[Advaita-l] The essence of advaita

Shyam shyam_md at yahoo.com
Sat Sep 22 08:47:00 CDT 2007

Pranams Prabha-ji,
There are many places in the archives of this list (Shri Ramesh Krishnamurthy's wonderful thesis on "introduction to vedanta" in this very list comes to mind), and Shri Shastri-ji's website itself, (to whom who you had posed the question) is a veritable "goldmine" of information in which many questions such as this can find ready answers.
I can share with you my understanding, with the help of a "stock example" - the wave and the ocean.

1. There is only Brahman, nothing else.
There is only water, nothing else.

2. The Universe is merely an illusion, it is superposed on Brahman –
   it appears to be there, but is not.
Here the word illusion is misleading. The ocean with millions of waves is not really an illusion "superimposed" on the water.  That there is an ocean, that there are waves, is mithya because in essence there is only water. there is no wave minus the water. the wave is only a notion. Similarly, the Universe of duality, of time and space, is mithya - it is in essence the vastu - Brahman - it is nonseparate from the Whole.

If the above is true, to whom does the illusion occur? 
The illusion or duality occurs to the ahankara or  i-notion of the jiva. In our example, if we consider one wave in the ocean as having a notion of spearateness - i was born 10days ago, i am blue in color, my name is Devadutta, 4 days ago i married to this wave next to me called XYZ, we now have these 3 little waves that are next to us called A,B and C,  i know at some point i am going to die - this "i-notion" - that  i am this "discrete and distinct" entity - is who the illusion occurs to. The reason for this notion is ignorance or avidya - about his true nature, which is beginigless.

1. Since we (Jivaatmas) are inside the Universe, we are part of the
    illusion, hence cannot be the observers as the illusion cannot observe
    itself.  Is this statement incorrect?

This i-sense being only a mistaken,mis"placed" notion, can neither be said to be inside the ocean nor outside the notion, it can neither be said to be real, nor  even unreal, as long as the particular wave Devadutta holds onto that notion. 

2. Brahman cannot be the observer since the substratum cannot be the
   observer (just as the rope is not the observer - the human is). Is this

As far as water is concerned, there is neither ocean, nor waves, no illusion, nothing to observe, nothing but Itself, One, without a Second. The water is merely a unattached substratum in which is this whole play of waves, wave droplets, etc are born again and again and die.

3. If  Jivaatma is the observer are we not saying that Jivatma is
   distinct and different from Paramaatma (the Brahman) which contradicts the
   first axiom that there is only Brahman, nothing else?

The wave as Devadutta considers himself separate from the ocean. Until he realizes otherwise, Mr.Devadutta the wave is very much a small wave and the Ocean is very much infinitely large and powerful.
 Once he understands with the help of Shruti as well as a competent Guru, his true identity is only water, then all distinctions come to an end. He as a wave may still be "10days old", his physical location in the ocean need not change, (in the sense that he does not have to travel to a separate location in the ocean called Vaikuntha or Brahmaloka), but he is no longer deluded, his "identity-crisis" is over.
So yes, there is water and noting else, but only when this is dis-covered to be a fact by the i-sense of the wave - for itself. as would be obvious this realization will result in an annihilation of the i-sense itself.

4. If we say that Jivatma is having this illusion and also accept the
   fact that Jivaatma and Paramaatma (Brahman) are one and the same, are we not
   saying that Paramaatma having the illusion, hence is not all knowing since
   illusion/ignorance cannot happen to the omniscient?

Once again, from the water's (paramatma) standpoint, there is no distinction, no illusion. The wave is just a namaroopa - a form and a name - and its perspective is purely vyavahara - the wave only has transactional "reality".
The water Alone is. 

Hope this has clarified more and confused less.
Hari OM
Shri Gurubhyo namah

prabha <prabhagc at gmail.com> wrote: Pranams Sastriji and all others on this site,

I am a relative novice and am having difficulty understanding much of this.
I would greatly appreciate it if you or anyone else could answer these
(elementary) questions. If these have been answered elsewhere, kindly point
me there.

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