[Advaita-l] Various recent topics of discussion

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Sat Oct 8 12:07:14 CDT 2005

Hello all,

I have been very busy moving to a new city and starting at a new position, 
so I haven't been able to contribute to many recent discussions. I thought I 
would consolidate a bunch of responses in one mail, for convenience.

Rishi Lamichhane <rishi.lamichhane at gmail.com> wrote:

>If someone claims realization that is in major things ("aham
>brahmasmi" the same as Advaita Vedanta (eg: Kashmir Shaivism), but
>differs on other philosophical issues (sometimes significantly), could
>that be considered a valid realization? What I am trying to get at is
>how loosely we consider Advaita Vedanta.

It would help to distinguish a general notion of advaita from advaita 
vedAnta. What makes vedAnta vedAnta is an adherence to some core principles 
- 1. the veda is the primary scriptural source, all else being subordinated 
at best as smRti, 2. a rigorous system of logical analysis based on the 
brahmasUtras, which in turn embody a system of interpretation of the veda, 
and 3. a tradition of saMnyAsa, embodied in the social structure. I know a 
number of people are immediately going to question the last one, but 
contrary to most modern sentiment, I give a high place to the tradition of 
ochre robe wearing saMnyAsins. You will find them even in non-advaita 
schools of vedAnta and they define the core of the tradition.

All other systems, which tend to or end in a non-dual goal (one school of 
Kashmir Saivism, some later schools of Buddhism, more modern movements, 
new-age or otherwise), can be categorized as advaita but definitely not as 

>In this regard, I would also like to ask a related question about
>Mahavakyas which are so important for liberation. If there is a
>statement such as "shivoham" or equivalent, that is basically
>synonymous to "aham brahmasmi", does that count as the same or is
>there something special about "aham brahmasmi" by virtue of it being
>in Sruti? Is it only the meaning that matters or is there inherent
>strength in the acclamation (perhaps not unlike a mantric effect),

This is more complex. A vedic statement like ahaM brahmAsmi is not 
efficacious because of a mAntric effect, it is the knowledge conveyed by the 
statement that is central to liberation. The question is, what is seen as 
the source of a statement like "Sivoham"? Is it considered to be derived 
from Vedic authority or to be independent of the vedas? If the former, there 
is room for considering the system another form of vedAnta; if the latter, 
it is not a system of vedAnta. It may or may not be advaita either. Many 
schools of Saivism interpret "Sivoham" in a bhedAbheda way, or in a ritual 
manner, without drawing a deeper non-dualistic meaning out of it.

Amuthan Arunkumar R <aparyap at yahoo.co.in> wrote:

>a small observation. brahma j~nAnam is NOT a mental
>phenomenon. it is our svarUpa lakshaNam. a mere mental
>knowledge that the Atman and the brahman are identical
>is not sufficient for mukti.

Exactly. Any attempt to see the advaitic knowledge as mental activity is 
intrinsically flawed and itself informed by avidyA. Brahman is that which is 
unreachable by the mind or words (yato vAco nivartante aprApya manasA saha). 
An end to the cycle of births and deaths is reached only by going beyond the 

Mahesh Ursekar <mahesh.ursekar at gmail.com> wrote:

>think of it some more. A person's mother dies, is born in another birth, 
>children and dies again before the said person dies so now we have this
>person offerings along with the next birth's children's offering carrying 
>the mother's third birth. And since the ceremony is performed by succeeding
>generations also, we have a compicated web of offerings going to people in
>various births! Something that only Brahman could manage! ;-) Of course,
>this seems like the only logical explanation if reincarnation is to be

All questions about the need for SrAddha rituals in the context of 
reincarnation overlook two important issues.

First, who said that the departed person is reborn immediately in another 
physical body on earth? There might be thousands of years in between two 
physical earthly embodiments, or there might be less than a second. Everyone 
assumes it is the latter, not the former. The thing is, we do not know and 
we never really will. Doing SrAddha is firstly for the sake of defining the 
duty of the family members and secondly for the sake of the departed jIva.

Second, who said that the physical body is the same as the jIva? That a 
second physical body may have been set into motion does not take away the 
karmic link (karmabandha), otherwise called a debt (RNa, as Jaldhar pointed 
out) of the progeny to the dead person.

There is no contradiction between accepting reincarnation based on karma and 
the act of performing ritual SrAddha on death anniversaries.

SrAddha becomes irrelevant only when all karma is renounced. However, 
remember that reincarnation based on karma also ends when all karma is 


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