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Advaita - For Layman

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sravna

Well-known member
Dear Members,

Based on my belief that making philosophical works accessible to the common man is more important than indulging in and scoring hair splitting points over perceived flaws in logic, I have been trying to contribute in the small ways I could. But I have this feeling that there is always a perceived way of doing things which if not followed will not get your message across.

With this in mind and also wanting to stick to my philosophy of accessibility I am starting two threads on advaita - one for scholars and the other for the layman. I hope this would satisfy both the purposes that I have referred to.

I request members to contribute to the discussions so that one and all can benefit.
 

ozone

Active member
What is Advaita?

Vedanta - meaning "the end of the vedas" is the name given to the teachings of the Upanishads and various other religious works that interpret and elaborate on the teachings of the Upanishads.
Three major commentaries were provided by scholars Shankaracharya, Ramanuja and Madhvacharya in that order.
Their (differing) intepretations gave rise to 3 popular systems of Vedanta philosophy viz
Advaita Vedanta (Shankaracharya) - non dualism
Vishishtadvaita (Ramanuja) - qualified non dualism
Dvaita (Madhvacharya) - dualism.
The basic difference is in their beliefs regarding the interrelationships between Brahman, the world and the atman.
Advaita
Shankaracharya's Advaita is a philosophy of oneness of all creations.
Advaita means non dualism or monoism.
According to Advaita, everything is nothing but Brahman. Brahman is the absolute reality and there is no other
reality but Brahman.
Brahma satyam jagan mithya, jeevo Brahmaiva na apar:
ब्रह्म सत्यं जगन्मिथ्या जीवो ब्रह्मैव नापर:
Brahman (the Absolute) is alone real; this world is unreal; and the Jiva or the individual soul is non-different
from Brahman.
The inner meaning of this is like saying the clay in a pot is real, or the gold in a bracelet is real.
Clay and Gold changed form and there is now pot and bracelet.
The world is real as long as one perceives it through the mind and sense alone. When the mind and senses are transcended, the world of things disappears and what remains is Brahman, which is the only reality.
Like when the pot disappears what remains is the clay.
 
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sravna

sravna

Well-known member
Vedanta - meaning "the end of the vedas" is the name given to the teachings of the Upanishads and various other religious works that interpret and elaborate on the teachings of the Upanishads.
Three major commentaries were provided by scholars Shankaracharya, Ramanuja and Madhvacharya in that order.
Their (differing) intepretations gave rise to 3 popular systems of Vedanta philosophy viz
Advaita Vedanta (Shankaracharya) - non dualism
Vishishtadvaita (Ramanuja) - qualified non dualism
Dvaita (Madhvacharya) - dualism.
The basic difference is in their beliefs regarding the interrelationships between Brahman, the world and the atman.
Advaita
Shankaracharya's Advaita is a philosophy of oneness of all creations.
Advaita means non dualism or monoism.
According to Advaita, everything is nothing but Brahman. Brahman is the absolute reality and there is no other
reality but Brahman.
Brahma satyam jagan mithya, jeevo Brahmaiva na apar:
ब्रह्म सत्यं जगन्मिथ्या जीवो ब्रह्मैव नापर:
Brahman (the Absolute) is alone real; this world is unreal; and the Jiva or the individual soul is non-different
from Brahman.
The inner meaning of this is like saying the clay in a pot is real, or the gold in a bracelet is real.
Clay and Gold changed form and there is now pot and bracelet.
The world is real as long as one perceives it through the mind and sense alone. When the mind and senses are transcended, the world of things disappears and what remains is Brahman, which is the only reality.
Like when the pot disappears what remains is the clay.

Saying that the clay in a pot is real and the pot is not real is like saying that forms are not real but only the content. Clay or say, a paper may be shaped into different things. These different things do not represent and should not be mistaken as their identity because they can be changed.

Thus on a grander scale the form corresponds to the physical and the content corresponds to the spiritual and it is the spiritual that endures.
 
