Thursday, March 6, 2008

Ishwara and Advaita

Q.
How is 'lord' to be interpreted? In the dvaita/VA
schools, there is some sense of locus of Identity in
Ishvara. Advaita denies the locus of Ishvara; so the
very question of avidya seems irrelevant, as also
ideas of omnipotence and omniscience. How are you
interpreting these notions regarding Ishvara and
assimilating them in the Bhakthi perspective toward
this Ishvara? Thank you.
A.
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
subject's mind/intellect.


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
Ishwara.
Prayer comes from being wise and not from being weak.

10 comments:

meera said...

Shyam...expound on Isvara please. The concept. What is Isvara? How is Isvara different from the Brahman? Is Brahman the principle and Isvara the grossification? Why then direct prayers to Isvara than to Brahman...can you talk about this please? Many thanks...

Shyam S said...

Pranams Meera-ji,
There is a post on Ishwara I had posted on Feb 24 2007 that covers most of what you have asked. Please read it and if you still have questions or comments, I will be happy to share my understanding.
Hari OM
Shyam

meera said...

Hari Om Shyam...read the Feb 24th post...just one sentnece there was enough to shake all the pieces of understanding into place. Saguna Brahman. Sorry I referred to Ishvara as a concept. Well, it was until I read this, just an idea with no momentum. And I am grateful for the reminder in that post that finally what makes the difference to learning is Anugraham. Grace. Therefore Upasana...Shattering, but true. Chancing upon you and your blog was not chance at all...Blessings...
Hari Om,
meera

meera said...

One clarification Shyam...For gnyana prapti Swamiji says you need karma yoga, upasana and sadhana chatushtaya sampati. If I superimpose the need for Grace on this, can I say, success in KY, upasana and Sadhana Chatushtaya itself requires Grace, so that while one may study at a perceptional level through the use of eyes and brain...for it to be assimilated, internalised, and get converted from gnyanam to gnyana phalam, one needs Grace?

If so...what is a seeker's recourse? I would imagine stay in prayer, for prayer itself is Karma Yoga and by definition it has to be without egocentric desire, ie without anticiaption of gnyana phalam...?
Hari Om,
Meera

Shyam S said...

Pranams.
I do agree with the above.
A couple of minor points.

Prayer or bhakti need not be karmayoga - it is only karmayoga if it is nishkama bhakti.

Also anticipation of moksha-phalam is not considered "ego-centric because it is in fact "Ishwara"centric :-) - one wants to sublate one's phantom ego or i-sense for Ishwara-prApti - so no question of this desire (mumukshutvam or jijnAsa) being tainted as a egocentric desire.

and finally Grace need not necessarily be thought of an extra thing, like say pickle, but the intangible, the adrshta, that is immanent throughout this journey of self-discovery - upto the point that the entity and the Grace are both merged into Ishwara. So the brain, the eyes, the teaching, the perception, the karmayoga, the shama/damaadi shatsampatti, the upasana, the resultant chittashuddhi, etc are ALL Grace. No need to "await" Grace to bless us over and above - but acknowledgement and awareness of the ever-present Grace and in turn - utilizing our purushartha to recognize the ever present nitya-vastu which is ever our own swaroopa - shantam,shivam,advaitam - here and NOW.


Thank you for your kind comments and questions.

[Last year (September?) I did write about Grace separately.]

Hari OM
Shyam

meera said...

Hari Om Shyam...many thanks, many many thanks...this has cleared some serious cobwebs...therefore from what you say, it means Grace arrives (if it can be seen as arriving, whereas it is verily our recognition of it?)in stages...as eyes enabling me read the scriptures, as money to spend on this, then as time to apply to study, then as brain to pontificate etc...therefore gnyana phalam too wd thus be one of the various milestones where Grace is felt?

I shall most certainly go through your old blogs to first extract Grace :) then read the old ones too...sheer wealth all this.

If it does not disturb the course of all that you are doing, if time permist, pls tell me is praying for Grace a paradox?

