Advaita. Return to Non-Duality
The teaching of ADVAITA promotes the existence of a BEING united to the totality of all beings.
It shows us a path to stop conceptualizing life, things ..., in order to achieve the UNION (YOGA) between the person who perceives and what is perceived. When the mind gives up conceptual rigidity, the reality of being one turns out to be a rational, objective fact. To the essential question WHO AM I? The answer: I AM, followed by transcendent silence, comes up.
From that moment on, the path for self-knowledge begins...
Basing ourselves on the VIVEKA CHUDAMANI (the supreme discernment jewel), we are going to carry out a study on one of the basic pillars of Oriental Culture: the sense of non-duality.
Let’s go over the history first:
- Who were the Indo-Europeans?
During the period between the years 5.000 and 1.500 B.C., a series of migrations from Europe, each of them with their own language, came to India. They are called Indo-Europeans. They came from different ethnic groups, among them people from the steppes of Russian, Rumania…
They were nomadic shepherds who looked after their flocks, although they also knew agriculture and sowing
- How did they form groups?
Socially they were divided into BRHAMANAS (priests), KALITRIYAS (warriors) y VAISAYAS (farm workers). Their leader was the RAJA (king).
Their social structure was simple: they formed family groups and were led by their king. Their economy was based on bartending.
- How did their spirituality become apparent?
In general they idolised the forces of Nature. The wide and immense sky over the large plains and mountains of UTAH PRADESH (INDIA) was their DEVA (deity). They did not have sanctuaries; they celebrated their rituals outdoors.
They were devout followers of transcendent philosophy, especially of ADVAITA.
- Their common language
Their common language was Vedic (Old Sanskrit). It later was Sanskrit, which has similarities with Germanic languages, Latin, Greek...
- Indo Aryans?
Indo-European people called themselves ARYAS and when they mixed with the autochthonous people they took the name of INDOARYANS.
- What were those people like?
They were exceptional human beings both for their culture as for their innate curiosity and questioning capacity; they were the authors of a series of writings which are considered sacred in India. These writings contain the main spiritual ideas of the Indo-Aryan thought, and these ideas are closely related with ADVAITA.
CLASSICAL TEXTS RELATED TO ADVAITA AND THE INDO-ARYANS
These peoples had a remarkable capacity for questioning unsubstantial, outdated philosophical approaches. They liked open, sincere dialogue encouraging the symbolism of a central idea: UNITY of the WHOLE. Their literature opened a transcendent path (MOUNA DHARASAN) that still surprises today for its vitality and authenticity.
- The VEDAS
They were written so that human beings could achieve transcendence. Their aim is to get to self-knowledge and the capacity of finding the path (SHADANA) of personal liberation.
The word VEDANTA is a Sanskrit term that recognizes BRAHMAN as the universal, Supreme Being.
The Vedic literature consists of four SHAMITA (collections): RIGVEDA, SAMAVEDA, YAJURVEDA and ATHARVEDA.
It is composed of a series of books or MANDALAS with poems dedicated to gods and incarnated spirits (AVATARES). They are thought to have been written by Indo-Aryan priests in the 1.300 B.C.
As far as dates are concerned orientalises don’t come to an agreement. In any case, oral tradition precedes the written one.
The SUTRAS VEDANTA (Third century B.C.) compiles VEDANTIC aphorisms from a lot of schools of Indian thought, mainly from the most outstanding one: ADVAITA, the path to non- duality.
- BRAHMANA and the UPANISAD
Owing to the favourable reception of the VEDAS, Vedic commentaries soon started to appear. They are collected in two books: BRAHMANA and UPANISHAD
In these texts appears another of the universal beliefs of these great thinkers: ATMAN (inner self) is pure awareness of the cosmic principle of the Universe: the vibration OM (AUM) and the light (BRAHMA).
