A Question asked at a Social Network Group:
“Is there a room for a concept of karma within non-duality? Is karma not another concessionary concept, useful only for the mind still caught in the belief of cause and effect?
It is very important and valuable in Shankara Advaita to have a correct perspective on ‘karma.’
It is, however, futile to expect or to give a one word or even a one line answer to the question. To do so will be an insult to the question itself!
Your hunch that “karma is another concessionary concept, useful only for the mind still caught in the belief of cause and effect” is very true, if you consider the seeker to be no more than a distilled mass of 2-3 lbs of brain. But fortunately or unfortunately, that mass of brain always comes with many appendages and appurtenances. Those can never sit tight! Continue reading
Many of the current popular Non-dual teachers in the West, both from the USA and UK, seem to present a version of Advaita which is a mix of Shankara’s philosophy and Kashmir Shaivism. Their audience, who are usually less inclined to accept the requirement of a prolonged prior mental preparation (called the “Purification of the mind” (cittasuddhi) insisted by the traditional Advaita, savour this mix essentially for two reasons. One is that the Karma theory and the concept of rebirth which are very much an integral part of Shankara’s teaching gets rarely mentioned by the Western teachers. The other is that the Western tech-savvy mind appears to prefer a world that is One seamless Whole without divisions (a–dvaita) as the Reality in preference to a world which becomes totally apparitional as Shankara avers, post Self-realization.
A recent publication titled “Liberation and the World- in Advaita Vedanta and Pratyabhijna” by Klara Hedling** attempts to pin point precisely where the Advaita philosophy of Shankara differs from the Non-dualism of Kashmir Shaivism. An excerpt from it follows: Continue reading
Q: I have just been initiated into japa meditation. I just wondered: is the mantra a sound or a word?
And if Atman and Brahman are one, I am interpreting that correctly to mean that in my deepest Self (soul) I am divine – at one with Brahman? And that that signifies a unity (oneness) not sameness (identity)?
To put it in Christian terms, in my soul the Spirit of God dwells (as Eckhart said: ‘the I with which I see God is the same I with which God sees me’ and ‘my ground is God’s ground, God’s ground is my ground’).
Thus Advaita: ‘not two’ (but not completely one either – monism). In Christianity: ‘whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me’ (Matthew 5: 45).
A: ‘japa’ meditation is the mental repetition of a sound or a mantra. You could use the name of a god but it would still function as a sound. I.e. you are not supposed to ‘think’ about it, dwell on its significance etc. – that is a different form of meditation entirely. You give attention only to the repeating sound, ignoring any other thought. The repetition gradually loses its intensity and frequency and you are eventually left with complete mental silence. (May take a few years to get to this point!)
Atman and Brahman are two words for the same non-dual reality. The former is from the perspective of the (apparent) person and the latter from the as-if-perspective of absolute reality. Ishvara is the name given to Brahman from the perspective of empirical reality. Everything (including you and Ishvara) is simply name and form of Brahman. The relevant metaphor is that of bangle, ring and necklace being name and form of gold.
It would be best for you to temporarily forget all about Christianity and any other religion/philosophy until such time as you fully understand Advaita. Then you will be able to see that all the others are attempts, with varying degrees of success, to approach an understanding of the same truth. Trying to reconcile the views will only lead to confusion.
M. Thank you for your well-argumented comment. Empirical science is one thing; philosophy another. Other than Monism there is Non-duality (‘not-two’). Ultimately there is no essential distinction between matter and consciousness which latter, logically and epistemologically, is prius; equally, no distinction between subject and object, observer and observed. The existence and reality of consciousness, which is independent of all phenomena, doesn’t need a proof. Continue reading
Q: Which metaphor in Advaita is the closest to truth? For example:
1. If I take the “Snake in rope” metaphor, I must consider that “there-is-something” called rope, which is mistaken for something else (snake). So, in this metaphor, there is a TRUE rope and UNTRUE snake.
2. If I consider the “Water in Mirage” metaphor, there is the UNTRUE water, but there is no substrate on which this is happening (there is no rope equivalent here).
3. If I consider the “Dream” metaphor, there is the UNTRUE dream cosmos and dream characters and there is the TRUE dreamer in whose mind all this is happening. So the substrate is the dreamer’s mind – though it is “no-thing” in itself.
The doubt is…
Metaphor 1 gives an impression that there “is-something” out there, but we mistake it for something else and give it name & forms etc.
Metaphor 2 gives an impression that there is “nothing out there” and what we see is only inside our mind (the mirage has no substrate out there, but just an error in our mind).
Metaphor 3 is somewhat in the middle of metaphors 1 & 2 – Like metaphor 1, it has a TRUE substrate (the dreamer’s mind) but that substrate itself is just mind stuff (like metaphor 3) which can appear and disappear instantly, following no rules of any sort (rope will follow some rule, but a dream elephant may fly).
