[Note: This is a long Q&A. Any help that other bloggers and readers can give to resolve the questioner’s concerns will be welcomed!]
Q: If waking life is a kind of dream or modulation of awareness then why is it so continuous? Many Advaitins see waking life as some form of dream, correct me if I’m wrong.
Dreams when asleep are always very new, different and unpredictable. And then they disappear and you wake up and forget the dream. And most likely you will not continue where it ended next sleep. On the other hand, waking life reappears after sleep and it is the ‘same’ as yesterday and it only seems to disappear if you die.
A: There is a lot more to it than that. And it cannot all be explained in a couple of sentences. Pretty much all of my book ‘A-U-M: Awakening to Reality’ was about this. (It is a commentary on Mandukya Upanishad and the explanation by Gaudapada.)
There are 3 states of consciousness – waking, dream and deep sleep and none of them are ‘really real’. Waking seems to be real for the waker. The dream is equally real for the dreamer (who thinks he is a waker)! The true reality is the Consciousness that is the basis of all 3 states. Waking life is said to be like a dream so that you can use this as a metaphor for gaining enlightenment. Continue reading →
Q: I’ve recently been reading about the reflection theory (pratibimba vAda). I’ve gone through a few articles that explain the theory, but still find the ‘bimba’ aspect confusing. I know it’s the pure original consciousness Brahman but what is its actual location? Is bimba (the original consciousness) located in the body or outside the body?
A: The bimba is Consciousness, with a capital ‘C’ – the non-dual reality. In reality there is only Consciousness; all seeming ‘things’ are just name and form of it. But, for the purposes of ‘explaining’ the empirical reality (vyavahAra), we say that each jIva has a ‘reflection’ of Consciousness in their mind. This is called chidAbhAsa or pratibimba. The ‘bimba’ is not located anywhere. If you like, everything is located in the bimba. Think of ‘space’ and ‘jar space’.
Back in April I wrote an article which looked into the concept of chidAbhAsa – https://www.advaita-vision.org/chidabhasa/. This is the idea that the ‘notion of I’ is a reflection, in the mind, of the non-dual consciousness. The theory is called pratibimba vAda in advaita. It says that there is only one ‘real’, pAramArthika or witnessing Consciousness, although there are many jIva-s; one ‘original’ (bimba) and many ‘reflections’ (pratibimba-s).
But of course, reality is non-dual, so it makes no sense to talk of a ‘Consciousness’ and a ‘reflected Consciousness’! So how do we explain this? In order for there to be a reflection, there have to be two things: an original thing, and some medium in which a reflection can take place. This is obvious in the case of the mirror. We cannot see our face in order to be able to shave or apply make up by looking into empty space. We cannot even do it by looking at a blank wall. There has to be a mirror or some reflecting medium which can serve as a mirror. Here, we seem to be saying that there is Consciousness and a reflecting medium – the mind. But of course if we have these two things, then we’re talking about dvaita not advaita.
Shankara’s Advaita introduces the concept of mAyA to provide a sort-of explanation for the world-appearance but the dvaitin may argue that, pedantically, brahman and mAyA are still two things. Only if we can explain everything in terms of paramArtha alone, he might say, can we establish non-duality. Of course, we can be pedantic too – you cannot explain anything in paramArtha, only in vyavahAra! But we acknowledge that mAyA is mithyA. In reality, there are no jIva-s, no world, no reflections. So, the bottom line is that reality is non-dual, so that we do not really have to justify the theory at all! Continue reading →
ROLE OF “REPETITION” IN SPIRITUAL INSTRUCTION, PRACTICE AND UNDERSTANDING — 2
This is an alternative viewpoint regarding the role of “Repetition” in understanding the core message of advaita. As it often happens, there is nothing like “the right perspective” in these matters. One may use one’s own discretion in evaluating these different points of view.
1. There is no doubt that Repetition helps in getting a thing by heart or to memorize a quote, a mantra, a verse etc.
2. We know ‘Practice maketh perfect’ and practice necessarily involves repetition.
That means, we are making an operation (mostly those that involve neuromotor skills) into a more mechanically executed action – transferring a routine from being a cerebral activity to cerebellar activity.
