Q: I’ve heard/read from multiple sources that the universe/non-dual everything there is/whatever you want to call it is ‘love’. How do we know that, and why couldn’t it be hateful/evil/neutral/any other way?
A: This is the sort of statement made by ‘new-agey’ teachers. Nowhere in the scriptures (to my knowledge) is this expression used. There is ONLY brahman/Consciousness. The ‘universe’ is mithyA, which means it is not real in itself; it is just name and form of brahman. Brahman is said to be unlimited (anantam) existence (sat) Consciousness (chit) but these are only for the sake of definition/pointers. See also Q. 100 and 120.
Q: In answer to Q.120, you said: “Indeed, according to traditional advaita, part of your preparation for enlightenment involves acting unselfishly, not harming others, living a moral life etc. All the opposites do exist at this level and, if you act knowing your action to be wrong, you will incur the lawful penalty (karma).“
I’m having trouble understanding why one should act ‘morally’ or ‘good’; i.e. why does karma exist at this level? Why is it set up this way?
A: The ‘bottom line’ of advaita is that there has never been any ‘creation’; no jIva has ever been born etc – there is only brahman. Obviously it does not seem like this; there is the appearance of duality and we initially believe this to be real. Accordingly, traditional advaita has a progression of teaching to accommodate this appearance. For those who still believe in duality, the teaching is aimed at the preparation of the mind to accept the more advanced teaching. This includes a world, a creator and laws applicable to the operation of the world and the action of the jIva. And the operation of cause and effect is one of these laws. If you act purposefully, you will reap the fruit of that action; if not in this life, then in the next.
Q: If thoughts arise from Consciousness, and Consciousness is the Absolute, AND we are all connected to the Absolute, why do we not all have the same thought simultaneously?
A: This is one of those many questions which confuse reality and appearance. The absolute reality is that there is ONLY Consciousness and, from that perspective you cannot say any more. At the level of empirical reality, there is clear duality – world, object, separate people etc. At this level, separate people have distinct thoughts, which are private. You cannot mix these two levels except to acknowledge that the empirical level is only an appearance (even though we believe it is real most of the time). As a crude metaphor, you might suppose that you take a lump of gold and make a ring and a bangle from it. If you drop the ring in some chemical and it is tarnished, you might ask why, since the ring and bangle are the same gold, does the bangle not become tarnished also. But this metaphor has its limitations!
Q: At the end of the day, what does knowledge of self give us ?
It does not help answer the burning question of why the appearance/dream/mAyA that we are experiencing as humans or animals exists.
(I am not clear on this one but..) It appears that even though one attains knowledge of self in one janma, he/she can actually become a cockroach in the next due to karmic effect, i.e. we are not really liberated from the birth-death cycle.
The only benefit I do see in a janma where one attains knowledge of self is that such a person might lead a life devoid of misery in the mind as they sail through good and bad times (although they may still experience physical pain).
A (Sitara): In Advaita Vedanta we ask the question “who or what is the true Self” because we trust (in the scriptures and/or statements of those who claim to have answered this question for themselves) that the true Self is one without a second, meaning the true Self is all there is. So knowledge of the true Self, i.e. Self-realization, equals the realization that the perceived world is nothing but the Self alone. As to why it is perceived as world and not as the Self there are many answers within Advaita Vedanta and in Sri Atmanandaji’s Direct Path. I cannot sum them up in a few sentences, as they belong to an extended teaching methodology. I recommend, for a taste, to watch an interview with Greg Goode.)Continue reading →
Q: In your answer to Q. 12 (http://www.advaita.org.uk/discourses/q_and_a/q_and_a2.htm#q12), you said: “At the level of appearance, yes, there is only causality to account for actions. But this does not lead to passivity. Darwinian selection naturally inculcates competition, ‘development’ and ‘progress’. And there is no escaping the fact that we feel as though we have free will. We feel good when we get what we want and bad when we don’t. All of this stuff will carry on regardless but there is no need to feel negative about it. It really is all quite amazing, isn’t it? It is all arising within you, for your enjoyment, as it were!”
