THE FINAL VERDICT
Advaita is not an argument. It is not a point of view. It is the final judgement. Each may present their arguments in a court of Law. The judge in the end passes judgement. There end all arguments. Call it samkhya call it yoga, nyaya, Vaiseshika, purva mimamsa or uttara mimamsa. And you may add to these the proud findings of the latest scientific researches. All these are pursuits of knowledge in their ways, and according to their beliefs and points of view. Their results remain mere views and arguments. They do not represent the culmination. Advaita is that culmination. It is the ultimate statement. And there can be nothing beyond the ultimate. It can be proclaimed as loudly as one can that there never was and never will be any other statement with such finality. How can you make such an assertion? The answer is in the term advaita itself. Advaita is non-dualism and does not admit a second entity. The creation does confront you with a multiplicity of objects. But this multiplicity dissolves in discrimination and perspicuous perception. All these seeming many are in reality not so many, but just one. And that one is one’s own self. That is what the term advaita (non-dual) means. What is not dual is advaita. What is duality? Whatever appears as the other and as different from one another is duality. Sankara branded every system of philosophy – from samkhya to purva and uttara mimamsa – as dual. Any count beyond one is dualism.
SYSTEMS OF PHILOSOPHY
Kapila who propounded samkhya posits two principles – Prakriti and Purusha. Moreover, Prakriti is not one. Its constituents are three – sattwa, rajas and tamas. It transforms itself into mahat (the vast) and the ahamkara (ego). Purusha is also not one. Purusha is the jiva, the individual self. And the selves are millions and billions. Prakriti and Purusha are unrelated. And no two selves are related. Each is constituted in its own way. Patanjali, the propounder of Yoga, while admitting Prakriti and Purusha, adds a third, namely Iswara or God. And so, Kapila’s system is called atheistic samkhya while Patanjali’s Yoga is called theistic samkhya. And there are the originators of the systems of nyaya and Vaiseshika. The former is propounded by Gautama and the latter by Kanada. Both are referred to as logicians. Those of the Nyaya school posit sixteen substances, while those who profess Vaiseshika posit seven. And now, there are the followers of sage Jaimini. They are referred to as Karma (ritual) mimamsakas. They believe in nothing other than the daily obligatory rituals and the rituals that are to be performed on special occasions. What is prescribed and what is proscribed is, for them, decided by the Veda and nothing else. Performance of the prescribed rituals for the attainment of heavenly pleasures and a better life and welfare in the coming births is their life’s one goal. Nothing else bothers them. They don’t even admit God. The word of the Veda is all. These are as godless as are the samkhyas. Both in a sense are atheists. imamsakas. There are of two different schools – the dualists and the specialized non-dualists. Both accept the authority of the Veda, along with God who is to be known through the Veda. The dualists conceive of God in the forms of Vishnu as well as of Siva, who comes next. The specialized non-dualists admit only Vishnu and deny entry to Siva. Both these schools have existed since the time of the Vedas. Duality is referred to as the school of differentiation, whereas the specialised non-duality is referred to as ‘the differentiation not – differentiation’ school. In later times Ramanuja propagated the specialised non-duality, while Madhava propagated duality. The specialised non-dualists admit three entities, namely, jiva (the individual self) jagat (the world), and Iswara (God). They call these tattwa traya (the triad). In their technical terminology, Iswara is referred to as seshi (what remains after deduction), and jiva and jagat as sesha, the remainder. The dualists, whose very foundation is differentiation, have further divided these three into five. All the five are true for them. The five are – difference between one self and the other self, difference between the self and the world, difference between different entities of the world, difference between the world and self and difference between self and God. And then, the Buddhists, the jains, and the Charvakas and their followers. These are all atheists, Buddhists propose rupa (form), vijnana (consciousness) and the five skandhas. The Jains propose seven entities, living and non living. For the nuterialists like Charvakas and their fellows, the individual selves, the world, with all their pleasures and pains exist. They admit birth and death. But they deny the self, God, other worlds, and rebirths. That is all for them.
