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.

Q.504 – Covid and Enlightenment

Q: According to Advaita, God is  ONE, and manifestations are  many. The term ‘God’ is also called ‘Consciousness/Awareness’. It is a fundamental principle that there is nothing beyond Consciousness; everything arising from  Consciousness is Consciousness only. Dualities such as good-bad are not found in Consciousness.

If all this is the case, can the  virus COVID-19,  which is  shaking the world,  also be termed  as ‘Consciousness’?

A: Yes indeed – the substantial reality of Covid is also Consciousness, since there is only Consciousness. It is like the metaphor – bangle, chain and ring are all only gold.

But in the empirical reality of the world, the form of Covid brings disease whereas the form of vaccination brings protection from disease. No real problem – Consciousness is not affected by any of it!

Q: Thank you very much for your reply. However I have the grievance that I, the individualized spirit, cannot stop worrying  about the distress caused  practically , even though my ego mind is convinced with the theory of Advaita.

How can I reconcile the practical difficulties which  I face  with the teaching of advaita? What  you have stated is  only based on Advaita theory. I am badly hit by the above disease. Please advise.

Continue reading

Q.491 Individuality and the world

Q: Does individuality survive enlightenment? In other words, putting aside any genetic differences, age, etc., would 50 realized people act the same in the same environment? Would they have the same preference for food, clothes, etc?

If not, why not? It seems that If the ego is completely destroyed, and a soul does not exist, and a person is in a permanent state of enlightenment, there wouldn’t be any difference between any of them. (My definition of an ego includes all past experiences.)

In addition, people often say something like, “I always wanted to do that,” or “Deep inside I always knew I would be a doctor or a scientist,” etc. What is that? Where does this “knowing” come from? Is it just an ego playing its games? 

Thank you, I appreciate your help. Your books are really great. I’ve enjoyed reading them.

A: Good questions! But, before I answer them, you have to always bear in mind that questions like these refer to the appearance, not the reality; vyavahAra, not paramArtha. In reality, no one has ever been born; there is no ‘creation’; there is only Brahman. (I’m assuming from what you say that you have read ‘A-U-M’, in which case you will be happy with this!) So the answers are academic, in line with traditional Advaita, but are all mithyA in reality.  Continue reading

The “I-am-realized” Delusion – 5:

Part – 4

The Non-dual message of the Advaita doctrine is so deceptively simple that one feels tempted to say “I got It,” though in reality s/he has not. Fortunately for us, various scriptures and authorities like Shankara offer a number of means to test ourselves on our progress on the Knowledge Path so that we do not foreclose our sAdhana (practice) too soon. All through this Series of posts, we have been trying to provide many hints and markers that may help a committed seeker in protecting himself/herself from deluding prematurely that s/he is “Self-realized or Enlightened.” It has been our endeavor to present reliable self-appraisal mechanisms based on authentic sources and we shall continue below with a few more easily doable means of verifying the state of our “Realization.”

Shankara does not mince his words when he says at both 1.4.7 and again at 1.4.10, brihadAraNyaka:

अविद्याशोकमोहभयादिदोषनिवृत्तेः प्रत्यक्षत्वादिति चोक्तः |  — Shankara at 1.4.10, brihadAraNyaka. Continue reading

The “I-am-realized” Delusion – 4:

Part – 1               Part – 2              Part – 3 

We have from Bhagavad-Gita:

ब्रह्मार्पणं ब्रह्म हविर्ब्रह्माग्नौ ब्रह्मणा हुतम् ।
ब्रह्मैव तेन गन्तव्यं ब्रह्मकर्मसमाधिना ॥            —  4.24, Bhagavad-Gita.

Meaning:  brahman is the offering, brahman the oblation; by brahman is the oblation poured into the fire of brahman; brahman verily shall be reached by him who always sees brahman in action.

Some people who delude themselves to be Self-realized cite the above verse and argue that they see each and every object to be brahman. It is blatantly an inadmissible argument because it would imply that the indivisible brahman has divided Itself into multiple bits and pieces.

The shruti is very categorical when it tells us:

एकधैवानुद्रष्टव्यमेतदप्रमयं ध्रुवम्    —   4.4.20, brihadAraNyaka:

Meaning:  It should be realized in one form only, (for) It is unknowable and eternal.

Shankara comments at the above mantra:  “Since It is such, It should be realized in one form only, viz. as homogeneous Pure Intelligence, without any break in it, like the space; for It, this brahman, is unknowable, owing to the unity of everything (in brahman).” Continue reading

The “I-am-realized” Delusion – 3:

Part – 2

We come across very often in the Western Advaita circles, teachers and well-read writers who do not hesitate to say “I am realized.” Such a  deluded belief in claiming Self-realization appears to be based principally on two fallacies. One is that when they say that “I know I am aware,” they falsely assume that they are in touch with the Absolute Awareness. The second is that they think that they see a world of multiple objects even after Self-realization, because the  objects apparent to them are preexistent to their perception, all the objects being already ‘brahman‘ — as if the indivisible brahman has made it especially easy for them to perceive Itself (brahman).

