Revision of ‘Critical review of article on Shankara’ – part 2

‘A New Approach to Understanding Advaita as Taught by ´Sa ˙ nkara Bhagavadp¯ada’ – by Ramakrishnan Balasubrahmanian – 2

We saw in the 1st part of this Review the primary or prior, not to say exclusive, importance that the author, RB, gives to the superimposition of a subject, individual mind or jiva, on the self: “the superimposition of an observer is avidy¯a and is prior to the reverse superimposition” – not mentioning that Shankara does not talk of a ‘reverse process’, as if it was something happening through time, but of mutual superimposition of self and non-self. Period.

As we noted in the first part of this Review, RB ‘half’ concedes the point:  “It is not completely incorrect to say that avidy¯a is the mutual superimposition of the real and unreal. ´ San˙ kar¯ac¯arya and Sure´svar¯ac¯arya do mention this … the superimposition of an observer on the inner-self naturally leads to the reverse process of superimposing the inner-self on the inner organ”. His objective in maintaining this priority of the subject in this ‘act’ seems to be to show that SSS is guilty of circularity (petitio principi, in logic). Even so, and rather surprisingly, he claims that avidya is not something subjective (neither is it ontic nor epistemic – see below). Continue reading

Q. 350 – Heaven and Hell

Q: In Advaita, it is said that the heaven and the hell are mithya. They are just ideas for bhakti-natured people. But Advaita says this world is mithya too. So even though heaven and the hell are mithya, we are still gonna go there just as this world is mithya but it is still real enough for us? I mean the idea of heaven and hell is mithya but it is still as real as this world. So they indeed exist just as this world. Is that the correct interpretation?

A (Ramesam): Firstly the simple and straightforward answer: Yes, you are right, heaven and hell are mithya and are ideas for bhakti-natured people, in the sense that they are experienced by the people who believe in them but these loka-s (worlds) lack a substantive reality by themselves. However, we have to note that they are the second degree imaginations – imaginations of the already imaginary worldly people! By this logic, perhaps they will be strictly comparable to dreams in their order of reality. (The word mithya includes both the empirical (vyavaharika) reality and the dream world (prAtibhAsika) reality). Continue reading

Discussion on chidAbhAsa

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


Spiritual seekers should be able to distinguish the essential from inessential in order not to waste time and energy with inessentials on their journey. Hence, the ability to discriminate is basic.

What exactly is it that helps us discriminate? Our senses inform us about the fact that a zebra is something other than a fish. The fact that the feeling of joy is something other than the thought that triggers that joy, is already a more subtle difference. However, both differentiations, indeed any differentiation, is made by using the function in our mind responsible for it, the buddhi. Continue reading