My issue arises here: Consider a vritti that was as transparent as the awareness itself. In the real world, such a vritti could be a real physical phenomenon that has no effect on the awareness of an individual. Therefore, awareness, doesn't gets colored by this vritti, yet it exists. A simple example I like to think is to think about amoeba crawling on the skin of a person. Sure there might be some interaction between the nerve cell and the bacteria, but the signal might be too weak to enter the awareness of the person. Anyway, without fretting too much about the nature of vritti, the real issue is that transparent vrittis would not appear in contrast to our inner awareness. This means it will go unnoticed, and therefore, what goes unnoticed, is of the same color as that of awareness itself ( in our example colorless). A person then might wrongly interpret that this transparent vritti is ontologically equivalent to consciousness because they don't contrast with each other. Now I cannot guarantee how cogent this argument is, but as I understand it, it does allow for delusion of one. Consider a cell in our gut. We might not be aware of it => appears transparent to awareness => is synonymous with awareness. Clearly a cell of our gut cannot be a part of the same consciousness that "I" is or is it? Is our logic suggesting that all that we are not aware of, is infact, part of us, our true self?

There's something else I'd like to point out and that is the ancient understanding of akasha. Rishis understood the parallels between akasha and consciousness as dimensionless and unbounded. Space cannot necessarily be a vritti, because it has no observable properties, at least in meditation. Therefore space too becomes a part of awareness (everything not contrasted by awareness, must be same as awareness). Therefore, consciousness becomes all pervasive like space itself. Now it is easy to explain first person ontology, by saying that when you move around a room, the reason your point of view too moves around is because, you move around in space, exciting different regions of space with your body-mind complex, much like a disturbance moving in water, so you have the feeling of moving around space. But since, you and space essentially have no properties that can be classified as a vritti, space IS a part of you and vice versa.

2 Answers 2


To understand Nirguna Brahman one must consult the Upanishads.

The Upanishads say poetically,

  1. "The eye does not go thither, nor speech, nor the mind. We do not know It; we do not understand how anyone can teach It. It is different from the known; It is above the unknown. Thus we have heard from the preceptors of old who taught It to us."

(Kena Upanishad I.3-4)

  1. "That which cannot be comprehended by the mind but by which the mind is cognized know that alone to be Brahman, and not this that people worship here."

(Kena Upanishad I.6)

  1. "That from which all speech with the mind turns away, not having reached it, knowing the bliss of that Brahman, man fears nothing."

(Taittirya Upanishad II.9)

  1. "He is never seen, but is the Seer; He is never heard, but is the Hearer; He is never thought of, but is the Thinker; He is never known, but is the knower. There is no other seer than He, there is no other hearer than He, there is no other thinker than He, there is no other knower than He. He is the Inner Controller - your own Self and immortal. All else but He is perishable."

(Brihadaranyaka Upanishad III.7.23)

Verses 1 to 4 suggest that Brahman is unknowable to the ordinary human mind since the human mind cannot cognize Brahman. Brahman cannot even be thought of as an object since our mind which interprets experience and observation is run by Brahman. Nothing whatsoever can be said about Brahman except that It exists. Let me quote Sri Ramakrishna on the nature of Brahman,

"What Brahman is cannot be described. All things in the world - the Vedas, the Puranas, the Tantras, the six systems of philosophy - have been defiled, like food that has been touched by the tongue for they have been read or uttered by the tongue. Only one thing has not been defiled in this way, and that is Brahman. No one has ever been able to say what Brahman is."

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Visit to Vidyasagar, August 5, 1882

Here are some quotations discussing the nature of Brahman.

The Upanishad also declares Brahman to be Consciousness alone.

The Upanishad also says that Brahman is pure consciousness, devoid of other aspects contrary to this, and without any distinguishing features, as in, “As a lump of salt is without interior or exterior, entire, and purely saline in taste, even so is the Self without interior or exterior, entire, and pure Intelligence alone” (Brhadaranyaka Upanishad IV.v.13), which means that the Self has no internal or external aspect apart from pure consciousness, Its nature being mere impartite consciousness without any interstices. Just as a lump of salt has the saline taste alone both inside and outside, and no other taste, so also is this Self.