3. The ‘phala‘ (result) of certain ritualistic karma (like offerings made for the appeasement of gods, gaining merit etc.) is expected to increase proportionally with the number of times the ritual is carried out. (Please see Note: 2 at the end). Continue reading →
ROLE OF “REPETITION” IN SPIRITUAL INSTRUCTION, PRACTICE AND UNDERSTANDING — 1
All of spiritual instruction and learning has two aspects or dimensions: The Theory and Praxis – a doctrine to understand and a method to practice, so that the former may dawn in the seeker’s mind as an experiential realization of his/her own. In advaita Vedanta the goal is to understand the Reality by dispelling the misunderstanding. The final understanding to arrive at is that there is no essential distinction between the jiva (individual self) and Atman (Universal Self), and further, that Atman, the Self, is Brahman (its cosmic extension, as it were). Here the two terms of the polarity, subject-object, get obliterated, given the intuition (anubhUti, akhandAkAra vRtti) that reality is One. Knowing and Being are no longer distinguishable from one another, when Happiness shines self-effulgently and this is encapsulated in the three-pronged expression, sat-chit-Ananda.
The method of imparting the above Non-dual message is usually by teaching (through gradual and progressive steps) so that the seeker intuitively grasps the Reality, the ‘what Is’. Normally a teacher is required for this education; otherwise, the scriptures (basically the prasthAnatraya; the purANas and specific treatises likes the prakaraNa grantha-s being the accessories) are the source to which one can access again and again. Saying ‘again and again’ implies repetition… or does it? Repetition of what? Continue reading →
Q: Since brahman is non-dual, attributeless, changeless, and eternal, and since brahman is everything, it must follow that everything is also non-dual, attributeless, changeless, and eternal. So how can it be that we experience duality, attributes, change, and impermanence in the world? How can the changeless manifest change, even if this change is in appearance only (mithyA)? How can there be anything but the “perfect” unchanging oneness if everything is this oneness?
A (Ramesam): The manifestation of Consciousness (= Brahman) as the world (multiplicity) in a sense is an “explanatory gap” from a strict rationalistic point of view. It is, perhaps, the ‘weakest link’ in the Advaita siddhanta (theoretical framework).
Having said so, there are a number of ways to resolve the ‘One –-> many’ problem. I shall list here several metaphors just to answer the “appearance” of the world part without getting into the bigger questions related to why and how of “creation” itself (origin of the universe). Continue reading →
In the comments following the Question and Answer on the subject of mAyA and Ishvara – Q.325, Peter and I began the following exchange on the subject of ‘reflection of Consciousness’ (between the <<< >>> marks below). We continued this discussion off-line. Now that this has been concluded, we are posting the discussion so that others may, perhaps, benefit from the clarification that ensued.
PB: 2. The easiest misunderstanding to resolve is the distinction between ‘original consciousness’ and ‘reflected consciousness’: there is NO difference. To explain this we are given the analogy of light. Any opaque object is seen because it reflects light. One can say that the light reaching our eyes from the object is ‘reflected light’. But what is the difference between ‘reflected light’ and ‘original light’? There is no difference: light is light. ‘Reflected light’ is merely the name given to ‘original light’ seen together with a reflecting medium (the object). In the same way, ‘reflected consciousness’ is the name given to ‘original consciousness’ seen together with the reflecting medium of the perceptible gross and subtle universe. ‘Original consciousness’ is given the name Brahman. Continue reading →
Q: My understanding of original consciousness, mAyA, Ishvara is follows:
. Ishvara is the reflected conscious. . mAyA( shudha satva prakRRiti) is the reflecting medium of original consciousness-Brahman. . Ishvara controls or has full control over mAyA.
My question is how can the reflection (Ishvara) have control over the reflecting medium, mAyA? For example, if I see myself in a mirror how can my reflection (image) control the reflecting medium, the mirror?
Please let me know whether my understanding is correct and throw some light on this. Continue reading →
Today we bundle everything that is considered spiritual under the term New Age. There are even people, who consider psychotherapy as spiritual and again others who would call their traditional religious practices spiritual. Thus „spirituality“ is a broad field. Advaita Vedanta provides a very specific definition for spirituality that sets limits to this broad field. In Advaita Vedanta someone is considered spiritual only, if he/she wants to realize truth – the key to truth being realizing my true nature, who or what I am – as distinct from body and mind. Everything else may lead to spirituality, but will not provide the realization, that I long for.
All humans are seekers, all humans want to grow beyond themselves. Some want to multiply their possessions because they assume that thereby their limits extend. Others want to increase their quality of life because it helps them over the inevitable limits of human existence. Again others believe that such outer changes won’t be effective as long as one does not have a psyche that is able to enjoy possession as well as quality of life. These start to work at the psychological level to thereby grow beyond themselves. Others aim to extend their limits by exploring subtle phenomena and experimenting with them. Continue reading →