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sravna

sravna

Well-known member

Advaita Terminology

Brahman

The Absolute Reality defined as Existence-Consciousness-Bliss

This is one of the most basic terms that one needs to know in understanding our philosophy

JivatmaThe conglomerate of body, mind and atma

So as seen in the gentle introduction to advaita by Shri.Ozone, brahman represents the absolute reality. By absolute reality it is implied that the reality stands on its own. Contrast this with the relative realities such as the physical world which do not have real existence of its own. The physical world is called as a relative reality and is not said to have real existence of its own because, it is real only from the point of view of the jivatma that dwells in it and is unreal from the point of view of brahman and therefore from the point of view of the absolute.
 

C RAVI

Well-known member
Sri Sravna,

Your post #4 and #5 has been presented very lucidly. Thank you very much for your efforts for such a simple and clear representations of basics of Advaita.


As you said, as per Advaita, the physical world is only a relative reality. It is real only from the point of view of Jivatma that dwells in it. What I am coming to think and ponder, having some basic knowledge on Advaita, is - Does Atma before acquiring a physical form/body (atma that wanders between after death and before rebirth) perceives this physical world as real OR is it only after aqcuiring the physical form in this physical world of Maya and dwelling in it, this physical world is perceived as real by jivatmas?

What I am trying to express about my doubt is, when atma/soul/spirit/energy is considered as the abstract form of the "one absolute consciousness-bliss-brahman", that ultimately gets merged with Brahman, does atma/soul remains free from the afflictions of Maya and could know that this physical world is not real, unless the atma takes a particular physical form, conglomerating with body and mind, in this physical world and starts dwelling in it?

Kindly share your understanding/views on the above with us here. Thanking you in advance.
 

zebra16

Well-known member
Vedanta - meaning "the end of the vedas" is the name given to the teachings of the Upanishads and various other religious works that interpret and elaborate on the teachings of the Upanishads.

I have a difficulty with this meaning attributed to vedanta. Is it really "the end of the vedas"? If so, this runs counter to the following three objections:

1. veda means "knowledge" - is there an end to knowledge? Further postulating, such complete knowledge should include all knowledge, not just metaphysics. Is this really the case?

2. vedanta is based on vedas - the vedas themselves declare that vedas are endless "ananto vai vedAH" and there is an episode of sage Bharadwaja and Indra to press home this point.

3. Anything that has an end should necessarily have a begining. When we say we have arrived at the end of vedas, then would it be in conformity with the view that vedas do not have a begining and it is ever existing?

My own understanding (basically opinion) is that vedanta means culmination of knowledge gained/gathered so far, and vedanta does not mean the end or end portion of vedas.
 

ozone

Active member
I have a difficulty with this meaning attributed to vedanta. Is it really "the end of the vedas"? If so, this runs counter to the following three objections:

1. veda means "knowledge" - is there an end to knowledge? Further postulating, such complete knowledge should include all knowledge, not just metaphysics. Is this really the case?

2. vedanta is based on vedas - the vedas themselves declare that vedas are endless "ananto vai vedAH" and there is an episode of sage Bharadwaja and Indra to press home this point.

3. Anything that has an end should necessarily have a begining. When we say we have arrived at the end of vedas, then would it be in conformity with the view that vedas do not have a begining and it is ever existing?

My own understanding (basically opinion) is that vedanta means culmination of knowledge gained/gathered so far, and vedanta does not mean the end or end portion of vedas.
In the Sruti Scriptures vedas form the starting and the vedantas are the commentaries that form the later or end part, hence these are generally called by the name vedanta.
 

renuka

Well-known member
I have a difficulty with this meaning attributed to vedanta. Is it really "the end of the vedas"? If so, this runs counter to the following three objections:

1. veda means "knowledge" - is there an end to knowledge? Further postulating, such complete knowledge should include all knowledge, not just metaphysics. Is this really the case?

2. vedanta is based on vedas - the vedas themselves declare that vedas are endless "ananto vai vedAH" and there is an episode of sage Bharadwaja and Indra to press home this point.

