Thursday, April 19, 2012

Essence of Advaita: A Question - Answer Session - Part 1/3

Essence of Advaita -- A Question- Answer Session - Part 1/3
(Excerpted from Yogavaasishta, Chapter VI: Nirvana, Book - II, Sarga 190)


[Part 2/3          Part 3/3]

Rama:  Revered Master!  How can the knowability attributed to the Knowledge be attenuated?  The thought, “I am bound”, is very strongly entrenched within us.  How do we reverse it?
Sage Vasishta:  The inanity of the mind responsible for such an illusion will fade away from a study of Self-Knowledge.  The formless, eternal and tranquil liberation can be achieved by proceeding on the Sevenfold Knowledge Path.
Rama:  If a substance has several components and attributes within it, then a detailed study of those parts and properties may gradually add up to a complete knowledge about the substance.  But what you are talking here is about a substance that is indivisible and without any attributes whatsoever.  That is the Consciousness-Knowledge.  Does the word ‘complete’ ever be applicable to a description of such Knowledge?
Sage Vasishta:  True Knowledge cannot ‘be a known’.  Nor is it possible to teach anything about Pure and Absolute Knowledge.  Hence once the misapprehension owing to ignorance is eliminated, whatever remains at the end is called Perfect Knowledge.
Rama:  What would then happen to the separate knowable component of Knowledge that was within the Knowledge?  Moreover when you use the word ‘Knowledge’, does it imply the ‘concept of knowing’ or ‘a means to know’ i.e. ‘something causal to the act of knowing’?  
Sage Vasishta:  ‘Knowledge’ implies the process of knowing.  With respect to this type of ‘Knowledge’, there is no difference between what is ‘to be known’ and ‘Knowledge’.  They are like the movement and wind.
Rama:  If that were to be the case, the imaginary difference between what is ‘to be known’ and ‘Knowledge’ has to be something like the horn of a hare – an impossibility to occur.  A thing that is impossible to exist cannot be instrumental in getting any work done.  But we find in the world that all works in the three time periods of past, present and future get executed by the difference between ‘what is known’ and the ‘Knowledge’. 
 Sage Vasishta:  You seem to opine that a non-existent thing can never be seen and it cannot be a cause for happiness or sorrow.  But are you not able to see a dream though it does not exist?   Don’t you experience happiness and sorrow in a dream? 
So the beingness or otherwise of a thing cannot be decided based on the criterion whether it appears or not.  The decisive criterion cannot also be the thing’s ability to cause happiness or sorrow.  The real principle will have to be whether the thing can be sublated or not.  If a thing cannot be sublated, we have to accept that it truly exists.  If it can be sublated, it lacks existence even though it has an appearance. Sublation refers to the elimination of a thing along with its cause as, for example, the snake in the rope. 
Examined from this stand, if you find a thing to be separate from you and is external to you, it has to be an illusion only.  There is no possibility for the existence of a substance within you and be separate from you.  Hence there is no question of any separate substance being present either inside you or outside you.  Therefore, there is no scope for any transactions happening.
Rama:  How can this be acceptable, Sir?  You, me, the five fundamental elements, the world around us are all directly seen by us.  How are we to deny their existence completely?
Sage Vasishta:  Rama, you are attempting to establish the true ‘beingness’ or otherwise of a substance based on the things in this creation and by an analysis of their cause-effect relationships. For example, you think that a pot is made out of a real lump of clay.  Hence the pot, you seem to conclude, has also to be real.  The approach adopted by you is okay.  But then dig deeper.  Go back to the very beginning of creation. 
What was there prior to creation?  There were neither any substances nor any tools.  There was only an illusion.  Hence the Macrocosm (Virat Purusha) born at the beginning of creation, the five fundamental elements etc. have got to be illusory.  Therefore, the substances that appear to us have also to be illusory.  It follows from this that the world and the transactions that go on within it are unreal, though we have a direct perception of them.
Rama:  The world is so clearly seen by us every day.  The past, future and the present time periods are going on all the time in it.  You pronounce this entire experiential world has not originated at all because it is negated by acquiring the Knowledge of Truth. How can you say so?
Sage Vasishta:  What else can be done?  The dream worlds, mirages, appearance of double moons, daydreams, castles in the air, skeins of hair in space and so on are also experienced by us in the past, future and in the present.  But their reality gets contradicted as soon as the truth about them is known.  Is this also not a fact of our common experience?  I put it to you, therefore, that you, me, the transactions in the world etc. are all a fantasy.
 Rama:  The differentiation of you-me, that-this and so on has been present since the very beginning of creation.  The happiness and sorrow have also been experienced ever since.  On what grounds do we proclaim them to have not originated?
Sage Vasishta:  Using the very same logic that you have enunciated!  You see, there cannot be an effect without a cause.  Agreed?  There was nothing else that could cause re-creation of the world once the world got obliterated in a Great Dissolution.  But it seems to have been created even in the absence of a cause.  Using this logic we hold that the world was not born and that the seeming world is sublated on obtaining True knowledge.
Rama:  Even if everything is annihilated in the Great Dissolution, the unborn and immutable substance, the Supreme Brahman, remains.  Why can’t we say that Brahman is the cause for the next creation?
Sage Vasishta:  Only that particular effect which is latent within a cause can be born out of that cause.  For example you cannot get a cloth out of a pot.  There are no internal parts within the unborn and immutable Brahman you are speaking about.  How can then world originate in Brahman?
Rama:  One may postulate, following the Sankhyans, that the world exists within the Supreme Brahman compacted into a fine form at the time of Great Dissolution and it re-emerges at the time of creation again?
Sage Vasishta:   What evidence do we have to make such a claim?  Is there an eye witness to vouchsafe that the world existed in a fine compacted form within the Supreme Brahman at the time of Great Dissolution?  The answer is in the negative for both these questions.
The evidence from Vedas is in dire contrast to your contention.  The scriptures repeatedly emphasize that the Supreme Brahman is Consciousness alone and that there are no parts within It. 
Rama:  We’ll concede that the world does not exist in its illusory form at the time of the Great Dissolution.   We say that it existed as Knowledge and it originated from that Knowledge again.  Thus we contend that the cause for the origination of the world is the Supreme Brahman. 
What is wrong with the above idea?  I am pursuing such an argument because non-existing illusion can never obtain beingness.
[Dialog to be continued in Part 2/3.]

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