Neti-neti, Netineti: 7 definitions


Neti-neti means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Hinduism

Vedanta (school of philosophy)

[«previous next»] — Neti-neti in Vedanta glossary
Source: Shodhganga: Siva Gita A Critical Study

Netineti (नेतिनेति) or “Neti-neti nyāya” refers to “Not this, not that”. An Upaniṣadic formula connoting, through a process of negation, the undefinable and inconceivable nature of the Absolute.

context information

Vedanta (वेदान्त, vedānta) refers to a school of orthodox Hindu philosophy (astika), drawing its subject-matter from the Upanishads. There are a number of sub-schools of Vedanta, however all of them expound on the basic teaching of the ultimate reality (brahman) and liberation (moksha) of the individual soul (atman).

Discover the meaning of neti-neti or netineti in the context of Vedanta from relevant books on Exotic India

General definition (in Hinduism)

[«previous next»] — Neti-neti in Hinduism glossary
Source: WikiPedia: Hinduism

Neti neti is a Sanskrit expression which means “not this, not this”, or “neither this, nor that” (neti is sandhi from na iti “not so”). It is the method of Vedic analysis of negation. It is a keynote of Vedic inquiry. With its aid the Jnani negates identification with all things of this world which is not the Atman, in this way he negates the Anatman. Through this gradual process he negates the mind and transcends all worldly experiences that are negated till nothing remains but the Self. He attains union with the Absolute by denying the body, name, form, intellect, senses and all limiting adjuncts and discovers what remains, the true “I” alone.

Neti neti negates all descriptions about the Ultimate Reality but not the Reality itself. Inuitive interpretation of uncertainty principle can be expressed by "Neti neti" that annihilates ego and the world as non-self (Anatman), it annihilates our sense of self altogether.

Adi Shankara was one of the foremost Advaita philosophers who advocated the neti-neti approach. In his commentary on Gaudapada’s Karika, he explains that Brahman is free from adjuncts and the function of neti neti is to remove the obstructions produced by ignorance. His disciple, Sureshvara, further explains that the negation, neti neti, does not have negation as its purpose, it purports identity.

Source: A World of Yoga: Hinduism

Neti-neti means "not this, not this." Whenever a thought or feeling which is not the goal of the meditation — that is, which is not the soul, the inner self — occurs to the mind, the meditator simply says, "Not this, not this," and dismisses the thought, image, concept, sound, or sense distraction.

Any thought, any feeling, is discarded — patiently discarded — again and again if necessary, until the mind is clear and the soul is revealed.

Source: What Never Changes: Vedanta

Neti-neti is roughly defined as “not this, not this,” and appears first in an Upanishad. Shankara advocates it as a method of inquiry, and modern non-dual teachers recommend it as well. It means finding out what you are not: I am not this body, I am not these emotions, I am not this thought or experience, etc. And it is said that finding out what you are not leads to the knowledge of what you are.

And that’s true in one regard. Atma – the Self – can be identified only by negation of the anatma – the not-Self. The Self has no qualities or attributes of its own by which it can be identified. The Self is not an object. So the theory has it that if you negate everything that is not-Self, you are left with only the Self.

Source: Rainbow Body: Neti Neti: Neither This, Nor That

The expression, neti neti, literally means “neither this, nor that” or “not this and not that”. In the first level this is the rejection of a separate self or ego. It is a rejection of fragmentation or split from universal spirit which is embedded within all beings and things. Thus “neti neti”, as a statement, means that we are not anything separate as in the disparate dualistic framework of a separate “I/ it” subject/object duality context (versus the sacred non-dual and transpersonal “I-Thou” context) wherein we identify as a finite expression integrally part of a boundless spirit (like a wave on the ocean). We are neither the ego, nor are we nothing at all. We are neither the all, nor nothing at all. Neither just this observer, nor just that (the observed). Neither eternal nor finite, neither eternalism nor nihilism, neither empty nor solid.

Rather on a higher level neti-neti means that we are neither just Brahman separate from the world, nor just the world, neither exclusively absolute nor exclusively relative, but both/and much more. When Brahman is truly realized, it is not separate from atman (self), but this is not the glorified ego which is the common illusion. This Self is not an independent entity. The separate self (atman) is not the universal Self (Brahman) by definition. Brahman permeates and contains all, both, while it is known as the essence of all. All pervasive it can not be isolated. Once realized not as a separate object, but one's true self, only then does atman and brahman become one. Taken as a whole, Brahman transforms the delusion of a separate self (atman). As such neti-neti is not just a negation, isolation, refutation, nor exclusion, but more so, a great affirmation of sacred non-dual universal presence.

In Buddhism

General definition (in Buddhism)

[«previous next»] — Neti-neti in Buddhism glossary
Source: Metta Refuge: Buddhism

In Jnana Yoga and Advaita Vedanta, “neti neti” may be a chant or mantra, meaning “not this, not this”, or “neither this, nor that.” It is an analytical process for getting some sense for what something is by clearly seeing what it is not.

Source: The Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun: Dharma Essays

Neti! Neti!", translated as "Not this! Not this!" or "Neither this! Nor that!" appears in several ancient Indian texts including the Upanishads which formed the early foundation for Buddhsim, Jainism, and Hinduism.

The purpose of this ancient practice is to deny, through continual and progressive effort, everything that is not of Self: in Indian terms, Atman; in Buddhist terms, Essential Self, Dharma, or absolute reality.

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