Plato and Opinions

Is everything said just an opinion? 

Mostly yes, except for mathematics, which is not theory-dependent. If you are appalled at reading this, wait a second. 1) All scientific statements are theory-dependent and subject to further developments in the empirical sciences. 2) In ordinary life what is considered true, objective, common-sense statements (e.g. London is the capital of England) are true within the parameters of empirical life.

From the metaphysical perspective, however – for instance, that of Plato – things are quite different, e.g. what is a physical object, whether natural or man-made? What is ‘true opinion’? What do the senses tell us and how to relate them to the Intellect (nous)? In this higher, metaphysical, order there is, following Plato, only one (ultimate) truth: that arrived at through contemplation of ‘Ideas’ or archetypes, themselves reducible to the one supreme Idea, ‘the Good’. This is the only thing that merits the name of real knowledge according to Plato and is not transferable from person to person.

All interactions between people can be considered at most ‘true opinion’ (except, as said, consensual, empirical truths for the most part). Plato found ‘true opinion’ to be lacking in epistemic support; in the end, he even made a joke about it, rather than ending with the usual ‘aporia’ (indeterminable). A similar account of truth v. belief or opinion can be found in Eastern metaphysics.

 Enlightenment, for Plato, can only be effected through the contemplation of the highest Idea, the Idea of the ‘Good’, which involves having led a life in accord with that supreme end.

If one has in view Advaita Vedanta in that respect – opinion (or ’true opinion’) – the ready answer lies in vyavahara/vyavaharika, which refers to the empirical life as a whole, where everything is relative. In this realm can we not say that everything in human interactions is just an opinion, except, say, for the words of a real jñani?

The Final Paradox – ahaṃ brahmāsmi

Shankara’s explanation in Bhagavad Gita bhāṣya 2.21

[Note that this is a ‘stand-alone’ article which nevertheless supplements the material asking ‘Who am I?’ in the pratibandha posts beginning It provides a response to Venkat’s challenge at]

Reality is non-dual. All Advaitins know that this is the teaching, even if they have not yet succeeded in reconciling this with the appearance of the world and their own apparent individuality.

The Self does not act. The jñānī knows this. The well-known statement in Bhagavad Gita 5.8-9 tells us that: The balanced person who knows the truth thinks: ‘I do nothing at all; it is only the senses relating to their sense objects,’ even whilst seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, going, sleeping, breathing, speaking, excreting or grasping; even just opening or closing the eyes. It is all simply the ‘play of the guṇa-s’, name and changing form, like the movement of waves on the surface of the ocean – all is always only water.

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Fire Is Cold:

The impossibility of ‘Fire being Cold’ is invoked by Shankara at least four times to my knowledge in his bhAShya-s on prasthana trayi. It is not seldom do I find that participants use those words of his in their discussions on Advaita fora on topics concerned with the pramANatva of shruti vAkya. However, either they misquote or partially quote Shankara to bolster their own arguments.

Hence, I propose to gather below the four instances where bhAShyakAra invokes the example of ‘Fire is cold’ and indicates the actual purpose, in his own words, when he cites it.

My general impression is that Shankara would never like to compromise on the ‘supremacy’ of the shruti being the highest pramANa even if its word sounds odd for us, the ajnAni-s. Its word is unquestionably supreme when it reveals something apUrva, not known before, that is something not experienced; maybe the exception being in purely loukika issues within empirical transactions (i.e. “matters lying within the range of pratyaksha” –  प्रत्यक्षादिविषये ).

In short, as he says at 3.3.1, BUB, “The authority of the Vedas being inviolable, a Vedic passage must be taken exactly in the sense that it is tested to bear, and NOT according to the ingenuity of the human mind.”
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Q.522 Metaphysics

Q: If metaphysical entities cannot be verified to exist, how can we say anything meaningful about them?

Martin: My position is that everything is metaphysical. (c.f. the question ‘Is everything metaphysical?’ on the Quora website:

So, everything that exists is metaphysical, including language and thought, sticks and stones, trees, all bodies, etc. In other words, there is nothing that is ‘material’ or ‘physical’ per se (which is a pure abstraction or a metaphysical theory).

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Verse1 of Drg Drsya Vivek- An analysis of

Verse 1 of Drk Drsya Vivek (DDV) is translated by Swami Nikhilananda:
“The form is perceived and the eye is its perceiver. It (eye) is perceived and the mind is its perceiver. The mind with Its modifications is perceived and the Witness (the Self) is verily the perceiver. But It (the Witness) is not perceived (by any other).”
A seeker understands on the basis of experience that the sense organ is the perceiver of the perceived sense object. On the same basis, it is accepted that the mind is the perceiver and the sense organ is perceived. The two levels of perceiver and perceived are validated by experience. In the third level, the verse says that the Self is the perceiver of the perceived mind and there is no perceiver of the Self. Is this based on experience or reason, or a combination of both?
Pure Consciousness (PC) is the other name for Self. As PC is beyond the realm of experience, it would mean that the third level is to be understood intellectually only. However, a seeker could (rightly) say: I experience the thoughts, i.e., modifications of the mind and therefore the third level is also validated by experience. A little probing would expose the fallacy. Who is ‘I’? It is not PC, it is ego, the conscious mind, the locus of I thought. Thus, in the third level, the ego is the perceiver of perceived modifications of the mind. As the mind is inert and the ego is sentient, reason tells us that its sentiency must have its source outside the inert mind and body complex. The source is PC. And it is to be (only) intellectually understood that PC is the perceiver of the perceived ego and there is no perceiver of PC. It is the fourth level. Please note that in this, ego is perceived.
A guess: The fourth level is merged with the third level ( treating mind and ego as the same) in the verse for the sake of brevity and/or to conform to the requirement of a verse or for a commentator to do the separation.

