Advaita is not Idealism

Thames(Originally posted to Advaita Academy Nov 2010)

All students of advaita know that every ‘thing’ is brahman. And they know that ‘I am brahman’. It is therefore a trivial mathematical reduction to say that everything is me. But there is a danger here. Some people conclude that the world is an appearance that ‘I’ create in some way; that the world ‘is’ because I perceive it. In this way, such people claim that advaita is equivalent to the subjective idealism of the Western philosopher Berkeley, who said “to be is to be perceived” (esse est percipi). This, of course, is a denial of the separate existence of matter and this might naïvely be thought to be equivalent to the Advaitin concept of mithyA.

(Note that the word ‘ idealism’ has nothing to do with aiming for perfection, but means that things have no reality in themselves, only existing as ideas in mind.)

From the point of view of absolute reality, there is only brahman. But then there is nothing to talk about! Such a discussion is only meaningful from the standpoint of empirical reality – our everyday world. If subjective idealism were true, the world would cease to exist when we go to sleep and would have to be created anew on awakening. Berkeley got around this sort of problem by claiming that the world continues to exist because it is perceived by God. And again, one might be tempted to claim that this parallels advaita in that we claim that the world is a creation of Ishvara, rather than the individual. This is not quite the case. In advaita, objects really do exist. Ishvara is the material cause, as well as the efficient cause of the universe. The point is that the substratum of their existence is brahman alone. In the case of Berkeley, however, the objects only exist in the mind of God, as it were.

Greg Goode, who studied Berkeley for his doctorate, believes that Berkeley’s last book may well have resolved his views to match those of advaita, but there were very few copies of that book ever made and it has not been possible to confirm this.

Advaita, then, does not claim that objects have no reality separate from the subject at the level of the world. In this sense, it is a realist philosophy and not an idealist one. This is highlighted by the following very interesting analysis, which I recently came across in one of the talks by Swami Paramarthananda on the Brahma Sutra.

Our principal pramANa, or source of knowledge, is pratyakSha or perception. When we see something for the first time, we see it in the present and, as a result of the examination of its various attributes, we conclude what it is. We can call this ‘cognition’. At some time in the future, we may encounter an object. By comparing its attributes in the present with remembered attributes from the past (as retrieved from the memory), we may be forced to conclude that this object is the same one that we saw in the past. This is called ‘recognition’ – seeing the object again. This fact of recognition is effectively a refutation of idealism (which is also the philosophy of the yogachAra or vij~nAna vAda Buddhists, a branch of Mahayana Buddhism). If the object that is seen now is the same object as the one that was seen in the past, then clearly it has a real existence and is not only an appearance in mind (which might otherwise be called a figment of the imagination).

You can read a series of essays from Chittaranjan Naik on ‘A Realist View of Advaita’.

24 thoughts on “Advaita is not Idealism

  1. Dennis
    Shri Naik has very nicely summarized the relationship between Brahman and the world:
    In VishiShTAdvaita, the relationship between Brahman and the world is that of substance-attribute and hence the world is said to be the body of Brahman. In Dvaita, the relationship between Brahman and the world is that of independent-dependent-existences and Brahman is said to be the independently existing Bestower of dependent-existence on the world. Another school of Vedanta tries to express the relationship as achintya-bhedabheda (unthinkable-identity-and-difference). ADVAITA DOES NOT SUBSCRIBE TO ANY OF THESE DOCTRINES. According to Advaita, the world is one with Brahman and there is no relationship that can describe the oneness of the world with Brahman. Shankara says:

    “Brahman’s relationship with anything cannot be grasped, It being outside the range of sense-perception.”

    The relationship between Brahman and the world cannot be grasped by the mind because it is not a relationship. Nothing can fully express this wonder because it is already the relation-less unity in the expression of the world. This mystical nature is NEITHER OPPOSED TO REASON NOR IS IT FULLY EXPRESSIBLE BY REASON.

    I agree with his summary and i like it – the only friendly comment on the entire series is ” Naik Sahab, you did not have to use all of the intricate ragas, talas, shruti’s, taans to sing this very beautiful SIMPLE song although i am impressed with your shabda-shilpakari!!:)
    Vijay

    • Vijay quoted below:

      Shankara says:

      “Brahman’s relationship with anything cannot be grasped, It being outside the range of sense-perception.”

