What is the Advaita philosophy of Adi Sankara?

gurudev (2)

शङ्कराचार्य Sankaracarya expounds the philosophy of अद्वैत advaita, non-duality, Duality, the differences and divisions is what we experience. Therefore the realm of diversity in which we live is not questioned by us. The upanisads explain that this perceived diversity is alright but it is not the ultimate reality. In the womb, in the core of this diversity is unity, oneness. There is a connecting link in all the disparity of the universe. There is a substratum that connects, supports and enlivens everything. There is one principle that sustains everything. That is सत्चितानन्द sat-cit-ananda – sat, existence; cit, awareness or intelligence; and ananda, wholeness or fullness.

We find that every object exists, manifests itself in awareness, has a purpose to serve and is the potential source of happiness. This is possible because it is sustained by the basic principle of sat-cit-ananda. Whatever there is in the universe is the manifestation of this principle. This is the teaching of the upanisads and this is what Sankaracarya brought to light. This is the teaching that can remove all the differences, divisions, animosities and enmities. Because we do not question the reality of what we perceive, the superficial diversities are given importance taking them to be the realities. This brings about conflicts. These conflicts can be resolved by recognizing that in the foundation of diversity, there is unity. At a certain level you and I are different but at the level of reality there is no difference regardless of who V we are or what it is. The good and the bad, the sentient and the insentient all are connected and informed by one reality.

Sankaracarya’s main teaching is that ignorance and misconception about the reality is the cause of sadness and suffering. All physical and mental suffering can be traced to ignorance. Therefore knowledge, true understanding is the solution to all the problems of humans.

Among all the schools of thought that developed in India, advaita-vedanta is most accepted by intellectuals. It is very much in keeping with the discoveries of science. Science also points to the oneness that is behind duality. It is said that matter is nothing but vibrations of energy. All the diversity in matter ultimately springs from one fundamental principle called energy. That means scientists are telling us about unity in diversity, which means diversity is unreal, मिथ्या mithya. The universe that we perceive is relative. As Einstein explained, the three dimensions that we perceive are not the whole reality. Suppose we were able to see only two dimensions, that is, we only could see the shadows of people on a wall. Then we would not know the person completely because we do not perceive the depth. Just as the two dimensions that shadows represent is a projection of a three dimensional person, so also the three dimensions that we perceive in the universe, is a projection of a higher reality.

What Sankaracarya taught as the vision of the upanisads is being verified by the discoveries of science as well. Vedanta is not a product of reasoning but it is not opposed to reasoning. That alone is truth which is no doubt independent, but at the same time, truth must be in keeping with reasoning.

Swami Viditatmanand

Excerpts from Hindu Dharma, Basics & Beyond

The self is dear to me, Who is this me?

gurudev (2)

The Upanisads state that anything that I hold dear is clear to me because the self is dear to me. Whatever is important to me in this life is so because the self is important. The Brhadaranyaka Upanisad simply says everything is dear to me for my own sake. Another treatise, the Pancadaéi, also raises the question of this ’me.’ It is explained that the ’me’ can have three meanings: it Could be primary, it could be secondary or it could be false.

We may be so attached to our child that we are prepared to do anything for the sake of that child, even to the extent of giving up our lives. Similarly, there are people who love their country so much that they are willing to give up their lives for their country. In these cases, there is a strong identification with something other than the self. Therefore, even in the awareness that the child or the country is not the ‘I’, the identification with it is so complete that the child or the country becomes the very ‘I’ to which one is strongly attached. This is the secondary Self. Often, the ‘me’ is the body or the personality, the upadhi – उपाधि -, which is not the real ‘me.’ Out of ignorance, however, one identifies completely with it and considers it to be oneself. This is mithya मिथ्या; or false identification.

In truth, the ’me’ is one’s self. The self is that which is separate from the three bodies: the gross, the subtle, and the causal; it transcends the five kosasl – कोष – or notions and is witness to the three states of awareness: the waking, dream, and deep sleep states. The nature of the self is satchitananda सत्चितानन्द. Thus, the true ’me’ or ’I’ is satchitananda सत्चितानन्द or brahman ब्रह्मन्.

The meaning of ’me’ keeps changing in different situations. One thing, however, is certain: whatever we look upon or identify with as being ’me’ or the essential ‘I’ in a given situation is our primary equation and dearest to us in that situation. Every other object or association becomes secondary in that situation.

Swami Viditatmananda

Excerpts from Satsang with Swami Viditatmananda, Vol: 2

What is the purpose of creation? What is our role in it?

gurudev (2)

Creation, as we understand it, is a cyclic phenomenon. It did not have a beginning in the sense that it did not come into being at any particular point in time. A beginning is a coming into existence of something that did not exist earlier. There was never a time that the creation was not; it has always been. Only, it is a cyclic phenomenon of creation, sustenance, and dissolution; from being manifest to becoming un-manifest and then manifesting again. This is like a seed becoming the tree that produces the seed that again becomes a tree, or like water rising to become the cloud that comes down as the rainwater that again rises to become a cloud, and so on. Similarly, this creation is also a perpetual cyclic phenomenon.

