Q: On your website ‘Advaita vision’” in the article ‘Consciousness, Ego and Self-knowledge’ is the axiom mentioned that the subject (observer) is different from the object (observed): the Seer-Seen discrimination (dŗg dŗśya viveka). Are there other such fundamental axioms within Advaita Vedanta and if so, can you give an overview of the main ones?
A: I would say there are not really ‘axioms’ in Advaita. What there are is ‘prakriyā-s’. These are teaching ‘techniques’ to help you to an understanding. The end-point of the teaching – that there is only Brahman, the world is mithyā and you are Brahman – is not provable. It is ‘realized’ to be true when you have listened to the teaching and cleared any doubts. Hence ‘Self-realization’. Seer-seen discrimination is a practical exercise to bring you to the understanding that anything that you are aware of cannot be ‘you’; that you are the ‘ultimate subject’. Read any good book on the essentials of Advaita and other prakriyā-s will be given.
Q: Thank you for your almost instant reply and clear explanation.
First I would like to complement you with your website, which carries a valuable treasure of information. I am exploring every part. Secondly I would like to ask your reflections on a question I have.
Background In our daily western life I see many people unhappily following the path they are on, not having the strength to make a change. In my view this is mainly the result from the way they are (more fundamentally) conditioned: materialistic, externally and scientifically oriented, as well as having a strict dualistic paradigm. At the same time I see how difficult it is for most of the Westerners to switch to a (more spiritual oriented) approach of introspection, in finding a more profound meaning in life and happiness. As I am convinced the ‘internal way’ is ‘the only way out’ in finding real happiness, I have adopted a personal mission: the endorsing of the spiritual regeneration of people around me. The challenge I faced was finding an approach to make this successful, instead of annoying people with my convictions.
Historically (perhaps (?) since the days of Prof. Max Muller and Dr. George Thibet), the Sanskrit word ‘brahman‘ is rendered into English as Consciousness which is ‘caitanya.’ ‘brahman‘ is derived from the root “bRh” which means very huge. The derivation can take many forms like:
bRihatvAt – unimaginably Infinite in expansiveness;
brahmaNatvAt – encloses everything within Itself (all-inclusive);
barhaNatvAt – deliquesces [assimilates (absorbs/dissolves) all into Itself.]
Possibly “Colossus” may have been better or a more appropriate translation for brahman, IMHO, because Consciousness captures only one aspect of brahman, the other two being Beingness and Bliss (going by the popular “sat-cit-Ananda“).
Vedanta offers us three unique prakriyA-s (processes) to ‘understand each of the three aspects of brahman, as follows: Continue reading →
We all know that the shruti predominantly adopts the model of adhyAropa–apavAda (superimposition – sublation) in imparting the incommunicable Advaita message. There are other types of models and prakriyA-s also available in the scripture and tradition but they do not seem to be as popular. The adhyAropa–apavAda model superimposes an “imagined” or illusory creation on the really real Reality and as the student ingests the core Advaitic teaching, the superimposition is sublated. We find, however, that the shruti spends more time dealing with diverse aspects of the superimposed creation (birth, sustenance, death, action, fruits of action, rebirth etc.), the sublation being left to the ingenuity of the student as s/he reaches her/ his final understanding. One teacher estimates that Shankara in general devotes 90 percent of his time in most of his works on expiation of the Advaita doctrine and the attendant practices, leaving only a minor part on sublation and the outcome of the practices. This situation in some quarters has given rise to an insistence that the shruti teaches creation and that we have to take only the shrutivAkya-s and Shankara’s commentary on them as the pramANa (reference standard) for understanding the Advaita message forsaking other methods and vAkya-s in the scripture. Is that the intention of shruti? What is the final position of the shruti about creation from an Advaita perspective?Continue reading →
Here is how I described this teaching some years ago:
First of all, however, I will say a little about sRRiShTi dRRiShTi etc, since I have mentioned these above. I once thought that these were the principal creation theories of advaita. sRRiShTi is the Sanskrit word for creation. The mythical stories of God creating a world, for example over six days as in the Bible, are called krama sRRiShTi, meaning ‘gradual creation’ (krama means ‘ progressing step-by-step’). dRRiShTi is the Sanskrit word for ‘seeing’ or the faculty of sight. Thus, sRRiShTi dRRiShTi vAda means that a world is created and then we perceive it. dRRiShTi sRRiShTi vAda, on the other hand, supposes that perception precedes creation. This effectively boils down to a form of subjective idealism; i.e. the world only exists in our mind. This, in turn, implies that there are no other individuals than ourselves; i.e. solipsism. (The theory that there is only one person is called eka jIva vAda in Sanskrit.) Continue reading →
Eka jIva vAda – the devil’s teaching (part 1 of 2)
The ‘bottom line’ of Advaita is that there is only Brahman. The world with all its objects, bodies and minds, is mithyA – it is not real in itself but ‘borrows’ its existence from Brahman. Who-I-really-am is Brahman.
But all of this is already saying too much. We cannot actually say anything at all about Brahman. We ‘know’ it by ‘being’ it; that is all.
This, then, is the ‘final’ message of Advaita. Advaita is a teaching methodology that functions by removing all of the misunderstandings about the world and our ‘real Self’. It progressively removes Self-ignorance (neti, neti) until the time comes when the intellect can make the intuitive leap to a realization of that final truth which is beyond words and concepts.
The teaching utilizes various devices to enable us to remove misconceptions. These might be stories (e.g. ‘tenth man’), metaphors (e.g. gold and ring, wave and water) or more elaborate ‘prakriyA-s’ such as pa~ncha kosha or avasthA traya. The purpose of all of them is to draw attention to a particular aspect of the way in which we presently think about the world, and then to show by examination (comparison etc.) that we might be mistaken. In each case, by making us look at the situation in a different way, we advance our ‘non-dualistic outlook’.
But these new ways of thinking about the world are themselves only temporary, to help us to readjust our mental boundaries. They, too have to be discarded eventually because, as pointed out above, we can never truly ‘understand’ any of it. Once they have served their purpose, we drop them – adhyAropa-apavAda. Continue reading →
One may be motivated to find out the Ultimate Truth by reasons of either epistemological curiosity or soteriological aspiration. If it is the latter, s/he would obviously go by the guruvAkya or shruti vAkya (instruction of a teacher or a canonical text). From an epistemological perspective, however, our ancient Seers and Sages used essentially two approaches in imparting whatever they found to be the supreme unquestionable “really real” ultimate ‘Thing’ for which they did not even give a name. They referred to It simply as “That” but declared It to be ‘ekameva advitIyaM‘(one only without a second). Thus did the a-dvaita (not-two) philosophy was born and ‘brahman ‘ became an indicator word for That, whatever ‘That’ is or, inexplicably, is not. Continue reading →
Several times in the past we have had detailed discussions in these columns on the question whether a jnAni needed to continue the observation of some or other ‘practices’ after gaining jnAna (Self-Knowledge). We had also seen that there is a divergence of opinion on ‘ekajIva vAda’ both in the theoretics of the doctrine and also its relevance as a ‘prakriya‘ (a process system) for an earnest seeker.
At one of the popular traditionally oriented Advaita fora, I found a very significant Post that simultaneously touches on both the issues of (i) The ‘need’ of practices in the post-jnAna phase and (ii) ekajIva vAda as a prakriya. Without further ado, I reproduce below the authentic words of the Poster: Continue reading →