CREATIONISM AND EVOLUTIONISM
Thus, all these schools are one in their belief in more than one entity. None of these admit that there is but one entity, and that it is one’s own self. All these are unacceptable because they fail to solve the riddle called life. All these, right from samkhya down to the Charvakas, fall under two broad categories. One proposes insentient nature (Prakriti) as the cause of creation, and the other proposes a sentient God. The naturalists (Prakriti Vadins) say that prakriti gradually evolved into the world. But the others say that the world has been willed by God. Advaitins reject both these theories as irrational. They ask the naturalists : ‘how can nature, which according to your own admission, is insentient create this Vast World so flawlessly structured?’ So, the naturalist’s position in unsustainable. As to the theists who posit a sentient creator (Iswara), they say : ‘why should he, first of all, create this world? And worse, why should he bring forth the beings so differently disabled and be the cause of their endless sufferings as well as of their end? A God who has such evil will is no God. He is worse than any individual self. He is tainted with likes and dislikes. Moreover, it is the creator who should be held guilty for all the wrongs of the individual. He who has created the world and the individuals is also responsible for the good or evil of the individuals. And why should the individual be held accountable for the sins and the merits, and the resulting heaven and hell and rebirth? There is also another flaw in this proposition. God, in this view, cannot be omnipresent. For, if he is, the world and the individuals cannot be different from him. Or, God acquires form and name, and thus is as much limited as the individual self. Both these positions do not stand to reason. And the theist has no answer to these objections. Also, when jiva, jagat and Iswara are posited, the issue of the relationship of one with the other of these is bound to arise. It should be said that one is the cause and the other the consequence. The creativists (arambha Vadins) say that the individual and the world emerge from God. The evolutionists argue that the world emerges from prakriti’s mutations. Advaitins say that both these theories are untenable. The creationsists cannot say how jiva and jagat which had no existence prior to the creation can suddenly emerge out of nothing. Nothing comes out of nothing, and nothing Vanishes into nothing. As to evolutionism, there arises the question : ‘how does insentient nature transform itself into the world?’ If it is its nature inherent, it should then go on transforming itself eternally, and the process of creation is unending. There can be no dissolution (Pralaya). If creation is its nature, there could be no dissolution, and if dissolution is its nature, there should be no creation. Therefore, evolutionism is equally unsustainable. Thus, all these systems like samkhya are nothing but so many views and arguments, but not a statement of fact. A statement of fact should be able to resolve the disputations and solve the problem of life. None of these views and arguments has been able to arrive at a final resolution of the riddle. The reason for their failure lies in that they admit a multiplicity of entities like jiva and jagat and their causes like prakriti and Iswara, and in order to explain this multiplicity they have propounded the necessary systems. Multiplicity can only lead to disputation and never to a resolution unitarity alone can lead to resolution. And advaita alone can do it. The very term advaita denotes oneness. That is the reason why the advaitins put all these systems like samkhya into one category, namely the dvaita (dualism).
THE ONENESS OF ADVAITA
What is that oneness which advaita is supposed to denote? And how does it solve our problem? Advaita does not admit a plurality of jiva, jagat and Iswara. These seemingly different entities do not in fact exist. What is one. And that is awareness formless and pervasive. Since it is awareness, the awareness of ‘I’ is constant. Awareness of ‘I’, does not mean that ‘I’ am aware of something called awareness. I am awareness. Awareness is my essence. ‘I’ in Sanskrit is ‘atma’. Atma alone is. Anything that appears to exist other than this atma is the object of this awareness. It is not atma (self), but anatma (non-self). But that which appears to exist has its existence only as an object of my awareness, and by virtue of its being cognised. In itself, it does not exist. What in itself exists does not need attestation by another entity. Therefore what is cognised is also atma, that is awareness. As this non-self owes its existence only in being congnised, it cannot be said to have an independent existence away and different from awareness. Awareness that is the nature of atma alone is real. It is atma, while being atma, appears as anatma. Hence the whole objective world is but atma appearing as the world or anatma, just as bubbles and the waves have no existence other than the water in which they arise. What is this anatma? It is jiva, jagat and Iswara. All these three are anatma, non-self. They have always to be objects of awareness. They are not independent of atma. Hence they are its appearances, of it, with it and within it. This is the advaitin’s resolution. And in this resolution, all the objects that the dualists of all hues admit disappear. As they are but appearances. It is established that there is but one entity, and that one is my very essence. When there is only one entity and no second there arises no issue of cause and effect. In the absence of relationship, the creationist and the evolutionist theories are meaningless. ‘Vivarta’ is the term employed by the advaitin to explain the phenomenal. ‘Vivarta’ is the cause, remaining the cause, also taking the form of the effect. Atma itself appears as jiva and jagat, as the sea, without ceasing to be sea, appears as waves and bubbles. ‘Idam sarvam yadayan atma’ (‘All this that is, is this atma’) as the Upanishad proclaims, or declaims. With this ‘akanksha’ is eliminated. ‘Akansha’ is asking ‘what is beyond this?’ The anatma which appears as jiva, jagat and Iswara is nothing but a manifestation of atma. And where then is the scope for the question, ‘what is beyond that?’ When there is no akanksha, all the problems of life, like birth and death, Vanish. When there is no problem, there is no need to solve it. The jiva is not in truth jiva, but is atma itself. So, birth and death which are related to jiva do not arise. When jiva himself is unreal, how can birth and death be real? They only seem to be. In fact this jagat, and Iswara, who is conceived as its creator, both only seen to be. And such being the state, there is no possibility for the jiva to exist. Everything is unreal. That is the reason why at the very outset is has been declared that unlike all the other dualist arguments, advaita is not an argument but the culmination of all arguments, the Verdict. Not merely the positions taken by the ancient system builders, but also the findings of researches in the fields ranging from nuclear physics to space science, find nothing revelatory. These scientific truths are in fact not truths atall. Advaita is like Rama’s arrow that runs through all these sciences, not merely making huge holes in their tall claims, but felling them as well. How? These scientific researches are searches in the field of anatma, the shadow of atma and not in atma. Atma is the dove flying in the skies. On the earth is its moving shadow. If you want to shoot the bird in the sky, you don’t aim at its shadow on the earth. The scientists are but aiming at the shadows. You may shoot a million shadows, you can never down the truth that flies above. Atma alone is real. It is the light, and in its light do we see the objects of the world. You may spend an eternity in studying the shadows, but the flying truth above ever eludes you. The scientisit’s truth is but a delusion, not a measure or proof of truth. It is for this reason that repeated assertions are made that advaita is the final vedict, and all the other systems are only arguments. Now, it may be said : ‘you dismiss all other systems as mere arguments and are not a statement of fact. And you conclude that advaita alone stands to the last. As it is advaita (non-dual) there is no place in it for life with its problems. You assure that all problems are automatically resolved. Well. It is all very nice to hear. But does it stand to the test of rational thinking? And does it come within the experience of man? This is a question with which one is confronted not only the layman but the most learned also. What is the advaitin’s answer to this? How rationally does he establish the truth of his statement?
THE GENERAL AND THE PARTICULAR
What the advaitin says it this. Take any object, from the human thoughts within to the space without, everything comprises two parts that are integral to each other. One is general, the other particular. Take a pot, a jewel, or anything. The pot is not one, it consists of a form and the earth of which it is made. The earth is general, and its pot – shape is particular. Similarly, in a gold ornament gold is general, and the ornament, a necklace or a bangle, is particular. These particulars do not pervade one another. A bangle is not an ear-ring, and an earring is not a girdle. No particular can pervade the general. A necklace does not have all the world’s gold in it. But gold is not limited to a particular gold ornament. Gold is more than a bangle or a girdle. It is the general, and it Pervades the earring, the bangle, the necklace, the girdle and so many other ornaments. It is within and without. It envelopes and exceeds the particulars. It can exist without the ornaments, but the ornaments have no existence without gold. In the absence of gold the particular, with its name and form, Vanishes. This is the relationship of the general and the particular. Every object in the world has this relationship. We may extend this principle. There is the tree, and there is the seed. Which comes first? Neither. For both the tree and the seed are particulars pervaded by the principle of earth. Without earth there is no tree. And without the tree, there is no seed. Both have no existence. But the earth exists without the tree and the seed, in the least bothered about them. This is within our experience. To take a step further, where is the earth from? From water. Water is its cause, and the earth its effect. Earth is frozen water. And where is water from? Fire cooled and became water. And what is the source of fire? Air in motion undergoes friction and becomes fire. Where is air from? The advaitin says that the stable sky shakes and becomes air. Good. But ask, what is the source of the sky, and the layman as well as the scientist are clueless. No one can go beyond the sky and find its source. But the sky is not the limit for the advaitin. He does not stop there. And what does he find there beyond? He finds his own self. He finds himself. He becomes aware of awareness. And its name is atma. And everything that it is aware of, from the sky or space down to the living and non-living objects all around, is anatma (non-self). Awareness is one, and undifferentiated. What it is aware of are myriad. Awareness is not what it is aware of. And the objects of awareness are not aware. Jiva, jigat, and Iswara are the objects of awareness and therefore they are not atma. They are anatma. It may be asked at this point, you are referring to two entities called atma and anatma. And how can you then claim that it is advaita (non-dual) ? There should be no place for a second in advaita. The advatin’s answer to this is : ‘It is only a manner of speaking. In fact atma and anatma are not different. In truth, the two are one. How? It has been stated that atma is awareness. Awareness is the measure or proof for anything. Without evidence, nothing can be said to exist. Nothing has existence outside awareness. It is meaningless to say that there is no awareness but there is the thing. It is like saying, ‘I see that thing, but I have no eyes’. So, awareness is the witness. All that we are aware of, the jneya, the whole phenomenal world, owes its existence to this awareness. It may be asked : ‘if awareness is the witness of the world we are aware of, what is the witness of awareness?’ Awareness needs no witness other than itself. It is witness to itself. A lamp does not need another lamp to reveal it. Awareness is aware of itself and at the same time it is aware of the whole phenomenal world. Thus, no object of awareness has an independent existence. Its existence has in the existence of awareness. It reveals its existence in the revelation of awareness. As it exists and reveals itself only in awareness, it is not real in itself. Atma, as awareness, alone is real and true. Being unreal, how does anatma reveal itself? It does not reveal itself. It is atma that reveals itself as anatma. The advaitin asserts that there is no second entity like anatma. How is it? When we are walking in the sun, we see our shadow. We do not regard the shadow as different from us. Similarly, this world, anatma, is but a shadow of atma. The shadow is but an appearance. The shadow is not the thing in itself. The ‘thing’ is atma. Thus the advaita position is not violated. ‘Idam sarvam yadayam atma’ (‘All this that is, is this atma’) is only declaring this advaita truth. When once we conclude that all anatma is illusion, then jiva, jagat and Iswara, all the three become unreal. They are real only as Atma, but not as anatma. They have no being apart and away from atma. Just as a rope-serpent is all but rope, the three (jiva, jagat and Iswara) are all atma only. One need not wonder how it is possible. All these three are objects of your awareness. If you are not aware of them, you cannot say that they exist. And they have their being in your awareness. Therefore all things you are aware of are particulars, but awareness is common and general. The principle of the particular and the general can be applied here. If objects of awareness are particulars, awareness itself is general. Our thoughts and experiences are called ‘ideas’. The living and non-living entities that correspond to those ideas are called ‘things’. What relates them is ‘transaction’. All this creation, ranging from thoughts to the space outside, is name and form. It is here that we earlier talked of the particular and the general. If all these are particulars, that which permeates all these is called the ‘maha samanya’, the general of generals. It is exactly this maha samanya that we call atma. Call it consciousness, awareness, call it atma. All are one, the I-consciousness. That is what is pervasive in all these particulars of name and form. Everything, particulars or general, from the position of maha samanya are but particulars. (Gold is general in respect of bangles, necklaces etc., but is a particular in the category of earth, copper, gold etc.) When the maha samanya, which is atma, is pervasively present in and out in every particular, names and forms cannot but be illusion. Therefore, nothing other than the I-consciousness is real. Consciousness is alone real. What it is conscious of has no being. When atma is omnipresent in every object. Where is the scope for anatma? That too must perforce be atma. And thus, there is no place for a jiva, his joys and sorrows, his deaths and births, birth in other worlds etc. And all the problems related to them are automatically resolved. Because all these are illusions which have their reality only in atma. All the illusions are only particulars. Atma is but the I-consciousness. And this consciousness is intact presently in birth and in death. When it is thus present, where is the question of its birth and death? When it is the basis for these, how can they affect the basis? The particular can never Violate the general. Thus, advaita alone can resolve all the riddles of life. It is for this reason that it has been stated that while all others are but arguments and views, advaita is the judgement, the last word.
THE OBSTACLES TO EXPERIENCETHE OBSTACLES TO EXPERIENCE
This advaita statement is all fine as a statement. But should not remain in the realm of theory only. It should accord with our experience. Otherwise, the theory remains a mere theory, and the problem continues to be a problem. The solution does not lie in theoretical resolution, but in dealing with the actualities of life and death. Words are not experience. Mere verbal dismissal of pain and pleasure as unreal won’t drive them away from man’s life. By simply stating that there is no such thing as death, man does not cease to die. So, the question remains : ‘is advaita a mere theory, or does it also relate to man’s experience?’ True, it has been stated that atma is the largest generalization. For, it pervades the name and form of every object. And atma is nothing but the awareness of ‘I’. This ‘I-awareness’ is constantly present in all of us. This need not be acquired or achieved. Why does man not experience this great. ‘It is I that pervade this entire phenomenal world of names and forms. There is nothing which is not of me, which is not me. Life and death too are only appearances and unreal’. Why does not man experience this truth? He does not. Because, the advaitin says, man identifies himself with his body. He, the atma, which is all pervasive is thought to be limited to one’s body. When we believe that atma lives only in this body and that it has no life outside it, the all-pervasive atma appears as jivatma. Atma is nothing but the ‘I-awareness’. This ‘I’ lives only in this body and therefore the two together (the body and the ‘I-awareness’) are termed jivatma. Moreover , as the ‘I-awareness’ confines itself to one body, it is alienated from the true atma, and comes into currency as its counterfeit. And for this reason this jivatma is also called mithya atma, the false self. When the mithyatma confines itself to the body and thinks ‘I am this body’ then it suffers from the delusion that what is around it is not its self, atma. If that is not my self, what then is it? It is mine. One is the self, the other is selfish. The self develops attachment to it so much that it regards houses, wives, children, and properties as attachments attributions to the world around is termed ‘gaunatma’, or the secondary self. The body is the jivatma, and the world ‘gaunatma’. How are the two related? Both are particulars and not universal. Does the world exist because I perceive it, or do I see it because it exists? This is turning out to be a riddle similar to the tree and the seed. Just as the earth that pervades both the tree and the seed is true, there is the ‘mukhyatma’ prime self which pervades both the mithyatma and the gaunatma. And this mukhyatma is termed by the advaitins as ‘maha samanya’ (the largest general). That alone exists, the other two do not exist. That alone is pervading both. That alone is the true self, atma. But how have these two, the mithyatma and the gaunatma, come out? Atma is awareness itself. It is its essence. It is formless and pervasive like the space. Such a formless and pervasive entity must be one and indivisible. How can there be in it two divisions like mythya (false) and gauna (secondary). Can there be two skies? The advaitin’s answer to this is simple. Samkara cites a sentence: ‘When something is in our experience, the question, how is it possible, is meaningless’. As long as it comes into experience it is there. In fact, there is but one atma. And that is persistent in all things, but is unperceived. And the jiva is unable to realise that it is its own form. It is not that there is no awareness of the atma, and that man is totally ignorant of it. Man does perceive it. But his perception of it is imperfect and incomplete. He perceives it as bounded jivatma, and not as the boundless atma. Everyone knows and refers to this atma as ‘I’. And it is the dearest word in the dictionary of man. And it needs no confirmation and demands no attestation. But man does not know the atma in its all pervasive form, but only in its limited form as the body. It is in such imperfect and incomplete knowledge alone that the question about the possibility of what is indubitably experienced by us arises. This doubt disappears only when we perceive our true nature entirely. Can anyone living in the dream world ask why he is dreaming? When he wakes up, the question disappears. He by himself will come to know all that he had experienced was unreal. Similarly, we are all living in that prolonged dream. Just as forgetting my waking self in a dream, and believing the dram self to be my self, in this life we take the mithyatma (false self) mistaking it for our true self, and thus extend this delusion by getting attached to family and friends (gaunatma).
EXIT IS IMPORTANT, NOT ENTRY
Therefore, the right question to ask is not why this has come about, how we got into this trap, but how to get out of it. How we got into the trap is a question related to the past. It can only relate the problem. It cannot solve it. How to get rid of is a question that would lead us to the solution in future. We are in the present, and it will not help us to endlessly ruminate over the past riddle. We should seek the solution. The advaitins dismiss the origin of this jagat, our samsara, as indefinable. They say : ‘We shall tell you the way out. It you practice and succeed, you will get out of this trap. You will also then know the answer to your nagging question. In fact when you are released in realization, the question does not occur to you at all. When one wakes up, who asks why I got that dream? Your waking itself reveals to you that it was all unreal, and why do you waste your time on it. So, the advaitin says the right question to ask is not why and how the mithyatma and the gaunatma became possible. The right thing to do is to seek the solution, the means to eliminate them. When one realizes through practice, then we ourselves will get the answers to our questions. In fact, you don’t get answers. The questions Vanish.
However, we can never hope for a comprehensive solution unless we practice. The problem will remain a problem. Because our knowledge remains particular and therefore partial, not general and so total. And ignorance is nothing but incomplete knowledge. We have the dvaita knowledge (knowledge of the dual) and not advaita knowledge (knowledge of the non-dual). As long as we live in this dual world, this jiva trapped in the body is real and the world he sees around is real too. And Iswara, who is above these and who rules these, is also real. The jiva’s birth and death, his worldly woes and joys are all real. As long as we are in a dream, the dream world is indubitably real. Similarly true is the life in the waking state. And this truth of the waking state is termed the pragmatic truth (Vyavaharika). It is like a dream. And a dream is real as long as we live in it. When you wake up in the morning, there are no thieves chasing you. There is no telling the cash you won in a lottery. Even your dream self that was watching all this is also no longer there. And the entire dream world is dissolved. Similarly, this false self, and this world it sees, and the worldly joys and sorrows – all these are real as long as we mistake them to be real and deal with them. And the world