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  ADVAITA DIALOGUE FOR BEGINNERS  (Continued)  601 to 800.

 601.                   S: What about a dream?

602.                    G: Yes, dream is mAyA. Our scriptures say that the whole universe of creation is a mAyA.

603.                    S: Does it mean then that we are all living in mAyA?

604.                    G: Don’t ask that as if you are surprised. Your surprise is because you are still thinking that mAyA is falsity.

605.                    S: If mAyA is not falsity, then is it real?

606.                    G: I told you whatever is transient is mAyA. Our life comes and goes. Happiness and suffering come and go.

607.                    S: Then in that case the world is also a mAyA; because it comes and goes.

608.                    G: Therefore the transience of the mAyA has to be transcended.

609.                    S: How is that possible?

610.                    G: How did mAyA originate?


611.                    S: I know my dream originates from me.

612.                    G: But the origin of the Cosmic mAyA by which the world came into existence, is not known.

613.                    S: Don’t the Vedas say something about it?

614.                    G: They say it is the work of Ishvara, God.

615.                    S: Where did this Ishvara come from  now?

616.                    G: Ishvara is man’s conception of Brahman.

617.                    S: I don’t get you.

618.                    G: Now comes the punchline of advaita!

619.                    S: I am all alert!

620.                    G: Brahman is attributeless. In particular, nameless and formless. It is never the object of perception or thought. But man’s mind finds it difficult to grasp that impersonality. Anytime he thinks of Brahman, he has already made it an object of thought. Either he gives it an anthropomorphic form or he gives it a name. Either way what he is doing is he is thinking of a Brahman with attributes. It is called saguNa Brahman, commonly known as Ishvara – equivalent to the Almighty God of all religions. The attributeless Brahman is known as nirguNa-Brahman.


621.                    S: But in reality, what is the contention of advaita? Is Brahman nirguNa or saguNa?

622.                    G. Brahman is nirguNa.

623.                    S: Then why do we at all need a saguNa Brahman?

624.                    G:  We cannot but. You saw that just now.

625.                    S: Still this impersonal Brahman along with  a personal  substitute bothers me.

626.                    G: What would you have?

627.                    S: Only the impersonality.

628.                    G: Then you cannot even talk about it.  The definition of Brahman would not allow any duality.

629.                    S: Are you saying that Ishvara concept comes only in the case of duality?

630.                    G: How else would Ishvara arise?


631.                    S: Then advaita, which means non-duality, should not have any concept of Ishvara.

632.                    G: Other than  Ishvara there is no guide for us to reach Brahman or to grasp the basic non-duality.

633.                    S:  But a worship of Ishvara would mean we are coming down to duality.

634.                    G: “na anyaH panthA ayanAya vidyate”. There is no other road to Moksha.

635.                    S: Is that the reason why we are worshipping several Gods and Goddesses?

636.                    G: That is the philosophical reason.

637.                    S: But the idea of several Gods completely throws overboard the concept of non-duality!

638.                    G: You must know they are only different names and forms of the same Ultimate.

639.                    S: But the Puranas speak of multifarious stories of the different Gods.

640.                    G: You must have also noted that in each such case the God of that Purana is raised to the status of  Brahman.


641.                    S: Does it mean then they are all various manifestations of Brahman?

642.                    G: Choose your style of interpretation. It does not matter so long as you are not deluded by the names and forms.

643.                    S: Yes. If Ishvara arises in the way you have described, then He is also coming and going. Is that also mAyA?

644.                    G: Yes, but with a difference. In the case of God He controls His  mAyA. Whereas we are in mAyA’s control.

645.                    S: Can mAyA be considered as God’s Potential?

646.                    G: In a sense, yes. In fact, two facets of Energy (shakti) are associated by us with Brahman.

647.                    S: Is this what is called PrakRti?

648.                    G: Yes. There is a parA-prakRti and there is an aparA-prakRti. ‘parA’ is  supreme and ‘aparA’ is not-so-supreme.

649.                    S: I have heard them talked about as parA-shakti and aparA-shakti.

650.                    G: You are right. It is aparA-prakRti that corresponds to mAyA.


651.                    S: Is it the source, origin of all matter and the universe?

652.                    G: In Vedanta cosmology, it is the qualitative guNa or svabhAva from which all matter arises.

653.                    S: Whereas, in Physics, it is the quantitative matter, their weight, substance and constituents, that are fundamental.

