Last week, I had shared with you one of the examples that we stumble upon regularly in advaita philosophy as it attempts to explain non-duality. Many of you had also shared with me how simple and hence stunning this example is. Though the philosophy attempts to explain the highest principles, as great teachers, our vedantic masters understood they have to take the help of simplicity to explain the complex of complex principles. Sharing below another example which more recent masters use to explain non-duality.
To understand the identical nature of Atman and Brahman one can observe the impact of electricity on various bulbs. When electricity (consciousness) passes through the 10 watt bulb, the illumination is that of 10 watts (microcosm). When the same electricity passes through a 1,000,000 watt bulb, the illumination is so many times bigger (macrocosm). The differences in the light produced by the two bulbs is because of the nature of the bulbs (upadhis) and has nothing to do with the electricity (consciousness principle). In a similar manner the microcosmic (jiva) and macrocosmic (Isvara) are due to their respective conditionings (upadhis) of the microcosm (three bodies) and the macrocosm (cosmos). But just like the constant electricity the underlying Sat-Cit-Ananda principle remains the same and unchanged.
Advaita Vedanta establishes the relationship between Atman and Brahman by reasoning what we observe as two separate entities is pure illusion. There are two references or examples that are often quoted in the Advaita philosophy that can explain this stand point. Here is the first one.
Light is bright and as such colorless. But when it passes through a black glass it appears dark and dull. In a similar fashion when light refracted through the blue glass produces a brilliant and bright color. Just as the light’s black and blue tints are occasioned by their respective conditionings, so too the Sat-Cit-Ananda principle seems to acquire its properties from the qualifying microcosmic and macrocosmic conditionings respectively.
If we remove the blue and the black tinted sheets, there will be only one luminous light source, in a similar manner from the conditioning of the microcosm and macrocosm, the jiva (similar to the dull black light) and the Isvara (similar to brilliant blue light) appear different, but bereft of these two conditionings what is left is the pure Sat-Cit-Ananda principle – call it Atman or Brahman as you please. The appellation does not matter. Advaita hails that luminous light source as the unifying single constant.
In today’s world intelligence is valued over intellect. The manifestation of this is the acknowledgement of somebody being more successful than the other as per the worldly yardstick. This thought when delved into deeper will explain the reason why selfishness is prevalent even in the most unselfish act. The moment we begin to compare or start fixing reference points in the external world or in other people, for measuring our success – we start unconsciously acknowledging ourselves as different from the other. This idea leads to people becoming more attached at the physical and emotional level.
In the last week’s post we spoke about a fundamental concept of advaita philosophy called SELF or ATMAN. Advaita means non-duality. The idea when believed that there are no two makes living life extremely simple and easy. But believing in the concept and living it is seems unimaginable. It is very rare to find people who act selflessly for a higher cause. Even the so called renunciants of the world let go only of things that do not matter to them anymore. The moment we start seeing US in others it becomes very difficult to act selfishly. While practice of overcoming selfishness, being more empathetic, giving charity, sharing with others thereby giving up things is not only difficult to sustain but almost unimaginable. This is because running towards these qualities is the same as running away from them. It is just a shift in direction.
The only way to live peacefully and be most productive in life is by making the effort to develop one’s intellect so that the concept of advaita can be understood and internalized. It is only on internalizing this concept that it will become natural for one to start seeing the one BRAHMAN manifested as number of ATMAN. The moment we let go of relative comparisons amongst individuals enables the human being to focus on their purpose on earth; and thereby make their fullest contribution.
The beauty of Vedanta lies in its tolerance towards world view. In relation with realization of the eternal truths – there are not one but three broad perspectives that find place next to each other. When observed superficially they not only seem unique but many a times contradictory to each other. However these three schools of thought have been in existence and have been recognised and followed by a large set of believers.
The first school of thought is that of Advaita as propounded by Shri Adi Shankara. This school puts forth the thought that man, god and universe (objects) are all manifestation of the same force. It talks about non-duality. It talks about the ONENESS of atman and Brahman. In essence it says ‘You are God’
The second school of thought is that of Visishtadvaita, qualified non-dualism wherein Brahman alone exists but is characterised by multiplicity. It realises the independent manifestation of Ishvara in the sentient (Jiva) and the Jagat (insentient). This school of thought as put forth by Ramanujacharya, considers matter and souls are real and are creation of God. Both these manifestation are eternally real and distinct.
The third school of thought that finds its place in Vedanta is Dvaita or dualism. This doctrine by Madhavacharya considers a strict distinction between GOD and his creations. This school of thought considers GOD to be a supreme power with substantial distinction from Jiva (soul) and Jagat (material energy). Ishwara is independent while the other two are dependent entities.
As one looks at the expanse one can see the canvas with strokes from thought of absolute oneness to one that talks about marked separation.
However each of these schools of thought perfect within themselves the method of realising one’s inner SELF. A follower from any school can reach fulfilment and realization.
It is surprising to note that while these three different approaches are independent and complete, none of the schools of thought seem to be indulging in corrective action on the others. There is a healthy co-existence amongst the principles that allow acceptance of alternate world-view even if it sounds contradictory to one’s beliefs. The magnitude of openness practiced by the founders of these paths – to further their individual thinking while allowing others to experiment theirs is something that you seldom find in the ‘REAL’ world among the lesser mortals!
When one studies Vedanta to pick up lessons on life, one also gets touched by these lessons for life that makes life not only complete but more enjoyable!