Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

An Introduction to Vedanta
Part XXX
Dr. K. Sadananda

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Part XXX – Relationless Relation

Vedanta provides different descriptions of the creation process depending on the maturity of the student. Existence alone was there in the beginning, and that existence was one without a second. It saw and wanted to become many and became many, it says in the Chandogya Up. It also describes how one became many – as discussed before it is similar to gold becoming many ornaments. Since the existence that was there before the creation has the capacity to see, it implies that existence is of the nature of consciousness. Since there is nothing other than itself to see, seeing also implies that it is a self-conscious entity. Thus Brahman is a self-existent and self-conscious entity. In fact, a self-conscious entity alone is a self-existent entity since, as we discussed before, existence and knowledge of the existence have to go together. In addition, Brahman cannot be conscious of anything other than itself since it is one without a second, and there is no other thing for it to be conscious of. I.e. there are no inert things for Brahman to be conscious of. Brahman cannot have parts, either, to have some parts that are inert and some parts that are conscious entities. Thus it is not an assemblage of things as some philosophers argue. It is a homogenous mass of consciousness – praj~nAna ghanam – or simply “praj~nAnam brahma” – “Consciousness is Brahman.”

Another Upanishad says that what was there before the creation was only the self, Atma, and it decided to become many. In the Gita, Krishna says that, under my presidentship, the prakRRiti projects itself into movable and immovable entities. In another Upanishad, the prakRRiti is described as nothing but mAyA – that which appears to be there, but is really not there (mAyantu prakRRitim vidhyAt). Krishna himself says that prakRRiti is nothing but his lower nature or lower order of reality. That which supports all this lower nature is his higher nature. Krishna says: ‘I am the source, support and locus for dissolution of the whole world’. This we discussed as the material cause for the universe. Along with these statements, the description of Brahman as infinite (which is attributeless and therefore free from space-wise, time-wise and object-wise limitations), and is of the nature of existence-consciousness-limitless (satyam-j~nAnam-anantam brahma), should provide us a with consistent description of the nature of reality and its relation to the world of plurality.

From these descriptions we gather that the relationship between the world and Brahman cannot be of the type that we are normally familiar with. Some philosophers have described this relationship as that between attributes and their locus, inseparable but yet different. Some have described it as that between two different entities, one dependent and the other independent. Advaita provides the correct description of the relation between the two. One is real and the other is mithyA – the relationship can only be of the type described as adhyAsa or superimposition. The word ‘Advaita’ itself means ‘non-dual.’ It is not the same as monism; the very description involves the negation of duality as reality. Such a description of the truth as ‘non-dual’ has validity only to those who see or experience duality in their day to day life, i.e. for most of the seekers who are trying to gain knowledge of reality.

How can the truth be non-dual when we experience duality all the time? It is similar to a student asking a question, “How can you say that there is no sunrise and sunset when I experience them everyday?” Hence, Vedanta emphasizes that experience is different from knowledge. Knowledge involves understanding of the truth behind the experience. Hence Advaita Vedanta says the relation between Brahman and the world is that of superimposition or adhyAsa. It is like the relation between gold and its ornaments – a relationless relation. One is vyAvahArika satyam, transactional reality and the other is pAramArthika satyam, absolute reality. The ring can change into a bangle or necklace but gold remains the same during these changes. Ring, bangle and necklace are different names for different forms, yet they are the nothing but gold. Gold is not the ring, not the bangle not the necklace - neti, neti, not this, not this - yet it includes the ring, bangle and necklace, as well. It is the essence of all names and forms too. One is the substantive and the other is a superimposed name and form. One is permanent and eternal while the other is changing continuously. What is perceived through the senses is only the attributes that belong to the name and form, just as what is perceived is ring, bangle or necklace. What is not perceived is Brahman which is the very consciousness because of which all perceptions are possible.

This aspect is beautifully described in the kenopaniShad (I.4-7 paraphrased):

Brahman is that which the eyes cannot see, but that because of which the eyes have the capacity to see; know that alone to be Brahman and not this that you worship. It is that which ears cannot hear, but that because of which ears have the capacity to hear; know that alone to be Brahman and not this that you worship. It is that which you can not speak about but that because of which all speech is possible; know that alone to be Brahman and not this that you worship. It is that which the mind cannot think, but that because of which the mind has the capacity to think; know that alone to be Brahman and not this that you worship.

t is the very life principle in all of us because of which all physiological activities are possible, know that alone to be Brahman and not this that you worship. Thus by negating all that which can be objectified as not Brahman, Vedanta uplifts the mind to something beyond words and descriptions, to the very core of one’s individuality, the very life principle in each one of us, to that which can only be expressed as ‘I am’ – the existent-consciousness entity that I am.

Proceed to the next essay.

Other Essays in this Section:
01. The common questions. 27. The Mind of God.
02. Search for happiness. 28. The Paradox of Space and Time.
03. Questions about Religions and God. 29. Living in the Present.
04. Belief that we are Mortal, Unhappy and Ignorant. 30. Relationless Relation.
05. You are not what you take yourself to be. 31. Concept of Ishvara or God-Hood.
06. Problem Definition. 32. Self-realization or God-realization.
07. Vedanta as pramANa. 33. Self realization - attitude of mind.
08. shravaNa, manana and nididhyAsana. 34. Consciousness and reflected consciousness.
09. Experience versus Knowledge. 35. Conscious and Unconscious Entities.
10. Who am I or what am I not? 36. Real Self and false self.
11. Ego or ahaMkAra. 37. Transmigration of Soul.
12. All about the universe. 38. Witnessing consciousness and reflected consciousness.
13. Creation according to Vedanta. 39. Analysis of Mind: Intro part 1
14. Description of brahman. 40. Analysis of Mind: Intro part 2
15. Progressive teaching method: svarUpa lakShaNa. 41. Mind and Matter: Part 1
16. Carpets and Schrödinger's Cat. 42. Mind and Matter: Part 2
17. Attribute and Substantive. 43. Classification of the Mind: Part 1
18. Does the world exist independent of an observer? 44. Classification of the Mind: Part 2
19. Brahman and the world. 45. Classification of the Mind: Part 3
20. The Cognitive Process. 46. Classification of the Mind: Part 4
21. Perception of the world. 47. Fundamental Human Problem: Part 1
22. What does negation involve? 48. Fundamental Human Problem: Part 2
23. Errors in Perception. 49. Fundamental Human Problem: Part 3
24. adhyAsa or error superimposition. 50. vAsanA-s part 1
25. What is Real? 51. vAsanA-s part 2
26. Transformation-less transformation. 52. Viewpoints of reality.

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Page last updated: 08-Jul-2012