There has been an interesting discussion going on at one of the Online Advaita fora on Self-inquiry. One of the discussants posted the view of the well-known 16th Century Advaitin, Swami Madhusudana Saraswati in understanding the oft-quoted statement, “All this is the Self.” Madhusudana Saraswati says in his magnum opus, Advaita siddhi as follows:
एतच्च सर्वमुक्तं विवरणे – निषप्रपञ्चास्थूलादिवाक्यानुसारेण ‘इदं सर्वं यदयमात्मे’ त्यादीनि निषेध्यसमर्पकत्वेनैकवाक्यतां प्रतिपद्यन्ते ; सुषुप्तौ निष्प्रपञ्चतायां पुरुषार्थत्वदर्शनादिति |
Meaning: All this has been said in the panchapAdikA vivaraNa – Sentences such as “All this is the Self” must be interpreted in such a way as to indicate the negation of the world’s reality, so that there is consistency of meaning with sentences that reveal the nature of brahman as one completely devoid of the world, such as “not gross”, etc; for the achievement of the fundamental aims of human existence lies in the attainment of brahman in which the world is completely absent, which is experienced in deep sleep. [English Translation by: Sri S. Venkatraghavan. Accension by me.]
The above should bring to rest at least for now, the unending debate on understanding the chAndogya mantra 3.14.1.
Those readers who are unable to go with “the world is completely absent,” may consider the following alternative. It occurred to me while reading the sUtra bhAShya, from what Shankara says at some other place, that the “absence of the visible world” may not imply that the physical world has evaporated into thin air. For example for some one deeply focused on a particular issue, the rest of the surroundings and related matters totally go out of attention and s/he would not be aware of any other thing than what is in focus. It is as good as the rest of the world does not exist. For one who is completely focused on the asti-bhAti aspects of brahman, nothing else may be appearing in his/her view, thus virtually transcending the nAma-rUpa-kriya vyAvahAra. I hasten to add that this is just a suggestion and under no circumstance I mean to say that this IS the way that happens in the case of a Self-realized individual.