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Advaita in Practical Life

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We talk so much about advaita--non-duality, quoting the mahAvAkyas and other text from the UpaniShads, Vedas, Shankara and other sources. How can we go about cultivating a bhAvam--feeling, of advaita in our daily life, which in turn, could become a lasting anubhavam--experience? Let us discuss the ways and means to do this in this thread. Members who accept the philosophy of advaita, are invited to share their practical ideas in this thread.

We start with a beautiful and excellent advice form shrI AbhinavavidyAtIrtha MahASvAmigaL.


From the Tamil book Sri Gurukripa VilAsam,
published by Sringeri ShAradA PItham

Practical tips for a sAdhakA seeking advaita jnAna by shrI AbhinavavidyAtIrtha MahASvAmigaL, 35th piThAdhipati of the DhakShiNAmnaya Shringeri ShArada PItham, from his guru shrI Chandrasekhara BhArathi MahASvAmigaL's upadesha to him:

When in Shringeri NrusiMha vanam (forests), I used to go to shrI ShAradAmbAL temple and stay there for a while. Once after I came back, my GurunAthar asked me, "You have come crossing the river. What thoughts arose in your mind?"

"What thoughts!", I wondered and said, "Things were many that I saw".

"What was new among them?"

"Nothing. I just looked at whatever was seen by the eyes."

"Must one should look at whatever comes under the sight of eyes?"

"If the eyes were closed so as not to see things, walking wouldn't be possible!"

"You should see them; but also remain without seeing them."

"How would that be possible?"

To that he said,
आत्मांबोधेस् तरङ्गोऽस्ंयहं इति गमने--AtmAMbodhes tara~ggo&sMyahaM iti gamane--(while walking one should think 'I am a wave in the ocean of AtmA')--and this is how one should remain.

When we stand up from the earlier seated posture and start walking, there should be no thought such as 'I am going somewhere walking'. A big wave has risen in the ocean of AtmA; and that wave is progressing forward; there is no difference whatsoever between the wave and the ocean. So one should think that one is a wave in the ocean of AtmA--'I am a wave in the ocean of bliss'."

I was surprised by his advice. He continued: "Always--even when one is conversing with another--should one reiterate this thought in mind."

What thought should one have while sitting? He said:

"...भावयन् आसनस्तः

संविद्सूत्रानुविद्धो महिरणिमिति वाऽस्मि

"...bhAvayan AsanastaH
saMvidsUtrAnuviddho mahiraNimiti vA&smi

"(when sitting, one should think, 'I am a bead strung in the thread of chaitanyam--intelligence, spirit')

"'A bead is strung in the thread of jnAnam (knowledge); that bead can't be removed, and the thread, made of chaitanyam, can't be snapped either; I am that bead.'--one's thoughts should function in this way.



"Whenever a thing is seen, then the attention should not be in looking at that thing. 'AhA, chaitanyam by its own nature is objectless--without any relation to manifest things; but now it appears to be associated with things; and this increases the pUrNatvam (completeness) of the AtmA. If we receive a blow, the feel of our body is accentuated. In the same way, when things are seen, the specific presence of AtmA is known. Even ordinarily we have the feel of our body, but when we receive a blow, this feeling increases. Similarly, although chaitanyam is always present, the specific darshan of AtmA is had when things are seen and perceived.'

"When one is lying down, one should think:

"शयनविधौ मग्न आनदसिन्धौ

"shayanavidhau magna Anadasindhau

"That is, one should think 'now I am immersed in the sea of bliss'. Such thoughts should be continually be practised in mind, which would be very good. Anyone can test the difference between ordinarily lying down and getting into sleep and lying down voluntarily removing thoughts and then get immersed in sleep. While lying down, one should invite the feeling of a blissful state and should prolong it until sleep takes over. The experience of bliss obtained by practising this way to get into sleep would be clearly seen in a few days.

"अन्तर्निष्टो मुमुक्षुः स खलु तनुबृताम् यो नयत्येवमायुः ॥

"antarniShTo mumukShuH sa khalu tanubRutAm yo nayatyevamAyuH ||

"One who conducts one's life in this way, becomes among people a mumukShu, one who is desirous of mokSha, with a mind directed inwards.

"Therefore, while walking or sitting or lying down, we should lead only such a life. This is the advice that my GurunAthar gave me."


The shlokas taught here are from Adi Sankara's Shatasloki. The full shloka is:

आत्मांबोधेस् तरङ्गोऽस्ंयहं इति गमने भावयन् आसनस्तः ।

संविद्सूत्रानुविद्धो महिरणिमिति वाऽस्मि इन्द्रियार्थप्प्रतीतौ ।

दृष्टोऽसंयात्मावलोकातिति शयनविधौ मग्न आनदसिन्धौ ।

अन्तर्निष्टो मुमुक्षुः स खलु तनुबृताम् यो नयत्येवमायुः ॥

AtmAMbodhes tara~ggo&sMyahaM iti gamane bhAvayan AsanastaH |
saMvidsUtrAnuviddho mahiraNimiti vA&smi indriyArthappratItau |
dRuShTo&saMyAtmAvalokAtiti shayanavidhau magna Anadasindhau |
antarniShTo mumukShuH sa khalu tanubRutAm yo nayatyevamAyuH ||

The feeling of I and the Self

The main impediment to our realization of the unity of Advaita as the Self, and that Self as the one and the same for all jIvAtmas, is the feeling of 'I'.

Strangely, that 'I' is the Self, although we wrongly associate it with the jIvAtma which is nothing but the reflection of the Self in our antaH-karaNa--system of inner organs. BhagavAn RamaNa Maharshi would explain that we say, "It is my legs" to refer to them as ours, but only "I ran", when it was actually those very same legs that did the running! The 'I' we use in "I ran" is thus our wrong association of it with our jIvAtma. Only when we are able to say "My legs ran", realizing it mano-vAk-kAyam--mind-speech-action, we will be on the right path to Advaita. To start with, in practical life, we can at least cutivate such thoughts in mind as 'My legs ran', 'My hands did it', 'My mind thinks this thought', 'My buddhi--intellect says to', 'My body sleeps' and so on.

It is difficult to associate our sense organs with our actions, but at least we can reiterate the thought every time, after the false feeling of their actions as our actions.


Sri Chandrasekhara BharatI MahAsvAmigaL of Shringagiri Sri ShAradA PITham, explains below as to how the 'I' is common to everyone and how it is actually the Atman.

"In the language we speak--even in English--advaita bhAvam (feel of Advaita) is clear. Take the English word 'I'. I call me 'I'. You call me 'you'. Someone there calls me 'he'. I am only 'I', not 'you', not 'he'. 'He' and 'you' are nAma-bheda (differences by names). The vastu (entity) that is there is only the 'I'. Now, just as I refer to me as 'I', you would call yourself 'I' and he would call himself 'I'. Thus all of us are only the 'I'. All that vyavAhara (references) by 'he, you' are all only nAma-bheda. 'I', that is, the 'AtmA' is only one. Everyone is of that AtmA. I am who is the 'I', appear as 'he' to one man and 'you' to another.

"Let us look at it in another way. What is this plural 'we'? Can we say that it is the equivalent of 'I' + 'I'? Never. Only if the 'I' and 'you' and 'he' come together, the plural 'we' would occur. 'I' has no plural form. The AtmA has no plural form. Only the nAma-rUpa (names and forms) by which the AtmA is seen are plural. These are just appearance. The reality is only the 'I', the AtmA."

