Q. 357 – Existence of Objects

Q.  Dear Dennis,
I bought and read two of your ebooks and liked them so much then I looked at your blog and came across this:


You say objects really exists, Advaita is not idealism, it is realism. I don`t understand this, in your book you use dream metaphor, you use “cinema” metaphor you even said in your book:
“He goes on to explain that our normal states of consciousness – waking, dream and deep sleep – are at the level of appearance. Reality is the non-dual background to these states. Just as our dreams seem real to the dreamer, so this world-appearance seem real to the waker. But, on waking, it is realized that those dreams are nothing but an illusion generated by the mind.
Similarly only on awakening to god-consciousness will you appreciate and realize the staggering truth that there exists nothing other than Brahman everywhere. Until that supreme state is reached, the universe will appear real. Living in your present state of ignorance you will have to accept the world that you experience. But at the same time try to contemplate and realize the truth proclaimed by Self-realized souls that Brahman alone exists.”
  So you changed your mind after writing the book and now you say World-appearance is real, Advaita is realism and there is no illusion at all?
I`m confused, can you explain?

A (Dennis): Good question! If you’ve read my ‘Jungle’ book, you will know that I criticize Satsang and Neo teaching because of their ‘out of context’ and ‘lack of continuity’ nature. It’s interesting to know that I can justly be accused of the same problem when something that I write is taken without the backing of a systematic unfoldment!

The key point here is that I am talking about idealism in the sense of Berkeley – i.e. the notion that objects are only constructs of the mind and have no independent existence. According to Advaita, this is not the case. If I go out of the room, the table in the room really does continue to exist as a (seeming) separate entity.

But if we now switch to talking of paramArtha versus vyavahAra, then of course there are no separately existing objects (or subjects). Every seeming thing is mithyA and is only name and form of the satyam brahman. So in this context, only brahman is real and we could certainly say that the table, the room, and the person (whether inside or outside the room) are all only appearances. But they are not illusions; they all have brahman as their real substrate. They each have a form and we give them unique names which, in turn, gives them a spurious separate existence.

Hope this is clear and not further confusing the issue! I certainly haven’t changed my mind. But hopefully I may have become a little better at explaining what I mean!

3 thoughts on “Q. 357 – Existence of Objects

  1. In your reply to the questioner concerning the reality or unreality of the world, you mention the idealism of Berkeley as being different from the ‘realism’ of advaita. This brought to mind a protracted controversy whether 1) Plato was an idealist philosopher or a realist, 2) The controversy surrounding the ‘Circle of Vienna’, centre of a rebellion against objectivism and the purported existence of a world outside, which dominated the whole of the 20th century. The only dissenters of this philosophical position, known as ‘logical positivism’, were A. Einstein and Kurt Gödel the greatest physicist and logician of that century respectively. Both considered themselves ‘realists’, as against subjectivists. Gödel was ‘inducted’ into the Platonic philosophy by a teacher when very young, and this is the reason for his Platonism in relation to science and mathematics.

    As for Plato, was he a realist or an idealist? He was the former in the sense that that there is a world outside the mind, albeit it resides in the ‘intelligible world’ of Ideas or Forms, the phenomena of nature being only shadows of their models or archetypes, those Ideas precisely. Not exactly like Advaita!, but there are some similarities. For Plato the highest reality, the really real is ‘the supreme ‘Good’ (to agathon). Sorry for this excursus, not really relevant to the discussion above.

  2. Martin

    I am not an expert on Plato, but have you read Raphael’s “Initiation into the philosophy of Plato”? In it there is a chapter in which he compares Platonism to Vedanta:

    “They give the same definition of the term “reality”. Real is that which is permanent, unchangeable and universally valid, that which has neither origin nor end, that which is identical to itself. Plato like Sankara identifies Being, Identity and Immobility with the Supreme Good; and becoming variation and motion with the empirical sense.”

    Best wishes,


  3. Thank you for your input. I have a copy of that book by Raphael, which I’ve hardly had time to glance through.

    I am sure one can find many parallels in the philosophies of these two – Shankara and Plato. One such is anamnesis – recognition, remembrance, equivalent to pratyabhijña (though it seems that this last comes from Kashmir Shaivism).

    Raga – attachment, passion (one of 5 constrictions (kañcuka-s) which when directed to external objects limits the sense of completion in the individual (cf. pancha-kañcuka), which resembles Plato’s Eros, similarly implying a want, a desire of completion or repletion.

    “There is an ambiguity about love in its very nature. It is the offspring of Resource, its father, and Poverty or deficiency, its mother… in the Symposium [one of Plato’s Socratic dialogues] Eros signifies a want of which at the same time it is the desire of repletion. So love symbolizes or, better, manifests the actual condition of man as he exists, halfway between ignorance and wisdom.”: ‘Therapeia’- Plato´s Conception of Philosophy, Robert E. Cushman.

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