‘sarvAtmabhAva’ – 3

Part – 2

We shall continue with the shruti and bhAShya citations on sarvAtmabhAva in this Part of the Series. Continuing from Part – 2 :

(iv)  विद्यायाश्च कार्यं सर्वात्मभावापत्तिरित्येतत् सङ्क्षेपतो दर्शितम् । सर्वा हि इयमुपनिषत् विद्याविद्याविभागप्रदर्शनेनैवोपक्षीणा यथा एषोऽर्थः कृत्स्नस्य शास्त्रस्य तथा प्रदर्शयिष्यामः   — 1.4.10, BUB.

While the effect of Knowledge (meditation) has been briefly shown to be identity with all, the whole of this Upanishad is exclusively devoted to showing the distinction between the spheres of Knowledge and ignorance. We shall show that this is the import of the whole book. Continue reading

‘sarvAtmabhAva’ – 2

Part – 1

In this and the next two parts of the Series, we shall try to map the occurrence of the word सर्वात्मभाव (sarvAtambhAva) in the prasthAna trayI and/or the Shankara bhAShaya-s there on so that the meaning of the word stands out by itself in its usage and the context. Continue reading

‘sarvAtmabhAva’ – 1

The single most important word in the entire Lexicon of Advaita Vedanta can be said to be, without any contest, ‘sarvAtmabhAva‘ (सर्वात्मभाव). It, at once, abstracts the totality of the ancient Non-dual teaching and also expresses it most elegantly and efficiently striking a close chord within us. The word is the ‘Touchstone’ to distinguish the brawn from the brain, the grain from the chaff, the True Knower of Truth from the also-rans. It is far less esoteric and ethereal to my mind compared to another popular summation of Advaita Vedanta as the teaching of jIvabrahmaikya (जीवब्रह्मैक्य) – the Oneness of Atman and brahman.

We shall, therefore, try in this and the next few articles to tease out in detail the meaning and the usage of the word, ‘sarvAtmabhAva‘ (सर्वात्मभाव), in the various  canonical texts and the commentaries on them by Shankara. Continue reading

mANDUkya upaniShad Part 1

I have just started reading the massive commentary on the mANDUkya, Gaudapada kArikA-s and Shankara bhAShya (if it was Shankara) by Divyaj~nAna Sarojini VaradarAjan, so I thought it might be appropriate to post my own translation and commentary on the Upanishad itself from ‘A-U-M’.

The VaradarAjan book is in two volumes and, as far as I am aware, is only available from Exotic India at £65 to post to the UK. Only 500 copies were printed and these may sell out quickly as her Upanishad commentaries are unparalleled.

My own book ‘A-U-M: Awakening to Reality’ is a ‘by topic’ rather than verse by verse commentary, although it does cover all of the material. The specific translation and commentary on the 12 verses of the Upanishad itself are relegated to an Appendix, since the material is rather ‘dense’, and the tone less ‘conversational’ than the main body of the book. It is available from Amazon:

Book ($34.95): Buy from Amazon US; Kindle ($16.49): Buy from Amazon US

Book (£20.99): Buy from Amazon UK; Kindle (£6.99): Buy from Amazon UK

This series will post the whole of Appendix 1 of ‘A-U-M’ and, in general, each post will cover one verse of the Upanishad. This first post, however, covers the shAnti pATha – the traditional prayer at the beginning of an Upanishad – and Shankara’s introduction.

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The Final Paradox – ahaṃ brahmāsmi

Shankara’s explanation in Bhagavad Gita bhāṣya 2.21

[Note that this is a ‘stand-alone’ article which nevertheless supplements the material asking ‘Who am I?’ in the pratibandha posts beginning https://www.advaita-vision.org/pratibandha-s-part-5-of-7/. It provides a response to Venkat’s challenge at https://www.advaita-vision.org/verse1-of-drg-drsya-vivek-an-analysis-of/#comment-9797]

Reality is non-dual. All Advaitins know that this is the teaching, even if they have not yet succeeded in reconciling this with the appearance of the world and their own apparent individuality.

The Self does not act. The jñānī knows this. The well-known statement in Bhagavad Gita 5.8-9 tells us that: The balanced person who knows the truth thinks: ‘I do nothing at all; it is only the senses relating to their sense objects,’ even whilst seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, going, sleeping, breathing, speaking, excreting or grasping; even just opening or closing the eyes. It is all simply the ‘play of the guṇa-s’, name and changing form, like the movement of waves on the surface of the ocean – all is always only water.

