A Primer on Advaita

 Publisher ‏ : ‎ Notion Press; 1st edition (27 April 2022), Paperback ‏ : ‎ 62 pages; ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8886675023, Weight ‏ : ‎ 118 g; Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 12.7 x 0.41 x 20.32 cm

From the Back Cover:

This booklet is based on AtmajnAnopadeshavidhi, a short treatise (prakaraNa grantha) of Shankaracharya, much respected within the Advaita tradition. It leads the reader, literally holding his/her hand, from the simple way we observe the objects in the world to the inexpressible “Consciousness principle” (brahman) that is present in all of us and everywhere without any abstruse quotes or indecipherable terminologies.

Available from:

Amazon.com U.K. ; India 


A Vedantic Theorem

Theorem:  I am  awareness.  Proof: In plane geometry there are a few axioms, e. g., a point has no dimensions; a straight line has no width and is infinite. They are axioms because they are obvious and taken as proved. The axioms are necessary to prove geometrical theorems. In the same manner, there are three axioms, namely, (1) I am different from what I am or can be aware of, (2) I can be aware of what I am not, and (3) awareness is different from object of awareness.They are obvious and do not need any proof. Call them vedantic axioms in the present context. Now let us try to find out the things which I am aware of. It is simple to accept that I am aware of objects in the world outside. For example, I am aware of tree and building. Therefore I am not the tree or the building. What about my body? It is also true the I am aware of different parts of the body and the complete body. I am aware of eyes, ears, etc. Thus I am not the  body including the sense organs. What about the mind? Mind in simple terms is where thoughts  arise or which gives rise to them. Thoughts are in the form of ideas, emotions, memory, feeling, etc. My experience is that I am aware of my thoughts. It would follow that I am not the mind. To understand this fact is a crucial step.I am aware of all the worldly objects including my mind and body. Therefore, I am different from them by application of axiom (1).  After excluding/ negating the worldly objects, the mind and the body, two entities are left, namely, I (negator) and  awareness. It is another important step. As this awareness is without any object, it is  pure awareness. Now analyse the validity of statement, ‘I am aware of awareness’. It is not valid because vide axiom (3) it would mean that awareness is different from awareness, an absurdity. Thus I cannot be aware of awareness. By virtue of axiom (2) it leads to the conclusion that I am not different from awareness. In other words, I am awareness.

What exactly is “Self-Knowledge”?

There is a lot of earnest discussion, here and elsewhere, on self-knowledge, self-realisation. But what exactly is it? What does knowing that ‘I am Brahman’ actually mean, when Brahman cannot be known?

For all the words that have been written by Sankara: on creation, on satyam / jnanam / anantman, on ‘tat twam asi’, on knowledge rather than action – what is the essence of it all?

Surely the essence is this, and this only. Self-Knowledge is the utter dis-identification with the not-Self, the most difficult of which is the body-mind.

And That (which remains, which cannot be defined) is the ananda, the peace, of a jivanmukta.

The sruti is the means of knowledge, in that it points this out. Sruti is said to be the only means of knowledge, because normal sense perceptions and reasoning would not inevitably lead to this very radical self-challenge: I am not what I fundamentally believe that I am.

The seeker hears it, mulls over it, develops the conviction that it is true that s/he is NOT the body-mind, and lives on the strength of it. And in so doing that habitual body/mind – identification is dissolved. Hence why desirelessness is both a path to and a fruit of knowledge – if there is no body/mind identification, then what desires can there be?

And sruti tells us that utter desirelessness is the cause of the highest joy.

Nigun Brahman, Sagun Brahman and AvatAr

Swami TadAtmAnanda of Arsha Bodha Center, in one of his talks on Bhagavad Gita, explains the above three with the help of the metaphor of a dream. I have attempted to improve it with a lucid dream, i.e., the dreamer knows that it is a dream. X sleeps in a bed. His mind projects a dreamer Y and a dream out of vasanas. Y is different from X. They belong to two different orders of reality. X is in the waking world and Y is in a dream world. There are many characters in the dream world and for them, the dream is not a dream; it is a waking state. Y is a special dream character as he knows that it is a dream. To avoid confusion, the dream character Y is named Z. Y is the creator, sustainer, and destroyer of the dream. The dream characters have no idea at all about X of the waking world. X belongs to a higher order of reality. X is transcendental so to say and is like Nirgun Brahman. Y is like Sagun Brahman (Ishwar). Z who knows that it is a dream is like an Avatar.
Note: As it is a metaphor it has some limitations.

Apologies to Questioners

I offer my sincere apologies to any reader who has tried to submit a question (or other comment) in recent history. I discovered last week that attempts to send a message were receiving an error message reporting failure. I don’t know how long this problem has existed but I have noticed that, for some months, the numbers of questions had reduced and the ones that I did receive came from the Advaita.org.uk site.

I am pleased to say that I have now managed to fix the problem (by deleting and reinstalling the plugin). So the ‘Contact Us’ link at the bottom of this page is now working again! I would ask that any reader who was unsuccessful before now tries again.

After correcting this error, I had two spam posts within the first hour! Accordingly, I have added a few questions to the form to try to foil the spammers. Sorry about this (but they are quite easy if you are genuine)!

