Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Mieke Berger Ph. D.

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The following forms Appendix 1 from the above book.

In this book we have emphasized repeatedly the fundamental unity of everything. We have referred to this with words like the One, non-duality, Consciousness, God, Primal Energy etc. It is impossible for us to visualise Oneness because we cannot observe what we really are. After all you cannot be what you see and what you are you cannot see. The subject can observe every object except the subject itself. So we are faced with the problem of seeing Oneness in every observation, while we cannot see this oneness because we are that Unity. The question really is if Oneness, non-duality can really exist.

I invite you to have a look at the illustration below and to observe that there are two symbols in it. Two symbols imply that there is no Oneness but duality. There is one symbol and a separate symbol. The two symbols do not appear to be connected, are totally separate from one another and objects that are not related in any way.

Yet that is only true when seen at a glance. Actually the two symbols are mutually related. Both of them are circular, are the same size, are each situated differently. So there are comparatively arbitrary differences and similarities between these figures. We can ask the following important question: which essential conditions must be fulfilled in order to see these two objects? The answer is obvious: each object must be in contrast with a background and the objects must differ from one another in some way. (Location in this case).

And there has to be an observer, for without an observer there is no way to determine if the objects exist.

But also the observer is an object, because we can attribute qualities. Let’s take a look at the improved illustration below in which ‘obs’ naturally stands for the observer of the two objects. So now we have three different objects that do not form a unity. Or perhaps they do after all?

Let’s return to the necessary conditions for the existence of these objects: they must have a contrasting background, otherwise it is not possible to observe them. In our example this is the white background. Without this white background the objects and the observer cannot exist. The white background is absolutely necessary and more or less creates the objects. A relationship or connection arises between the background and the objects. If several objects are related in a certain way then in fact there is only one thing. Put together two wheels, a frame, pedals, a saddle and handlebars and you have one thing: a bike. In our example the objects and the observer are connected by the white background. You may notice by the way that the white background can exist without the objects or observer, but that the objects, the observer being one of them, can not exist without the white background. Henceforth we can state that all objects and all observers together with the white background are inextricably bound up with one another. They are one.

There can not be Oneness twice. Because then these would be related again forming a unity etc.

What we can also see by this example is that the fundamental unity, which needs no objects in order to exist, can give rise to diversity. But however great the diversity of objects emerging from against the background the fundamental unity of which they are part cannot be disturbed.

An object is everything that has recognizable properties and can thus be observed and known. According to this criterion everything that we can observe with our senses is an object. These objects of course can be varying tremendously. It can be an aeroplane, a jar of blackberry jam, a house, a larva, a cow, my neighbour, but also what we generally call me. My body can be observed by myself, but also my thoughts, character, memories, feelings and emotions can be perceived and are thus objects. All these objects can only exist thanks to the background from which they have emerged as if by magic and interconnecting all these objects. None of these objects can exist by itself. In order to exist it depends on the white background, which in turn is not dependant on these objects in order to exist. You might therefore state that perceptible objects are like shadows. The shadow exists because of the sun, and not the other way around. All objects and the white background form an indissoluble Whole. So nothing else but ONEness can exist.

Now if we acknowledge that only ONEness exists then the question arises how can a separate object exist which we call “me”? The answer can only be that that is only a seeming separate object. The ‘me’ exists only as an object depending on and emerging from the white background without which it cannot exist . If we really investigate “the Self” then we only find impersonal ONEness That ONEness is what we are. Deriving from this we can conclude that this ONEness is an endless source of creativity. The creations depending on this Source emanate from this.

But all these creations are depending on and inseparably connected to that source with which they are at One. If Unity cannot be broken (if it could it would not be ONEness’), then all our experiences must also be part of that ONEness. We fall asleep and we wake up again. That seems to be a breach or interruption of Consciousness and thus a break in Unity. We thought we were present, became absent and returned to waking consciousness. Yet in this case also there is no breaking up of Unity. ONEness or Consciousness projects a seeming object that thinks that it is separate and autonomous. Unity or Consciousness temporarily interrupts the projection and continues the projection after a while. The only thing taking place is that we temporarily dissolve into Consciousness and reappear as a projected object.

Because Consciousness is Perception itself (which is called: Apperception), perception continues right through our sleeping and dreaming and connects our sleeping, dreaming and waking consciousness. Even though we are unaware of this. But everyone who is deeply asleep and whose senses are stimulated wakes up. This can only be so if perception continues during sleep. Unity or Consciousness was always present. It only presented itself in different ways and through the creation of different illusory time and space these different manifestations may become known. Because ONEness or Consciousness cannot be perceived, you can only say that "It IS" and that no known characteristic can be applied to describe it. It has no size, has no space, no timeframe, and is unmanifest nothingness, nothing but unbounded infinite everything and everything is Potential. It can neither be experienced nor known by the objects created by Consciousness. And although it is nothing measured by the criterion of the object, it is the most important because without Consciousness nothing can exist.

Sri Ramana Maharshi once said it in such a beautiful and concise way:

Existence or Consciousness is the only reality.
Consciousness plus waking, we call waking.
Consciousness plus sleep,   we call sleep.
Consciousness plus dream,  we call dream.
Consciousness is the screen on which all the pictures come and go. The screen is Real----the pictures are mere shadows on it.

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Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012