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' .

Does an object exist before we see it?

Q. At the level of vyAvahArika, does an object 'exist' before it is discovered and cognized by a conscious entity (i.e., person, animal, etc.)? Most people would of say, yes, knowing that, for example, a rock they just discovered in their backyard was probably there the day before. However, I believe the teachings of advaita that hold Consciousness/awareness as satyam point towards the opposite conclusion. As Swami Dayananda says, 'Pot is, awareness is.' What is your view?

A. The contents of your dream world are created by your mind and do not exist before (or after) the dream. But the waking world is the creation of Ishvara and exists independently of any individual�s perception. The very wording of your question � �discovering� the object � contains the implicit assumption of its pre-existence. advaita is not �unreasonable�. Note, however, that we can only establish the existence of an object through perception. And, if we ourselves have not seen something, we must rely upon the word of someone else. To be pedantic, of course, the �isness� of the object belongs to brahman, the substratum; the object itself is mithyA.

The �final� (pAramArthika) statement of advaita is that there is no creation (ajAti vAda). The above theory � that Ishvara creates the world and we then perceive it � is called sRRiShTi dRRiShTi vAda. The contrary view, which is the one that you are suggesting, is called dRRiShTi sRRiShTi vAda. This is held by a 16th century advaitin, prakAShAnanda, and he puts forward this view in his work, vedAnta siddhAnta muktAvalI but it is not mainstream advaita. See Creation Theories in Advaita: Vidyasankar Sundaresan for a good summary. If you want to read an entire book on the subject, see Idealistic Thought in Indian Philosophy by Suchita Divata (D K Printworld, 1994, ISBN 812460021X).

Q. This is very helpful. Am I correct however, in thinking that this view is adopted by many Direct Path teachers? For example, Sri Atmananda in chapter 12 of Atma Nirvirti states, 'Before seeing, there is no seen.' The footnote to this passage reinforces the point by saying, '...with the accent on the thing that has no existence in itself, but upon the seeing as a result of which an object comes into existence.' John Levy, one of his main students in Europe, pushes the point further in Nature of Man According to Vedanta.

A. I don�t think this is quite how Direct Path sees things. I think that the idea is that you try to see that objects are not separate from Consciousness as a stage in the process of realizing that there is only Consciousness. But I didn�t think there was any sense of �bringing them into existence�. How could you bring something into existence by perceiving it? What would you perceive before there was something there to perceive? Traditionally, one would say that we misperceive something �out there� as a separate object as a result of avidyA. In reality, what is out there is the same brahman as the one that is perceiving.

But I am no expert on Direct Path. I suggest that you ask Greg Goode - he would be happy to clarify this point.

Greg: Great summary, Dennis! As one begins with Direct Path inquiry, there seem to be many different kinds of objects. In fact, there seem to be the whole world, body and mind. That is, cars, trees, colors, sounds, aches, pains, itches and twitches, thoughts, feelings, desires, and relations such as time, space, number, causality, etc.

All these things are investigated directly. It is first seen that these objects can't exist or even appear independently of awareness. Like Dennis mentioned, this is a sort of preparatory insight. This enables the shocking discovery that these things can't be found as candidates for existence or non-existence in the first place! It is realized that there's nothing available upon which you can hang the predicates 'exists' or 'doesn't exist.' The term 'Existence' comes to mean global Experience, which is another word for Awareness itself.

More specifically, the 'of' in experience drops out. That is, experience previously seemed to be of things or about about things. But it comes to be your discovery that remotest galaxy or the most sublime mental state is a sweet, seamless, partless, clear and loving intimacy that is your very self.

Atmananda's books go into this, and my Standing as Awareness goes into it. I'm also writing a 'sequel' or 'user guide,' which gives more exercises and investigations to stabilize the realization that all there is is awareness always and already!

Direct Path and the 'intellectual mind'

Q. An answer given to a questioner in your one of your recent newsletters said in part: 'Direct Path may offer a suitable route for a certain type of mind (very intellectual!).' I wonder if you could explain (defend) that. The implication is that something is omitted in this approach. And what is it compared to?

Obviously the Direct Path has an appeal for me, and, yes, I am overly intellectual, and, yes, I am steeped in philosophy, but the cautions within your answer to the questioner would apply to anyone looking at the truth, by whatever means. From my reading of it, you are comfortable with Greg Goode, who I would describe as Direct Path, and his words speak with caution (of what Consciousness is not).

A. I think I would like to rewrite the statement using a little more care! 'Direct Path offers a suitable route for a certain type of mind (intellectual), providing that the mind is suitably prepared to begin with (sAdhana chatuShTaya sampatti) and providing that the teaching is guided by a suitably qualified guru.' And the same arguments that apply to satsang teaching also apply to Direct Path, e.g. occasional visits to or by a teacher are insufficient. There are not many Direct Path teachers around as far as I am aware, and most of these only do �satsang�-style teaching. Shri Atmananda says that: 'The subjective experience of the real "I" is exclusively the subject of Vedanta. This can be gained only by personal contact, in an attitude of complete surrender, with a Jnyanin [sage] who is established in that subjective Reality.' (Notes, 420) I don�t personally agree with this statement but, even if you don�t either, there are not many Direct Path books around so that reading widely is not really an option to compensate for the lack of teachers.

saMskAra and memory

Q. I have been reading about memories and their being carried over into future lives. It said: 'All saMskAra-s lie dormant in the chitta as latent activities, not only of this life but of all previous innumerable lives from Anadi Kala (beginningless time). The saMskAra-s of animal life (those of dog's births, etc.), the saMskAra-s of a deva life, the saMskAra-s of kingly life, the saMskAra-s of the life of a peasant, are all hidden there in the chitta.'

Also, on your website and maybe also in one of your books you said, 'Buddhi functions best out of stillness.' This implies that there is a pool of knowledge which buddhi can assess. Is that pool within buddhi, in chitta or is it the causal itself?

A. saMskAra-s are not memories. It is prArabdha saMskAra that determines the sort of life into which we are born and the sort of situations we will encounter. This is so that we will reap some of the fruit from our past actions. There is no memory of those past actions; it is simply an effect from their prior cause.

The reason buddhi functions best in stillness is that it is able to �see the situation for what it is� to use a clich�. There is specifically no accessing of a pool of knowledge. It is manas that accesses information and plays around with it, asking �what if� questions and so on. Buddhi simply �sees� the right answer, in the present, without any of this.

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