[Advaita-l] Real vs. Unreal

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Thu Dec 12 11:49:49 CST 2013

> I think the scholars are missing my question or argument. Let me re-phrase for clarity. We don't need sastras or a guru to determine a. I exist or b. The world is not what it appears to be. My existence is self - evident to me. I know that a pot is clay, which in turn is made of elements, which in turn is form of energy. A pot is not what it appears to be. I need sastras only to tell me of things I can't know otherwise - the future effect of dharma and adharma, existence of unseen realities such as devas and Ishwara. 


You know that you exist, but how do you know that you are not what you appear to be to yourself, except through SAstra? The function of SAstra is not to merely confirm the bare fact of your existence but to reveal your true nature to yourself.

> The world is not what it appears to be but the question is whether it has existence or not is the question. The inevitability of the experience of a pot even for a jnani makes us wonder whether his conclusion that the world was never created and does not exist is true. If we see water on a desert land during summer afternoon, we will think its a mirage but if we see it even after the sun sets (equivalent of dawn of knowledge), will we say that there's no water? 


This is quite the wrong analogy for the dawn of knowledge and the state of ignorance. Once the sun sets in the desert, you really have no way to see either the mirage or the water. If you see water at a distance in a desert land during a summer afternoon, you will suspect (not think) that it could be a mirage. This is saMSaya or doubt, the function of the manas. You also have something called buddhi, the intellect, which steps in with its function of adhyavasAya (or determination) and looks for ways to convince yourself one way or the other, between an oasis and a mirage. Separately from both these aspects of your mental process, you have thirst, a physical need for water, which will go away neither through the doubting act of the manas, nor by the action of the buddhi in determining the question one way or the other. Therefore, the setting of the sun is not like the dawn of knowledge. Rather, it represents the shutting down of both your manas and your buddhi, a situation that will hardly help you when you are thirsty in the middle of a desert.


Translated to bandha-moksha vyavahAra and the function of SAstra, the initial dawn of knowledge, "yes, I am brahman, nothing else," is the adhyavasAya that happens in the buddhi, once you have grasped what the SAstra conveys. This can initially be nothing more than a mere glimpse of the truth, fine. But if you have been really thirsty in the desert, and once you have determined that it is indeed water, not a mirage, you better make your way to it quickly in order to quench your thirst. And once you reach the oasis, why would you leave and wander again in the desert? Similarly, once you have glimpsed the really real, even if it is only paroksha jnAna based on SAstra vicAra in your buddhi, you had better keep going towards it and disregard any and all distractions that stand in the way. Why go after the numerous mirages that your eyes will invariably see, once you have glimpsed the only oasis in the desert? This is at first jijnAsA and then jnAna-nishThA.


If you have wrongly concluded that the advaitic vision of brahman is a mirage, not an oasis, you will keep going after the infinite number of mirages that you will inevitably see while you get lost wandering in the desert, and needless to say, you will forever remain thirsty. Eventually, your only chance of getting some water is to come back to the one and only oasis that you wrongly rejected as a mirage. In the 5th verse chapter of the upadeSasAhasrI, Sankara bhagavatpAda compares this situation to that of udanka, who rejected an offer of amRta out of suspicion that it was mUtra. (Read the mahAbhArata for the story of udanka.)


Best regards,


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