So is there something “out there” (some ineffable substrate – say energy) which is misunderstood as something else (say matter, forms) OR there is “nothing-out-there” and whatever we see is only our minds-stuff in motion?
Many thanks to the teachers for having this forum where seekers could ask their questions and helping others see the great truth! Continue reading
‘How many of you agree with the theory that our consciousness ends when we die?’
A commentator: (There’s of course nothing called ‘Soul’ of a person that goes on to live forever in afterlife. I’m an atheist. I person believe that when we die, our brain and the entire body shuts down, and we meet an end. Those of us who experienced anesthesia knows how it feels when our brains are inactive.)
M. I for one do not agree. Bodies decay and die not so consciousness. The whole is greater than the part, and that whole can be called ‘life’, ‘existence’, or ‘consciousness’ – none of it reducible to the physical or material. All bipolar concepts, such as life-death, good-bad, one-many, mind-body, ‘you and I’ (‘me and the other’) are false in themselves– just concepts. There is only totality (‘what is’), namely, existence or being – not many existences (existents), but one existence; not many loves, but one Love . And all of us are in essence, that is, in reality, existence and love – they are not ‘two’ (love being Plato’s ‘higher Eros’ or desire) once plurality is ‘seen’ for what it is: a deception or narrow vision. Continue reading
Verse 3.42 of the Bhagavad Gita says that the sense organs are superior to the gross body, the mind is superior to the sense organs, the intellect is superior to the mind and the Atma is superior to the intellect. Superiority also refers to subtlety. Our interest is in the mind, the intellect and finally in the Atma. There are five fundamental elements called panchabhutas. They are space, air, earth, water and fire. The subtle body is made of panchbhutas in their primary or nascent forms. When the panchabhutas undergo a process of compounding among themselves, the gross or physical body emerges. The mind and the intellect belong to the category of subtle body, i.e., made of the five elements in primary form. The Atma is beyond the panchabhutas because It is not a thing or physical entity.
We all know that we are a conscious entity. We also feel so. We are also certain that consciousness is different from the gross body. However we are not so sure whether the consciousness is different from the mind because consciousness ordinarily gets mixed up with the mind. Vedanta says that the consciousness is different from the mind. It is based on the axiom that the subject (observer) is different from the object (observed). This is Seer-Seen discrimination (Drg Drisya Viveka). Continue reading
Q: Can you help me to clear the following doubts?
- What part of the body is referred to as the mind?
- Why cannot the witness consciousness be a 5th part of the mind, Ego (changing subject), Emotion, Reasoning, Memory and the witness (unchanging subject)? In other words why cant the witness Atman be limited?
- Why cannot there be multiple witness consciousness or multiple Atman’s.
- Can each Mithya have different Satyam? To me it is quite a big jump to say Satyam of everything is one and the same. I can get that everything can be reduced to atoms and particles but beyond that it is difficult to conclude that there is one Satyam?
New Release: Journey Beyond: A Non-dual Approach – By Acharya Dr. K. Sadananda
Everyone is searching for happiness that is everlasting. Yet, none can find it by any pursuit; at the same time none can stop the pursuit. This seems to be the tragedy of human life; nay the life of every being. Every pursuit is limited: space-wise, time-wise and object-wise. Any pursuit that is limited cannot give everlasting happiness. Some promise the eternal happiness after death, if one follows their path; yet none has returned to claim that they accomplished it by following that path. One sage declares that ‘truth is a pathless land’. Vedanta ascertains that the truth is beyond the space-time-object wise limitations; and you are that truth – tat tvam asi. The ‘Journey Beyond’ space-time limitations is the central theme of the discussions in this text.
About the Author:
Dr. K. Sadananda is a Material Scientist by profession, and worked at United States Naval Research Laboratory as Head of Deformation and Fracture, published extensively in Science, and received many awards.
He retired in 2005, and now works as a private consultant in the United States for six months of the year. He was also a visiting professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.
He is a disciple of Swami Chinmayananda, was a founding trustee of the Chinmaya Mission’s Washington Regional Center as well as Shree Siva Vishnu Temple, Maryland, USA. He served as Secretary and Treasurer of SEVA, Inc., a philanthropic organization formed around 1980 by Chinmaya Mission, to fund projects in India and elsewhere. Currently he is an Acharya or spiritual teacher of Chinmaya Mission, and splits his time between the USA and India. Advaita Academy has been sponsoring many of his talks on Vedanta and has made them available on You-tube under Acharya Sadaji. He is also an author a book, Introduction to Vedanta, available now on Amazon, USA. He is married to Mrinalini Sadananda, who is well-known Kuchipudi dancer and Choreographer.