654.                    G: These guNas are inherent in aparA-prakRti (Cosmic Energy). It is what gives matter its substance.

655.                    S: In other words, Energy is self-existent and Matter is the product of this omni-present Energy.

656.                    G: Whereas, in Physics, it is the other way.

657.                    S: I see now, in Vedanta,  PrakRti is the source of all matter in the universe.

658.                    G: For that reason, PrakRti is also called PradhAnaM, the Fundamental.

659.                    S: But it is very subtle, isn’t it?

660.                    G: Yes, it is the unmanifest thing that manifests into everything. Therefore it is also called avyaktaM (unmanifest).


661.                    S: But it is not manifest all the time.

662.                    G: It alternates between manifestation and unmanifestation. So gets the name of kshhara, the Perishable.

663.                    S: Is this then the Perishable purushha (kshhara-purushha) in us, that you referred to earlier.

664.                    G: No. Wait. The spiritual undercurrent vibrating in all beings, called jIva, is under a matter envelopment.

665.                    S: I see. The matter envelopment, that is perishable,  comes from PrakRti.

666.                    G: JIva itself, our spirit component, is a fragment of the Cit-shakti (Pure Consciousness) of Brahman.

667.                    S: I thought you said there are two shaktis, parA-shakti and aparA-shakti.

668.                    G: Yes. The parAshakti has three facets: Desire (IcchA), Action (KriyA) and Consciousness (jnAna or cit).

669.                    S: Is parA-shakti the source of  our jIva?

670.                    G: JIva, the kshhara-purushha in us,  is just an atomic fragment of that Power of Consciousness (cit-shakti).


671.                    S: So that is why our essential content is Consciousness. Is this our akshhara-purushha, the Witness in us?

672.                    G: Exactly. It is  also called kUTastha, the One which remains unchanged like the anvil in a smithy.

673.                    S: If I remember right, the Gita talks of a third purushha, namely, purushhottama.

674.                    G: The Purushhottama is the supreme who appears as the other two purushhas.

675.                    S: Can I have a  picture that incorporates all the three purushhas and their roles?

676.                    G: The roles are actually three poises of the same purushhottama. The kshhara-purushha – who is the result of identification of the jIva with the BMI – reflects the varied workings of PrakRti and thinks of himself as the ego-doer of works.  He is the one that remembers ‘I slept well last night’. So He is saguNa, personal. On the other hand when the Purushha takes the poise of akshhara, he is nirguNa, impersonal. He is dissociated from the doings of the guNas. He is aware that prakRti is the doer and himself is only the witnessing self. The purushottama creates, sustains and dissolves, through His prakRti and manifests in the jIva. In the akshhara, He is untouched and indifferent. In the kshhara He is the immanent Will and the present active Lord.

677.                    S: It is all pretty complicated. Why don’t you give some analogies?

678.                    G: Certainly. Let the entire space represent the Purushottama. Then the space within a jar is the akshhara-Purushha.

679.                    S: That fits in with the Purushottama appearing as the akshhara-Purushha, just because of the limitation of the jar.

680.                    G: Now fill up the jar with water.Outer space is reflected in that water. This reflected space is the kshara-Purushha.


681.                    S: What goes on in the reflected space due to vibrations in the water, does not affect the jar-space, the akshhara.

682.                    G: Not only that. The reflected space, the kshara, hides the very presence of the jar-space, the akshhara.

683.                    S: Wonderful. When you throw the water away, the jar-space comes to light.

684.                    G: Exactly. That water is our mind. The Supreme, reflected in our mind, is what makes us the jIva, the kshara.

685.                    S. When there is no separate thing as mind – water in the jar – the akshhara shows up by itself.

686.                    G: There you have the entire picture.

687.                    S: PraNAms, Guruji,  That makes matters clear! Now I think we can resume our discussion of Cit-shakti.

688.                    G: Ishvara Himself is another fragment of that Cit-shakti. He is Brahman conditioned by our intellect (cit).

689.                    S: Is Ishvara then the base for all the beings in the universe?

690.                    G: Yes. All beings are in Him, says Krishna in the 7th chapter of the Gita.


691.                    S: But I have heard that  He immediately appears to contradict Himself.

692.                    G: True. You seem to be very familiar with all controversial things.!

693.                    S: Krishna  says in the very next shloka: “Beings are not in Me”. Guruji, You have to clarify this for me!

