The world does NOT disappear

(Response to those who claim it does)

Some time ago (31st Oct 2020), during our prolonged discussions (beginning early Sept 2020) upon whether the world literally disappears when a jIva gains enlightenment (Ramesam and Venkat say that it does and I deny that), Ramesam asked me to provide references to support comments that I had made. Since this topic is very relevant to Volume 2 of my book on ‘Confusions in Advaita’, I have been researching and writing about it for the past 6 months. Since the various aspects now take up some 30,000 words plus, I will not be posting any more material – you will have to wait for publication of the book, unfortunately unlikely to be before 2023.

Apologies to readers who will find that this post is not particularly readable or directly helpful. The book presents all of the arguments in a logical and readable manner, only using the indicated quotations as supporting material. Here, the references only are presented solely to complete the earlier discussions and provide ‘answers’ to Ramesam and Venkat as the pUrvapakShin-s.

The numbered statements were made by myself as part of the discussion. Ramesam has added some ‘implications’ in square brackets. I have made occasional very brief comments in response and provide the references to shruti/bhAShya-s where supporting material may be found. I have no doubt that, after he has consulted these, Ramesam will wish to contest some of them, claiming that there is no justification. But, as I think we agreed when I said I would provide substantiating quotations, there will be no further discussion on these topics. (I also found that a number of his supposed ‘supporting’ quotations had been misunderstood or mistranslated.)

1. Ignorance is not the cause of the world.

Aitareya 1.1.1-2; BSB 1.2.1; 1.4.23-27; 2.1.4-6; 2.1.8-9; 2.1.14; 25.1.24-25; 2.1.28; 2.1.35-36; 3.2.41; Ch. Up. 3.14.1; 3.19.1; Ch. 6 intro; 6.2.1; 6.2.3; 6.3.2; Mund, Up. 2.1.10; 2.2.12; Tait. Up. 2.6; 3.1.1; Vivekachud. 231-8; and no doubt many more descriptions of how the world was created by Brahman/Ishvara.

2. How can the entire Vedantic tradition and pArampara continue to appear if the world-appearance disappears on enlightenment?
[implication being that the world has to continue to appear even after realization for the sake of the perpetuation of “parampara”!]

I am not even bothering to look for scriptural support for this. The very existence of scriptures is its own answer. In order to deny this, you would have to claim that no-one has ever been enlightened or that each person lives in his own universe or some equally ridiculous explanation.

3. Why SHOULD the APPEARANCE of duality disappear once you realize that it is actually non-dual?
[implication being that the objective world continues to appear even after realizing that ‘all is brahman alone and there is no second!]

Bhagavad Gita 5.13; 5.18; Brahmasutra bhAShya 4.1.15; Brihad. Up. 1.4.10; 3.5.1; Gaudapada kArikA 2.31; 2.37; Naish. Siddhi 4.51

4. A ‘sense of me-ness’ continues to exist after enlightenment.

prArabdha has to be exhausted. BSB 4.1.15; behavior of a sthitapraj~na BG 2.55 – 68; Brihad Up. Bh. 1.4.7; 2.4.12; 4.4.6; behavior BG 3.25; Ch. Up. Bh. 6.14.2

5. There can only be TOTAL non-identification on death of the body-mind.
[implication being that none can attain liberation as long as the body that previously housed the now liberated seeker is alive]

Bihad. Up. 2.4.13 and all in No. 4

6. Brahman is nirvikAra. The world-appearance, which is really none other than Brahman, with superimposed name and form, continues as before.
[implication being that the nirvikAra brahman changed to be the world]

Wrong implication! World is manifestation; vivartavAda not pariNAma. See BSB 1.2.7.

7. The enlightened one no longer believes that the perceived separation is real. It is only mithyA.

Brahmasutra bhAShya 3.2.21; 4.1.15; Chand. Up. Bh. 3.14.1;  7.24;

8. If it were the case that the j~nAnI no longer sees a world, how would we ignorant seekers find someone to teach us the truth?
[implication being that a world continues so that a realized individual can teach Non-duality]

Effectively the same as 2.

