"Jagat satya!"

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Sun Jul 14 21:12:52 CDT 2002

On Fri, 12 Jul 2002, Jagannath Chatterjee wrote:

> Dear Sirs,
> Namaskar.
> Sri Ramakrishna had certain things to say about
> vedanta which is peculiar to Him.

We recently discussed on the list (you can search the archives) that Shri
Ramakrishna wass probably not really an Advaitin at all.  Rather he
belongs squarely in the also venerable and profound Bengali Tantric
tradition.  In the 19th century, Bengal was the epicenter of colonialism.
Some people became totally Westernized and converted to Christianity,
others retreated completely into Indian culture and raised the barricades.
There was a third group that felt loyal to their heritage but also wanted
to prove to the world at large that Hinduism was just as modern and up to
date as any other religion.  The trouble is to the prudish Victorian mind
Tantra seemed backward and immoral.  But Advaita Vedanta was highly
respected by both our public and the Westerners so everything got
reinterpreted through the prism of Advaita Vedanta.

> He refused to say
> that the "jagat" is "mithya". Though a vedantist to
> the core (He belonged to the Dashnami group)

Although the Dashanami order was founded by Shankaracharya, there are
several sects today which are rebel offshoots.  For instance ISKCON.  The
Gaudiya Vaishnavas are definitely not Advaitins by any stretch of the

The ideas you mention do not make sense within the framework of Advaita
Vedanta but they do from a Tantric point of view.  Tantra is also non-dual
to some extent so there is a lot in common but there are also vital

> He was of
> the opinion that the world was as
> real as the consciousness behind it for had not God
> become the world? How can God be "mithya"!.

Advaita Vedanta doesn't teach that God becomes the world per se.  God
(Brahman) is the underlying substrate of all that exists but due to maya
it appears that the eternal and partless substrate is manifold and subject
to creation, destruction etc.  It is this world-appearence which is

And yes if by God we mean Brahman in the saguna aspect He too belongs to
the realm of Maya being a superimposition on the true nirguna essence of
Brahman.  The philosophical views of Tantra on the nature of the universe
are very similiar to Samkhya and Shankaracharya spends a lot of time
refuting those views in Brahmasutrabhashya II.1

> He considered duality to be a stepping stone to
> nonduality.

For Shankaracharya the idea that duality can lead to non-duality is absurd
like saying overeating can lead to thinness.  Yes duality has to be
accepted as the current condition of the deluded jiva.  But it must be
renounced in totality before an attempt can be made on non-duality.  Thus
only the sannyasi is the true Advaitin.

> He said that when one reaches the roof one
> finds that the staircase is made up of the same cement
> and bricks as the roof.

The Advaitin would find that there never actually was a staircase and he
had been on the roof all along without knowing it. :)

> He advised his devotees to enjoy the "lila" even after realising the
> "nitya". He rued that He Himself had opted out of the game by burning
> His bridges behind Him.

According to Shankaracharya the shastras prescribe two paths.  Pravrtti
for those who are "worldly" with three goals dharma, artha, and kama, and
Nivrtti for those who seek moksha.  There is an unbridgeable gulf between
these two paths.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
It's a girl! See the pictures - http://www.braincells.com/shailaja/

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