What is advaita, non-dualism?

gurudev (2)

Vedanta says that the seeker is himself the sought. Like the search of the tenth man for himself, in the story of The Tenth Man, moksa – मोक्ष – or liberation is the nature of the very Self. Even though we are in search of happiness, we already are of the nature of unsurpassable happiness. This is non-dualism – advaita अद्वैत.

A limited one cannot achieve limitless happiness. Vedanta tells us that we are limitless. All limitation is in terms of time, space, and object. That we are limitless implies that we are not limited in time, space, or qualities. It means that we include all time, the entire space, and ‘every object or quality. Therefore, whatever exists is the Self. This is non-dualism – advaita अद्वैत.

How do we account for the duality that we see? I see that you are different from me. If you and I are different from each other, it means that I am limited and you are also limited. For me to be limitless you should also be limitless; everything should be limitless. There should only be limitlessness and no differences whatsoever. So what do we make of the differences that we see? It means that these differences cannot be real. None of the differences or duality in this creation is real. It is mithya – मिथ्या – appearance, a projection. Thus, starting with the idea that we are limitless, we can arrive at this conclusion. That is why we require Vedanta as a pramana – प्रमाण –  or means of knowledge. Vedanta alone can tell us that we are limitless because there is no other way for us to discover this fact by ourselves. While we have taken for granted that we are limited, Vedanta says we are limitless, implying that our sense of limitation and differences must be false. This is non-dualism – advaita अद्वैत.

Then how do We explain the creation? What is this creation? The creation is nothing but a superimposition. For you to be limitless, you must be one and non-dual. Therefore, the truth must be one and non-dual. For the truth to be non-dual it must be both the material and the efficient cause of this creation. In other words, it must be both the creator and the creation. That is why God is both the material as well as the efficient cause of this creation. He is the creator as well as the creation. This is non-dualism – advaita अद्वैत.

All traditions accept God as the creator of the world. Most traditions, however, View God as different from the creation. He is seen to have created this world and is said to be in the heavens or in some place away from the creation. For creation you require knowledge and, therefore, the creator must be all knowing or omniscient. For creation you also require the power or the skill to create, so the creator must be all-powerful or omnipotent. Therefore, God, the creator of the universe, is omniscient and omnipotent. Obviously, I cannot be that! I know that I am limited in power, limited in knowledge, and limited in every other way. God has to be different from me.” When God is looked upon as merely the efficient cause or creator of the universe, which is how most traditions or theologians understand Him, He has to be different from us. Then, if you are a devotee of Lord Krishna, gaining Goloka and being in the presence of Lord Krishna is – मोक्ष  -moksa, liberation. That is  – द्वैत  dvaita, duality.

God is not only the efficient cause but the material cause as well. But some traditions View the universe as the body of God. You are a part of the creation and, therefore, you are also a part of God: You are a part and God is the whole. This is qualified non-dualism – visishtha-advaita विषिष्ठ अद्वैत.

In truth, however, the creation is, not real, meaning that God is not the creator or the cause in the primary sense. He transcends the very idea of cause and effect: When you recognize that God transcends both the efficient and material causality, you will see Him as your own Self. Then there is non-duality. This is advaita अद्वैत.

Swami Vivekanandaji used to say that the philosophies of dualism – द्वैत  dvaita, qualified-non-dualism –  visista-advaita विषिष्ठ अद्वैत  and non-dualism  – advaita अद्वैत – are a progression from one truth to another truth, meaning that there is a progression from a lower truth to a higher truth. There is a statement that is attributed to Hanuman when he says to Lord Rama:

देह्बुध्या तु दासोस्मी जीवबुध्या त्वदन्शकः
आत्मबुद्ध्या त्वमेवाहं इति निश्चिता मतिः

When I am identified with my body, I am your servant. When I look upon myself as a firm, I am part of you Yet when I see myself as atma, I am you. This is my firm conviction.

