Essence of Advaita

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Mon Dec 29 18:02:21 CST 1997

On Sun, 28 Dec 1997, Miguel Angel Carrasco wrote:


> For some time, before getting to know Advaita, I was contented with the
> idea that I was just a thought in the Absolute^Òs mind, that I did not
> really exist, but was just a piece in the process of God^Òs stream of
> consciousness which I called Nature.
> It was later that I found the ^ÓTat Twam Asi^Ô. I consider it secondary to
> and much less obvious than the ^ÓBrahman satyam^Ô. I was and still am quite
> ready to accept that I am nothing. If suddenly I am All that^Òs an added
> bonus.
> But I cannot yet quite fit this ^ÓBrahmasmi^Ó (I am the Absolute) into the
> ^ÓBrahman satyam^Ô (Only the Absolute is). There seems to be a missing link.

Dear Miguel Angel,

You ask extremely pertinent questions.

The missing link is the personal experience of aham brahmAsmi. Or else,
the missing link is the belief in the word of the Veda (Sruti). For many
who have no personal experience of that, the testimony of the Sruti is a
source of knowledge that is beyond all doubt.


> When I started the ^ÓThere is no...^Ô debate (which went on from the 21 to 27
> October), I was trying to get an answer to one question: ^ÓIf there is only
> the Absolute, why are we discussing about other things?^Ô What I intended to
> know was whether I (whatever that means) could really do anything to
> clarify my relation to that Absolute, or if I had better leave everything
> as it is, since anyway everything is unreal. Things (included my lack of
> understanding) did remain as they were.

Part of the problem lies in the way questions are asked. Really, there are
no things "other" than the absolute. If "I" am that absolute, there is no
further need to talk of any relation, is there?

> When I started the ^ÓWhy the same dream?^Ô debate (which went on from the 18
> Nov to 10 December), I was seeking much the same thing: If I am the
> Absolute, do I have any control over the different but similar dreams? Do I
> have any responsibility? Can and should I do anything? Am I just the
> witness or also somehow an active part in the process of enlightenment? Is
> this particular experience called Miguel Angel something unchangeable, like
> a movie in a can, or could it be steered and improved, like a theatre play?
> I did not get the answer.
> I tried again to find an answer with my post ^ÓAn Advaita Menu?^Ô (21 Dec)
> which did not get any response. In it, I intended to learn whether I (the
> Self) am :
> a) the *un-embodied* witness of an imagined World that is experienced only
> once, which would make all the jivas empty lifeless name-forms, just
> characters in only one cosmic movie; or
> b) the *embodied but unaffected* witness of an imagined world that is
> experienced many times, in the many jivas, who would have no control over
> their lives, just characters in many unchangeable versions of the same
> movie; or
> c) the *embodied and acting* subject of an imagined world that is
> experienced many times, in the many jivas, with some control and
> choice-freedom, an actor in different versions of the same theatre play.

You must read Sankara's introudction to his BrahmasUtra-bhAshya to clarify
this. We imagine ourselves to be many things that we really are not. And
we have partial knowledge of things. The most common assumption is that
the Self is the embodied and acting subject, part of a real world, that is
experienced many times by many jivas .... This is alternative (d).

The Self can only be satisfactorily described as "neti, neti" which is why
all the alternatives you offer sound very unsatisfactory. To say that the
world is mithya goes hand in hand with saying that the jIva is brahman.
And once you know that the jIva is brahman, all questions cease, there
will be no more doubt about any thing.

> In other words, if ^ÓJeevo Brahmaiva nah parah^Ô (if I am the Absolute and
> nothing else), then every object of experience is imagined, including the
> one who says ^ÓJeevo Brahmaiva nah parah^Ô. If, being the Absolute, I can^Òt
> change, then why bother at all to speak about enlightenment? Who would be
> enlightened? Why seeking for truth? Who would find it? Why speaking about
> anything at all? Why on earth am I writing this post?

All talk of enlightenment is only from the perspective of the
unenlightened. One who thinks he is unenlightened, is unenlightened. It is
this thought that gives rise to all this activity.

> Unless I can untie this Gordian knot, saying ^ÓI am That^Ô will not bear much
> meaning for me and will sound like an imposture.
> If I am really That, I needn^Òt say it.
> If I do need to say it, then I am not That.

Remember what Alexander did to the Gordian knot? He didn't waste effort
trying to untie it. He took a sword to it and cut asunder the ropes that
made up the knot. You must do a similar thing with these questions.

With best wishes,

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