Waking World is also Unreal

small_A-U-MDreams are a powerful metaphor in Advaita. The Yoga Vasishtha is perhaps the best known book to utilize them extensively but probably the earliest teacher to do so was Gaudapada in his kArikA-s on the mANDUkya upaniShad.

He effectively says that the waking state is unreal, like dreams, ‘because we experience it’. This is anvAya-vyatireka logic: we experience objects in dreams, and they turn out to be unreal; therefore the objects we experience in waking are also unreal.

This does not sound very convincing and there are various arguments that we can raise to object to the analogy. Gaudapada raises them for us, in case we can’t think of them all! Here is the third argument he puts forward. It is an extract from my forthcoming book, which will be published 25th September 2015.

Third objection to world being unreal

And this leads on to the third objection namely that, whereas the dream world is subjective, the waking world has objective reality. It is experienced as external to ourselves, whereas the dream takes place in our mind (K2.9 – 10). But this notion suffers from the same confusion as before. We only recognize that the dream world is ‘in our mind’ when we are awake; at the time of the dream, it is just as much ‘external’ as is the waking world when we are awake. We might as well say that the waking world is really non-existent since it disappears when we are in the dream or deep sleep states. At the time of the dream, I experience external objects and events in just the same manner. Their illogicality or even impossibility only becomes apparent on awakening. Continue reading

Dream Space, Awake Space and Mind-Space

[This short extract, in addition to providing the answers, also serves as an example of the incisive logic and inductive and deductive approach taken by Sage Vasishta in explicating the nature of the world to Rama in the well-known Advaitic scripture, Yogavasishta. The present material is from Chapter 2: mumukshu vyavahAra prakaraNa (The Conduct and Behavior of a committed Seeker), Original text: Shri K. V. Krishna Murthy; English translation: Ramesam Vemuri]

Where do the brahmANDa-s (multiverses) of the present time exist? They are in space.  What is space exactly?

One definition for space is that because of which it is possible for two objects to exist separated from one another.  We can also define it in another way. Space is that in which all the known objects are located.  But your dream world is also known to you! Can you say where do the rivers, mountains and all the other things of your dream world are located in the present awake world space?  Continue reading

Life is a dream – The world is real


A. Of course, if everything is like a dream (mithyA), then the sages and their scriptures are a part of that dream. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the teachings and the scriptures are not useful for awakening from the dream.

B. That is true, in my understanding. ‘Life is a Dream’ (Calderón de la Barca’s play), ‘All the world’s a stage’ (Shakespeare). As to Vedanta, here is what a sage (among so many others) has said: “Vedanta plays the role of the dream lion in this world. Vedantic knowledge itself is part of the illusory world. But then it dissolves the entire illusion of this world, revealing reality as it is.” Sw. Parthsarathy.

A. If no one dies, then no one is enlightened either, and yet we still talk as if people really do die and really do become enlightened.

B. True also. That modifier, ‘as if’, is crucial.

In the next para. you write: “…an individual who appears to exist while not really existing (AS AN INDIVIDUAL) has appeared to become enlightened while not really being enlightened (AS THE PURPORTED INDIVIDUAL).” I have taken the liberty of adding the capital letters, for advaitic sense. Further, while ‘everybody is enlightened’, as Neo advaitins claim, ‘no one is enlightened’, as the sage Gaudapada declared. Are these two seemingly contradictory statements true – and in what sense? *

A. I think the problem with brain damage is the possibility that a j~nAnI [sage] would lose most or all of the knowledge (including Self-knowledge) that he gained through his studies.

B. This is as seen from the vyavaharika (empirical) perspective, which cannot be denied (only understood). Jñani/s (sages) also experience thoughts and emotions. With them, these either quickly disappear, or are transmuted or resolved into consciousness; in fact, they are only consciousness, as mind is also a projection of consciousness.

Something more for pondering: “People forget the reality of the illusory world”. Huang Po.

