More on ekajIva vAda

Rather than add more comments to the ‘mokSha for All’ thread, I thought it better to make this a separate post. It is the same topic but here I posed a question to AchArya Dr. Sadananda of Chinmaya Mission, Washington, whom I have known for a long time. I have interposed comments in his response and his follow-up comments have been added in green.


 Obviously any statement about the ‘nature’ of absolute  reality can only be made from the jIva’s standpoint; i.e. an  ‘as though’ pAramArthika statement made in vyavahAra. Thus, any talk about a world is clearly a vyAvahArika statement;  aham brahmAsmi is an ‘as though’ pAramArthika statement.


Dennis – aham brahmaasmi is statement of understanding of the truth – it is recognition of that paaramaarthika state but expressed using the instruments available in vyavhaaha that is the BMI. It is not just vyaavahaarika statement about paramaarthika state. It is like when I say sugar is sweet – it is statement which may not mean much to a listener who may not know what sweetness means, but it means a lot to one who knows and is the statement born of direct experiential understanding – or aparoxaanubhuti.

In contrast, the tat tvam asi statement- is instructional statement to ajnaani by a teacher who knows aham brahmaasmi, where jiiva, the student, is being pointed out as total. If I am that student, from my point of view, a teacher who knows this as a fact is teaching me.  Although there appear to be many jiivas listening to the teaching, from my point of view, it is an instruction to me as I am the total since I am taking myself to be a local entity (local BMI) and there are other BMIs also listening to this. As an ajnaani this is my current understanding. However when I recognize this as fact by nidhidhyaasana, then I understand that I am Brahman and also everything else is mithyaa including the world and the other jiivas and the teacher and the teaching.  Hence, as Sastriji pointed out recently, the Vedas declare that they are mithyaa too.

Suppose Dennis is also listening to the teacher, he will understand that he is Brahman, the total and there are no other jiivas really, since everything he sees as others is mithyaa only. Each jiiva using the local BMI has to recognize that he is total and there is no other jiivas but other apparent BMIs only. From my point there is really no questions of others realizing including Dennis since I have realized that everything else other than I is mithyaa only.

It is identical to the dream state where a guru is teaching many beings that you are the waker, not that there many jiivas and they are all wakers. The instruction is not to each jiiva separately but to a conscious entity listening to it – since consciousness is Brahman. The instruction does not say, you are brahman and he is brahman or she is brahman, etc – there is only one listener you – and you are brahman. The instruction is in vyavahaara, but pointed truth is aparoxa jnanam in the sense of the 10th man story. Hence there are not many tenth men here. There is only one that you are that. The seeker himself is the sought.

Hence, the part of that understanding will be – I am Brahman but appearing as many jivas and jagat in this vyavahaara plane, similar to the I am a waker appearing as many jiivas and jagat in my dream, when I created the dream and entered (anupravesha) into my own creation as subject in the dream. Remember I am the only subject and the rest are all objects that I perceive and interact with. Hence when I wake up there are in Me or as Me as waker.   This is not traditional teaching as I understand it – they are ‘in me as Ishvara, not in me as jIva. Yes but in the case of dream I have to drop the BMI to know that I am a waker since I cannot have such discriminative faculty in the dream BMI – but in the case of jaagrata, I can develop by sadhana and use that discriminative intellect or viveka to recognizes I-ness pervading the anaatma.  Essentially that Iswara-hood has to be claimed intellectually in the mind while seeing the plurality. It is like instruction by a gold guru with many ornaments listening to the teaching, when he says you are all-pervading non-dual gold. A ring remaining as ring using its mind has to understand that I am that gold that pervades in the form of the BMI of all ornaments. Since consciousness is not an object and cannot be objectified, even as ajnaani, when I see many jiivas I do not really see (perceive) the consciousness, but only the B part and infer the M and I which are operating the B. Based on that, I understand that there are many conscious entities expressing as many jiivas. No – there is only one Consciousness expressing as many jIva-s. Dennis, then that consciousness is I am – hence my understanding should be I am the one that is expressing as many jiivas and jagat just as in the dream. Then- Is it not the same thing in dream world too where I , the dreamer interacting with many jiivas in my dream thinking that they are real jiivas different from me.

