[Advaita-l] The practical implications of belief in advaita vedanta

Siva Senani Nori sivasenani at yahoo.com
Mon May 19 08:56:54 CDT 2008

Having bowed to everybody on the list, I start with the hope that a new subject line would not cause inconvenience.
On the subject of "Evolution of Advaita", the topic of practical implications of a belief in advaita vedanta has generated considerable debate. To focus more on this very important aspect, and so as not to seem to say anything that could even remotely be perceived as insulting to that great son of India, Swami Vivekananda, I thought it would be better if we discuss the practical implications of a belief in advaita - not necessarily mastery, or faithful practice - just a belief that Advaita is the Truth, the right path.
My view is that "A belief that Advaita is true does not directly imply and require that one sees the world as one entity, that one sees all sentient beings as one, that since one knows that there are supposed to be no differences amongst humans, one loves all human beings as well as one loves one's own self, and so on."
In fact since all the actions stated above are very lofty, there ought to be no danger if Advaita is actually understood to mean that "everybody is one" and one become noble. The danger is that that one gets the theory / system / philosophy / Truth completely wrong. And that gets worse when one is exposed to other theories / systems / philosophies / versions of Truth. 
Siddhanta states, as Sri Kuntimaddi Sadananda earlier summarised, that 1. the world is a mithya (to avoid translation problems); 2. Brahman is the Truth, Permanent Reality; 3. beings are not different from Brahman.
For the one who realises the above stated Truth, the differences of knower, knowledge and known dissolve. Verily, he is Brahman.
What about the one who has not realised the above Truth? Such a person should make efforts to be eligible to know, internalise, realise, and experience the Truth. The efforts involve following one's own dharma, to put it briefly and reasonably completely. 
So, the practical implication is that one should follow one's own dharma; not get woolly notions about the world.
And to drive home the above point, an elaborate case study dealing with the confusing situation of the greatest of warriors, the incarnation of sage Nara, Arjuna has been presented to us. 
Now, what is one's svadharma, one's own duty? One has to do what is expected of one by the society at large, in a given situation. What is right in one situation is not quite right in a different situation. And the whole thing is upto the knowledge and interpretation of the person involved.
When recruiting for his office, a certain person might not differentiate based on caste, creed, sex, and class. When inviting people home for a meal, the same person might differentiate based on class and sex. And so on. Another person might actually invite a taxi driver into the drawing room and serve tea. Both of them are acting as per their own situations and their interpretations of what is the done thing, not because of a knowledge or otherwise of Advaita.
If the second person is actually acting so because he heard his father say that Advaita is the Truth and then learnt that there is no Second, believes he is one with the taxi driver, and so extends him the courtesy, he is doomed. Why stop at Tea? Why not pass on his entire wealth. After all this world is a myth. Why only one taxi driver why not the whole world. And, so on.
In short, the reverse of the proposition is mere confusion, which does not stand reason and might actually create dobuts about the Truth.
The practical implications of Advaita's teachings are, thus, only two fold: a) follow one's dharma, and b) do it with all sincerity, discipline etc. 
Another way of looking at it is that great people do not differentiate or discriminate, because such is their situation and the action demanded, i.e. their svadharma:
ayam nijah paro vetti
gaNanaa laghuchetasaaM
udaara charitaanaam tu
vasudhaika kuTumbakam
(This one is ours, or theirs - such is the reckoning of the low achievers; for the great, the whole Earth is one family.)


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