When we are identified with the body, the Lord is our master and we are his servant. We are separate from him. When we look upon ourselves as the jiva, a limited conscious being, we are a part of the Lord. He is the totality of consciousness, and we are but a spark of that consciousness. However, when we look upon ourselves as am, the Self, we are no different from the Lord. This is the experience of non-dualism – advaita अद्वैत.

As long as there is a strong identification with the body, God is separate from us. A strong identification with the body creates a strong sense of limitation and an acceptance of the experiential duality.

The Vedantins also worship God, not to perpetuate duality, but to gradually eliminate the reality given to the apparent duality. In our prayers to the Lord, we pray for the removal of the duality that we feel.

Swami Viditatmanand Saraswati

Excerpts from Satsang with Swami Viditatmanand, Vol: 1

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Where does happiness come from? Why is it always fleeting?


Happiness and sorrow, sukha सुख and duhkha दुख, come and go unpredictably in any persons life, with sorrow reigning longer than happiness. Everybody does pick up happiness now and then – even’ the most unhappy person laughs helplessly at a slapstick joke. That momentary happines – सुख sukha, gained once in a while, keeps one going, for it gives one hope that a future day will be happier; otherwise, one would commit suicide. Where should we look for more of that happiness?

Is Happiness an Object?

Among the countless objects in the world, is there an object called happiness? You can make someone happy by giving him or her a piece of sweet, but you cannot say that the object is happiness. For a naturopath a cup of half-cooked, unsalted bitter gourd is happiness; but for some others nothing could be more bitter. For one who loves rich sweet food, a heavy dessert is happiness but for one who does not like such food, it is only an invitation to indigestion. No particular object can be called happiness, for no single object can provide happiness to everyone.

Neither can you say that happiness is a quality of an object, as color is a quality of a lotus. There is no object with happiness as its quality, for if such an object existed, everyone would become happy by having that object. Sugar or salt tastes the same to everyone, but no object gives the same taste of happiness to all.

Still, people do seem to pick up happiness from contact with objects. If that happiness does not lie in the objects, where it?

Is Happiness within Me?

If happiness lies within you, is it in your liver, intestines, heart, kidneys, or pancreas? It is, of course, absurd to say that any one of these internal organs is happiness, or that they secrete happiness. Neither are your sense organs a source of happiness, for if they were, you would. always be happy, because these organs are always in your body. Neither can one say that thoughts are the source of happiness, for often thoughts are a source of great sorrow.

You Are Happiness

If happiness is neither inside nor outside you, where is it? Only one possibility remains: the Self – because of which you are aware of your body, your emotions, your thoughts, and all the objects of the world – must be the source of happiness.

If you are happiness, why is it that you seem to become happy only when you come in contact with certain people, situations, or objects? If you analyze what happens in a given moment of happiness, you will discover that contact with anything that you like creates in you a pleased mind. When you desire something, the mind; is restless; when the desired object is gained, the restlessness is resolved and the mind is satisfied. The happiness you discover is in this satisfied, pleased mind, not in any object. People, situations, and objects that can bring about in you a pleased mind are the ones you love. Not all objects can do this; because of your background, values, and upbringing, only certain objects and individuals please you. But the happiness that you feel never comes from objects or people, however dear they may be. Happiness is manifest only in a satisfied mind, a mind that desires nothing, because the Self is the source of happiness. The joy that you feel when you see something beautiful or hear a pleasing song is an expression of your own nature – a Speck of the limitless happiness that you are.

Sleep, a State of Happiness

The experience of sleep confirms that your nature is indeed happiness everyone likes to sleep and is reluctant to get up, and because sleep is a happy experience, a respite from having to carry the burdens that we do during the day. There is a total absence of sorrow in sleep, because all differences are resolved under the blanket of sleep. All forms of duality vanish; there is no difference between the sleep of a king and that of a beggar. In the total absence of all else, you are with yourself alone. The happiness that you experience is yourself.

Happiness is the Absence of Desires

Whenever your mind does not long for anything, you are happy. In the interval between the fulfillment of one desire and the cropping up of the next, you are happy. Why do you sing in the shower? You do not do it to please yourself or anyone else; you do it simply because you are happy. At that time, the mind does not long for anything; all the window dressings, the masks you wear for people, are removed with your clothes – you are with yourself. Your singing is an expression of the happiness felt by a mind that rests in the Self.

