Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Knowledge – Oneness in spite of Duality
Madathil Nair

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(The following was posted to the Advaitin Egroup 27th May 2002)

Knowledge, inferential or direct, is necessarily dualistic. There is a knower and there is a known. It is the apparent chasm between the two that necessitates ‘add ins’ like body, mind, intellect etc., which are absolutely necessary if we get down to analyzing the process of knowing and of which, however, we are not at all aware through most of our waking moments. The question now is if we can get rid of, or at least limit, the sense of duality while keeping our eyes open and experiencing the world. The sense of duality emerges only when ‘we get down to analyzing’. Otherwise, it is all One. This is the exact reason why empirical sciences unfailingly fail at appreciating Reality because they stick their nose deep into ‘enquiring’. Well, that is their job. Can't help it.

This reminds me of a story of a king and his consort which I read in some old philosophical work. The lady was a realized being and the king was a spiritual struggler. She taught him Vedanta and, as a result, he reached a stage of spiritual evolution where he was able to enjoy samaadhi at will - but only when he sat in a particular posture and kept his eyes closed! His consort was not happy with the situation. She continued helping him until at last he opened up like Arjuna saying "naShTo moha"! He no more needed a posture or closed eyes to be One with everything. He ‘knew’ that he had always been just That!

As advaitins, we know duality and we know that there is only Oneness despite duality. In acquiring this knowledge, no doubt, we necessarily made use of concepts like adhyaasa, body, mind, intellect etc. But, isn't it yet time we kept these tools and equipment on the shelf, opened our eyes, looked upwards at the Sun and chanted the gAyatrI mantra or showed the lighted lamp to our smiling devI (She is my iShTadevata) and said "na tatra sUryo bhaati ………." or looked at the splendour of the night sky and thrilled heaven and earth by singing from dakshinAmUrti stotram: "Naanachchiddra ghatodarasthithamaha deepaprabhabhaasuram….."?

Will you feel any sense of duality then? I am sure no. You then have no time to entertain duality. This guy called duality is there in your sitting room only as long as you care to entertain him.

The whole of waking life or most of it can thus be rendered ‘non-dual’. We don't have to necessarily turn ‘inwards’ to do that. There is no ‘inwards’ or ‘outwards’ in this business. All directions are the same. An ‘inwards’ can exist only in relation to the limitations of the body-mind-intellect equipment. Haven't we already placed it on the shelf? Neither have we got to negate anything. We can be just That inspite of everything. In other words, we accept everything and see them from a different angle, wherefrom only the oneness in diversity is perceived. This is my ‘I know’ - the common denominator of all transactions.

I am reminded of two situations Swami Dayananda Saraswatiji mentions in this context. You are alone and there is a beautiful sunset. That makes you extremely happy. There is no wish fulfilment here. Yet, you are happy, because you are essentially happiness and the sunset made you forget your limitations for a second. In other words, you tasted oneness. The second situation (slightly embellished by me): You are with your business rival in his sitting room struggling to sort differences out. You hate the man because he is a big pain on the neck. And suddenly you spot his baby. It is smiling at you - a toothless, innocent smile. You forget everything for a moment and break out into being a tender expansiveness in spite of the fact that that baby is not yours and its father is your bitter foe.

These are classical examples where duality vanishes without a trace. There is no body-mind-intellect equipment here unless you sit back later and analyze. You are then inviting the guy - the unwanted duality - back into your sitting room.

It is within us to make each and every moment of our life ‘non- dually’ happy if we really contemplate and endeavour. The ‘I know’ (or jaanaami) explanation helps. One can even reach a point where one is able to spot, appreciate and love the endearing ‘cherubicity’ (my coinage) behind the bushy moustache of Saddam Hussein without any sense of separation. (I was a war prisoner in his Iraq some time ago. I, therefore, have every reason to love him, for the hardships I then underwent taught me great lessons.). There are masters around us living this truth. Why can't we at least aspire to be in their footsteps?

With advaitic contemplation, we begin to spontaneously glow like glow-worms. It is the waking, continuous glow of knowing (jaanaami) without a sense of separation. Deep sleep, experiences (!) of anaesthesia and hypnosis are within that glow. The concept of non-existent death too. Who cares? I have got to glow. I don't have time to see what happens to this body-mind-intellect equipment. It is there on the shelf. I can take a look at it when I want. It does not matter if it was the same one which I left there last time!