Let’s see, concisely, the essence of both books:
BRAHMANA is a collection of stories about the rite and the cult. They are written in prose and focused on the Vedas. Some of their texts belong to unknown authors and others take the names of the nobles (BRAHMANES) who commanded the scribes to write them
In general these texts were transmitted orally. Their order and meaning were learnt by heart through recitation, and their reading was accompanied by meditative practice, music, dance and dialogues.
The main idea was the following one: The Cosmos (OM) is made up of universal energy and the KARMA (cause and effect) causes the actions of human beings in their life here, (SHAMSRARA).
The UPANISAD are made up of a series of texts written at the end of the 900 B.C., always having the VEDAS as the driving force of the spiritual, making way for simple, unitary thought and ascetic life. Austerity replaces solemn statements. Tired of ritualism, a lot of Masters, followed by their pupils, leave for the forests and mountains in order to give up worldly vanities
They meditate on BRAHMA (the Creator), and their experiences are spread, touching the common people’s hearts.
The BRAHMANS have a glimpse of the spirituality of these simple masters of meditation and seek to talk to them. From these conversations comes up the UPANISAD, which means to sit down next to someone relevant or GURU.
The UPANISAD were written between the seventh and fourth centuries B.C., in prose and in verse, using mostly the dialogue as a teaching resource.
There are a number of UPANISADS: CHANDOGYA UPANISAD, AITARAYA UPANISAD and KATHA UPANISAD...
Masters and pupils, as said before, communicated orally, using writing at a later date.
““Everything is BRAHMAN, energy. (...) Through meditation I will seek awareness of its presence. Its vibration is OM”.
TWO COMPLEMENTARY BOOKS: BHAGAVAD GITA AND RAMAYANA
Two classical texts related to ADVAITA appear in the 3rd century. They are: the MAHABARATA, (which includes the BHAGAVAD GITA) and the RAMAYANA. These two epic poems, essential for the SADAKA (searcher), invite to enter a world of gods and myths arising from superior dimensions of consciousness.
- The BHAGAVAD GITA or The Song of the Lord is one of the epic poems most related to ADVAITA. In the battlefield of KURUKSETRA, just before the final attack, ARJUNA, hero of the PANDAVAS, overwhelmed by the tremendous responsibility of fighting against relatives and friends who will die in this combat, asks KRISNA, his charioteer and guardian angel (AVATAR), for advice about whether or not to combat in a battle where the illusory predominates. Krishna recommends him action, to carry out his destiny, beyond any feelings or emotions. Each person has got a path and its options (DHARMA), the devotion (BHAKTI) and the action (KARMA).
This work represents a summary of the UPANISADIC thought, where the spiritual and the worldly merge. UNITY is the only answer every person must find, ARJUNA must find BRAHMA so as to be enlightened by inner wisdom.
- The RAMAYAMA RAMAYANA is the other epic poem in which RAMA, divine incarnation, introduces and comments on the idea of the AVATARES or descent of the gods in human shape. Once again the different dimensions of human consciousness are connected and the incredible blends with the ordinary. This philosophy will be important in late Hinduism.
SIX INDIAN SUTRAS
Finally and in order to understand ADVAITA, THE UNITY, we must remember the INDIAN SUTRAS.
The SUTRAS are short, easy to remember philosophical thoughts. They belong to philosophical conceptions and meditative paths and Masters use them to instruct and awaken the inner feeling
The six DHARSANAS are
• NYAYA (3ºrd Century B.C.): Direct Knowledge of things through perception and analytical concentration.
• VAISESIKA (4th Century B.C.): recognition of the values of Nature and of the Soul (ATMAN).
• SAMKHIA (5th Century B.C.): philosophical, dualist and sceptical system that recognizes two dependable principles in the Universe: PRAKRITI, the matter, and PURUSHA, the soul. The evolution is explained through GUNAS or three qualities: harmony, passion and inertia. Liberation is attained through self-knowledge.
• YOGA (9th Century B.C.): based on the VEDAS, ADVAITA, PATANJALI’S YOGASUTRA and the BHAGAVAD GITA, this path for self-knowledge and body expression teaches, through physical and breathing exercises, relaxing and meditation ways to improve body and mind.
