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' .

Need to 'resonate' with a guru

Q. Sri Atmananda, in Notes on Spiritual Discourses (#901: What are the activities of Love and Knowledge?), quoted the following, although the source of this quote was not mentioned. Regardless, when it was read - pow! - understanding came.

'The left eye, representing love, creates all this world for enjoyment; but the next moment the right eye, representing knowledge, destroys all that is in its consuming fire. This is indeed one of the manifold divine lilas of the �child in knowledge� in the field of the Ultimate, through which it explains the world and establishes the truth.'

This statement explains both the 'intelligent' and 'material' function (which are not two, but One) of the Absolute. There is no doubt here what is being said; even so, I would like to very briefly, and in generic fashion, present a flowchart, of sorts, with the sole purpose of obtaining confirmation of the truth. Why? I have no clue! A smile. Here goes:

  • Consciousness: the ground of the 'I'-principle, which flows into...

  • Knower / Witness: the actionless, unchangeable, observer of action and change, which flows into...

  • Mind: a subtle thought-form arising out of Consciousness, and the processor of all arising thought flowing outward through the 'left eye' (so to speak, as in the quote) and projected as...

  • Senses / Body / World / Universe: the mind projections of diverse objects normally recognized by their remembered qualities only; the substantive nature (Consciousness) of such going undetected by a few. And then...

  • The whole process is immediately reversed with all projections turning in on themselves from out-there to in-here, via the 'right eye'. In other words, everything originates in Consciousness and falls back into Consciousness. It is an eternal cycle.

The only thing really Real in all of the above is Consciousness; that 'I Am' and this is how I create, sustain, and dissolve the whole show. It all starts with Me and ends with Me - out one eye and in the other, as the quote says. All is thought, and I am the content of thought. It is like the Bible says: '... all things were made by Him, and for His good pleasure was it created.' The scripture refers to Me.

A. The thing about all teachings of non-duality is that they use words, ideas, metaphors, etc., which are none of them ultimately true (obviously, since they are all dualistic). Some resonate with one person, some with another. Where they don�t immediately resonate, you need a teacher, who understands them deeply, to explain them to you. Some of Sri Atmananda�s words have helped me a lot, explaining things very clearly. Others I find very opaque. And I�m afraid the example you give is one of the latter variety!

If you want to �explain� the world-appearance, you can pretty much use whatever metaphors/stories that take your fancy. Nothing has ever really been created. Nothing �comes out of� Consciousness; nothing �returns� to Consciousness because there only ever is Consciousness, �before�, �during� and �after�.

Also, I don�t really like the idea of lIlA � creating for �enjoyment�. It implies a lack in the Absolute, which makes no sense since it is unlimited.

Q. On the topic of illuminated truth (genuine understanding) verses intellectual (ego) interpretation of truth, Sri Atmananda proposes that simply reading the writings of the guru is ineffectual in evoking the experience of the truth as written. He says that only the spoken word of the guru can be correctly understood and experienced.

Without any attempt to relate what is currently being experienced, let me say that until several months ago, I had the priviledge of being in contact with Swami-G, a satguru who initiated me, named me (Sadashiv-das), and gave shaktipat for me. Swami-G has been my guru for almost six years. Now, communication has broken off owing to what I can only admit to as an exhibition of rude and irreverant speech on my part, directed towards my guru. I suppose samskaras/vasanas had to partially play out in some manner or another, and that this is fully understood by Swami-G. I could be mistaken. Even so, it was a messy ordeal and very troubling. The 'idea' of falling from grace is not pleasant. I have never been in the physical presence of Swami-G. She is 3000 miles away. This information is offered to you because without it, the question(s) asked would be asked out of context.

Since the spoken word of the guru is no longer available, I have had to revert back to what was done before meeting Guruji - reading, e.g., Sri Atmananda, Sri Ramana Maharshi, and other discourses on Advaita on the UK website, all adjunct to, and guide for, enquiry. For me to say that what has been recently read has been ineffectual in evoking experience would be, from this standpoint, nothing more than a bold-face lie. That being said, I wonder at Sri Atmananda's viewpoint and questions arise. Questions like:

  1. Has the recent reading of the teachings of Advaita, as given by Self-realized writers, been effectual because Guruji, though seemingly absent, is in truth, now (and having always been) present within?

