A common misinterpretation of Unity Consciousness

[refer to previous week's post that started this Feb 2012 discussion, where a teacher of Hinduism and Buddhism made sincere and well-intentioned comments on the natural human tendency to seek sameness that failed to address some key points in BD. Rajiv Malhotra reiterates some critical points from BD on the relationship between multiplicity and oneness in Dharmic thought systems. This post covers the followup in depth. Although bulk of the discussion is around Chapter 3 (Synthetic Unity of West versus Integral Unity of Dharmic Civilization), arguments cover other key topics like 'non-translatables in Sanskrit, Chapter 4 - Order and Chaos, etc.]

A common misinterpretation of Unity Consciousness
Ellen's recent thread illustrates the common notion that non-duality is escapist from the mundane world on multiplicity. This became the handle with which Vedanta got thrashed as:

1) not progressive in the real world
2) causing dependency upon foreign Mother Teresa's to help the poor because Vedanta escapes responsibility
3) causing complicity with social irresponsibility.

Many colonial era writers made a big deal of this point and many Hindus ended up supplying them the fodder.

Today, Ken Wilber's reduction of dharma into what he calls "Advaita Hinduism" is used by him to claim that he has superseded the states of consciousness of Sri Aurobindo, and moved past the problems that dharma suffers from.

All this is a trap and many Vedantist teachers are unaware of the way their teachings get distorted.

Ramanuja and Sri Jiva Goswami (cited in BD) are very clear and explicit that  non-dualism does not mean that multiplicity is false. It means that multiplicity is dependent upon Oneness, and in the case of Sri Jiva all multiplicity is a form of the one, just as a smile is a form of the face and cannot be independent of it. The blueness of the blue lotus cannot exist separately from the lotus - a common example given in that tradition. This is the nature of the relationship between One and Many.

Another metaphor to understand the multiplicity is as lila, divine play.

Multiplicity is not false, be it seen as form of Brahman (Saguna Brahman) or as lila.  If the face is real then its smile and all its forms are real as well.

The above misinterpretation of multiplicity has led many dharma scholars to criticize my notion of difference. They think its a bad idea, because they feel it takes us away from oneness. Shouldn't we be seeing only oneness, they ask? I refer to this notion as pop Vedanta; it is also called Neo-Vedanta. Interestingly, Sri Aurobindo also lashed out against this kind of misinterpretation of Vedanta.

So I have on many occasions asked Swami Dayananda Saraswati, considered the most prominent authority on Vedanta philosophy today. I asked directly: If the world is unreal then whats the basis for dharma, karma, worrying about what evangelists do, curing diseases, helping those in need, etc? ... I must say that he gives very clear explanations to the effect that: we must deal with the differences in the world we live in, as part of dharma, karma, etc. The Gita's message is also this. Arjuna gave the escapist argument at first, to justify his inaction, and it takes Sri Krishna 18 chapters to explain why action in the world is necessary - without attachment to the results and without even the sense of being the doer.

Therefore, the dharma/Christian difference is as real for our lives as the dharma/adharma or deva/asura or tamas/sattva differences. Dharma is not moral relativism, though it is often attacked for being so.

Asserting differences is not a negation of Oneness. It is the insight into the richness of Oneness as including the differences as aspects within it.

Your posture towards difference should depends upon where you stand in terms of state of consciousness. If you are the rishi rooted in unity consciousness as your state (not some words you can parrot), then by all means you should act in the world in spontaneity - the One leads your actions amidst all the diversity. But if you are not there yet, you must make a conscious effort to understand right from wrong, what is what in the world - while at the same time reminding yourself that this relative level is a manifestation of one substratum.

One of the sutras in my Moron Smriti is about this moronic notion that "everything is same". According to such moronic minds, medicine can be substituted with poison because both as Brahman only;.... you need not obey any laws because these are man-made in the world of illusions, and so forth. In other words, the misunderstanding I refer to is very dangerous as it has produced a large population of morons who are simply dysfunctional.

Such a people are the product of colonialism as its easy to rule over morons.

Rampersad asks: ""Dharma is not moral relativism: Please explain the above when we say that Dharma is determined by desh, kaal aur paristithi. Or for example that killing a person is acceptable in line of duty but not otherwise. Duties and responsibilities as Dharma are not absolute but relative, some say.Please enlighten on this."