(*) Gaudapada (Shankara, and the whole tradition of advaita Vedanta) deny multiplicity as being real. In essence ‘all is One’. The Neo-advaitin’s dictum (’everybody is enlightened’) is thus true and false at the same time.


Topic of the Month – Dreams

frescoThe topic for the month of February is Dreams and Dreaming

Here also is an opportunity to ask questions on this topic and receive answers from the bloggers.

We always assume the present to be the waking state and, by contrast with it, the previous state sublated by the present to be dream. It is impossible to distinguish them otherwise by any subtle definition. (Loose translation of Gaudapada kArikA 2.5) (Please, no reference to EEG to refute this!)

Necessity of karma kanda

According to Shankara, the entire Veda is important in that, till the seeker reaches the stage of pursuing the higher knowledge (jñana kanda) the duties enjoined in the other parts (karma kanda) are necessary for him. Otherwise, the Veda would not teach them. So, a spiritual seeker has to undertake scriptural study.

The path of action (karma yoga), states Shankara, is the ‘means to the supreme bliss indirectly’ in that it prepares the mind of the spiritual aspirant for knowledge, and thereby makes him competent for adopting the path of knowledge (jnana yoga), which is the direct path to liberation. Man cannot abstain from action, and as action binds man by resulting in karma… it is essential to know how to act without accruing further karma. This is the secret of action, called naiskarmya in the Gita… true renunciation is a mental disposition wherein the mind becomes serene without the distractions of the world.

(Spiritual Path). The Roots of Vedanta – Selections from Shankara’s Writings, p. 326

Knowledge, Action and Liberation

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMost readers will be aware of the Brahmasutras – the third ‘leg’ of the prasthAna traya (the threefold set of scriptures that constitute the authority for Advaita – and some will even have read them! And you may also know that the first, famous sutra is athAto brahma jij~nAsA – Now, therefore, an enquiry into Brahman. It is the claim that Brahman forms the subject matter of Vedanta and has to be enquired into if we are to gain Self-knowledge.

The author of the Brahmasutras is said to be vyAsa, also known as bAdarAyaNa and the purport of the work is to summarize, in an extremely abbreviated form, the philosophy of vedAnta, showing how this naturally derives from the (last portion of) Vedas. (Of course, this does not mean a summary of Advaita. Others have written commentaries on the Brahmasutras and shown how it is commensurate with the philosophies of dvaita and vishiShTAdvaita.)

What fewer readers will know is that there is a similar (much longer) work, called the pUrva mImAMsA sUtra-s, written by the ‘father’ of pUrva mImAMsA philosophy, Jaimini. And, surely not coincidentally, the first sutra in this work is athAto dharma jij~nAsA – Now, therefore, an enquiry into dharma. This makes the claim that dharma forms the subject matter of the Vedas and has to be enquired into if we are to gain liberation from saMsAra. The word ‘dharma’ is often translated as ‘duty’ and the meaning of this word relates to what we ought to be doing with our lives. Their claim is that knowledge is useless, since it cannot produce any benefit. They utilize only the first part of the Vedas – the karma kANDa – believing that only actions can achieve anything and that, consequently, we must assiduously follow the injunctions, rituals and meditations prescribed there in order to attain liberation at some point in the future.

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Perspectives on right action

“The more intently you think of the well-being of others, the more oblivious of self you become. In this way, as gradually your heart gets purified by work, you will come to feel the truth that your own Self is pervading all beings and all things. Thus it is that doing good to others constitutes a way, a means of revealing one’s own Self or Atman.” – Vivekananda

“The goal of Vedanta is to see the other man’s sufferings as your own. Because in dream all the scenes and all the people are made of the same essence as yourself, they are as real as you are. Do not treat other people as mere ideas but your own self as real. If they are ideas, so are you. If you are real, so are they. Hence you must feel for them all just what you feel for yourself.” – V.S.Iyer

“Personality rests with the body, senses and mind. If you think you are impersonal, if you feel you are impersonal, and if you act knowing you are impersonal, you are impersonal.” – Krishna Menon

