Q.345 – The Purpose of Life, part 4

Go to Meenakshi’s answer to this question

Part 4 – Dhanya’s answer to this question

Q345: What is the purpose of life?

 If, as stated in Advaita, we are actually in a state of sat-chit-Ananda and we are actually this ‘Self’ already, why have these ‘illusions’ and this ‘ignorance’?

 How can we believe in lila? What could be its purpose? There is no convincing answer – I am sure you will concur.

This then raises my more fundamental query. This ‘Self’ on which reams have been written – what is the proof that such a ’Self’ exists?

 The root problem is that in the end, even Advaitic teachings finally rely on ‘blind faith’ to put their point across. There’s nothing wrong in having faith. All religions ask for blind belief in the almighty to get you your promised ‘Kingdom of God’. It’s only in Advaita that folks try to push their case by saying: “No, it’s not pure faith, it’s by reason and discourse that we reach the truth etc”.

 To quote Gaudapada in his Mandukya Upanishad kArikA, “That which is stated in the scriptures ‘and is supported by reason’ is true  and nothing else”. The ‘reason/discourse’ argument for following Advaita is pure bunkum, in my opinion. It relies on blind faith not on a deity, but in an obscure ‘Self’.

 And even if reality is non-dual, why this seeming duality? Why does this mithyA of life exist?

A (Dhanya): As far as I know Vedanta recommends that statements which are given in the teachings should conform to three things.

1. The words of the scriptures  (sruti)

2. Logic (yukti)

3. One’s own experience (anubhava)

 Initially when one comes to the teachings, one does require to have sraddha (faith pending understanding)—the sraddha—the trust—that the teacher knows what he or she is talking about, and the trust that the teachings will work as a means of knowledge (pramana) for recognizing the Self.

 When you take a course in physics you have the sraddha that the teacher can teach, that he or she knows the subject matter and can convey it to you.  We have sraddha in a lot of things.  Without that sraddha—that trust—how could we learn anything from another?

 The whole point of the teachings is not to have the student leave with a catechism or litany learned by rote and sustained by blind belief, but rather the point is that the student has gained the direct immediate recognition of what the truth of one’s here and now experience actually is.

 So the words of the teaching, and the manner in which the teacher handles the words, act as pointers to the reality which one already is, but which one has over-looked and misconstrued.

 In the end, when the words of the teaching and the skill of the teacher have done their job, one recognizes what is being pointed out for oneself.  Then one no longer needs sraddha, for the truth stands revealed and is recognized to be entirely self-evident. 

 You are that Self.  Everything is that Self.  Nothing exists that is not that Self, and you directly cognize this self-evident fact for yourself.

Thus sraddha—faith or trust pending understanding—is needed initially, but in the end it is not needed. 

 If someone holds a flower up to my eyes, do I need to trust that I am seeing it, or do I actually see it?  I may trust someone when he or she tells me, “I’m going to hold a flower up to your eyes so you can see it.”  But once I see the flower, what trust do I need?

 To address your second point, why is there duality in the first place?  Why do we initially take it to be true?  What’s the point of the whole thing anyway? 

The answer, as far as I know is simple.  The answer is because that’s the way it is.  In other words, there is no reason that duality exists, or that we do not initially recognize the truth of it. It just is that way.  We may initially rail against that, and think it isn’t fair, or even that it doesn’t make sense.  But in the end when we have recognized the truth of it, and know that my being is the being of the whole thing, we may come to admire the beauty and intelligence which manifests as duality and enjoy it, knowing that it cannot harm who I really am in any way at all.

 All the best!

Go to Dennis’ answer to this question