Overview of Western Philosophy – Part 16

(Read Part 15 of the series.)

So, do any of these philosophies provide us with the answer for which we are looking? It has been a very cursory overview and obviously much has been omitted, particularly the ideas of more recent philosophers. Again I must remind the reader that I have not studied all of these philosophers and my findings are the result of reading histories, dictionaries and overviews and of research on the Internet. I have extracted only those ideas that seemed relevant.

Philosophers typically take an interest in many areas, even if they concentrate principally on one or two and they often devote much effort to supporting, or more frequently refuting, the ideas of their predecessors. If you should attempt to go into any significant detail on any aspect of what has been outlined above, you would soon find yourself reading many books and studying often complex arguments on all sides of the issue. All that I have attempted to do was to find some relevant ideas and I have to say that none of the ones that I discovered seem entirely appropriate for today’s society.

Somehow, they leave a feeling of incompleteness or even emptiness. Maybe they provide excellent guidelines for discriminating between potential course of action in a specific situation but there is no overall sense of purpose and meaning. If I want to know whether I ought to go out to the cinema or visit my ageing grandmother, there is much material to provide guidance – in fact, I could decide to stay in and read all about it for the next few weeks instead of going anywhere. But when it comes to giving me a raison d’être for my life, it seems that, unless I adopt a religious outlook and acquire faith in a heaven and hell, then I am left with little of substance. Continue reading

Q. 385 – Is enlightenment meaningless?

Q: If Brahman is perfect, not ignorant, and the sole subject, what is the purpose of enlightenment as proposed by Advaita as the perfect one needs none?

If the ignorant jIva-s are nonexistent and Brahman is perfect, ignorance is nonexistent, therefore perception of separation is nonexistent.  It appears that Advaita, while advocating non dualism and a perfect sole subject, in fact is dualist, reaching out to a nonexistent audience to fix a nonexistent issue, to provide realization that the absolute already witnesses.   Can you shed some light on this?

A (Dennis): Coincidentally, an answer I gave recently to a different question effectively answers yours also:

<<< You have to decide whether you are talking form the empirical viewpoint or the absolute. If you don’t do this, you just get confused because the ‘explanations’ differ.

You are brahman, whether or not you know this. There is ONLY brahman from the absolute standpoint. No one has ever been born so there is no one to be reborn. Continue reading

Q. 374 – Ramesh

Here is a question and answer from several years ago, which addresses a topic that I avoided getting involved with publically at the time.

Q: I recently bought a book called “Final Truth” by Ramesh Balsekar. I read the book and now see it as one of the most “deep” and “philosophical” books on Advaita. But then I read Balsekar had some sex scandals and preached “do whatever you want you are not responsible” philosophy and I`m shocked. Anyway…

I saw an idea in the book and it resonated with me so much. In my opinion, It even explains (for some level) why there is Maya or why the appearances exists or why there is “creation” in the first place. (or Why there seems to be creation) The idea is this: The formless Consciousness can be experienced only through the multitude of sentient bodies with names and forms, just as light can be seen only through refracting agents. It is thus not that the multitude of names and forms exist independently of Consciousness but that Consciousness can express itself only through these forms.
So the other way of saying is the God or the Brahman or the Consciousness experiences himself through us. We and the universe are God looking into himself.
 Brihadarnyaka 2.5.19 has this verse
“He transformed Himself in accordance with each form; that form of His was for the sake of making Him known. The Lord on account of Maya (notions superimposed by ignorance) is perceived as manifold, for to Him are yoked ten organs, nay, hundreds of them. He is the organs; He is ten and thousands – many and infinite. That Brahman is without prior or posterior, without interior or exterior. This self, the perceiver of everything, is Brahman. This is the teaching.”
What do you think?  I  wanted to know if traditional Advaita accepts that idea or not.

A: As it seems with most questions I get these days, this one also revolves around the reality-appearance, paramArtha-vyavahAra question.