The truth that is being pointed out by Vedas in the tat tvam asi is, you are the only conscious-existence which is infinite entity – but as though expressing as many. The many BMIs are apparent consciousness(es) appearing as only reflections of one light in many mirrors. But so are you! Yes but I know that I have already solved the problem that there are no jiivas – one or many. What is there is I am – as aatma and the rest is anaatma and in the anaatma wherever there are subtle matter as anaatma I reflect as chidaabhaasa and enliven those subtle equipments – like the same current passing through different instruments that can work as per their assembly.

Dennis, I think you should look into nirvana shatakam – na mo buddhirahamkaara chittaani naaham .. chidaananda ruupaH shivoham shivoham. There it also says na guroH na shishaH ..



We know that the world with its multiple jIva-s is what we experience – pure vyavahAra. We know that the reality is there is only brahman – pure paramArtha. It seems to me that ekajIva vAda is an attempt somehow to stand in between  paramArtha and vyavahAra and make a statement from there.



Dennis you are answering your question. Look at your first statement. If you know that statement as a fact, the mission is accomplished. The rest of the statement does not follow. Shankara says – anything that is experienced or perceived, etc., is mithyaa – dRishyatvat – starting from my own BMI and all other BMIs and the world plus anything else we think or conceptualize – in essence all external and internal perceptions other than the subject I.

Your second statement tells that I am Brahman implying that whatever I am perceiving as mithyaa and the substratum of adhiShTaanam is myself the Brahman. Hence there are no other jiivas either. I the Brahman, expressing myself as many jiivas and jagat – that is what scriptures say. See Krishna’s statement – mastaani sarva bhuutaani –All beings are in Me and immediately in the next sloka  He says- na cha mastaani bhuutani –but in reality there are no beings in Me – look at my glory Arjuna! Is it not like a dreamer saying that there are many jivaas in my dream creation – but in reality I am the only one, the waker, who is expressing as many. This understanding has to take place in me only who is the only subject in my dream, looking at all apparent jiivas and jagat in my dream. Is dream eka jiiva or buhu jiiva? Tat tvam asi statement or you are the 10th man – everyone of the nine people can take since each one came up with only nine – but there is only one subject that has to recognize that He is the 10th man.



What purpose could this serve? It is clearly not true from an empirical standpoint – you know that you are not me. It is clearly not true from the absolute standpoint – you know that there are no jIva-s at all.



Dennis look at your statement again – When you say clearly it is not true – but you add empirical stand point. The but statement implies that it is not really true but only apparently true. I don’t understand this comment – I said that both statements were untrue. It is not true from ajnaani point – It is not true from Brahman point. But it is true from jiivanmukta point who has the knowledge that I am Brahman and yet operating in the vyavahaara plane. These questions are being asked by one who is exposed to Vedanta and still looking at the world. Ajnanai will not question since he knows that there are many jiivas. Brahman need not have to ask since there is nothing other than Brahman. Only one who is asking is a Vedantic student who hears that everything other than consciousness is mithyaa. For him only the question is: is there one jiiva or many? He starts with many jiivas in the beginning as he perceives and interacts. Vedanta says the jiiva-hood itself is due to ignorance. Once he gains the complete knowledge – He sees many jiivas but knows that they are only at empirical level. However those jiivas are taking themselves to be true since they do not know the paaramaarthika knowledge. To them he teaches – even though the students are nothing but BMIs and he as pure aatma is enlivening them too. Hence he himself appearing as many – They are all in Me and I am in them – yet their avasthaas or states of ignorance do not affect me. na ca aham teshu avasthitaH.

