[Advaita-l] The essence of advaita

S.N. Sastri sn.sastri at gmail.com
Sat Sep 22 00:09:02 CDT 2007

Dear Shri Mahesh,

We do not say that Brahman illuminates the mind. What we say is that the
mind catches the reflection of consciousness and therefore appears to have
consciouness of its own. The mind exists only in the vyavaharika plane and
so this is also only in that plane. It is like the moon appearing to have
brightness of its own while it is only reflecting the sun's light and the
sun itself does not do anything to make the moon reflect its light.
Similarly, if you hold a mirror in sunlight the reflection from the mirror
can illumine a dark room. In this case also the sun does not do anything..
So it is the mind that functions with the consciousness reflected in it and
Brahman does not do anything.

 In the case of plants again, it is the plants that take the sun's energy
and make chlorophyll, just as human beings use the sun's heat and light for
various purposes without the sun itself doing anything.

 Even speaking of Brahman as a witness is only from the vyavaharika
standpoint, since it can be a witness only when there is some thing to be
witnessed. From the paramarthika standpoint there is nothing other than
Brahman and so there is nothing to be witnessed.  From the vyavaharika
standpoint Brahman is a mere witness and all actions are performed by the
body and mind with the consiousness reflected in the mind.


As per your essence, the appearance of the world is an illusion - it appears
real only when viewed from the vyvaharic satta and not paramarthic. I am
unclear on one aspect of this idea. In Advaita, the mind (am using this term
loosely to include buddhi, manas, etc) is said to function only becuase its
sattvic content is reflected/illumined by the light of Brahman.

The question I have is this: From which satta are we attributing this power
of illumination to Brahman? It cannot be from the paramarthic satta since
the universe does not exist in that realm. If it is from the vyavaharic one,
then we are attributing an action (of illuming) to Brahman which goes
against the idea that Brahman can be talked of only in the paramarthic

To further explain my point we can consider an oft used analogy. Brahman is
like the sun and its mere presence makes nature act. It shines equally on
all - plant, animal or humans. When we link it to my original question
regarding the mind, in order to explain how nature functions, we are now
forced to consider the energy emanating from the sun's rays and how, for
example, it allows plants to make chlorphyll in order to grow . In other
words, instead of taking Brahman/sun to be a mere witness, we seem to be
conscious of its power working in the vyavaharic satta.

I would be most grateful for an explanation especially if I have understood
the concept wrongly.

Thanks, Mahesh

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