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

Q. 367 – shraddhA – Is it necessary?

Q. I come from an atheistic upbringing, and in addition I have studied a good chunk of modern Western philosophy and science, and such a position has become my “default mode”. A day came a couple years back where I found myself in a deep existential crisis (one that is most certainly still ongoing), and so I looked for a spiritual path that could reconcile what I knew of philosophy/science with spirituality. Advaita seemed to be the one that not only fit the bill the best, but also resonated with me the most. But on this path, I find myself constantly slipping into the habits of thought that I am used to. I try to cling to the pieces that don’t fit neatly into the materialist story, but I’m very much aware that I’m hanging on to them because I’m worried, not because I have a strong belief in their truth. If there is a teaching that goes against the grain of most scientific thought, even slightly, I tell myself I must discard it – “otherwise you’re just fooling yourself”, I say.

I notice this thought process, and it’s disturbing to me. I want to be open to what Advaita has to offer, but it’s incredibly tough – I worry often that a spiritual path of any kind is not possible for someone like me. I have a good deal of mumukshutva, but no shraddha. Can someone without shraddha somehow gain it? How necessary is it? And how can I break through my old habits of thinking, and gain that faith that there’s something more than just this body? Continue reading

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!)

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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Topic of the Month – Creation



The ‘original’ topic for discussion! Lots of potential material here. I have a number of interesting extracts to post, as soon as I can get around to scanning them in.

Meanwhile here are a couple of my favorite quotes, which I used in ‘Book of One’:

In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and is widely regarded as a bad move. Douglas Adams

In the beginning there was nothing and God said ‘Let there be light’, and there was still nothing but everybody could see it. Dave Thomas (This one especially for budding Buddhists)

Topic of the Month – Brahman

brahman3The topic for Sep 2014 is brahman.

This is, of course, THE topic of Advaita – what else is there?

I posted part 1 of the 3-part essay, which I wrote back in 2009 on the subject of Brahman, last month. I will post part 2 within the next 24 hours.

I recently started looking at Shankara’s dakShiNamUrti stotram for the first time and encountered there a way of looking at tat tvam asi that I hadn’t previously encountered. jIvAtman is treated as Consciousness (tvam – you) and paramAtman is treated as Existence (tat – brahman – every’thing’). asi is aikyam – identity. You are That. Consciousness is Existence. Maybe others have studied this text and can elaborate?

Please submit your quotes, short extracts or personal blogs on this topic!

Topic of the Month – Belief

The topic for Aug 2014 is belief.

People believe all sorts of things. Over time, these may prove to be true but all too frequently are found to be false. Are we ever ‘justified’ in believing? There is clearly some overlap with the Advaitin’s concept of shraddhA, faith, here!

Here is a quote I used in ‘Book of One’: A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses; it is an idea that possesses the mind. Robert Bolton

Please submit your quotes, short extracts or personal blogs on this topic!

Bhakti and j~nAna are the same

“Of all the means to liberation, devotion is the highest. To seek earnestly to know one’s real nature – this is said to be devotion.” – Shankara, Vivekachudamani.

“Devotion consists of supreme love for God. It is nectar. On obtaining it, man has achieved everything; he becomes immortal; he is completely satisfied. Having attined it, he desires nothing else. Having realized that supreme Love, a man becomes as if intoxicated; he delights only in his own intrinsic bliss.” – Narada, Bhakti Sutras.

Just as the Self and the soul cannot be separated one from the other, neither can j~nAnI and bhakti be spearated; though mutually exclusive, they co-exist as complements in everyone. And as our knowledge grows, we must learn to adapt our vision of the world to accept and embrace apparently contradictory views. We must learn to feel comfortable with the notion that a quantity of energy is both a wave and a particle; that our lives are determined, and that we are free; that our identity is both the Whole and the part. We are the universal Self; we are the one Consciousness – and we are also the individualized soul, which consists of the mind and its own private impressions. We are the Ocean – but we are also the wave.

The Supreme Self, Swami Abhayananda, O-Books. ISBN: 1905047452. Buy from Amazon US, Buy from Amazon UK. Review Link

Bhakti – Limitation of Accepted Paths

In our search for Truth, beginning with an examination of the world before us, we use
as our instrument the faculty of reason. This reason can well be divided into two. One
is lower reason, which is exercised by the mind in examining the mutual relationship
of objects, from intellect down to the gross world. The other is higher reason or
transcendental reason, which is exercised in examining the mind and its objects –
gross or subtle – with a view to discover their real content.

There are usually three accepted paths to the Truth. They are the paths of devotion,
yoga and jnyana. Of these three, devotion and yoga deal only with relative things
falling within the sphere of the mind and sense organs, taking into consideration only
experiences in the waking state. Their findings, therefore, can only be partial and

The jnyana path looks from a broader perspective and comprehends within its scope
both yoga and devotion. It takes into consideration the whole of life’s experiences – comprised in the three states – viewed impartially. It demands a high degree of real
devotion, in the sense that the aspirant has to have a high degree of earnestness and
sincerity to get to the Truth. This is real devotion, to Truth; and it is infinitely superior
to devotion to anything else, which can only be less than the Truth.

The yogin controls, sharpens and expands the mind to its maximum possibilities,
attaining samadhi and powers (or siddhis) on the way. But in the case of those who
follow the jnyana path, the mind is analysed impartially and minutely; and proved to
be nothing other than pure Consciousness itself, beyond which there is no further
power or possibility of development.

So it is through jnyana alone that Truth can be visualized, while yoga and devotion
only prepare the ground for it.

Note 63, Notes on Spiritual Discourses of Shri Atmananda: Volume 1, Shri Atmananda and Nitya Tripta, Non-Duality Press, ISBN: 978-0-9563091-2-9. Buy from Amazon US
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Topic of the Month – bhakti

The topic for July 2014 is bhakti.

Along with many others, I used to think that there were 3 paths to enlightenment: karma, bhakti and j~nAna. I now know better! There is only one ‘remedy’ for saMsAra j~nAna, since only knowledge can eliminate ignorance. But karma yoga is valuable for mental preparation and bhakti is an attitude that should prevail throughout. It is also excellent as a starting point for many. We also need to differentiate bhakti and upAsana

Please submit your quotes, short extracts or personal blogs on this topic!