Appearance and Substance

Perhaps it may not be far from truth to say that many people hold the idea that the world is an “appearance” and the real “substance” behind is the featureless and formless ‘brahman.’ Several teachers too pronounce that ‘The world is the manifest form of brahman.’ It is presented that ‘brahman‘ is “the ‘as-though’ kAraNa” (cause) and the world is the kArya (effect).

“Most religions stop with a [that] description of the creator as pertaining to the intelligent cause for the universe. vedAnta goes one step further to define Ishvara as not only the intelligent cause or nimitta kAraNa, but also the material cause or upAdAna kAraNa as well. We thus have an improved definition for Ishvara as ‘jagat kAraNam IshvaraH’, where kAraNam or cause involves undifferentiable intelligent and material cause (abhinna nimitta upAdAna kAraNa).” [Please see here ] Continue reading

Shri Atmananda (Part 2)

The second of a two-part article by Philip Renard, about the Direct Path master, Atmananda Krishna Menon.

*** Read Part 1 ***

And so it goes on, in a sense, throughout the book. Is this confusing? At first it may seem so, but by really reading what the teacher says, really understanding what the meaning of the distinction is, and what is true in the ultimate sense (which means not being able to separate anymore because the ‘substance’ that makes up the objects being noticed as such), you will be able to see the value of this dance. If you never have noticed consciousness itself (often rightly capitalized as ‘Consciousness’) because it is never an object, it is very useful that you are being pointed out that consciousness itself can indeed be recognized and realized. Without being pointed out, it is possible that you keep looking over consciousness itself because of your habituation to objects. Atmananda himself says the following about the apparent two approaches:

During the period of preliminary investigations in the study of Vedanta, you are asked to try to separate body and mind from the ‘I’-Principle. It is only to make you understand the relative values of the terms. Such a separation is not really possible; because, separated from the ‘I’-Principle, the other two do not exist at all. Therefore they are really nothing but the ‘I’-Principle. Vedanta asks you only to recognize this Truth.

   From the position of Consciousness one can say that everything else is not. But from no position can you say that Consciousness is not. Because one has to be conscious of the Truth of that very statement before making it. Therefore Consciousness stands as the background of even that statement.

   Hence even the statement that ‘Consciousness is not’ only proves that Consciousness IS. Therefore Consciousness is self-luminous and permanent.8

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Q.526 MithyA

Q: In your comment on the article by Arun Kumar, I was confused but intrigued that you define Mithya as something that simply explains the fundamental nature of the Brahman in life and its objects. I have not so far found any dictionary that defines mithya as anything other than false or illusory nor discovered any major scholar-philosopher who thought that Shankara viewed this world as a reality – as real as the ornament in your metaphor. You say that Shankara himself by discriminating between the waking and dream states suggests that novel meaning of Mithya. Is this your own interpretation or does Shankara himself link the ability to differentiate between those states to explain mithya?

You raise the example of how jumping into the middle of traffic would help one realize why this world is NOT an illusion… but it is not convincing enough. Potentially, both a person jumping in front of a truck and his consequent “death” could be perceived as illusory events too. The real question I have is whether Shankara himself viewed this world as illusion and used Mithya to convey that or not. And, if it was an illusion for him, what did he think the meaning of life was? If on the other hand life was Not an illusion to him, as you seem to suggest, what was its purpose in that case?

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mANDUkya upaniShad Part 3

Mantra 2

*** Read Part 2 ***

सर्वं ह्येतद् ब्रह्मायमात्मा ब्रह्म सोऽयमात्मा चतुष्पात् || 2 ||

sarvaM hyetad brahmAyamAtmA brahma so.ayamAtmA chatuShpAt

sarvaM etad – Everything here
hi – (is)certainly
brahma – brahman.
ayam AtmA – This Atman
brahma – (is) brahman.
saH ayam AtmA – This very Atman
chatuShpad (= chatur + pAda) – (has) four aspects.

Absolutely everything is brahman. This Atman is brahman and has four aspects.

In the first mantra, OM was said to be everything. (How this is so will be analyzed in mantras 8 – 12.) The Upanishad now asks what is the nature of this Self, Atman; mantras 2 – 7 make this enquiry.

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Q.523 Science and Reality

Q: Can we still hold that modern science is far from realizing the unreality of the world, the basic teaching of Advaita? (Quora)

A (Martin): Clearly, philosophical statements such as “the world is unreal”, “life is a dream “or “reality is spiritual” express not empirical but a priori propositions or enunciates. As such, they are independent of sense experience in that their truth or falsity is not determined by the facts of sense experience. Such statements can neither be confirmed nor confuted by sense experience. Observation and experiment are simply irrelevant to their truth or falsity. Thus, they fall outside the realm of the empirical sciences, whatever be the speculations of individual scientists when assuming the role of members of the laity. Further, in the contexts in which they most often occur, such statements are not regarded as provisional truths subject to refutation or revision as in the sciences, but as absolute and irrefutable truths.

