Q: I have just read your book ‘How to meet yourself’. I am not sure if I understand what you mean when you say that “Consciousness is happiness” and that “I am happiness”. Since everything is an appearance within consciousness, wouldn’t happiness be just that? Why would we equate consciousness to happiness?
A: Before answering the question, it would be useful to note the difference between Consciousness and consciousness. Consciousness with as capital ‘C’ is used throughout in all of these answers to refer to Brahman, the non-dual reality. The mind is conscious because Consciousness is reflected by the mind. The body and mind are both inert in themselves. It is important not to confuse these terms.
The actual paragraph is:
“Fourthly, it would not be meaningful to talk about Consciousness being happy or unhappy. Being complete and without limitations of any sort, it is more appropriate to say that Consciousness is happiness. This, then, is an aspect of my true nature. Since I am Consciousness, there is nothing that I need, nothing to be achieved, nowhere to which I have to get. I am already perfect and complete – I am happiness”.
So I effectively agree with you, saying that “it would not be meaningful…”. The problem with trying to say anything at all about the ultimate reality is that you cannot. Any descriptive term is extremely partial and also excludes its opposite. In the end, you have to follow Wittgenstein’s dictum: ‘Whereof we cannot speak, thereof we should remain silent.’
It also depends upon how you define the word ‘happiness’. ‘Perfect and complete’ seems not too bad a definition!
A general point however is that, if you want a good explanation of what Advaita is all about, ‘How to Meet Yourself’ is not such a good book. It was intended to stimulate readers looking for happiness, meaning etc. to investigate Advaita and maybe gain some real mumukShutva – intense desire to gain Self-knowledge. If you want a more ‘accurate’ explanation of all this, a better book to read is the second edition of ‘Book of One’.
Q: Is this understanding directly about what we truly are, and are not? Does all of this actually come down to that specific understanding of true identity? Or, is it a more ‘full’ understanding of the scientific facts of life, the cycles, the elements, etc.?
Please help clarify!
A: The scriptures from which the teaching of Advaita derives cover all these aspects. But the point is that only the Self is truly real; everything else depends upon the Self for its seeming reality. Much of the ‘scientific’ description will seem archaic to the modern mind. For example, only five elements are described (space, air, fire, water, earth). But this is ultimately irrelevant anyway and does not detract from the essential presentation and unfoldment of the nature of ‘life, the universe and everything’. Rather the opposite – the relative simplicity makes it easier to avoid getting bogged down in irrelevancies. Aspects relating to human behavior, motivation, spiritual practices and so on are timeless, anyway.
Q: So at the end of the day, everything is pointing to That!? And all of the stories and explanations and removing of ignorance is also to ultimately get to That?
If so, this really helps and takes so much effort and struggle away from trying to figure everything out!
A: Shankara’s précis of the message of Advaita is: ‘Brahman is the reality; the world is mithyA; the jIva is non-different from Brahman’ and you could say that the entire message of the scriptures is contained in the mahAvAkya ‘tat tvam asi’ – you are That. So yes, it is all very simple. But you do not need to be told that it is also contradictory to everything we experience and most of what everyone else tells us. So ideally you do need a teacher to explain it all step by step and answer your questions. Simply reading the scriptures is extremely unlikely to bring you Self-knowledge, even if you can read Sanskrit!