Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

The Relation-less Truth

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The following is an extract from the book “Tat Tvam Asi, That Thou Art: The Path of Fire according to the asparshavAda” by Raphael (Ashram vidyA Order). Visit the Aurea Vidya Foundation.

It takes the form of a dialogue between Antonio (A), a troubled seeker and drug addict and Raphael (R), a teacher of asparsha yoga, the ‘touch-less’ or ‘relation-less’ yoga described by Gaudapada in his kArikA on the Mandukya Upanishad (there can be no relationships in a non-dual reality).

(Buy 'Tat Tvam Asi' from US or UK).


A. It seems to me that Shankara introduced two orders of reality: Brahman and maya.

R. They are not exactly two orders of reality. We have said that the only real is the absolute and the constant, and the only constant-absolute is Brahman. A dream, for example, disappears completely leaving no traces for he who wakes up.

A. How can we connect the empirical world with Brahman! I mean, how can we resolve the problem of the connection between the two? If maya is separate we must find the cause of its origin. If it is not detached from Brahman then it must be a product of Brahman, and in this case the effect must be as real as its cause. As you see, the world must be real-absolute.

R. If we were confronted by two distinct realities naturally the problem of their connection and their relationship would arise, together with the question of establishing which one of the two should be considered as coming first. In our case, however, we are not given two distinct realities (the two distinct realities are, instead, the problem of the dualists), and therefore this problem does not concern Advaita.

The relationship between the two factors in question is similar to that which arises when we try to find the connection between the dream-projection and the mind-substratum in the dreaming state. A dream is only a continuum-discontinuum standing out against the screen of our mind only to disappear, as mist before the wind, at the touch of waking. Thus, the empirical universe is simply a continuum-discontinuum which irradiates on the screen of Brahman.

A. So we are not confronted by two orders of reality and therefore we must conclude, as I was saying just now, that the universe or the empirical reality (effect) is the product of Brahman (cause). Thus the effect must be of the same nature of the cause, therefore the effect is real-absolute.

R. An effect, although of the same essence of the cause, is not the cause; thus a mountain conjured up by the mind in a dream or imagined while awake is not the whole mind. Let us say that the mountain is a consciential moment of the mind, but the mind is something more. The mountain comes and goes but the mental substance remains; the mountain is only one of the indefinite expressive potentialities or possibilities of the mind. Thus, the universal mind has projected all this empirical world which, although of the same essence as the mind, is not the universal mind in its entirety.

We said before that the Ishvara Principle-seed contains countless expressions of life which represent only vital moments of the Principle-seed. Clay is more than the simple jar, just as the electronic substance is more than a particular spatial-temporal physical element. Hence the various degree of truth which we discussed before. The formal universe is nothing but the representation of indefinite picture-dreams of the great cosmic Dreamer; vibrating notes played by the great universal Musician; sketches, drawings, paintings of the great Painter; geometry of points and volumes of the principial Geometer. The error lies in considering the projecting consciential moment as such, to be Absolute. The mistake is to think that the human formal consciential moment itself (one of the indefinite notes played by the great Musician) is an absolute, whereas it is, in the totality of things, but a twinkling of an eye which, compared to the principial Seed, is without any value at all.

Shankara says that there are certain magician-fakirs who give performances whereby they can, by the powers of the mind, project a believably 'real' image of a rope, and then of an individual climbing up the rope, followed by another individual who, holding a knife, kills the first. The audience, on seeing this show, are bewildered and horrified. Finally, like mist in the wind, the picture-image vanishes and all we can see is the fakir sitting calmly on the ground, immobile. The empirical reality is similar to this picture-image, like this insubstantial event, this movement, which after all, is only apparent movement.

Let us say a few words more about maya. Maya is not a substantial ens, but a fleeting, contradictory and impermanent datum; maya is an ascertainment of facts, on the part of the individual; it is not even a particular theory for explaining the universe.

Maya is apparent movement, just as the dreaming move­ment is apparent. Besides, we cannot look for its cause, because to look for the cause of the change in that very same change would lead us to a reductio ad absurdum. That appar­ent movement disappears instantaneously at the realization of being, just as the empirical ignorance of a thing disappears instantaneously at the rise of the knowledge about the thing itself. In this case empirical ignorance could not be absolute, nor could it be a substantial factor. In fact it could not even have a real cause, because a real cause cannot produce an unreal effect.

A. So maya is a limitation and therefore we must conclude that being limits itself.

R. We are back into the game of reasoning ad absurdum. Whatever we call maya: limit, super-imposition, phenomenon, creative power; it makes no difference. All of these are simply names which, in truth, stand for a certain operative possibility.

A. I comprehend, but this results in two consequences; firstly that this operative process is a form of naturalistic pantheism and, secondly, that Brahman, by transforming Itself into moments-frames, cannot be the constant.

R. Today I must really congratulate you, because you seem to be more like a true researcher than a prejudiced critic. I am following your consciousness and your attitude and I believe that by stimulating one another we will find.

Pantheism, according to the philosophical view, argues that everything is nature, that there is no transcendent Ens and that all is immanent in an absolute sense.

Now, this is not the view of Non-dualism. We have already said that a frame-image is just a particular, spatial-temporal factor of the principle. The principle remains un­moved upon itself just like the magician-fakir of the example. Therefore, this condition transcends the phenomenon. In other words, the phenomenon-universe is a reflection, a projection of the Seed-principle which remains transcendent and non-manifested. Thus, we have that which is manifested and objective and that which is non-manifested and subjective, what appears and what remains veiled, what is phenomenon and what is noumenon. It would be more appropriate to speak of "panentheism", rather than of pantheism.

Besides, we should bear in mind that the same universal principle-seed is only one of the infinite reflections of Brahman nirguna, which totally transcends both the principle-seed and the projective development proceeding from it.

Therefore, we have: the formal life, the principle-seed (phenomenon and noumenon) and, finally, the root of both, the Constant. We should not confuse what is form and life with that which is the root of both or, in other words (just to give names to these data), we must distinguish between Brahman nirguna, Brahman saguna and the world of names and forms.

A. Since Non-duality, Asparsa or Advaita, maintains the non-generation and the a-causality of all, how can we reconcile this affirmation with what we have just said?

R. Apparently there seems to be a contradiction, but in fact it is not so. By the term "birth" we mean a "coming forth", a "springing from something in order to start being". Thus we say that an individual is born in the sense that he has come into existence with an autonomous life of his own.

If one looks at things properly, the universe did not "come forth" from Brahman saguna so as to have an absolute life of its own. The universe or cosmic dream is only an "ideal modification" of the Ishvara mind, just as a dream is a thought movement of the dreamer's mind. The image-pictures of the dreamer do not come out from his reality to become another autonomous and absolute reality. The dreamed mountain is nothing but an objective idea of the sleeping mind. Ice is a modification of water yet it has never abandoned the water element to take on an independent and absolute existence of its own. The Principle cannot abandon its own principial nature.

Looking at the question from this perspective, we cannot speak of the birth or origination of something, because in actual fact nothing is born; simply, All is the ideal modification of the universal Mind.

Notes from Dennis (meaning of words with which you might not be familiar):

consciential: adjective derived from consciousness (relating to consciousness itself rather than saying that a person is ‘conscious’);
ens: Latin, meaning 'something which has existence; a being, an entity as opposed to an attribute or quality' (Wikipedia);
panentheism: the belief or doctrine that God is greater than the universe and includes and interpenetrates it, (as opposed to:
pantheism: a doctrine which identifies God with the universe, or regards the universe as a manifestation of God);
principial: of Principle; relating to the Principle, as Principle .

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Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012