      Vijay said:
      ‘The relationship between Brahman and the world cannot be grasped by the mind because it is not a relationship. Nothing can fully express this wonder because it is already the relation-less unity in the expression of the world. This mystical nature is NEITHER OPPOSED TO REASON NOR IS IT FULLY EXPRESSIBLE BY REASON.’

      It seems to me that all perception, imagined or not, all thinking, feeling, intuiting, reasoning, logisticating (is that a word?), all thoughts of I, self, me, other, God, Brahman, Buddha Nature, are expressions of learned imagery. We do not come into the world with all this. We come, figuratively, with an immense physical intelligence that survives all attempts to control and manipulate the thought mechanisms that are really only meant for survival and communication. This innate intelligence is the key and final ‘mystery’ to all this discussion and debate. There are only these mechanisms of thought that try and understand what it cannot understand, what it cannot know. This mechanism of desire which is at the heart of this repetitive sense of what we call me, or ego, can only be undone by the innate intelligence of the body in response to the exhaustion of every attempt to understand through this thought mechanism. Then there is the possibility of this physical life, not egoic, to take over. We are not beings, we are processes, each functioning in their own way, undisturbed by the idea that there is a self, which divides everything and unites nothing.

      I would have thought that you Advaitins would see this more clearly after a statement such as Shankara’s. It shuts you down if you let it.

      Thanks Vijay. 🙂

  2. Dennis,

    But the world IS an illusion, at so many levels.

    It is illusory from the perspective that governments, corporates and media spin stories to control public opinion of how it perceives the world (e.g. invasion of Iraq because of WMD, Vietnam War, huge growth in inequality, etc).

    It is illusory from the perspective that we identify with one particular group (nation, religion, community, family) and are more concerned about this group than any other.

    It is illusory from the perspective that we experience events in ways that are significantly coloured by our personality.

    It is illusory from the perspective that the person we believe that what we are is in fact an outcome of genetics and the specific experiences that we have encountered in growing up – both of which are outside our control, and yet we believe there is a ‘real’ personality/soul/ego inside the machine.

    It is illusory from the perspective that we believe that we are separate and distinct from the outside world, and yet we are wholly interdependent. There is the zen example of reading a printed page – the page being an outcome of so many causal factors: the sun and rain that fed the tree, the foresters that felled it, the processing, etc etc.

    And it is illusory from the perspective that we constantly form word-based conceptual structures, and build further conceptual structures on these, until we have a super-structures of concepts, all built upon the most flimsiest of foundations.

    So, rather than getting into erudite philosophising about whether Sankara believed the world is real or not real, or both . . . surely the conclusion is that we just don’t – and can never – know. (Let alone being clear what ‘real’ really means, aside from the concept of ‘changeless’). And subjective idealism, solipsism can never be logically disproved (which is different from saying that it can be proved), aside from a vain appeal to ‘common sense’.

    I think this is why Ramana, Nisargadatta, JK, etc all emphasised, in different ways, that getting lost in thought-words is never going to lead you to a solution, but only further into the quagmire. And hence, that the only answer was silence of the mind, the setting aside of thoughts, words and concepts, and to just be.

    Best wishes,
    venkat

  3. Dennis, I should of course have also noted that the ‘I’ that debates the reality or not of the world is in itself an illusion. So isn’t that ‘I’ – the primary, most immediate of our experiences and constructs – what needs to be focused on and understood?

  4. The essay in this posting looks, on the face of it, unusually confused and confusing — characteristics one almost never finds in the writings of Dennis.

    In this post, Dennis refers to the talks on brahma sutra-s by Sw P wherein the Swami says that “If the object that is seen now is the same object as the one that was seen in the past, then clearly it has a real existence.”
    I am not sure if this is the understanding in Advaita for “real existence.”

    Dennis also referred to a limited copy edition of Bishop Berkeley’s book and said here that “Greg Goode, who studied Berkeley for his doctorate, believes that Berkeley’s last book may well have resolved his views to match those of advaita…” Dennis is always thorough in his research. Dr. Greg Goode is a good friend of his (Greg wrote Foreword to one of Dennis’ books). Why then did he not obtain the authentic view of the Revered Bishop from Greg before penning here these views?

