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' .

Who is the individual?

Q. I am a frequent and grateful reader of your work. My question is: Why do I (the individual) need a body?

A. In answer to your question, let me ask you a counter question: Who is this 'individual' that you refer to?

Q. The individual I refer to is named so-and-so and has a body, mind, intellect, heart and ego. Advaita (as I understand it) holds that the existence of this name and form is dependent on that of the Absolute. Is the body solely a means of manifesting the subtle body (mind, intellect, heart and ego) or does it have another purpose?

A. There is a critically wrong word in your first sentence. It should read 'The individual I refer to is named so-and-so and is a body, mind, intellect, heart and ego.' So your question, 'Why do I need a body?' is not valid. You neither need nor have a body in reality. At the empirical level of reality, where you believe that you are the body (even if intellectually you concede that you might be wrong), your task is to come to the realization that you are not.

In reality, world and bodies, mind, intellect, etc., are simply name and form of the non-dual reality (you).

Who is afraid/angry?

Q. I once consulted a swami from the Chinmaya Mission about how to deal with my phobia of rats. He told me to observe and ask who's afraid of them. I can observe the fear (though sometimes being drawn to it and becoming even more fearful) but I can't find the subject feeling the fear!

If I can locate what I think is the subject feeling the fear (inside the head, near the heart, etc.), then they too are objects. In other words, there's no subject but only fear arising in awareness. Does this prove there are no objects as there's no point talking about objects if the subject can't be found? The reason the subject can't be found is logical - I am the subject, that is Consciousness, so there's no way to illuminate or observe my Self. And yet I was told that whatever I can observe, feel, think, etc., is not me. But if there's no subject found as proven above but only awareness, there's no meaning to talking about what I see, feel, etc., is not me because there's not a me seeing, fearing or thinking. There is just plain seeing, feeling, etc. Please correct me if I am wrong.

My temper is bad and I really want to pursue knowledge and get rid of anger, hatred, tamasic energies, etc. And yet intellectually, I know as brahman, I cannot be any thing, feeling bad deeds, etc., so there's really nothing to get rid of from the absolute standpoint. But what is still bothering me is I caught myself (or rather the ego) being unkind to someone and I observed myself 'pinching' the person in anger. There's no guilt, however, and this is what's bothering me as I think I should feel bad about 'my' misdeeds.

I was merely witnessing the act of anger and felt detached from the doer and in the process 'stopped' myself from continuing the act. I know there's no excuse for what I did but the act of witnessing prevents the usual guilt from arising. Am I abusing Vedanta, making excuses, or am I too tamasic and deluded into thinking I am witnessing the angry doer, rather than genuinely being detached from the doer in this case?

A. Realizing the truth in a sense is a stepwise process. Initially there is identification with the body and the feelings and thoughts � �I� am angry, frightened, etc. Then there is identification with the witness � �I� see these thoughts arising and this body doing �bad� things. Ultimately is the understanding that there is only Consciousness. Every seeming thing else is only name and form; movement in/of the non-dual brahman. But you do have to continue to live in this seeming world and, at the level of the world, you are a separate entity interacting with other jIva-s and objects. Cause and effect operate here. So you need to differentiate between the reality and the appearance. Appreciate the former but act as if the latter were true. For that, all of the usual dictates of dharma, morality, karma, etc., should be taken into account.

Q. Thanks for the wise reply. Two weeks ago there was a revelation that I do not move, only the screen in front of me moves. It was a wonderful feeling of openness but later on, tamas sank in and seemed to take everything away, and I feel like I am being torn apart and something is dying. The path is really tough. Judging from your reply, you are at least a j~nAnI if not a jIvanmukti.

A. Who-you-really-are cannot be affected by anything. It is very important to remember that.

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