Slippery slope

Raga and dvesha are two notorious impediments in the path of a spiritual journey. Raga is attachment and dvesha is aversion. Vedantic scriptures tirelessly warn a seeker to guard against them. In a pair of verses 2.62 and 2.63 of Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna enumerates eight steps as to how attachment arises and leads to spiritual downfall.
ध्यायतो विषयान्पुंसः सङ्गस्तेषूपजायते।
सङ्गात् संजायते कामः कामात्क्रोधोऽभिजायते II

dhyāyatō viṣayānpuṅsaḥ saṅgastēṣūpajāyatē,
saṅgāt saṅjāyatē kāmaḥ kāmātkrōdhō.bhijāyatē.
When the mind dwells on sense objects, then attachment to sense objects arises. Attachment leads to a desire for the sense objects and the desire to anger.
क्रोधाद्भवति संमोहः संमोहात्स्मृतिविभ्रमः।
स्मृतिभ्रंशाद् बुद्धिनाशो बुद्धिनाशात्प्रणश्यति।।

krōdhādbhavati saṅmōhaḥ saṅmōhātsmṛtivibhramaḥ,
smṛtibhraṅśād buddhināśō buddhināśātpraṇaśyati.
From anger arises delusion and from delusion, memory loss arises. Memory loss results in loss of intellect and discrimination. With the loss of intellect and discrimination, one is lost. He loses everything. Continue reading

Yoga of Meditation- BhAgavad GitA

Chapter 6 of BhAgavad GitA (BG) is titled ‘Yoga of Meditation’. Though the words used are yoga and meditation, it does not refer to yogic meditation; it is Vedantic meditation. Sutra 2 of Patanjali yoga sutras is ‘yoga chittavritti nirodha’ meaning yoga is the cessation of vritties of mind (modifications of mind). It is a state of thoughtlessness so to speak. Vedantic meditation does not require cessation of the vritties. Instead, it is about atma-vritti. The yogic meditation is useful for it enables the mind to quieten so as to undertake Vedantic meditation. Verses 20 to 23 of chapter 6 talk about the two types of meditation and the benefits flowing from the Vedantic meditation. The website https://www.gitasupersite.iitk.ac.in/ has BG and other scriptures in different languages with their meanings and commentaries. There are lectures of Swami ParmArthananda on Gita BhAsyama of Shankaracharya available on the website of Arsha Avinash Foundation (https://arshaavinash.in/). Continue reading

Karma, jnAna and moksha ( Part 5/5)

14 Bhedha-abhedha-vAda
Bhedha-abhedha-vAda is the doctrine of difference in identity, i.e., Brahman and jIva are both different and identical. Brahman is homogeneous, one total. It becomes plural by undergoing real differentiation to form the world and individual jIvas. More importantly, both the total and plural are Satya (Real).

In verse 78, the AchArya refutes: “The doctrine that the Absolute is known through a conjunction of knowledge and action is difficult to maintain in the case of those whose Absolute is not devoid of differentiation” [Translation, AJ Alston]. He asks a bhedha-abhedha-vAdi: whether Brahman and jIva are identical or are different and then proceeds to establish the invalidity of the possible answers.

1 Suppose the answer is that they are identical. In that case, nescience could be the only reason for the jiva not realizing the truth of its identity with the Brahman. As knowledge alone removes the nescience, action is useless in this regard.

2 Suppose the answer is that they are different. If jIva is essentially different from Brahman, logically one cannot become another. No sAdhanA (practice), e.g., karma, or knowledge, or their conjunction can convert jIva into Brahman. It means that moksha is impossible. “Even supposing there were some causes that could make them identical, one could not attain the nature of the other without undergoing destruction” [AJ Alston]. It needs some explaining. That the jIva attains Brahmanhood and also retains the jIvabhAva is not possible because it is finite and Brahman is infinite. Even if, hypothetically, it does so, there will be no liberation since the jIva retains the jIvabhAva.The alternative that the jIva attains Brahmanhood and drops the jIva status does not serve the purpose because there will be no jIva. In Advaita, a jIva does not become Brahman. It is already Brahman and (re)claims Brahmanhood by dropping the notion:‘I am jIva’.

Continue reading

Karma, jnAna and moksha ( Part 4/5)

10 Is moksha attained by means of every karma or by all the karmas put together?
A Vedantin asks pUrva paksha, “whether every Vedic karma will lead to liberation or all the karmas put together will give liberation?” If every karma can give liberation, all other karmas become redundant. Then, why should the Veda prescribe so many karmas? If moksha results through all the karmas put together then all karmas prescribed in the scriptures will have to be done to attain moksha. But no individual can do all the Vedic karmas for the reason that different Vedic karmas are prescribed for different varnAsramas. This would mean that moksha will not be possible for any person. A suggestion that the performance of all karmas prescribed for a particular varnAshrama will give moksha is unpractical. The categories of karmas performed by people of different varnAshramas will be different yet all will result in moksha. It would imply that moksha sAdhanAs can be different and if sAdhanAs are different, sAdhyAs also will be different. Results are different for different karmas is an accepted principle. On the other hand, there is only one moksha. A suggestion that if one or all karmas cannot give liberation, then specific karmas could do so has no scriptural support because results for various karmas are indicated in the Veda and moksha does not figure there. A desperate proposal that some karmas for which no fruits are prescribed could work is devoid of any merit.

Continue reading