Rajiv's response:
Important question. Please read "contextual Ethics" section in chapter 4 of BD. It is only 12 pages and summarizes what was earlier a whole chapter of 100 pages. Basically, it goes as follows: Western normative ethics is deterministic, absolute like Ten Commandments. No ifs, ands, buts. "Thou shalt not kill" would never make it into Manu as he would ask things like: whether one can kill in war, kill a plant, kill bacteria that has diseased you, kill an animal if he is non-vegetarian, etc. Such ethics is called normative. The West is so afraid of "chaos" (as explained in chpt 4, that there is obsession to maintain control through "order" and this means that there was heavy policing of normative ethics throughout the Christian era. (Now in Islam.) The opposite of normative ethics was seen as moral relativism, which means "anything goes", or a chaotic place, an anarchy in which you do whatever you want to.
Thus, normative versus moral relativism are two opposite poles. But in the middle of these lies what is called contextual ethics and thats where dharma is. It is neither normative nor moral relativism....."

Surya comments:
"Sounds like Dharma then fall under the classification of moral universalism which allows for situation dependency but applies to all people in a given situation.  Moral universalism does fall in between moral nihilism/relativism and moral absolutism and also recognizes that morality is not always black and white (value pluralism).  Value pluralism is crucial in many common moral dilemmas and comfort with not excluding middle is a necessary mindset.

Catholic Church has struggled with its pro-life moral absolutist position taken since Thomas Aquinas and in recent times introduced what is called the "doctrine of double effect" which is situation specific morality. This doctrine is also used in wars where soldiers have to accept the fact that there could be unexpected civilian casualties.

Morality is rarely as clear cut as absolutism suggests. Morality is frequently situation specific and can have multiple valid but conflicting choices."
Koti posts a clarification (Rajiv: excellent post):
"...It was Gita that astutely harmonized conflicting schools of thought and ways of worship. It even made redundant post death rites which our acharyas were preoccupied with and which even to this date our orthodoxy swears on. [...]Obviously, they honoured Krishna but stayed with Arjuna of chapter 1.
FIVE BLUNDERS were done to Gita as a result to Vedanta itself, because Vedanta is part of Gita, although Gita is more than Vedanta....
1. Preached Gita solely as Moksha shastra, ignoring fully the jeevana dharma of it. Thus pushed it to last stages of life!
2. Force-fitted it to their dogma of Advaita, dvaita or anything in-between; Gita itself never used those terminologies. Basically narrowed it down through  interpolation and interpretation.
3. Misunderstood sva-dharma as one's religious sect/caste
4. Misunderstood VarNa. Even discovered a fifth varNa (outcaste). Thus killed the soul of millions without touching their body. In a way disproved Gita that soul can not be killed! Now we bend over backwards to tell that caste and dalits were products of colonial period.
5. Insisted on post death rites for liberation of ancestors on the same lines as Arjuna of Gita chapter 1."

Nagaraja strongly disagrees with certain aspects of Koti's clarification:
"With reference to the posting by ... Koti..., I strongly disapprove the posting for two reasons –

1.       Pitting one part of the vedic culture against another instead of treating it as an integrated whole (last rites v/s perceived essence of Gita,  perceived correct understanding of Gita v/s Acharyas’ schools of thought etc.) is a dangerous trend and should be discouraged.

Rajiv's comment: I agree with much of this post by Nagaraja. However, we cannot assume that there was no advancement in our tradition. In other words, to interpret one text as superseding another is not a sign of inferiority but a sign of the flow of knowledge over time. Smritis are intended to evolve with each time and context, and thats not seen as a contradiction. Also, to say that Arjuna in the early portion of Gita was confused compared to later in the text is not undermining the tradition. Our exemplars from Arjuna to Swami Vivekananda have challenged the authorities and learned in the process. Thats why so many texts are Q A and debate style. This does not denigrate the acharyas but shows free spirited argumentation.

2.       Making unsubstantiated, sweeping, derogatory remarks against the Acharyas (“Acharyas failed to understand Gita”, “They wasted their scholarship”, “what they did is circus” etc.) is another dangerous trend that can cause a nose dive of our serious efforts to understand the subject objectively...

 If the Acharyas did not do what they did, we would not be sitting and discussing Gita today.....

1.       What aspect of Dharma is upheld when and how depends on the social need at that time.  Even among the Avatars, Rama and Krishna did completely different set of things based on the needs of the society at that time....Please go through sections of Dharma Shasthras, Artha Shasthras and Kama Shasthras to understand why Gita is considered a Moksha Shasthra.
3.       ... The Jati/varna Dharma is indeed a part of svadharma.

