Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

A Realist view of Advaita
Part I
Chittaranjan Naik

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Part I – The Razor’s Edge

I bow down to Lord Shiva, who is of the nature of Sat-Chit-Ananda, and who, out of compassion for beings in this world, took birth as Jagadguru Sri Shankara Bhagavadpada for establishing the path of Self-Knowledge.
I bow down to Matha Annapurneswari, the Mother of the Universe, who sustains and nourishes us with Love, and whose infinite grace alone removes the veil of blinding darkness to Self-Knowledge.

I bow down to the lotus feet of my Guru, known as Tryambaka, who is none other than Lord Tryambakeswara in human form, whose infinite grace shows the way through Darkness to Light. I submit these essays as a humble offering to His lotus feet.

People often interpret Advaita by dissolving the great mystery that lies in the Heart of Reality. But Advaita cannot be spoken of without speech being shrouded in the mists of the inexplicable. As Adiji writes in her message, there is already a mystery in the “and” between the real and unreal. Lord Krishna says that “the unreal never is, the real never is not”. I believe that the meaning of the “unreal” is known only on knowing the meaning of the “real”, and that one is asleep to meanings until the Self, in which all meanings lie, is known. To know one must be awake, and to awaken one must know. The path of Advaita is called asparsa. It is also called the razor’s edge.

The notion of truth lies within us. It is not given to us from outside. It is the heart of the discriminative capacity in us. It is the stamp within our souls by which we seek to know the world and understand the shruti. We cannot understand the shruti by violating this innate stamp of truth within us for that would be a ravishment of the intellect rather than an understanding of the shruti.

It is natural for us to ask questions about the world. A philosophy that seeks to answer these questions must explain the world and not negate the very thing that is to be explained. To negate the thing that is asked about is not answering the question. Experience is never negated. If I see a tree this morning, it is true for all time - for all of eternity - that I saw a tree this morning irrespective of the fact that any subsequent experience negates it or not. Sublation is the seeing of a different meaning in what was seen earlier and not the negation of the experience itself.

It is with these two guiding principles – that the notion of truth lies within us, and that an answer must answer to the question that is asked – that I shall attempt to proceed with this month’s discussion. As I had mentioned earlier, the topic actually takes off from the third part, but I felt that one particular theme, which I have called the “Reality Divide” (and is included as Part II), would be a useful addition to the discussion as it attempts to uncover a certain conception about the world that comes to us from contemporary thought. I believe that it is necessary to dispossess ourselves of the “wrinkle” of this conception before we move on to a discussion of Advaita. I shall post the second part later today; as for the rest of the postings, I shall let the pace of the actual discussion decide the timing.

Throughout Advaita we find that there is a dialectical tension in which the world is expressed to be identical with Brahman and yet denied any existential reality. I believe that we must not lose sight of this dialectic when we seek out the meaning of Advaita. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa used to say that a sadhaka on the path of Advaita discovers first that the world is unreal, and then later sees that the world is real. Perhaps, we must fall into the cauldron of perplexity before we can rise like a phoenix rising from the ashes into the Empyreal of pure Light.

Proceed to second essay.

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Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012