Advaita means non-dual. Advaita Vedanta (AV) asserts that Brahman alone is; there is no creation and that the world is a manifestation of Brahman. For a beginner seeker, like me, it is difficult to accept this assertion because the world is perceived and experienced. It constantly stares at me announcing its existence and reality. AV uses a gold-ornament metaphor to make its point. Ornament is a manifestation (name and form) of gold because there is no ornament separate from gold. To this, a counter poser would be that in the gold-ornament example both gold and ornament are material things and are perceived whereas the world is perceived and Brahman is not perceived. Secondly, how can the material world be a manifestation of immaterial Brahman?
It seems to me that the confusion is due to the term ‘manifestation’ as there is a tendency to perceive both ‘manifestation’ and the ‘thing’ that is manifested. It is preferable to explain the matter in terms of order of reality. Brahman is the highest order of reality; creation, though it exists, is a lower order reality borrowing its existence from Brahman. And in this sense only it is said that Brahman alone is; there is no creation, and that it is a manifestation. With this explanation, the metaphor is more illustrative. The existence of the world is not denied, instead, it is mithya. Idealism (i.e., creation is a manufacture of mind) has no place in AV.
Very clear explanation, Bimal! (I don’t think you are a beginner at all.)
I haven’t come across the material-immaterial objection before but it need not pose any problem. Even science states that matter and energy are interchangeable. Although we are more used to things being blown up with E = m.c(squared), m = E divided by c(squared) is equally true.
Thanks, Dennis for your appreciation. I am still forming my views on material-immaterial issue and will come back later.
I present my understanding of the material-immaterial issue; some have scriptural backing, and some may not. Immaterial is different from invisible. An invisible thing can be material. Thought is subtle and invisible, yet it is material made up of five fundamental elements in their nascent forms. Energy is invisible, nonetheless material. The empirical world is made of gross and subtle materials and is eternal, i.e., it has no beginning but is subject to change. Brahman is eternal, changeless, infinite, and all-pervading. The world is resolved in Brahman and is in potential form with sanchita karmas brought from the previous cycle of creation. The resolved world has relative existence ( reality) with borrowed existence from Brahman. By the power of mAyA of Brahman, a new cycle of creation consisting of prArabdha karmas is projected. The creation continues to be of relative existence. The theatre of the world continues until it is again resolved in Brahman. A parallel from the scientific theory of the big bang of creation can be drawn. Before the big bang, there was a singularity from which no information escaped, i.e., there was a state of ignorance. MAyA at cosmic level is ignorance at jivA level.
In the scientific field, there is a well-known hard problem of consciousness, i.e., how material things can give rise to immaterial consciousness. A Vedantist says that the problem cannot be solved because consciousness is more fundamental than matter. A scientist questions the Vedantist. If material things cannot give rise to immaterial consciousness, how can immaterial consciousness be said to be the source of creation? Here comes the ingenuity of the Vedantist. He says that there was never a ( new) creation. It is endless series. What is called creation is a projection of the resolved world by the power of mAya.That Brahman is the source of creation has two angles, namely, (1) creation is a projection, and (2) creation is of the lower order of reality. A scientist need not object to the doctrine of mAyA because of the ‘parallel’ talked about above. I have deliberately not used the term ‘manifestation’ because it may cause confusion.
Sounds reasonable, Bimal, but I’m not sure I like the material-immaterial distinction. I suspect many people would take exception to classifying mind as material. It also starts to conflict with the reality-existence differentiation. Introduce Brahman and mAyA into the discussion and things start to become difficult to untangle.
I think maybe the best option is simply to acknowledge that there is ONLY Brahman and that every seeming thing (gross, subtle or illusory) is just (imposed) name and form of That.
Dennis, as it is reasonable and supposedly does not violate, directly or indirectly, any scriptural views, it should be okay. Tattvabodha says that the mind is a product of panchamahAbhutAs. Therefore, a seeker cannot object to the classification of the mind as material. A non-vedantist also knows that if a person is sufficiently hungry, his/her mind is affected. A sound mind in a sound body is well known. In fact, vice-versa is also true. Strong emotions affect the physical body. It means that matter and mind are connected in some way. I will revert to your last sentence later.
Yes, sorry, Bimal. I wasn’t objecting to what you wrote from a strict Advaita perspective. It is certainly true that scriptures talk of the mind being ‘subtle’ matter. And we do need to touch on those things when we talk about karma and saMsAra. But, personally, I try to avoid any topics that reflect the ‘scientific’ notions of the time and do not really make any difference to the ‘spiritual’ matters. Things like pa~nchkaraNa, for example, should be completely avoided as they are likely to turn a naive seeker away from Advaita and (in my view) serve no useful function whatsoever.