[Advaita-l] Question I

Siva Senani Nori sivasenani at yahoo.com
Tue Oct 19 06:37:01 CDT 2010

Dear Sri Mandal

Since you have read the complete works of Swami Vivekananda, I must say you are 
quite an advanced learner. So, I hope the following makes sense to you.

My understanding is like this:

The Vedas give us true knowledge; they teach that Brahman and self are the same. 
As support the four mahAvAkyas are sufficient proof. I will come to them 
shortly. First, a bit about the Vedas. Indian philosophy has what are knows as 
shad-darSanas, six philosophies. These are usually paired as sA~Nkhya-yoga; 
nyAya-vaiSeshika; and pUrvamImAmsA-uttaramImAmsA (or vedanta, or advaita-vedanta 
if you wish to distinguish between dvaita and viSishTAdvaita vedAnta). 

Of these six, three do not admit of ISvara, or God. They are called 
nirISvaravAdas. Quite different from these are the nAstikamatas of Bauddha, 
Jaina and ChArvAka, which do not believe in the authority of Veda. The three 
nirISvaramatas are sA~Nkhya, yoga and mImAmsA (pUrvamImAmsA) set about answering 
the fundamental questions that confront a philosopher and when they found that 
they can be answered quite satisfactorily without introducing an ISvara, they 
let that be. 

Many say that it is the naiyAyikas who proved the existence of God by logic. 
This is in the background of Buddhist philosophy which has no place for God. For 
a period of 1,000 to 1,500 years, the Buddhist philosophy and argumentation 
seemed much sounder, at any rate more sophisticated, than that of the 
sanAtanadharma (what is called Hinduism today) to many. It is said that the 
great naiyAyika UdayanAchArya proved the existence of God in his book called the 
nyAyakusumA~njali (I have not yet studied this, so I can't give more 
information). There is also a popular verse which UdayanAchArya is supposed to 
have composed when he was denied entrance to the Jagannath temple in Puri, where 
he tell the God, JagannAtha "You have become arrogant [and close the doors to 
me] but remember that your very existence is due to me!". 

Even the other three which believe in ISvara give the logic why it should be 
so. Amongst all these, the reasoning behind Advaita seems soundest to many. This 
is why Vivekananda so proudly proclaimed that if any religion can stand the test 
of religion, it is advaita.

The point that I try to make is that the existence of God was a question which 
was to be logically answered according to our ancestors. Yet, they seemed to 
have no problem in accepting the Veda as an authority. This might seem as naive 
to somebody in the present times, but this belief in Veda is the bedrock of the 
claim of advaita-vedAnta to be the revealer of the Truth. If you can believe in 
the prAmANyata of Veda, there are more than a hundred texts in Sanskrit - many 
of them translated into English and other languages - which show why Sankara's 
teaching - or slight variants or some additions thereof - is the correct 
interpretation of the Veda, and therefore the Truth. 

If you do not have faith (the best word for that in Indian languages is SraddhA) 
in the Vedas, then you should refer to the modern texts, what are often referred 
to - with varying degrees of disapproval - as neo-vedanta, for proof of 
advaita's validity. The purport of these texts (this is strictly second hand 
knowledge, I have not even read Vivekananda, a neo-Vedantin according to some, 
fully) is that the teaching of advaita can be established without resorting to 
the Veda. One of the most preferred methods of this school is the 
avasthAtrayaparIkshA. This examines what happens when one is awake, in dreamful 
sleep and deep dreamless sleep and logically concludes that there ought to be a 
fourth state which is the sub-stratum (the base on which the other three states 
stand). Then further logic establishes that this fourth or turIyA state is the 
same as Brahman. Once the identity of Brahman and self is established, the world 
can only be explained as a temporary, ephemeral (impermanent, fleeting like a 
bubble) phenomenon. Since that alone which exists in past, in present, and in 
future is defined as real, the ephemeral world is unreal, or "an illusion". 

The older texts quote four mahAvAkyas - 1. praj~nAnam brahma, 2. ayam AtmA 
brahma, 3. tat tvam asi and 4. aham brahmAsmi from the four Vedas, which state 
in clear plain language that the self and Brahman are the same. These are 
revealed in the Upanishads. The ten upanishads commentated upon by 
bhagavatpAda AdiSan~NkarAchArya are the basis, the text book if you will, of 
advaita-vedAnta. To continue the metaphor, a criticism of these is the 
BrahmasUtras - the aphorisms which teach Brahman. These were composed by the 
great teacher bAdarAyaNa (held to be the same rishi who divided the Vedas, wrote 
the Mahabharata and the Puranas) and commentated upon by Sri Sankara. This is 
called a criticism because it resolves apparent conflicts amongst the Upanishads 
(which are intuitive rather than logical) and otherwise expand upon and explain 
the text. They are like the books of Criticism on Shakespeare (these collect far 
more space on library racks than the collected works of Shakespeare!) that you 
find, which are not the original text but which explain and expand upon the main 
text. Then there is a case study - a situation in real life where one is 
required to apply the knowledge contained in these texts. When Arjuna was called 
upon to kill his cousins, relatives, family and friends, he got confused and the 
Lord helped him apply the knowledge contained in the Vedas properly by teaching 
the Gita. This was in turn commentated upon by Sri Sankara. These three - 
commentaries on the ten Upanishads, BrahmasUtras and Bhagavadgita - together 
form the prasthAnatraya. The three major variants of Vedanta have equivalents of 
this prasthAnatraya. There are 22 commentaries on the BrahmasUtras. In all the 
schools there are super-commentaries, glosses or other texts which explain and 
expand the prasthAnatrayI texts. Since these texts have grown so much in bulk, 
there are other shorter texts called prakaraNa granthas which explain the 
teachings of Vedanta in a short concise manner. The purport of all these texts 
is that Veda says Brahman and Self are the same (or not according to the school 
of thought the author believes in), and therefore everything else follows.