5.       Contempt for rituals is a serious drawback of some of the people who want to stand up for Hinduism but don’t practice it themselves.  I suspect that the remark against last rites is one such case and is grossly incorrect.  Lord Rama himself carries out (even though at a distance) last rites for Dasharatha and encourages Vibhishana to do the last rites of Ravana with full honor. ...What is there to be blamed in this regard and how Acharyas are to be blamed if at all something is to be blamed?

The common misinterpretation of Advaita that is used to negate differences can be easily countered by resorting to correct interpretation of Advaita rather than by attacking the Acharyas arbitrarily.... "

Srinivas comments:
"As Ellen points out, science today wants to find out how matter became consciousness and Advaita is about how one consciousness became diverse matter. Science accepts the diversity in this world but is striving towards sameness concept via "everything is matter". Advaita / Achintya Bedha-Abheda says "everything is one consciousness" and is striving to explain the diversity. While both respect differences, fundamentally they do it because they believe in the sameness or reduction of all into either matter or one consciousness. ... Its like saying "I respect you because both of us are essentially the same"....While identity was restricted to a community, now it is taken to the level of universe/consciousness.
In the context of this discussion it should be pointed out that there are other philosophical traditions in India that do not accept non dual consciousness i.e. reducing the universe to a single consciousness. Madhva's Tatvavada is one such and makes its case on 5 fundamental differences in the world. Briefly the 5 differences are explained with the basis that matter (jada) and consciousness (atma) are fundamentally different....

The 3 main points of Being Different can be explained without resorting to non-dual consciousness.

1. Embodied Knowing
If there is non dual consciousness, who is the Know-er and what is to be known? If everything is consciousness, how did ignorance arise and who is ignorant? God? Instead embodied, knowing is simply explained by the nature of atman (as BD does) as Sat, Chit and Ananda while still keeping many different atmans.

2. Integral Unity
BD justification for Integral unity is by denying dual consciousness. So if there is no "two", the question of Unity or Integration becomes a non starter. Instead the Indian concept to explain Integral unity is by way of different tatvas like Prana, Mahattatva, Chitta, Chetana, Ahankara, etc.

3. Comfort with Chaos
Again if there no "two" then there is no need to answer the question about chaos. A common Indian is comfortable with chaos not because she experiences non-dual consciousness but probably because she believes in Karma and Re-birth theory.

As a conclusion I would like to emphasize that non duality is not the only Indian tradition and is not fundamental to the main differences pointed out in BD. There are well developed vedic and theistic traditions which believe in the fundamental nature of differences in reality and consciousness."

Rajiv comment: I went through great length not to rely upon nondualism in explaining Integral Unity or Embodied Knowing or comfort with chaos. Had I wanted to equate Integral unity = Nondualism, I would not have had to work so hard to coin the new term and explain it. It would have been just another work on nondualism. I will explain this in a separate thread.

Desh adds:
"I disagree with Ellen and Srinivas that Science wants to find "How matter became consciousness".  For that never happens.

When we look at the classic issue in Quantum Mechanics and the entire question of Wave Collapse, we find that the question before BOTH Science and Spirituality is the SAME - 

How does the Infinite manifest as Finite?

If you look closely at the Copenhagen Interpretation, you will find Scientists grappling with exactly the question and issue that the Dualists and Non-Dualists grapple with.  There is no fight.  When one gives way, and goes by the way of the infinite - one experiences Non-dualism; if one "Is" there then dualism keeps on.

The question that Ellen is asking comes from a mind drenched in Newtonian Science.  It is in the Newtonian zone and looks at the new world of consciousness and asks the question...."

Rajiv Malhotra posts:
"BD's idea of dharma is not dependent upon advaita
In a popular version of advaita, all difference is illusory, hence reality is context free. This has led to the problems of other worldliness as alleged and explained earlier in this thread. Sri Aurobindo was one of many who criticized this harshly. So did Ramanuja, Sri Jiva and many others.

Integrality is oneness plus all built in diversity that is part and parcel of it and inseparable from it. The diversity is not unreal but has no separate existence. I keep repeating the separateness as the key issue throughout BD. This way I also bring in Madhyamika Buddhism as Integral: pratita-samutpada does not use unity consciousness as a positive entity, and rather it negates the existence of any "separate" entity from what I have described as Indra's Net. Implication: The argument against dharma as being world negating is rejected.