• MIMAMSA (5th Century B.C.): a path of VEDIC interpretation to advance in the inner path or DHARMA. The VEDAS are the main guide.
• VEDANTA (7th Century B.C.): it is an orthodox, philosophical school that accepts the scriptures SHRUTI (revelations). It means the end of the VEDAS or their knowledge (SHAMADI). Its main reflection focuses on ADVAITA contemplating the end of the duality and the union of ATMAN (the soul) with BRAHMAN (the SUPERIOR BEING). VEDANTA is still alive in India and it is the intellectual base of the great thinkers.
ADVAITA AS A BASIC TEACHING FOR YOGA
ADVAITA is a non-dualist, meditative school whose teaching helps overcome the existential dimensions of life, inviting to the union in BRAHMAN (the Only One).
The ADVAITIN call BRAHMAN by the name of SAT (BEING) CHIT (CONCIOUSNESS) ANANDA (HAPPINESS).
The philosophy ADVAITA promotes the union of the human being with the totality of all that exists, therefore, we cannot speak of different beings, but of unity in its plurality.
The false appearance of the multiplicity is due to the illusion (MAYA), to the capacity that the human being has to conceptualize what does not have a concept, to divide into parts what is not divisible.
When we abandon the illusory thought of the “I” and everything else, the reality of being One with everything else reveals itself as an undeniable fact.
To the great question: who am I? The answer that comes up is: “everything that remains after leaving the illusory out (MAYA)”.
ADVAITA presents three states of consciousness:
• Abstraction or thought based on the senses and memory.
• Meditation or reflection that enlightens that opens the understanding.
• Contemplative or direct vision of the transcendent dimension.
Despite its many appearances, Life has a permanent reality: BRAHMAN (UNITY).
The human being is ATMAN (individual self), identical to BRAHMAN (COSMIC UNITY).
Our essence is the same as that of the sky, VIVEKA CHUDAMANI says. And it generates MOKSA (liberation).
The statement I AM (VICHARA) followed by inner silence (MOUNA) suggests the knowledge of being and staying in beatitude (SATCHIDANANDA).
“The spider weaves its web to trap its food. The wise man spreads his net out to drink the nectar of the gods”.
THE MAIN BOOK OF ADVAITA: VIVEKACHUDAMANI
Important text that deals with discernment as a way to self-knowledge. It was created by the philosopher SANKARA. He was born in KALADIKERALA (INDIA), and lived between the seventh and eighth centuries.
VIVEKA means discernment, CHUDA the top, MANI the jewel, therefore, VIVEKACHUDAMANI is the Supreme Jewel of Wisdom.
The cosmological sense of its words still surprises today:
“That which cannot be differentiated, whose essence has never stopped existing; that which lacks movement, like a wave less ocean, that which has always been free, whose shape is indivisible: that BRAHAMAN is you. Get your mind to meditate on it”.
The teaching of SANKARA is based on the relationship between BRAHMAN and ATMAN, THE SUPREME BEING and the individual self, stating that they both are ONE.
It will be AVIDYA (ignorance) what prevents the human being (CHELA) from understanding their celestial nature.
In this way, separated from its unitary consciousness, the false sensation of fragmentation as an unreal, illusory separation (MAYA) arises in the CHELA. As long as the individual self doesn’t transcend the matter and go into meditative beatitude (SHAMADI), the pupil (CHELA) won’t get superior knowledge (DHYANA), and will seek his or her self in an unreal world. Somewhat, he or she will get trapped in the wheel (SHAMSRARA) as a result of KARMA (cause and effect).
The individual being, through the knowledge of ADVAITA, can recognize the boundless truth that exists behind the veil of AJNA (Third Eye), and realize that his or her nature is the same as that of BRAHMAN, and that through meditation we attain MOKSHA (liberation of KARMA).
The ADVAITA SANKARIAN texts show three ways to get to know the transcendent truth (YOGA).