Q: On your website it seems that, in the ‘Question and Answer’ section, it implies that there is an individual soul going from body to body. But in this interview from your same site Ramesh Baleskar explains how that is not the case:
A: Glad you find the site useful. I presume you know that I hardly ever change the advaita.org.uk site these days. All of the new material goes to https://www.advaita-vision.org/ and has done for the past 10+ (?) years.
The ‘truth’ of Advaita is that there is only Brahman. ‘Everything’ is Brahman. ‘You’ are Brahman. And, pedantically, that is all you can really say. But of course simply telling someone that is unlikely to enlighten them! Accordingly, there are lots of ‘prakriyā-s’ (ways of explaining things, stories, techniques etc.) to help seekers move their understanding in the right direction. Traditional Advaita has many of these, proven over several thousand years to be helpful in explaining things. For example, karma and reincarnation are fundamental to these. The jīva is ‘trapped’ in saṃsāra – the eternal round of birth and death – until Self-knowledge dawns and saṃsāra is ended. But this is only a prakriyā. In reality, there is only Brahman. There has never been any creation and no one has ever been born, let alone re-born.
Q: I am reading your book ” Confusions in Advaita Vedanta”.
I am from India, born in the Smarta Brahmin tradition of The revered Adi Shankara. The purport of Adi Shankara as repeatedly explained by you is that no pramana or meditation except shabda pramana, teaching of scripture expounded by qualified teacher can give jnana. And this understanding happens in the process of listening once. Repetitions don’t help.
This caused both enthusiasm and later negativity in me. I have heard scriptures being expounded by Swami Dayananda, Swami Paramarthananda, Swami Brahmananda, Swami Parthasarathy, Sri Gangolli (translator of Swami Satchidananendra) etc. But no understanding or Jnana has resulted.
Am I doomed? Or Does it mean I was not qualified enough? More yoga sadhana required for purifying my mind? Of course there can be no doubt that the teachers were qualified. So fault is mine.
I finished reading your five-part series on free will yesterday evening, after several sittings over dinner. It was an interesting and informative presentation indeed. The question of free will has occupied my mind for some years now. In fact, one of the things that drew me to Advaita Vedanta was its position on free will — it seems that more than a few of the arguments closely resemble my own.
Reading your case against free will in HOW TO MEET YOURSELF (pages 170-174), I was struck at how similar it was to the one made roughly 80 years ago by the 20th century English scholar Joseph McCabe. I think the passage is worth quoting in full, as you might find it interesting:
“When you say that you are free to choose—say, between the train and the surface car, or between the movies and the theater—you are using rather ambiguous language. All common speech for expressing mental experiences is loose and ambiguous. You have the two alternatives—movies or theater—in your mind. You hover between them. You do not feel any compulsion to choose one or the other. Then you deliberately say to yourself—not realizing that you have thereby proved the spirituality of the soul, which has made apologists perspire for centuries—‘I choose Norma Talmadge.’ Continue reading →
Q: As you know, all spiritual traditions in Tibet, many in India and even the early Christians took reincarnation for granted.
In Advaita however the idea is blatantly refused. Balsekar says, since there is no ego and the idea of an individual person is an illusion, what or who is there to be reincarnated?
Does this mean that the other traditions are wrong or is it a question of understanding, meaning that the people who argue differently do so from a different level of understanding / consciousness? Continue reading →