Q: One thing that has been troubling me is how I can know that Advaita is not just another interpretation of the world and self. For example, and to put it simply, a psychologist might explain the world using concepts and ideas in the field of psychology; a physicist might explain the world using ideas and laws found in physics etc. How do we know that Advaita is essentially ‘right’? Yes, a psychologists interpretation of the world and a physicists interpretation of the world are both ‘right’ in their own context, but *ultimately* they are wrong because, if Advaita is right, Brahman cannot be conceptualised?? But how do I *know* that Advaita is correct and not just another interpretation, another ‘way’ of seeing the world?
So called ‘secular’ knowledge is vastly, vastly complex and knowing how it all ties together is nearly impossible. Everyone has their own ideas about the world, everyone believes different things, even science is found to carry the weight of uncertainty that it tries to overcome. All the different knowledge in the world just doesn’t fit together. There are contradictions and complexities that never get solved. Everything is so complex….does Advaita offer any solution? The world is so complex that I sometimes just think it must be a dream, because it can’t be solved, it can’t be real. Buddha said everything but the simplicity of spiritual whiteness was illusion.
A: ‘Knowing’ that Advaita is right is what is called ‘enlightenment’! Until that time, you have to keep an open mind. Place provisional trust in someone whom you have reason to suspect does know (i.e. find a qualified teacher). Listen to what they say over a prolonged period of time – years rather than months – subjecting this to your own reason and experience. Eventually, with application, diligence, faith, determination etc, you can realize the truth for yourself.
Worldly knowledge is infinite – the more you discover, the more there is to be discovered. Advaita is not about that knowledge; you do not suddenly understand quantum mechanics or speak Chinese upon becoming enlightened. Advaita is about knowledge of Self, which you already are. In fact, a better way of looking at it is to say that it is about removing the ignorance that covers over the knowledge that we already have. It is about knowing That through which all else is known.