3. Anything that has an end should necessarily have a begining. When we say we have arrived at the end of vedas, then would it be in conformity with the view that vedas do not have a begining and it is ever existing?

My own understanding (basically opinion) is that vedanta means culmination of knowledge gained/gathered so far, and vedanta does not mean the end or end portion of vedas.


Dear ZebraJi,

Its not really an endpoint or a full stop for the Vedas but Vedanta is like how the supreme swan of discrimination separates milk from water and enjoys the essence of the Vedas.
 
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sravna

sravna

Well-known member
Dear Ravi,

I will address your queries a little later once I am done with the real basics, for the sake of better understanding.
 
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sravna

sravna

Well-known member
I will try to define a term that plays a central part in any philosophy. I will try to define what reality is:

Something is real if it is perceived and there is the same perception of it. But this common perception is shared by the same kind.

Every human has the same perception of the physical reality. For example a rose is not seen in different ways by different persons. Thus physical world
is real for humans.

Note: Just as time inextricably ties to space, mental reality is tied to the physical reality. So as long as we are within space and time we will experience them. However mental world cannot rightly be called a reality because there is no common perception. It is at different stages of evolution in different persons and hence different people will see the reality in different ways. Once our evolution is complete we will be liberated from space and time and hence from the physical and the mental world.
 
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sravna

sravna

Well-known member
Dear Ravi,

I am very much a learner of advaita like most of us are so let us try to learn from each other. The answer to your question is a common sensical reflection that I think is consistent with advaita:

The physical form is only to form the basis of the experiences of the atma to which it responds. The need for the physical experiences is the need to overcome naturally happening energy such as lust and emotions, through your mind. When the mind gets the better of force, it has got the better of the type of energies that constitute spacetime.. This state of the mind is reached after the realization that knowledge of the physical world is not ultimate or in the parlance of advaita, knowledge of brahman is true knowledge.



Sri Sravna,

Your post #4 and #5 has been presented very lucidly. Thank you very much for your efforts for such a simple and clear representations of basics of Advaita.


As you said, as per Advaita, the physical world is only a relative reality. It is real only from the point of view of Jivatma that dwells in it. What I am coming to think and ponder, having some basic knowledge on Advaita, is - Does Atma before acquiring a physical form/body (atma that wanders between after death and before rebirth) perceives this physical world as real OR is it only after aqcuiring the physical form in this physical world of Maya and dwelling in it, this physical world is perceived as real by jivatmas?

What I am trying to express about my doubt is, when atma/soul/spirit/energy is considered as the abstract form of the "one absolute consciousness-bliss-brahman", that ultimately gets merged with Brahman, does atma/soul remains free from the afflictions of Maya and could know that this physical world is not real, unless the atma takes a particular physical form, conglomerating with body and mind, in this physical world and starts dwelling in it?

Kindly share your understanding/views on the above with us here. Thanking you in advance.
 

Yamaka

New member

Advaita Terminology

Brahman

The Absolute Reality defined as Existence-Consciousness-Bliss

This is one of the most basic terms that one needs to know in understanding our philosophy

JivatmaThe conglomerate of body, mind and atma

So as seen in the gentle introduction to advaita by Shri.Ozone, brahman represents the absolute reality. By absolute reality it is implied that the reality stands on its own. Contrast this with the relative realities such as the physical world which do not have real existence of its own. The physical world is called as a relative reality and is not said to have real existence of its own because, it is real only from the point of view of the jivatma that dwells in it and is unreal from the point of view of brahman and therefore from the point of view of the absolute.

Dear Sravna:

I hope your posts address the concerns and queries of Atheists like Yamaka too. Not just preaching to the already converted.

Is Brahman the same as Jesus or Allah? I was under the impression that Brahman is the so-called Pan-Theistic Ishwara = Allah = Jesus.

Jivatma is nothing but the living human body itself. It has various parts. Brain and its extensions (Brain Stem, Spinal cord) are the Master Organs controlling all most all activities of the physical body.