(From the Tamil book guru kripA vilAsam, vol.3, pp.236.xviii-xix)

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Essential Definitions

In discussing Advaita, we need to be clear about the exact meaning and significance of certain terms that we would frequently encounter. The book panchAdashI by shrI VidyAraNya svAmi has the following definitions.

Atma chaitanya, is the pure consciousness of Brahman (Self), which resides immanent and transcendent in all the forms of Creation.

chidAbAsa is the reflection of the pure consciousness of Brahman in the intellect.

antaHkaraNa is another name for the mind.

Explanation of the Terms

• The term chaitanya is from the words chit--consciousness, and anya--inexhaustible. Thus chaitanya is inexhaustible consciousness of Brahman. The chit--consciousness, in chaitanya is the same as the chit in sat-chit-Ananda, existence-consciousness-bliss which is the nature of Brahman.

chidAbAsa is from the words chit--consciousness, and bhAsa--light, lustre, impression. Thus chidAbAsa is the impressed or reflected consciousness of chaitanya--Brahman, the pure consciousness.

antaHkaraNa is from the combination of antaH--inner, karaNa--organ. Thus antaHkaraNa is the inner organ of man, which is the mind. In fact the very name human--manuShya, is because of the mind--manas.

Nature and Relationship

• The nature of Atma chaitanya is to reside immanent and transcendent in all forms of Creation--animate and inanimate. Thus, Brahman is the substratum of everything in the Universe, remaining as a silent witness.

chidAbAsa we said is the reflected consciousness of Brahman. Where does the reflection take place? In other words, what is the media of its reflection? The media is the intellect. Thus the reflection of Brahman in the intellect is known as chidAbAsa.

Now, 'we have a situation' here: because of mutual superimposition between Brahman and the intellect, the chidAbAsa identifies itself with the intellect, instead of with Brahman! This is like a reflected image identifying itself with the mirror which reflects it, rather than the source of light. The image in the mirror is only gross vibration so this cannot happen, whereas Brahman imparts its nature of consciousness to its reflection in the intellect, hence the 'situation'.

The chidAbAsa thus identified with the intellect is the jIva--individual self. The jIva, i.e., the chidAbAsa,--which is like a proxy server, to use an analogy of Infotech--looks upon himself as an agent and an enjoyer.

Because of its identification with the gross and subtle bodies, the jIva attributes to himself the joys and sorrows which pertain to the bodies alone. When the jIva gives up his identification with the bodies, he realizes that he is the substratum, Brahman, which is pure consciousness and devoid of association with anything.

• What about the role of antaHkaraNa in this relation between Brahman and jIva? We said that chidAbAsa is reflection of Brahman in the intellect and that antaHkaraNa is another name for mind. What is the relation between the intellect and the mind?

Although, the medium of reflection of Brahman is only one which is the antaHkaraNa--mind, it carries different names according to its four functions. When the mind cogitates it is known as the manas--mind. When it comes to a decision, it is called buddhi--intellect. When it stores information and experiences, it is called chittam--individual consciousness. The notion of 'I-ness' which is behind all these functions is called ahaMkAra--ego.

How did this medium of antaHkaraNa rise? At the command of Ishvara, the five subtle elements ether, air, fire, water and earth arose from the part of PrakRti in which tamas predominates. The five subtle organs of sense, namely, those of hearing, touch, sight, taste and smell respectively arose from the sattva parts of the five subtle elements ether, air, fire, water and earth. From a combination of the sattva parts of all the subtle elements arose the antaHkaraNa--mind.


Thus, in the Ishvara lIlA--God's play, of Creation, the Self becomes individual selves like the actors in a play; and the selves act out their roles in the play of one life, get deeply attached to the roles they play, and feel intensely sad and anxious when the play is over. In the next play in another stage, they assume different roles and again get deeply involved in them. The cycle of the lIlA thus goes on and on.
Essential Distinctions
KAnchi ParamAchArya gives a sum-up of the various Hindu religious siddhAntas--doctrines, in his long exposition "shrI Shankara charitam".

• There is nothing beyond the jagat--world, that you see with your own eyes; nothing beyond could be known also. So long as you are alive, without any controls, keep enjoying the indrya saukhyas--sensual comforts. When you die, your soul dies too; AtmA, punar janma--rebirth, svargam--heaven, mokSham--liberation, are all just deceptions.--the ChArvAkam which has such teachings is what is also known as Materialism and Agnosticism.

• What are called 'material', and 'spiritual' are both the flow of baseless imagination. In reality, everything is only sUnya--void.--the Bauddham--Buddhism, that teaches this way is Nihilism.

• The Jainas too are only half-Bauddhas--AchAryAL has referred to them as 'ardha-vainAshikas'--half Nihilists. This is because, if the Bauddhas say "There is nothing, only nothing", these people say, "It may be there, or it may not be there", so what they teach is Skepticism. When they say that the karmic flow can be extracted and removed from AtmA only by torturing the body, it is Stoicism.

• The MImAMsa that targets only the heavenly pleasures simply by doing the Veda karmas, without going to the subject of AtmA or having any Ishvara bhakti, may perhaps be called Vedic Materialism?

• Although the SAMkhya-Yoga shAstras which show the AtmA as distinct without any mix of guNa-karma--attributes and actions, look like Advaita that teaches Non-dualism, when they say that there are numerous AtmAs in this way, they also strangely look as Dualism!

• The NyAya-VaisheShikas that are just are scriptures of reasoning and intellectual research, may perhaps be called Intellectualism?

All the above siddhAntas are only ways of the intellect. The ChArvAkas too, only by inquiring with bhuddhi--intellect, say that there is no AtmA, no God or no shAstras.

If we look at the bhakti matas--devotional religions, where it comes to siddhAnta--doctrine, since they need to spell out their doctrines only in the intellectual way, they too remain as -isms:

• The Dvaita that is Dualism, and
• The VishiShtadvaita that is Qualified Non-dualism.

Although they are in this way, if we look at what is the basis of their sAdhana-krama--methods of practice, it is only bhakti--devotion. In other words, Love. While all the other siddhAntas above cater to the intellect, where there is no scope for emotion, these two religions cater to emotion that can feel BhagavAn, and that emotion is Love.

Shankara's Advaita

What to call AchAryAL's Advaita? It is one that does not come under any '-ism's! Cannot come too!

• Calling it Non-dualism does not speak the full truth about it; even the word Advaita is in that way! For, Advaita is only what is literally translated as (a-dvaita)--Non-dualism.

The tattvam--philosophy, that speaks about Brahman which is nAma-rahita--free from names (and forms) is also one that is nAma-rahita!

Except to indicate that it is incorrect to think that the JIvAtman is different and the ParamAtman is different, so it is A-dvaita, it is not possible to give it a name by referring to what it actually is!

It is the only paripUrNa tattvam--supremely complete philosophy. It speaks about the ParipUrNam, the very JIva becoming the sat-chit-Ananda paripUrNam.

Someone said that it can be called Absolutism. He said that this name could be given because it speaks about the satyam--Reality, that remains pUrNam--Complete/full, in itself, without depending on anything else.

