Q.521 External Objects

Q: Do objects exist independently? For example, if one is not seeing the moon then does moon exist or not?

A: From the perspective of absolute reality (paramArtha), of course there is no problem; no question or answer! There is only Brahman; no creation and no objects. But I assume that your question relates to empirical reality (vyavahAra). Here, Advaita teaches that Ishvara governs the ‘creation’, setting and maintaining the physical laws that apply to the universe and the karmic laws that apply to the jIva-s. It is only some post-Shankara philosophers who try to make out that there is only one jIva so that, as soon as this jIva is enlightened, the apparent creation comes to an end. You can read all about the ‘world disappearing on enlightenment’ in the seemingly endless discussions we had on that topic beginning in 2020 (I think).

So, as regards your specific question, objects continue to exist when you go out of the room (for example). Otherwise, other jIva-s would not be able to enjoy them! Suppose that you go outside at night with a friend and both look at the moon. And suppose that you turn away but your friend doesn’t.  If the moon ceased to exist, so would your friend (who is also an object at the gross level).

Advaita is not subjective idealism. Objects are not ‘in the mind’ (although the names and forms that we give them ARE in the mind – hence we can see a rope as a snake). But the moon is not ‘real’ in an Advaitic sense; it is mithyA. The story of the sage and the wild elephant is relevant here. A seeker saw his guru run away when a rogue elephant charged. Afterwards he asked why his teacher had run when he would say that the elephant is mithyA. The teacher replied that the ‘running away’ was also mithyA. (At least, that is how I recall the story.)

What Happens After Self-realization? – 3/3

Part – 2/3 

What happens to the Consciousness part after Self-realization (figurative merger)? – (Continued from Part – 2/3)

Shankara formulates our question in a slightly different manner in his introduction to the subject matter at the Section 4 of the Chapter 4, Vedanta sUtra-s. He states:

“The chAndogya Upanishad at 8.12.3 tells us that ‘after having risen from this body and after having reached the highest light, this serene happy being becomes established in Its own real form (i.e. Self or nature).’ Does that being become manifest with some adventitious distinction (as it may happen in a special region like heaven) or is It established as the Self alone? What could be the final conclusion?”

Shankara is very categorical and clear in his answer and commentary at the next three aphorisms (# 534-536). In the words of Swami Krishnananda, “Emancipation is a cessation of all bondage and not the accession of something new, just as health is merely the removal of illness and not a new acquisition. If release is nothing new that is acquired by the individual self, then what is its difference from bondage? The jIva was stained in the state of bondage by the three states, i.e., the state of waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep.” Continue reading

What Happens After Self-realization? – 2/3

Part – 1

The brihadAraNyaka Upanishad says:

 यदा सर्वे प्रमुच्यन्ते कामा येऽस्य हृदि श्रिताः  अथ मर्त्योऽमृतो भवत्यत्र ब्रह्म समश्नुत इति   — 4.4.7, brihadAraNyaka.   

Meaning:  When all the desires that dwell in his heart (mind) are gone, then he, having been mortal, becomes immortal, and attains brahman in this very body. (Translation: Swami Madhavananada.]

Shankara clarifies at this mantra that “It is virtually implied that desires concerning things other than the Self fall under the category of ignorance, and are but forms of death. Therefore, on the cessation of death, the man of realization becomes immortal. And attains brahman, the identity with brahman, i.e. liberation, living in this very body. Hence liberation does not require such things as going to some other place.” (Translation: Swami Madhavananada.]

Further, Shankara observes at 4.4.6, brihadAraNaka that “Therefore, as we have also said, the cessation of ignorance alone is commonly called liberation, like the disappearance of the snake, for instance, from the rope when the erroneous notion about its existence has been dispelled.” Continue reading

What Happens After Self-realization? – 1/3

[What exactly happens to the “sense of separate self” after “realization of the Self” depends on whether one seeks saguNa brahman (a favorite Godhead or Ishwara) or Nirguna (attributeless) brahman. The Vedanta sUtra-s in the Section 3 and those at the later part of Section 4 of Chapter 4 deal with the result of following the former. The aphorisms # 534 to 542 in Section 4 of the Chapter 4 tell us about the latter. We shall in this Series of three Posts consider the latter case of following nirguNa brahman.]

“What happens after Self-realization?” is a tantalizing question many of us would like to ask.

But before a sensible answer is given to that question, one should have a very clear idea of two other closely related questions: “What is liberation?” and “Who is it that gets actually liberated?”