In both the older and newer texts, you will find the answer to your question, 
depending on whether you have faith in Vedas or not.

It is very useful to consider the means of truth of the nirISvara schools. They 
all accept Sruti/Sabda/AptavAkya as a valid means of 
knowledge. The sA~NkhyakArikas say, one who speaks the truth is an Apta. Their 
logic is that somebody who knows the truth and who wishes you well, would not 
mislead you. One's father qualifies as a well-wisher, though he might not be 
knowledgeable; but his father could be knowledgeable; or his father; and so no, 
all our ancestors. So, following this school of thought, my belief in 
Advaita-vedanta is provisional till I think I know better than all my ancestors. 
The ancestors include not merely my forefathers, but all the rishis and all the 
great authors. The day I can truthfully claim that I know better than all of 
them, I will believe what I deduced from logic; till then, I will take AptavAkya 
as a valid means of knowledge, and so believe in AdvaitavedAnta. This is not 
idle talk; one great achArya, SrimanmadhvAchArya, started by learning Advaita, 
but he reached a state of knowledge where he believed that all earlier AchAryas 
were wrong and so gave his own interpretation which came to be known as the 
Madhvamatam or Dvaita. I come from a family which believes in Vedas and Advaita 
and so till I reach such exalted heights, I try to study and understand advaita 
as per my capacity.

As an aside, to me knowing the Truth is not the issue; internalising the Truth 
or what to do after knowing the Truth is the issue. Let me walk you through with 
two examples:

a) Suppose advaita-vedAnta is correct, and nothing else. So you and I are 
Brahman, the same. Since both of us are same, all the money in my bank (not 
much, but still) ought to be yours. And, I ought to have no problem in 
transferring it to you. Can I do it? Till I can't, I am not really living the 
Truth. Or is there something that I am missing? I dont know.

b) ViSishTAdvaita is correct. They say Sri Ramanuja shouted from a rooftop, the 
charama Sloka or the ultimate teaching, which is the Sloka "sarva dharmAn 
parityajya..." of the Gita. This teaching says, I ought to let go of everything 
and surrender totally to Lord Sri Krishna, but I am unable to do it. I ought to 
immerse myself totally in devotion to Lord Sri Krishna, but the situation is 
that I quite enjoy a Sehwag or a Laxam or a Sachin innings (and so many other 
things besides these)! I do not doubt the validity of this Sloka one bit, but I 
am not able to do it. Either I am an idiot or I don't internalise the Truth. I 
am still figuring out.

When you stop bothering about the Big Truth and look at what various schools say 
is the route to this Big Truth, it turns out to be largely the same (except that 
of the CharvAka school). A one road leading to many cities! That route is the 
ashTAnga yoga, the eight-fold path of Buddhists, the dharmAchAra of both 
mImAmsakas and so on. It requires that your head rule over your heart, otherwise 
known as indriya-vinigraha. This seems to be a far more profitable and practical 
goal to focus on, because greatness in any field - sports, business, politics, 
scholarship etc. - seems to come to those with this indriya-vinigraha. If you 
want an example, look at the similar beginnings and contrasting progress of the 
careers of Vinod Kambli and Sachin Tendulkar.

Phew!, that was long. Wishing you all the best in your efforts
N. Siva Senani
(Male, 39, Hyderabad, India, married, two kids, with a working knowledge of 
Dear sirs/madams, 

I am new to the realm of Vedanta. I have studied the basics. But as a beginner, 
I have many questions. One of the most fundamental questions that I have is: 

Why should I believe the Adavaita Vedanta philosophy over any other 
philosophy/religion? What evidence does Advaita have to back up its claims? 

Grateful if you could answer my question as thorougly as possible.
Thank you.

Abhyudaya Mandal

My background -- I am 16 yrs old. Most of my Vendata "knowledge" consists of 
reading the Gospel of Ramakrishna, and Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, and 
a few articles on the Divine Life Society site. (My knowledge is very limited). 
However, I have studied Christianity, especially, fundamentalist evangelical 
Christianity for several years formally (My school has mandatory Bible courses).

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From: Roshan Mandal <roshanmandal at yahoo.com>
To: advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
Sent: Tue, October 19, 2010 1:28:29 AM
Subject: [Advaita-l] Question I


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