Advaita Vedānta and Hindu Philosophy
When they see the diverse variety of living beings situated in one single cosmic spirit, and understand all of them to be born from it, they attain the realization of Brahman
(यदा भूतपृथग्भावमेकस्थमनुपश्यति |तत एव च विस्तारं ब्रह्म सम्पद्यते तदा ||Gita 13-31||).
What greater a proclamation, than that of Advaita Vedānta . An expression that coalesces the universe and you - harmonizing our being into an infinite play of journeying towards moksha.
The Advaita Vedānta is the oldest extant sub-school of Vedānta - one of the six orthodox (āstika) Hindu philosophies (darśana).
Dating back to it's origin in the Upanishads, its' roots trace back to the first millennium BCE, with Hindu philosopher and theoligian - Adi Shankara, consolidating the literature contingent on śāstra ("scriptures"), yukti ("reason") anubhava ("experiential knowledge"), and karmas ("spiritual practices").
One of the virtues in Hindu Philosophy study, is the pardoning of subjectivity. With a spiritual library dating back to beginning of time, scholars are disciplined in interpreting the many complexities of the holy scriptures.
One such scholar, was Adi Shankara himself - unravelling an ancient doctrine with logic to stand prevalent today.
Modern adaptations of Shankaras work in non-dualism of the Advaita Vedānta - have given rise to soteriological goals in understanding of the atman and brahman.
The Visualization of Brahma
Classic Advaita Vedānta states that Brahman is the fundamental reality underlying all objects and experiences. Brahman is explained as pure existence, pure consciousness and pure bliss. Consciousness according to the Advaita School is not a property of Brahman but its very nature. This absolute Brahman is known as nirguņa Brahman, or Brahman “without qualities,”.
This Brahman is ever known to Itself and constitutes the reality in all individuals selves, while the appearance of our empirical individuality is credited to avidya (ignorance) and māyā (illusion). Brahman thus cannot be known as an individual object distinct from the individual self. However, it can be experienced indirectly in the natural world of experience as a personal God, known as saguņa Brahman, or Brahman with qualities. It is usually referred to as īśvara (the Lord).
Belonging to jīva, tula–avidya, or individual ignorance performs two functions – veils Brahman, and projects (vikṣepa) a separate world. Mula–avidya (“root ignorance”) is the universal ignorance that is equivalent to Māyā, and is controlled by īśvara. With the help of epistemological discussions, the non-reality of the duality between Brahman and world is established. The Vivarana School responds to the question regarding Brahman’s existence as both “pure consciousness” and “universal ignorance” by claiming that valid cognition (prama) presumes avidya, in the everyday world, whereas pure consciousness is the essential nature of Brahman.
What greater proclamation than that which says you are the center of the universe, that you are the universe.
That there is no distinction between your being and the universe, besides your illusion of it. The illusion that the whole of creation is just as intertwined, not an illusion to say that the world is figurative, but there is a greater value in our experience in revealing its mystery.
Where we only perceive the world through our eyes, and even with the aid of modern sciences, we only comprehend a percent of its infinites - for the truest core of the origin of the universe is intangible, yet those who truly experience, can feel the oneness of every atom, star and galaxy.
The universe is a cosmic play of reincarnation and unspoken sophistication, with billions of souls existing, exiting and evolving simultaneously in one spiritual saga of living.
But how do we decide what, when and why we reenter the cycle? To be born as a king or a pauper, to be expressed in a second or decade, to live or not to live, to die or not to die.
In comes Hindu philosophy based on the premise of the law of karma – wherein each one of us is the maker of our own fate – where we and we alone are responsible for our struggles and rewards. Where we are the effects and we are the causes – and so we are free
of guilt or pity for our circumstance – because if we found a way in we can find a way out.
Hindu philosophy always turns inwards for this answer – and while there is no clear answer for what and who the soul is – it is agreed that it is eternal and immortal, without beginning nor end . That there is nothing polar – that black implies white and north implies south – that we are two sides of the same coin – that there is no good or bad – and in this way the soul is neither this nor that.
The same soul that which resides in a butterfly is the same soul of a queen.
There is one supreme soul and we are mere manifestations of it – just as our arms and legs are different manifestations of the same body.
And so finally this leads to the idea of Brahma – the ultimate reality.
The foundation of all that exists – present in all things living and non-living.