If your above statement is understood as a fact (remember JK statement – it is an understanding as understanding as a fact and not as a thought) then the problem is solved – the whole problem of human suffering is gone. From my point, if I understand that as a fact then, Dennis or any being or any object in the world, any apparent suffering, crimes, wars, success, failures etc., will not cause me unhappiness since I am Brahman since I understood that  there is no need to depend on false entities for my happiness. Also, I understand that I am full by myself then I am happy with myself.  Hence Krishna statement of who is  sthitaprajna – prajahaati yadaa kaamaan sarvaan paartha mano gataan – there is no more longing mind or desiring mind for happiness from outside since I recognize in my mind I am full and complete by myself. What we are looking for is not even Brahman but unlimited happiness that I am. Hence if I understand everything else is mithyaa I have woken up from my apparent dream while still playing in the dream. It is like Krishna playing in life while showing everything is Him only as in viswaruupa darshanam that I am writing series now.  It is like being a waker while still in the dream. The tiger chasing the BMI and even may kill that BMI but I am that tiger too and the forest. I can witness my own death and still be there watching some crying and some happy. Ramana recognized this when he wanted to experience the death.

Your question essentially boils down to what good is to realize that I am Brahman and everything else is mithyaa. No it doesn’t. I agree entirely with the benefits of realizing that I am brahman. This is not the point at all. I am asking what is the point of believing that I am the only jIva. That is quite different. Clearly, as an aj~nAnI, I DO suffer, even if I am the only jIva! So knowing that cannot be the same as knowing I am brahman. Dennis – It is not a belief – when I understand that I am that Brahman but appearing as many – then it is Me only as many jiivas. Is it one jiiva or many jiiva’s? – neither. It is I that is pervading many BMIs and enlivening them – that should be the understanding and, as Swamiji says, that needs to be recognized by way of nidhidhyaasanam. However when I meditate I am using one particular BMI and using that mind for recognizing first I am pure consciousness but intensely expressing as a subject in this BMI, but also enlivening the other BMIs too. They are all in Me but I am not in them – I would not know what other BMI s think since I am the enlivening factor without their doership or enjoyership notions. I understand due to Vedanta that they have notions too but not in reality. Hence they as jiivas suffer – but from my point all that including suffering is also maaya or mithyaa only. It is similar to my gaining knowledge that I am a waker while still in dream and seeing other jiivas enjoying or suffering. Now are there many jiivas or is there only one waker-jiiva seeing the apparently many jiivas?



As I said, if someone finds that accepting that really does move them forward from many to none, then fine. But surely most seekers make this jump without any need for an intermediate stage?


If I do not make this change I am giving reality to the plurality. That means the realization is incomplete. I cannot have both ways. My understanding that I am Brahman and everything else is my own projection as in dream. Yes! When realization is complete, I understand that I am brahman, not that I am the only jIva! Before realization, I believe that I, the jIva, am real; after, I know that I, the jIva am mithyA. This is the case irrespective of my prior belief regarding the ‘other’ jIva-s. Yes indeed – that realization while I am still in this BMI as jiiva mukta. Hence for Vedantic student that is the fact that Vedanta provides until that becomes my understanding.

Forget about the others- first: is this clear from my point of view and do I recognize that everything other than I is mithyA? In addition, I am the substantive for everything including the mithyaa jiivas and jagat.

If I understand this I become most compassionate too since I am the one in that baby form suffering I am the one who in the form of a rich guy not caring for others suffering etc. – since I am the substantive of everything. It also develops a clear understanding that there are many things this local BMI can do to improve the situation that is being seen via this local BMI. If this local BMI can do some help to change the surrounding to appreciate the whole drama of life then the purpose of life of that local BMI is served. Hence jnaanis do serve and do whatever their BMI can do for loka kalyaanam. The rest they look at as Iswara vibhuuti only. It is like watching a tragic movie as entertainment knowing very well it is just apparent and not real. – What is the prupose? The Life itself is seen as glories vibuuti only with all drama going on. In the drama there are heroes and villains too to make the story interesting.   Agreed, but this is the nAnAjIva stance, too. In fact, this is the view you are taking also, since you mention Ishvara vibhUti – this would not come into it from the ekajIva standpoint. It is neither eka jiiva nor naanaa jiiva – but I am jiivanmukta while still in this BMI. Empirically I can transact as in drama –for fun or look at it as my own Vibhuuti.



And surely ekAtma pratyaya sAram is referring to the Self  (turIya) that is experienced in all three avasthA-s? It has nothing to do with there being only one jIva. Also, you didn’t indicate what your (Swami P’s) view was about Shankara’s stance.