The purpose of creation as in ’why’ can be asked only provided there is a. beginning. Something that has a beginning is an effect and so there is a cause. Thus, if there were a cause, you could ask why it exists. There is no cause for the creation as such because it has no beginning and so one cannot question why it exists; we can only inquire into the purpose of a given cycle of creation. We can imagine that there have been countless cycles of creation. A cycle of creation from manifestation to sustenance to dissolution takes place over billions and trillions of years. That is the span of a cycle of creation. Why is the creation there at all? There is no answer to that. Yet we can ask what caused a given cycle of creation as in what caused the un-manifest to become manifest. The cause for a given cycle of creation can be understood through the example of the cycle of sleep and waking. When we go to sleep, we are in a state of being un-manifest, we are in the causal state. When we wake up, we are in the state of manifestation. Sleep surfaces into wakefulness, which goes back into sleep only to emerge again into wakefulness, and so on. This is the cycle of one’s being manifest to one’s becoming un-manifest and then, from being un-manifest, to becoming manifest again. You can ask what it is that makes you wake up from the state of sleep. “Is there something because of which I wake up?” The answer is yes. When you are in the state of deep sleep, all your unfulfilled desires lie dormant within you; it is those desires, which, when ready to express themselves, wake you up. This is the reason you wake up and it is this that causes the creation to be what it is.

Why is the creation the way it is? The answer is that it is the result of the total desires of all the living beings; it is as though they were all ’sleeping’ in the state of dissolution and then they all needed to wake up to fulfill their desires. The creation is as it is in response to the desires of all the living beings. It provides an appropriate field for the expression of the desire of every living being in this creation. Whatever be the basic needs of all the creatures, including the human being, there is a provision for the fulfillment of all those needs. The purpose of the creation, therefore, is to provide all the living beings with an appropriate field so that they can fulfill their desires. We can thus understand the purpose of creation to be a response to the needs of all the living beings.

What is our role in this creation? Well, as human beings, we are born with an agenda. Our birth is no accident. It does have a purpose. As far as the creatures other than the human being are concerned, the purpose of birth seems to be to simply to fulfill the basic instincts of eating, drinking, self-preservation, and self- propagation. That seems to be the purpose of their lives. But the human being is born with a desire to attain freedom. He cannot accept bondage; he wants freedom. And, therefore, the human being is born with an agenda. Our role would then be to live the kind of life that enables us to fulfill that agenda. For instance, if मोक्ष moksa or freedom is the agenda or the desire, our lives should. be compatible with the fulfillment of that desire. When can we gain freedom? That will happen when we gain self- knowledge. When will we gain the knowledge? That will happen when we have अन्तःकर्णसुधि antahkarana-suddhi or purity of mind. Therefore, our lives should become a process of progressively purifying the mind.

What is meant by purification? It means becoming free from self-centeredness; in having a pure mind, we become other-centered. That is a role in itself; our role is to become contributors to the scheme of things. We are all recipients of the collective contributions of others and it is only right that we should also make our own contributions to this scheme of things called creation. The spirit of contribution is conducive to the growth that is required for achieving the ultimate goal of freedom. We can thus look upon this as being our role.

Swami Viditatmananda

Excerpts from Satsang with Swami Viditatmananda, Vol: 2

 

I understand what I am and what I am not. However, I always wonder why I am?

gurudev (2)

The question “why?” can be answered only when there is a reason for something to be. Why is there an ornament? The answer is that the gold is and, therefore, the ornament is. Why is there a pot? Again, the clay is and, therefore, the pot is. Why is there an effect at all? The effect exists because the cause is. If we stretch the chain of cause and effect, it will ultimately lead us to the fundamental cause, which is itself not an effect. Usually, every cause is an effect of something else. Gold is a cause from the standpoint of an ornament, but an effect from the standpoint of earth. The fundamental cause is,
however, the cause of everything, but not an effect of anything. The final cause is an “uncaused” cause.

Therefore, ultimately, there is no answer to the question “why?”

Why am I here? You cannot but be here. To be is your nature. There is no answer to the question “why?” when it comes to the inherent nature of things. Why is fire hot? It is so because to be hot is its nature. Why is the sun bright? It is so because to be bright is the nature of sun. Similarly, why am I? I am because to be is my nature. If an effort were needed to be, one could raise the question “why?” For instance, you could ask, “Why should I be good?” This can be questioned because you need to make an effort to be good.

Swami Viditatmananda

Excerpts from Satsang with Swami Viditatmananda, Vol: 2

 

 

Stephen Hawking, physicist and Nobel laureate, defines God as a set of scientific rules and principles, including the laws that have not yet been discovered. How does Hinduism View God?

gurudev (2)

One of our definitions of God is that he is of the nature of order. All the laws in every field of existence, including the laws governing physical phenomena, psychological  phenomena, and morality, are God. Scientists do not include morality etc, but consider them to be laws. In our view, all these laws are determined by one fundamental law, which we call the manifestation of God. So, we see God as being the fundamental order through which the various laws manifest. What is that order? How does Hinduism or Vedanta View God? Is that order somewhere out there? N0, we see the order and harmony that governs the entire universe to be our own self. It is not just a mechanical principle. This order is a conscious principle.

Swami Viditatmanand

Excerpts from Satasang with Swami Viditatmanand, Vol: 2

 

What will happen to a person who lives an ethical life but does not believe in God?

gurudev (2)

An ethical person believes in dharma, righteousness, and morality; that is God. If. you are living a life of values, it means that you do believe in those values, is it not so? When can you follow the values of truthfulness and non violence? Only when you believe in the value of doing so; a person can lead a moral life only if morality is important to him. That is enough. He may give it some other name, as he may perhaps not believe in a God who is said to be in heaven. However, as long as morality is important to this person, he does believe in a God that is the moral order itself.

Swami Viditatmanand

Excerpts from: Satsang with Swami Viditatmananda