There are two ideas of brahma – personal and impersonal. One is the ideal of a personal god, the imagination of a father, mother and friend that becomes the creator of the universe – and the impersonal which is beyond all description, because it is beyond human vice and virtue – an ultimate reality to view all of creation as one experience.
Hindu Philosophy is practical – it understand that humans live to certain ideals – therefore the ideal of the personal god expresses the greatest expression of humanity – one which is the embodiment of truth and love – until you realize that there is no distinction between you and it.
Until you experience the oneness of it, until you experience a world devoid of separation - and one synonymous with your personal projection of Brahma.
The Ultimate Teaching of Non-Duality
The Sanskrit term "advaita" refers to non-duality.
Non-duality meaning "not" "two" - in the philosophical sense means to resonate intellectually, emotionally, and physically - your oneness with the cosmos.
That there is no division and separation between matter of the universe, because that separation is a mere illusion of maya.
You experience three states of consciousness, waking (jagrat), dreaming (svapbha) and deep sleep (sushupti).
In the dream world, you take your dream life and dream problems very seriously - but when your sleep breaks, you feel relieved - because you realize that you were never in the dream, but the dream was in you. You emanated the dream into existence with your consciousness.
Yet, the similarities of your waking life and your dream life hold an interlocking connection.
Common to waking, dreaming and deep sleep - there is one awareness that was aware of it all. That awareness is not who you are in your waking world, since it too was present in your deep sleep (when your waking persona was absent) - that awareness shows you that you are not who you are in the waking world, dream world, or the self of deep sleep - you are the one who is aware of all three.
Therefore you are not in your mind and body, but rather your mind and body are in you.
Three Planes of Existence
There are three planes of existence according to classical Advaita Vedānta: the plane of absolute existence (paramarthika satta), the plane of worldly existence (vyavaharika satta) which includes this world and the heavenly world, and the plane of illusory existence (pratibhāsika existence). The two latter planes of existence are a function of māyā and are thus illusory to some extent.
The independent existence of a mirage and the world, both of which are due to a certain causal condition, ceases once the causal condition change. The causal condition is avidya, or ignorance. The independent existence and experience of the world ceases to be with the gain of knowledge of Brahman. The nature of knowledge of Brahman is that “I am pure consciousness.” The self-ignorance of the jīva (individuated self) that “I am limited” is replaced by the Brahman-knowledge that “I am everything,” accompanied by a re-identification of the self with the transcendental Brahman.
In the Tantric cosmology, the whole universe is perceived as being created, penetrated and sustained by two fundamental forces, which are permanently in a perfect, indestructible union. These forces or universal aspects are called Shiva and Shakti.
From a metaphysical point of view, the divine couple Shiva-Shakti corresponds to two essential aspects of divinity: the masculine principle, which represents the abiding aspect of God, and the feminine principle, which represents Its Energy, the Force which acts in the manifested world and life itself.
Non-dualism in captured in images of Shiva and Shakti who are often copulating as a way of expressing their ontological entanglement, in this tradition – Shiva and Shakti are consciousness and energy – two things that interact to evolve every expression of life – giving rise to the ideal that they are inseparable – you cannot can have Shiva without Shakti and Shakti without Shiva.
Advaita Vedanta considers the Self or Brahman as the Supreme Reality. It is pure consciousness and of the form of Knowledge (svarupa jnana). The mind is a mere instrument without self-awareness and comprehends the objects by assuming their mode (vritti). However, by itself it is inert and is illumined by the Self. The knowledge of the world is untrue because it changes with time. What is true is the knowledge of the Self (atmajnana) or the highest knowledge (Brahmavidya).
Advaita Vedanta sees no distinction between Brahman and Atman, the individual Self. Atman in the body is also Brahman only. Brahman cannot be known rationally or in duality, except as what he is not. However, it does not mean Brahman is nothing or emptiness. For the sake of creation, he whose nature is truth, consciousness, and bliss (satchidananda) projects himself as Isvara, or Brahman with qualities (saguna Brahman). There is no distinction between the two. Both are Brahman only, but one is supreme and constant, and the other is a projection and an illusion. Liberation is attained when a person overcomes the illusion of duality and division and perceives himself as eternal, supreme, universal Self.
You are that absolute reality which is the essence of all and rules everything (स य एषोऽणिमैतदात्म्यमिद सर्वं तत्सत्य स आत्मा तत्त्वमसि ॥Chandogya Upanishad, 6.8.7॥)