Mechanism of Superimposition

In Shankara’s explication of the Advaita Vedanta, as we all know, the concept of “adhyAsa” or “superimposition” plays a significant role. This technique of ‘superimposing’ a non-existing imaginary thing (adhyAropita mithyA vastu) on a really existing substratum (adhisThAna) and later rescinding or negating (apavAda) the superimposed object has been an age-old method of imparting the Knowledge of the Self (Atman / brahman) to an eligible student. Shankara himself reveals this fact in his commentary at 13.13, BGB.

Unfortunately in the present day, the ‘eligibility criteria’ for the student are so much discounted that one doesn’t often know whether a student truly obtained the intended ‘meaning’ of the teaching or goes away with his/her own ‘idea’ of what is taught because of the unprepared nature of and/or other prior notions cluttering up his/her mind. Continue reading

Word by Word Scriptures

From 2015 to 2017, I posted a series of ‘Notes on Tattvabodha’ (31 parts) by Dr. Vishnu Bapat. (Beginning at These provided word by word translations of the Devanagari Sanskrit as well as an English commentary.

Dr. Bapat now has his own site at Vishnu Rao Bapat – Soulbliss where he has continued this practice and has similar translations of Bhagavad Gita, Atma Bodha, Dakshinamurti Stotram, Bhaja Govindam, Astavakra Gita, Amrita Bindu Upanishad and Devi Stotram.

Here, as an example, are two verses from the Bhagavad Gita. 

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Moksha is not escapism

Four human goals called purushArthas are kama, artha, dharma, and moksha. Moksha is the final goal. It means freedom from rebirth or samsAra (worldly life) because human suffering is part and parcel of samsara. So, moksha also means freedom from suffering. According to Vedanta, our true nature is consciousness that is distinct from mind and body, and further that consciousness is all-pervasive, infinite, and complete. Human suffering is due to our ignorance that our real nature is consciousness, and we are already complete. Completeness implies contentment, peace, and happiness. Instead of identifying ourselves with infinite consciousness, we identify with finite mind-body and suffer. The root cause of suffering is this misidentification due to ignorance. The remedy is Self-knowledge. JnAn yoga is the method to gain Self-knowledge. It is not knowledge of any object. It is knowledge of the subject requiring sufficient preparation of mind to make it pure and focussed. SAdhanA chatusthyAya meaning four-fold qualifications are prescribed for this purpose. One of the qualifications is an intense yearning for moksha. Thus, four purushArthas and four-fold qualifications together suggest that an intense desire for moksha is required for achieving the goal of moksha. A qualified seeker of moksha who undertakes jnAn yoga in the form of hearing, reflecting, and mediating gains Self-knowledge. S/ he is a jnAni and achieves moksha. It means a jnAni transcends human suffering and is free from rebirth and samsAra. Continue reading

Consciousness and the world

What is the scriptural basis for Advaita consciousness being an awareness preceding the universe?

That’s an ‘easy’ one. 1)  Consciousness and awareness are the same for Advaita Vedanta. 2) Atman-brahman, or Consciousness, is the sole reality – the universe is, in essence, not other than Atman (Consciousness or ‘Spirit’). 3) Consequently, there is no creation – no causation, including space and time, which, like everything else, are phenomena, appearances.

Mundaka Upanishad 2.1.10: ‘the world is brahman alone’. 

K 3.18. In this karika Gaudapada demonstrates that creation is only apparent because reality is unchangeable (and it is taught that the effect is not other than the cause).

Katha Up. 2.1.10: ‘Whoever sees difference between what is here (individual Atman/’soul’) and what is there (brahman) goes from death to death’.

Brihadaranyaka Up. 2.5.19: ‘The supreme being is perceived as manifold on account of Maya’ (magic).

Taittiriya Up. 2.6: ‘Brahman, which is the absolute reality, became reality (satya) and unreality/appearance (asatya)’. That is, the cause itself appears as various effects due to superimposition, which is itself the core, or definition, of ignorance (avidya). Cf. Tai. 2.6, Chandogya Up. 2.8.4, and Bhavagad Gita 4.13 and 13.2.

Q.516 World outside of perception

Q: According to science, there was a world prior to humans where there were no living, conscious things. If nothing can exist independently of consciousness like Advaita suggests, then how could there have been a world prior to a perceiver? If there was no sentient being to experience the Big Bang, how could it have possibly existed?

A: Your questions relate to the apparent creation. The final teaching of Advaita is that there is no creation – there is only the non-dual Brahman. This means that the entire teaching of Advaita is interim only since it takes place in what is only empirical reality.

Having said this, the traditional teaching says that the creation, maintenance and dissolution of the universe is ‘managed’ by Ishvara, using the ‘power’ of mAyA. This means that He governs all of the laws that relate to creation and the jIva-s who inhabit it. Now you have to realize that science has ‘advanced’ significantly since the time of the Vedas. While they speak of the raw elements being space, earth, water, fire and air, we have a somewhat more complex cosmology! And I don’t think it is particularly fruitful to try to map one onto the other. Science can never explain Consciousness so is of no value in trying to understand the nature of reality.

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