So Integrality = absence of separateness. Nondual consciousness is one way of having integrality. Pratita-samutpada is another way. Achinta-bheda-abheda is another. Sri Aurobindo's Integrality is another.

... My book's purpose is served so long as the common ground is different than the west.

Hence, the notion of synthetic is the big "aha" claim in the book. I go to great length to argue the synthetic nature of the West - both its history and its major philosophical/theological systems. The nature of dharma as Integral Unity is used as the foil against which to reverse the gaze on the West. Thats all its meant to serve. The book is not about dharma but about the West as seen by the dharmic gaze."
Raghu comments on the wrong usage of 'illusion' for 'Maya': 
"...Shankara talks of Vyaavahaarika prathyaksha as the first stage, leading to praathibhaasikam and then to paramaarthikam. The first stage is to have a clear understanding of the transactional world. Transaction is between two separate entities. When one has a deep understanding of this reality, one comes to its edge and can see the light of actuality. Vyaavahaarika is a real but ephemeral state of being, when one 'crosses over' one enters paaramaarthikam, a transcendent state when one is anchored in the unchanging state of Truth. When one looks back from here, one sees that holding on to the world of phenomenon as real and unchanging is delusional, therefore Maya.

The are many stories that illustrate this idea that one experiences the Vyaavahaarika as though it were substantive when it is not. Holding on to it and expecting that dukha can be ended by living in this space is delusional, thus one gets entangled in Maya."

Rajiv comment: 
I agree with this as the deeper view of advaita vedanta. My guru was an enlightened advaita master (not a regular teacher but enlightened), and said very clearly that we are not being asked to run away or escape the mundane world as some "illusion theorists" teach. We take birth as per prarabdha and must perform our dharma which is very much transactional in this world. Unfortunately, what we find today is pop-Vedanta in which they dismiss the world as illusion, causing all the confusion and problems I mentioned earlier in this thread.

Still, I dont want to push advaita as prerequisite for BD's thesis. Thats why I went through so much research, discussions, etc. with experts from: Sri Aurobindo, Kashmir Shaivism, Madhyamika Buddhism, Jainism, Ramanuja's Vishishtadvaita, Sri Jiva's achinta-bheda-abheda, etc.
For, if I were to limit myself to Advaita Vedanta, then the western opponents get a perfect handle to attack: "You do not speak for dharma as such but only one tiny slice of it. There is no such thing as a unifying dharma, mere fragments that are randomly stuck together." In other words, the charge in the prevailing discourse has been that it is Hinduism and dharma that is a synthetic unity. This is a very big movement among scholars out there.

BD goal is to counter that and claim integral unity of dharma.

... Anyone who forgets that difference is the purpose of this exercise will find all sorts of flaws in BD, and I am well aware of the trade offs I made and why I made them."

Srinivas adds:
"Yes BD is not rooted in Advaita and can be explained using any of the Dharmic streams. Thats the beauty of it! Rajivji has stuck gold with the vocabulary. He has caught the essence of Dharmic streams by how they approach the problem and the mature subject space they apply themselves to.

For example I was disappointed not to see Madhva's Tatvavada in BD but there will be many such people and Dharmic streams which feel that way. However what is important is that the concepts in BD can easily be extended to other Dharmic streams and it takes very little effort to explain the 3 main differences according to each stream.

Rajiv's response to this para: "Since my knowledge of Madhva's work is inadequate I request that those who know better than me should post an explanation of Integrality, Embodied Knowing, Comfort with Chaos, and Non-Translatability as explained from that school..."

1. There is only one consciousness and all differences are in the "end" Maya/Mithya or whatever vocabulary you choose. This is the Advaita way.

2. There is only one or non-dual consciousness but it is also differentiated even in the "end". This is the Achintya Bheda-Abheda way.

3. There is multiplicity of consciousness coupled with the permanent 5 fold differences between God, Jeevatma and Matter. This is the Tatvavada of Madhvacharya.

There are other claims as well but we need to recognize that there are these differing claims with its own rich Vedic traditions. What we are concerned about is "what according to various schools of thought are the fundamental particles/tatva that make the universe?" This can be answered differently by Science, Advaita, Achintya Bheda-Abheda, Tatvavada, etc. We should also widen discussion to other claims and see how BD can be explained in the terms of those streams." 

Shaas responds to Srinivas: 
"... There is no place for "wrong" (mithya) in Advaita (Unity). Even the "differences" are just "one consciousness".

