The world and brahman

nanda chandran vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Sep 28 16:13:22 CDT 1999

The ChAndogya Upanishad says, "all this (the world) is verily

We often hear that Advaitam doesn't say that the world is an
illusion, but the duality that we experience in the world is
the illusion - sarvam dvaitam manas. If this is true, it would
mean that the empirical world exists but is not different
from me. So both of us - the world and me - are in *essence*

Here what's the essence? When we say essence is brahman, then
conversely does it mean that that which is not the essence is
not brahman? When we read the shruti and the texts on Advaitam
we get the impression that Reality or brahman is an other -
different from the empirical world. Sometimes it is equated
with the spirit or consciousness - thus differentiated from
matter - the empirical world including the mental processes.

Also the analogy of salt mixed with water is frequently used
in Advaitic texts - since ultimately water is different from
salt, then brahman would be an other to the empirical world -
matter. But then isn't this the improvement AchArya BAdarAyana
makes on the dualistic SAmkhya, which splits the world into
Spirit and Matter - he combines both into one single reality -

But then in some texts, "essence" is defined as that which is
not restricted by name and form. Like in gold ornaments, the
gold is the truth. Following this analogy the world would
naturally be equated with brahman.

But again there are other texts where the ChAndogya
statement is interpreted differently. Here it's explained that
the world is not in actuality brahman - but an illusion. But
because it's no existence apart from brahman, it's so
explained in ChAndogya.

So the questions are :

0. Is the essence of the world brahman? If by essence it's
meant - something at the core (like the Self in the body or
the seed in a plant) - then what about the rest - the body?
Is that the illusion?

1. Or is the world a total other to brahman (salt and water)?
If so, then as per Advaitam since Brahman is one without
another, then the world would be only an illusion.

2. Or is the world itself brahman (as gold is the truth, in
gold ornaments)? Then what's the illusion?

I'm aware that there exists different interpretations on this
subject by different VedAntic authors - especially due to the
differences between the vivArana and the bhAmati schools. But
what's our bhagavatpAda's opinion on this? I would appreciate it,
if actual textual sources are quoted in support of arguments.

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