Dennis, what it says the SELF is  the absolute fact – they way you have written, you are objectifying it as though some thing is experienced in all the avathaas – first it cannot be experienced. Also it is that only using your BMI is asking these questions whether there are there many selves in the waking state. Apologies – I did not intend ‘experienced’ here to be taken in an objective sense. What I meant is that turIya is the only reality ‘in and through’ the three mithyA states of consciousness. Yes the critical word is mithyaa states. Hence many jiivas are not real but mithyaa should be my understanding while I am the waking state. That understanding I have to keep in mind as part of sadhana too so that I do not give reality to the sufferings or happening more than what need to be done at that plane – Hence jiiva sRishTi – the cause for samsaara goes away. Only Iswara sRiShTi remains as mithyaa. That is the purpose even for a sadhak when he says it is His vibhuuti.

Your next statement does not follow the first statement. There is only self – turiiyam and appearing as many in the waking state, just as it is the same way in the dream where  there is only one self but appearing as many jiivas in the dream. Shankara says whatever that appears is mithyaa – dRishyatvaat. You know it but as I see it you are only objectifying it. This is saying that there is only one Atma, not that there is only one jIva; in fact there are no jIva-s – all are mithyA, including this one, having their real substrate as Atman. Yes that is the central point However how do you jump to that? You as jiiva has to recognize that I am not a jiiva and there are no other jiivas also since all are mithyaa only. One reduces even for sadhana – aatma – anaatma vichaara – or binary format as Swami puts it.

You have to understand this as fact and feel that as a fact while transacting in the world. You have to feel that life in you is the same as the life in others too (What others? 😉 Yes you are right – others currently I think are different until I recognize that that is my misconceptions. – that is the consciousness that is enlivening those BMIs. Otherwise turiiyam is only some object that pervades all the states. Whole mantra says the complete story – I am not waker, nor a dreamer … not a jnaani nor ajnaani .. all the worlds go back into  me – prapanchopashamam – I am that non-dual – advaitam, etc. Each one word in that is there to insure that there is only one soul or consciousness that I AM that is appearing as many – jiivas and the world. Just like in the dream. From my point I am the only subject and the teaching is for me – that says you are that – tat tvam asi – just as in dream even though there appears to be many jivvas and jagat there. It is realization of this as a fact that I am all the states and beyond all the states makes it aparoxa jnaanam while still occupying a local BMI. Everything that I see is in my consciousness that I am – nay everything is Me only – look at my glory.

Finally – this is not my view – it is also Paramarthanandj’s view  – nay Vedantic view. Please listen to his talk on the turiiyam mantra. I have – many times!

Hence Swamiji says one has to go to triangular format to binary format in most of his talks. Jiiva(s)-jagat-Iswara to aatma and anaatma where anaatma is mithyaa and I am that turiiyam that is being pointed out in that mantra – I am that self that pervades all the states but yet different from all the states as the mantra says. Yes! But it is going from jIva(s)-jagat-Ishvara to Atma-anAtma, not to ekajIva-anAtma.

Hope this helps. Sorry – not really, although you have said so much that is good!

Sorry – as usual kept on writing. Never a problem for you, Sada! This is how the best teachers teach!


Here are a few more thoughts I had, not really carefully thought out, I’m afraid:

It seems to me that the difficulty arises because of the usual reason – failing clearly to differentiate at all times between a pAramArthika and a vyAvahArika statement. The j~nAnI knows he is brahman, yes, but nevertheless, all thoughts, speech and action are made by a jIva. I.e. as a j~nAnI (for the sake of argument), I know that the world and all jIva-s are mithyA and that this BMI through which I appear to function in the world is also mithyA. So, if I wish to be strictly accurate, should I not say that there are NO jIva-s, not that I am the only jIva?

There is a phrase in English: wanting to have your cake and eat it. It seems that to claim that I am the only jIva and the jagat with all its jIva-s is mithyA is not commensurate with helping other jIva-s, teaching etc. If (as a jIva) the entire world is only in your head, what is the point! You use the dream metaphor in your exposition. When one has a lucid dream and, while dreaming knows that one is in a dream, this is a license to do whatever you want in total disregard of everyone else in the dream because you know that they are all part of your imagination.

