Martin. In this seeming world of so-called saṃsāra (or vyavahāra) language and understanding, is there an entity or entities that understand, judge, etc.?
Neo-Advaitin. This is simply ‘life’. ‘Being’ appears to talk to ‘Being’ about things that ‘Being’ already knows (and need no reminding). It is just ‘playing’.
Since there is never an actual central ‘self,’ there could be no separate entity that asks a question or makes a reply. There is no separate entity that asks or answers. It is simply Life answering Itself.
But it seems that you don’t get this, or are not able to discuss it without going back into concepts and the need to find the correct label to assign, whether that is ‘nihilism’, ‘Advaita Vedanta’, ‘spontaneously self-realized’, ‘abhāsa’, etc. I suggest you drop all that, all those presumed ‘things you know.’ Freedom lies in the unknowing, the moment-by-moment un-nameable, not in the knowledge, information, and labels that the ‘mind’ thinks it has gathered. Who is the ‘you’ called ‘Martin’ writing this question?
Q: I have been studying Advaita for the last 20 years. I have read multiple books on the subject and I am presently reading your book “Answers…” but have only read 213 pages so far.
The dilemma I have concerns praying or addressing myself to what I call ‘Infinite Consciousness’.
I start by asking that the veil of ignorance be lifted from the mind so that ‘what is’ may be revealed. Next, I give thanks for the day, for all things done, for animals and vegetables eaten and meaningful words read. But, in so doing, 3 questions have occurred:
Adhering to the teachings of Advaita, I find myself asking: “Who am I praying to?” and
“Who is praying?”.
If I am simply an expression of ‘God’, am I addressing myself in these prayers (because if so, I have a huge issue with an ego inflating itself)?
Suppose, I sit and imagine with and within my mind that I and you are both sitting at a Caribbean beach (of course wearing masks and observing safe distance) watching the boats and the men and their activities. What can we say about the stuff with which all those objects in my imagination are made up of? Is there any substance at all in them?
Suppose I see in a mirror me and the entire room where I am. What can we say about the stuff with which all those objects in the reflection are made up of? Is there any substance at all in them?
Suppose a bunch of exquisite and unseasonal flowers and an imposing elephant are conjured up by a magician (Illusionist). They are indistinguishable from real flowers to the eye and the animal’s behavior is very natural, What can we say about the stuff with which all those objects in the magic are made up of? Is there any substance at all in them? Continue reading →
Q: What exactly (in Reality – i.e. Brahman is the only reality) is experience?
I know that there is a relative level where there are jIva-s and objects and minds and Ishvara, but if we talk about the absolute reality – Brahman – then I believe that there is no experience possible.
Brahman is the only reality and Brahman does not have experiences of any kind – yes?
So if I realize myself as Brahman, then I have to see all my experience as mithyA, yes?
SO: if you are agreeing to the above, and if I am following correct logic: why do so many teachers of non-duality and even of Advaita Vedanta say that experience is the only means through which we can explore reality?
As jIva-s in the relative realm, the only thing we have to navigate reality, is our experience. So again: what is an experience? Is there no reality to an experience?
Many teachers who are famous and well-respected point to the Presence of God as a palpable experience of peace, fullness, truth, love which comprises the reality of all our experiences. They say Presence is Brahman in manifest form and is eternal.
Q: What is love in Advaita Vedanta? What is love for ‘god’? Despite the path of love’s many fruits, Is it not a dualistic concession? Without mAyA what is love?
A: Love is not really an ‘issue’ in Advaita. It may well be something that is spoke of frequently by modern (new-agey) teachers, because it is popularly an important subject in life, but it is necessarily a dualistic concept. There has to be a subject ‘lover’ and an objective ‘loved’. And of course the reality is non-dual. There is only the Self. In fact, the only scriptural reference I can think of is Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.5.6. Here, it is pointed out that a person loves his wife/husband/children etc. not for their sakes but for one’s own sake, i.e. the Self that is the Self of all. And it concludes with one of the most famous instructions in Advaita: “The Self, my dear Maitreyi, should be realized – should be heard of, reflected on and meditated upon. When the Self, my dear, is realized by being heard of, reflected on and meditated upon, all this is known.”
Love of God is certainly an interim element of the teaching for many, although perhaps the word ‘devotion’ is less emotive/confusing. This is more in the sense of surrender (of the fruit of action and so on).
You are right that it is a dualistic concept and therefore only of interim relevance in the teaching of Advaita. All concepts have to be given up in the end – including that of mAyA, and God… and Advaita!
Q: I have just been initiated into japa meditation. I just wondered: is the mantra a sound or a word?
And if Atman and Brahman are one, I am interpreting that correctly to mean that in my deepest Self (soul) I am divine – at one with Brahman? And that that signifies a unity (oneness) not sameness (identity)?
To put it in Christian terms, in my soul the Spirit of God dwells (as Eckhart said: ‘the I with which I see God is the same I with which God sees me’ and ‘my ground is God’s ground, God’s ground is my ground’).
