Q: Since the world as perceived by our senses is mithyA, and we are Brahman, any suffering or pleasures that we derive during the ‘vishva’ or ‘taijasa’ state are mere illusions. As this realization dawns, I am forced to conclude that living or dying (both concepts being associated with the vishva state) are meaningless.
Rather than meditating etc, and deciding to live life as it is with the knowledge that it is mithya, why shouldn’t someone just end his existence in this state? He is Brahman anyway and it doesn’t matter if he lives or dies in an illusory world borne out of his senses. Rest assured, this is more of a rhetorical question, to understand if any of the proponents of vedanta have addressed this.
The very act of my writing to you is in itself irrelevant in the broader context.
A: This is the sort of question that Ramana or Nisargadatta would answer with the question ‘Who is asking?’
The point is that the world and its vicissitudes are real for the jIva. Hence the teachings about karma and rebirth. If the jIva ends his/her life before gaining Self-knowledge, there will be rebirth according to the accumulated karma. Also the pleasures and sufferings during waking and dreaming are not illusions; they are mithyA – a world of difference! It is only from the vantage point of absolute reality that you can say that living and dying are meaningless. The unenlightened do not commit suicide as a result of believing that their lives and the world are real. The enlightened do not kill themselves even though they know that their life as a jIva is not real. Indeed, they KNOW that their true self cannot be killed!
Q: The question about Ishvara, Atman, Brahman gets confusing once a person starts reading and gaining knowledge from different branches of religions or schools of philosophy. So to put my question as simply as possible: If we are all Brahman then how does Karma come into play for us as individuals ? (As technically it’s Brahman acting against Brahman.)
One other thing:
Let’s say there are two people ( You and Me ) who realises the truth and doesn’t need to take rebirth again, so once their body dies, their Atman merges back with Brahman. So once that happens, do both these people become one ? At the highest level, Yes ! Because they were always One ! But would a part of them both remain ‘Them’ ? As in a person who sent a mail and a person who replied to it ? If so, then is that ‘Part’ what we’d call a soul ?
A (Dennis): In reality there is only brahman, non-dual, formless, eternal etc.
The world (including the ‘person’) is mithyA, neither real nor unreal, depending for its existence on brahman. The ‘person’ is a mind-body, ‘animated’ by Consciousness via a ‘reflection’ of brahman in the mind. This concept, called chidAbhAsa, is fundamental to understanding the seeming problems you raise. See my essays on this subject: There is an article called “The ‘Real I’ verses the ‘Presumed I’ – An Examination of chidAbhAsa” – http://www.advaita-vision.org/chidabhasa/ and a follow-up blog called ‘Continuing Reflections on Reflection’ at http://www.advaita-vision.org/continuing-reflections-on-reflections/. Continue reading →
Q: On the subject of karma please could you explain who or what decides on the destination of the “stamp/soul/” to a higher or lower life form. It would seem to be a judgmental decision based on our behaviour so presumably cannot be “Self” which is unaffected and affects nothing?
A (Dennis): You have to distinguish between paramArtha and vyavahAra. The absolute reality is that there is only brahman – non-dual Consciousness. There is no world separate from Consciousness, no people separate from Consciousness. The world and people are mithyA. So, in reality karma has to be mithyA also; there is no birth, no death, no reincarnation, no one who acts and no one to be reborn as a cockroach.
Explanations at the level of vyavahAra are interim explanations for the benefit of someone who does not yet appreciate the above. At this level, there seems to be cause and effect and all the apparent scientific laws that operate in the world. Ishvara is the name given to the ‘entity’ of ‘brahman + mAyA’ who lays down these laws. But the laws are not operated by Him on an individual basis; they are simply the ‘rules’ that are necessarily followed by everything in creation (such as gravity, Newton’s Laws etc). There is no ‘judgement’ involved at all.
Over the past few months, we have had several posts following which there were discussions in which some participants attempted to argue that knowledge was not the direct cause of enlightenment. Alternative suggestions have been that enlightenment comes with nirvikalpa samAdhi or that one has to pursue some course of action, such as asking ‘Who am I?’.
I argued that neither of these were the case; that ONLY Self-knowledge could give enltightenment. This is primarily because ignorance is the cause of saMsAra and knowledge, not action, is opposed to ignorance. And I said that I would endeavor to find quotations from scripture or from Shankara to support this contention (since some participants were not prepared to accept arguments from such as Swami Dayananda).
