This can be seen from two perspectives: 1) lower or empirical, and 2) higher or spiritual (I try to avoid the word ‘metaphysical’). I am not going to consider what Christianity or Islam hold about any of these two perspectives, only the non-duality of Advaita Vedanta (Buddhism does not contemplate individual existence per se). According to the Advaitic tradition the individual self (jiva) can be considered as a reflection of the higher Self and then his/her faculties (basically memory, mind, and sense of self) as well as all bodies are separate and individual – this pertains to ordinary, transactional life. This is the realm of ignorance (avidya). Continue reading
Does Advaita Vedanta acknowledge the existential reality of suffering and non-suffering occurring in Atman even after the spiritual liberation, or suffering becomes impossible in Atman after the spiritual realization?
‘The existential reality of suffering and non-suffering… in Atman’? You write ‘suffering and non-suffering’, which makes no sense, as written, in the case of the highest principle, Atman (Atman-brahman or the Self) – there cannot be suffering in the Self, only non-suffering. Further, the way the question is written… ‘existential reality’, implies that you have in mind ordinary or worldy experience, but this confuses the issue, since ‘suffering and non-suffering’ cannot be ascribed to either the Self or the (empirical) self (jivatman- seen as individual and separate). Indeed, it is the lot of the self (ego or mind) to be immersed in a sea of difficulties and troubles – opposite ‘realities’ or experiences – but here it is suffering (samsara) what charterizes the life of an ordinary jiva — not ‘non-suffering’.
On self-realization what is eliminated, or, rather, disappears of its own, is psychological suffering – once and for all. No one is mentioning here physical pain, which is a foregone conclusion, as acknowledged by all spiritual traditions – no one more word about this.
One could say more about the cause of suffering by relating it to mind, when the latter (or the ego) is given some reality of its own instead of realizing that it is an illusory superimposition on the Self – all this being an essential doctrine of Advaita Vedanta.
M. … Of course, we know ‘we’ are primarily awareness where no distinctions whatsoever are valid, such as male/female. But something occurs to me just now, and is that prior even to the apparent multiplicity I mentioned above, and perhaps even more significant if not more real, is the presentation or exhibition in nature – amounting to a cosmological law – of the dichotomy or binary positive-negative, active-passive, static-dynamic, yang-yin, potentiality-actuality (this one an Aristotelian distinction). And, of course, male-female.
And, by extension or implication we have: angularity-roundness, left brain-right brain, etc. Someone I knew (a traditionalist or perennialist) wrote in one of his books that poetry is masculine and musicality and dance feminine… man is protector and woman nurturer; doctrine male, method female (in Buddhism it is the reverse, i.e. doctrine as prajna). Further, Sophia (wisdom) is female, represented by the goddesses Athena and Saraswati, also Minerva. And so on.
A final point: Is your metaphysical position, rather than pure non-duality, closer to the mitigated non-duality of Ramanuja (a great sage in the Indian philosophical tradition)? If so, who can find fault in that? Continue reading
I agree with the responders here that equate both concepts – soul and consciousness – which in themselves are just pointers to what is real/reality. Reality can only be one, not multiple; thus, to make a distinction between soul and consciousness, or between spirit and matter, God and the world (or ‘I’), experience and knowledge – or between Brahman and Atman – is either provisional (an intermediate doctrine or teaching) or confusing and limiting.
Another polarity which is ultimately unreal (only verbal or conceptual) from an unitary or metaphysical perspective is singularity/multiplicity. Language has its rights, but in this rarefied realm I would also equate spirituality with metaphysics, knowing full well the risks or misunderstandings that it can lead to. Continue reading
Q: So brahman is, ‘by definition’, that which is beyond mind, conceptualization, understanding etc. If one takes this seriously, not just metaphorically/allegorically, how can one validly say anything at all about brahman? E.g. Brahman is: unchanging, timeless, attribute-less.
If it’s unknowable, how can we know these attribute-less attributes about it? We are told that Brahman is real; we are Brahman. But if we can’t know Brahman, how can we know it is real or that we are it? Does it ultimately all come down to believing the conclusions and insights of the scriptures?
A: Brahman is not anything ‘by definition’, because we cannot define it.