Who-you-really-are does not act, so cannot be ‘responsible’ in the sense that you mean here. The person, on the other hand, does act and is responsible, and gets puNya-papa as a result of those actions. It is especially the responsibility of the realized person to act in accordance with dharma – the awareness of right and wrong – since he is setting an example to others. However it is also possible that, because of insufficient prior mental preparation, an enlightened person is still attached to desires and fears. Even knowing that he is perfect and unlimited, he could still act in accordance with these feelings, which are called pratibandha-s (obstacles or impediments). These will go in time, with further nididhyAsana.

It has to be assumed that this was the position regarding Ramesh, as far as the ‘scandals’ are concerned. However, if it was the case that he was actually preaching “do whatever you want you are not responsible”, as you say, then this is not a clear presentation of the truth of the situation and should be condemned.

Regarding your second point about the ‘purpose’ for the seeming creation, this does not hold water either. There can be no meaningful attribution of purpose at all. Purpose implies some sort of deficiency in brahman, which is a contradiction. Experience of any sort is a limitation, so cannot be applied to brahman. Best just to think of everything as name and form, including the ignorance and the experience; the experienced and the experiencer. But, as an imaginative way of thinking about it, God looking into himself is fine, as long as you don’t take it literally.

Q. 369 – mokSha

Q: What is meant by mokSha as a puruShArtha? (The answer should incorporate a definition of mokSha.)

Responses from Ted, Venkat, Ramesam, Martin, Shuka and Dennis

A (Ted): Moksha literally means, “liberation.” It indicates freedom from dependence on objects (i.e., anything perceivable, conceivable, or in any way experienceable) for happiness, contentment, or a sense of wholeness and completeness. And since it is our vain pursuit of permanent fulfillment through impermanent objects that is the cause of suffering, moksha also implies freedom from all suffering.

 Moksha is the essential purushartha (i.e. goal or end) that we are seeking, though in most cases not consciously, through our pursuit of artha (security), kama (pleasure), and dharma (virtue). If we analyze the objects we chase in any of these categories, we invariably find that it is not actually the object itself that we want, but rather the sense of peace and/or happiness that it seemingly provides us. Admittedly, the objects we seek to obtain in these areas are either necessary for our survival or enhance our enjoyment of life, but all are limited. And no limited object can provide limitless fulfillment. Thus, if we depend on these objects for our happiness, we doom ourselves to inevitable disappointment and certain suffering. Continue reading

The Purpose of Life, Part 6


Inquiry 6:  What is the Purpose of the Apparent?

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


As has already been established, there is no creation.  The word “creation” implies that something that previously did not exist has been somehow brought into existence, that something new has entered the arena of the old or already-previously-established.  Since, however, there exists nothing other than consciousness/awareness and therefore such is the sole substratum of the entire field of manifestation and all the objects inhabiting it, it is not possible for anything new to arrive on the scene.  All apparent objects, including those making their first appearance in a given form, are nothing other that a reconstitution and/or reconfiguration of the same one substance of which the entire apparent reality consists.


From perspective of both the apparent individual and God/Isvara/the macrocosmic causal body (though it should be understood that the latter is not a personal entity) there is, nevertheless, an apparent creation.   There is, however, a difference between the apparent individual’s projected interpretation of reality (i.e. jiva shrishti) and God’s appearance as “creation” (i.e. Isvara shrishti).

Continue reading

The Purpose of Life, Part 5

Inquiry 5:  What Validity Has Vedanta?


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’.


The implication of this series of questions is that the self is wholly theoretical, that it is some philosophical conjecture cooked up and served to the mindless masses as a means of pacifying their angst over an apparently purposeless existence.  It further suggests that the self is either a half-baked notion to be accepted on blind faith or an intricate intellectual construct whose validity is so be settled through argument alone.