Maya does not mean mithya! Maya is Divine (DAIVI hyesha gunamayi, mama maya duratyaya, Gita VII ch.). Maybe it clouds the recognition of all is intrinsically one consciousness but it is all divine play.

When one perceives differences, differences must be dealt accordingly and aproprietly.

To all pseudo-unitarists: Unity consciousness is not achieved by being forgetful about differences. UC is seeing one's unbounded Self (Atma) in all differences." 

Srinivas follows up:
"All these truth claims, Advaita, Achintya Bheda-Abheda and Tatvavada address among many things, what the universe is made of. Is it matter, Is it Consciousness? If yes how many? The question I put forward was "what are the "fundamental particles" according each of these streams?"

Both Advaita and Achintya Bheda-Abheda accept unitary consciousness or non-dual consciousness. There is no separate consciousness dependent or independent of Brahman. Achintya Bheda Abheda deviates from Advaita in that it also accepts differentiation of the absolute Brahman while Advaita does not.

Tatvavada instead takes a totally different view in that it says the differences between God, Jeeva and Matter are real and eternal.

Now you can argue for how each of these theories account for diversity in this world. My post was not to explain how Advaita does or does not explain differences....The important thing is to accept the differences between these streams with mutual respect. We do not have to digest or force fit all streams of Vedanta as Advaita or have difference anxiety about the diversity of Vedic thought amongst different schools.BTW mutual respect amongst Dharmic streams will be an interesting topic!

The bottom line is BD's 4 main differences are still valid for all Dharmic streams. Only the way you explain them differs from one stream to another. BD is a good starting point and each of the Advaita, Achintya Bhed-Abheda and Tatvavada scholars need to take off from here and write detailed Purva-Paksha of West and Christianity according to their core beliefs."

Rajiv Malhotra adds another clarification to his concept of Integral Unity:
".... Integral Unity can be either without any internal content (as in some interpretations of advaita), or with all content/difference built into the unity consciousness itself (as in achinta-bheda-abheda).

Or it can be without using "ultimate reality = consciousness" as in the case of madhyamika Buddhism, where the idea of "everything is interdependent on everything else" implies such a unity and is expressed in the metaphor of Indra's Net.

Many dharma systems have different notions on the relationship between One and Many, but each satisfies my 4 differences including the one about Integral Unity. (I do need a good analysis of Madhava's system by some expert.)

My methodology went through multiple iterations: whats different wrt West that is at the same time shared internally among the dharma systems?.... After many trials and failures I reached these four differences that are robust on both fronts."
Wadhwa posts:
The theory of worldly existence as 'mithya', i.e, fictitious, deceitful and unreal is totally negated by the very definition of Dharma as given in the Vaisheshika Darshan of Kanada. It defines Dharma as "Yatho Abhyudhaya NihShreyasa Siddhi Sa Dharmah"i.e, Dharma is that which ensures material well being/progress and prosperity(Abhyudaya) as well as spiritual well being, (Nihshreyasa).
Maharishi Dayananda who was a realist, spirtualist and in a way highly pragmatic too opined that Vedic Philosophy denies that this world is an illusion. He did not endorse the view of Shankaracharya who said Jagat(world) is Mithya, i.e., false. Swamiji strongly protested against the sickly view of sorrow, pain and misery of the world. He said that world is not a purposeless phantasm and as per vedic conception there is no basis for unreality of the world. A complete God who is perfect and Purna cannot create an incomplete and illusionary world. The sorrows are of man's own creation as he violates the laws of nature resulting into pain and agony..." 

Rajiv's response:
"Shri Wadhwa is requested to address whether his interpretation of Vedas (which is the Arya Samaj interpretation) agrees or disagrees with each of the four differences mentioned in BD. We are dealing with differences from West in BD. Unfortunately, many Arya Samaj folks I meet are obsessively dedicated to proving differences with other interpretations of dharma. The in-fighting consumes them so much that they forget that today the enemy at the gate is not some rival sampradaya..." 
.....The focus of this thread should be to deepen our understanding of the four differences wrt to the West that comprise BD. Lets put forth arguments from various dharmic traditions. The idea was not to examine the intra-dharma relations good or bad, but the inter-faith differences. I repeat for the benefit of Arya Samaj, Madhavacharya scholars and others:

Q1: Does your worldview subscribe to Integral Unity or Synthetic Unity?
Q2: Does you worldview subscribe to history centrism?
Q3: Does your worldview consider so-called "chaos" as inherent in the cosmos or as an "evil" aberration that must be permanently exterminated?
Q4: Does your worldview accept Sanskrit translation of critical words into English or does it consider these words (such as those illustrated in chapter 5) as non-translatables?
Surya responds to Wadhwa:
" ....Shri Wadhwa writes: "Though Vedanta bears references to the Upanishads which are at its foundation, yet  all the above Vedantic schools out of  their own experiences  and endowment propounded different concepts. Notwithstanding their differences, they are all unanimous in their views with regard to  omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence of God."