694.                    G: Are you familiar with the snake-rope analogy?

695.                    S: Certainly. A rope appears as a snake or a streak of water in dim light.

696.                    G: I bring the light and I now question you: ‘Where was the snake?’. What would you reply?

697.                    S: On the rope.

698.                    G: Now I ask: ‘Was the snake there?’

699.                    S: No, Guruji, it was never there!

700.                    G: Now the same thing happens with the Lord’s statements.


701.                    S: I don’t think I fully understand it.

702.                    G: If you ask the Lord: ‘Where are all the beings?’, what would He reply?

703.                    S: ‘They are in Me’.

704.                    G: But if you then ask Him: ‘Were they ever there?’....

705.                    S: He will have to say ‘They were never there. Only I was there and am there.’

706.                    G: This is exactly what is happening in that Gita shloka. This is the beauty of the great mAyA of Ishvara.

707.                    S: Is that why we have to transcend mAyA or PrakRti to reach Brahman?

708.                    G: Exactly. 

709.                    S: How do we transcend mAyA? Through the use of our intellect?

710.                    G: Intellect is not enough. Intellect is  for doing Atma-vicAra, that is, intellectual enquiry about the Atman.


711.                    S: What will this enquiry do?

712.                    G: It will churn the mind thoroughly and bring all the dirt to the surface.

713.                    S: Is our mind then  like a trash can that we can empty at will?

714.                    G: I wish it were.  You cannot throw away the mental dirt  by that means. You can only purify them.

715.                    S: How do we do that?

716.                    G: By pouring continuously into that reservoir of the mind, thoughts of God and of noble things.

717.                    S: Guruji, may I request you to go back to explain mAyA further?  It is really very tricky.

718.                    G: You are not the only one who feels so. The entire world feels it so.

719.                    S: Let me particularise a few questions on mAyA.

720.                    G: That would help me too.


721.                    S: Is mAyA real or unreal?

722.                    G: You have asked the most difficult question first. mAyA is neither real nor unreal.

723.                    S: How can that be?

724.                    G: It is real because we see the effects of PrakRti existing before us.

725.                    S: It is also not real because, ...

726.                    G: Being of the nature of transience, it vanishes in due time.

727.                    S: If something vanishes after a certain time, is it not taken to be real?

728.                    G: The word ‘real’ has to be carefully handled. On one side there is the absolute reality of Brahman.

729.                    S: Because it is ever there and its presence can never be negated or denied.

730.                    G: Yes. On the other extreme there is an absolute unreality like, say, a hare’s horn, or, the son of a barren woman.


731.                    S: Actually they don’t exist at all.

732.                    G: That is why it is called absolute unreality. The Sanskrit term is “asat”. It is absolute non-existence.

733.                    S: Then ‘sat’ means reality?

734.                    G: In advaita ‘sat’ means absolute reality, the Sanskrit being “pAramArthika satyaM”.

735.                    S: What about the reality of the world?

736.                    G: It comes between ‘sat’ and ‘asat’.  It is neither ‘sat’ nor ‘asat’.   ‘vyAvahArika satyaM’  operational reality.

737.                    S: What about dream reality?

738.                    G: Dream is real only to the dreamer and during the dream only. It is subjective reality, “prAtibhAsika satyaM”.

739.                    S: So there are four kinds of reality?

740.                    G: All that come  in between ‘sat’ and ‘asat’ are bunched under the term ‘mithyA’.


741.                    S: So ‘mithyA’ includes both operational reality of the world and the subjective reality of the dream. Is that right?

742.                    G: Yes,  mAyA belongs to the order of reality called ‘mithyA’. It is neither ‘sat’ nor ‘asat’.

743.                    S: The way you have described it implies that the world belongs to the ‘mithyA’ type of reality.

744.                    G: Yes. That is why Shankara’s famous quote says: “brahma satyaM, jagat mithyA”.

745.                    S: I have heard it translated as ‘Brahman is the reality, the universe is unreal’.

746.                    G: That translation would be wrong if you mean by ‘unreality’ the absolute unreality called ‘asat’.

747.                    S: Can you elaborate this further?

748.                    G: In all cases of ‘mithyA’, the ‘is-ness’ is not questionable. But the understanding of ‘what it is’ is wrong.

