Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Does Advaita consider Ishwara real or unreal?
Our concepts of real and unreal are unfortunately a bit warped. What is unreal
for us is something like mirage water - it seems to be there but if you look
closely it is not. Or perhaps like a man's horns - it is a nonexistent entity -
but lets say a Mount Everest is very much real.
However, as you very well know in Vedanta, "Real" has a technically precise
definition - which is that which is unchanged in time, the vastu, which is
Brahman. Everything else is mithya - but mithya does not mean unreal, in any of
the sense that we just saw.
Mithya is what is Real, but appears to be other than so.
What is Real is One, but seemingly appears to be many.
Mithya is very much included in the Real.
So anything I see is a mix of Real and something which is mithya. What is
mithya is the name and form, which is purely a subjective notion or perspective.
I see a piece of wood standing on four legs. It is a table. This "table" is
mithya - not that the table is not "Real", but the particular concept of a
table, separate from the wood that it consists of is unreal. Take the wood away
and poof- the table is gone as well. Put this table sideways and now it is wood
- it is no longer a "table" Not that the table disappeared, but now the
table-ness is no longer present from the standpoint of the subject. So the
"table" was always never "out there" but "in here" in me the witnessing
Now when I perceive the world, the wonderful manifest srshti, I find
everything has a name and form - standing on the seashore one beautiful morning,
I feel the water kissing my feet, the wind blowing through my hair, the eyes
witnessing the Glorious sunrise. All these are names and forms - they are
objectively Real in the sense that what I am witnessing IS, it is not fiction,
it is not a illusion, but the "Sun" the "Sea" the "Wind" are all nama-roopa -
they are "in here" as my subjective concepts, and seemingly their Real nature of
being Brahman, of being the substratum, seems to be unrecognized.
Hence the Shruti tells us - This Sun that you see is not just a Sun, it is
indeed Brahman - understand this, realize this.
Now with regards to Ishwara, He is the Totality, the Sum of All and then Some.
He is not an illusion - He is the Total. He is Real plus the Power of Maya -
and then again, Maya is not separate from Him - without Ishwara there is no Maya
and without Maya there is no Ishwara. Maya is His intrinsic power.
What is an illusion, is your notion of separation from the Total, the Virat.
This separation comes naturally to you because of avidya.
What needs to end is this sense of separation. How will it end? By His Grace
Alone, by helping you understand that you do not exist separate from Him. One
useful way of thinking about this is rather than thinking of Ishwara is in me as
an Antaryami, I think of myself being in Ishwara - then this infinitesmal i
becomes irrelevant. what exists is only Ishwara.
Ishwara can never have a locus, a separate mind/intellect, a separate
anything. He is the Entirety - there is nothing that limits Him. There is
nothing that is ever separate from Him at any time, at any place. Time and Space
themselves are in Him alone.
Now because He is the Whole, you can invoke Him in any form, in any manner, -
and He responds - not because He wants to respond, but because He Has to respond
- this response itself being the Order which again is Him Alone.
So Grace is not something that He passes along willy-nilly depending on His
liking, but something which is very much part of the Order as a karmaphala.
It is like two seekers vehemently arguing in the dream about the Reality of
the Sleeper - why? - because they have intellectually realized, thanks to the
Sleeper's own Grace, that this dreamworld they are living in as dreampeople is
mithya, and in reality they alongwith their entire dreamworld are all nothing
but the Sleeper alone! And again, this Sleeper pervades their dreamworld but is
never attached to it.
Finally, Advaita is not about accomodating Ishwara but about understanding
Prayer comes from being wise and not from being weak.