Q.525 Consciousness is prior to the universe

Q: What is the scriptural basis for Advaita consciousness being an awareness preceding the universe? [(sic) From Quora]

A (Martin): 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, as everything else, are phenomena, appearances.

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

Gaudapada kArikA 3.18: In this karika Gaudapada demonstrates that creation is only apparent, because reality cannot undergo change (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). c.f. Tait. Up. 2.6, Chandogya Up. 2.8.4, and Bhavagad Gita 4.13 and 13.2.

Verse 18.66 -Bhagavad Gita [ Part 1/2]

सर्वधर्मान्परित्यज्य मामेकं शरणं व्रज।
अहं त्वा सर्वपापेभ्यो मोक्षयिष्यामि मा शुचः।।18.66।।
Meaning: Having renounced all actions, seek ME, the nondual, (as your) shelter. I shall liberate you from all sins. Do not grieve. [SwAmi ParmArthAnanda]
Chapter 18 is the last chapter of the BG and verse 66 is the last verse of the teaching of the BG. Therefore, it is called charam [final] sloka. Verses 67 to 78 are winding up verses. Standalone 18.66 looks ordinary. To quote SwAmi ChinmayAnanda, when the essence of teaching is packed in a few words, it may be deceptive. Continue reading

Time according to Advaita

Martin,

Your post made me realize that I have rarely, if ever, encountered any definition/explanation of the concept of time in Advaita. It set me off on a search of my library to try to find something. Apart from those books which index every word they contain (e.g. Krishnaswamy Iyer’s ‘Vedanta or the Science of Reality’ has 107 page-references to ‘time’), I could not find anything in any of my physical books. A search of my electronic database came up with very few references and the only scriptural one I could find is from Vivekachudamani 497:

sthulādibhāvā mayi kalpitā bhramā-dārōpitānusphuraṇena lōkaiḥ |
kāle yathā kalpakavatsarāya-ṇartvā dayō niṣkalanirvikalpe ||497||

John Grimes translates:

Sthūlādi = gross and so on; kalpita bhramāt = erroneously imagined; āropitānu-sphuraṇena = manifestation superimposed; kale = time; kalpaka = eons; vatsarāyaṇa = years and half-years; ṛtvādi = seasons and so on.

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.

Continue reading

Consciousness

I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.
– Max Planck

(X): Non-dualism is not something that can be understood in any formulation of words, and at best one can approach it conceptually only perhaps by means of negation, meaning by specifying what it is not.

A1. All doctrines and teachings are necessarily couched in language, which is a system of symbols. All concepts are just pointers (e.g. ‘pointing at the moon’), including those of Nonduality (ND). So it is not only negation — I think you will agree. I also referred myself to superimposition followed by rescission as a method of gradual understanding taught in Advaita Vedanta. The final end is doing away with language once final understanding has been reached, that is, once there are no further doubts or questions.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Ramanuja vs Shankara

Who would win in an argument between Ramanujacharya and Shankaracharya?

As non-duality can be said to go beyond, and at the same time enclose duality within itself, we can also say that Shankara, being a non-dualist philosopher, goes beyond and ‘incorporates’ Ramanuja, that is, the latter’s philosophy (it has been said: a jñani understands a bhakta, not vice versa).

Ramanuja took the ego (psychological self) as being the Self, an error for an Advaitin. For the former, destruction of the ego (“me”) will thus entail the destruction of the Self. For an Advaitin, the ego or subtle body (mind, senses, and vital breath) dissolves when the body dies – not so awareness or pure consciousness.

From the viewpoint of Advaita Vedanta, ‘consciousness’ is another name for reality/being/existence: all there is or that can be (all possibilities of existence). Neither ‘subject’ nor ‘object’, it annihilates this (mental) division, as well as sublating all concepts.

Or, as Francis Lucille, a well-known teacher wrote: ‘Simply put, non-dualism is the hypothesis that reality is non-dual, that there is only one single reality which is the substance of all things, of all phenomena, both mind and matter. If that is true, it follows that the reality of our ordinary consciousness, meaning whatever is really perceiving these words at this moment, must be this non-dual, single, and universal reality.’

Shankara said:

‘An enlightened person, after his death, does not undergo a change of condition – something different than when he was living. But he is said to be “merged in Brahman” just due to his not being connected to another body.’ Quoted from ‘The Method of Early Advaita Vedanta’, Michael Comans.

Is Advaita a trap?

Yes, it is a trap for individual mind – that is, the mind that considers itself a separate and independent individual, a doer and enjoyer. After usually many years of seriously studying Advaita (emphasis on ‘seriously’) with full force and dedication, it may dawn on that mind that the belief described above was actually a trap and a lie. Realizing this, by a stroke of magic as it were (so one might think without straying much from the truth), BINGO! you are free… free from the mind’s doubts, fears, hopes, projections, and tribulations. You then realize that only universal consciousness (a.k.a awareness) is true, and that that is what You are —the quotidian mind has disappeared, become no-mind, that is, pure unalloyed consciousness.