There can be many answers to these three questions. The answers will vary depending on one’s own understanding, teaching model followed, the explanatory theories used, devices adopted for practice and so on. However, any given answer has to be within the bounds of an overarching condition that circumscribes the Advaita philosophy. That is to say that the answer has to smoothly and seamlessly segue into the two aspects that the Advaita doctrine holds supreme and uncontestable. The two aspects are: Continue reading

From the Grossest to the Subtlest – 2/2

Part – 1

Narada climbs up the staircase from Name up to Spirit almost hopping and jumping spurred by his own enthusiasm and curiosity.   He asks his venerable teacher at each step after meditating, “What’s next?”  He, however, falls absolutely silent after meditation at the level of Spirit, the 15th itself. He has another flight of steps to take to reach the Ultimate, the Absolute!

Swami Krishnananda of the Divine Life Society tells us that the 7th chapter of the Upanishad expounds the magnificent doctrine of the bhuma, the Absolute, the plenum of Being, the fullness of Reality. But also cautions us that “As we go further and further in this chapter, we will find it is more and more difficult to understand the intention of the Upanishad. The instructions are very cryptic in their language. Even the Sanskrit language that is used is very archaic, giving way to various types of interpretations.” Though the words may look familiar, their meaning is significantly different and connote a much deeper sense. Continue reading

From the Grossest to the Subtlest – 1/2

Shankara opens his commentary on the 6th chapter of chAndogya with a very brief intro. bringing out the context of Svetaketu’s story and its relationship (sambandha) to the rest of the Upanishad. He says that the 6th chapter explains two important points, which are:

  1. “How this whole universe proceeds from, subsists in and becomes absorbed (or merged) into brahman because the seeker has been previously ASKED TO MEDITATE, free from all love and hate and being self-controlled, upon that universal brahman to be the source, sustainer and dissolver at 3.14.1 of the Upanishad”; and
  2. “How when the Knower of the Truth has eaten, the whole universe becomes satiated.”

Appropriately enough, after the completion of the 16 sections, at the end of the chapter, he makes the following concluding remarks:

Continue reading

The Disappearing World

The recent post by Ramesam – Ignorance goes, but mAyA remains? – continues to draw discussion. It has now reached nearly 50 comments! Ramesam’s last comment kindly referred to Gaudapada’s kArikA 1.17 and, looking this up in my book ‘A-U-M: Awakening to Reality’, I found that I had put together a very useful post to the Advaitin E-group back in 2009. Accordingly, it seems appropriate to post this here and, since it is longer than a simple comment, I am starting a new thread.

*****

 A favorite topic on the Advaitin discussion group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Advaitin/) (where I am one of the moderators) has been what exactly happens when a person is enlightened or ‘gains mokSha’.  A popular, although somewhat incomprehensible, belief is that the world somehow ‘disappears’; that, for the j~nAnI, there simply is no longer any duality. Quite how the j~nAnI (apparently) continues to eat, drink and converse is not adequately explained by those who hold such a view. But Gaudapada approaches it from a different and even more dramatic angle. Continue reading

Q.489 Creation and reincarnation

Q: Is Ishvara/mAyA the one responsible for the form of the universe or is the jiva responsible for it?

If Ishvara/mAyA:

  • then who/what is Ishvara and how does it create the universe?
  • then how does adhyAsa come into the picture because if Ishvara is the creator then even if adhyAsa is removed then the appearance of the world will still be there.

If the jiva

  • then why does the world not disappear upon enlightenment (a jiva is responsible for the dream at night whilst asleep, therefore the dream disappears upon waking)

I have heard many examples of gold/ornament with regards to the universe and Brahman (Gold being brahman, the names/forms being the ornaments). I’m not sure I have fully grasped this comparison, in what sense does matter depend on Brahman?

I see that all things are experienced IN consciousness and therefore in that sense the world of objects/atoms/quantum fields etc depends on consciousness/Brahman because the world can not be experienced without consciousness. It doesn’t seem right to me, because it’s not something you could ever refute. Obviously we can’t experience the world without consciousness. Continue reading

Q. 445 Experience and brahman

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.

Is experience comprised of Brahman-as-Presence?

Continue reading

Q. 482 What happens after videha mukti?

Q: When the jIva removes the ignorance of his real nature, and realizes Atman is his Real unchanging Self, if the body dissolves, what happens afterwards?

If there is no further birth, do we then remain as Absolute, without name and form, without knowing anything other than pure Self? Is it like space all being uniform without any form? Is there nothing that is known? Surely it doesn’t remain In an absolute ‘stateless state’ of no Knowing?

A: There have been a couple of questions around this before – see http://www.advaita.org.uk/discourses/q_and_a/q_and_a44.htm#q263 for example.

Your question is based on a misunderstanding. At the empirical level, there is indeed a ‘person’ who may or may not become enlightened. If he/she does gain Self-knowledge, then clearly the outlook of the person for the remainder of his/her ‘life’ is going to be different.

Continue reading