Advait/ Advaita

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The Times of India

We’re All The Same, Really

Sreeram Manoj Kumar

To be able to see all things as one, you have to be in a state of mind that does not differentiate between likes and dislikes that are manifested in those we are looking at. Vedanta says the universe is the Supreme Absolute from which all evolved. Shankara writes in the Atma Bodha that Self of all is like the sun and the attitude we develop are like clouds that hide the sun. When we look at a person beyond his attitudes, we find that we are all of the same eternal self luminous Atma. “Sages see with an equal eye, a learned and humble Brahmin, a cow, an elephant or even a dog or an outcaste,” said Krishna to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita

A merchant goes to a wood sculptor and asks him to make an idol of Krishna in sandalwood. The sculptor requests for 15 days’ time to locate the right sandalwood to commence work. Not finding a suitable piece of wood, he goes to the merchant’s house to tell him of his inability to make the idol. The merchant is away and his wife asks him to wait. The sculptor’s eye falls on a wooden log in a corner of the room. He asks the merchant’s wife if he could take it. With her permission, he chisels out an enchanting image of Krishna. On seeing the idol the merchant praises the work; he could not believe that the wooden log which was there all the time in his house was used to make the fine idol. Then the sculptor says that all he had done was to remove the unwanted parts of the wood so that what remained was the image of Krishna. Similarly, we have to remove all irrelevant identities in us so that the Self in us shines forth.

That homogeneous mass of pure consciousness that is present in all of us is termed as Atma. It is timeless and eternal, says Krishna in the Gita. The nature of Self is sat, chit and ananda. Pure consciousness continues to survive after the death of the body. It is immortal; hence it is called sat. Consciousness is called chit in Sanskrit. It is also known as Chaitanya. It is not limited by time or space and hence is limitless, that is, ananta. Hence it is known as ananda which means a sense of completeness, a sense of fulfilment.

The eternal Self is the ultimate phase, like gold, while the name and form of an individual is like that of gold jewellery. Some may not like the making of the jewel but the gold that is in it is not inferior. The face value of a currency note is the same even if it is soiled. Every individual is the same like gold and the intrinsic value of a currency note. This is what Shankara tries to convey through the prism of advaita philosophy.

The dvaita philosophy of Madhava endorses the need for every individual to live life in a way that enables one to take out or forge an attractive jewel out the gold or clean the currency note so that it becomes new and crisp. Both these great exponents of philosophy, of advaita and dvaita, have really said the same thing but in different ways. Shankara asks us to see others in the same perspective as we see ourselves. Madhava explains to us that even though others see us in the same perspective as they see themselves, it is righteousness to live a quality life.

English Poets And Advaita Vedanta

Alka Nigam

The Times of India Jul 16 2014

Literature is also philosophy. Though some critics differ, there are innumerable liter-ary examples of visionary poets revealing primeval truths. These poetic revelations are universal spiritual truths to which no one person, age or religion can lay exclusive claim. Of a radically different milieu and conviction, in their attempt to unravel the mystery of life and death, poets secure the same rapport with the central spiritual reality, as could sages.

Tennyson acknowledges that intellect is not potent enough to realise ultimate reality ¬ it only “stirs the surface-shadow“ but never “hath dipt into.../ The abysm of all abysms“. Vedic scriptures declare the illusory dualistic veil or surface-shadow as `maya'. This is something we need to overcome.

Mystics perceive reality through Self-realisation and poets and thinkers perceive it through transcendental imagination. Once they experience out-of-body consciousness, poets reach the realm of pure consciousness and the self seems “to dissolve S and fade away into boundless being; and this is not a confused state, but the clearest of the clearest...the loss of but the clearest of the clearest...the loss of per sonality (if so it were) seeming not extinction but the only true life.“ Tennyson here conveys the essence of advaita vedanta, the cardinal tenet of which is the same. Brahmn alone is real. The universe is unreal, and the individual soul is none other than the universal soul.

In Memoirs Tennyson informs Mrs Bradley: “There are moments when this flesh is nothing to me, when i feel and know the flesh to be the vision, God and the spiritual the only real and true.“ On the death of Keats, Shelley knew: “He hath awakened from the dream of life.“ Wordsworth feels the same state when the “breath of this corporeal frame“ is “almost suspended“ and then “we are laid asleep in body, and become a living soul“. D H Lawrence is overjoyed at the prospect of discarding his flesh “Like luggage of some departed traveller“.

