Reality of the world

The discussion that follows stems from a comment I made on a recent article in the July NOW Newsletter. This is produced by a group in Australia led by Alan Mann and is a resource for the works of Thomas Traherne, as well as Douglas Harding, John Wren-Lewis and George Schloss.

I publish our email exchanges verbatim, as they occurred, below. Please feel free to add any useful comments!

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Hi Alan,

Regarding your preferred definition of ‘real’ (“The definition of real which I prefer is: actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed.”):

Does a chair exist? As a chair? What if I remove the legs and back; is it still a chair? Was it a chair a year ago, 10, 100, 1000 years ago? What about similar periods in the future? I suggest that it is not the chair that exists at all, it is the wood out of which it is made. (And the same argument applies to the wood over longer timescales.) A ‘chair’ is not real; it is only name and form of wood. Etc. ‘Things’ are not real; no ‘thing’ exists in its own right; it is dependent upon something more fundamental for its existence. And this goes on, all the way back to Consciousness.

Have you read the story I wrote about this? – the ‘first definition’ at You can publish this in your next edition if you like.

Best wishes,
Dennis Continue reading

Tattvabodha – Part 16

Part 16 of the commentary by Dr. VIshnu Bapat on Shankara’s Tattvabodha.This is a key work which introduces all of the key concepts of Advaita in a systematic manner.

The commentary is based upon those by several other authors, together with the audio lectures of Swami Paramarthananda. It includes word-by-word breakdown of the Sanskrit shloka-s so should be of interest to everyone, from complete beginners to advanced students.

Part 16 looks at the ‘definition’ of Atman as sat-chit-ananda – existence-consciousness-bliss and concludes the section on Atma vichAra.

There is a hyperlinked Contents List, which is updated as each new part is published.

Vedanta the Solution – Part 30

VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem by D. Venugopal

Part30 concludes the discussion on the ‘description’ of brahman as satyam j~nAnam anantam and then looks specifically at the meaning of ‘existence’ (sat) with reference to the body-mind-sense-complex.

There is a complete Contents List, to which links are added as each new part appears.

The Mystery – Part 3

Continuing this new, short series presenting the booklet by Bimal Prasad, in which he answers some ‘Rarely Asked Questions’ on Life. Primarily from the perspective of Advaita, questions addressed include the nature of happiness, consciousness, mind and ego. There is also practical guidance on meditation in the final chapter. Answers are relevant and succinct, so that many of the issues of interest to the seeker are covered.

This third part is entitled ‘Pointers to Consciousness’ and answers questions about the nature of existence, reality, truth and consciousness. See the Contents List or go straight to Part 3 of the series.

The complete (electronic form) booklet may also be purchased from Amazon.

Q. 378 – Existence and Experience

Q: Without hot, cold doesn’t exist. Without up there is no down, without in there is no out etc. The basic nature of duality. However if you apply this to the non-dual Brahman…

In the absence of that which is not (Brahman), that which is (Brahman), is not (doesn’t exist.)

My idea is that the Relative Reality is not only dependent on the Absolute (Brahman) but that actually both are interdependent on each other. I know this is counter to Advaita and forgive me and my lack of knowledge, especially of the Sanskrit terms, and I’m sure it makes your skin crawl to continually refer to things such as relativity as a reality.

Why do I say something can’t exist without it’s opposite? I will do my best to explain my ideas.

A thing cannot exist without it’s opposite because it cannot be experienced without it’s opposite, or rather awareness of it’s opposite. If a thing cannot be experienced then it does not exist, to the one experiencing it.

Ultimately, everything exists in one of two ways, either as a potential or possibility, or as a realized form. Continue reading

Vedanta the Solution – Part 22


VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem by D. Venugopal

Part 22 concludes the chapter on ‘Enquiry into the Self as subject’, equating Consciousness and Existence and looking at the relationship between the body-mind-sense complex and Consciousness.

There is a complete Contents List, to which links are added as each new part appears.

Being is Reality

All things exist. We cannot conceive of non-existence as different from existence, for even non-existence, in order that it may convey any sense, must become a content of consciousness. And consciousness must be.

Existence is the minimum to which things can be reduced, without which even thought is impossible. Everything relates to existence of some kind, and there is no thought of non-existence. To argue along the lines of Parmenides, existence is that which does not admit of any change. We cannot think what is not, for what is not cannot come into being, either from what is or from what is not.

