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Four Basic Principles of Advaita Vedanta

by Swami Bhajanananda
(The author is Assistant Secretary, Ramakrishna Math
and Ramakrishna Mission.)
Source: Prabuddha Bharata !an"#eb $%&%
Table of Contents
Pre'iminary (onsiderations..............................................................$
The )''usoriness o* )ndi+idua'ity.........................................................,
A Two'e+e' Rea'ity........................................................................-
.nrea'ity o* the /or'd 0..................................................................1
The 2ondua'ity o* 3now'ed4e........................................................&&
5tmaj67na, Se'*know'ed4e ..........................................................&&
8i ayaj67na, 9bjecti+e 3now'ed4e .................................................&$
: : : :
Ad+aita 8edanta is the dominant and most we''known schoo' o* )ndian ;hi'oso;hy. )n
)ndian cu'ture darana is the word which corres;onds to the /estern idea o*
<;hi'oso;hy=.
Darana 'itera''y means +ision or insi4ht. There are si> daranas, each o* which ;ro+ides
a ;articu'ar +iew o*, or insi4ht into, Rea'ity. #rom the stand;oint o* the ;rinci;'e o*
harmony tau4ht by Sri Ramakrishna and Swami 8i+ekananda, the si> daranas may be
re4arded as *ormin4 a si>tiered ;yramid, the tiers ;ro+idin4 hi4her and hi4her +iews o*
Rea'ity, with 8edanta as the to;most tier. 8edanta itse'* consists o* se+era' schoo's.
These schoo's o* 8edanta may a'so be +isua'i?ed as *ormin4 a ;yramid with Ad+aita
occu;yin4 its ;innac'e.
8edanta, howe+er, is not a mere view of Reality@ it is a'so a way of lifeAnot ordinary
'i*e, but s;iritua' 'i*e. )ts aim is to enab'e human bein4s to so'+e the e>istentia'
;rob'ems o* 'i*e, transcend human 'imitations, 4o beyond su**erin4, and attain su;reme
*u'*i'ment and ;eace. A'thou4h there are si> daranas, 8edanta a'one has remained the
;hi'oso;hy o* the Bindu re'i4ious tradition *rom +ery ancient times to the ;resent day.
9* the di**erent schoo's o* 8edanta, Ad+aita has *or its domain the mainstream
Binduism, whereas the other schoo's o* 8edanta are associated with the di**erent sects
o* Binduism.
Four Basic Principles of Advaita Vedanta -- Swami Bhajanananda
Preliminary Considerations
Be*ore takin4 u; a study o* the basic ;rinci;'es o* Ad+aita 8edanta it is necessary to
kee; in mind two ;oints. 9ne is the distinction between Ad+aita as an e>;erience and
Ad+aita as a ;hi'oso;hy.
As a direct transcendenta' s;iritua' e>;erience, Ad+aita marks the hi4hest ;oint o*
s;iritua' rea'i?ation a human bein4 can attain. )n that c'imactic e>;erience the
distinction between the indi+idua' and the cosmic is 'ost, and the distinctions between
the knower, the thin4 known, and know'ed4e disa;;ear. )t is <Ad+aita as e>;erience= that
*orms the main theme o* the .;anishads.
<Ad+aita as a ;hi'oso;hy= is a conce;tua' *ramework that attem;ts to e>;'ain how the
im;ersona' Abso'ute a;;ears as the ;henomena' wor'd and indi+idua' se'+es. The
twe'*thcentury Ad+aita writer Sriharsha says in the introduction to his *amous work
handana-!handa-!hadya that the ;ur;ose o* ;hi'oso;hy, "str"rtha, is to determine the
nature o* truth, tattva-nir aya , and +ictory o+er the o;;onent, v"di-vijaya. Acharya
Shankara himse'* de+otes a considerab'e ;art o* his commentaries to re*utin4 the +iews
o* o;;onents. )n the ;resent artic'e we con*ine our discussion to the ;hi'oso;hica'
as;ect o* Ad+aita.
