Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century


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Definition - Ananda Wood

In the Hindu tradition, three aspects are distinguished for approaching truth. These aspects are called 'sat' or 'existence', 'chit' or 'consciousness', and 'Ananda' or 'happiness'. From these aspects, there arise three 'mArgas' or 'ways of approach'.

The existence aspect gives rise to the 'yoga mArga' or the 'way of union'. The consciousness aspect gives rise to the 'j~nAna mArga' or the 'way of knowledge'. And the happiness aspect gives rise to the 'bhakti mArga' or the 'way of devotion'.

In this posting, the 'sat' aspect is described. The other two aspects will be described in the next two weeks.

By 'sat' is meant a reality that's shown in common, by differing appearances.

Accordingly, sat may be described as 'tattva' or 'that-ness'. It is a changeless that-ness which transcends all these changing appearances that show it to us, through these bodies and these senses and these minds. For short, it is sometimes called just 'that', as opposed to the 'this' of its manifold appearances. Since that reality is changeless, it is found to be the same in each individual, and throughout the entire universe.

Approached individually, the reality is called 'svarUpa' or 'true nature'. A 'rUpa' is a form, appearing through some act of perception. The prefix 'sva-' means 'own'. So 'svarUpa' means 'one's own form'. It is the inmost form that is revealed by looking at an individual from her or his or its own point of view, without any intervention from outside.

When an individual is perceived from outside, the perception is then indirect. A perceiving mind or body intervenes, between the perceiver and the individual perceived. This intervention creates a mental or physical appearance -- which is then liable to change, from changing points of view.

But when an individual is seen fully from within, there is no intervening distance between the point from which one looks and some other point to which the looking is directed. There is, accordingly, no difference between what sees and what is seen. What's seen is then no outward appearance -- thus seen to differ and to change, from various outside points of view. What's seen instead is the true nature of the individual, there found exactly as it is, in a direct realization of itself.

That true nature may be sought as one's own self. Or as the self in anyone, at the centre of each living personality. Or that same nature may be sought as the reality of any object in itself, in its own individuality. And that same nature called 'svarUpa' may be sought universally: as the complete reality of the entire universe, including every object and each personality. The universe is then treated as an individual whole.

In every case, the reality called 'sat' is what stays the same, throughout the changing life of each person or each object or the universe. As life proceeds through a variety of different happenings, we see in them an ordered functioning, which somehow expresses purposes and meanings and values that we find intelligible. It's only thus that we can understand what happens, as we reflect from change and difference to a sense of purpose and meaning and value that we find shared in common with what we see.

'sat' is accordingly a shared reality, which is expressed in common by all nature's life, both in our personalities and in their containing world. This gives rise to the yoga mArga or the way of union. Here, truth is approached by a progressive harnessing of personality. All faculties of body, sense and mind are harnessed back into their underlying source of life, from which they have arisen.

As the harnessing progresses, the personality becomes more integrated and its capabilities expand, beyond their usual limitations. The way of yoga is thus aimed at a complete integration, by absorption back into that underlying source where all limitations and all differences are found dissolved.

The 'sat' aspect is described in the Mundaka Upanishad 1.1.6, as appended below (with a somewhat free translation).

yat tad adreshyam agrAhyam agotram avarNam
acakShuH-shrotaM tad apANi-pAdam

[It's that which can't be seen or grasped,
which has no family, no class,
no eyes or ears, no hands or feet.]

nityaM vibhuM sarva-gataM susUkShmaM tad avyayam
yad bhUta-yonim paripashyanti dhIrAH

[It is just that which carries on,
extending subtly everywhere,
beyond the finest subtlety.
It is that being which remains,
found always changeless at the source
of all becoming in the world.
That's what the wise and steadfast see.]


Note from Dhyanasaraswati


"...association with the unmanifest sat or absolute existence (is required).... The shAstra-s say that one must serve (be associated with) the unmanifest sat for twelve years in order to attain Self- realization...but as very few can do that, they have to take second best, which is association with the manifest sat, that is, the guru."

Questioner: You say that Association with the Wise (satsa~Nga) and service of them is required of the disciple.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes, the first really means association with the unmanifest sat or absolute existence, but as very few can do that, they have to take second best which is association with the manifest sat, that is, the guru. Association with sages should be made because thoughts are so persistent. The sage has already overcome the mind and remains in peace. Being in his proximity helps to bring about this condition in others, otherwise there is no meaning in seeking his company. The guru provides the needed strength for this, unseen by others.

SOURCE: Silent Teachings & Sat-sanga. Sri Ramana Maharshi

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Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012