Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

A non-dual vision is self-realization : a pot analogy
Dr. Shyam Subramanian

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Read Shyam's blog 'Self Knowledge'.
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(Posted to the Advaitin Egroup, Feb '09; revised April '09)

There is a mistaken view held by many that with self-realization, the mind of an individual disappears and so does any perception of duality. This is in my opinion detrimental to a seeker, as there is a eternal wait for perceptual duality to end.

Let us take a close look at the analogy of the pot universe to understand what is really the vedantic position on nonduality.

There are innumerable clay pots each of different ages, colours, and appearances. Some have just been born and some are close to being wornout. Each of these pots has a sense of a limited potness as in 'I am such and such days old', 'I am of such colour', 'I am fat, thin, short, tall etc'. (Please note that the sense of individuality, stemming from self-ignorance, here belongs only to the pot. The clay - the substratum of this pot universe in this example - has no ignorance.)

One of the pots - Pot R - gains self-knowledge thanks to another pot-teacher. Again, please note that the teacher is also a pot alone. The clay is a witness, an enabling principle - "upadRRishta anumanta cha" in the words of the BG. It is a realized "pot" alone that can teach and enable Pot R to gain self-knowledge. And what is that knowledge? Of course, that I am in reality always clay - not from today, not from the time I gained this knowledge, but across all time, eternally. This knowledge is also that every other pot in this pot-universe is also, in reality, clay alone; that there is no discrete thing called potness separate from clay.

After gaining this knowledge, pot R can safely pay respects to, do namaskAram-s to the teacher pot, (just as Shankara, in many texts that he authored, always begins with a eulogy to his teacher Acharya Govinda bhagavatpAda). His having realized that 'all there is in Reality is only clay' does not impede this transaction in any way.

Now, suppose that one of the other innumerable pots, pot I, comes to pay respects to this pot R in his hut. What is the vision of pot R? All he sees is clay - sarvaM khalvidam brahma. There is no duality in his vision. But pot I, though also clay with this particular namarupA, is unfortunately ignorant about its reality. It has come to pot R with a list of problems (not the least of which is fear its mortality and those it considers its pot relatives). So pot R proceeds to tell pot I: "asochyan anvvasochastvam" - "you, who are clay, and thinking yourself to be a pot, grieve over what is not be grieved" and finally "tat tvam asi" - "that clay you are". Please consider here now: the very fact that pot R can say "tat tvam asi" is because he sees pot I to be clay alone! He is not telling pot I to drop his potness and become clay; he is telling him that clay you ARE - it is a statement of fact.

Now the ball is in pot I's court. Pot I may be well qualified and immediately realize that it is indeed clay; that there is nothing more it needs to do; that anything it does it can only do as a pot and that, as clay, it is always a non-doer unattached, eternal etc.

Or it can tell pot R or one of its friends (perhaps A on an e-list): "I understand I am clay; in fact I have no doubt that I am clay, but I am still shaped like a pot. Until my potness disappears from my vision, I can never 'feel' I am clay. Only on the day that I feel or experience my clayness can I attain aparoksha knowledge of the fact that I am clay!" Or he may exclaim: "How can I vouchsafe that I am clay when all I can see is pots everywhere? Did not pot R show me that the shruti clearly says 'the knower of clay becomes clay'? How then, as clay, can I be seeing anything other than clay? The very fact that I am still seeing pots tells me I have yet to fully experience my clayness. There is a lot more for me, the pot, to do before I can ascertain the fact that I am clay in actuality!"

Of course, a pot D can now get into this conversation and say:"Hey pot I - this is quite a tall tale that pot R is spinning, saying that clay alone is the one non-dual truth! Look at pot R - he says that he is seeing only clay but, if that is so, then how can he still see you as a pot? He must be seeing two separate things - clay and you the pot. If you really are only clay, then how can you appear as a pot to him? And then again, why should he teach you that you are not a pot? After all, he can't see that you are a pot can he? And, if he can, then there is no nonduality because he is seeing two things pot and clay!"

In the example above pit R is Realized pot I is the Ignorant jivA and pot D is the equally ignorant Dvaitin.

For a Realized Seer, a jnAni, there is perception of duality, but His the vision is ever non-dual Alone. His vision is of the wood alone, even though he knows the wood table to be different from the wood chair.

Hari OM Shri Gurubhyo namah, Shyam

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