This is in agreement with what BD says: "the Dharmic traditions see themselves as free from Western complexes: do not bear the burden of sin and guilt, and are not shackled by institutional authority, historical precedent or religious authority. ... Throughout the (Dharmic) tradition, the pursuit of truth is inseparable from spiritual practices (Sadhana), whose purpose is to alleviate suffering and bring illumination."

If you prefer a systems model identifying common ground, please see Appendix B.

Can Shri Wadhwa focus on this central comment of his email and address whether different Vedan  tic schools and their different concepts find a common ground on the core dimensions mentioned in BD?  Would very much like to see his exposition on the common ground. .."
Thayalan writes:
"Although Shankara did say that the world is false, he did not say that the world does not exist. ....its existence is a part and parcel of the Ultimate [Existence]. It is like our ignorant belief that we have many minds. Yet in reality there is one mind in which we all see the same sun. We we had separate minds we would have the problem of running interference when we try to see one object or another. Of course, if we really had our own minds then we could easily demonstrate where it begins and where it ends.

Rajiv comment: 
Illusion is our false perception that it exists BY ITSELF as a
"thing in itself". That comes from synthetic unity worldview. What exists is the rope, but the impression that it is a snake is illusory. The rope DOES exist."

Raghu adds:
"Satya comes from sat which is 'isness', eternal, truth all rolled into one. In the Chandogya Upanishads .... Maa is measurable, ya is disappearing so maaya is a perfect description of observable and measurable phenomenon that are impermanent. Maaya is reality as a person holds his/her superficial experience and understanding of the world, Satya is profound actuality accessible only to the enlightened meditive mind"

Thatte posts:
"I think the famous statement by Shankaracharya where he calls this physical world mithya has been misinterpreted . The Sanskrit word Mithya has a number of meanings and the correct meaning depends on the context. That seems to be the
case for many words in Sanksrit, including dharma as Rajiv puts it very well in BD. Mithya can be variously translated as unreal, untrue or impermanent depending on the context.

In Shakaracharya's statement, if mithya is translated into impermanent, then the issue of real or unreal gets resolved.

This physical world is indeed real but it is not permanent. Hence it is called mithya." 

Paranjpe concurs with Thatte:
"... There is a great need to disabuse the widespread misinterpretation of such Sanskrit terms, and much mischief has resulted from the interpretation of maya as mere illusion. The result is undue dismissal of an entire body of knowledge ...

Shankaracharya ... clearly and strongly refuted such a position adopted by the Vijnanavadi Buddhists. Also, he clearly said that the world is real to the extent that our knowledge of it, although ultimately provisional, is first, consensually supported, and second, necessary to the extent it is useful in successfully dealing with practical problems.

The words sat and vidya on the one hand and asat and avidya on the other are also misunderstood. Sat means that which ALWAYS is, and never is-not, i.e., permanent. Most things in the observable world are not permanent and eternal but
open to change. The knowledge of impermanent things is itself impermanent and this idea needs some clarification.

Vidya and avidya are technical terms. Avidya is NOT ignorance as is often translated. It means empirical knowledge, which is vyaavahaarika in the sense of
being based on the vyavahaara, i.e., transactions between the knower and the known through the sensory observations with the aid of reason. Such knowledge is CONTINGENT, as it is based on who is trying to know what, under what circumstances, and on the basis of what kind of pre-understanding. There are serious limits on ALL these factors (upaadhi), and the outcome of the search of
knowledge is always contingent on these factors...

Vidya, as the Upanisads point out, is knowledge at a different (higher) level. It is obtained in a state of consciousness where the distinction between knower and known has disappeared (nirvikalpa Samadhi). In such a state there is no TRANSACTION between the knower and the known; .....absolute, and irrefutable. And that is what Shankaracharya was aiming at.