9. When all the desires have gone (i.e. pratibandha-s have been eliminated), the j~nAnI becomes a jIvanmukta.
[implication being that a Self-realized one is still saddled with pratibandha-s and prArabdha which keep his/her body alive and s/he attains liberation only after the death of the body — effectively eliminating the scope for jIvanmukti and stating that only videhamukti exists]

Your ’implication’ is a non sequitur. A jIvanmukta is one who no longer has pratibandha-s but continues to exhaust prArabdha until death of body-mind. Brihad. Up. 1.4.7; 1.4.10; 2.4.13; Vivekachud. 268, 452

The world continues to appear after enlightenment. The following references, in confirming this, effectively answer 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 above:

Gaudapada kArikA-s 2.36-37; Bhagavad Gita 3.27-28; 5.13; 5.18; Brahmasutra bhAShya 4.1.15; Brihad. Up. 3.5.1; 4.1.7;

The world IS Brahman:

Brihad. Up. 2.4.6; Chand. Up. 3.14.1; Ch. 6 intro; 6.2.1; 6.2.3; 6.3.2; 7.25.2; 8.14.1; Mundaka Up. 2.1.10; 2.2.5; 2.2.11; 2.2.12; Taitt. Up. 3.1.1; Vivekachu. 231-8

18 thoughts on “The world does NOT disappear

  1. Dennis,

    Brhad 4.3 and 4.4 sets out a logically coherent development of an argument by the Upanishad and by Sankara, from start through to end.

    This article of yours cherry-picking quotes just serves to demonstrate that you haven’t really understood the broader context. So just for fun, let’s take apart your first supporting quotes for your first and last points, “Ignorance is not the cause of the world” and “The World is Brahman”.

    Before I begin, let me state a rather obvious premise: that what follows later in a logical argument supersedes that which precedes it.

    1) Ignorance is not the cause of the world

    Aitreya 1.1.1-2 states that in the beginning there was only the Self which then thought ‘let me create the worlds’, which he then went about doing.

    You therefore take this as support for saying that ignorance is not the cause of the world? Really?? But in dream state we create worlds which do not really exist, but yet believe they are real within the dream – which is clearly ignorance!

    And we find in Aitreya 1.3.12 bhasya:
    Objection: The waking state is not a dream it being a state of consciousness.
    Answer: Not so, it is verily a dream . . . Since there is no consciousness of one’s own supreme Self, and in it are perceived unreal things as in a dream

    And in Aitreya 2.1.6 bhasya:
    “After destruction of this body that is conjured up by ignorance . . . through the power generated by tasting the nectar of knowledge of the Supreme Self . . . he became immortal”

    So Aitreya BEGINS with a simplistic explanation of creation for the novice, but then ascends to higher levels as it continues its exposition.

    As an aside, Sankara’s intro to Aitreya 1.1 speaks EXTENSIVELY (rather than cursorily as in your quote here) about renunciation; something that you conveniently ignore in your polemic elsewhere.

    2) The world is Brahman

    Firstly, I’m not sure there is an argument about this – you are creating a straw man which you are then trying to demolish.. The world is Brahman in the sense that a dream is the dreamer thereof; the dream cannot be separate from the dreamer. That does not mean that the world is real.

    Next point: your first quote is Brhad Up:
    2.4.6: “… this Brahmana, this Ksatriya, these worlds, these gods, these beings and this all are this Self”.

    OK, but it goes on subsequently:
    2.4.12: “As a lump of salt dropped into water dissolves . . `this self comes out as a separate entity from these elements and is destroyed with them. After attaining it has no more consciousness”

    So having said the world is Brahman, it goes on to say the world is dissolved after attaining; Sankara’s bhasya continues:
    “These elements transformed into the body, organs and sense objects from which the self comes out as an individual, and which are the cause of its individualisation are merged, like rivers in the ocean, by the realisation of Brahman . . and when they are destroyed, this individualised existence too is destroyed with them . . and there is no particular consciousness”

    So the particular consciousness that perceives the world dissolves. Pretty unambiguous.