believes this pragmatic truth to be the true one. It is not only the layman. The truth that the scientists in their experiments come out with is also of this counterfeit reality. It is not the scientists alone. The mimamsakas who have devised the sacrificial rituals, and their results in the form of heavenly pleasures and their hope of a better life in other worlds and other births, the gods that the worshippers (upasakas) hope to become one with – all this elaborate structure is but delusion. Not the ultimate truth. Any amount of labour in this field of unreality will yield only false fruits, like the fruits of the dream world. This is the meaning of pragmatic truth. It will never solve the problem of life permanently. What then is the solution? The particular and partial knowledge can never provide the solution. The only means to resolve this problem is the knowledge of the general and the total. And that is termed by the advaitins as the ultimate truth (Paramarthika). If the pragmatic is like the dream, the paramarthika is like the waking. There is no place for the particular in this. It has been stated several times that jiva, jagat and Iswara are only particulars. In the ultimate truth, there is no false self, no world attached to it, and no Iswara ruling these. When the jiva itself is absent, there is no question of birth and death, joys and sorrows, no other worlds, no future lives. All is delusion. There is but one pervading all these. And that one is no other than the ‘I’, the atma that is of the essence of awareness and which is formless and independent of the forms it pervades. It is this atma which is the essence of jives like us, as well as of the world we see. It is also the essence of Iswara. It is indeed the essence of all that is. And that is the peramarthika truth. Interestingly, even while we are in the pragmatic world, the paramarthika alone is. All this pragmatic reality is in truth paramarthika. And that appears as jiva, jagat and Iswara, and comes into experience as such. This is not that, but that is all this. These are all its forms. That is to say, it is that awareness which is general takes the form of our thoughts, pleasures and sorrows. All this is but the manifold manifestion of that awareness. All this manifest world is objective, the object (jneya) of awareness (jnana), says Sankara. This objective world must be grasped along with the subject, the awareness. Therein is the solution. Without the realization of this essence of awareness, we see and deal with this world but can not solve its riddle. All our effort would be futile. The essence is the general awareness. Everyone should strive for this. What we do not know is it is there whether we strive for it or not. It is present, but not accessible. Then, why should one strive? The striving is not for bringing into being what was not there, but to grasp it with our intelligence. Anything comes into our experience only when it is grasped with our intellect. The sky is every where, within and without. But unless we pay attention to its is not grasped, is not experienced. Similarly, the general awareness is our very essence, and yet we do not experience it.
THOUGHTS OF THE PARTICULARS
How is it that we are unable to experience our own essence? The reason is our preoccupations with particulars. These are called ‘Vrithis’. These Vrithis, mental waves, operate unceasingly in our waking state and prevent the general awareness from our experience, just as waves cover the ocean and clouds cover the sky. But why does not the general awareness arise in deep sleep, in the state of epilepsy, or in death where these mental waves, subside. It is because the waves cease but temporarily, but are not totally annihilated. They operate in those states invisibly. It is a state of confusion, in which we are not conscious of anything, but the waves of the particular are latent. That is why when we gain consciousness, these waves also wake up and come patent. The scriptural science asserts that there is birth after death, because of this fact of these mental tendencies that do not die, but lie in waiting to come into operation. There is no solution in the waking, dream, and sleep state as in all these three states it is the particular tendencies and awareness that are ruling. Solution lies only in the awareness of the general. And that should be cultivated. It must first arise in the form of mental waves, (repetitive mentation) and should get strengthened into tendencies. This is called brahmakara Vrithi, repetitive mentation of Brahman (the general pervading the particulars). It is also named brahma Vasana, (the repetitive being rooted). Vrithi is answered by Vrithi, tendency by tendency. What that scripture refers to when is says ‘Isavasyam’ (‘this should be enveloped in Iswara’) is this replacing world thoughts with brahma thought. In sum, the spiritual aspirant should first practice this general awareness which is the essence of advaita. Listening is the first stage. Next comes reflection on what one listens. Then comes meditation. Through these stages do the Vrithis become Vasanas Listening Sravana consists in knowing about atma and its true essence. Reflection (manana) is to grasp that what appears as non-self is also the self, and not different from it. Meditation (nididhyasa) is to see every object as a manifestation of atma and nothing else, and thus merge every object in the self. If one continues this process of merging the objects in the self, the atmakara Vrithi (‘all this is nothing but my own self) is formed. This gradually grows strong and becomes rooted (Vasana). As this (atmakara Vasana) becomes stronger, the particular Vrithis and Vasanas of the non-self are totally destroyed. And the aspirant is certain to be liberated in this life itself. Or, if his prarabdha is exhausted, he will be liberated after his body drops off.
