Q: In your comment on the article by Arun Kumar, I was confused but intrigued that you define Mithya as something that simply explains the fundamental nature of the Brahman in life and its objects. I have not so far found any dictionary that defines mithya as anything other than false or illusory nor discovered any major scholar-philosopher who thought that Shankara viewed this world as a reality – as real as the ornament in your metaphor. You say that Shankara himself by discriminating between the waking and dream states suggests that novel meaning of Mithya. Is this your own interpretation or does Shankara himself link the ability to differentiate between those states to explain mithya?
You raise the example of how jumping into the middle of traffic would help one realize why this world is NOT an illusion… but it is not convincing enough. Potentially, both a person jumping in front of a truck and his consequent “death” could be perceived as illusory events too. The real question I have is whether Shankara himself viewed this world as illusion and used Mithya to convey that or not. And, if it was an illusion for him, what did he think the meaning of life was? If on the other hand life was Not an illusion to him, as you seem to suggest, what was its purpose in that case?
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.
Q: There is potential confusion between ‘knowing about it’ and actually ‘being it’; between ‘self-realization’ and ‘self-actualization’. ‘Knowing about it’ is in the mind, whereas ‘being it’ has nothing to do with the mind. Along these lines is why Nisargadatta always said that who-we-really are is prior to the body-mind and Consciousness and to leave them alone.
What are your thoughts about all this?
A: Basically, we are already Brahman. The problem is that we do not know it. Remove the ignorance and we realize the truth. You cannot ‘experience’ or ‘perceive’ Brahman. You can only realize that we are it. Hence, the term ‘anubhava’ is misunderstood and modern teachers have been propagating a misunderstanding of the teaching. The term ‘self-actualization’ is definitely a modern one, I think, and can mean nothing. How can you ‘make actual’ what is already the case?Continue reading →
Q: Based on your own search and discoveries over all of these years, and the writing of all of the books and blogs, if you had to summarize all of this, the truth of life, what would you say?
A: Not sure what you are looking for here. My ‘personal’ view is surely not important and I could scarcely find any better summary than Shankara’s. Anyway, I spent an hour thinking about it (while washing up and vacuuming) and here is my one line summary:
The form does not matter – it is the substance that is important.
Q: How do we know that energy/matter is Consciousness and not just what it is as energy/matter? And why does it matter? Can’t Consciousness just be what it is by itself and simply aware?
A: Energy and matter are both objects of experience. They are transient and finite, changing one into the other and ultimately ending in Absolute zero. Consciousness is the non-dual, unchanging, eternal and infinite reality.
It does not matter from the standpoint of absolute reality. It does not even matter to most jIva-s, since they just get on with the usual pleasure-seeking aims. It matters to one who is seeking Self-knowledge.
Consciousness DOES just be what it is (there is nothing else) but is not ‘aware’ in the usual meaning of the word, since there is nothing else of which to be aware. Continue reading →
Q: If thoughts arise from Consciousness, and Consciousness is the Absolute, AND we are all connected to the Absolute, why do we not all have the same thought simultaneously?
A: This is one of those many questions which confuse reality and appearance. The absolute reality is that there is ONLY Consciousness and, from that perspective you cannot say any more. At the level of empirical reality, there is clear duality – world, object, separate people etc. At this level, separate people have distinct thoughts, which are private. You cannot mix these two levels except to acknowledge that the empirical level is only an appearance (even though we believe it is real most of the time). As a crude metaphor, you might suppose that you take a lump of gold and make a ring and a bangle from it. If you drop the ring in some chemical and it is tarnished, you might ask why, since the ring and bangle are the same gold, does the bangle not become tarnished also. But this metaphor has its limitations!
The superficially contradictory ‘descriptions’ of Brahman as ‘neti, neti’ and ‘sarvaM khalvidaM brahma’ [all this is verily Brahman] are brought out in adjacent verses of the Atma bodha, attributed to Shankara (Swami Chinmayananda translation):
Brahman is other than this, the universe. There exists nothing that is not Brahman. If any object other than Brahman appears to exist, it is unreal like the mirage.
All that is perceived, or heard, is Brahman and nothing else. Attaining the knowledge of the Reality, one sees the Universe as the non-dual Brahman, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss-Absolute.
Here, it is first stated that the universe is not Brahman. But it is also said that any other appearance will be unreal, like a mirage. The mirage is a powerful metaphor because the water that appears is in reality only the sand upon which the appearance takes place. I.e. sand is the substratum of the water appearance, just as Brahman is the substratum of the world appearance. It is then stated that all appearances are, in fact, nothing other than Brahman. But this is realized, of course only upon enlightenment. Until then, the world remains very real. Similarly, to the seeker after water in the desert, the mirage is very real. Continue reading →
Q: What is the difference between the witness, witness consciousness and consciousness? I know myself as the witness or maybe as witness consciousness but I do not know myself as all there is which, I guess, would be knowing myself as consciousness. But how can I ever not see the world of objects? So do I not remain a witness choicelessly?
A (Sitara): Contained in your question are seven questions (which I have passed on to the other bloggers, so some may refer to them):
1. What is the difference between the witness, witness consciousness and consciousness?
This will be answered below along with the last question.
2. (implied question) Is there a difference between the witness and witness consciousness?
Answer: no, not in the way I use the terms. But there is the possibility of a flawed use of the term ‘witness’. Witness means the ultimate subject that cannot be objectified. If witnessing is attributed to the mind, the so-called witness is nothing but a thought, i.e. it is just another object. And the so-called witnessing is nothing but an experience.
If, however, witness is used in the sense of ‘ultimate subject’, you can use ‘witness’ and ‘witness consciousness’ interchangeably. I prefer the term ‘witness consciousness’ (or simply ‘witnessing’) because the term ‘witness’ suggest too much of a personality. Continue reading →