    Dennis, this brief review of your article demonstrates that you are simply taking quotes out of context, without actually understanding, and discussing, the broader context. I’m sure if I had the time, I could go about demolishing your other quotes. But why bother? This cursory look suggests this article has little credibility.

  2. “Why bother?”

    Don’t bother, Venkat. I am certainly not. The post is not ‘an article’. As I said, these are simply supporting quotations for around 30,000 words of reasoned discussion, since Ramesam specifically asked for them. In this, I have also carefully refuted all of the points and quotations made by you both which purport to show that the world DOES disappear. I have no intention of spending more time here explaining why your interpretations are mistaken.

    I didn’t think there was any ambiguity in my statement above: “But, as I think we agreed when I said I would provide substantiating quotations, there will be no further discussion on these topics.”

  3. Dear Dennis,

    First off, I and I am certain Venkat also, are grateful for your time and for the patient listing of Shankara bhAShya and shruti references which you present that presumably “support comments that I [Dennis] had made.”

    Both in your Post and in response to Venkat’s comment, you emphasize the point that “I think we agreed when I said I would provide substantiating quotations, there will be no further discussion on these topics.”

    I am not trying to split hairs. But the moot question remains, as Venkat already made a point, do these references truly “substantiate your own quotes”?

    As you can appreciate, it will take a long time, undoubtedly, for anyone to go through all the citations provided by you. But do they satisfactorily meet a condition that you yourself stipulated? The condition set by you was, “Shankara quote that EXPLICITLY says” the statement made by you.

    I quickly looked at a few citations, for example, 1.2.1, BSB, 231-238, vivekacuDAmaNi for the words “Ignorance is not the cause of the world.”

    I could not find those words. All the references appear to be about the “assumed” creation which both Shankara and the scripture any way deny later. But creation was not per se the point of our discussion at any time. In fact, if we look at carefully what they say is that the appearance of a world is because of “ignorance” that does not support the words in your statement at # 1.

    So, we will NOT violate our part of the agreement that “there will be no further discussion on these topics.” But the first part, namely, “Shankara quote that EXPLICITLY say” those purported words have to be cited. [BTW, The accension in CAPS was yours, not by me.] Hnece, we are forced to come up with this rejoinder.


  4. Fair point, Ramesam, but this works both ways. I went through all of the quotations made by yourself and Venkat to support YOUR assertions. And, in a substantial number of these, I completely failed to find anything that supported them. As Venkat stated, you have to understand the context in which Shankara is making his comments and you also have to be very careful about how you translate certain key words. In the course of wrtiting this book (both volumes), I have now found 3 or 4 instances where the translator has clearly mistranslated a key word so that it fitted their prior misunderstanding of the topic!

    Another point is that you should not expect to find the EXACT words. As an example, on the topic of an enlightened man being ‘disembodied’, I consider scriptural descriptions of how an enlightened man ‘behaves’ sufficient evidence of the fact that he still has a body.

    I’m afraid that the bottom line of this has to be that you will have to wait until you can read all of my explanations and see the quotations in the context of those explanations. I am happy that I have fully justified my understanding and fully repudiated your misundertanding. But naturally I don’t expect you to agree. I don’t even altogether expect you to agree even after you have read the book! 😉 After all, I have justified my views numerous times in the course of these discussions only to have you both ignore what I have said and come back with yet more mistaken angles.

    I understand that this position will not sit well with you but you cannot expect me to post all of the material here. The pratibandha posts were already a significant part of Volume 1.

    Best wishes,

  5. Just for the records, since this debate is concluded:
    Aparoksha Anubhuti
    अज्ञानप्रभवं सर्वं ज्ञानेन प्रविलीयते ।
    सङ्कल्पो विविधः कर्ता विचारः सोऽयमीदृशः ॥ १४॥

    14. Everything is produced by ignorance, and dissolves in the wake of Knowledge. The various thoughts (modifications of Antahkarana) must be the creator. Such is this Vichara.

  6. Dennis: “only to have you both ignore what I have said and come back with yet more mistaken angles.”

    Shankara (as quoted by Vijay): “Everything is produced by ignorance”

    Looks like even Shankara is coming back with “a mistaken angle.”
    Thanks Vijay.


