Q. 479 What should I read?

Q: I am new to Advaita I am currently reading Drg Drsya Viveka and the works of Swami Vivekananda. I also sometimes listen to commentary from Swami Sarvapriyananda from the NY Vedanta Society. And I frequently read thru your website, but my internet connection is poor.

Which book of yours and maybe others would you recommend to help?

A: Don’t read Vivekananda. He is, unfortunately, a source of much confusion in Advaita, rejecting some key aspects and embracing teaching from Yoga (which is a dualistic philosophy). Here is a list of recommended books for beginners that I produced recently for someone: Continue reading

Q.478 What is love?

Q: What is love in Advaita Vedanta? What is love for ‘god’? Despite the path of love’s many fruits, Is it not a dualistic concession? Without mAyA what is love?

A: Love is not really an ‘issue’ in Advaita. It may well be something that is spoke of frequently by modern (new-agey) teachers, because it is popularly an important subject in life, but it is necessarily a dualistic concept. There has to be a subject ‘lover’ and an objective ‘loved’. And of course the reality is non-dual. There is only the Self. In fact, the only scriptural reference I can think of is Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.5.6. Here, it is pointed out that a person loves his wife/husband/children etc. not for their sakes but for one’s own sake, i.e. the Self that is the Self of all. And it concludes with one of the most famous instructions in Advaita: “The Self, my dear Maitreyi, should be realized – should be heard of, reflected on and meditated upon. When the Self, my dear, is realized by being heard of, reflected on and meditated upon, all this is known.”

Love of God is certainly an interim element of the teaching for many, although perhaps the word ‘devotion’ is less emotive/confusing. This is more in the sense of surrender (of the fruit of action and so on).

You are right that it is a dualistic concept and therefore only of interim relevance in the teaching of Advaita. All concepts have to be given up in the end – including that of mAyA, and God… and Advaita!

Debate with a crypto – buddhist – 4

S. Again, you keep jumping into unfounded conclusions about Brahman and consciousness. These are your beliefs. We all have them. Reduction is not the same as truth or fact. It is an assumption. Our assumptions are often wrong (not the end of the world). You introduce two elements that are distinctly Indian in origin, Brahman, which you say is the ultimate reality, and consciousness, which you say can be objectless.

I don’t see how you can separate these things from the totality of phenomenon. When you reduce this to a single truth, you automatically elevate it into a hierarchical model and that highest element is Monism. Why do you insist on separating things out? The universe does not work like that, it is only our minds that are attempting to do so. The struggle of mind to sort out what doesn’t need sorting is where duality resides. Continue reading

Debate with a crypto-Buddhist – 3

You raise a lot of questions, and I will go about them one by one, hoping you won’t mind.

1). Everything is a belief until the belief is replaced by a conviction based on an experience – or experience-knowledge – , the experience (intuition + reasoning) needing no proof.

2). Consciousness and intelligence are prerequisites for understanding what any concept (e.g. ‘matter’) means. Without consciousness, nil. That is why it is logically, ontologically, and epistemologically prior to any enquiry or investigation. Can this be contested?

3). When writing or reading, are you and I conscious? Is there need of a proof for this (which I call reality or fact)? The fact of being conscious as a living being is irrefutable. Another question is whether it is the brain, or consciousness/mind, that which is causal in this ‘binomius’ – subject-object (thinker-thought). Continue reading

Karma and Advaita:

A Question asked at a Social Network Group:

“Is there a room for a concept of karma within non-duality? Is karma not another concessionary concept, useful only for the mind still caught in the belief of cause and effect?

A Reply:

It is very important and valuable in Shankara Advaita to have a correct perspective on ‘karma.’

It is, however, futile to expect or to give a one word or even a one line answer to the question. To do so will be an insult to the question itself!

Your hunch that “karma is another concessionary concept, useful only for the mind still caught in the belief of cause and effect” is very true, if you consider the seeker to be no more than a distilled mass of 2-3 lbs of brain. But fortunately or unfortunately, that mass of brain always comes with many appendages and appurtenances. Those can never sit tight! Continue reading

Shankara Advaita vs. Shiva Advaita:

Many of the current popular Non-dual teachers in the West, both from the USA and UK, seem to present a version of Advaita which is a mix of Shankara’s philosophy and Kashmir Shaivism. Their audience, who are usually less inclined to accept the requirement of a prolonged prior mental preparation (called the “Purification of the mind” (cittasuddhi) insisted by the traditional Advaita, savour this mix essentially for two reasons. One is that the Karma theory and the concept of rebirth which are very much an integral part of Shankara’s teaching gets rarely mentioned by the Western teachers. The other is that the Western tech-savvy mind appears to prefer a world that is One seamless Whole without divisions (advaita) as the Reality in preference to a world which becomes totally apparitional as Shankara avers, post Self-realization.