Brain is the seat of Mind, "I-ness", Consciousness, Soul etc and is called Atma = the functions of the specialized sensory neurons in the pre-frontal cortex (just behind the Netri).

When the brain dies (in about 4 min of deprivation of oxygen and/or nutrients) every function that it carried out immediately dies.

That's the end of all Soul, Consiciousness and Atma of that individual.

Am I making any sense?

Cheers.

:)
 
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KRS

Well-known member
Dear Sri Ozone Ji,

You said:
this world is unreal;

This is how the state of the physical world is usually described in explaining Advaitham.

But this simple sentence has garnered the most controversy and is the cause of many attacks on Advaitham.

We need to clarify this by saying that there are two levels of reality. One is Brahman and the other is the physical world which is also a reality as it is perceived through our senses and mind.

But when one looks at this world and ask which is the 'higher' reality, ultimately one can only conclude that this world experience is subrated in to Brahman, the ultimate reality.

This distinction is very important. Because, folks who do not understand this, attack Advaitham as saying that the physical world is 'unreal', meaning that it does not exist, and it is all just a mirage, but obviously that would be wrong because we 'experience' it directly.

Hope this makes sense.

Regards,
KRS
 
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suraju06

Well-known member
I have a difficulty with this meaning attributed to vedanta. Is it really "the end of the vedas"? If so, this runs counter to the following three objections:

1. veda means "knowledge" - is there an end to knowledge? Further postulating, such complete knowledge should include all knowledge, not just metaphysics. Is this really the case?

2. vedanta is based on vedas - the vedas themselves declare that vedas are endless "ananto vai vedAH" and there is an episode of sage Bharadwaja and Indra to press home this point.

3. Anything that has an end should necessarily have a begining. When we say we have arrived at the end of vedas, then would it be in conformity with the view that vedas do not have a begining and it is ever existing?

My own understanding (basically opinion) is that vedanta means culmination of knowledge gained/gathered so far, and vedanta does not mean the end or end portion of vedas.

Vedanta means the essence of Vedas. In Tamil this is more picturesquely presented as வேதத்தின் குருத்து . குருத்து is the word representing tender shoot at the crest of the coconut or palmirah tree.
 

Iyyarooraan

Well-known member
Post # 13: The author only describes death and the physiology in its dying condition. Science has analyzed every part and particle of human body giving relevant chemical names and so on and so forth. The world awaits Science to tell us the chemical name of the soul. When it does it will be subject to verification by others even after hundreds of years as science would further develop itself pooh-poohing the old findings.
 

Jaykay767

Well-known member
Dear Sri Ozone Ji,

You said:


This is how the state of the physical world is usually described in explaining Advaitham.

But this simple sentence has garnered the most controversy and is the cause of many attacks on Advaitham.

We need to clarify this by saying that there are two levels of reality. One is Brahman and the other is the physical world which is also a reality as it is perceived through our senses and mind.

But when one looks at this world and ask which is the 'higher' reality, ultimately one can only conclude that this world experience is subrated in to Brahman, the ultimate reality.

This distinction is very important. Because, folks who do not understand this, attack Advaitham as saying that the physical world is 'unreal', meaning that it does not exist, and it is all just a mirage, but obviously that would be wrong because we 'experience' it directly.

Hope this makes sense.

Regards,
KRS

Dear KRS,

Absolutely agree !. Both are realities, one is relative & one is absolute. if the world is "unreal", then how can Karma be associated with the atman !

when Lord Krishna says this world is "maya", he means this is just a transition for the soul/atman to purify itself through positive karma !! Maya indicates relative reality, does not mean it is unreal.

Cheers,
JK
 
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sravna

sravna

Well-known member
Let me try to define maya, a very controversial concept of advaita. Let me before that give an illustration.

Consider three point A B and C in the form of a triangle and which are connected as in a triangle.

Assume there is something called as a magic path which helps you to travel instantaneously in it.

Assume each side has two such magic paths.

The two magic paths are unconnected though and you have to make the connections to go to the second magic path.