  2. Because there is currently no contact with Guruji (hence no direct hearing of the spoken word), should it be suspected that when truth is read, there cannot be any benefit or realization of the truth that the words point to because the words are being said by a Self-realized form? In otehr words, how can experience be a lie?

  3. If (2) is true, then why write anything at all? Should one wait for a guru in form to show up in order to hear the spoken word and, having heard it, be assured that the written Gita can now be understood? Sure, the combination of guru and scripture is seen to be optimal but what is to be done without the guru?

The fact is, Dennis, that these almost seem like loaded questions. But, seeming loaded or not, they are asked because too much is now experienced as 'falling away' to let any measure of doubt creep in that can only strengthen what is felt to be a terminally-ill ego. I'm sure you can appreciate the concern. Thank you in advance for a response.

A. The physical presence of the guru may be valuable in focusing the mind, making one more alert and attentive etc. From the guru�s side, he or she will be able to pick up on the unspoken element of your questions � body language, hesitation and so on. The spoken word of the guru may be extremely valuable in being able to clarify your understanding, explain difficult concepts and so on, which you might not be able to take in from merely written material. The extent to which written material can succeed depends on many factors � knowledge of the author, in respect of both the subject itself and the language for expressing it; writing skill; understanding of the precise nature of the question etc.; and it depends upon the prior knowledge and understanding of the questioner, language skills and do on. Asking and answering questions via email is difficult enough, when there is opportunity to clarify misunderstanding, rephrasing the question and/or answer, but in the case of a written book there is only one chance to get it right.

So my view is that a guru is extremely valuable but not absolutely essential, providing that you approach the subject in the right way, read extensively and critically, and have access to a source for clarification if necessary (e.g. Advaitin group). Logically, it seems that this must be so. The truth is not directly communicable because words themselves can only speak of the dual. Words point to that truth, whether read or heard and, once rightly understood, the truth is directly apprehended because we are That.

Enlightenment at the end of the universe

Q. It is said that mokSha is liberation from this material world. But isn't it true that when the mahapralaya (final dissolution of the cosmos) occurs, mokSha is also supposed to finally break down. So in this sense, one doesn't stay liberated forever and thus mokSha is also temporary. Or is it otherwise and mokSha never breaks down? I would be grateful if you could tell me the truth.

A. Have a look at Question #256 for a detailed answer to a similar question.

mokSha is for the person. According to traditional advaita, once the person has realized, that person is not reborn � ever. This is because the karma that was the cause for the subtle body�s rebirth comes to an end when the person dies. So, whether it is individual death or cosmic death makes no difference. For the person who has not realized, there remains unfructified saMchita saMskAra at the end of the person�s life (or �Big Crunch� of the universe) and that goes back into the unmanifest for bringing out again next time to continue its cause-effect existence.

Who you really are was never born to begin with, and will never die, irrespective of yuga-s or pralaya-s. There is only brahman and you are That.

Q. Thanks a lot for such an enlightening answer for I had unfortunately misinterpreted by reading on some advaita sites that after mahapralaya, even the liberated soul gets reborn. Thanks for clarifying this confusion. Just two more things I want to ask by your permission:

  1. You said that mokSha is for the person, so have we as personalities always existed or were we created (I know it's an illusion) at some point in time by brahman's supernatural thought process?

  2. Can all the personalities in this world attain liberation or does each one have different intrinsic destinies?

A. You are trying to ask �absolute� questions from the standpoint of the relative so, in a sense, you are doomed to failure � such questions cannot be answered. In order to be able to answer any question asking about the relationship between brahman and the world, we would have to be able to stand outside both. Since there is only brahman, this is obviously an impossibility. Hence we say that such questions are anirvachanIya � we cannot ask them! Instead, we postulate mAyA, effectively �magic� as the �explanation� for the appearance.

Traditional advaita teaches that the individual has limited free will � to act, not act, or act differently in the situations that are presented as a result of maturing saMskAra (past karma). According to this, one may work to acquire sAdhana chatuShTaya sampatti, a key aspect of which is the desire to attain enlightenment, This will in turn lead to seeking out the teaching, ideally from a qualified teacher. And, through shravaNa and manana, this will eventually lead to enlightenment. This is the ultimate �destiny� of all jIva-s.

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