....the Isa Upanisad says that those who do not possess Avidya are damned even more than those who lack Vidya. If we lack
empirical/rational/scientific knowledge, we may not even survive in the world, let alone be wise and happy." 

Ravindra notes:
"Shankara Vedanta posits three categories,
1) SAT : That exists is unborn uncreated and eternal. Its experience sublates (surates) all other experience.
2) MAYA: Maya means that is measurable thus endowed by Guna (Sato Rajo Tamo Gunaatmika iti Maaya asti). It is changing and gets born and perishes. It is experienced, but its experience can be sublated (subrated) and also sublates.
3) Asat. It does not exist and can not even be [experienced]." 

Nagaraja comments:
"Agree with most of what Sri Wadhwa has written. The only objection is that your objections to Advaita holds true only for the degenerated version of Advaita and not the original version. ...." 

Desh adds:
" In this debate of Advaita and Dvaita, a few thoughts:

1. Hindu Scriptures have never called existence as Kriti. We have called it Srishti instead. Srishti refers to manifestation as opposed to Creation. So, this debate falls at the very first step. Manifestation is real, but it is dependent on Observation and cannot exist on its own. Just like in Quantum Mechanics - the Wave Collapse occurs BECAUSE of Observation. On its own Electron is a wave.

2. The Rope-Snake argument hinges on the same Observation principle and not "Existence-Nonexistence" dichotomy.

3. It is a scientific truth that at the sub atomic level, there is no matter.  Somewhere along the way, the energy manifests as matter - which is what the search for "God's particle" (Higgs Boson - theoretical particle which provides mass such that the energy can manifest as matter) is for. The Vibration in this
"Intelligent energy" - which many scientists are now calling "Consciousness" is thought to be the manifesting cause of form and matter. Hindu scriptures like Yoga Vashishtha say this explicitly as well."

Wadhwa provides some perspective on the Arya Samaj position on BD:
".. I would like to clarify that Maharishi Dayananda, founder of Arya Samaj never intended to establish a new religion, sect or cult.  It is a socio-religious movement to unfold truth, remove ignorance and to expound Vedic knowledge ...my  personal reply is given against each question:
Q1: Does your worldview subscribe to Integral Unity or Synthetic Unity? -  Ans.Integral Unity

Q2: Does your worldview subscribe to history centrism?  - Ans.No

Q3: Does your worldview consider so-called "chaos" as inherent in the cosmos or as an "evil" aberration that must be permanently exterminated? -  Ans.Inherent in the cosmos

Q4: Does your worldview accept Sanskrit translation of critical words into English or does it consider these words (such as those illustrated in chapter 5) as non-translatables? -
Ans. Non-translatable.  Vedic Sanskrit language, is highly symbolic,figurative, multi-dimensional and has multi meanings. Literal translation of  Vedas by some Western Scholars especially has proved disastrous.  Swami Dayananda Saraswati(1824-1883) challenged Max Muller and other  scholars for their vulger interpretation of some of the Ved Mantras(Swamiji's rebuttal can be seen in his book Rigvedadi- Bhashya -Bhumika).  "
Jayakumar shares:
"... there is no [English] translation for "mithya".  (or even satyam, for that matter).

Brahma-satyam jagat-mithya.

Three key reality-expressing words in Sanskrit:
- Satyam - that which exists independent of anything else - implying that which has always existed (therefore anaadi - beginning-less), that which exists and that which will always exist. (aatmaa, Brahman).  Therefore this cannot be finite/limited.  It has to be attribute-less.

- AnRtam - False (e.g. a circular square, horns of an eagle)

- Mithya - That whose existence depends on something else. (i.e. every object, thought or concept that we know or do not know.  Even and illusion such as a mirage is mithya, so is my computer which is more "real").

In the examples below, face is sathyam, smile is mithya (relatively speaking), etc.

Likewise water is satyam, wave is mithya (relatively speaking).

Now let us see the words in the English language conveying the reality of existence:
- False
- Unreal
- Illusion
- Real
- etc.

AnRtam can possibly be translated as false.  That is reasonable.

But the English word "Real" is used for all objects.  This computer is real and the person sitting in front is also real.  And the real computer will perish and the real person also perishes.  So where does that leave us when we want to refer to the time-independent real, the reality that sustains time itself?

Hence, in English, we are forced to use this word "Real" both for mithya and sathyam.  However, this causes confusion and is not acceptable in Advaita Vedanta.  Not properly understanding satyam and mithya, many scholars had fallen into the trap of using the words "illusion", "false" or "unreal" for mithya (and maya).  Among various other reasons, this wrong translation also contributes to passivity (and confusion).