    Unfortunately, the link to the AA site where this post appeared for the first time five years ago in 2010 is not given. The only link given is to a Series of short write ups by Mr. C. Naik and in its preamble, the author says, “My postings are therefore more in the nature of sharing a perspective, while also being an opportunity for me to learn from the enlightened comments and corrections from the respected members.” These nine short postings were way back in 2004 and do show up that the author was “learning” !

    As an Intro to that Series of articles, Dennis said, “the view that it espouses challenges the more generally accepted position represented by the kArikA of gauDapAda in the mANDUkya upaniShat.”
    This leaves me more bewildered that having recently published his own work on Gaudapada kArikA, Dennis would like to now post here the views which were obviously still under a learning curve and contra to Gaudapada. Why would one then have to read those nine writings?

    regards,

  5. Dear Ramesam,

    I am re-posting material from a number of years ago because of the paucity of other postings in recent months.

    I see no problem in this. It has always been the stated intention of this site to post any advaita-related material, irrespective of specific ‘slant’. Certainly views do change over the years (although tending towards some specific position, one would hope!) My own stated view has always been that whatever teaching moves one forward towards the absolute stance (as put forward by Gaudapada) is fine. In the tradition of adhyAropa-apavADa, it will have to be dropped in the end anyway – even Gaudapada’s!

    No link is given to the original post because none is possible. One can find the original blog (with a great deal of difficulty, and knowing that it is there somewhere) but if you attempt to enter that link, it does not give you the article!

    If you want to post your understanding, please feel free to do so – that is generally the purpose of these blogs, to trigger discussion. An ‘ad hominem’ attack is not really helpful! 🙂

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  6. As a general comment, any remarks on this topic have to be very clear about the position one is taking. The world is mithyA. This does not mean illusory. Objects ARE real (from the empirical point of view), it is just that this ‘reality’ is the ‘existence’ (sat) of brahman. Things appear to exist as separate entities because we perceive and name them as something separate. But the would-be entity is really out there; it is not something in the mind that is being projected. The chair remains in the room after we have left. It is just that, in reality, there are no separate entities; there is only brahman.

    • I would say the chair remains in your mind when you have left the room. Other than in your mind, what existence could it have? Why call it real or unreal. Who asked this question? Logic has nothing to do with reality. Logic is a means to convince someone of something that doesn’t need convincing. It is often used in a way to manipulate another’s thinking.

  7. It’s my turn to say ‘I agree with Anon on this one.’

    Let’s take for clarity another “mithyA” vastu — the snake on the rope.
    Can we say that “But the snake is really out there; it is not something in the mind that is being projected”?

    regards,

  8. Dennis

    I also have to ask what you mean by “the object is really out there”.

    Can I remind you (in addition to Mandukya, as Ramesam points out) of Vivekachudamani wherein Sankara states:

    234: If this world were real, the infinitude of the atman will be affected; the Vedas will be rendered unauthoritative; Isvara will be proclaimed a preacher of untruth. These three are neither good nor desirable to the great.

    236: If the world is real, let it appear in the state of dreamless sleep also. As it is not at all perceived in dreamless sleep, it is false like a dream.

    No, in order to preempt a response that questions whether Sankara authored Vivekchudamani, let me also quote from Upadesa Sahasri (Alston translation):

    7.5: The object ONLY MANIFESTS IN THE MIND AND ONLY WHEN THE MIND IS MANIFEST (as in waking or dream). When (as in dreamless sleep) the mind is not manifest, the object has no existence. Therefore, because the Seer is constant (throughout waking, dream and dreamless sleep) duality does not exist.

    Contrary to the original post, it seems to be fairly clear that Sankara is saying the object ceases to exist in sleep?