But even this name does not seem right to me. This is not only the satya pUrNam that does not depend on anything else. All the remaining asatya-apUrNas, because they are dependent on this, they appear visible/perceptible to us! Thus, the term 'Absolutism' cannot indicate its nature of wrapping up everything as its dependents, and that only this tattvam is the adhAra--support, for all that is Relative, isn't it?

And then, is this siddhAnta, Intellectual or Emotional? Or is it Action like the MImAMsa?

Only because the JnAna MArgam--way of knowledge, is buddhi-vAda--doctrine of intellect, it is called that. But then this JnAnam is never the intellect-samAchara that can be inquired into by the brain. Except that it is such during the time of study through the shAstras, the saukhyam--comfort, shAnti--peace, Ananda--bliss, that is obtained when that knowledge is rolled up inside, is not all the brain-stuff. Is it then emotion, of feeling Brahman? Is the AanndAnubhavam--experience of bliss, emotional? Not at all, because emotions are the experiences of the mind, and in Advaita the mind and brain would be gone!

Even then (that is, after the brain and mind is gone), to know the satyam and experience it in bliss, what words to use to describe it? One is inclined to say that it is determinably not Action, but then the ParamAdvaitins like AchAryAL were all kAryamaya--full of action, so it also gives place to Action! Thus we are helpless to give it a suitable name!

Although the lakShyam--target, is to become actionless, as there is nothing to do when it is known that there is nothing good or nothing bad, the people who have reached that lakShya siddhi, instead of seeming to us to be actionless, do all sorts of apAra anugraha kArya--boundless actions of divine favour! What name to give for this sleepless sleep? We call what can't be explained in words, Advaita.

• When we say that one siddhAnta is Knowledge, another is Love, Devotion and a third one is Action, if we look at what Advaita is, it seems that we can call it ShAnti--Peace.

But it is not the shAnti that we think about! The shAnti known to us is one where everything has subsided. Although this is mahA shAnti too, within that shAnti, all the Knowledge, all the Love and all the Actions remain with shakti--power! Only in that way did AchAryAL was doing his work without cessation, as sarvajna--all-knowing, and sarva bhUta dayAkara--compassionate towards all beings? By what name to call that?

• Only the jagat is satyam, Brahman asatyam--this is ChArvAka;
• the jagat as well as Brahman are both asatyam--this is Bauddha;
• both jagat and Braham are satyam--this is NyAya;

• SAmkhya would say, "jagat is asatya becuase it is only the cheShTitam--movement, of prakRuti--Nature; only Brahman (referred to by the name PuruSha) is satyam;

• What did AchAryAL say? He said that only Brahman is the satyam, jagat is mithyA, that is, not satyam. It does not also mean that jagat is altogether asatyam. Jagat is only the falsity that appears like satyam, until the jnAnam of seeing everything as Brahman comes; when that jnAnam comes, this falsity/appearnce of the jagat goes away.

'Goes away' does not mean that it ended up as gone. The JnAni would also see the apparent jagat; as to how he would see, he would see it in sama--equality, that the jagat is the Brahman which is the satyam. It would then become not only 'only Brahman is satyam, jagat is mithyA', but also, 'only Brahman is satyam, and the jagat is also that brahma satyam'!

• In both Bauddha and MImAMsa, Ishvara the saguNa Brahman, and the nirguNa brahma tattvam--both are not there.

• In SAMkhya, there is no saguNa Brahman.

• In Yoga and NyAya-VaisheShika, although both are there, the relation between them, their relation with the jagat and the jIvas are not clearly defined.

• In the bhakti matas, only saguNa Brahman is there, no nirguNa Brahman.

• In Advaita, both saguNa and nirguNa Brahman are there. It says that if it is the jaDa prakRuti--inert Nature, that creates the mAyA jagat--apparant world, it does so, only by taking Brahman as the adhAra--support. In other words, saying "Only the nirguNa Brahman takes up/controls the mAyA to become saguNa Brahman, and shows itself as jagat, not only as jaDa prapancha--inert universe, but also as jIva prapancha--universe of beings", it gives an integrated siddhAnta that unites all the four--nirguNa Brahma, saguNa Brahman, jIvAtma and the jagat!

About the jagat sRuShTi--Creation of the World,

• the MImAMsakas would say, "Why should we say that sRuShTi was done by some Ishvara at some inderminate time? Jagat has always been there for ever, as it is now. In that the fruits are obtained according to karma."

• "By the lifeless power Nature, jagat appeared and is going on; there is no Ishvara, no karma, and no fruits"--CharvAka would say.

• "The jagat which is satyam is made of aNu--atoms. Ishvara is one who creates objects that did not exist before, combing these atoms in many varieties."--NyAya-VaisheShika would say. This is called Arambha-vAda--theory of origination.

• In the SAMkhya-Yogas, there is no Ishvara-sambandha--God's connection, for Creation. They won't agree also that the jagat was not there before and only created later. Only the PrakRuti (called mAyA and Nature) has tansformed into the jagat. This is called pariNAma vAda--theory of evolution.

• What Advaita says is that:

In actually, nothing as sRuShTi--Creation, was done.

The aNu is also not satyam, and there is nothing like a satya jagat made of atoms; calling it PrakRuti's pariNAmam--evolution, is also not correct. If that be true, then just as the mUla vastu--root substance is lost after it evolves, the PrakRuti itself would be lost!

So, there is nothing that is created, and nothing that changes. Only the One appears as the Other. Just as the rope appears like a snake in darkness, so does Brahman appear as jagat in mAyA. To put it in other words, the nirguNa Brahman itself becomes saguNa Brahman, joining with mAyA, and shows itself as the jagat.

The snake was not created from the rope, right? Nor did the rope actually evolv into a snake, right? In the same way is jagat, remaining only as an appearance, without being a creation or evolution. If a lamp is brought, the darkness goes and the confusion of the rope appearing as snake disappears; in the same way, in jnAna prakAsham--shine of knowledge, the darkness of mAyA would go, and what appeared before as jagat would start appearing as Brahman.

Without the sRuShTi or the pariNAmam, only the One appearing as the jagat is called vivarta vAda--theory of illusion.

Three principles of Shankara Advaita

Three things are referred to as the distinct principles that AchAryAL has given in anugraham.

• The first is the 'vivarta vAda'. The One appearing as jagat, and the illusion of jagat is perceived as the immediate reality.

• The second is the adhyAsa--superimposition. There is no original creation; it is not also evolution; nor is it the flow of falsity without any support of the satyam. This jagat is only the superimposition of mAyA on Brahman which is satyam, like the snake on the rope.--This is adhyAsa. The sphaTika--crystal, lingam (which in itself is colorless) appearing red because of a shoe-flower (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis), placed behind it, is adhyAsa--superimposition.

• The third principle is that in addtion to the two states satyam and asatyam, there is one more concept where, something that looks satyam--real, in the ajnAna dasha--duration/condition of ignorance, would later become asatya--unreal, in the state of jnAna. It has the name 'prAtibhAsika satyaM'--subjective/apparent reality.

sairam saidevo.thank you for the post explaining mahaswamigals deiva vaaku.

nachi naga.
sairam nachi naga.

I have not explained anything, what do I know? All I have done is translation of ParamAchArya's deiva vAkku. I would request those who have the Tamil original of 'Deivatthin Kural', vol. 5, section titled 'Advaitam uLLiTTa mathangkaLin sArAmsam', pp.1067-73, to compare my translation with the original and point out any flaws in my work, so I may correct them.

