Nature of Consciousness

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Fri Jul 23 09:11:30 CDT 1999

On Wed, 21 Jul 1999, Parisi & Watson wrote:

> Advaita Vedanta as taught by Shri Shankara, the subject of this list,
> depends upon the Vedas and Upanishads. But have not people in other
> continents and traditions, who may never have heard of the Vedas, also
> reached the non-dual state equivalent to Nirvikalpa Samadhi?

Look at it this way.  Gravity is a concept that arose out of Western
science and understanding it requires learning the Western discipline of
Physics.  Does this mean that prior to the 16th century there was no
gravity in India or China or South America?  Of course not but it was
science that put the concept of gravity into a form people could

It is the same way with the Vedas.  Brahman and Moksha etc. do not depend
on the shastras but it is only through the shastras we know and understand
them.  If someone on another continent wants to know if their experience
is the same as nirvikalpa samadhi, first they need to understand what
nirvikalpa samadhi is.  For that they have to study the shastras.

> If the Vedas
> and all those who remember them vanished from the Earth, would that
> necessarily spell the end of all realization? This position strikes me as
> overly ethnocentric. If the ideas of the Vedas are truly universal, then
> they are not confined to any one tradition, language, or scripture.

Is "universality" all its cracked up to be?  I would argue that the
intolerence shown in some religions (not to mention secular philosophies)
is directly in proportion to how universal they claim to be.  If let's say
I have the one true "good news" wouldn't I feel the urgent need to spread
it to everybody?  And if they refused to accept it, doesn't it indicate
that there's something wrong with them?  On the other hand the adherent of
a particularist faith may (perhaps unfairly) exclude a few deserving
people but he would also not feel there is anything wrong from people who
think differently than he does.

The problem of universality comes up within Hinduism itself too.  Only a
relatively small subset of those people have the right to study the Vedas
and amongst that group only a few have the requisite training.  If the
Vedas were the only source of knowledge, it would effectively shut out
nearly everyone.  The solution is extending the canon.  Works like the
Bhagavad Gita and the Puranas or the Ramacharitamanas self-consciously
portray themselves as being based on the Vedas and their "essence"
carrying forward the Vedic revelation into areas it didn't previously
reach.  Of course sometimes this presentation could be more rhetorical
than factual as with the agamas of some Vaishnava and Shaiva sects.
Nevertheless they do make such claims. It is conceivable that one day
works in English from a modern milieu could reach a similiar status though
the ignorance and philosophical incoherence of modernist Hindus is a big

> And even
> if Advaita Vedanta is the most profound and deeply carried out mystical
> tradition on Earth (as I believe it is), it is still only one voice in a
> human chorus that spans the continents and millennia. No one tradition has a
> total monopoly on the truth.

Trying to define truth is inherently monopolistic and we all do it.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list