Brahma Sutra Bhasya of Sri Sankaracharya III.ii.16

Moreover, the Vedas reveal this; likewise this is mentioned in the Smritis also.

Moreover, the Vedas reveal through a negation of other aspects that Brahman has no distinguishing feature, as for instance in, “Now therefore the description (of Brahman): ‘Not this, not this’” (Brhadaranyaka Upanishad II.iii.6), “That (Brahman) is surely different from the known; and, again, It is above the unknown” (Kena Upanishad I.4), “That Bliss of Brahman, failing to reach which, words turn back along with the mind” (Taittiriya Upanishad II.ix.1), and so on. And it is also known from the Vedic texts that Badhva being asked by Baskali, replied merely by not uttering a word, as stated in, “He (Baskali) said, ‘Teach me Brahman, sir.’ He (Badhva) became silent. When the question was repeated a second and a third time he said, ‘I have already spoken, but you cannot comprehend. That Self is Quiescence’ “. Similarly in the Smritis, the instruction is given through a negation of other things, as in, “I shall tell you of that which is to be known and by knowing which one attains immortality. The supreme Brahman is without any beginning. It can neither be called gross (visible) nor fine (invisible)” (Gita XIII.12), and so on. Similarly the Smriti mentions how Narayana in His cosmic form said to Narada, “O Narada, that you see me as possessed of all the (five divine) qualities of all elements, is only because of My Maya, called up by Myself. For else you should not understand Me thus.”

Brahma Sutra Bhasya of Sri Sankaracharya III.ii.17

It is a mistake to think of Vrittis when thinking of Nirguna Brahman. Vrittis operate at the level of the mind only. Brahman is beyond word and thought and beyond the mind.

  • "It is above the unknown" - if it's not the known, then it's the unknown.
    – Weezy
    Feb 24, 2020 at 17:21
  • Intellectually it is unknown. However, yogis can experience Nirguna Brahman. Feb 25, 2020 at 10:32

Well, Well, Well...Do we have a serious inquisitor here? For "understanding Nirguna Brahman(NPB)...". Let's stop there. Assume Nirguna Brahman cannot be fully understood. Period. OK. That leaves us with the question What aspects of the "Incomplete Nirguna Brahman" that you can bring into the "Saguna Brahman" or Domain of knowledge and reasoning and kind of "approximate" the Understanding by intellectual reasoning. We are endowed with imagination and reasoning abilities. The Hypothesis mind. Now, If you think Nirguna Brahman is everything that you can experience and "more" (I call it E++ :-)) then shouldn't you start looking for that "everywhere" that you experience? For e.g. Books, Stackexchange etc. is one thing, Travelling around the world - if possible, doing your duties correctly wherever you are placed in whatever part of your life and gain appropriate experience, understanding, maintaining personal relationships, habits all then becomes important as well. Hinduism always prescribed becoming a Sage to inquire into the whole at the "last" - Golden year part of your life. "Aranyaka" is a forest. You are supposed to be introduced to the "Brihadaraynyaka" upanishad once you leave everything and go to the forest. But, we read it during coffee break! "Sathyam Vadha, Dharmam Charah..." etc. are Vedic statements required to be followed in all aspects of your life. These values, like, being your authentic self (Weezy :-)?), Getting rid of Ego, Super Humility, Truthfulness, Righteousness Adherence, Indriya control, Unbridled devotion, Performing your duties to the best of the abilities etc. ALL becomes important. Why? Because NPB "Knows and Measures you" - I mean the supreme consciousness aspect of NPB - In-and-Out. There is NO privacy. Since you are part of NPB. Neither can you run, Nor can you hide from your conscious mistakes/unconscious mistakes. You can console "Your" Self but not quite the Super-self. I mean it gets real Personal! So much, so that, you could go Mad. People HAVE gone Mad. This is NOT an easy journey. I can tell you why.

