Pujya Shri Swami Dayananda Saraswati says that "The failure to understand the subject matter of Vedanta and the nature of the prakriyas adopted by Shastra have given rise to a number of confusions in the minds of boyh seekers and masters."
Moksha by thought-free mind confusion.
Confusion exsists in the thinking that self-realization is the elimination of all thoughts in the mind. The confusion comes from the thought that atma is undivided (nirvikalpa). If absence of thought is self-knowledge, everyone is already enlightened, because who has not slept? Even between two thoughts there is absence of thought. If absence of thought for one split second is not enlightenment, absence of thought for an hour is not going to make one wiser. It is obvious that absence of thought is not enlightenment. If a thinking person does not know, how will a non-thinking person know? If there is enlightenment in the absence of thought, it will be lost no sooner than a thought occurs; therefore an enlightened person should be permanently without thoughts in order to be enlightened. That means there will be no enlightened person at all.
The Shastra presents atma as nirvikalpa. The vision of the Shastra is that while the knower, known and knowledge are not separate from atma, atma is independent of all of them. In the Mandukya upanishad as well as in the karika , the dreamer is cited as proof that there is no real division (vilakpa) such as dreamer, dream and dreamt, even though during the dream the division was taken to be real.
The purpose of the dream example is to make us see that the waker's experience of duality is not any different. while the difference between the waker and the dreamer is accepted in terms of qualities (visheshas), the basic non-difference is shown in detail in the karika. In the Jyotir-Brahmana of the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, the invariable atma in dream and waking is presented as the light of awareness (jyotis-svarupa). The svarupa of the atma is not the dreamer, dream or dreamt: nor the waker, waking expereince or waker's objects. But the knower, knowne and knowledge vikalpa is also non-separate from the atma and therefore the division is mithya. It isobvious that atma is always nirvikalpa in spite of the apparent division. That is what is said in Kenopanishad, "in every form of knowledge, atma is understood by the discriminative as the invariable." Therefore, the knowledge, that I am thoughtfree (nirvikalpa) is inspite of the experience of vikalpa. This entirely different from a state wherein there is an absence of thoughts.
In, astanga-yoga, the angi, the main thing to be achieved , is nirvikalpa samadhi, a state wherin there is the absence of subject-object relationship. Even though it is a desirable accomplishment, the state itself is jada (inert) inasmuch as there is no thought (vritti) which can destroy ignorance. In samadhi (a mental state of absorption) and also when there are thoughts, what obtains as invariable is the svarupa of atma which is nirvikalpa. Again, the notion that when there is no more thought then there is enlightenment implies a duality such as atma and thought. When thought is, atma is not. When atma is, thought is not. Both become equally real because one exists in the absence of the other. But that is not true. If one exists whether the other exists or not, both the objects enjoy the same order of reality, like the table and the chair. If one exists only in the absence of the oher, they also belong to the same order of reality, like illness and health. Both are equally real. Does thought deny atma? Is there a thinker without atma? is there a thought without atma?
In fact , thought is atma. But atma is not just a thought. Atma is satyam (independent reality), being present in all situations, while situations are mithya (a dependent reality), dependent as they for their exsistence on atma. There is no mithya without adhisthana. The definition of mithya is adhistanam-ananyatvam – that which is non-separate from its cause.
The wave being not independent of water, you don't have to remove the wave in order to see water. So too, if the thinker, the thought and what is thought of are dependent upon the atma, which is satyam, you don't have to remove any of them to recognize the atma. The recognition is that all three are atma while atma is not any of them.
Om Tat Sat