    Best
    venkat

  9. Dear All
    Sage Vashista resolves this issue once in all for me. After explaining umpteen times to Rama about different viewpoints, Rama summarizes it:
    1. Ignorant view – Says that the world is real
    2. The Discretionary view – Considers the world as an illusion
    3. The liberated view – Takes the world as Brahman
    Then there is a view based on the stage on the path of knowledge – He will see the world from an initial stage of believing it to be real to the ultimate position of taking everything as Brahman.
    (Ref. Musings on Yoga Vashista)
    Vijay

  10. We’ve had these discussions endless times before; and there must be megabytes in the Advaitin archives. You have to treat the world as real from the standpoint of the world. Try ignoring the oncoming cars the next time you cross the road if you don’t believe me! Once you truly understand that neither they nor you (the body mind) are ultimately real, then you can state your conviction re ajAti vAda. But even then, you will still look both ways before you cross the road!

    Also, Ramesam, from the vyAvahArika perspective, the snake is adhyAsa on the rope and it is the rope that is mithyA. Of course the snake is a mental projection but that scarecely makes the rope one also. The correct metaphor to use here is the mirage. Even though we may know that the mirage is not really there, we continue to see it. The illusion is not of our making; it follows from (Ishvara’s) laws of refraction of light.

    Dennis

    • The mind can never resolve these questions, that’s why there is endless discussion. The more you bring up these things, the more the mind grapples with all the answers from the books, trying to choose one that fits. None of them fit. None of them make you any smarter, wiser, happier, or more enlightened. Addiction, plain and simple. 🙂

  11. Dennis

    This reality you are concerned about, with oncoming cars is trivial. In a dream, our dream persona will also dodge oncoming dream cars. In waking state, likewise our illusory persona will do the same. If it doesn’t, no real loss. It is a pointless reductio ad absurdum, which, it seems to me, misses the point of Vedanta; the very entering into such argumentation on the reality of the world, takes the ego as a reality, which Vedanta is trying to show is a wrong premise.

    The whole point about saying the world is an illusion is not to get into a debate into the reality or not of the world. It is to turn your attention away from from the desires and fears that form as a result of taking the world to be real, and to see what you really are.

    Best

    Ven

    PS With respect, you seem to bemoan the fact that “we’ve had these endless discussions before”, but then in an earlier response you stated the purpose of the post was to stimulate discussion?

  12. Hi Ven,

    Good point about ‘endless discussions’ – my apologies!

    You can only use the dream comparison as an argument if you accept eka jIva and, as we discussed in an earlier thread, I don’t. Nor, in my understanding, does Shankara or most of traditional Advaita. Of course, the world, Ishvara and the jIva-s are all uncreated, unborn in reality. But we are differentiating absolute from empirical reality here, in accordance with Shankara and our own experience.

    Teaching a seeker that the word is categorically an illusion and that it really does not matter if he/she goes and stands in the outside lane of a motorway is unlikely to bring many converts to Advaita!

    Dennis

  13. Hi Dennis

    Two questions – or at least a question and a challenging statement!

    (1) In that case, how do you square the quote from Sankara in Upadesha Sahasri that I cited? It is pretty unambiguous, and throughout US, Sanakra does not talk about relative or absolute reality.

    (2) As you know, I find this differentiating between relative and absolute reality problematic. I can understand it as a teaching step to initially help people. But the way you portray this seems to suggest that you get some theoretical understanding about the absolute truth, but don’t let that touch your ‘real’ (relative) life. In US, Sankara was fairly clear in what he was trying to do (and it was not about relative or absolute levels):

    12.14: Even the mind’s discriminating cognition ‘I am only the knower, unknowable, pure, eternally liberated’ IS ITSELF TRANSITORY from the very fact that it is an object.

    12.17 The notion that the Self is an individual capable of action arises from action and its factors [V: e.g. dodging cars]. The notion that the Self is not an agent arises from the very nature of the Self. The notions ‘I am an individual’ and ‘I undergo individual experience’ are false. This is quite definite.
    (V: this seems a pretty uncompromising articulation of the absolute truth, with no concession to relative truth? Sankara doesn’t say “OK relatively you are an individual undergoing experience, but in absolute truth there is only ajata vada, but there is no point discussing it, since you have to continue dodging cars)

    Best
    venakt

  14. Dear Dennis,

    Honestly speaking, I am still unable to come out of my disbelief that you wrote the 2010 article at AA. Its linkage to the nine short 2004 writings which were posted by another gentleman with the expressed desire of emending them was not obvious. One gets, therefore, the impression that the AA write up was also authored by him. That’s why I was looking for the AA reference to check the byline.