Thus Advaita: ‘not two’ (but not completely one either – monism). In Christianity: ‘whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me’ (Matthew 5: 45).
A: ‘japa’ meditation is the mental repetition of a sound or a mantra. You could use the name of a god but it would still function as a sound. I.e. you are not supposed to ‘think’ about it, dwell on its significance etc. – that is a different form of meditation entirely. You give attention only to the repeating sound, ignoring any other thought. The repetition gradually loses its intensity and frequency and you are eventually left with complete mental silence. (May take a few years to get to this point!)
Atman and Brahman are two words for the same non-dual reality. The former is from the perspective of the (apparent) person and the latter from the as-if-perspective of absolute reality. Ishvara is the name given to Brahman from the perspective of empirical reality. Everything (including you and Ishvara) is simply name and form of Brahman. The relevant metaphor is that of bangle, ring and necklace being name and form of gold.
It would be best for you to temporarily forget all about Christianity and any other religion/philosophy until such time as you fully understand Advaita. Then you will be able to see that all the others are attempts, with varying degrees of success, to approach an understanding of the same truth. Trying to reconcile the views will only lead to confusion.
Religion (dharmA)- accumulating brownie points through worship, good deeds, etc. to take us to a Heaven after death
In the quest for preferably uninterrupted happiness through all transactions, all the time, everywhere and through everyone and everything we come in contact with, the early part of life frantically engages us in secular actions one after another mainly in the fields of pleasures and securities. As age and maturity catch up, some discerning peope start failing to see consistent happiness in material objects and relationships and slowly turn towards God and devotion, still seeking happiness there though! This shift now drives them to indulge in more sacred actions than secular like social service, pilgrimages, fasts and other austerities. Many don’t feel complete even after having sought Religion. They might have everything in life and yet continues an unexplained, nagging itch in the heart which wants something more. That itch may turn to questions– “Why do I seek relationships to make me feel loved, complete and happy?” “Why do I need the world(which includes situations, behaviour of people, etc.) to be a particular way for my happiness?” “Is this ever-changing physical body the real “I”?” “Why am I not comfortable with the idea of death and losing people I love?” “What is God?” “Is my purpose here just to eat, sleep and procreate or is there a greater meaning to all this?”
This seeking process doesn’t follow a specific linear order of progression for all but is an average blueprint for man’s general behavioural progress!
Morality (part 2) One way of classifying the various theories is as follows:
Morality might exist as absolute truths – so-called Moral Realism or Ethical Absolutism. Just as we believe that 1 + 1 = 2 must always be true, so perhaps it is somehow necessarily true that we should not kill another human being. This is effectively what Plato believed, with the truths somehow existing in the world of Forms. We discover these principles through philosophical insights rather than inventing them or devising them to suit our own purpose. And they necessarily apply to everyone irrespective of their inclinations or the nature of the society in which they live.In the absence of absolute certainty regarding these truths, we are obliged to act according to what we think they are.In this view of morality, things are ‘good’ irrespective of whether a God decrees them. We ought to be able to see that ‘loving our neighbour’, for example, is going to be beneficial to ourselves and society, whereas committing adultery is likely to upset a few people. We should not really need any outside agency to endorse such attitudes.
Pragmatism and William James to Linguistic Analysis and Wittgenstein
Pragmatism Developed originally in America, and to some extent in rebellion against the metaphysical theories current in Europe at the time (especially Idealism), Pragmatism is effectively a method for determining the worth of philosophical problems and their proposed solutions. What was thought to matter was not all of the intellectual speculation and theorising usually associated with philosophising but the practical worth at the end of the day. Is a theory actually of any use to us in our day to day life? Will it make any difference to me if I follow it or am even aware of its existence? The word ‘pragmatic’ has now passed into everyday usage as referring to an approach that actually works.
The original ideas were developed by C. S. Peirce, who saw himself as following up the system devised by Kant. He thought the only purpose in philosophising to begin with was in order to solve problems that we actually encounter. We should then use the scientific method to enquire into the problem, drawing up hypotheses, experiments to test them and so on. Once we have an answer that gets us over the original problem we should simply stop there. A proposition is ‘true’ if everyone who investigates sufficiently thoroughly comes to the same conclusion. Continue reading →
Science has achieved a lot; and it promises to do so in the future. The spirit of scientific enquiry based on theory and experiment is the bedrock on which humanity has progressed. The humans have this unique thirst to know which set them apart from other conscious beings. The spirit of knowledge and enquiry has made our lives comfortable over so many centuries. It has its own detractors. Science has given us the atom bomb too and the methods of mass destruction. Maybe, science has also equipped us with destroying ourselves. But, the fact remains that scientific enquiry will never stop so long as humans are alive, because the spirit of knowing more about the world is one of the prime movers in the individual and the collective scheme of things. However, there comes a point when the scientists must give up, put their hands up in despair, and shout,’ We cannot go any further’. There are certain edges beyond which everything is in a state of permanent fog and a mist. The author calls them the ‘known unknowns’. The book is a brilliant exposition of these edges of science which are beyond the grasp of the human mind presently. Continue reading →