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Q.520 Perception and the witness

Q: How can the mind perceive something which is outside of time, when the mind itself is caught in time like a prisoner? Perception in itself is a movement in time so how can mind even claim to perceive the concept of Brahman and say that Brahman is eternal?

A: The mind cannot perceive anything ‘outside of time’. As you say, perception occurs within time (and space). And, more to the point, that which you perceive is also within time and space. Thus, you can never perceive Brahman. But conceptions are not quite the same. The concept itself is in the mind, which is also limited. But what is conceived is not limited. You can conceive of a unicorn with no problem at all, even though you also know that they do not really exist. Scientists also conceived of black holes, long before any proof was found for their existence – and still no one has ‘really’ perceived such a thing.

But perhaps the simplest way of thinking about it is to consider deeply who you actually are. It is possible to eliminate body, sense organs, mind, and anything else that you can think of as ‘not I’. But it is not possible to eliminate the one who is doing this. There has to be an ‘ultimate subject’ after everything else has been eliminated. That is who you really are and that is Brahman.

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Consciousness and the world

What is the scriptural basis for Advaita consciousness being an awareness preceding the universe?

That’s an ‘easy’ one. 1)  Consciousness and awareness are the same for Advaita Vedanta. 2) Atman-brahman, or Consciousness, is the sole reality – the universe is, in essence, not other than Atman (Consciousness or ‘Spirit’). 3) Consequently, there is no creation – no causation, including space and time, which, like everything else, are phenomena, appearances.

Mundaka Upanishad 2.1.10: ‘the world is brahman alone’. 

K 3.18. In this karika Gaudapada demonstrates that creation is only apparent because reality is unchangeable (and it is taught that the effect is not other than the cause).

Katha Up. 2.1.10: ‘Whoever sees difference between what is here (individual Atman/’soul’) and what is there (brahman) goes from death to death’.

Brihadaranyaka Up. 2.5.19: ‘The supreme being is perceived as manifold on account of Maya’ (magic).

Taittiriya Up. 2.6: ‘Brahman, which is the absolute reality, became reality (satya) and unreality/appearance (asatya)’. That is, the cause itself appears as various effects due to superimposition, which is itself the core, or definition, of ignorance (avidya). Cf. Tai. 2.6, Chandogya Up. 2.8.4, and Bhavagad Gita 4.13 and 13.2.

Q.516 World outside of perception

Q: According to science, there was a world prior to humans where there were no living, conscious things. If nothing can exist independently of consciousness like Advaita suggests, then how could there have been a world prior to a perceiver? If there was no sentient being to experience the Big Bang, how could it have possibly existed?

A: Your questions relate to the apparent creation. The final teaching of Advaita is that there is no creation – there is only the non-dual Brahman. This means that the entire teaching of Advaita is interim only since it takes place in what is only empirical reality.

Having said this, the traditional teaching says that the creation, maintenance and dissolution of the universe is ‘managed’ by Ishvara, using the ‘power’ of mAyA. This means that He governs all of the laws that relate to creation and the jIva-s who inhabit it. Now you have to realize that science has ‘advanced’ significantly since the time of the Vedas. While they speak of the raw elements being space, earth, water, fire and air, we have a somewhat more complex cosmology! And I don’t think it is particularly fruitful to try to map one onto the other. Science can never explain Consciousness so is of no value in trying to understand the nature of reality.

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“Seeing” Objects per Advaita –

We all take it for granted that there is a world full of objects, plants, animals, people and so on out there external to us. All of us also believe that we are born into a world which pre-exists us.

The general public wonder how this enormous world came into being. The scientists study the various facets of its origin and evolution; philosophers conceptualize different ethereal theories for its creation; artists and poets sing peans in its praise.

Advaitins, on the other hand, are unique in their bold pronouncement that the appearance of a world is a mere mental projection, no more than a hallucination.

In order to explain their doctrine, they ask us to rewind our tape, go back to our own birth, the birth of all our ancestors, nay, not only the forefathers but humanity and life itself and beyond — including the very beginning of any living or non-living matter. In other words, clean out the slate completely. And begin at the very beginning. To help us in the process, Advaita tells us that the entire range of things we observe in the whole of the universe can be reduced to two categories: Continue reading