Some time ago (31st Oct 2020), during our prolonged discussions (beginning early Sept 2020) upon whether the world literally disappears when a jIva gains enlightenment (Ramesam and Venkat say that it does and I deny that), Ramesam asked me to provide references to support comments that I had made. Since this topic is very relevant to Volume 2 of my book on ‘Confusions in Advaita’, I have been researching and writing about it for the past 6 months. Since the various aspects now take up some 30,000 words plus, I will not be posting any more material – you will have to wait for publication of the book, unfortunately unlikely to be before 2023.
Apologies to readers who will find that this post is not particularly readable or directly helpful. The book presents all of the arguments in a logical and readable manner, only using the indicated quotations as supporting material. Here, the references only are presented solely to complete the earlier discussions and provide ‘answers’ to Ramesam and Venkat as the pUrvapakShin-s.
Q: I am struggling to understand where reality ends and mithyA begins.
I understand that everything in my experience is Consciousness. But I cannot reconcile this with seeing ‘things’ in the ‘world’. I appreciate that, if I am Brahman, meaning that my little jIva consciousness is actually Brahman, then it is my consciousness that is generating this entire perception of nature and mammals. In other words, the only thing going on with the ‘jIva seeing world and objects’ is Consciousness.
But what is going on for the animals and objects? Are they really there or not? Are they appearing just through my human mind via Brahman/Consciousness? Are there no objects in reality? When I see a leopard, all that is real is Consciousness seeing Consciousness? Then how are the leopards appearing with so much complexity and purpose?
I realize that time and space are appearing in Consciousness; I realize that leopards are appearing in Consciousness. But what are they? Do you have any way to answer this that doesn’t rely on the Advaita Vedanta language since that language isn’t getting through to me? I.e. dependent reality, Ishvara, mAyA, mithyA: none of these words seem to be pointing me in the right direction.
Here is a great and profound Talk by Swami Sarvapriyananda who patiently, taking all the time in the world and repeating himself for the sake of the audience, explains the process of perception and realization of the Self. The Video is over 1 hr 39 mins. It is enough to watch the first 56-57 mins. The rest is Q&A; a couple of questions are good.
If one carefully watches this Video, it will not be possible to hold on to the notion that a jnAni, who “understood” what is brahman, not in theory but really, would “still see objects as ‘objects’ but just the difference is that he now (after the “realization”) knows them to be unreal.”
The Self-realized individual sees himself/herself (i.e. brahman = Awareness) everywhere.
Brhadaranyaka means ‘great forest’; it is one of the longest Upanishads covering a breadth of topics, and one on which Sankara wrote the most extensive of commentaries. As a result it is easy to get lost in this forest, to pick out specific trees within it, without seeing its broad sweep and context.
In BU4.3 and 4.4, Janaka is helped by Yajnavalkya, step by step to attain liberation. At each significant step, Janaka offers Yajnavalkya a boon of a thousand cows as gratitude and to progress the teaching further; until at the final stage, when he is liberated, he offers his entire kingdom and himself.
[Beingness, Knowingness and Infiniteness is brahman.]
Unending Beingness and Knowingness is the nature of brahman.
There are two endpoints for anything in this world — one is the beginning and the other is the ending. But brahman, The Knowingness, as the Upanishad says is Infinite, without limitations or edges or endpoints. It has neither a beginning (origination) nor an end (culmination).