749.                    S: But I think there are still some loose ends.

750.                    G: Like?


751.                    S: Is creation by Ishvara real or not?

752.                    G: Creation also belongs to the ‘mithyA’ category, neither absolutely real nor absolutely unreal.

753.                    S:  But within the mithyA category, there seem to be several shades of difference in reality.

754.                    G. In fact, everything that is made up from something else, has a lesser permanence than what it is made of.

755.                    S: Yes, clay is more permanent than a clay-pot.

756.                    G: If you keep pursuing this idea of permanence relentlessly, you will find all except the Absolute is impermanent.

757.                    S: But I was referring to the shades of difference in reality, for instance, the reflection in a mirror.

758.                    G: It belongs to the category of subjective reality, within all impermanence, that is, mithyA.

759.                    S: Is there any other?

760.                    G: You may recall  the standard example of a rope appearing as a snake, in a dimly lighted environment.


761.                    S: That is also subjective reality.

762.                    G: Yes. The appearance of a snake is only real to the observer of that appearance during the appearance.

763.                    S: And it vanishes when the environment is lighted.

764.                    G: It is said that the existence of the universe itself is like this appearance of snake on the rope.

765.                    S: What corresponds to the rope here?

766.                    G: Brahman, of course.

767.                    S: In other words, there is only Brahman, everywhere?

768.                    G: Certainly. We see the universe, instead of Brahman, erroneously.

769.                    S: What is the cause of this error?

770.                    G: Our own Ignorance.


771.                    S: But Man has been seeing this universe ever since he first appeared on this earth.

772.                    G: That is why the Ignorance is called ‘beginningless’ – “anAdi” in Sanskrit.

773.                    S: We know when it started – I told you, when man first came on this earth.

774.                    G: In Hindu Vedanta, there is no first, for these things. Because Time is cyclic. Creation and Dissolution recur.

775.                    S: That explains the “anAdi” nature of Ignorance.  But Ignorance of what?

776.                    G: Ignorance of two things: “I am the Atman” and “Atman is Brahman”.

777.                    S: I would like to think about these two statements more carefully.

778.                    G: To help you think and contemplate, the Vedas have given them in four ‘mahAvAkyas’.

779.                    S: I would love to understand  them.

780.                    G: Each of the mahAvAkyas, incorporate both of the above two statements of which man, by nature, is ignorant.


781.                    S: One interruption. Before we try to remove the ignorance, should we not find the cause of the Ignorance?

782.                    G: That is where even your scientific spirit would not help you in Vedanta.

783.                    S: I don’t get you.

784.                    G: The cause of the Ignorance is one of the few things declared to be unexplainable.

785.                    S: How can Vedanta ignore this aspect of Ignorance?

786.                    G: They say Ignorance is the effect of mAyA.

787.                    S: And they get away with it?

788.                    G: There are two powers of mAyA that do  havoc. One veils the Truth. Another  projects what is other than Truth.

789.                    S:  The veiling of Truth by mAyA is understandable. But it is the projection that is more puzzling.

790.                    G:  Let us go to  the different analogies for this relationless relationship  of the projected Universe and Brahman.


791.                    S: I know already four: Snake on a rope; Dream; Reflection in a mirror; Movie on a screen.

792.                    G:There are some more: Water in a mirage; Silver in the mother-of-pearl; Beads strung together on a string.

793.                    S: The last one seems to be the easiest.

794.                    G: But it helps the understanding of a delicate principle called “anvaya and vyatireka”.

795.                    S: I have not heard of this.

796.                    G: “anvaya” is inclusion: The beads together cannot hold unless you conceive the substratum of the string.

797.                    S: And what is “vyatireka”?

798.                    G: The string can hold by itself without the beads. This is the ‘exclusion’ of the beads.

799.                    S: I don’t see clearly the connection of this with Brahman and the universe.

800.                    G: The Self is the string in which every non-Self is strung like beads. The fact that the Self is the continuity or connection part of the string in all that is non-self is “anvaya”. The non-self is dependent on the Self for their appearance as non-self, just as the beads are dependent on  the string for their appearance in a line. The fact that the Self itself is still separate from the non-self is “vyatireka”. The Self is independent of the non-self, just as the string is independent of the beads.  Again, the existence of the Self in deep sleep while the BMI is dormant is anvaya (accordance). That the Self is conscious  independently of the BMI, as in deep sleep, is vyatireka (divergence).

                                                                                   Continued Go to Advaita Dialogue: 801 to 1008

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