    2. Through your latest blog post and comments there on, many disparate points have been raised and they all deserve a closer look. But the salvo of WMD-s (WMD = Words of Mega Denial or Deflection (: ) from you effectively stymied discussion. Many thanks, you have now graciously accepted the unintended consequence of the WMD-s .

    3. While your unassuming nature and humility are commendable in this context, Anon’s post which echoes taittirIya II-iv-1 and reminds us of the danger of seeking itself becoming a habit is highly appreciable.

    Venkat’s posts are admirable for their succinct and pointed expression and they say all that needs to be said.

    4. Without running all over the place, I shall, therefore, for now restrict myself only to correct certain errors that have crept into the Comments from your side.

    i. “… from the vyAvahArika perspective, the snake is adhyAsa on the rope and it is the rope that is mithyA.”

    adhyAsa” is a process term to explain the error in perception. “mithyA” is a descriptive term for the state of ‘reality.’

    Perhaps, you wanted to say ‘snake’ is a prAtibhAsika term and rope is a vyAvahArika term.
    But as per accepted convention, both prtibhAsika and vyAvahArika are subgroups within mithyA.

    So, if rope is mithyA, so also is snake. Therefore, if snake is accepted to be a mental projection, one has to agree all mithyA terms are mental projections.

    Reference to ‘mirage’ is not relevant as I am not discussing metaphors here but pointing out to the fact that all ‘mithyA’ things (which include both prAtibhAsika and vyAvahArika variety) have the same source of origin, viz., mind.

    ii. “You can only use the dream comparison as an argument if you accept eka jIva and, as we discussed in an earlier thread, I don’t. Nor, in my understanding, does Shankara or most of traditional Advaita.”

    That statement is blatantly wrong. Dream comparison is extensively used by all the shruti-s, Gaudapada and also Shankara.

    If you mean to refer to ‘eka jIva vAda,’ I have to say that though the term ‘eka jIva vAda’ was not used as such, the concept can be traced to the meaning of the sholka-s in Gaudapada kArikA IV-61 onwards. Shankara in his bhAshya on VI-68 – 70 says: jIva-s such as human beings, etc. seen in the waking state, though really non-existent, are merely the imagination of the mind….”

    It is also wrong to say that traditional Advaita does not accept eka jIva vAda.

    If some X, Y or C, D gurus proclaim as if there is none between them and Shankara, that does not stand as tradition. Sringeri is the only gurus who have the legitimate claim to be descending in an unbroken Guru – shiShya sampradAya right from Shankara. Sringeri Acharya-s do support eka-jIva-vada. Shri Abhinava Vidyatirtha maha Swami, the former Head of Sringeri spoke highly of the dRRiShTi-shRRiShTi-vAda (in a way, another name for eka jIva vAda) and explained the reasons for the paucity of its occurrence in shAstra-s (as recorded in the book – Exalting Elucidations).

    Vimuktatman, Madhusudana Saraswati, Swami Vidyaranya and many others of Sahnkara tradition talked respectfully about eka-jIva-vAda.

    An authentic and detailed exposition on eka-jIva-vada can be found in the book by Prof. D. S. Subbaramaiya: sridakshinAmurtistotram, Vol.I, 1988, pages 217 to 268 published by Sringeri Peetham. It gives copious notes/citations from the works of various Advaita Acharyas.

    It is gratuitous if one argues that Shankara himself did not use the word, eka-jIva-vAda. So many words come up later on as a system develops. For example, Shankara, himself, did not talk of bhAmati or vivaraNa schools in Advaita. Has that stopped some from following vivaraNa school?

    I shall stop here as this subject by itself deserves to be a full blog Post.

    iii. “Try ignoring the oncoming cars the next time you cross the road if you don’t believe me!”

    This is but a variation of the famous “gajopi mithyA palAyanaMca mithyA” sotry with which the dualists make fun of Shankara’s teaching.