It is true that you cannot, strictly speaking, say anything at all about it. All of these statements from the scriptures are simply pointers. You know what those words mean so that your mind can gain some insight. Ultimately, the accumulation of insights enables the mind to make that catastrophic (in mathematical terms) ‘rearrangement’ that we call enlightenment. The problem is simply that all concepts and objects are ‘known’ so cannot be Atman-brahman. Atman is the ‘knower’ and there would have to be another knower to know it. Since there is only brahman in reality, there cannot be anything else to know it.
But Atman is not something that is not known. Indeed it is known more intimately than any concept-object because we are the Atman. And the Atman is neither an object nor a concept. Here is what Sureshvara says (naiShkarmya siddhi III.47 – 48):
“Because the Self is of the form of constant awareness, it requires no second means of knowledge to reveal it; because it is without sound or other attributes it is beyond the sphere of doubt. The Self cannot be known through the empirical means of knowledge such as perception, etc, which are but phlegm coughed up by the thirst for life. Indeed, it is not a possible object of empirical cognition, since it is the innermost Self and since it exists for its own sake.”
Another reason is that all forms of perception are directed outwards, so that we could never ‘perceive’ the Self. And, since inference is itself based upon perception, we cannot infer the Self either.
So, yes, you are effectively right that, when it comes down to topics such as this, the scriptures are the final, indeed the only, authority. But it is not exactly ‘faith’ as this word is normally understood. The scriptures do not ask us to believe in anything that is unbelievable. That we are the Atman is effectively self-evident. What the scriptures tell us is that this Atman is Brahman.
* Note that I have posted a series of four articles, entitled ‘What is brahman?’ that discusses this whole subject and explains the two ways in which we can talk about brahman – svarUpa and taTastha lakShaNa-s, intrinsic and incidental definitions. The articles begins here: https://www.advaita-vision.org/what-is-brahman-part-1/.
Q: I ‘understand’ that Brahman is Eternal, Changeless, Being, Its the mAyA aspect that is puzzling. Why create an illusion and then ignore it thru dispassion, observation, witnessing, spiritual practice, etc… the very thing you (Brahman) made for your play of a world/dream you now must awaken from. I have often pondered that Brahman did not make/create the world but the mind/Self did thru a type of mis-creation a false identification. Does this make any sense?
A: The ‘final’ message of Advaita is that there is ONLY brahman (i.e. really, really ‘non-dual’). Ideas such as mAyA are part of the interim teaching to help lead the mind to that final realization. Eventually, they have to be dropped. brahman did not create anything – there is no world as a separately existing entity – it is all only brahman. So yes, as you say, the apparent separation is effectively generated by the mind as a ‘false identification’. Read the adhyAsa series that I posted – https://www.advaita-vision.org/adhyasa-part-1/ – or better still read my book ‘A-U-M: Awakening to Reality’, which is all about this ‘final message’.
Truth Reality Bhavagam (God)
Bhrigu said, ‘Truth is Brahma; Truth is Penance; it is Truth that creates all creatures. It is by Truth that the whole universe is upheld; and it is with the aid of Truth that one goes to heaven. Untruth is only another form of Darkness. It is Darkness that leads downwards. Those who are afflicted by Darkness and covered by it fail to behold the lighted regions of heaven. It has been said that Heaven is light and that Hell is Darkness.
Mahabharata Santi Parva Section CXC
‘Reality’ is a metaphysical concept or notion (which thus combines reason and intuition. As a concept, it purports to refer to something which is actually existing and is not just verbal (that is, it exists outside its verbal expression). Continue reading
On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 15
6. FROM MARKANDEYA PURANA:
Narada happened to go to Indra’s court at a time when the celestial damsels Rambha and others were giving a dance performance. After a while Indra enquired from Narada as to whose performance was like best by him. Narada responded by saying that the performance of that girl who danced with passion, emotion and agility was the best. The dancers were debating within themselves as to who did better, when Indra intervened and requested Narada to declare the winner. Narada announced that that girl who could excite the Sage Durwasa would top them all. A damsel by name Vapuvu accepted the challenge.