The second ;oint to be ke;t in mind is that, a'thou4h Ad+aita ;hi'oso;hy is bui't on the
immutab'e and indestructib'e *oundation o* time'ess truths and 'aws, its su;erstructure
o* conce;ts underwent se+era' chan4es durin4 di**erent ;eriods in the history o*
Binduism. #our main ;hases may be seen in the de+e'o;ment o* Ad+aita ;hi'oso;hy.
i# Advaita of the Upanishads 0 As stated ear'ier, this is the e>;erientia' as;ect o*
Ad+aita.
$
Four Basic Principles of Advaita Vedanta -- Swami Bhajanananda
ii# Advaita of Shankara 0 )t is we'' known that the edi*ice o* Ad+aita ;hi'oso;hy,
which towers o+er a'' other systems o* ;hi'oso;hy, was bui't by Acharya Shankara in the
ei4hth century. Shankara=s main endea+our was to estab'ish the nondua' nature o*
Brahman as the u'timate Rea'ity. Bis most ori4ina' contribution, howe+er, was the
introduction o* the conce;t o* a cosmic ne4ati+e ;rinci;'e known as m"y" or aj$"na,
i4norance, in order to e>;'ain the ori4in o* the uni+erse and the e>istence o* dua'ity in
the ;henomena' wor'd without a**ectin4 the nondua' nature o* Brahman.
iii# Post-Shankara Advaita % This ;hase e>tends o+er a 'on4 ;eriod, *rom the ninth
century to the si>teenth. The writers on Ad+aita 8edanta o* this ;eriod inc'ude eminent
thinkers 'ike Padma;ada, Sureshwara, 8achas;ati, Prakashatman, 8imuktatman,
Sar+aj$atman, Sriharsha, (hitsukha, Madhusudana, and others, who added se+era' new
conce;ts into the ;hi'oso;hica' *ramework o* Ad+aita 8edanta. Curin4 this ;eriod Ad+aita
8edanta s;'it into three streams or schoo's. These are: (a) the Vartika schoo', based on
the +iews o* Sureshwara@ (b) the Vivarana schoo', based on the +iews o* Padma;ada and
Prakashatman@ and (c) the Bhamati schoo', based on the +iews o* 8achas;ati Mishra. The
;hi'oso;hy o* Ad+aita underwent 4reat re*inement and inte''ectua' so;histry durin4 the
;ostShankara ;hase. Bowe+er, the *ocus o* discussions shi*ted *rom Brahman to m"y" or
aj$"na.
iv# The Modern Phase of Advaita % The modern ;hase in the de+e'o;mnt o* Ad+aita
8edanta was inau4urated by Sri Ramakrishna and Swami 8i+ekananda. They introduced
se+era' im;ortant chan4es in the understandin4 o* Ad+aita in order to make it more
re'e+ant to the needs and conditions o* the modern wor'd. Some o* the chan4es brou4ht
about by them are brie*'y stated be'ow.
(a) The e>;erientia' as;ect o* 8edanta has come to be stressed, as it was durin4 the
8edic ;eriod, more than the ;hi'oso;hica' as;ect.
(b) Barmony o* the Ad+aitic +iew with the +iews o* other schoo's o* 8edanta has been
estab'ished by acce;tin4 a'' +iews as re;resentin4 di**erent sta4es in the rea'i?ation o*
Brahman. This has ;ut an end to unnecessary ;o'emica' attacks and sectarian sDuabb'es
within the *o'd o* 8edanta.
(c) The o'der *orm o* Ad+aita 4a+e 4reater im;ortance to the transcendent as;ect o*
Brahman, whereas the new +iew on Ad+aita 4i+es 4reater im;ortance to the immanent
as;ect.
(d) Swami 8i+ekananda *ound immense ;ractica' si4ni*icance *or Ad+aita 8edanta in
so'+in4 the indi+idua' and co''ecti+e ;rob'ems o* daytoday 'i*e. Swamiji has shown how
Ad+aitic know'ed4e can ser+e as the basis o* mora'ity, basis o* inner stren4th and
coura4e, and as the basis *or socia' justice and eDua'ity as we''. Abo+e a'', Ad+aita
;ro+ides the basis *or Sri Ramakrishna=s messa4e o* <ser+ice to man as ser+ice to Eod=,
ivaj$"ne j&va-sev", which Swami 8i+ekananda ;o;u'ari?ed as the new 4os;e' o* socia'
ser+ice. A'' the ser+ice acti+ities o* the Ramakrishna Math and Mission are ins;ired by
this 4os;e' o* ser+ice.