I am for ever happy to be something of an instrument that can spread AchAryAL's message.
brahma satyam jagat mithyA
As an Advaitin, it is important for us to understand the exact meanings and significance of the term 'mithyA' and 'satyam' in the following famous quite from Adi Shankara BhagavadpAda:

brahma satyaM jagan mithyA jivo brahmaiva nAparaH ||

and its popular interpretation

"Brahman is the Reality, the universe is an illusion; the living being is Brahman alone, none else."

Here is a compilation from various sources, with analogies from my part:

Trying to trace the source of this famous quote in Shankara's works, was a bewildering experience to see that the google search threw up over 5,000 links, yet not one of them gave the source of his quote!

• After searching fervently for over an hour, at least one source cropped up, but it said the work was attributed to Shankara:

श्लोकर्धेन प्रवक्श्यमि यद्युक्तम् ग्रन्थकोतिभिः ।
ब्रह्म सत्यम् जगन् मिथ्य जिवो ब्रह्मैव नापरः ॥

shlokardhena pravakshyami yadyuktam granthakotibhiH |
brahma satyam jagan mithya jivo brahmaiva nAparaH ||

--bAlabodhinI, a compendium of vedAnta in 47 stanzas, attributed to Adi Shankara.

"With half a shloka (stanza) I will declare what has been said in thousands of volumes: Brahman is real, the world is false, the atomic individual self is only Brahman, nothing else."

• Later, my knowledgeable friend shrI Atanu at the Hindu Dharma Forums, gave me two more references, both of which are obviously Shankara's works:

The first quote from Viveka ChUDAmaNi is very close to our quote, although it differs in the second part of the verse:

ब्रह्म सत्यं जगन्मिथ्येत्येवंरूपो विनिश्चयः ।
सोऽयं नित्यानित्यवस्तुविवेकः समुदाहृतः ॥ २० ॥

brahma satyaM jaganmithyetyevaMrUpo vinishchayaH |
so&yaM nityAnityavastuvivekaH samudAhRutaH || 20 ||

--Viveka ChUDAmaNi

A firm conviction of the intellect that Brahman alone is Real and the phenomenal world is unreal is known as discremination (viveka) between the Real and the unreal.
--Tr. svAmi ChinmayAnanda

• The second quote from BrahmajnAnAvaLI matches exactly with the popular quote, and adds more:

ब्रह्म सत्यं जगन्मिथ्या जिवो ब्रह्मैव नापरः ।
अनेन वेद्यं सच्छास्त्रमिति वेदान्तडिण्डिमः ॥ १८ ॥

brahma satyaM jaganmithyA jivo brahmaiva nAparaH |
anena vedyaM sachChAstramiti vedAntaDiNDimaH || 18 ||


18. Brahman is Truth, the world of objects and beings is false, and the egocentric sense of separativeness (jeeva) is itself in fact nothing other than Brahman. That by which this Truth is known is the truest science, the Science of sciences, thus roars Vedanta.
--Translation as found in the Webpage http://svbf.org/journal/vol4no1/brahma.pdf

Understanding 'jagat' as 'mithyA'

While the term 'jagat' is popularly and correctly understood as the world, the popular understanding of 'mithyA' as 'illusion' is not the direct meaning of the term, although it can be derived from its connotations.

When the derivation 'illusion' is (incorrectly) associated with 'unreal', it spawns all sorts of criticism against the philosophy of Advaita, specially Shankara's exposition of it with his famous quote as the basis.

So what exactly does the (controversial) term 'mithyA' mean and connote?

jagat: from the dhAtus--roots, ja--jAyate--arise/originate/born; and ga--gamana--that which goes/moves/changes. Thus the term 'jagat' means 'the moving/changing world that arose/originated'.

mithyA: from the dhAtu 'mith' for which Apte gives five meanings:
01. To associate with; 02. To unite, pair, copulate; 03. To hurt, injure, strike, kill; 04. To understand, perceive, know; 05. To wrangle (i.e., to herd).

When we seek to appy these meanings to Brahman and jagat, we find that except the third, all the other meanings match, giving an idea of the different facets of the world:

01. Only Brahman exists, jagat is 'associated with' him/it.

02. Only Brahman exists, and he forms the jagat 'uniting with' mAyA (whereby he becomes saguNa brahman). It is for this reason that mAyA is called the shakti--power, of saguNa Brahman, and in the TrimUrti, who are forms of saguNa Brahman, the pair is personified as consorts: BrahmA-SarasvatI, ViShNu-LakShmI, Shiva-PArvatI. (The term 'maithuna' meaning 'connected by marriage' is also derived from the root 'mith').

03. The meaning 'To hurt, injure, strike, kill', does not even remotely apply to Brahman, although it applies very well to the jagat!

04. Only Brahman exists, and jagat, comprising its jIva prapancha--universe of beings, is formed to (ultimately) 'know/understand/perceive' Brahman as its substratum.

05. Only Brahman exists, who forms the jagat with all its jIvas and 'wrangles'--that is, herds, and he/it tends them.

Veda pramANa

The Veda pramANa for the concept 'brahma satyam jagat mithyA' are:

• ekam sat--Reality/Existence is One.--RV i.164.46

• ekam evadvitiyam brahma -- Brahman is one, without a second.
--Chandogya upaniShad VI.ii.1

• prajnanam brahma -- Consciousness is Brahman.
--Aitareya upaniShad 3.3, of Rg Veda

• sarvaM khalvidaM brahma -- All of this is brahman.
-- Chandogya upaniShad 3.14.1 of the Sama Veda

The combined message of these pramANas is:

Everything here is Brahman, but it hardly seems so, because of their limitations in matter, mind, and intellect; these limitations appear to measure out, compartmentalize and dilute the nature of Brahman and make the One look like the Many, because of the power of mAyA--restrained dispensations (from ma--measure out, ya--restrain/regulate).

Some analogies

We can understand the illusory concept of mAyA which makes our perception of the world mithyA by some analogies.

• When I draw a matrix of lines on the white background of a page on the computer screen (let us call it paper), the figure of the matrix looks more real to me than the paper, although the lines are only superimposed on the substratum of the paper, and the lines may be erazed restoring the nirguNa glory of the paper. Thus the matrix is nothing more than the 'measured out illusion' created by mAyA.

• When I draw a picture on the above 'paper', the colors and shades of the picture measures out and restrains the visible span of the paper. This action of measurement and restraint is projected over the substratum of the white paper. While a viewer can readily see the picture, and admire its yathArtham--surface reality, he can also understand about the substratum of the white paper, if he has the will.

• The surface reality of mAyA becomes terribly more influential when we watch a film. It is the same with the world: a multi-dimensional hologram projected over the substratum of Brahman.

• Most things in this world of duality are bipolar, but some are not: light and darkness for example. Light is reality, but is darkness so? Darkness is only the absence of light. It pales into shades of gray when a ray of light shines upon it. It decreases with the intensity of light and finally disappears, with the presence of pure, white light all around.

That pure light is Brahman, and the darkness of illusion, which restrains and measures out that light, or rather appears to do so, is mAyA that appears/appeals to us as the reality of the world.

This is how the popular meaning 'Brahman is real, the world is only an illusion' came about.