7. FROM BRAHMAVAIVARTA PURANA:
The sons of Daksha were about to commence creation. Narada met them at that time and directed them to work for liberation instead of getting stuck with the cycles of birth and death. He successfully dissuaded them from creation. Coming to know of the role played by Narada, Daksha complained to Brahma. Daksha then cast three spells on Narada – that Narada would take birth in the womb of Daksha’s daughter, he would be a wanderer without a stable place of stay and he would not have a wife. Continue reading
4. FROM ADBHUTA RAMAYANA:
The Musician Kaushika was singing melodious tunes in the Heaven. Goddess Lakshmi along with her cohorts, several Sages, Narada, Tumbura and several others visited the Heaven at that time. Goddess Lakshmi requested Tumbura to sing along with Kaushiki. After the duo performed, she honored them and bestowed gifts to them. Narada felt slighted by her action. He cursed her to be born to wicked people and be punished by them.
Lord Vishnu then cajoled Narada and told him that Tumbura achieved special accomplishment because of his devotional singing. Vishnu asked Narada that he should go to the Manasottara Mountain range and learn singing from a bird living there if he desired similar abilities. He went to Manasottara Mountain and learnt the singing under tutorship of the bird. When he returned and met Tumbura, he discovered he was no match and felt very jealous of Tumbura. So he went back to Vishnu. Vishnu promised to teach singing to Narada when Vishnu takes birth as Krishna.
Narada approached Krishna and requested him to teach him singing. Krishna directed him to learn the singing for a year from Jambavati. After that Krishan directed him to go to each of his wives for a year and learn singing. Even then he could not master singing. Finally he was taught by Krishna. He became very skilled in singing, he became free of his jealousies and lived happily.
5. FROM LINGA PURANA / SHIVA PURANA:
It was a time when Narada was observing askesis on the Himalayan Mountains. In order to disturb his austerities, Indra sent a few celestial damsels to distract him. But Narada was a great devotee of Shiva. Because of the power of that devotion to Shiva, his mind was very stable and did not get lured by the damsels. Narada felt proud of his own achievement. He thought that it was because of his prowess that his mind did not waver and he did not fall for those girls’ wiles. After completing his austerities and meditation, he went to Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu. Even though Vishnu that it was due to Shiva’s power, Narada was boastful of his ability to control his mind in not being beguiled by the celestial damsels. Vishnu decided to teach him lesson. Narada took leave of Vishnu and proceeded on his onward journey. Vishnu created a city at a place on Narada’s route. He also generated an attractive palatial building in the city. A voluptuous and beautiful woman by name Shrimati was also created and placed in that palace. Narada fell for her charm. He wanted to win her hand. So he went back to Vishnu and requested him to bestow the Vishnu’s looks on him.
Narada and Parvata were on a tour of the world. They reached the city where Ambarisha lived. Ambarisha received them with befitting honors. They saw the melodiously singing Shrimati at his house. They enquired about the girl. Ambarisha told them that she was his daughter. Both of them requested him to give that girl in marriage to them. As it was not possible for both of them to marry her, he agreed to give her to one of them whom she chose. A date was fixed for Shrimati to meet both and select one of them. Narada and Parvata met Vishnu separately without the knowledge of one another and each of them prayed to Vishnu to convert the other’s face to look like that of a monkey. Lord Vishnu fulfilled the desire of both of them. Both of them came to attend the function where Shrimati would express her choice. Vishnu also went to witness the goings on. Everyone laughed looking at the mokey-like faces of Narada and Parvata. Shrimati chose Vishnu as her husband because of his comely features. Vishnu took her along with him.
Narada and Parvata were outraged. They cursed Ambarisha that he would become a womanizer as he failed to stick to his word of marrying Shrimati to one of them. But Vishnu’s weapon chased them both and they had to run away. They went to the Heaven and they saw Shrimati at Vishnu’s place. They cast a spell on Vishnu accusing him for having deceived them by making their faces look like monkeys and winning the girl of their love. They said that Vishnu would be born as a human being, would suffer separation from his wife and would be able to join back with her with the help of monkeys. Vishnu revealed that everything happened the way it did because of the power of Shiva. Because of that curse, Vishnu eventually took birth as Rama, got separated from his wife, and could get back his wife with the help of monkeys.
(To continue …. Part – 15).