We should now consider how to attain through listening (sravana), manava (reflection) etc. the general awareness. As has already been stated, one should begin with the mithyatma. It is because the all. Pervasive atma is limited to this little body and our identification with it that we have become jivatmas. This body etc. are not awareness. They are what we are aware of (jneya). ‘This is my body’, this my Vital breath, and this my mind – these are our thoughts. If I am aware that these are joys and sorrows, how can these, the objects of awareness be awareness itself. These are all the known, not the knowing self. But due to ignorance these are attributed to me. This attribution is called ‘adhyaropa’ in advaita. Now it is because of this ‘adhyaropa’, I am not able to recall my infinite form. It is covered by the ‘adhyarapa’. So, all these covered things must be uncovered (or discovered) and the infinite must be perceived in the finite body, realising, ‘I am not this’, ‘I am not this’. This process is termed ‘apavada’. By dismissing the ‘not-I’, you dismiss joys and sorrows and all thoughts giving way to awareness to reveal itself. That is to say there are no particulars now. All is pervaded by the general awareness which has broken out of the confines of the limited body. As it is formless it does require the body for its support. It emerges from the body. Atma then is called ‘pratyagatma’. Once it releases itself from the confines of the body, it spreads like sky and is every where. This pratyagatma that pervades all is the same as paramatma or mukhyatma. An other word for it is ‘brahaman’. When we can proceed to that stage when we perceive ourselves as the impartite atma, that is known as pratyabhijna in the spiritual path. This is the first part of the practice.
And now the second part. It is called ‘Pravilapana’, which means merging. Merge what? Whatever is other than the atma. What is that other? Jiva, Jagat and Iswara – all these three are anatma, non-self. The moment atma limited itself to the extent of the body, these three make their appearance as different from atma. Moreover they seem to be real in their own right. When the field of atma expands, beyond the bounds of the body and is aware of all things as of its own essence, not something different from my own essence. It is this coming into our experience of the anatma, the whole phenomenal existence, as not different from atma, and that it has no reality independent of atma, is what pravilapana means. But how can it be said that all this is of the essence of atma? All this is nothing but a fancy tale told by advaitins, which cannot stand to reason, says the layman as well as the scientist. This question has already been answered. You perceive everything, ranging from our thoughts to the outer space, as existing. You also perceive that you are aware of your awareness of all these things. Can you see these things without this awareness? Atma is nothing but this being and awareness, or being in awareness. When the awareness is general, you are aware that all things are but its particulars, particular beings and particular awareness. Any scientist will have to admit that since the particulars cannot be different from the general it is this general awareness that gives all things their existence, and awareness of their existence. So, when the particular is perceived as a form of the general (Pratyabhijna), the merging the particulars in the general (Pravilapana) automatically happens. It comes into our experience. This is all that is sadhana.
AIDS TO PRACTICE
Intellectual conviction is not enough. It must result in experience. It is not enough to know about the goal. One must know the way to it. You may pay one must take the aid of Karma (action), Yoga (mind discipline), Upasana (meditation, worship), devotion, reciting a mantra etc. It is however important to realize that these are but aids. They cannot by themselves lead one to liberation. Because Karma (action) is called for when a thing has to be acquired. But atma is already present, and is not a thing to be created anew, or acquired afresh. It is available everywhere. So, Karma has no place. Similarly, those who speak of yoga say, vacate the mind ejecting thoughts from it, or meditate on Iswara. Where to these ejected thoughts go? They have no place to go. For, atma has occupied every inch of space, and they are its particular forms. Why do you think they are different from the self? As to meditation on Iswara, is he the same as atma or different from it? If atma is all that there is Iswara must also be of it. And where is the need to practice meditation on Iswara? And then upasana (worship). What would you worship? What can you worship when there is only the atma and nothing else? Do you want to worship that atma which is one? Then you have to split the one into two, the worshipper and the worshipped, and it is no longer advaita. In worship there is no advaita, and in advaita there cannot be the duality of the worshipper and the worshipped. So is devotion (bhakti). The devotee and God are not different, and devotion is possible only in duality. So are the recitation of a mantra, and so many other practices. But then why have all these been taught. These have been recommended as means for the clearing of the mind and for focus. But it has not been said that these will bring about self – realization. That is possible only through awareness of the atma.
And after all the practice, what is it that is to be attained? It is ‘siddhi’, another name for liberation. Is it something that is newly achieved? If you achieve does not it mean that earlier it did not exist? The advaitin’s answer to this is this, ‘attainment of what is already attained, and doing away with what never was’. Liberation is to realize what was always real, and what you do not see now never was. Therefore, theory, practice and attainment are not three different things. Theory is itself practice, and practice itself is attainment. All these are indeed one. When all that there is but one immutable atma, whatever is stated about it is only a way of facilitating comprehension. And this is done to remind you that there is but one self, my self, and there is nothing that is not of it. This presentation is for the purpose of instruction. ‘When this is known, there is no duality,’ says Gaudapada. And now a word about the state of liberation. Call it atma, call it Brahman, call it liberation – the essence of all is one, and that is our state. We come to know this. Is that all? Or, is there any other benefit? What is the difference between that state and the state of all these inert objects? If this is the inert state, that is complete consciousness. When consciousness is total, its power also will definitely be total. When people like us with limited consciousness have some power, what is surprising in the all – conscious liberated person having all powers? When one has power, one may or may not exercise that power. The example of a magician will make this clear. Also, this exercise of extraordinary powers is not arbitrary. It seems so to the individuals according to their experiences. A rope may look like a serpent. But only if you see it as serpent. Otherwise, not. Therefore, in the state of liberation, there is no place for attachment and aversion. And although power appears in forms and names, these are not real. Like magic power, it is all illusion, false appearance. As it is only the Lord’s manifestation, there can be no obstacle or alteration to the state of liberation, say the advaitins.