    There is a gross fault in its logic. Instead of providing detailed rebuttal, I would like to quote Prof. D. Hoffman, Cognitive Neuroscientist of UCAL who gives the desk-top metaphor. He compares the spacetime world to the screen and the individual icons to the objects in the world. The icons are not taken ‘literally’ to be the real things they stand for, yet they are taken in all ‘seriousness.’ You do not drag an icon to the Recycle bin because it is not the real file. So also the objects of the world which hide the ‘reality’ are to be taken “seriously but not literally.” It is highly educative to watch his TED talk and it is instructive to muse how similar it is to what Advaita teaches: Link is here: http://www.ted.com/talks/donald_hoffman_do_we_see_reality_as_it_is?language=en#t-766482

    regards,

  15. Venkat,

    Shankara was effectively forced to make this distinction (between paramArtha and vyavahAra) in order to rationalize the teaching of Advaita. If you go back to the shruti, you can find statements about creation and ‘life in the world’ all over the place, although you do also find some clear statements about the absolute reality, too. The teaching of Advaita is discriminated by its use of adhyAropa- apavAda – aiming its message to the level of understanding of the recipient.

    The other point is that, if you wait until the world disappears before you concede enlightenment, you will be waiting for a very long time indeed!

    If you want to look at it that way, you could certainly call the vyavahAra-paramArtha distinction a ‘theoretical understanding about the absolute truth’ but you should not expect ever to get a ‘practical understanding’. What happens is simply a move from doubt to tentative to firm belief. At the ‘firm’ level, you know that the world is really non-dual brahman… but you still see it, just as you still see the mirage.

    (And it is the jIva that dodges cars, not the Self!)

    Ramesam,

    The article was a post about idealism and advaita. It was written without any reference to the Chittaranjan series; I gave the link because I realized subsequently that this series existed and wrote about advaita from a realist standpoint.

    I chose my words carefully in respect of my comments about adhyAsa and mithyA. You introduced the rope-snake metaphor (which can be used in many different ways – Sharma has written a whole book about it) so you cannot really say “as I am not discussing metaphors here”!) I pointed out that, in the way that you were trying to use it, this metaphor did not apply and that the correct one was that of a mirage.

    Venkat’s reference to dream was as follows: “In a dream, our dream persona will also dodge oncoming dream cars. In waking state, likewise our illusory persona will do the same.” I said: “You can only use the dream comparison as an argument if you accept eka jIva”. Venkat is treating dream and waking state as identical; I am not. I maintain (along with 99.999…%) of the human race that, whereas dreams are a product of the mind and experienced only by the dreamer, the waking state is a shared experience, not created by an individual mind. Thus, you can only state they are equal if you believe that there is only one jIva. This is the theory of eka jIva vAda. As I noted, we discussed this some months ago and I have no intention of revisiting it.

    I refer you to Appendix 6 of my new book for a brief discussion about waking and dream being identical.

    I’m afraid I did not appreciate your comment about the ‘dodging cars’ remark. I never said that the cars were real in a pAramArthika sense. What I said is that we all continue to dodge cars whilst we remain in this apparent life, whether we are enlightened or not. There is no ‘logic’ here; it is a simple statement of empirical fact.

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  16. Dear Dennis,

    Thank you very much for your detailed observations. They do bring clarity to the points made by you.

    On my part, I felt that I still owe it to clarify three points (that I made) to you and also to the others participating in or merely spectating these conversations.

    1. The example of snake as a MITHYA VASTU:

    My bringing in the example of the “snake” was only to establish that all mithyA vastu-s (things) are projections of the mind. When it is agreed that the world is ‘mithyA,’ I thought the mithyA character of the world as a “mentation” becomes explicit, obvious and easy to accept, if we take the example of the ‘snake’ as the ‘mithyA vastu.’

    Please recall that I used the word “vastu” (thing) when I referred to it. I did not use it to bring in the metaphor of snake – rope. I recapitulate below the salient points of the conversation sequentially so that one can see how the reasoning developed:

    Dennis: Jul 9, @ 14:40: The world is mithyA. This does not mean illusory. Objects ARE real (from the empirical point of view), ………. But the would-be entity is really out there; it is not something in the mind that is being projected. The chair remains in the room after we have left.

    Anon: Jul 9, @ 17:43: I would say the chair remains in your mind when you have left the room. Other than in your mind, what existence could it have?

    Ramesam: Jul, 9, @ 22:19: Let’s take for clarity another “mithyA” vastu — the snake on the rope.
    Can we say that “But the snake is really out there; it is not something in the mind that is being projected”?

