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

Links Swamiji’s discourses and talks


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