As Swami Sarvapriyananda lucidly explains in this Video, about 30 to 32 min into his talk, the awareness one knows when one says “I am aware” is the fallacious or shadow consciousness and not the Absolute Consciousness. An easy verification can also be made by oneself to ascertain if it is the chidabhAsa (reflected Consciousness) or the Absolute brahman through a simple test as suggested by the Swami Ji in that talk. Thus the awareness that they assume to be in touch is not brahman, but the reflected Consciousness only. Continue reading

The “I-am-realized” Delusion – 2:

Part – 1

Dennis raised a question on how one can conclude that the word “this” in the 3.14.1, chAndogya would mean “the ‘Universal’ substratum of the world and not the nAma-rUpa-vyAvahAra which are the perceivables.” His contention is that “this” refers to the percept itself.

If what is directly available for the five sensory organs + mind is itself brahman, neither the Upanishads nor the Advaitic teachers right from Gaudapada, Shankara and so on need to have taken any trouble at all  to point out to the seeker what brahman is. On the other hand, all the teachers go to considerable pains to explain that what is available to perception “veils” the Reality, the Substratum and that what is available for perception is a superimposed “falsity” out of our ignorance.

Shankara, in fact, is so tired of repeatedly pointing this fact in all his bhAShya-s that at 2.1.22, BSB, he writes out of exasperation that “We Continue reading

The “I-am-realized” Delusion – 1:

Many people with a nodding acquaintance of Advaita often forget that the ‘ego’ is not totally non-existent. It is not ‘tuccha’ like ‘the hare’s horn’ or ‘the son of a barren woman.’ It has a relative existence. Like the world. Neither of these two have ‘Absolute Reality.’ In fact, the ego and the world are coeval – the ego with a sense of ‘agency’ and a claim of being the sentient ‘knower-doer’ and the world being the insentient ‘known’ and ‘the field for action.’ Because of their mutual dependency, there cannot be an ‘apparent’ world unless there is a seer to whom it has ‘to appear.’ Their relationship is something like that of the tree and the seed. Therefore, their real ‘source’ has to be something different from either of them – much like the earth without which neither there can be a seed nor a tree.

The ‘source’ for both the ego and the world, Advaita says, is the eternal immutable impartite brahman. Thus, in the Advaitic lingo, brahman is said to be the kAraNa for both the mutable ego and the world. Though the word kAraNa in common parlance means ‘cause,’ it does not stand to mean in that usual sense of a process relation, but it has to be taken to connote to be the ‘source for origination.’ Continue reading

pratibandha-s – part 5 of 10

Read Part 4


Shankara differentiates what might be called ‘ordinary’ or ‘intellectual’ knowledge (j~nAna) from ‘transformative’ knowledge (vij~nAna). The knowledge becomes transforming – i.e. making it efficacious in conveying the status of jIvanmukti – when the gaining of it has been preceded by successful sAdhana chatuShTaya sampatti. In his bhAShya on muNDaka upaniShad 2.2.8, he says:

“Wise, discriminatory people (dhIrA) see through vij~nAna; vij~nAna is a special (vishihtena) knowledge (j~nAna), born out of the teaching of shAstra and AchArya (shAstra AchArya upadesha janitam), and received in a specially prepared mind, born (udbhutena) out of total detachment (vairAgya), having control of inner and outer organs (shama and dama), and which is therefore capable of upAsanA to begin with and later of nididhyAsana which together are called meditation (dhyAna). Through such a vij~nAna, wise people realize that the nature of the Atman (Atmatatvam) is non-different from the nature of Brahman (brahmatatvam)…” (Ref. 10)

‘Who am I?’ in communication

Who are we speaking of when we use the words ‘I’ and ‘you’ in writing and speech?

Since we are Advaitins, there are actually three possibilities:

  1. ‘I’ could mean Atman/Brahman, if used from the ‘as if’ pAramArthika viewpoint;
  2. ‘I’ could mean the reflected Consciousness (chidAbhAsa);
  3. ‘I’ could mean the usually understood ‘named person’.

Continue reading

Consciousness, Ego and Self-knowledge

Verse 3.42 of the Bhagavad Gita says that the sense organs are superior to the gross body, the mind is superior to the sense organs, the intellect is superior to the mind and the Atma is superior to the intellect. Superiority also refers to subtlety.  Our interest is in the mind, the intellect and finally in the Atma.  There are five fundamental elements called panchabhutas.  They are space, air, earth, water and fire.  The subtle body is made of panchbhutas in their primary or nascent forms.  When the panchabhutas undergo a process of compounding among themselves, the gross or physical body emerges. The mind and the intellect belong to the category of subtle body, i.e., made of the five elements in primary form.  The Atma is beyond the panchabhutas because It is not a thing or physical entity.

We all know that we are a conscious entity. We also feel so.  We are also certain that consciousness is different from the gross body. However we are not so sure whether the consciousness is different from the mind because consciousness ordinarily gets mixed up with the mind.  Vedanta says that the consciousness is different from the mind. It is based on the axiom that the subject (observer) is different from the object (observed). This is Seer-Seen discrimination (Drg Drisya Viveka). Continue reading