    [ Ramesam now: I was buttressing the contention of Anon giving the example of snake. Please note the words “vastu” and “for clarity” I used. ]

    Ven: Jul 9, @ 22:45: Contrary to the original post, it seems to be fairly clear that Sankara is saying the object ceases to exist in sleep?

    (Ramesam now: One may for this analysis take “Leaving the room” in the example given by Dennis on Jul 9 @ 14:40 is comparable “to going to sleep” in Ven’s quote.)

    Dennis: Jul 10, @ 7:10: from the vyAvahArika perspective, the snake is adhyAsa on the rope and it is the rope that is mithyA. Of course the snake is a mental projection but that scarecely makes the rope one also.

    Ramesam: Jul 11, @ 02:02: I am …… pointing out to the fact that all ‘mithyA’ things (which include both prAtibhAsika and vyAvahArika variety) have the same source of origin, viz., mind.

    ***

    2. About waking and dream being identical:

    The BS II-ii-29 you referred to and discussed in Appendix 6 of your book does NOT negate the standard Advaita view of the waking world being similar to the dream world in its origination. As you know, the whole pAda starting from BS II-ii-1 is concerned with ‘paramata nirAkaraNa.’ In II-ii-29, the kshanika vijnAna vAda is being refuted and the argument is in progress. Shankara is establishing by these progressive arguments that the vijnAna vAdin’s concept of the absence of a ‘substratum’ behind the ‘appearances’ is incorrect. One should not, IMHO, read II-ii-29 in isolation but should continue on to read the next sutra-s till II-ii-33 where refutation of the Buddhistic view is completed. Therefore, I do not think that Shankara’s purpose here is to establish that waking state is totally dissimilar to dream state in its “origination.”

    In Yogavasishta, Sage Vyasa Vasishta at one point shows, as a part of an argument, that, in fact, dream world has at least some basis and the wakeful world lacks even that much of a reason and hence more nebulous than a dream!

    At many other places, Yogavasishta promotes the view that there are only two states — deep sleep and dream state (dream world + wakeful world) and not three states. Aitareya (I-iii-12) treats all the three states as a single state. So these are all parts of an effort in directing the seeker to the unchanging turIya.

    Further, let us not forget that, while dreaming, we view the dream world to be ‘external’ (from the perspective of the dreamer) only and we do not see it to be ‘inside.’ So it is as much like in the state of the awake world which we view to be external to us.

    As Shri S N Sastri clarified, the character of “perceivability’ (i.e. objectafiability) is common to both dream and awake states and that is the ONLY criterion that matters to direct the attention of the seeker to the non-objectifiable (adRishya) “Subject.” Hence, we may not conclude that dream world and awake world have different ‘originations.’

    ***

    3. The ‘dodging cars’ remark:

    I was a bit amused to read when you said: “I’m afraid I did not appreciate your comment.”

    That led me to conceive of a ‘Gedankenexperiment’ using the oncoming cars, imagining slight grazing (no collision) and resultant ‘hurt.’ I thought one argument represents the oncoming cars, another argument as the one grazing it (no head on collisions) ending in a slight ‘hurt’ feeling. What is it that which feels hurt, what is its reality compared to the other entities – the arguments, grazing etc. I am leaving it here a bit vaguely as my thoughts are also vague. Maybe some day I can develop a blog post on this.

    regards,

  17. Dear Dennis / Ramesam

    I’m sorry to bombard you with posts, especially given Ramesam’s detailed note.

    But could you please help me by specifically explaining what Shankara’s intended meaning of Upadesa Sahasri 7.5 was:

    “The object only manifests in the mind and only when the mind itself is manifest (as in waking or dream). When (as in dreamless sleep) the mind is not manifest the object has no existence. Therefore because the Seer is constant (throughout waking, dream and dreamless sleep) duality does not exist”

    This seems to be an unambiguous statement by Shankara, that the world arises only when the (individual) mind arises, and has no existence if the mind is not there (in deep sleep).

    Have I misunderstood this? Or is Alston’s translation incorrect – though Sw Jagadananda’s translation is materially the same. How else should the Sanskrit be translated?

    Many thanks.

    venkat

  18. (Apologies for delays but I am unable to give much time to this at present owing to some family issues.)