Pranaams to you Shyam,
Meera

Shyam S said...

Pranams Meera
First of all let me say your ability to almost instantaneously grasp the most subtlest of concepts is truly amazing.

Now with regards to your very well-thought out questions.
The issue of jnana-phalam is a bit of a paradox. If one waits for it as a milestone to come, at some point in the future, - it will never really "arrive" - because who you really are is "here and now" - so awaiting a jnana-phala-roopa mukti only lends more credence to the current bandha or bondage - which as you know is asat. So a straight answer to your question is not easy to articulate - other than to say that Grace Itself will BE the Jnanaphalam - (as opposed to saying jnanaphalam will be a milestone where Grace will be felt) - as then there is no longer a jiva under the spell of avidya for whom Grace is of any considerate relevance - the jiva having attained to Grace - all there is now is a Oneness where there is neither Jiva nor Grace.
Why is this viewpoint perhaps important - so we don't keep waiting for "something to happen" - some particular day "when Grace will descend on me" and "I will experience mukti" - moksha is ever in the "here and now".

"Praying for Grace is a paradox" - very nicely put - I would say -prayer is an action that enables one to tap into the Grace that is ever-present as the very Order that is Ishwara.

Thank you for giving me an opporunity to talk about Ishwara - what can be more blissful than that? ( -it is never a disturbance)

My best wishes to you in your sadhana and warmest regards,

Hari OM
Shyam

meera said...

Hari Om Shyam....it is almost as if you know where the 'knots' of confusion lie! This explanation sorted out many things.

Some years ago, when I was helping a Swamiji edit some texts, he said Vedantic language has to be grown, developed. It is very subtle, because Vedanta itself is so subtle you cannot use secular english to express it.

I got just that flavour in your post and also relaised how only that subtlety can explain accurately. One example is your saying "Grace itself will BE gnyana phalam"!

The other very poignant sentence which is stunning me is:

prayer is an action that enables one to tap into the Grace that is ever-present as the very ORDER that is Ishwara.

So it is factored into the system. No need to search for it or even ask for it. It has to be invoked...and this very ORDER is capable of establishing my worthiness, my qualification for Grace...and the intensity of my desire to know will be present in the intensity of my prayer...so it seems to me. And that qualification is had through sadhana...this is a very happy feeling.

Thanks Shyam. As for your observations about me: I am a student of Vedanta too, but nidhidhyasana through satsanga of this kind really really enables assimilation. So it is really your goodness dear friend.

Assimilation of a concept, I have now come to know, is a function of Grace. If not, it neednot have taken me so many many many units of time to turn in the right direction of understanding Ishvara.

I am an ardent student (through audios only) of Sw. Paramarthananda. And it pains me to recognise that my mind notices 'differences' between teachers. But I also wonder whether this resonance is in fact pervaded by memory or recognition of a past lineage, linkage ....

Sincere pranaams to you,...

Meera

Shyam S said...

Pranams Meera
I like to think of it as a jigsaw puzzle - some pieces you look at but they don't seem to find any place in the schema of things as we see them right now, and then some other pieces are now in place, and the very same piece you saw some units of time back, now seem to fit in so obviously - samsara is after all Maya-devi's Divine jigsaw! :-)

Very nice to know you are a student of Guruji as well - what little I know is because of His Grace Alone.

Feel free to email me anytime if you have any questions/comments - my profile has a link to my email - of course far better would be to send a letter to Guruji directly - I am sure you know his address -

Sriram Apartments 80 A, St.Mary's Road Abhiramapuram Chennai 600 018.


Warm regards and best wishes,
Shyam

meera said...

Hari Om Shyam...

many thanks for the open house invitation to write to you. Will do so.

Swamiji I talk to once in 6 months over the telephone (I was in Moscow many years then recently moved to Singapore)...only y/day I decided that I will call him once a month at least...pity is Swamiji does not use an email...

Hari Om,
Meera