[Advaita-l] Re: doubt

V. Krishnamurthy profvk at yahoo.com
Thu Jan 29 18:12:15 CST 2004

Namaste, Krishnan-ji raises the following four fundamental

The crux of Advaita as I understand it, is that God is
impersonal. That he 
is formless,attributeless, nameless etc. 1. If so, who are
Vishnu, Brahma, Siva and why do we celebrate their forms? 
2. In reality if its maya which makes us think that they
are Gods and we are mortals, then once we have the
knowledge that we are them(tat tvam asi), should we still
3. For isn't it also true that Shankaracharya believed 
that Knowledge alone is sufficent for salvation? Again,
please do correct me 
if I am wrong.
4. In short, would it be corrrect to deduce that the Great
Acharyas like Shankaracharya found happiness within
themsleves and  composed hymns & 
glorified the deities only for the benefit of the common
people ?
I shall try to answer these with the little knowledge and
experience that I have. There could be other answers,
better answers, and more convincing answers. To seek these
answers is the business of a group such as ours. So let me
venture to give my own. Please pardon me if the post turns
out to be rather long. The questions are wonderfully
fundamental and I have to compose  the answers through  a
fundamentally wonderful path.

I first take questions 2 and 3, because I think the crux of
the matter is here. Both questions harp on the theme that
there is a ‘knowledge’ out there (as if there is a library
of books) and once we ‘possess’ it then that is the end of
it! The naive assumptions that this theme makes is at the
bottom of all the doubts. 

Shankaracharya did establish that ‘it is only through jnAna
that one is released from the cycle of births and deaths’.
But in translating this ‘jnAna’ as the English word
‘knowledge’ we fall into the trap of thinking it  is
book-knowledge that we are talking about. No. We are not
talking about book-knowledge. Such knowledge is called
‘indirect knowledge’ (Skt: paroksha-jnAna).  When the
Acharya says ‘jnAnAdeva mokshaH’, he means that moksha is
possible only by ‘aparoksha-jnAna’ (meaning, ‘Direct
knowledge’ or Experiential knowledge). 

Now the Acharya had this ‘aparoksha-jnAna’. How do I know
it? Only by inference! In modern days Ramana Maharishi had
this ‘aparoksha jnAna’. But just because great people like
Shankara and Ramana had ‘aparoksha jnAna’ that does not
mean they had no thirst or hunger.  In fact both were
jIvan-muktas. But they behaved in the outer world just as a
normal human being with extremely sAtvic character will
behave. You may ask: “Then, what is the meaning of  ‘I am
Brahman (aham brahmAsmi)’? If they were brahman, and they
knew it, not only knew it but ‘were’ brahman, why did they
have thirst and hunger?”  This is where we have to
understand the difference between the ordinary people’s
understanding of ‘I am brahman’ and the paroksha-jnAna that
such great men had of being brahman. 
You and I think – pardon me if the word ‘you’ hurts; it is
my way of referring to the ordinary layman – that ‘being
brahman’ means no thirst or hunger. Well, no thirst or
hunger for whom?  For brahman. Because in brahman, there is
no second thing and so there is no question of ‘its’
desiring something, like food or water.  But the human body
– mark the word ‘body’ carefully; it includes ‘mind and
intellect’ also – in which you see a Shankara or a Ramana, 
 does have  thirst and hunger. The body drinks water, eats
food, speaks to others, prays to God, and does all the
things you would expect a satvic charactered person would

So now comes your million dollar ‘doubt’! Why does
Shankara, being brahman, eat food and pray to God?  I have
posed your question  in such a way that the fallacy will
come out.  It is the placing of the words ‘being brahman’ 
that is wrong. I will explain.

Shankara as brahman does not need food or eat food or pray
to God. So is the same thing with Ramana. It is the BMI of
Shankara and Ramana that eats food and also prays to God.
Shankara and Ramana know the difference between their BMI
and their own svarUpa which is brahman. Only you and I mix
the two. Shankara and Ramana know they are brahman and they
live in that brahman-being.  So they are not drinking water
or eating food or praying to God.  But we – you and I –
think that Shankara is eating food, while it is their body
that is eating food and drinking water.  We mix their BMI
with their brahman-being. But they don’t do any such
mixing. And that is why they are great and incomprehensible
to us; and that is why, we keep on discussing whether a
jIvan-mukta eats or not!

Now you can yourself compose answers to your questions 1
and 4. Brahma and Vishnu and Shiva are only physical
manifestations of the Absolute Reality that is brahman. 
Just as you and I are. Except that, they not only know they
are such manifestations but can switch back and forth to
their Brahman-being and their physical forms.
Theoretically, this is the answer. But to the question:
“whether they exist, like you and me existing”, I have no
answer except to tell you that great people like Shankara
have behaved as if they exist. That is enough of a proof
for me as far as question 1 is concerned. 

To Question 4 Gita says that such great people, though they
are established in brahman,  act in the world as if – mark
the words ‘as if’ – they belonged to the world and as if
they are ‘attached’. They do it for ‘loka-sangrahArtham’
that is, for the benefit of the welfare of the world. 

‘But the world does not exist in advaita’ – I hear somebody
repeating this, at this point. This is the standard error
we all fall into. First of all ‘the world does not exist in
advaita’ is not a precise  statement. Secondly, the mixing
of the Absolute Level and the phenomenal level is wrong
logic. When the BMI’s of great people like Shankara and
Ramana act, that action is at the phenomenal level. But
they themselves are at the Absolute Level. They have no
confusion about the two levels; because at one level they
act and at the other (Paramarthik – absolute) level, there
is no action, no agent of action, no purpose of action . 
But we mix the two levels when talking about them and end
up in unending ‘contradictions’. 

PraNAms to all seekers of Truth.

Prof. V. Krishnamurthy
My website on Science and Spirituality is http://www.geocities.com/profvk/
You can  access my book on Gems from the Ocean of Hindu Thought Vision and Practice,  and my father R. Visvanatha Sastri's manuscripts from the site.
Also see the webpages on Paramacharya's Soundaryalahari :

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