Advaita Vision


Advaita for the 21st Century

Questions and Answers
Dennis Waite

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How to Meet Yourself cover   The Book of One cover  Back to the Truth cover  Enlightenment: the path through the jungle

Read extracts from and purchase my books: For beginners to Advaita - 'How to Meet Yourself (and find true happiness);
For intermediate Advaita students - 'The Book of One';
For advanced students - 'Back to the Truth: 5000 Years of Advaita'.
For a comparison of teaching methods in advaita - 'Enlightenment: the Path through the Jungle' .

The enlightened dream?

Q. When one 'becomes' self realized/enlightened, is the person's dream state affected? For example, is there any change to the types of dreams one has? I know it may seem like a strange question but I have never read anything that covers the impact of enlightenment on the 'dreamer'.

A. I don�t believe I have encountered any mention of this in anything that I have read. I did once ask Francis Lucille this question, I think, and I may even have his response on a tape somewhere but I don�t recall any detail. I would answer �no�. The enlightened person still dreams and is (usually) unaware in the dream that the dream-world is unreal. You could view it all as the playing out of prArabdha karma. The person still functions in life as before and to all external appearances is mostly unchanged (although someone who knew the person well before might notice differences.) The difference is in one�s outlook. It is now known for certain that the world is mithyA; that the reality is the nondual brahman and �I am That�. Both waking world and dream world continue to be experienced as before.

Of course, what one dreams about does have some dependence upon one�s waking experience. So if, for example, someone begins to think �I am brahman� (say) throughout their waking day (whether or not they have realized the truth of that), then it is highly likely that they will find themselves thinking this in their dreams, too.

Knowledge versus experience

Q. All experience is already Self experience. The issue is not lack of direct experience but ignorance about the Self. Whatever experience is happening is Self experience because there is 'not two'. So the lack of direct experience of what the 'intellectual understanding' is pointing at can only be solved by knowing what the Self is; but not only that, by knowing that I am it. This Self knowledge or understanding has nothing to do with the collecting of information and repeating cliches or slogans coming from a misunderstanding of superficial nondual philosophy. It's obvious that before, during, or after, any experience, I must be the conscious factor and substance that recognizes experience for what it is, i.e. my own Self.

Another point is that to 'grab or 'apprehend' the experience after it has vanished, I need to use intellectual understanding. Liberation doesn't depend on a specific temporal feeling or experience of the Self at all. Some people say that intellectual understanding is limited and that the 'direct feeling' approach is the answer, but I don't think this is the solution. The idea that the 'feeling level' is superior to the intellectual understanding for me is a misunderstanding. It sounds something like the 'return to the senses' slogan in the 'pop psychology' of the 60s. 'Understanding' in advaita vedAnta is not just 'information about something', but knowledge by identity or emboding the knowledge.

A. What you say is right.

Usually, in both waking and dream states, we are ignorant about the truth and misperceive what is there. In deep sleep there is no misperception so that we directly experience the nondual Self. But there is still ignorance there and, as soon as we wake up the same old snake is projected onto the rope. There is only the Self, so that, inevitably, we must always be experiencing that. The problem is that we do not know it � the only solution is to gain Self-knowledge.

In fact, it is worse than this. Shankara says in his commentary on the Gaudapada kArikA-s that the world is unreal (mithyA) because we experience it. If you can experience something, you know by that fact that it must be unreal.

Q. On some level I even know that I am the All Pervading Presence. Yet my experience is usually one of feeling like a body and that the world seems real, frankly.

A. I always think of the sunrise-sunset example here. Despite the fact that I know the earth is rotating and only giving the appearance of the sun rising and setting, this is still my experience. Similarly, despite the fact that I know that bodies and worlds are only name and form of the nondual reality, it is still my experience that these are separate entities. And, significantly, this is not going to change.

If you want to ask a question, and do not object to its being included in this section, please email me.

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Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012