From a common sense point of view, it may be argued that “Knowingness” cannot exist on Its own in the absence of a knower and something to be known. Can Knowingness ‘be’ in a vacuum? Is Its presence not dependent on a knower who would have been the locus for It? In the usual parlance, knowingness is that which interlinks the ‘knower’ with the ‘known.’ With the two end-members being absent, can ‘Knowingness’ exist on its own independent of the other two? Continue reading →
A misconception that is spread around in many a Non-dual fora is that whether I know It or not, I am always perceiving God (or brahman). In order to corroborate this belief an easy analogy is given – whether we are aware or not we see only the screen when we watch a movie. As though watching the screen and watching the movie are the same! 🙂
While explaining a verse from the Gita, the fallacy of the above concept was brought out clearly with a forceful illustration by a Swami Ji. (The Commentary of the Swami in three volumes is yet to be published and hence, the details are embargoed for now). The verse says, Continue reading →
Q: I know that Brahman is not an object I can find; I think of it more like the realization that I am the tenth man (you know this story I assume). But when I have this sort of realization (I have a lot of them), I can’t tell whether I am realizing Brahman or something else.
One set of realizations involves a sort of inner presence that reveals itself like existence-consciousness-limitless, and I feel it as present in my heart region. It’s very deep and real and it does not come and go like an experience. It gets covered up by my thoughts and emotions, but it’s always there.
Another set of realizations involve a sense that the world of objects is not actually there because the objects are made of consciousness rather than matter.
So my question is: Is Self-realization something you discover in your heart like a presence of happiness or of a consciousness that doesn’t ever come and go but only seems to be obscured by thoughts? Or is self-realization the knowledge that all the objects in the world and mind are made of only consciousness, in the way that dream objects are made of dream-consciousness?
I believe that Advaita Vedanta is saying that somehow nothing exists other than consciousness and thus the objects that appear (including the mind and subtle realm) are not made of matter but rather are ‘made of’ consciousness. Is this correct?
Pravishtha and apravishtha (Does Brahman actually enter an object?)
This is a dialog between guru ParAshara and shishya Maitreya from Swami VishudhAnanda’s book “PakshapAta-rahita Anubhava”. (Parashara says to Maitreya):
Hey shishya remember that you are Self-illuminated Atma. When objects in this world are formed from five elements one can say that these elements actually enter (pravishtha) in the objects and one can also say they are do not enter (apravishtha) in the objects – like gold in ornaments is pravishtha or also apravishtha; mud is pravishtha in the pot or also apravishtha; the rope is pravishtha in the illusive snake or also aprvishtha; the witness of the dream is pravishtha in the dream world or aprvishtha. Similarly, you the name & forms based substratum on which the world is superimposed (namrupatmak vivarta-upadan-karana), Existence-Consciousness-Bliss Atma is pravishtha in the imaginary, names & forms based objects and also apravishtha.
I will explain how it is pravishtha. There is not a single element of any ornament in this names & forms based world that is not occupied, pervaded or apart from the gold that is Brahman. In other words, you the Existence-Consciouness-Bliss (Asti-Bhati-Priyam) Atma is the gold that is pervaded in objects or the ornaments in such a manner that there is nothing apart from gold (that is you). You can say that for the wise ones there is total elimination of of names & forms (atyantabhAva) in ornaments; all they see is gold. Without Brahman the gold, you will not be able to find any ornaments. But in every ornament you will find gold only. That is why we say that gold the Brahman is pravishtha in the ornaments.
Q: Lord krishna advises Arjuna that Anatma alone is killed. Can meat eaters extend the argument to their killing for food?
A: Matter is anAtma and is inert. It depends for its existence on Brahman.
All life forms manifest Consciousness to some degree. Man is unique in having an intellect that ‘reflects’ Consciousness, enabling self-awareness.
Everything is brahman, being just name and form. Nothing is ever born in reality. Nothing can be ‘killed’ in the sense of destroying Consciousness, which is eternal and unchanging. It is only anAtma that can change its form but it cannot be destroyed either (c.f. conservation of mass-energy).
Within the context of that understanding, therefore, it is a question of ethics, custom, upbringing and so on that dictates one’s attitude to the ‘right to life’ of the various species. Man has to eat to maintain the body and everything that is eaten for that purpose either is or has been alive.
The topic of ahiMsA is key to Jain and Buddhist philosophies. It is not a particular issue in Advaita. Its mention in the Gita is probably rather due to its significance for Yoga philosophy.