Vedanta, however, is neither a faith-based religion nor a theoretical philosophy.  True, its method of self-inquiry does require faith in its initial stages because the student’s understanding is still clouded by ignorance.  But the truth revealed by Vedanta is verifiable through a conscientious examination of one’s own experience.  This isn’t to say, of course, that self-knowledge is a discrete experience, but rather that the knowledge contained in experience and which can be culled from it through thoughtful, logical inquiry does serve to reveal the truth when it is properly understood and assimilated.


Actually, according to Vedanta, the quest for a discrete experience of the self is completely gratuitous.  The fact of the matter is that we are already experiencing the self every moment of our lives.  If reality is non-dual – which it is – then quite obviously there exists nothing other than the self that can be, ever has been, or ever will be experienced.


This assertion, of course, voicing as it does the fundamental understanding upon which the whole science of self-inquiry is based, begs an answer to the question, “How do we know that the nature of reality is non-dual?”

Continue reading

The Purpose of Life, Part 4

Inquiry 4:  Is There Any Proof That The Self Exists?

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

I know that the self is by virtue of the fact that I am.  Simply put, the self is – I am – self-evident.  More to the point, I know the self because I am the self.

“Still,” you might ask, “how do I know that my self is THE self?”

Some suggest that there may be more than one self.  The singularity of awareness, however, can again be verified by yet another meticulous examination of one’s own experience.

Continue reading



All of spiritual instruction and learning has two aspects or dimensions:  The Theory and Praxis – a doctrine to understand and a method to practice, so that the former may dawn in the seeker’s mind as an experiential realization of his/her own. In advaita Vedanta the goal is to understand the Reality by dispelling the misunderstanding. The final understanding to arrive at is that there is no essential distinction between the jiva (individual self) and Atman (Universal Self), and further, that Atman, the Self, is Brahman (its cosmic extension, as it were). Here the two terms of the polarity, subject-object, get obliterated, given the intuition (anubhUti, akhandAkAra vRtti) that reality is One. Knowing and Being are no longer distinguishable from one another, when Happiness shines self-effulgently and this is encapsulated in the three-pronged expression, sat-chit-Ananda.

The method of imparting the above Non-dual message is usually by teaching (through gradual and progressive steps) so that the seeker intuitively grasps the Reality, the ‘what Is’. Normally a teacher is required for this education; otherwise, the scriptures (basically the prasthAnatraya; the purANas and specific treatises likes the prakaraNa grantha-s being the accessories) are the source to which one can access again and again. Saying ‘again and again’ implies repetition… or does it? Repetition of what? Continue reading

The Purpose of Life, Part 3

The Purpose of Life, Part 3

Inquiry 3:  For What Purpose Would the Self Want to Play?

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

Our initial inquiry concerning the purpose of life is, of course, valid only from the perspective of the apparent individual entity questioning life’s purpose and making inquiry into the nature of reality.

But what about the self?

What possible reason could the self have for assuming the appearance of the universe and seemingly enacting its continuous and seemingly interminable cycle of pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, success and failure, triumph and tragedy, birth and death?

Continue reading

The Purpose of Life, Part 2

The Purpose of Life, Part Two 


Recently, a question – or rather a series of questions – was submitted to Advaita-Vision whose fundamental concern was the seeming purposelessness of life.  This series of questions and comments also directly expressed or implied various other doubts that beg for clarification in order to better understand and more fully appreciate the existential predicament in which we find ourselves as apparent human beings.

The entire series of questions was included in the introduction to “The Purpose of Life, Part One” and can be reviewed therein if you would like an overview of the issue as a whole.  The series has subsequently been divided into several sections, each of which focus on a different aspect of the fundamental doubt concerning life’s purpose, to facilitate a thorough and coherent analysis of each of the issues raised.

What follows is the second in a series of inquiries through which we will progressively consider each aspect of the rather complex and enigmatic issues of whether or not life has a purpose, and if so what it could possibly be.

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