Understanding the 'satyam' of Brahman

MAtA AmRutAnandamayI DevI has elaborated on the contrasted meaning of 'satyam' and 'mithyA' in our popular quote here--a must-read:
Shankara's definition of Advaita Vedanta, Brahman, Reality and Illusion @ Amritapuri.org

MAtA scrutinizes Shankara's statement and explains its full import thus:

• a. brahma satyam ("Brahman is the Reality"): In Vedanta, the word "Satyam" (Reality) is very clearly defined and it has a specific significance. It means, "that which exists in all the three periods of time (past, present and future) without undergoing any change; and also in all the three states of consciousness (waking state, dream state and deep-sleep state)." This is therefore the absolute Reality — birthless, deathless and changeless — referred to in the Upanishads as "Brahman."

• b. jagan mithyA ("the world is an illusion"): The world appears "real" only in the "waking state;" but it is negated (it disappears) in the dream and deep-sleep states. Hence, it is not real, according to the definition above. Therefore, the world is said to be mithya by the Acharya.

However, many people seem allergic to the word, "mithyA," when it is used to refer to the perceptible world. For this reason, perhaps, the Acharya, in his later works, like Brahmasutra Bhashya, calls it "vyavaharika satta" (relative reality) or "pratibhasika satta" (apparent reality), as if to accommodate them.

• c. jiva brahmaiva nApara ("the jiva is Brahman alone, none else"): "Jiva" refers to the sentient principle in all living beings, including human beings. In the deep-sleep state, the body, senses, mind and intellect are all negated (rendered totally ineffective or insentient). Hence, the jiva is one with the sentient, inner life-principle, which revives the body, senses, mind and intellect after sleep. This life-principle is the pure consciousness that is the same in all beings. The all-pervading Brahman of the Upanishads is that pure consciousness present in all jivas as their antaryami (inner spirit).

Thus, in conclusion, MAtA says:

No one has any hesitation, obviously, in taking the dream world as an illusion; for, when they wake up to this familiar world, the dream world disappears. But all of us find it hard to believe that this familiar world, which we all actually perceive and experience, is an illusion.

But a spiritual aspirant may ask, "Is there a higher state to which I can wake up, so that this waking world will disappear, just like the dream world?"

The answer is a resounding "yes." What that higher state is no one can precisely describe. But Sri Shankaracharya was an intellectual and spiritual prodigy. He could experience that sublime, transcendental state (turiya, wherein the jiva is in a state of complete identification with Brahman), just like the Upanishadic seers. Thus, the great Acharya could confirm and authoritatively summarise the vision of the ancient seers of Sanatana Dharma — the truth of Advaita. Before he left his mortal coil, he firmly established this philosophy by his masterly commentaries on the prasthanatraya (the three basic texts on Vedanta, viz., Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Sutras).

01. Meanings of jagat and mithyA from this blog: kaal - Chiron...: Brahma Satyam Jagat Mithya

where the author also traces the connection of these meanings with Advaita, VishiShtadvaita and Dvaita.

02. Reality and Illusion
Shankara's definition of Advaita Vedanta, Brahman, Reality and Illusion @ Amritapuri.org

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sairam saidevo.enjoying this thread so much,thanks for the effort of translating.

nachi naga.
Exploring the connections between avidyA, mAyA, mithyA, jIva and Brahman

• How did pure jnAna fall into ajnAna?

To know the answer to this question, we need to understand the connection between avidyA, mAyA and mithyA. Essentially, all these three forms of non-Self are one and the same.

Here is a paraphrase with my logical inferences, from the book Studies in VedAnta by M.R.Jayakar

vidyA vs avidyA

• In the parlance of VedAnta, vidyA is the knowledge of 'tattvamasi'--'That thou art'. Only the knowledge of Self as Brahman is called vidyA.

• vidyA is also known by such terms as parAvidya, adhyAtmavidyA, brahmavidyA, AtmavidyA and so on.

• The empirical/phenomenal knowledge about the world is not vidyA, only avidyA. The lower levels of worldly knowledge are called aparAvidyA. All aparAvidya is avidyA. The common English translation of the term avidyA is 'nescience, ignorance'.

avidyA is both subjective and objective. In the subjective sense, it creates a veil between the Self--Atman, and the ego--jIva, which is impenetrable except by proper inquiry about Brahman. When the vidyA--knowledge of Self==Atman as Brahman, dawns, subjective avidyA is annihilated.

• In the objective sense, avidyA is the cause of creation of the world. Since Brahman is described as the material and efficient cause of the world in Advaita, it follows that he is also the cause of avidyA, as otherwise, advidyA will become another Absolute Reality, limiting Brahman.

• Since there cannot be two Absolute Realities, and since shRuti speaks of Brahman as the only Absolute Reality, this means that avidyA must be unreal. But then what is unreal cannot exist, but avidyA does exist! This is the reason avidyA is termed anirvAchanIya--inexplicable: neither sat nor asat--not sat, because it is not eternal, and not asat, because it has a temporary existence, and is annihilated by the knowledge of Self as Brahman.

• It is in this temporary existence that Brahman uses avidyA as his power of mAyA to manifest the universe as an adhyAsa--superimposition, on itself and make it appear as mithyA--perceptional error of emperical reality as absolute reality.

Thus, the objective advidyA, as the illusory power of mAyA is used by Brahman to create his appearance as this world of multiple forms of jaDa--insentient, and chaitanya--sentient, and such illusory appearance of the world which is conditioned by its temporal and spatial existence is termed mithyA--perceptional error of empirical reality as absolute reality. This objective advidyA which is also mAyA, is annihilated only at the time of praLaya.

Subjective avidyA

• Shankara in the introduction to his Brahma SUtra BhAShya has precisely explained the nature of subjective avidyA. Atanu has given an extract of this introduction as translated by George Thibault in post no.112. Here is a brief:

• In the duality of the world, there is always a subject and an object, with their own distinctive attributes, which cannot--and should not--be mixed up in perception. This means that 'I' as the Self in us, is the subject, and everything else that are upAdhis--limiting adjunctions, of the Self, are only objects.

• The 'I' as Self has the attributes sat--eternal existence, chit--true knowledge (vidyA), and Ananda--bliss. The Not-Self--anAtman, which is anitya--transient, and jaDa--insentient, in its various forms have their own temporal and spatial attributes. Objects of the non-Self are for the bhoga--enjoyment, of the jIva--ego.

• Self is essentially Consciousness, and Not-Self is Matter. Self is self-effulgent; Not-Self receives its luminance only by the reflection and superimposition of the Self over it. Because this superimposition is two-way, the Not-Self effectively veils the Self. But then Not-Self is transient and constantly changing, so the light of Self--Atman, shines translucently through Not-Self, and when the jIva--ego, properly tunes its mind to the rays of wisdom--buddhi, it perceives the light of Atman, albeit only momentarily.

• In the embodied and bonded life of jIva, the Not-Self of the world is readily seen and perceived through the senses, whereas the immanent Atman, which is only experienced in deep sleep, is never perceived. This is the reason that it is the natural behaviour of humans to mix up the attributes of the Atman and anAtman and say that 'I am the body', 'This body is I', 'This body is mine', 'I think so', etc.--essentially ascribing the unseen Self with the readily seen Not-Self. This error in perception is the subjective avidyA, and the only way to rectify it is to do the sAdhana for Self-Realization, as prescribed in the shRuti.