If what is comes from what is, we would be stating something which we ourselves do not understand, for what is includes all things, and there is no such thing as the production of what is from what is. What is, again, cannot come from what is not, for what is not has no meaningful value. To posit the relation of what is to what is by way of causation involves a tautology, and to conceive of the coming into being of what is from what is not, is absurd.

There cannot be something other than what is, for what is, is the all. Even supposing that there is such a thing as the coming into being of one thing from another thing, we would have to admit that nothing other than what is can come into being, for we cannot add anything to what is, and anything added must itself be a part of what is.

There cannot be anything exceeding what is, and what is not, again, cannot come into being. That which is cannot increase, and cannot also decrease, for it is always. If something is to be removed from what is, so that the latter may be lessened, what is removed should be either what is or what is not. What is cannot be removed from what is, and what is not cannot, again, be removed from what is, for it means nothing at all.

The concept of dimension, again, is possible only when there is spatial separation of one thing from another. But even space is included in what is. So what is cannot be diminished in any way. And it cannot be increased, because we cannot add anything to it other than itself.

Existence is the whole reality. It does not admit of either addition or subtraction, production or change of any kind. In order that it may move or change, there should be space; but space is not outside it. True being has no origination, no change, and so no end. This being must be equally present everywhere, with no less or more of it anywhere. It is that which is.

As being is indivisible, it cannot conceive of a real distinction of things in it. All things are being. If there are things other than being, they must be non-being. Even becoming has meaning only when it has being. If being is to be divided, we may have to introduce some other distinguishable and distinguishing element in it, which would be nothing but non-being.

Being is reality.

from The Philosophy of Life by Swami Krishnananda, The Divine Life Society.

What is Brahman? (Part 4)

(Read Part 3)

Leo Hartong also uses the metaphor of clouds, as thoughts, in the blue sky of ‘I am’ awareness:

“Ramana Maharshi recommended that one investigates by asking the question ‘ Who am I?’ When asked who you are, there might be a hesitation as to what to answer; but when asked if you exist, there is no such doubt. The answer is a resounding, ‘ Yes, of course I exist.’ When the answer to the first question is as clear as the answer to the second question, there is understanding.

“The realization is that both questions have in fact the same answer. That which is sure of its existence –the innermost certainty of I Am- is what you essentially are. In other words: I Am this knowing that knows that I Am. The Hindus say Tat Tvam Asi (Thou Art That). In the Old Testament, God says, ‘ I Am that I Am.’ This undeniable ‘ I Am’ is not you in the personal sense, but the universal Self. Ramana Maharshi called the fundamental oneness of ‘ I Am’ and the universal Self ‘ I-I.’ Continue reading

Topic of the Month – Brahman

brahman3The topic for Sep 2014 is brahman.

This is, of course, THE topic of Advaita – what else is there?

I posted part 1 of the 3-part essay, which I wrote back in 2009 on the subject of Brahman, last month. I will post part 2 within the next 24 hours.

I recently started looking at Shankara’s dakShiNamUrti stotram for the first time and encountered there a way of looking at tat tvam asi that I hadn’t previously encountered. jIvAtman is treated as Consciousness (tvam – you) and paramAtman is treated as Existence (tat – brahman – every’thing’). asi is aikyam – identity. You are That. Consciousness is Existence. Maybe others have studied this text and can elaborate?

Please submit your quotes, short extracts or personal blogs on this topic!

Who Slept Well – part 3

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAExperiencer of the Deep-Sleep-State

As noted in Part 2, we have three experiences in the deep-sleep state: 1. I exist, since I say I slept well; 2. I have the knowledge of homogeneous ignorance, since I say I did not know anything; 3. I was happy or I did not experience the pains of BMI, since I am not conscious of the BMI or any duality. The question remains: if the mind is not there, then who experiences these and who recollects these experiences on waking up, since the experiencer and the recollector have to be one and the same? These appear to be puzzling questions that need to be addressed. Who is going to provide the answer to this – a sleeper or a waker? For this, scripture alone becomes a pramAna, or means of knowledge, since the mind that uses logic cannot provide the answers. No objective tools can be used or would be valid to analyze the deep sleep state, since all objective entities (apart from ignorance) are absent in that state. Hence, objective scientists also have no tools available for investigation. These aspects have to be clear even when we are studying the opinions of other philosophers such as Shree Atmananda-ji , unless these opinions are shruti based. Continue reading