A recent publication titled “Liberation and the World- in Advaita Vedanta and Pratyabhijna” by Klara Hedling** attempts to pin point precisely where the Advaita philosophy of Shankara differs from the Non-dualism of Kashmir Shaivism. An excerpt from it follows: Continue reading

Q.477 Meditation and Brahman

Q: I have just been initiated into japa meditation. I just wondered: is the mantra a sound or a word?

And if Atman and Brahman are one, I am interpreting that correctly to mean that in my deepest Self (soul) I am divine – at one with Brahman? And that that signifies a unity (oneness) not sameness (identity)?

To put it in Christian terms, in my soul the Spirit of God dwells (as Eckhart said: ‘the I with which I see God is the same I with which God sees me’ and ‘my ground is God’s ground, God’s ground is my ground’). 

Thus Advaita: ‘not two’ (but not completely one either – monism). In Christianity: ‘whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me’ (Matthew 5: 45).

A: ‘japa’ meditation is the mental repetition of a sound or a mantra. You could use the name of a god but it would still function as a sound. I.e. you are not supposed to ‘think’ about it, dwell on its significance etc. – that is a different form of meditation entirely. You give attention only to the repeating sound, ignoring any other thought. The repetition gradually loses its intensity and frequency and you are eventually left with complete mental silence. (May take a few years to get to this point!)

Atman and Brahman are two words for the same non-dual reality. The former is from the perspective of the (apparent) person and the latter from the as-if-perspective of absolute reality. Ishvara is the name given to Brahman from the perspective of empirical reality. Everything (including you and Ishvara) is simply name and form of Brahman. The relevant metaphor is that of bangle, ring and necklace being name and form of gold.

It would be best for you to temporarily forget all about Christianity and any other religion/philosophy until such time as you fully understand Advaita. Then you will be able to see that all the others are attempts, with varying degrees of success, to approach an understanding of the same truth. Trying to reconcile the views will only lead to confusion.

Debate with a crypto-buddhist – 2

M. Thank you for your well-argumented comment. Empirical science is one thing; philosophy another. Other than Monism there is Non-duality (‘not-two’). Ultimately there is no essential distinction between matter and consciousness which latter, logically and epistemologically, is prius; equally, no distinction between subject and object, observer and observed. The existence and reality of consciousness, which is independent of all phenomena, doesn’t need a proof. Continue reading

Q.476 – Metaphors

Q: Which metaphor in Advaita is the closest to truth? For example:

1.      If I take the “Snake in rope” metaphor, I must consider that “there-is-something” called rope, which is mistaken for something else (snake). So, in this metaphor, there is a TRUE rope and UNTRUE snake.

2.      If I consider the “Water in Mirage” metaphor, there is the UNTRUE water, but there is no substrate on which this is happening (there is no rope equivalent here).

3.      If I consider the “Dream” metaphor, there is the UNTRUE dream cosmos and dream characters and there is the TRUE dreamer in whose mind all this is happening. So the substrate is the dreamer’s mind – though it is “no-thing” in itself.

The doubt is…
Metaphor 1 gives an impression that there “is-something” out there, but we mistake it for something else and give it name & forms etc.

Metaphor 2 gives an impression that there is “nothing out there” and what we see is only inside our mind (the mirage has no substrate out there, but just an error in our mind).

Metaphor 3 is somewhat in the middle of metaphors 1 & 2 – Like metaphor 1, it has a TRUE substrate (the dreamer’s mind) but that substrate itself is just mind stuff (like metaphor 3) which can appear and disappear instantly, following no rules of any sort (rope will follow some rule, but a dream elephant may fly).

So is there something “out there” (some ineffable substrate – say energy) which is misunderstood as something else (say matter, forms) OR there is “nothing-out-there” and whatever we see is only our minds-stuff in motion?

Many thanks to the teachers for having this forum where seekers could ask their questions and helping others see the great truth! Continue reading

Is it possible to live without technology?

How possible would it be for you to live without Technology? (From Quora)

My answer: A given individual can live without technology – telephone, radio, TV, automobile – but society in general can no longer go back (how far back?) to the time of 3 or 4 generations ago. Everything has been ‘piling up’ and become more and more complex and, at the same time, integrated or intertwined more or less haphazardly. We need modern technology even if only to take us out of this mess – a mess which I don’t need to describe in any detail and which affects the whole world.

Are we at the point of no-return? Nobody knows. While there are dangers, there are also opportunities, advances and turn-backs. Each individual is like a cog of a great machine (or a thread in a tangle?), and only individuals can bring about some change for the better – others do it for the worse. It is like the ancient lore of good and evil in endless battle. The myth of Prometheus (and also that of Pandora) loom over all of us. The Greeks understood all this very well.

‘Advaita Vision’ is an antidote.