A person who understands that the Self is the source of all happiness will be free from all desires. In the last section of the second chapter, the Lord describes such a person to Arjuna, saying:

प्रजहाति यदा कामान्सर्वान्पार्थ मनोगतान् ।

आत्मन्येवात्मना तुष्ट: स्थितप्रज्ञस्तदोच्यते || 2-55

When one completely renounces all the desires entertained by the mind, satisfied in the Self, by the Self, one is called a person of steady wisdom.

Just as fire is hot not because of any reason but – by nature, so a wise man is happy not because of any reason, but because happiness is his nature. Since a wise man knows that the Sell is the source of happiness, he requires nothing; by this knowledge, he casts away all desires.

Neither a ripple nor a breaker can add to the greatness of the ocean, each is only a fleeting expression of its greatness. The ocean remains unaffected even when these forum disappear. When you gain an object of your desire, the happiness that you experience is like a wave in the ocean. It is only a momentary expression of the happiness that is Yourself; and when it comes to an end, the fullness, ananda, that you are, remains unchanged. The one who recognizes that the Self is sat-chit-ananda सत्चितनान्द – existence, Awareness, and fullness is wise. That person is called sthita prajjan स्थितप्रज्ञ -, well rooted in wisdom.

Swami Dayananda Saraswati

Excerpts from The Teaching of Bhagvad Gita

Link to Library of Swamiji’s talks and discourses

Who created this world? How?


Who created this world? I certainly have not done so. Who created the sun and the stars? I certainly have not done so. Who made the clouds? Who formulated the laws by which all this functions. Who set the cycle of the tides and the seasons? Who provided for the needs of every creature? The world is a furnished house meant to be enjoyed by all; its kitchen serves food to every creature, be it a bee, a bird, or a man. All beings are equipped for survival; human beings come with nostrils to draw oxygen from air, a fish with gills to draw it from water. I find that nothing here is redundant. Everything is well-designed, including the human machine which is capable of lasting a hundred years. Who authored this intelligent, meaningful creation?

This desire to know the cause of something is natural to humankind. If I say, “There is a fire”; you will ask for the evidence. I answer, “I see smoke, and therefore there is a fire”. For any inference or presumption the human intellect demands that there be a cause. Without this “cause- hunting”; behavior a human being would be like an animal, led only by the senses; there would be no inference, in presumption, no final knowledge.

The Cause of the Objective Creation

An objective creation is one that is available for perception by all observers; the object exists, and therefore you and I and others see it. This is in contrast to a subjective creation, a creation that is only perceived by its author. In a dream you see a mountain. The mountain is not an objective creation; no one but you can see it. You see it in. your mind and therefore it exists.

How can one account for this objective creation? Who authored this world? For any creation there must be a creator who knows exactly what he or she is going to create and has in mind the purpose and the means of creating it. That person is called निमित्त कारण nimitta karna, the efficient cause, an intelligent being who has the knowledge and skill to create something particular. A potter knows what a pot is and how to make it. He knows what to use as material, how to shape it, what tools are needed — in short, the potter is one who has the knowledge and skill to make pots. A bird has the knowledge and skill to make a nest, a bee to make a honeycomb. For this world, there must be a creator who has both the knowledge of the entire creation and the power to create it.

Belief or Knowledge

If I hold a watch before you and ask you “Do you believe that there is a maker of this watch?” your reply has to be, “Yes”. You did not see anyone make the watch, but you still say that the watchmaker exists. Your conclusion is based on the same type of cause-hunting that makes it unnecessary to question and verify the existence of your great-great-grandfather though you have never seen even a picture of him; the fact that you are here is the proof that he was here before you. You are an effect that must have a cause. Though you do not know the maker of the watch, you know that there must be a maker, for any effect presupposes a cause.

