"Does God make mistakes?"

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Tue Jul 8 04:43:49 CDT 1997

On Tue, 8 Jul 1997, Martin Gifford wrote:


> >Q. Can pure consciousness ever be divided from Itself?
> A. Well - WITHIN Itself. As is evident. Otherwise all the body/mind
> mechanisms would be saying the same thing and working towards the same goal
> and not arguing about advaita, etc. :-)
> >Q. But what SEPARATE one is really there to sense this so-called
> A. There is no separate one. The division is only imagined at particular
> points in space and time. The separation is believed. That is the point. And
> it causes mischief and waste. Yes or no? And our goal is to get rid of this
> sense of separation.

Quite an interesting dialogue.

If one says that pure consciousness can be divided *within* itself, then
such division is either real or apparent/unreal. If one simultaneously
says there is no real separation, there is a logical problem of
contradiction. It is to remove such a contradiction that advaitins talk of
avidyA and mAyA. On the other hand, if one says that reality is made up of
so many parts, which are inseparable, then it follows that one is not an
advaitin, but a viSishTAdvaitin.

To keep these two senses distinct, (i.e. no real separation, and an
apparent division within pure consciousness), advaitins also talk of
vyavahAra and paramArtha. This framework allows the advaitin to deny all
distinctions when discussing moksha, and to allow some valid distinctions
at the level of vyavahAra, so that ethics, morals, religion and law can be
meaningfully discussed. To forget such a distinction leads either to
relativizing everything, which can be fallacious, or to regarding
everything as an absolute reality, which is nothing but samsAra.

> >Q. How can violence really "come" and "go?"  Isn't the Self always complete?
> A. The word "violence" pertains to a particular experience which we all
> know. And it comes and goes. And the shockwaves continue on.
> >Q. ...violence may not really be the problem at all.
> I disagree. When you see violence do you just say "all is one" and leave it
> there? I feel it in my heart and my guts. I sense there is something wrong.
> Surely most of us do.?

Violence is in the realm of vyavahAra. While a jnAnI does not have any use
for vyavahAra, I do not think any true jnAnI would condone violence or
even try to explain it. Truly, he who indiscriminately does violence is
the most deluded of all, and although moksha always exists, the man who is
wantonly violent remains forever ignorant of the fact. His violence and
his ignorance feed on each other.


> This comment you make I feel is the essential error that some advaitans
> make. "All is one" should come BEFORE actions. Not after ignorant actions!
> And not as justification for ignorant actions!

Yes, not as justification for ignorant actions. However, if one really
knows "all is one," one does no more action. Therefore, this knowledge
does not come before actions.

> >Q. The Self is all that there really is.
> A. And It's expression - activities, thoughts, feelings, experiences,
> intuitions creativity and love.

Only in the relative sense of vyavahAra, not in an ultimate sense. The
Self is intrinsically beyond activity, thought, feeling etc.

True advaita is not indifferent to any sort of ethical feeling, but it is
meta-ethical. Only a truly ethical person can develop the necessary
capability to see beyond ignorance, beyond good and evil. But there is
something to be said about good, in that it prepares one for going beyond
good and its opposite, whereas evil only draws one into its vicious
circle. Never equate good and evil except in denying both at the
ultimate level. If such a distinction of the ultimate (paramArtha) and
the relative (vyavahAra) is not made, much confusion can result. All
religion or ethics or law is preparatory to the true jnAnI. He may deny
any ultimate multiplicity, but he never denies the value of all these at
the level of vyavahAra.


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