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' .


Q. If all is He, then who is it performing religion? Is there any necessity to perform rules and regulations as described in holy scripture? As I am He, how can I worship me? It is worthless or a kind of cheating. Please clarify.

A. If you know that you are brahman (i.e. are enlightened), then obviously none of this is necessary or relevant. Worship, etc., are interim means for preparing the mind to be able to truly realize this fact.

Q. Almost all religion says at the begining there was nothing but He. To express Himself, He has created the world of forms, still remaining formless/unseen behind the form. So everything is He, as the clay remains as clay in the pot of different shape, size and color. My question is if He is He, then what is the necessity for performing prayers, uttering mantras, sacrificing animals at His feet, etc.? My opinion is that religion is for those who possess mind (duality); in no-mind (nonduality), there is no need for performing rules and regulations of religion. Whether I am right or wrong, please clarify.

A. From the perspective of absolute reality, there is indeed only brahman. At the level of appearance, there is the jIva, the world and Ishvara. The seeker can use worship of a god to prepare the mind for Self-knowledge. But even the enlightened can continue to worship, recognizing the distinction but still appreciating the beauty of the apparent creation and knowing that 'I am Ishvara'. Read someone like Swami Dayananda to gain more understanding about this.


Q. I read one of the books that you had previously recommended, Methods of Knowledge according to Advaita Vedanta. Could I ask you a couple of questions?

The book makes a distinction between the vedAntic nirvikalpa samAdhi and the yogic asamprAj~nata samAdhi (p. 301, last paragraph). From what I could understand, both paths recommend discriminating the Self from the not-Self, but in vedAnta, towards the end of the jIva's sAdhanA, the jIva must focus exclusively on the Self to realize that the infinite brahman is the Self, the sole reality, whereas for the yogi, 'the liberated soul is omnipresent spirit/Consciousness pure and simple but not the sole reality; and there are countless souls,' (p. 301, second paragraph). And according to the book, the yogi's mind is detached from the Self in liberation while in vedAnta the mind is fused with the Self, but both minds are modeless (p. 302, top of page). Is there a difference between the realization of the yogi and the vedAntic sage? It sounds like there is, according to the book, but in nonduality, there can't be, can there?

Also, the book only talks about nirvikalpa samAdhi, not at all about sahaja. Ramana Maharshi and Jean Klein both said sahaja samAdhi is liberation. Jean Klein said in a book that there's still duality, however subtle, in nirvikalpa. Could you comment on these points?

A. This question is crossing boundaries to other disciplines - I'm afraid I have no in-depth knowledge of yoga, sAMkhya, etc. My understanding is that (according to advaita) all 'samAdhi-s' are states only - they have a beginning and an end in time. The mind is an aspect of the subtle body, i.e. 'who we really are' is not the mind. This, of course, is speaking within vyavahAra. From the pAramArthika standpoint, since there is only brahman, there is nothing that is not brahman.

Discrimination of Self from not-Self is one of the techniques used to bring us around to Self-knowledge. But, whilst the jIva can 'focus on' the not-Self, it is not possible to 'focus on' the Self. The scriptures point you in the right direction but, ultimately, you realize that you are the Self. This is direct and immediate knowledge, not in the sense of perceiving or knowing objectively.

Since yoga (and sAMkhya) are dualistic, their so-called enlightenment, if this word is understood in the same way as 'the mind gaining Self-knowledge', cannot be the same as vedAntic enlightenment, can it? Because the 'Self-knowledge' they end up with is incorrect. Reality is nondual, but they mistakenly believe that it is dualistic. Consequently, according to our understanding, they are not really enlightened at all.

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