Inquiry 5: What Validity Has Vedanta?
The root problem is that in the end, even Advaitic teachings finally rely on ‘blind faith’ to put their point across. There’s nothing wrong in having faith. All religions ask for blind belief in the almighty to get you your promised ‘Kingdom of God’. It’s only in Advaita that folks try to push their case by saying: “No, it’s not pure faith, it’s by reason and discourse that we reach the truth etc”.
To quote Gaudapada in his Mandukya Upanishad kArikA, “That which is stated in the scriptures ‘and is supported by reason’ is true and nothing else”. The ‘reason/discourse’ argument for following Advaita is pure bunkum, in my opinion. It relies on blind faith not on a deity, but in an obscure ‘Self’.
The implication of this series of questions is that the self is wholly theoretical, that it is some philosophical conjecture cooked up and served to the mindless masses as a means of pacifying their angst over an apparently purposeless existence. It further suggests that the self is either a half-baked notion to be accepted on blind faith or an intricate intellectual construct whose validity is so be settled through argument alone.
Vedanta, however, is neither a faith-based religion nor a theoretical philosophy. True, its method of self-inquiry does require faith in its initial stages because the student’s understanding is still clouded by ignorance. But the truth revealed by Vedanta is verifiable through a conscientious examination of one’s own experience. This isn’t to say, of course, that self-knowledge is a discrete experience, but rather that the knowledge contained in experience and which can be culled from it through thoughtful, logical inquiry does serve to reveal the truth when it is properly understood and assimilated.
Actually, according to Vedanta, the quest for a discrete experience of the self is completely gratuitous. The fact of the matter is that we are already experiencing the self every moment of our lives. If reality is non-dual – which it is – then quite obviously there exists nothing other than the self that can be, ever has been, or ever will be experienced.
This assertion, of course, voicing as it does the fundamental understanding upon which the whole science of self-inquiry is based, begs an answer to the question, “How do we know that the nature of reality is non-dual?”