Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Who is seeing the world?
Madathil Nair

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(This material was posted to the Advaitin Email Group, March 2005 )

All that I know is that I am face to face with an infinite limitlessness within which things limited by space and time arise and perish. That itself is a paradox because limitlessness and limitedness cannot coexist. But, then it is the sheer innumerability of limited things that point at limitlessness. It is not vice versa. Thus, I have to infer that limitlessness is indeed the Truth and not a non-situation of innumerable perishables.

This is the premise from which I like to begin my Advaitic foray. Advaita attempts to look at the confusing non-situation by categorizing everything into two, (a) ‘I’ (the one and only subject) and (b) the rest of the world (plural objects - not plural subjects). It can’t afford a classification into several groups or subjects like I, Lord Krishna, Arjuna, Advaitin List Members etc. Here, ‘I’ (a) is the Awareness that witnesses the limited ‘I’ and the variegated world it confronts (b).

Thus, (a) should exist for (b) to come into being and shine. In other words, (a) self-shines and (b) shines after, or, Awareness is - everything is lighted up. This is a ‘lighting up’ where all the things lighted up are right there in the light. They are not external to the light because the light’s fullness doesn’t leave any scope for externality. I am that Awareness or lighting up where everything lighted up truly exists without distinctions. The seeming distinctions are an error.

Keeping this in mind, let us consider a rather inadequate analogy. There is a saturated solution. It is homogeneous and uniform all through. Due to some reason, let us say a drop in temperature, precipitation occurs in this solution. Projection of the world of distinct objects on Awareness can be described as ‘occurring’ in a similar manner as a precipitation if we can consider Awareness as a ‘solution of Self-Awareness’. (Of course, I am sure you will know that the world doesn’t require an ‘external’ stimulus for its projection as Awareness has no outside. Neither has it any parts as ‘outsidelessness’ implies an absence of inside.)

The limited ‘I’ and all that is seen by it constitute the ‘precipitation’. That is the universe. The ‘fragmental misunderstanding’ is also there in the midst of that precipitation. ‘Self-realization’ is the resolution of this precipitation back into solution or sublation of precipitate (object) awareness into Self-Awareness. The advaita in our example thus is: the solution is a solution whether it is saturated or supersaturated with precipitation. Extending it to advaita, we then say : Projection or no projection, Awareness is Awareness or both object awareness and self-awareness are basically Awareness.

Thus, it is not a ‘single apparent fragment’ that is getting self-realized with a jnAni’s self-realization. It is the whole scenario sublating, i.e. (b) dissolving in (a) where (b) was never ever other than (a). This is borne out by Shankara’s repeated stress in Dakshinamurthy Stotra like bIjasyAnkuriva, vishwam darapaNadrishyamAnanagarI, mAyAvIva vijrumbhayati etc. These are all illustrative examples. Splitting them into pieces to raise questions does not serve to promote understanding, at least of advaita. The general idea conveyed is of paramount importance.

In the example of the solution, our vyAvahArika point of view compels us to look at the precipitate as something other than the solution. However, what is of import to an Advaitin is that each and every particle of the precipitate is representative of the solution. Similarly, with the universe, each and every fragment of it is representative of chaitanya (Awareness) or, considered from the point of view of the indivisibility of Fullness, is verily Brahman (sarvam khalvidam brahma).

Thus, in this understanding there is no Srinivas-ji or Madathil Nair getting self-realized separately. There is no self-realization occurring as an event at all because, if it is an event, which sensible Advaitin would want it? Where does that take us? Right to the inescapable conclusion that ‘I’ (Awareness) only remain - projection or no projection. I am Fullness all the way.

So, how do we understand hat the gIta implies? For that we have to return to the basic statement: I am, or, Awareness is, all that I am aware of is. Thus, Awareness is, Krishna is, Krishna’s statements are, Arjuna is, srImad bhagavad gIta is, the kings on the battlefield are, the fragmental misunderstanding is, the concept of an undivided consciousness is. I don’t need any proof for ‘I AM’ because I am self-evidence. Just like the solution remaining solution - precipitation or otherwise, I remain Awareness, fragmentation or otherwise.

Thus, the fragmental misunderstanding is an object vis a vis Awareness occurring to and plaguing the limited ‘I’ which again is yet another object in that Awareness. The misunderstanding doesn’t plague Awareness. Thus, Lord Krishna, if understood as that Awareness, is not confused.

Finally, the logic of the transactional cannot be applied to the Absolute as it is the Absolute that lights up logic. There is, therefore, no question of understanding Fullness. Yet, I am It. I don’t need to explain what I am when I am always available to me.

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