Objective avidyA

From here it is almost a verbatim extract from the book Studies in VedAnta by M.R.Jayakar

• Philosophically, avidyA is unreal. The process of ratiocination Advaita adopts for annihilation of vidyA is technically known as adhyAropa-apavAda--deliberate superimposition and negation. This is explained as follows:

‣ The MarAtha saint RAmdAs aptly describes this process of adhyAropa-apavAda, in his 'DAsa bodha' (7.3.4) in the following terms:

"First raise an unreality, then, knowing, give it up; thus, Truth, in its essence, is realized."

This process we commonly employ in finding out the value of an unknown quantity in an algebraical equation, thus:

x^2 + 2x = 24
add 1 to both sides
so, x^2 + 2x + 1 = 24 + 1 = 25
so, (x+1)^2 = 5^2
so, x + 1 = 5
Therefore, x = 5 - 1 = 4.

‣ The world is so impressive on us that man cannot avoid giving an explanation of it, even with his limited faculties. By the duality of the world and the laws of our thought, a positive implies a negative, Being implies Not-Being, Atman implies anAtman, Spirit implies Nature, Mind implies Matter, but then both these pairs of opposites can't be considered as two co-existing eternal principles, as they would limit each other and thereby destroy the infinitude of both.

If both of them are really existing entities, one of them must be subordinate to the other, as being derived from it or as being dependent on it.

‣ Strictly speaking if One is real, the Many as its antithesis, must be unreal; if Being is real, Not-Being must be unreal; if Brahman is real, the sensible universe must be unreal. These are conclusions forced by logical necessity.

‣ But with the mental equipment and the Categories of Causation, Time, Space, etc., to which his understanding is subject, man views the world and everything in it as happening in Time, as having a Cause, as being in Space, and as having thus a differentiated and independent existence.

‣ This Empirical Knowledge--apara vidyA, which has, no doubt, its value for its limited aims and ends. For, generally speaking, it is by means of what is called Matter, that the Mind becomes revealed; by means of Nature, Spirit is apprehended; by means of anAtman, Atman is Self-realized.

‣ And the moment such revelation, apprehension or Self-realization becomes an accomplished fact in its fullness, the true nature of what is hitherto called Matter, Nature or anAtman becomes revealed as being identical with its opposite. At this state the unreality of Matter as Matter, Nature as Nature and anAtman as anAtman, becomes self-evident, for the man who has reached this stage has already transcended the sphere of empiricism and entered into the Spiritual region, where all differentiations, due to the categories of human understanding, have lost their significance.

avidyA as the power of mAyA

• As an objective power, avidyA has two properties: AvaraNa--concealing, and vikShepa--projection. The AvaraNa conceals the Self--Atman as Brahman, and the vikShepa gives rise to the conceit of egoity or conscious individuality, that is jIva, and also projects the phantasmagoria of a world, which the individual regards as external to himself.

• avidyA is the power of the Atman (Brahman) to which all the manifold of phenomenal existence is due. (MANDukya Up.3.10)

• It is by avidyA that the 'only One existent' (sadekameva), is differentiated as so many things undergoing production, destruction and the like-changes, like an actor on the stage. (Shankara BhaShya--SB, on GItA 18.48)

• Shankara calls avidyA the primeval natural nescience, which has its use for our limited aims and ends in practical life. (SB Brahma SUtra III.2.15)

• Consisting in the notion of variety involving actions, means and ends, it is always present in the Self--Atman in the following form: "Mine is action. I, the agent will do such an action, for such and such a result." This avidyA has been active since time immemorial. (SB GItA 18.66)

• The unmanisfested Brahman is assumed to contain avidyA within its as its limiting adjunct, giving rise to the notion of mAyA, of a Personal God, and of samsAra as a result of their joint activity. (SB BS I.2.22)

• It is obvious that avidyA, in the above passages, is likened to mAyA. All objects in the creation are projected by the power of illusion in the Atman. This power of Atman is called avidyA; all objects are evolved from it and are, therefore, from a philosophic point of view, unreal (SB MANDukya Up.3.10)

• As in the case of mAyA, so here questions are asked whether this avidyA (nescience) is a product and if so how is it caused? Certainly not the absolute Brahman itself, because it is actionless and changeless. If not a product, it is another entity self-caused like Brahman itself?

The answer given is that it is inscrutable and inexplicable--anirvAchanIya. It is neither sat nor asat--not sat, because it is not eternal, and not asat, in the sense of precluding all possibility of existence in one's experience, like the 'horns of a hare' or 'the son of a barren woman'. It is something which presents us with the spectacle of an external world in which we experience pleasure and pain, and appears also in our consciousness and entangles us in the principle of Individualism. It is thus more than nothing but less than real.

• On a general review of the UpaniShads, of the VedAnta Sutras (Brahma SUtra), of Bhagavad GItA, and of Shankara's commentaries thereon, it would seem that the word avidyA is variously used to denote:

01. Nature or Creation;
02. The Mystery underlying Nature;
03. MAyA, the postulated cause of Nature;

04. The innate forms of human intellect, viz. Time, Space, Causality, etc., which stand, so to speak, between us and Brahman;

05. Limitations of human understanding or incapacity to understand the mystery underlying Nature;

06. The Principle of Invididuation and our entanglement in it;

07. Our identification with our body, organs of sense, which are themselves the products of Nature--Prakriti;

08. The errorneous concept of mixing attributes of the Self and Not-Self such as 'I am fat', 'I am lean', 'my body feels', 'my mind tells me so', etc.;

09. Our attachment to worldly things;
10. Empirical knowledge generally.

Because of the compulsive, impressional and sensible reality of the world as perceived in the waking state of existence of the jIva, Shankara has given a concession in his famous mahAvAkya "Brahma satyam jagan mithyA"--as the mithyA which is philosophically unreal as it is caused by avidyA, but practically and conditionally real as the vyavahArika satyam. This practical reality, however, only temporary, so he says in his BS BhAShya II.1.14:

"The entire complex of phenomenal existence is considered as true so long as the knowledge of Brahman and the Self of all has not arisen, just as the phantoms of a dream are considered to l)e true until the sleeper wakes."

Until the knowledge of Self as Brahman is had in experience through the proper channels of the shRuti under the guidance of a guru, avidyA, in fact, is considered as a bliss (as the Englisy saying 'blissful ignorance' goes). Chapter 11 of the GItA gives an excellent illustration of this fact.

practical advaita

Dear Learned Sai deo,

Good work. Now that you are working on translations, may I request
you to translate two pieces - ' nadaimuraiyil advaitam' by HH
Abhinava vidyarthi swamigal and the other one is a conversation
between a disciple and the Swamigal where he has explained the
correct meaning of 'Advaitam'. I am sure you must be having these
books in tamil, but if you do not have, I will send you the publishers'
names. Thanks and regards,
namaste shrI .Ranganathan.

I am sorry that I don't deserve any sort of encomiums such as 'Learned', so please refrain from such addresses or references. As I have been reiterating here in TBF, my work is more of the kind of a small boy who shows it to his mother and says, 'Look ma, I did it', with the typical feeling of a child of sharing his joy of knowledge rather than making a showcase of it.

