In any information transmittal in general, four elements have to be present, not counting the recipient who is the beneficiary. They are:
- The Master or the Expert or The Knower;
- The Message or the Content or the Doctrine;
- The Method or the Model or the Technique; and
- The Medium or the Means or the Instrument.
They are the four M’s we are referring to here.
The beneficiary usually places the Knower at a higher pedestal and such an attitude does help in developing a faith not only in the teacher but also in what is being taught, thus enabling the student to absorb the message with focus and full attention. Some times a student may get so attached to the teacher emotionally with devotion that her vision is blurred to distinguish between the Master and the other three M’s or between the message and the medium and so on.
If a student is unable to discern the relative importance of the 4-M’s or revers one ignoring the others, there is a danger that s/he may become a victim of a dependency syndrome. The actual message gets eclipsed or even lost when the student projects the master or the medium or the method to be the supreme. We see this being exemplified to the extreme in the followers of certain religions and cults.
The question on how could any teaching take place at all when all there is is a Oneness or no-twoness as in Advaita where there is no possibility for the 4-M’s to be present, is a huge puzzle. We find several alternate models discussed and debated in the literature as well as the online Non-dual groups. This question was also raised in Yogavasishta and Sage Vasishta answered it variously depending on the ‘maturity’ of the mind of the disciple. At one point, he even said that “it was entirely the imagination of the disciple to think that there was a teacher and a teaching that was going on.”
Recently a Vedantic teacher happened to summarize his thoughts on how Advaita is taught. I would like to share it here for the benefit of all.
1) Based on the dictum “brahma satyam jagat midhya.”
Sentences as above are the final statements and they don’t go into proofs or elaborations. Upanishads generally adopt this method of teaching. More over, the Upanishads are more often an admixture of tattva, and saguNa– and nirguNa upAsanA-s.
2) Based on the Maha vAkya-s like “tat tvam asi.”
chAndogya Upanishad declares the above statement and gives some justification for it. But people like us cannot readily accept or appreciate the logic right away.
3) Based on the bhAShya-s of Shankara Acharya,
The commentaries of Shankara on the three canonical texts accept both the approaches mentioned in 1 and 2 above. Further Revered Shankara adds logic to prove them. Shankara’s logic is as rigorous as the mathematical methods.
Initially an axiom or a statement is proposed like in Math. Provisionally accepting that axiom, it is developed further in a logical way step by step finally arriving at a contradiction . Thus, falsity of the original axiom is established. This method of falsification is quite powerful in convincing a logically trained brain as is common in the modern educational system.
For example, the world is said to be a mix of jada and cetana objects.
The commentaries provisionally accept the proposal in the beginning. Then an investigative study is taken up to find the root cause of both jada and cetana substances, a comparison is made with the situation in a dream world. Eventually it is established that the root cause for the inert objects is none other than cetana only. Thus we accept that the seemingly jada object is nothing but a manifestation of Caitanya (Consciousness).
Admittedly it is a prolonged process; but it has a convincing power. Hence, Shankara bhAShyA-s prefer this method.
With respect to the birth and appearance of human beings too, a similar approach is adopted. Assuming that there is a body, it is examined how it is born, when it is born and so on, finally establishing that there is no scope for any birth to take place at all.