Below, I have compiled a brief list of some of those quotations and hope these should be adequate to convice readers that the above is the stance of traditional Advaita and it is supported by clear, reasoned argument. Continue reading →
Below is another essay from Atman Nityananda whose earlier essay on sAdhana triggered so much interest. This is preceded by an essay on the same topic from Swami Sivananda.
Free Will versus Fatalism
by Swami Sivananda
The controversy between free will and fatalism is still going on in the West and no one has come to any definite conclusion. It is a great pity that the doctrine of Karma is mistaken for fatalism. Fatalism is the doctrine that all events are subject to fate and happen by unavoidable necessity.
Fate is otherwise known as luck or fortune. That indefinable mysterious something which brings trials, successes and failures to man, which shapes and moulds him by teaching lessons of various sort, which takes care of him like a mother, which brings various sort of experiences, which brings cloudy days and days of bright sunshine, which raises a beggar to the level of a landlord and hurls down a mighty potentate to the level of a street-beggar, which gives different kinds of fruits and experiences to two people of equal talents and capacities, which made Napoleon at one time a terror in the eyes of the people and at another time a prisoner, and which makes a certain portion of the life of a man quite stormy and another portion quite smooth, is called fate. Fate educates and instructs man. However whimsical the fate may appear to operate, it works in harmony with the law of causation. Continue reading →
Q: As an artist and casual reader of advaita-vedanta, I wanted to ask about advaita-vedanta’s opinion on Art (be it music, painting, dance etc.).
Generally speaking, we can classify art into broadly 2 categories – sentimental art and non-sentimental art. But, as a practitioner of the former and a student of the latter (I had strict classical music training), I almost think of myself as being ‘attracted’ to art – as in, there is this sense of desire to create music. Personally, I have been advised by several elders to continue producing and practicing music. But does this go against the advice of advaita-vedanta? Am I acting on desires? Will art get artists permanently stuck in the cycle of samsara?
I ask this question because – There are so many Slokas, mantras, verses (sam-veda) that are musical… so it seems like music is encouraged by the vedas and the upanishads. But at the same time, it seems like a thing of desire. This confusion needs to be cleared!
Professor Sri Kuppa Venkata Krishna Murthy, Chairman and Managing Trustee of I-SERVE, the Institute of Scientific Research on Vedas, has kindly given permission for Advaita Vision to serialize his 6-volume ‘Musings on Yogavasishta’. Written in Telugu, the work has been painstakingly translated by our Dr. Ramesam Vemuri and published by Avadhoota Datta Peetham.
Rather than reproducing successive extracts from the books each month, as has been done with our other two serializations, the books themselves will be made available for download in PDF format. Each part will be associated with a page at the main website, which will contain a Contents List for that volume. Links to all of the volumes will be provided on a general Contents Page.
The third part to be published is Part 2 (THE CONDUCT OF A SPIRITUAL ASPIRANT). (We began with Part 7 of the Series as it provides an overall summary of the Non-dual teaching and is a better introduction than simply jumping in at Part 1.)
Every sensation, emotion and thought is the direct result of past karma (action). In each incarnation we bring forth parabdha karma – that portion of sanchita karma, our total karmic bank account, meant to be experienced, learned from and neutralized in this life.
Think of parabdha karma as images on a film strip, vasanas (impressions) in consciousness left from past action. The light of true self, awareness, then shines through these impressions, creating a three dimensional, five sensory experience called me and my life.
Like any good movie, it’s easy to become hypnotized by the drama and lose touch with what is real. In realizing we are not the projected story but the awareness which animates it, we release the life or death grip we have on moment to moment experience. This is the process of dis-identification or non-attachment the Buddha spoke of.
Imagine the sky with clouds moving through it. The sky is a metaphor for awareness and clouds, the objects of sensation, emotion and thought. In meditation we practice welcoming the clouds, blessing them and then bringing our attention back to the breath. In time, we even let go of the breath and dwell in the space between the clouds – awareness, a reflection of our true nature appearing in the mind. Continue reading →
Part 9 of the commentary by Dr. VIshnu Bapat on Shankara’s Tattvabodha.This is a key work which introduces all of the key concepts of Advaita in a systematic manner.
The commentary is based upon those by several other authors, together with the audio lectures of Swami Paramarthananda. It includes word-by-word breakdown of the Sanskrit shloka-s so should be of interest to everyone, from complete beginners to advanced students.
Part 9 looks at the makeup of the subtle body, its functions and purpose, from one birth to the next.
There is a hyperlinked Contents List, which is updated as each new part is published.