We have seen several elders at our homes who are shAshtra-paNDita, with amazing knowledge of Sanskrit and the scriptures, but absolutely unconcerned about any proficiency in English. If one such father receives a letter in English from his eldest son who is in some other place, it is natural that he asks his school-going younger son to read out and translate the letter to him. And when the younger son translates the letter, he has only pitRu vAtsalya, no pride of his literacy in English. My position with regard to my translations is that of this small boy, who does it for the people who has no adequate literacy in Tamil, which is the source language of my translations. This would in no way mean that I am 'learned' or even adequately familiar with the scriptural and philosophical knowledge contained in the original.

My posts in this thread about Advaita are nothing more than compilations--not translation--from various sources, with only marginal familiarity on my side with the points discussed.

Kindly therefore bear with me for my inability to undertake translations of the kind you are suggesting. My limit is only the translation of what I readily understand such as the devotional experiences and the teachings of our gurus in the language of the layman. However, since I don't have the books you have mentioned, I would like to have them in my personal collection and read them, so please give me the details of its availability.

My humble contention is that translation into English should not be difficult for anyone who has some command of the language, and a far better knowledge of the contents of the original. I know for sure that there are several well-read and versatile people in this Forum, and I request them to take up tasks of the kind you are suggesting, which would also benefit people like me.

PS: My user name is 'saidevo', short for 'sai devotee'.
Dear sri Saidevo,

1. Nadaimuraiyil advaitham by srimad Abhinava Vidyarthi Swamigal. This book
is available with sri K.Narayanaswami, Madras. phone no.24985946. Now he
is in Sringeri.
2. ThEn mozhigal by sri Chandrasekhara Barathi Mahaswamigal, in which the
meaning of Advaitham is explained. Published by Sri Sringeri GuruSeva Samiti,
Madras and available at the book shop of Sri Sharada peetam, Sringeri and
its branches and also with sri Narayanaswami.
namaste shrI Ranganathan.

I have the Tamil version of the second book. The chapter 12 on Advaita also finds a place in the English book 'Dialogues with the Guru' published by the Shringeri MaTham: Dialogues with The Guru | Sringeri Sharada Peetham

The essential part of this chapter in English is published in this article:
Significance of the name Advaita

I don't have the first book. When I met shrI Narayanaswami at his home recently for the first time, I bought almost all the book he had, but this book was not with him. In case you have the book, I request you to post its essential contents in English, specially anything that we may not be readily aware of.

Thank you for your prompt response.

Dear sri Saidevo,

1. Nadaimuraiyil advaitham by srimad Abhinava Vidyarthi Swamigal. This book
is available with sri K.Narayanaswami, Madras. phone no.24985946. Now he
is in Sringeri.
2. ThEn mozhigal by sri Chandrasekhara Barathi Mahaswamigal, in which the
meaning of Advaitham is explained. Published by Sri Sringeri GuruSeva Samiti,
Madras and available at the book shop of Sri Sharada peetam, Sringeri and
its branches and also with sri Narayanaswami.
Advaita in practical life

Dear sri Saidevo,

Thanks. Since I have some urgent editorial work to be attended to,
I am afraid I will not be able to do the translation now. If you can
give me your address I shall courier it to you. My email id is
[email protected]

Advaita in practical life

Dear sri Saidevo,

I am awaiting your reply sir. I see that you hail from Tiruvannamalai,
which is my native place and where I have studied. Regards,
namaste shrI Ranganathan.

I will be out of town for a week. I shall contact you through email on my return. I am sure I can't do the translation anytime soon, since I am already busy off and on with Kanchi ParamAchArya's 'shrI Shankara charitam' and his devotees' darshan anubhava.

No, I don't hail from TiruvaNNAmalai. I am presently residing in Chennai. May I know what is it you are doing the editorial work on?
Trinity in Unity

A member in HDF gave this wonderful video presentation on Shiva-lIlA. The vibrations of the sight and sound cause spiritual shivers/showers:
YouTube - Maha Kal Bhairava

Yes, we are shivoham--the very Shiva, who does all his actions of creation, preservation and dissolution as SaguNa Brahman and yet remains a witness to it all, in the form of NirguNa Brahman, called DakShiNAmUrti.

Trinity is an important concept in Hinduism:

• The MUrtis are three (BrahmA, ViShNu, Shiva);
• Their consorts are three (SarasvatI, LakShmI, PArvatI);
• Their actions are three (sRuShTi, sthiti, saMhAra);
• the divine/human shaktis are three (ichChA, kriya, jnAna);
• AUM comprises three letters/sounds (A--Ah,U--oo,M--mm);
• the guNas are three (sattva, rajas, tamas);
• the worlds of birth-death-rebirth cycle are three (bhu, bhuva, suva);
• kAla--time, is three (past, present, future);
• daily time is three (morning, sandhi--dawn/dusk, night);
• layers of nature are three (light, fire/heat, darkness);
• Self-Realization is in three paths (karma, bhakti, jnAna yogas);
• Control for spiritual advancement, lies in mind, word, deed;
• Human manifestation is in three forms (body, mind, intellect);
• Human existence is in three forms (jAgrat--waking, svapna--dreaming, suShupti--deep sleep).
• Both bhasma-puNDram (horizontal vibhUti) and Urdhva (vertical nAmam) are worn on the forehead in three lines;

All these aspects of the trinity (and their variations) have for their substratum an absolute Unity, which is the NirguNa Brahman, whose nature is sat-chit-Ananda, existence-consciousness-bliss, all three inseparably rolled into one.

This NirguNa Brahman is the substratum behind

• the divine trinity, their consorts and actions,
• the universe in all its chetana--animate, achetana--inanimate, beings; and
• the human existence as turIya--fourth state behind the states of existence, Atman--Self behind the forms of existence.

This NirguNa Brahman is represented and worshipped/meditated as Shiva, ViShNu, KRShNa, and Shakti in the four major sects of Hinduism.

If we think about it,

• We are born, nourished and dissolved in each cell of our body, every little physical action, thought and dream--only their duration in time changes.

• And our whole lifetime as a person in this birth is pre-determined.

• We remain as a he or she in our waking state, he and/or she in our dream state, but only as IT in the deep sleep state.

• When we enter into the fourth state of turIya, we will find that, that IT is not just an empty state, but a state of fullness of bliss, consciousness and existence.

Our Atman--Self, the NirguNa Brahman in us, remains through all of the above, as the silent witness. The more we seek to find and realize this Atman--Self in us, the better will be our spiritual lifestyle and the lesser will be our commitment to the endless cycle of birth and death.
A brief summary of adhyAtma-vidyA

I have attempted a brief summary of our path from Here to Eternity. Members are welcome to comment and add value.

• There are three entities that constitute what we know of life in this world: God, soul and the world.

• God is one; the souls are many; the world is one and the same to every soul.

Now, what is the relationship between these three entities? Different Hindu philosophies define it differently, but they all are complementary to one another, culminating in the philosophy of Advaita. So, we shall look at it from the POV of Advaita, because there is no NirguNa Brahman in any other philosophy.

• Advaita says that all the three entities are one and the same: Brahman, in the form of NirguNa Brahman.

Advaita is the only philosophy that speaks of two Brahmans: NirguNa and SaguNa. Does that mean that Advaita speaks of two Gods? If so, how can it be called Advaita, as this is actually Dvaita?