Nasadaya Sukta Talks about that. "In the beginning Darkness was Covered(or churned) in Darkness. The One rose due to their inherent "heat". That One breathed Windlessely". The First ones to realize NPB was both the Darkness in Heat. You could imagine how lonely you are being blind in darkness with nothing whatsoever. There was not even the Universe. That was the lower bound of all the "lows" of ALL sentience. You could relate that darkness to "your" personal darkness. Moments in your life that you were "beaten down" the "lows" in your life. When your journey towards the NPB knowledge becomes serious, so does the growth to your troubles in your personal life. Both the Primordial Darkness and their Cohorts(Shakthi, Yama and such...) tests you, validates you, checks if you are worthy or not etc. etc...The only goal MUST be to reach the understanding of NPB. Can you give up EVERYTHING Else? NO BINDINGS. No family etc..? "Can you leave behind your heart and cast away..:-)?". That Rule follows from the Primordial. That rule is applicable to You, Elements, Earth, Sun, Planets, Galaxies etc...Indra's soul, Even to both those Darkness themselves etc... Keno Upanishad Talks about Devas being tested by an Yaksha. Shiva kicks Yama once and protects Markandeya to crush his ego. Krishna, gets arrow-ed down by a hunter on the left foot. If he is Parabrahman, Why did he orchestrate the events in such a way? There may be reasons :-). If he used his mind, then that becomes a property and ipso-facto he becomes not Parabrahman and remains an Avatar. So assigning a name and calling Supreme Godhead or Krishna really doesn't make sense as far as NPB understanding goes. Let's look at Earth and Sun(assuming both are conscious) . What is dear to them? What is dear to Space? If they try to reach for more knowledge of NPB they will be put to test and they may have to let go of their "Heart" as well. Now you see the vast stretches of Love that could potentially span across space. The vast stretches of Love of Space of whatever that Space loves. Mmmmm....then is God Love? Is NPB Love ? Every body(or non-body) loves their own existence and sentience and not ready to give that up - Space included. That is their primary innate love. Next comes the love of other entities. Based on the entity that requires more knowledge, that entities disavowal of everything will be tested as well. Their post this-fact-realized disinterest and Not pre-if you know what I mean. The best for you to do is realize this and enjoy the realization in Silence. When you express outwardly what is dear to you, you and the dear are subject to the test :-). Now, you know why a Silent love is better than the Modern show-off, although it pleases the opposite. That love would be tested whenever you reach out to God or acquire more knowledge about Him. Now, sacrifice, that is very interesting. You give up something you love willingly. That has higher merit then. Many original sentient entities sacrificed willingly - like Usas - for some higher purpose, for a different way to realize Him as us- biological beings. Jesus was tested, sacrificed himself for higher understanding and did receive some key knowledge. Aghoris sacrifice social life for some siddhis, not really wanting anymore NPB knowledge. I do want to make a point that then Sacrifice shouldn't become a cliche. In earlier times, this was the case. Hanging upside down on trees, standing one-legged etc...etc...The intent MUST be original and the effort even more original. Dadichi was an original. Vishwamithra also was... but still tested on Indriya control. Now, you know why even the Great Rishis were afraid. Realizing this very fact, they were Trembled. They wanted to do the Yagna, Procreate etc. That is their heart, their love and their craving. You can't just leave behind everything! SO, No propitiation mantras to NPB. All Mantras are only to all lower level Demigods and at the most Saguna Brahman. You hold something dear to your heart and something comes along and breaks it down to pieces. Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma's abodes as well - Ganesha Purana. Vedas, Yagyas - if you hold them dear, comes along another religion not requiring that! These oscillations across the opposites the Yin-Yang, the Push-Pull, decides progress of Souls as a whole. We call it Karma. The Jewish religion Torah (part of NPB too...remember) talks about staying out of the way from the "Swaying Pendulum". Hinduism talks about "Being Silent, being inert etc. ". Many Rishis came out of Snake Mud pits around their body in early times after years of Tapas - Very cool ways, but as you can see, impossible today. Do something, there will be a three-fold karmic effect. A->B->C->A kind of thing..there are movies about this..the arrows not necessarily of the same length, time and direction :-).

If you are still interested, the quest is on your own. Since, NPB resides in you, He will guide you...I for my part could point you to some "interesting" reads...Remember, "Guru Sakshath ParaBrahman". Not many want to pursue this..bogged down in their daily routines... To start with you could look at the conversation here... https://www.tamilbrahmins.com/threads/a-controversial-thirumoolar-verse.42340/

"Think, So you become"... Yad Bhaavaeti, Tad Bhavate.

  • I have to admit, you do have a poetic way of putting things in place. :)
    – Weezy
    Feb 25, 2020 at 21:20

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