F
Four Basic Principles of Advaita Vedanta -- Swami Bhajanananda
(e) Swami 8i+ekananda has brou4ht about the reconci'iation o* Ad+aita 8edanta with
modern science. #urthermore, Swamiji showed that 8edanta itse'* is a scienceAthe
science o* consciousness.
(* ) Swamiji iso'ated the uni+ersa' ;rinci;'es o* Ad+aita 8edanta *rom the
mytho'o4ica', institutiona', and cu'tic as;ects o* its ;arent matri> in Binduism and
con+erted the uni+ersa' ;rinci;'es o* Ad+aita into a uni+ersa' re'i4ionAwhich in the
modern idiom means uni+ersa' s;iritua'ityA*or a'' humanity.
The ;hi'oso;hica' ;resu;;ositions and meta;hysica' under;innin4s and im;'ications o*
this <2eo8edanta=, which is better ca''ed <)nte4ra' 8edanta=, are yet to be worked out,
or e+en studied, ;ro;er'y. G+erythin4 4oes to show that the ;rinci;'es o* 8edanta
de+e'o;ed by Swami 8i+ekananda are 'ike'y to ha+e a 4reat im;act on wor'd thou4ht,
4'oba' cu'ture, and human ;ro4ress in the comin4 decades and centuries o* the third
mi''ennium.
The aim o* the ;resent artic'e is to e>;'icate the main ;rinci;'es o* Ad+aita 8edanta
de+e'o;ed durin4 the ;ostShankara ;eriod. A ;ro;er understandin4 o* these basic
;rinci;'es is necessary to understand and e+a'uate the status, in*'uence, and ;ossibi'ities
o* 8edanta in the modern wor'd and the contributions made to it by Sri Ramakrishna and
Swami 8i+ekananda.
PostShankara Ad+aita 8edanta rests on *our *oundationa' ;rinci;'es:
(i) the i''usoriness o* j&vatva, indi+idua'ity@
(ii) a two'e+e' rea'ity@
(iii) aj$"na as the conjoint cause o* the wor'd@ and
(i+) the nondua'ity o* (onsciousness.
The Illusoriness of Individuality
By Ad+aita is meant the nondua'ity o* Brahman, or rather the denia' o* dua'ity in
Brahman. The centra' conce;t o* 8edanta darana is that Brahman is the u'timate cause
o* the uni+erse and the u'timate Rea'ity. This is acce;ted by a'' schoo's o* 8edantaA
dua'istic as we'' as nondua'istic. /hat then is the di**erence between C+aita and
Ad+aitaH 9ne basic di**erence is that accordin4 to dua'istic schoo's indi+idua'ity is rea'
and ;ersists e+en in the state o* mukti, whereas in Ad+aita indi+idua'ity is unrea' and
does not ;ersist in the state o* mukti. Shankara says: </hat is ca''ed ji+a is not
abso'ute'y di**erent *rom Brahman. Brahman itse'*, bein4 conditioned by adjuncts such
as 'uddhi, inte''ect, and the 'ike, comes to be ca''ed IdoerJ and Ie>;eriencerJ. =
&
<The
di**erence between the indi+idua' se'* and the su;reme Se'* is due to the ;resence o*
'imitin4 adjuncts, such as the body, which are set u; by names and *orms and are
created by avidy"@ there is actua''y no di**erence.=
$
)n the dua'istic schoo's the word
& (a hi j&vo n"m"tyanta-'hinno 'rahma a ) 'uddhy- 7dyu;7dhik ta tu +iKe am7Kritya brahmai+a
san-j&va !art" 'ho!t" cety-ucyate . Shankaracharya=s commentary on Brahma Sutra, &.&.F&.