There is no established concept of Satyam or mithya in western thought.  Hence top-notch Vedanta teachers are constrained to use the words Satyam and mithya literally, as translations into English don't exist.

.....Bhagavad Gita.  Translations are from the Bhagavad Gita Home Study Course by Swami Dayananda Saraswati of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam:

kiM karma kimakarmeti kavayo.apyatra mohitAH |
tatte karma pravakShyAmi yajj~nAtvA mokShyase.ashubhAt || (4-16)

Even the seers (scholars) are confused with reference to what is action (and) what is actionlessness. I shall tell you about action, knowing which you will be released from
what is inauspicious (samsaara).

karmaNyakarma yaH paShyedakarmaNi ca karma yaH |
sa buddhimAn manuShyeShu sa yuktaH kRRitsnakarmakRRit || (4-18)

The one who sees actionlessness in action and action in actionlessness is wise among human beings. That person is a yogi, who has done everything that is to be done." 

Nagaraja has the final word in this superb discussion:
Advaita and difference:  Lessons from Acharya's life
 Quite often, I find that certain public perception about Advaita is very different from its original spirit. And in the context of 'difference', there seems to be a perception of conflict between the notion of 'difference' and Advaita. But,if one were to dig deep and understand Advaita in an authentic way (studying authentic texts in a classical way under an Acharya's guidance and reinforcing the understanding through study of other texts such as Yoga Shasthra, Sankhya etc.), one would find that there is no conflict between the notion of 'difference' and the spirit of Advaita. I am attempting to bring this out in two independent postings - one on lessons from Acharya's life and the other on essence of Advaita philosophy itself and this posting is about the former.
 The public perception about Advaita of dismissing the world and worldly affairs as an illusion breeds its offspring's such as  -
1. Laxity in worldly duties (escapism)
2. A false ego bordering on megalo-mania that I am already great (Aham brahmasmi)
3. Everything is same; everything is Brahma(Sarvam Brahmamayam); no difference in other words;
This perception is perhaps a result of degeneration of the Jnana marga (the path of self-enquiry) into an intellectual drudgery and needs to be corrected.  In his short life-span of 32 years, the Acharya has made immense contributions in multiple fronts....
... These contributions imply that Adi Shankaracharya
  1. Took THIS WORLD seriously.  He did not have anything to gain materially or spiritually as he was a Sanyasi and was already enlightened and yet  he did so much work.  ....He was the very opposite of escapism.
  2.   He was focussed on Sadhana and results.  He knew that not everybody could follow the Jnana marga.  He therefore fostered many other ways of accessing divinity – Bhakthi, Rituals, Yoga methods and so on.  He never mixed up truths of spiritual states (such as sarvam brahmamayam) with mundane reality.  He was never oblivious of differences in worldly existence and worked with people according to their merit,....   
  3.  In spite of being a true Jagadguru, he was a hall mark of humility.  He never behaved as if he is Brahma in his wakeful (Jagruth) state.  In his conversation with the divinity he says "I am your Dasa (servant)".  He says – hey lord I am all yours but you are not mine.  His stotras praise the glory of the divinity and beg for the grace of divinity but never claim an equal status with divinity.  The spirit of his relationship with the Almighty is best illustrated by the spirit of Anjaneya whose conversation with Rama reveals a multi-faceted relationship that he enjoyed with Rama....More about this state of unity or sameness of spiritual state in the next posting on Advaita sidhdhanta.
  4. Another great man Sri Vidyaranya, 12th Jagadguru of Sringeri Shankara Peeta, also responsible for consolidating the advaita Vedanta (which was spread in various commentaries of Adi shankara) is an excellent example of balance between spiritual world and material world.  Even though he lead an ascetic life himself, he worked fervently to build a Dharmic empire of Vijayanagara and till date the the material glory that the kingdom had attained is unparalleled.  To a possible surprise of many of us in the modern world, the Dvaita philosophy and Dvaita scholars also flourished well under the regime of Vijayanagara whose king-maker was a staunch Advaitist. So, by no means was he an ivory tower weaver of impractical theories. 
Thus a common public perception of Advaita is very distorted and does not carry the spirit of Acharya.  It is only the distorted version that can dilute the value of difference and cause an escape from assertion of difference.  The original spirit of Acharya does not negate or dilute the value of difference."

No comments:

Post a Comment