Assume making connections takes some time

So if you are to traverse from A to B it takes some time due to making connections even though the time taken to travel the path is zero.

Thus A , B and c would seem as different points.

Assume as you traverse through the triangle you have made all the connections and are back to A.

Now all the points are connected and you can instantaneously traverse from one point to another.

In other words we can say that the difference between the three points was perceived because of the them being not connected and the connections make the difference disappear.

The perfect connections is in the reality of brahman.

The unconnectedness is in the reality of humans. The more the unconnectedness is, the more the reality of that person is away from that of brahman.

When a magic path itself is missing and has to be constructed, it represents a gap in the level of consciousness, just as between living beings and humans and so on.

Now comes the real trick. In our day to day life we are familiar with engineering or assembling things that make up the whole. But in the real logic , the reverse is true. The whole brahman is the higher reality and has been existing for ever Therefore the lower levels or realities should be premised and are supposed to exist. This is true because we know that from our own existence.

Coming to maya, we can say that it is that to which the disconnectedness can be attributed. If you want to think in a different way, you can say that it is the veil that obscures reality.
 

renuka

Well-known member
Dear all,

When the word Unreal is used in Advaita..it does NOT mean that the world doesn't exists but it denotes the Transient and Changing nature of the phenomenal world.
Unreal should not be confused with Non Existence.

When the word Unreal is used it propels us to seek the Real as in Unchanging and to discover that Jeeva is no different from Paramatma hence the saying
Brahma satyam jagat mithya, jivo brahmaiva naparah—"Brahman is the only truth, the world is unreal, and there is ultimately no difference between Brahman and individual self




Summary : Unreal denotes Transient and Changing Nature of the Phenomenal World.
 
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ozone

Active member
Dear Sri Ozone Ji,

You said:


This is how the state of the physical world is usually described in explaining Advaitham.

But this simple sentence has garnered the most controversy and is the cause of many attacks on Advaitham.

We need to clarify this by saying that there are two levels of reality. One is Brahman and the other is the physical world which is also a reality as it is perceived through our senses and mind.

But when one looks at this world and ask which is the 'higher' reality, ultimately one can only conclude that this world experience is subrated in to Brahman, the ultimate reality.

This distinction is very important. Because, folks who do not understand this, attack Advaitham as saying that the physical world is 'unreal', meaning that it does not exist, and it is all just a mirage, but obviously that would be wrong because we 'experience' it directly.

Hope this makes sense.

Regards,
KRS

I agree 'unreal' or 'illusion' dont completely convey the intended meaning. thank you for the valuable additions.
 

C RAVI

Well-known member
Dear Ravi,

I am very much a learner of advaita like most of us are so let us try to learn from each other. The answer to your question is a common sensical reflection that I think is consistent with advaita:

The physical form is only to form the basis of the experiences of the atma to which it responds. The need for the physical experiences is the need to overcome naturally happening energy such as lust and emotions, through your mind. When the mind gets the better of force, it has got the better of the type of energies that constitute spacetime.. This state of the mind is reached after the realization that knowledge of the physical world is not ultimate or in the parlance of advaita, knowledge of brahman is true knowledge.


Thank you very much for your reply, Shri sravna
 
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OP
sravna

sravna

Well-known member
Important notes on the principle of "Parts" and the whole

1.The principle of whole greater than sum of the parts is an important principle to explain why lower realities flow from brahman

2. A higher reality/energy contains not only the essence of its parts/lower realities but contains more than that.

3. Thus the highest reality or brahman stands on its own

4. We can view the lower realities as rightly the projections of the highest reality or brahman
 
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sarma-61

New member
Advaita or non-dualism as propounded by Sankara has been misunderstood and misinterpreted, according to some brAhmaNas who led an austere life and spent their time in AtmajnAna, and who tried to share their knowledge with small neighbourly groups.

As a last-ditch attempt to persuade people not to deform or ravage this magnificent philosophy (though it has some weak-spots, caused, imho, mainly because Sankara had to write bhAshyas to get his ideas over to the people in general) I am giving below the core ideas which my limited intelligence has been able to absorb from the aforesaid "chamber pravachanams or discourses" by people who shunned publicity and were contented to live in peace and go away.