$ Vij$"n"tma-param"tmanor-avidy"-pratyupasth"pita- n7marL;aracitadeh7dyu;7dhinimitto 'hedo na
,
Four Basic Principles of Advaita Vedanta -- Swami Bhajanananda
<Atman= is used to re*er on'y to the indi+idua' se'*, and not to Brahman.
/hen the Atman identi*ies itse'* with mind and body, it is ca''ed ji+a. )n the state o*
mukti this identi*ication disa;;ears, but the Atman, a'thou4h it becomes a'most simi'ar
to Brahman, remains distinct and se;arate *rom Brahman. Bere, the re'ationshi;
between Atman and Brahman is an or4anic re'ationshi;, 'ike that between the ;art and
the who'e. The ty;e o* di**erence that e>ists between Brahman and the indi+idua' se'+es
is known as sva*ata-'heda.
F
Ad+aita denies sva*ata-'heda in Brahman. Accordin4 to Ad+aita, in the state o* mukti
the Atman does not remain distinct *rom Brahman but becomes one with it. )n *act,
there is no distinction between Atman and Brahman@ as soon as the identi*ication with
mind and body disa;;ears, the distinction between Atman and Brahman a'so disa;;ears.
Bence, Ad+aitins use the terms Atman and Brahman interchan4eab'y.
/e may conc'ude this section with a statement made by 3rishnachandra Bhattacharya,
one o* the ori4ina' thinkers and 4reat scho'ars o* )ndian ;hi'oso;hy o* the twentieth
century: <The i''usoriness o* the indi+idua' se'* is a;;arent'y the centra' notion o*
Ad+aita 8edanta. G+ery +ita' tenet o* the ;hi'oso;hyABrahman as the so'e rea'ity, the
object as *a'se, +"y" as neither rea' nor unrea', )K+ara as Brahman in re*erence to +"y",
mo! a ('iberation) throu4h know'ed4e o* Brahman and as identity with BrahmanAmay be
re4arded as an e'aboration o* this sin4'e notion.=
,
A Two-level eality
The most crucia' ;rob'em in Ad+aita 8edanta is to e>;'ain the coe>istence o* two
entire'y di**erent and incom;atib'e entities, Brahman and the wor'd. Brahman is in*inite
(onsciousness, which is nir*u a , abso'ute'y de+oid o* a'' attributes. /hat Brahman is
cannot be e>;ressed in words. The .;anishadic de*inition <Brahman is Truth, 3now'ed4e,
p"ram"rthi!a (&.,.$$).
F )n treatises on 8edanta three kinds o* 'heda, di**erence, are mentioned: (i) Vij"t&ya-'heda: the
di**erence between objects o* di**erent kinds or s;ecies@ as *or e>am;'e the di**erence between a tree
and a cow. The di**erence between Purusha and Prakriti in Sankhya ;hi'oso;hy is o* this kind.
The di**erence between Eod and the sou's in the !udeo(hristian and )s'amic traditions is a'so o* this
kind. !ust as the ;otter and the ;ot can ne+er be the same, so a'so the (reator and creature can ne+er
be the same. This is not the ty;e o* di**erence between the indi+idua' Se'* and the Su;reme Se'*
acce;ted in C+aita schoo's o* 8edanta. (ii) Saj"t&ya-'heda, the di**erence between objects o* the same
kind or s;ecies@ as *or instance the di**erences between two man4o trees. The di**erence between two
Purushas in Sankhya ;hi'oso;hy, and the di**erence between two 'iberated se'+es in Ramanuja=s
;hi'oso;hy, are o* this ty;e. (iii) Sva*ata-'heda, the di**erences *ound amon4 the ;arts o* the same
object@ as *or instance the di**erence amon4 the branches, 'ea+es, and *'owers o* a man4o tree, or the
di**erences between rind, ;u';, and seeds o* a be' *ruit. This is the ty;e o* di**erence between Atman,
the indi+idua' Se'*, and Brahman in the dua'istic schoo's o* Ramanuja, Madh+a, and others. This kind o*
di**erence is necessary *or the sou' to adore and 'o+e Eod and enjoy the b'iss o* Brahman. But Shankara
denies e+en sva*ata-'heda in Brahman@ accordin4 to him the indi+idua' Se'* attains oneness with
Brahman, so much so that it becomes B'iss itse'*.