“Prarabdha (the actions the body has to perform in this life) is of three categories: ichha, anichha and parechha (personally desired, without desire and due to others’ desire). For him who has realised his Self, there is no ichha prarabdha. The two others remain. Whatever he does is for others only. If there are things to be done by him for others, he does them but the results do not affect him. Whatever be the actions that such people do, there is no punya (merit) and no papa (sin) attached to them.” – Ramana Maharshi

“The name and form of the spiritually enlightened Saint experiences the pangs and sorrows of life, but not their sting. He is neither moved nor perturbed by the pleasures and pains, nor the profits and losses of the world. He is thus in a position to direct others. His behavior is guided exclusively by the sense of justice.” – Nisargadatta

Topic of the Month – dharma

DSCN1402The topic for the month of January 2015 is –

dharma: righteousness; merit; religious duty; religion; law; a goal of life (puruShArtha); medium of motion (Jainism); scriptural texts (Buddhism); quality (Buddhism); cause (Buddhism); religious teaching (Buddhism); unsubstantial and soulless (Buddhism); (from the verb-root dhRRi = “to uphold, to establish, to support”)

  1. Literally it means “what holds together” and thus it is the basis of all order, whether social or moral. As an ethical or moral value, it is the instrumental value to liberation (except for the mImAMsaka who considers it the supreme value).
  2. varNa Ashrama-dharma is one’s specific duty.
  3. sanAtana-dharma is the eternal religion.
  4. sva-dharma is one’s own individual duty.
  5. According to the mImAMsA school, it is what is enjoined in the Veda. It is religious duty, the performance thereof bringing merit and its neglect bringing demerit.
  6. Generally dharma is twofold: sAdhAraNa-dharma, which is common to everyone, and varNa Ashrama –dharma, which is specific to each class and stage of life.

From: A Concise Dictionary of Indian Philosophy (New & Revised Edition) Sanskrit Terms Defined in English, John Grimes, Indica Books. ISBN: 8186569804
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Creation means manifestation

The words, ’cause’ and ‘effect’ are only from a point of view. You say that this is the effect and that is the cause. In fact, the effect itself is the cause, being non-separate from the cause. Then again, which is cause and which is effect? When the pot is broken, it becomes clay. That means clay came from pot! This concept of cause and effect is purely a point of view. Our understanding that the cause came first and the effect came later is only a point of view. From the standpoint of Brahman, there is nothing that comes later, because Brahman itself is the effect. If at all the concept of ’cause’ and ‘effect’ is talked about, it is from the standpoint of the unmanifest and manifest conditions.

The unmanifest becomes manifest – that is called creation. Creation itself is not a proper word for us, because the word ‘creation’ is relevant only when something did not exist before, and later came into being. But it is not like that. That which is in an unmanifest, undifferentiated form, comes to be differentiated. One is in a subtle form, the other in a gross form. In a differentiated form it is called creation. In an undifferentiated form it is called dissolution. This creation is cyclic. The creation becomes unmanifest because it was manifest before. Unless it was manifest before, it cannot become unmanifest. We cannot talk about any sequence here.

 Mundakopanishad (Two Volumes), Swami Dayananda, Arsha Vidya Center Research.
ISBN: 8190363638.
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Creator and Created

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am the light that is above them all, I am the all,

and the all came from me and the all attained to me.

Cleave a piece of wood and I am there;

lift up the stone and you will find me there.

You can find thousands of sayings like this in the Upanishads, in the Gita, in Buddha, but you cannot find a single parallel in the Old Testament. So which scriptures has Jesus come to fulfill? He has come to fulfill some other scriptures, some other traditions. This saying is absolutely Vedanta, so try to understand first the standpoint of Vedanta, then you will be able to understand this saying.

Jesus was born as a Jew, lived as a Jew, died as a Jew – but this is only as far as the body is concerned; otherwise Jesus was a pure Hindu. And you cannot find a purer Hindu than Jesus, because the base of Upanishadic religion is his base. He created the whole structure on that base, so try to understand what that base is. Continue reading