1. jeevAtmA is no different from the parabrahman.
2. The jeevAtmA resides in all living things as untaintedly as the Supreme Brahman. But once the jeevAtmA is associated with or covered by the physical body-mind-intellect (and the five kOSas, according to some), the jeevAtmA becomes clouded in its vision and is no longer able to express its inherent nature through all these filters (five kOSas, or intellect-body-mind trio~ Chinmayananda often used this BMI acronym in his Gita lectures).
3. If a type of cataract operation were possible to be performed on the clouded ‘vision’ of the jeevAtmA, people could get brahmajnAna on order, may be even through internet ordering! But so far, that has not been possible and it is for the individual person to make efforts towards this objective.
4. Almost all methods prescribed in the Hindu religious canvas – from poorvameemAmsA yAgAs to the latest kundalini techniques – are helpful in a person achieving the above objective of cleansing the jeevAtmA’s vision. But the wise people do not recommend “vAmAcAra” (left-handed) practices for this purposes; the Tantra-related systems like laLitA upAsana, ucchiShTagaNapati upAsana, kALi upAsana, chAtthan sEva (very popular in Kerala), etc., are not recommended by the learned people; even the “bhagavati sEva” which is quite popular among the tabras of Kerala is not recommended. The learned people say that these prohibited practices have side-effects which are more harmful than the objective of achieving AtmajnAna through such methods; these practices dangle the “aShTa siddhis” and more often than not the practitioners are lured by these and fall into deep abyss instead of climbing the stairs of AtmajnAna.
5. Externalized “bhakti” – towards an object which is ouside of the seeker after AtmajnAna is not at all helpful. Hence, the group bhajans, mantra chantings, elaborate and showy poojas, both in temples and by individuals/groups, will not be helpful. But praying, singing bhajans or worshipping god in any form with the clear central idea that god is “within one” and not external to us, is very much necessary and a must. (It is said that the Tamil word “kaDavuL” tries to remind us that we have to ‘enter inside’ (uLLE kaDa) to find God.
6. Worshipping persons as god-equivalents is wrong path, but for those who are very poor in their spiritual evolutionary state, may be they will spend a number of births doing this, just as a toddler learns to walk properly after many a fall.
7. Gurus or Acharyas should be people with proper credentials. As a rule of thumb, it is better to avoid those who are or like publicity.
8. “nididhyAsana” or deep meditation is the only correct path and practice for gaining AtmajnAna; all the rituals and nithya/naimittika karmas prescribed for the dwija castes only help the person in doing the deep meditation more effectively.
9. One must be able to face one’s own self – with all its warts and scars - without fear and analyze one’s self by steps in order to gradually reduce and eventually remove the effects of mind and intellect on the jeevAtmA. The limitations imposed by the body like lust, gluttony, craving for bodily comforts, etc., are easier to overcome completely than those created by mind & ‘buddhi’.
10. Lastly, gaining AtmajnAna does not make a person look any different and so it is difficult to ‘spot’ such a person. He/she may be one of the millions of the common people we come across but it is difficult to know, and true to the saying “kaNTavar viNTilar”, such persons will not go about saying “I have gained AtmajnAnam”.
 
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sravna

sravna

Well-known member
So far,

1. Physical reality is a Projection of brahman. Projection by its nature produces a lesser reality.
2. Projection is accomplished through maya.
3. Physical reality is also called relative reality because it is real only from the point of view of jivatma
 
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sravna

sravna

Well-known member
When talking of maya it is important to talk about both:

(1) the lower reality in which the jivatma dwells
(2) The ignorance of the jivatma itself.

The former which is the physical world, as we have seen is due to the projecting power and the latter is the veiling power. Both are attributable to maya.

(1) is necessary because it is the basis of all the learning experiences so that reality cannot be a perfect reality
(2) because learning experiences are necessary to become realized and so one starts from ignorance.
 
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