And in your answer to Q.22 (http://www.advaita.org.uk/discourses/q_and_a/q_and_a3.htm#q22) you said: “At the level of the phenomenal, all proceeds according to cause and effect (or the laws of Ishvara if you prefer!). Also, there appears to be free will (although I have argued – and believe it to be the case – that the evidence is that there is no free will even at the level of appearance). Again, at the level of appearance, there are clearly individuals (jIva-s) and they are affected by all of the influences (including their own apparent volition) according to the cause-effect laws.”
(My italics to highlight what triggered my question.)
If there’s only causality to account for actions, there should be no space for free will, as all of my actions are causal. And if there is just a feeling that we have of a free will, then there is no free will. To put it in other words, if there is no free will, how can I actually do mumukShutvam (if desire also is a kind of a free will)? For intense Longing for Liberation to happen, I should be blessed with Free Will.Continue reading →
The superficially contradictory ‘descriptions’ of Brahman as ‘neti, neti’ and ‘sarvaM khalvidaM brahma’ [all this is verily Brahman] are brought out in adjacent verses of the Atma bodha, attributed to Shankara (Swami Chinmayananda translation):
Brahman is other than this, the universe. There exists nothing that is not Brahman. If any object other than Brahman appears to exist, it is unreal like the mirage.
All that is perceived, or heard, is Brahman and nothing else. Attaining the knowledge of the Reality, one sees the Universe as the non-dual Brahman, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss-Absolute.
Here, it is first stated that the universe is not Brahman. But it is also said that any other appearance will be unreal, like a mirage. The mirage is a powerful metaphor because the water that appears is in reality only the sand upon which the appearance takes place. I.e. sand is the substratum of the water appearance, just as Brahman is the substratum of the world appearance. It is then stated that all appearances are, in fact, nothing other than Brahman. But this is realized, of course only upon enlightenment. Until then, the world remains very real. Similarly, to the seeker after water in the desert, the mirage is very real. Continue reading →
You say objects really exists, Advaita is not idealism, it is realism. I don`t understand this, in your book you use dream metaphor, you use “cinema” metaphor you even said in your book: “He goes on to explain that our normal states of consciousness – waking, dream and deep sleep – are at the level of appearance. Reality is the non-dual background to these states. Just as our dreams seem real to the dreamer, so this world-appearance seem real to the waker. But, on waking, it is realized that those dreams are nothing but an illusion generated by the mind. Similarly only on awakening to god-consciousness will you appreciate and realize the staggering truth that there exists nothing other than Brahman everywhere. Until that supreme state is reached, the universe will appear real. Living in your present state of ignorance you will have to accept the world that you experience. But at the same time try to contemplate and realize the truth proclaimed by Self-realized souls that Brahman alone exists.” So you changed your mind after writing the book and now you say World-appearance is real, Advaita is realism and there is no illusion at all? I`m confused, can you explain?Continue reading →
Q: Since brahman is non-dual, attributeless, changeless, and eternal, and since brahman is everything, it must follow that everything is also non-dual, attributeless, changeless, and eternal. So how can it be that we experience duality, attributes, change, and impermanence in the world? How can the changeless manifest change, even if this change is in appearance only (mithyA)? How can there be anything but the “perfect” unchanging oneness if everything is this oneness?
A (Ramesam): The manifestation of Consciousness (= Brahman) as the world (multiplicity) in a sense is an “explanatory gap” from a strict rationalistic point of view. It is, perhaps, the ‘weakest link’ in the Advaita siddhanta (theoretical framework).
Having said so, there are a number of ways to resolve the ‘One –-> many’ problem. I shall list here several metaphors just to answer the “appearance” of the world part without getting into the bigger questions related to why and how of “creation” itself (origin of the universe). Continue reading →