  7. Talks with Sri Ramana Maharishi’

    Talk 616

    When I was staying in the Skandasramam I sometimes used to go out and sit on a rock. On one such occasion there were two or three others with me including Rangaswami Iyengar. Suddenly we noticed some small moth-like insect shooting up like a rocket into the air from a crevice in the rock. Within the twinkling of an eye it had multiplied itself into millions of moths which formed a cloud and hid the sky from view. We wondered at it and examined the place from which it shot up. We found that it was only a pinhole and knew that so many insects could not have issued from it in such a short time.That is how ahankara (ego) shoots up like a rocket and instantaneously spreads out as the Universe.

    Verse 26 of Ulladu Narpadu

    If ego comes into existence, everything comes into existence; if ego does not exist, everything does not exist. Ego itself is everything. Therefore, know that investigating what this is alone is giving up everything.

  8. 14. Everything is produced by ignorance, and dissolves in the wake of Knowledge. The various thoughts (modifications of Antahkarana) must be the creator. Such is this Vichara.

    It’s called adhyAropa-apavAda, Vijay!
    God creates the world; mind imposes name and form; ajAti vAda.

    • Dennis,

      You always emphasize “common sense” and “reason and logic.”
      Why then, do you not see that Adhyaropa-apavada” can work only if the world is a momentary phenomenon where there are no separate cause and effect but only an undivided whole. Moment by moment. And seeing this is indeed awakening.


  9. Dear Dennis,

    If my memory is correct, Shankara’s teaching in aparokShAnubhUti is based on Self-inquiry like in direct path approach and does not follow ahdhyAropa – apavAda technique.


  10. Dennis & Ramesam
    Let me quote comments by Swami Chinmayananda on this verse #14 from Swamiji’s book Aparokshaanubhuti:- page 13,14
    Who the creator of this world is? Is there anyone who sits above the cloud manufacturing the pluralistic world. BhagvAn Sankara answers that the creator is you. You alone, you, identifying with the mind and its imagination creates this world. In the example of the ghost and the post, the agitation of the mind created the ghost and in the same way your own agitation of the mind created this agitated world. When the agitations are ended, the world is no more seen, as in deep sleep. When there is no mind there is no world..

  11. I repeat: god creates the world; mind creates the world; there is no creation.

    This is Advaita’s progressive technique for teaching. aparokShAnubhUti just happens to be one book in that tradition. mANDUkya kArikA-s, for example, teach only the last bit. The overall process takes you from Self-ignorance to Self-knowledge.

    (I assume that) we have all levels of seeker reading material on this site and I want to cater for all of them, not just someone at a very specific level of understanding.

  12. Dennis: “god creates the world; mind creates the world; there is no creation.”

    An interesting schema.
    Translated as doctrines, it can be expressed as:
    SDV – DSV – AV

    In order to complete the schema, I suggest prefixing with 2 terms as:

    “Inquiring Man – Man created God – god creates the world; mind creates the world; there is no creation.”

  13. The Method of Early Advaita
    Michael Comans

    Page 174
    Sankara is not against reasoning per se, his opposition is towards reasoning that is not in harmony with what the Upanishads reveal. Wilhelm Halbfass puts the matter nicely when he says that for Sankara: “[reason] has its legitimate role under the guidance of and in cooperation with sruti” Sankara frequently makes the point that reason must be in accord with the Vedic revelation, as in his comment that when the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad
    ordains rational reflection (manana) in addition to hearing the Upanishad , we should not, under such a pretext, try to find an opportunity here for “dry logic”(suskatarka), i.e., independent ratiocination, and he says: “only reasoning that agrees with the sruti is to be accepted, for it assists direct experience (anubhava). ” Sankara proceeds to give some instances:
    (1) Since the states of waking and dream both exclude one another, the Self is not intrinsically connected to them. (2) Because the soul in the state of deep sleep leaves behind the waking world and is unified with the Self whose nature is pure Being, it is itself of the nature of pure Being that is free from the phenomenal world. (3) Since the phenomenal world originates from Brahman, it must be non-different from Brahman according to the logic that the effect is ‘not other than its [material] cause.
    To take the first instance. As we have seen in the case of the Mandukya. a number of Upanishads refer to the states of waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep. These states alternate, whereas the Upanishads reveal the Self to be invariable in all the states. Since that is what the Upanishads reveal, we are entitled to draw the conclusion that the Self is not intrinsically the waker, the dreamer or the sleeper, for if it was intrinsically associated with one state it could not exist in the absence of that state. …
    Obviously, terms like Reason and Common Sense must be used carefully when discussing Advaita.