On the other hand, believing in nanajIva vAda:


a) I am a j~nAnI. I know that the world is mithyA and that, in reality, there are NO jIva-s. Or

b) I am an aj~nAnI. I experience the world and this includes many jIva-s.

I suggest there is NO situation in which, as an aj~nAnI, I experience myself as the only jIva and genuinely believe there are no other jIva-s. This is a hypothetical theory only and I do not see that it serves any useful function. If I did believe it, what would be the incentive to go ‘further’? As effective god of the whole of creation, where is the need for brahman or mokSha. If I suffer, I have only myself to blame! Yes Dennis what you say is correct – But as a jnani I am still associated with one BMI and not directly with other BMIs. Hence until this BMI drops, I have to keep this understanding dropping my jiiva-hood and in the process reality to other jiivas and the jagat.
The question is posed by whom? Ajnaani or jnaani or the one who is in between? From Vedanta point – there is only one subject, and the rest are objects for his perception and inference. Hence the analysis of deep-sleep state too where there is no others but anandamaya kosha alone is there as I am this – bliss.

Follow up Sada:

Dennis I was going to write what was discussed in the last Sunday Vivekachudamani class by Swami Paramarthanandaji – without my probing.

He was coving the jnanaphala portion – slokas 464-470

Both jnaanam and ajnaanam are from vyavahaarika standpoint only since, from the paaramaarthika standpoint there is only one without a second and no words can reach there.

Hence both eka/ aneka jiiva/jiivas are from vyaavahaarika standpoint since there is no jiiva or jagat or Iswara at Brahman level.

In addition Jiivas are many – that statement is also only from the avidya point of view. Even the notion that I am a jiiva is due to avidya. Vedanta teaches to that ajnaani that you are not that – neti neti – where one discards the identification with the BMI and arrives at that which cannot be negated by any process. In that arrival one comes to what is tvam padartham in the tat tvam asi statement. Further inquiry into what is this world and how I am – related to  – this – that I have rejected. To answer  that, Vedanta provides the analysis of tat padartha vichaara, where it shows that  tat is nothing but Brahman only who became many.

Then what is the relation between tvam and tat – asi comes as the statement from Vedanta.

Remember Vedanta is also in vyavahaara satyam and hence mithyaa.

Hence is it eka jiiva or aneka jiiva?  jiiva notion itself is due to misconception that I am this. Therefore the anaika jiivas also becomes another bigger misconception due to ignorance. Scripture points out by the statement of tat tvam asi – you are that – negates a) notion that you are a jiiva by rejecting any identification with -this – is not you and b) ascertains that you are existent-consciousness and therefore not a jiiva that you think you were and c) there are no other jiivas in reality also since what is there is Brahman appearing as many.

Hence last Sunday he suggested to do few minutes of meditation keeping this knowledge in mind that you are not this BMI but you are pure sat chit ananda that pervades this BMI and also other BMIs and the Jagat. This he called aatma- anaatma vichaara – reducing everything other than yourself to anaatma which is mithyaa and you pervade every thing include the anatma. Hence drop the notion that you are jiiva.

There is a sloka by Shankara – praataH smaraami hRidisamspurat aatma tatvam .. etc – Swamiji suggested to meditate on that sloka both in the morning as soon as one gets up and also before going to bed in the night. One can substitute – raatrou for praataH . Essentially meditate on the knowledge that I am sat chit ananda and everything else is pancha bhuutas – that includes all the world and others BMIs.

From this you see neither eka jiiva vaada nor aneka jiiva vaada makes any sense since jiiva notion itself is due to ignorance.


That is a great relief – thank you! Exactly what I thought! Effectively, therefore, one can say that if the seeker finds it useful to accept ekajIva as an interim understanding, that is fine. If he/she prefers to stick with the more empirically reasonable anekajIva, then that is fine too. Both have to be dropped for the final realization. I will add these messages as a conclusion. Thanks again for clarifying this!

1 thought on “More on ekajIva vAda

  1. Thanks Dennis.
    If eka jiva vada’s aim would be for the student to realize that he literally is the only jiva it would be absurd. Rather in eka jiva vada, used as a technique in nididhyasana, first the world dissolves into the jiva, then the jiva (-identity) dissolves into Brahman.

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