My Mother has written this. She is the eternal Glow.


(The following was posted to the Advaitin Egroup 24th Feb 2004)

Let us begin with the following situation:
1. `A' sees `B'
2. `A' knows that he is seeing `B'

# 1 is very simple and straight. In # 2, the object is A's knowing himself as the seer of `B'. `A' here acquires his knowership or seership due to his identifying himself as the subject of the transaction, i.e., in other words, due to his `choosing' to be limited to a particular role in the transaction.
This transaction is like any of the other transactions that keep on occurring continuously and more than one such transaction constitutes what we call duality.

Now `A' takes to Advaita. He observes the following:

(a) Life is a continuous experiencing where things and situations just light up. These include the so-called memories, thoughts, concepts, dreams, etc. He has no control over the lighting up. It was not for his asking that the lighting up began in the first place. He is thus sceptical and unsure about his seeming ability to put an end to it.

(b) His knowledge of himself as the subject in various transactions so far gave him an impression that he was only a part of the lighting up consisting of the three divisions - knower, knowing and known. However, now he knows that that idea of being the limited knower is also another total lighting up. Besides, the seeming limitation of being the subject in a transaction doesn't end in itself because there appears to be another knower of that subject.

(c) That brings in the possibility of an infinite regress of knowership. Even that possibility is another total lighting up.

(d) However, the undeniable truth is that there is lighting up. The seeming subjects (knowers) are relative and are lighted up or are in the lighting up. `A' knows that he cannot be so many, so unendingly divided.

(e) Each lighting up occurs individually. When one occurs, another one can't occur simultaneously with it.

(f) Individual lighting ups thus occur in time. This knowledge is yet another lighting up. But, time is also lighted up as time awareness. If time is lighted up, then how can lighting up occur in time? Are individual light ups, therefore, an illusion or mithyA as Advaitins call them?

(g) There is, therefore, an error somewhere. Lighting up cannot be affected by time. It should be beyond time. If indeed it is, then the diversity of experiences and objects, which we call duality, is also an error. It is non-existent with reference to the timelessness of lighting up. In that lighting up, there can't therefore be any limited knower, knowing or known.

(h) In essence, therefore, there really is only the lighting up. A compound "I-know" or "jAnAmi" in Sanskrit. `A' should be that lighting up.

(i) Duality can thus exist only in relation to a limited knower.
With reference to the totality of lighting up, which is `A' in reality, there cannot be diversity.
This is my understanding of Shankara’s "nAnAshcidraghatOdarastita mahA dIpaprabhAbhAswaram…….." verse in DakshinAmurtyashTakam.

Now about brain, I know I have a brain. I also know that, on the streets of New York, there is a species called ‘mugger’ who know where exactly to hit me to put my brain out of service. Let us suppose I am hit. There is a temporary black-out during which I end up poorer on a hospital bed. All that happened to me in the process are individual lighting ups attributed to a mass of cells called the brain excluding the stretch of unconsciousness, where I had the experience of not experiencing anything.

Now the question is: What happened then to the timeless lighting up which I concluded is ever present? The logical answer is that that lighting up was ‘ever there’ (tragedy of *dual* language!) divested of time and diversity. Nothing could happen to it. Happenings are for things like the limited knower and his brain in time and not for timelessness. I was unconscious simply because I chose to be the limited knower in total alienation with the lighting up. Only the conscious can become unconscious. Consciousness cannot.

Whether there is a brain or not, therefore, is of absolute unimportance to Advaita. Brain, body, birth and death are in the lighting up and are seen and feared only by the knower who chooses limitations. They can't affect the one who knows that he himself is the total lighting up.

Personally, I use Advaita and my Devi bhakti to remove the feelings of limitation and isolation. I liken the individual lighting ups as clicks with a thumbnail cursor of the Devi's form. Each time an experience occurs or an object is perceived, I visualize that I am clicking with the cursor to get a full-screen image of the thumbnail. Thus, to me everything that happens is She blossoming including my thoughts about my identity and my physical feelings. Then, only She remains always – the total lighting up and nothing else! If you aren't fastidious, you can try this.

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