    • The Inquiry into Brahman and its Pre-requisites

      Brahma-Sutra 1.1.1: Sanskrit text and English translation.

      अथातो ब्रह्मजिज्ञासा ॥ १ ॥

      athāto brahmajijñāsā || 1 ||

      atha—Now; ataḥ—therefore; brahmajijñāsā—the inquiry (into the real nature) of Brahman.

      1. Now (after the attainment of the requisite spiritual qualities) therefore (as the results obtained by sacrifices etc., are ephemeral, whereas the result of the knowledge of Brahman is eternal), the inquiry (into the real nature) of Brahman (which is beset with doubts owing to the conflicting views of various schools of philosophy, should be taken up).
      Brahma-Sutra 1.1.2: Sanskrit text and English translation.

      जन्माद्यस्य यतः ॥ २ ॥

      janmādyasya yataḥ || 2 ||

      janmādi—Origin etc. (i.e. sustenance and dissolution); asya—of this (world); yataḥ—from which.

      2. (Brahman is that omniscient, omnipotent cause) from which proceed the origin etc. (i.e. sustenance and dissolution) of this (world).
      Brahma-Sutra 1.1.3: Sanskrit text and English translation.

      शास्त्रयोनित्वात् ॥ ३ ॥

      śāstrayonitvāt || 4 ||

      śāstrayonitvāt—The scripture being the means of right knowledge.

      3. The scriptures (alone) being the means of right knowledge (with regard to Brahman, xhe proposition laid in Sutra 2 becomes corroborated).
      Brahma-Sutra 1.1.4: Sanskrit text and English translation.

      तत् तु समन्वयात् ॥ ४ ॥

      tat tu samanvayāt || 2 ||

      tat—That; tu—but; samanvayāt—because It is the main purport.

      4. But that (Brahman is to be known only from the scriptures and not independently by any other means is established) because It is the main purport (of all Vedanta texts).

  14. Rick Riekert quotes 2.1.14, BSB at another thread. I have taken liberty to copy it here as the quote answers very aptly 2 points raised here by Dennis.

    2.1.14, BSB: “Unlike the curiosity arising in common life to know ‘what, with what, and ‘how’…there remains nothing more to be sought for after one is taught, ‘That thou art, or ‘I am Brahman, for that knowledge has for its content the Self which is all. A curiosity can arise only when something is left over, but nothing remains there beyond the oneness of the Self about which one may be curious.”

    Dennis syas above: I don’t think that fits in with Advaita!

    Advaitic Inquiry starts, as Shanakra says at 2.1.14, BSB, with questions like: ‘what, with what, and ‘how’…

    When one says, in answer, ‘god creates the world,’ with that vey statement, the inquiring man creates a god – by an assumption of a limitation to brahman, converting the nirguNa to saguNa .

    Therefore, it is very much in order to modify the SDV-DSV-AV schema as:

    “Inquiring Man – Man created God – god creates the world; mind creates the world; there is no creation.”

    Secondly, as Rick concludes, “When you’re It, the rest is silence.” What-is is simply IT, IT, IT and IT only. No changing forms (which we tend to call as a “world”) from the “the standpoint of Reality.”


  15. Ramesam,

    You seem to want to argue even when there is nothing to argue about! My comment about ‘not part of Advaita teaching’ was simply that questions such as why? what? who? are what trigger the teaching of Advaita. The seeker asks and the guru responds with the teaching. (But I do not recall man creating god being a part of that teaching.)

    When one has heard the final teaching and accepted it, there are no more questions. One knows that the world is mithyA and that I am Brahman. But that does not mean that the world disappears!

    Best wishes,

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