Book Review: Heart of Sri Shankara

Sri Satchidanandendra Saraswati Swamiji
(5 January 1880 – 5 August 1975) was the founder of the Adhyatma Prakasha Karyalaya in Holenarasipura, Hassan district, Karnataka, India. Born as Sri Yellambalase Subbarao, he worked as a school teacher in the Indian state of Karnataka. He gave many lectures and wrote many articles on the Vedanta in English, Kannada and Sanskrit.

Satchidanandendra Saraswati was a philosopher who dedicated all his life for the Vedanta sAdhana and attained brahma-j~nAna. He was known as a jIvanmukta sage. He was the best example of a Sanskrit saying, “One should spend one’s life until sleep and until death only in Vedantic contemplation”. (Wikipedia)

Heart of Shri Shankara Swami Satchidanandendra, translated by A. J. Alston. A detailed consideration of what Shri Shankara said about the nature of ignorance, and other views. A translation of a work by Shri Swami Satchidanandendra first published in 1929 under the title Refutation of Root Ignorance or The Heart of Shri Shankara. It considers the philosophical view that there is a ‘root-ignorance’ that ‘creates’ the phenomenal world and which in some sense really exists. The Swami sets out to show that this view arose among Advaitins after Shri Shankara and is contrary to his true teaching.

978-0-85424-050-0 £12.00 from Shanti Sadan in the UK, (Still £12 over 10 years after this review was written!) or available as a PDF download from

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Q.521 External Objects

Q: Do objects exist independently? For example, if one is not seeing the moon then does moon exist or not?

A: From the perspective of absolute reality (paramArtha), of course there is no problem; no question or answer! There is only Brahman; no creation and no objects. But I assume that your question relates to empirical reality (vyavahAra). Here, Advaita teaches that Ishvara governs the ‘creation’, setting and maintaining the physical laws that apply to the universe and the karmic laws that apply to the jIva-s. It is only some post-Shankara philosophers who try to make out that there is only one jIva so that, as soon as this jIva is enlightened, the apparent creation comes to an end. You can read all about the ‘world disappearing on enlightenment’ in the seemingly endless discussions we had on that topic beginning in 2020 (I think).

So, as regards your specific question, objects continue to exist when you go out of the room (for example). Otherwise, other jIva-s would not be able to enjoy them! Suppose that you go outside at night with a friend and both look at the moon. And suppose that you turn away but your friend doesn’t.  If the moon ceased to exist, so would your friend (who is also an object at the gross level).

Advaita is not subjective idealism. Objects are not ‘in the mind’ (although the names and forms that we give them ARE in the mind – hence we can see a rope as a snake). But the moon is not ‘real’ in an Advaitic sense; it is mithyA. The story of the sage and the wild elephant is relevant here. A seeker saw his guru run away when a rogue elephant charged. Afterwards he asked why his teacher had run when he would say that the elephant is mithyA. The teacher replied that the ‘running away’ was also mithyA. (At least, that is how I recall the story.)

Need and luxury

There are basic human needs for survival: food, clothing, and dwelling. A commoner would be content if these needs are reasonably fulfilled. Any other material thing is a luxury. An item is considered a luxury if a person is not emotionally affected by its absence. As time passes and technology advances resulting in the availability of more and more sensory objects, human desire increases, and the scope of needs widens. Gradually a luxury becomes a need. It is material progress and is perceived as growth and prosperity. Think about the reverse effort. Can a person who has gained more than enough material progress convert a need (other than the basic needs in a reasonable measure) into a luxury? Is it possible and can s/he be successful? The answer is yes. It would require, on his or her part, increasing control over sense organs and the mind. It is the beginning of the spiritual journey.

Two lifestyles and two sAdhanAs for moksha

There are four ashramas(stages) of human life according to Vedic tradition. They are brahmacharya (student life), grihastha(householder), vAnaprastha(gradual withdrawal from family), and sannyAsa ( renunciation). They are compatible with four purushArthas (human goals): artha(wealth), kama(desires), dharma (morality and ethics), and moksha (liberation). Moksha is the ultimate goal. It has two aspects, namely, freedom from suffering in the present life and freedom from rebirth. Two important spiritual sAdhanAs(disciplines) for moksha are karma yoga and jnAna yoga. As the name suggests, karma yoga is action-oriented and jnAna yoga is knowledge-oriented. For the purpose of simplicity, karma yoga is taken to include all action-based disciplines, e.g., rituals and upAsanA (meditation). Brahmacharya is preparatory to grihastha and vAnaprastha is preparatory to sannyAsa. Accordingly, grihastha is taken to include brahmacharya and sannyAsa includes vAnaprastha. Thus, there are broadly two lifestyles: grihastha and sannyAsa, and two sAdhanAs: karma yoga and jnAna yoga. Sri Krishna praises both karma and jnAna in Bhagavat Gita (BG)
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