THE GREAT TRADITION OF ADVAITA
So, far, it has been completely clarified what the science of advaita is and its uniqueness, and also how it alone can solve all the problems of life. That is why, while the rest are dogmas, views and arguments, advaita is the final judgement. To teach this great truth in all its details have appeared the Upanishads and other texts. ‘The fourth and the final is atma which is the good and is non-dual. And that is what is to be known’, says the Maidukya Upanishad. And Gaudapad hinges the whole adavita philosophy based on this Upanishad. He wrote his commentary on its four sections in verses. Later, Sankara wrote wonderful commentaries not only on that but on the prasthanatraya (the Vedanta sutras, the Upanishads and the Bhagawadgita) and dealt with in an exhaustive manner the theory, practice and attainment of advaita. His enquiry is done in a very scientific and comprehensive manner. He taught it so originally, and splendidly that Sankara’s name has become synonymous with advaita. Then came his disciple Surveswara who wrote ‘Vartikas’ (explanation of commentary) on his teacher’s commentaries, meeting with all the objections raised against Sankara’s exposition of advaita. He also wrote ‘Prakranagranthas’ books on specific topics, like ‘Manasollasa’ and ‘Naiskarmya Siddhi’ and confrerred immensive benefits on the aspirants. And Vidyaranya who came later is indeed a vast. Forest of learning. His ‘Vedanta Panchadasi’, ‘Anubhuti Prakasa’, ‘Jivanmukti Viveka’ – all are priceless jewels. His writings a treasure of theory, practice and experience, one exceeding the other. This tradition of teacher – disciple is very long. It has extended upto Vivekananda in the recent times. Sankara and Vivekananda are uniquely similar in their lives and achievements. Both renounced the worldly life in youth. Sankara lived for about thirty years, and Vivekananda’s life was also short. Sankara even in those times moved to the four corners of the country from Kanyakumari to the Himalayas. And Vivekananda spanned the country and even crossed the narrow national bounds and took the message of advaita to the west and opened up for them the treasure of Eastern Wisdom. Sankara established mathas as part of his propagation of advaita. And so has Vivekananda. At this point, a word should be said about the mathas. Sankara has nowhere in his writings used the words ‘peethas’ or ‘peethadhipathis’. If at all he did establish the peethas in the four corners of the country he must have told the heads of those peethas to accept food (bhiksha) and give people food for thought, give them ‘jnana bhiksha’. He never told them to lead a pompous life-style worshipped and treated like earthly emperors, parading on elephants, richly bejeweled and bedeeked. It is not correct to say that he renovated ruined temples and placed srichakras in them. Such a practice is contrary to Sankara’s thinking as well as his theory. The path of worship supports evolutionism and not Vivarta (brahmam appearing as world). All these are the fancies of some present day fans. So also are stories of his entering dead bodies and space walking. Such miracles are attributed to Sankara by some of his over-zealous devotees in their fond attempt to enhance the esteem of their teacher. Even the works live ‘Soundarya Lahari’ and some works on mantra sastra are also falsely (attributed to him). In fact, there is not one in a million who grasp the essence of advaita in its spirit and significance and live it. Rare indeed is such a one. The rest utter the word advaita, but qualify it as sivadvaita, or saktadvaita or dvaitadvaita, introducing counterfeit advaita doctrines, and have lost touch with true advaita. And even there, they infuse with ritualistic (Karma). And among the currency of such counterfeit coins, the genuine is difficult to distinguish. In such a context, some followers of this great tradition like us, in our own humble way, strive to keep the true spirit of advaita alive. I have written and published works like ‘Jagadguru Mahopadesa’, expounding the essence of the great teaching of Sankara. Apart from several works on philosophical texts, I have also brought out works on the epics, the Ramanyana, the Mahabharata and the Maha Bhagavata, in the light of advaita. I have also been speaking to groups of spiritual seekers in several cities spreading the spirit of advaita. Hundreds of C.D’s and Audio Cassettes have been released, which are being listened all over the world by many. ‘One who has reached the shore, helps others to reach it’, goes the saying. One should realize, and help others to realise it. That is of mutual benefit. There can be no purpose higher than this in life.
‘May all the worlds be in peace’