Let us analyze what belief is. A belief is a judgement prior to gaining knowledge and is subject to verification by inquiry. Suppose you say, “John is a good man”; even though you have never met him. You really do not know that John is good, but only believe so because someone said to you that he is good. There is every possibility that this belief can be belied. If you meet John and he does or does not turn out to be good, what you then have is not belief any longer, but knowledge about John.

Belief is not based on knowledge, and so it can always be shaken. Belief that cannot be shaken is not belief; it is knowledge. Even if a million people say that fire is cold, you will not accept it, because the fact that fire is hot is knowledge which cannot be shaken by anyone. Now remember the Watch and the watchmaker. If I say that I believe in the existence of the watchmaker, his or her existence is subject to negation. Is there any possibility that the watch can be without a creator? No. Therefore, what you have is knowledge of the existence of a watchmaker, not belief.

Similarly, it is not right to say that you believe in God, the creator of this world. You see the creation which is intelligent and purposeful. Therefore, you do not simply believe – you know that there must be a creator for it. That creator should be omniscient and omnipotent, for as the potter must have the knowledge of the pot and the skill to make it, the creator of all must have all knowledge and all skill. You do not find such a being here on earth, so you imagine that He or She resides in a place, say heaven, unknown to you. You say that God in heaven created this world.

This simplistic statement will not satisfy your intellect for long. The problem now is, who created the heaven, where did God sit when He created this world? And if God created- that heaven, where was God seated before the creation of heaven? This endless chain of questions arises because we fail to recognize another equally important cause of creation.

The Material Cause

For anything that is created, not only is there a creator, the intelligent cause, who has the intelligence to make it, but also there is the material with which to create. Without clay a potter cannot make pots. The material of which a thing is made is called उपादान कारण updana karna, the material cause. The creator of the world must have needed material to create it. If that material was different from God, one could ask, who made the material? If the answer is that someone else made it, it can be argued that this someone must be considered the real creator of the world, and the question remains: from where did this new God get the material to make the world? If He made it with some other material, from where did that material come? To avoid landing in the logical absurdity of infinite regress, we must say that God Himself is the material cause of creation. God finds the material in Himself, and from it creates the world. In Mundakopanisad, it is said, Just as a spider spreads out and draws in (the thread that it spins)…

The spider is both उपादान कारण upadana karna and निमित्त कारण nimitta karna, the material of the web and the one who weaves it. Similarly, when you dream, you are the author of the dream creation, and you are also the material of it. The ocean, the mountain, the sun and moon that are so vivid in your dream are created by you out of yourself. You are both उपादान कारण upadana karana and निमित्त कारण nimitta karna of the dream.

This world is authored by someone who must be both its efficient and material cause. If God is the material cause, he does not stand apart from the creation. When you pick up a pot, you also pick up the material of the pot, clay; when you hold a gold chain, you hold gold. Wherever an object goes, its material cause accompanies it. The object is sustained by the material of which it is made; an effect is never separate from its material cause. If the Lord is the material and efficient cause of creation, what is the distance between the Lord and creation? There can be no distance. The Lord is the creation.

Swami Dayananda Saraswati

Excerpts from The Teaching of Bhagvad Gita

Link to Swamiji’s Talks & Videos


What is the significance of the Siva linga – शिव लिङ्ग?


Lord Siva symbolizes the formless and attribute less निर्गुण ब्रह्मन् – nirguna brhman. Lord Visnu symbolizes सगुण ब्रह्मन् saguna-brahma. The linga is the closest depiction of the formless. A circle is closest to the formless. The. linga symbolizes the entire cosmos. It also represents a flame. A flame always rises up and, therefore, the Siva linga is a symbol of growth and evolution.

Swami Viditatmanand

Excerpts from Satsang with Swami Viditatmanand, Vol 2



Where does the concept of time and space come from?

gurudev (2)

Time and space are also part of creation. In deep sleep we are not aware of time and space. Time and space also dissolve into the unmanifest, the primary cause. When creation takes place the principle of time and place becomes manifest first, and then everything else within the framework of time and space. In that sense, time and space are also created, become manifest. Creation means manifestation of what is and not creation of something that did not exist. A non“ existent thing cannot come into being. Unmanifest alone becomes manifest. A cause must be there to give rise to effect.