A parallel is found in the autobiography of Sri Yogananda: “The flesh was as though dead, yet in my intense awareness i knew that never before had i been fully alive. My sense of identity was no longer narrowly confined to a body but embraced the circumambient atoms...An oceanic joy broke upon calm endless shores of my soul. The spirit of God, i realised, is exhaustless Bliss.“

Evidently this state is not confined to sages.

Plato regarded this divine madness to be a divine blessing granted to man. Saint Paul and Francis of Assisi are reported to have fallen into the same ecstatic trance. The poet William Blake confidently said: “I am in God's presence night and day.“ In this mystical trance, which is seeing the soul with bodily eyes closed, is when we receive the highest kind of intuitive knowledge. In the Kathopanishad, Yama tells Nachiketa that the supreme person, the size of a thumb, dwells forever in the hearts of all beings.

Krishna assures us in the Gita that He is seated in the heart of all beings. Christ knew that the Kingdom of Heaven is within us.

Vivekananda said: “After long searches here and there, in temples and last you come back completing the circle from where you started, to your own soul and find that nearest of the near, in your own Self.“

Shuddh(a) Advait

Path of divine grace

Pranav Khullar, April 17, 2023: The Times of India

As one stands entranced by the image of the boy-Krishn lifting the Govardhan hill in Nathdwara, a beautiful Picchwai cloth painting adorning the wall behind, the abstract Upanishadic Self seems to manifest itself through a doctrine of divine grace.

The Shuddh-Advaita, Pure NonDualism, of Vallabhacharya posits the path of Pushti-marga, Divine Grace, on the premise that Brahmn is also personal in nature, being Purna, perfect, and Purshottama, best of Beings. Vallabha saw this Brahmn as assuming the form of the world itself, possessing almost all the qualities of Para-Brahmn itself. The manifest world is not unreal, as Shankara’s Mayavada contends. The external world is real, because it is the adhibhautika, material form of Brahmn, for the world has emanatedfrom the Self itself, for the sake of divine lila, divine sport. Vallabha interprets the Upanishadic Self from a radically different standpoint than Shankara’s Advaita.

Vallabha bases his concept of Shuddh-Advaita on the notion of a personal God in the Brihadaryank Upanishad. The Upanishad explicitly states that Brahmn desired to be many, and the Self manifested itself as a multitude of souls. Brahmn may be beyond the a bstraction of thought itself but can be ‘known' when the Self manifests itself through the world. And Maya, for Vallabhacharya, is the instrument by which Brahmn reveals the world from itself, and not the illusion which Shankara defined it, as an erroneous apprehension of seeing the world as real. Maya becomes apositive principle for Vallabha. His doctrine of Pushti-marga, too, echoes the theistic strain found in the Mundaka Upanishad – that the knowledge of the Self is possible only through Divine Grace. 
Vallabha then roots this immanence and transcendence of Brahmn in the figure of Krishn, developing his concept of Bhakti accordingly, by giving it the character of a rasa, a sentiment of love. God has assumed human form for the lila, to bestow His grace on the devotees. He cannot bestow that grace as the Abstract Self.

Liberation is to be sought in the interplay of emotions between the devotee and Krishn, in all the hues and colours of the Nav-Rasa, nine primary emotions. The Mukhar-Vinda Bhakti is the highest form of devotion, which is meditating on the physical form of Krishn, as the gopis ofVrindavan are alluded to have practised unconsciously, in the Bhagavat Purana.

Vallabhacharya further postulates that this liberation is to be had in the figure of Krishn as Shrinathji, the boy Krishn lifting Mount Govardhan with his little finger, just as Chaitanya found this liberation in the figure of Krishn through the eyes of Radha.

Tradition has it that Vallabha had the inner darshan of Krishn in the form of Shrinathji, and was given the BrahmaSambhandha mantra, followed to this day for initiation into the Pushti-marga. This consecration of the self to Krishn, Vallabha states, will awaken the soul to its real nature as part of God’s consciousness. And while the Vallabha tradition lays down regular seva, divine service to God, as part of the process, complete surrender to Krishn seeking his grace, lies at the heart of Vallabha’s Shuddh-Advaita, in the realisation that the manifest world is only a lila of Brahmn.

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