Q.345 – The Purpose of Life, part 3

Go to Peter’s answer to this question

Part 3 – Meenakshi’s answer to this question

Q345: What is the purpose of life?

 If, as stated in Advaita, we are actually in a state of sat-chit-Ananda and we are actually this ‘Self’ already, why have these ‘illusions’ and this ‘ignorance’?

 How can we believe in lila? What could be its purpose? There is no convincing answer – I am sure you will concur.

This then raises my more fundamental query. This ‘Self’ on which reams have been written – what is the proof that such a ’Self’ exists?

 The root problem is that in the end, even Advaitic teachings finally rely on ‘blind faith’ to put their point across. There’s nothing wrong in having faith. All religions ask for blind belief in the almighty to get you your promised ‘Kingdom of God’. It’s only in Advaita that folks try to push their case by saying: “No, it’s not pure faith, it’s by reason and discourse that we reach the truth etc”.

 To quote Gaudapada in his Mandukya Upanishad kArikA, “That which is stated in the scriptures ‘and is supported by reason’ is true  and nothing else”. The ‘reason/discourse’ argument for following Advaita is pure bunkum, in my opinion. It relies on blind faith not on a deity, but in an obscure ‘Self’.

 And even if reality is non-dual, why this seeming duality? Why does this mithyA of life exist?

A (Meenakshi):

What is the purpose of life?

The purpose of human life is to realize that one is non different from the whole. The truth is one and that is Me. Only humans enjoy the faculty of free will. We alone can choose to enquire into the nature of truth. Exercising this free will to enquire into the higher, is the best thing to do with this faculty.

If, as stated in Advaita, we are actually in a state of sat-chit-Ananda….

We are not in a ‘state’ of sat chit Ananda. A state is something that oscillates in time, but our nature of sat chit ananda is eternal.These three words are mere indicators to our own nature. They are three different pointers to make one understand what one is, in essence. One already is the existence which is the same as consciousness which is not different from infinitude. 

…and we are actually this ‘Self’ already, why have these ‘illusions’ and this ‘ignorance’?

One is the self already but the mind has ignorance, meaning one is ignorant of one’s own nature. Ignorance, desire, action etc fall in the transactional order of reality. They are a part of the material world. 

 Why do we see the appearance of a snake on a rope? If the room is pitch dark we do not see the rope, nor do we superimpose a snake on it. If there is bright light, even then, we do not mistake a rope for a snake. It is only in partial darkness that we mistake a rope for a snake.

 So also, we are not totally ignorant of our nature, for, we love ourselves. The reason for this is our nature itself is love and infinitude. At the same time, we are not fully aware of our own nature. This is an ideal ground for misapprehensions. What are the misapprehensions? We consider the body, mind and world as the only reality, those are the errors. 

 Ignorance is avidyA (mAyA). It is something that cannot be categorically described. It is there beginingless-ly. The good thing is, that it can be ended, on the wake of knowledge. 

 Suppose a person asks you, “Why do you have Chinese ignorance?” The question cannot be answered. You have the ignorance. Period. It will go with knowledge of Chinese. Ignorance etc are present in the material medium alone and cannot affect the self which is non-material.

How can we believe in lila? What could be its purpose? There is no convincing answer – I am sure you will concur.

Lila or sport of the Lord is for a person who is still not fully ready for Advaita. To explain the creation to such a person who is still identified with duality, Lila is talked about. Once the truth is known, the duality resolves, where is the question of Lila?

This then raises my more fundamental query. This ‘Self’ on which reams have been written – what is the proof that such a ’Self’ exists?

When one is sitting in a room and other person comes and asks him. “Are you there?” one would naturally say, “Yes”. If asked how he can be sure, what can he say? “I am, I know I am”. 

 The awareness, consciousness that is me is not a void.  It alone is. The appearances of the world etc need a substratum and this is provided by the self. The rope is the substratum for snake appearance. Can a snake appear without a rope (or a hose etc)? Can there be an appearance of the world without the basis of one homogenous, all pervading truth behind it? This basis is consciousness, the self that is Me.