Swami Viditatmananda

Excerpts from: Hindu Dharma, Basics & Beyond

At Its Heart, Science is Faith-Based Too

From 1.3 billion light years away, the universe has spoken. On Feb. 11, a team of scientists led by the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced that they had detected gravitational waves from a collision in deep space. The news, confirming a 1915 theory of Albert Einstein about the ripple effect of space-time, generated tributes to the achievements of human reason.

Commenting in Science News, Tom Siegfried wrote that the breakthrough on gravitational waves demonstrates “the power of the human mind to discern deeply hidden features of physical reality.” Writing in Slate, Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli called it a “vivid indication of the power of scientific reason.”

But courtesy of Mr. Rovelli, there’s also another word that has entered the conversation: faith The scientists who made the gravitational-wave discovery, he wrote, were pursuing a “dream based on faith in reason: that the logical deductions of Einstein and his mathematics would be reliable.”

Mr. Rovelli was not referring to religious faith. And scientists generally deem even faith scrubbed of theological meaning to be something un- related to their endeavors. Yet the relationship between faith and science is far closer than many assume, and Mr. Rovelli is not alone in drawing attention to this important connection.

Arizona State University physicist Paul Davies has noted that the work of science depends upon beliefs-that the hidden architecture of the universe, all the constants and laws of nature that sustain the scientific enterprise, will hold. As he wrote in his book “The Mind of God: The Scientific Basis for a Rational World”: “Just because the sun has risen every day of your life, there is no guarantee that it will therefore rise tomorrow. The belief that it will – that there are indeed dependable regularities of nature – is an act of faith, but one which is indispensable to the progress of science.”

Recognizing the existence of this kind of faith is an important step in bridging the artificial divide between science and religion, a divide that is taken for granted in schools, the media and in the culture. People often assume that science is the realm of certainty and verifiability, while religion is the place of reasonless belief. But the work of Messrs. Davies and Rovelli and others, including Pope John Paul II in his 1998 encyclical “Fides et Ratio,” demonstrates that religion and science sit within a similar intellectual framework.

The fundamental choice is not whether humans will have faith, but rather what the objects of their faith will be, and how far and into what dimensions this faith will extend. When the scientists searching for gravitational waves set up the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, or LIGO, to detect the waves, they did so believing that Einstein’s mathematics would be reliable and that deep space would respond as waves from deep space their calculations had forecast. And they kept up this faith even when by 2010 and a decade into the experiment, they still saw no confirmation. Such persistence nicely invokes the spirit of the biblical epistle to the Hebrews: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

But just as faith is indispensable to science, so is reason essential to religion. Many find themselves relating to God in a way analogous to the scientists searching for gravitational waves. These seekers of religious truth are persuaded by preliminary evidence and compelled by the testimony of those who have previously studied the matter; they are striving for a personal encounter with the realities so often talked about, yet so mysterious.

In such a context, it isn’t blind belief that fuels the search, any more than scientists blindly pursued the implications of Einstein’s theory. Rather, it’s belief informed by credible reasons, nurtured by patient trust, open to revision. When I profess my belief in God, for example, I rely upon not only the help of the Holy Spirit. I also rely upon the Einsteins of theology, thinkers like St. Thomas Aquinas, whose use of reason to express and synthesize theological truths remains one of the great achievements in Western civilization. Aquinas’s “Summa Theologica” is a LIGO for the Christian faith.

To be sure, religion and science are different. But many religious believers, like scientists, continue to search for confirmation, continue to fine tune their lives and expand their knowledge to experience a reality that is elusive, but which, when met, changes life forever. And if the combination of faith and reason can deliver the sound of two black holes colliding over a billion light years away, ‘ confirming a theory first expressed in 1915-— what is so unthinkable about the possibility that this same combination could yield the in- sight that God became man?

Matt Emerson,  Author of “Why Faith? A Journey of Discovery” (Paulist Press, 2016).