‣ It's beautiful. Former Jagadguru of the Shringeri ShAradA PITham, shrI Chandrasekhara BharatI explains that in Advaita, there is no second principle/entity other than God, which is why the name. In other words, all the three entities of God-soul-world are nothing but Brahman, the NirguNa Brahman. There is nothing else other than IT.

‣ The philosophy of existence of nothing other than the One Absolute, which is seen as God-soul-world, has strong support in the Vedas/UpaniShads:

‣‣ ekam sat--Reality/Existence is One.--Rg Veda i.164.46

‣‣ ekam evadvitiyam brahma -- Brahman is one, without a second.
--Chandogya upaniShad VI.ii.1

‣‣ prajnanam brahma -- Consciousness is Brahman.
--Aitareya upaniShad 3.3, of Rg Veda

‣‣ ayam Atma brahma -- This Self is Brahman.
-- Mandukya upaniShad 1.2, of Atharva Veda

‣‣ tat tvam asi -- Thou art that.
-- Chandogya upaniShad 6.8.7, of Sama Veda, Kaivalya upaniShad

‣‣ aham brahmAsmi -- I am Brahman.
-- Brhadaranyaka upaniShad 1.4.10, of Yajur Veda, Mahanarayana upaniShad

‣‣ sarvaM khalvidaM brahma -- All of this is brahman.
-- Chandogya upaniShad 3.14.1 of the Sama Veda

• Well, if there is nothing other than God as (NirguNa) Brahman, why do we see so much of variety and disparity in the two other entities--soul and world?

Wait, if everything is Brahman, what is it that we actually see as chetana-achetana--animate and inanimate? Or they manifestations of the one Brahman?

‣ Adi Shankara, the most brilliant exponent of Advaita gives a startling answer to such questions:

brahma satyaM jagan mithyA jivo brahmaiva nAparaH ||

"Brahman is the (only) Reality, the universe is an illusion; the living being is Brahman alone, none else."

‣ To further startle us, Advaita schools speak of three kinds of creation:

‣‣ sRshTi-dRshTi vAda: Creation pre-exists our seeing it; it was done by (NirguNa) Brahman in its capacity as Ishvara (Advaita name for SB).

‣‣ ajAti vAda: No creation occurred ever!

Was there any world or souls when we were in deep sleep?
No. So, that is the ultimate Reality.

What, such unconscious darkness is The Reality?
No, it was actually the sat-chit-Ananda state of Brahman, we did not know it as such, and we can realize in the fourth state of turIya. Since we haven't tasted that state, deep sleep appears dark and unconscious to us.

‣‣ dRshTi-sRshTi vAda: Cognition and creation are simultaneous. That is, we create the world as our eyes look, other senses perceive, mind fumbles and intellect inquires into.

Even as the objects in a dark hall of museum at night are enlightened as we walk the hall with a torch of light, the world is created, exclusively for each of us, as we live our life in the waking and dreaming modes of existence.

‣ How daring and brilliant these three theories of creation!

‣‣ After all, creation is subjective, it is there only in our consciousness,
‣‣ this consciousness is universal and is felt individually as the concept and contents of 'I',
‣‣ although most of us see the world in identity, we all still see it only with/in our mind, and
‣‣ as the saying goes, 'no clocks agree', and no two minds either.


• Our question still remains. Whatever the nature of creation, when there is only One Reality, why do we perceive things and souls differently, totally unconnected with the sat-chit-Ananda, nature of Brahman?

‣ The answer in Advaita is that we see things as mAyA projects them for us. mAyA is Ishvara's shakti. Our avidyA--nescience, lies in not realizing this truth.

• If mAyA is unreal, an illusion, why don't we see the reality behind it at all?

‣ We do see the reality intermittently in our waking life, but we ignore it. When we watch a motion picture, how much of the white screen do we see? Very little or nothing of it, right? Still, the white screen is always there, the movie is only projected over it, and we can--and must--be aware of the screen at all times.

There is a white screen behind all the filmy illusion of this world. We perform our roles in our waking/dreaming states and withdraw to the screen in deep sleep.

In our waking and dreaming states we watch the filmy world from outside, from an individual perspective, like one character in the film interacting with another, so the objects and beings of the world appear discrete, varied and with disparity.

In deep sleep, there is no individual perspective, only the universal perspective, and yet, as we are not conscious, the screen appears black in that state.

As we ponder, inquire and meditate the Self, the blackness of the screen will clear gradually, and as we enter the state of turIya and to the extent we can sustain it,

we will progressively see the white of the screen,
know that there is no knower, nothing to know, nor any other knowledge,
and experience the bliss of that state.


The path to Self-Realization defined in Advaita is called the nivRtti-mArga or jnAna mArga. To walk the path, the jIva has to first obtain chitta-shuddhi--purity of mind.

The first path everyone of us takes up automatically when we have sufficient spiritual inclination is the pravRtti-mArga or karma mArga. Here we try to stick to our svadharma, worship our iShTa-devatA--preferred form of God, and accumulate puNya-karma--good karma, that can fetch us the puNya-phala--good fruits, of a longer time in the svargam--heavens.

After many births, the jIva is fed up of the rebirth cycle, so it starts thinking about an escape route from the prison of bhu-bhuva-suvaha--earth, astral world and heaven.

The jIva in this stage realizes the grave mistake it has been committing all along, in its many lives: that of seeking to enjoy the puNya-phala--fruits of puNya-karma, which sets it on a path of descension. Thereby, the jIva learns to renounce even its puNya-phalas, resolutely submits them to Ishvara, and enter the nivRtti-mArga.

Once in nivRtti-mArga, the jIva has two options: bhakti and jnAna. Here is where the VishiShtadvaita and Advaita take in.

• The jIva with a desire to maintain its individuality but escape the cycle of rebirth, surrenders to its iShTa-devata, worships him/her with intense bhakti and phala-tyAga--sacrifice of fruits of good acts, and in the end obtains one of the three kinds of mukti:

‣ sAlokya mukti, where the jIva lives in the world of its personal God;
‣ sAmIpya mukti, where the jIva lives in the proximity of its personal God and serves him/her; and
‣ sArUpya mukti, where the jIva obtains the form of its personal god and enjoys the same bliss as he/she does, still remaining individual.

This kind of mukti by VishiShtadvaita bhakti lasts until the worlds of personal gods last.

• The jIva with a strong desire to get past the worlds of personal gods and merge with Brahman, starts a course of dhyAnam--meditation on the Self, vichAraNam--inquire on the Self and always associates itself in satsangha--company of such wise people.

By sustained and intense dhyAnam, the jIva enters into the fourth state of turIya, first obtains savikalpa-samAdhi, which is intermittent and temporary, and finally nirvikalpa-samAdhi, which is permanent and lasting in all the three states of the jIva's existence.

The jIva which has obtained the nirvikalpa samAdhi is known as jIvan-mukta--liberated while living. In this state of Self-Realization, all the three entities that spoke of in the beginning appear as the one and the same Brahman to the jIvan-mukta. This means that the jIvan-mukta instantaneously has the darshan of Atman that is Brahman inside every jIva--life, and jaDa--insentient object, still knows the veil of mAyA and can adjust its focus to live what appears as a normal life to the outside world.

The beauty of this path is that the jIva learns that the moKSha is not anywhere else and later, but only here and now. The jIva's worldly life ends after its prArabdha karma is spent, and it obtains videha mukti.
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