 Sage Vidyaranya in one of his works has very beautifully written that to say that there is no self is like someone saying – “I do not have a tongue” ….(someone without a tongue can never say a word).

The root problem is that in the end, even Advaitic teachings finally rely on ‘blind faith’ to put their point across. There’s nothing wrong in having faith. All religions ask for blind belief in the almighty to get you your promised ‘Kingdom of God’. It’s only in Advaita that folks try to push their case by saying: “No, it’s not pure faith, it’s by reason and discourse that we reach the truth etc”.

Faith in English and shraddhA in sanskrit cannot be fully equated. Vedanta talks of shraddhA in the guru and scriptures. For want of a better word, it is loosely translated as faith which has its own repercussions. Let us retain the word shraddhA instead of faith for better understanding.

 There is no place for blind faith in Vedantic teaching. Vedanta is a pramana – an instrument of knowledge. We rely on instruments to give us knowledge; for e.g. – we rely on the eyes to give us the knowledge of color and shape. So, eye is a pramana (instrument of knowledge). Does that mean, one has blind faith in the eye? No. One is using the eye for color-knowledge, since one can only use the eye for color-knowledge not the nose or the ear. 

 Also, in blind faith there is no place for a healthy dialogue. One is told that one will be damned in hell or taken care of in heaven and one has to follow without questioning. This is not the case in Vedanta. The scriptures are in the form of ‘Question – Answer discussions’ between guru and student.

 So, shraddhA in the context of vedanta is shraddhA in vedanta as a pramana (means of knowledge) just as one has faith in the eye as a means of color-knowledge. One has to prepare the mind well through karma yoga and UpAsana. Once the mind is pure and mature, one approaches the guru, who is himself knowledgeable and knows to communicate the scriptural knowledge. The words of vedanta, handled by the guru do the trick. The ignorance seated in the mind is removed by this pramana (words of vedanta handled by guru). 

 There is no blind faith here. It is only faith in vedanta as a means of knowledge. With that shraddhA when one does all that is necessary to make the mind pure and focused, one is ready to receive that knowledge. All the preparation is only to make the mind ready. 

To quote Gaudapada in his Mandukya Upanishad kArikA, “That which is stated in the scriptures ‘and is supported by reason’ is true  and nothing else”. The ‘reason/discourse’ argument for following Advaita is pure bunkum, in my opinion. It relies on blind faith not on a deity, but in an obscure ‘Self’.

In the previous reply, it has been shown that there is no blind faith since we are not blindly following vedanta but we are handling it as a pramana (means of knowledge). 

 The blind faith is not even in the self as stated in the present question. 

 Whenever we begin a pursuit there has to be some degree of shraddhA, no doubt. At a transactional level, we can say we need to have shraddhA in oneself, scriptures, guru and the goal. Here also, there is no blind faith. If I go on a trip and I buy a map or follow the GPS, do I become a blind follower? I have the determination to reach the goal, I have the determination to drive safely and depend on the map and the passenger with me. So also, we need to have shraddhA (loosely translated as faith) in the goal, guru and scriptures…but this is not blind faith as already stated. 

We are not blindly following an ‘obscure’ self. It is not a void…it is a vibrant reality, the consciousness behind every thought. It is not an object but that does not make it void. It alone IS. The knowledge of this truth is gained by the words of the scriptures. The Vedantic statements remove the ignorance and I know myself. It is ultimately the knowledge that liberates. Liberation comes not as a result of blindly following something; since such a liberation would be within space and time. In vedanta, liberation is knowing yourself as the timeless. We do not become timeless, we already are timeless, we only come to claim it, and this claiming happens only through knowledge, no blind following.

And even if reality is non-dual, why this seeming duality? Why does this mithyA of life exist?

mithyA is an appearance. That which appears but is not truly there. So to say it exists is wrong. If it exists, is it existence?…..no it is not pure existence, since it depends on the substratum to exist, so, it has borrowed existence. We cannot even say it is totally nonexistent, since we experience it. Neither can we call it existence nor totally nonexistent. The snake does not truly exist on the rope; so to say there is duality – the rope and the snake –  is wrong…there is only the rope.

Go to Dhanya’s answer to this question

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