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' .

Enlightenment and the brain

Q. Do you agree that 'enlightenment' corresponds with a structural change in/of the nervous system?

A. I think we should first ensure that we both have the same understanding of what is meant by enlightenment. What does it mean to you?

Q. I don't know, though at times I have thought I did know, so I'll offer an anecdote. One particular time was when my own thought process recognized the impermanence of everything, including itself. That mental understanding triggered what felt like a huge release, an implosion of confusion, fear, and so forth... and resulted in an 'awareness' and an aliveness which felt enormous, both spatially and temporally. This was accompanied by a flood of compassion and the vision that individual people are reminiscent of dust devils, or pointillist figures, or shifting patterns in a sandstorm. At the time, all problems were settled, or rather, dissolved; and there was nothing to understand or achieve save the desire to share that vision with others. So I suppose enlightenment means that, but without the return of confusion, fear, etcetera. I would ask what does it mean to you but it seems redundant after reading several of your books!

A. Enlightenment: The Path through the Jungle is the book that deals with this topic at length. If you�ve read that, you should know my views (which correspond with those of traditional advaita). Enlightenment is not an experience (although you may of course have these before, during or after) and has nothing to do with experience. Enlightenment is the direct realization, in the mind, of the truth of advaita - brahman is satyam, the word is mithyA, the individual �soul� is not different from brahman.

Self-realization - why bother?

Q. What I can't seem to understand is why the sages such as Nisargadatta or Ramana Maharshi devoted so much time to helping others to realize their true Self. From what I read, Maharshi spent quite a bit of 'time' with his mother to see that she gained enlightenment before her body died. Why bother, if when she dies everything that was 'her' dies and Consciousness continues on and Bob's your uncle. So my question is why should one bother to 'seek' realization in this body. Why not just eat, drink and be merry and look forward to death to end any miseries we may suffer.

A. The answer is entirely grounded in advaita�s teaching of �levels� of reality. You really have to take your stance in paramArtha or vyavahAra when you discuss this topic. You simply cannot mix the two or you end up with irreconcilable problems.

As far as paramArtha is concerned, there is only brahman � end of subject. There is only ever brahman; no world, no Nisargadatta, no you, no seeking, no finding. Even that is saying too much because language itself is dualistic.

As far as vyavahAra is concerned, the world is real, Nisargadatta and 'you' are real. What you do will result in saMskAra, which will likely not be exhausted by the end of 'your' life. Then, karma will dictate that the subtle body of you will have to undergo further rebirth in order to deal with the accumulated saMskAra. This is simply the law of cause and effect, which operates infallibly within the universe. You know that perceptible things that you do have their effect � you press the light switch and the light comes on. Motives and their results in terms of puNya or papa are obviously subtle and you might want to argue about them, but the principle is the same.

Within vyavahAra, so the teaching goes, if you become a seeker and eventually realize the truth, you will cease to accumulate any new saMskAra and, when the existing prArabdha saMskAra is exhausted, you will die and you (the subtle body) will no longer be reincarnated.

Realized teachers know all this so they also know that teaching anyone is, in reality, unnecessary since every (seeming) individual is already brahman in reality. But he also knows that their minds, being clouded by ignorance, do not appreciate this so that they consequently suffer. Since he was also once in this position, he has compassion and willingly teaches, answers questions, etc., so that maybe whoever listens will also realize the truth in that lifetime.

Still within vyavahAra, despite the fact that an individual is not really an individual but unlimited brahman, ignorance imposes a life of intermittent suffering. And failure to realize will incur further such lives in the future. Eating, drinking and marrying is short-lived anyway. Happiness is invariably followed by suffering (and vice versa) in this human life. Once you are aware of the teaching and have some faith in it, you �have your head in the lion�s mouth� and are obliged to follow it through to its conclusion.

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