Can you accept that the world is mithyā? – 1/2

As long as I believe in the absolute reality of the things around me, as long as I believe in the absolute reality of the body-mind amalgam, and further, as long as I believe that the body-mind amalgam is Me, I will be insecure and unhappy. Why? Because, if the world is real and this body-mind amalgam is real then threat and danger surround me: the treat may be to my life and wellbeing but, more often than not, my fragile ego is vulnerable to outside events and circumstances.

There is always someone richer or cleverer or wiser or more beautiful or more influential than me. In their presence I am unworthy and powerless. Poor unworthy me could lose all my friends to more attractive people, to cleverer people or to richer or more powerful people. I live my life dreading the moment that I will be found out to be a fraud or lose my job. Deep down I believe I am unlovable and that I will end my days sad and lonely. My fragile body-mind amalgam is not really up to the onslaught from the more powerful forces of the universe. I am not good enough to gain all the security I need to cushion myself from ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ (as Shakespeare’s Hamlet puts it). My life (or the life of loved ones) can be wiped out in an instant by a monster wave or powerful wind or fire or earthquake, or a drunk behind the wheel of a car or a mugger or a mentally deranged person or by a tiny bug invisible to the naked eye. And even if the threat doesn’t come from outside, my very own biology can suddenly conspire to pack up: cancer, dementia, palsy, blindness, deafness, a blockage in the artery, stroke. Continue reading

Clearing some myths about mithyā

Adi Shaṅkara’s vision of advaita is most succinctly expressed in the following pithy statement: Brahma satyam, jagan-mithyā; jīvo-brahmaiva nāpara. (Brahman is Absolute Reality, satyam; the universe is dependent reality, mithyā; the individual, jīva, is none other than Brahman itself).

In this statement there is one word that has caused great confusion by being wrongly understood – much of the critical rejection of advaita (as well as the fundamentalist stand on non-duality adopted by some Western advaitins) can be avoided if this word is understood correctly. The word is mithyā.

Traditional advaita vedānta postulates two orders of reality: absolute and relative. The name given to the relative order of reality is mithyā, commonly mis-translated as ‘illusion’. Whereas the neo-advaita teachers accept only one level as valid (i.e. satyam), vedānta accommodates both levels. In the Taittiriya Upaniṣad it talks about two birds on the same tree: one enjoys the fruit of the tree, the other just witnesses. The Īśa Upaniṣad says that one should see everything as the Lord, but if that’s not possible due to attachment to the body then one should live a life performing one’s duty. The very structure of the Vedas themselves reflects this acceptance of a two-fold reality and prescribe (in the karma kāṇḍa section) the best way to live the worldly life and in the vedānta section it reveals the vision of truth. Satyam is the absolute level of reality, mithyā is the ‘as though’ real. Continue reading

When is an experience ‘true’? (Q. 309)

Q. Questions are always coming up in mind. Things are confusing. At the moment, for example, I’m trying to understand how one can know whether experience is valid or not e.g. if one saw an apparition of Christ, is one to interpret it as real/unreal, true/untrue etc. and how would you know one way or another….questions about truth and validness are always crossing my mind. Continue reading

Death and Deathlessness

Advaita Vedanta looks at death from 3 angles: as death of the gross body, death of the subtle body and no-death. All of us agree that the gross body dies, meaning that with death its present form is gone for good. It goes back to its basic components, in vedantic terms “to the elements”, which then take the shape of different forms: ash, earth, plants, worms etc.

In Christianity there is the belief of „resurrection in flesh“ which is supposed to happen for the virtuous ones after the last judgment day – although hardly anybody seems to take this seriously anymore, at least in Europe. In increasing numbers, people have taken to a sober viewpoint, basing their existence entirely on matter and considering themselves as merely flesh. For them there is only gross body, even what Vedanta calls subtle body functions – i.e. sense perceptions or thoughts or feelings – are believed to be operations of the gross body, nerves and brain in action. Continue reading

A Question On Causality, Purpose And Suffering In Non-Duality

[As students of Non-duality, we often come aross situations that apparently seem to be at variance with the  Non-dual teachings. Here is such a Question raised by a friend of mine and felt that it would be interesting to share our exchange with a wider audience for possibe further discussion — ramesam.]

Questioner:  How could there be no cause and effect? How can things happen randomly with no purpose?  I just can’t accept that meeting you was random, or that I found nonduality, and fell in love with it. It seems to appear everywhere. Jesus said seek and ye shall find. There is no randomness in that. We set goals, work hard, then accomplish them. Some people live for fun, engage in risky behavior, then get in trouble, how could it be completely random that some people are in the wrong place at the wrong time, then others are in the right place at the right time. Then there are the people who seem to do everything “right”, then some horrible fate befalls them. Have you ever read anything by Malcolm Gladwell? He wrote The Tipping Point, Outliers, and some other books. His research into why some people are successful and others are not is fascinating.

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