    Methinks the gentleman doth protest too much…

    Of course waking and dream states are the same from a pAramArthika standpoint, because there is no world and no jIva-s to be awake or dream. All ‘states’ are turIya only. But we all know that we see the three states as different in our day-to-day lives. From the empirical waking perspective, we can enquire into the nature of the states of waking and dreaming and use the comparison to educate us into a realization of the truth.

    I have already pointed out the empirical difference and Gaudapada himself acknowledges this also. Yes, he denies any ultimate difference between waking and dreaming; and he shows how arguments such as ‘dream objects disappear when I wake up but waking objects persist from day to day’ do not stand up to analysis. But this is not the point. The point is that we perceive this difference empirically.

    In K2.14, Gaudapada calls those things that exist only so long as we think of them ‘chittakAla’. This could be translated as ‘subjective’ (or perhaps even ‘idealist’). Once we stop dreaming (or thinking) about them, they disappear. But he calls the objects that we perceive in the waking world ‘dvayakAla’, ‘twice time’. We see them; then we go away and can no longer perceive them. But if we come back, they are still there – we see them a second time and ‘recognize’ them (re-cognize). This could be translated as ‘objective’ (or even ‘realist’). Thus the waking objects and the dream objects are of two different types.

    (Incidentally, lest you should try to argue that if we went away in the dream and came back in the dream, the dream object would still be there, this is not true. Indeed, the fact that you can for example look at the time on a clock, turn away, look again and it will be a DIFFERENT time, is used as a technique for those wishing to practice lucid dreaming.)

    Dennis

  19. Here is a question which I received this morning on this topic and the answer I provided:

    Q: In the article “Ego, soul and mithyAtva”, you said the universe is just like a dream:
    “Since there has never been any creation, there is no need to look for an explanation for it…………and these aspects are dealt with by the scriptures but their value in explaining life, death, heaven and rebirth etc is analogous to the dreamer trying to explain why the elephant in his dream has just turned into a chair”

    But in “Advaita is not Idealism” you seem to say just the opposite:
    “In advaita, objects really do exist. Ishvara is the material cause, as well as the efficient cause of the universe. The point is that the substratum of their existence is brahman alone. In the case of Berkeley, however, the objects only exist in the mind of God, as it were.”

    Which one is true? Do the objects really exist or they do not because it’s like a dream? And the second question, whose dream is that if not Brahman’s? Where else can it come from if not from Brahman? (Because there is nothing other than Brahman)

    A: It can certainly be confusing, I agree! The problem is that seekers are at different stages in their understanding. Unlike most other philosophies/religions, Advaita aims its teaching at the current level of understanding of the listener. Traditional teachers will not attempt to unfold the Mandukya Upanishad and Gaudapada unless the seeker has already studied all of the other major Upanishads and the Gita. In this respect, it is treated the same as the Brahmasutras.

    Gaudapada’s teaching aims to provide understanding of the ultimate reality – turIya. Here, there is no creation, no causality, time or space; there is only brahman. This is the final truth. But it is understood that, initially, everyone takes the world as real. This, after all, is their experience. This being the case, there have to be levels of interim explanation to move them from this erroneous understanding to that of Gaudapada. One of the main tools in the methodology is the nature of dream. My book ‘A-U-M’ goes into all of this in detail, analyzing all of Gaudapada’s statements. There is a whole chapter of over 30 pages specifically on ‘The World Appearance’. The publication date is 25th Sept.

    The statement ‘In advaita, objects really do exist is qualified by the next but one sentence – their substratum is brahman.’ Their ‘reality’ is the reality of brahman. To differentiate Consciousness from the consciousness of the jIva, in order to answer such questions as ‘whose dream?’, you need to understand the concept of chidAbhAsa. Again, this is in the book but you can read two essays on the subject’: There is an article called “The ‘Real I’ verses the ‘Presumed I’ – An Examination of chidAbhAsa” – http://advaita-academy.org/pages/NewSingleArticle.aspx?ContentId=985 and there is a follow-up blog called ‘Continuing Reflections on Reflection’. which you can find in the list of blogs at http://advaita-academy.org/pages/BlogSingle.aspx?BlogId=16#.

    Dennis

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