, 3rishnachandra Bhattacharya, <The Ad+aita and )ts S;iritua' Si4ni*icance=, in -he .ultural /erita*e of
0ndia, M +o's (3o'kata: Ramakrishna Mission )nstitute o* (u'ture, $%%&), F.$,-.
-
Four Basic Principles of Advaita Vedanta -- Swami Bhajanananda
)n*inity=
-
is on'y a symbo'ic indicator, la! ana , not a true descri;tion, o* the rea' nature
o* Brahman. The in*inite, the indi+isib'e, the attribute'ess cannot be characteri?ed in
terms o* *inite cate4ories.
As Sri Ramakrishna used to say, <Brahman is the on'y thin4 which has ne+er become
ucchi a , that is, de*i'ed by human mouth=. Brahman is the so'e Rea'ity. The .;anishads
dec'are: <A'' this is Brahman=@ <There is no mu'ti;'icity here.=
N

Bowe+er, the .;anishads and Brahma Sutra a'so re4ard Brahman as the cause o* the
uni+erse. A'' schoo's o* 8edanta ho'd that Brahman is both the materia' cause, up"d"na-
!"ra a , and the e**icient cause, nimitta !"ra a , o* the wor'd. The wor'd, which is
materia' in nature, consists o* count'ess 'i+in4 and non'i+in4 bein4s, is e+er chan4in4,
and is characteri?ed by dua'ities such as heat and co'd, joy and ;ain@ it is, in e+ery way,
the o;;osite o* Brahman. Bow can two tota''y dissimi'ar and incom;atib'e entities,
Brahman and the wor'd, ha+e any causa' re'ationshi; at a''H )* Brahman is the so'e
rea'ity, how and where can the wor'd e>istH
The common answer, based on a su;er*icia' understandin4 o* Ad+aita, is that Brahman
a'one is rea' whereas the wor'd is unrea', and the causa' re'ationshi; between the two is
a'so i''usory. This kind o* statement is usua''y nothin4 more than ;arrotin4 without any
dee; thinkin4. Bow can we re4ard as i''usory this unima4inab'y com;'e> wor'd which
a'most a'' ;eo;'e ;ercei+e to be rea'H /hen we actua''y see an i''usion, such as
mistakin4 a ro;e *or a snake, it takes on'y a 'itt'e time *or us to rea'i?e that it is an
i''usion. Moreo+er, the snake seen on a ro;e does not bite, the water seen in a mira4e
does not s'ake our thirst. But the wor'd we 'i+e in, which 4i+es us innumerab'e ty;es o*
joy*u' and ;ain*u' e>;eriences, cha''en4es, chan4es, re'ationshi;s, end'ess e+ents, Duest
*or meanin4, and so on, cannot be dismissed so easi'y as i''usory.
Shankara=s so'ution to the ;rob'em o* the coe>istence and causeande**ect re'ation
between nondua' Brahman and the *inite wor'd was to ;osit a two'e+e' rea'ity. 9ne
'e+e' is p"ram"rthi!a-satt", abso'ute Rea'ity@ this is what Brahman is. The other is
vy"vah"ri!a-satt", em;irica' or re'ati+e rea'ity@ this is what the wor'd is. But then, how
can there be two kinds o* rea'ityH )t is c'ear that the term <rea'ity= needs ;ro;er
understandin4.
Empirical Level % /hate+er is e>;erienced direct'y throu4h the senses, pratya! a , is
true and rea', at 'east as 'on4 as the e>;erience 'asts. 9ur senses ha+e 'imitations, we
may ha+e wron4 ;erce;tions, but science and techno'o4y enab'e us to o+ercome the
dece;tions o* the senses and 4ain correct know'ed4e. The acDuisition o* enormous ;ower
by the a;;'ication o* the know'ed4e 4ained throu4h the senses itse'* is the ;ra4matic
;roo* o* the rea'ity o* the wor'd. /hat bi''ions o* ;eo;'e ha+e direct'y e>;erienced *or
thousands o* years cannot be dismissed as unrea'. Thus, *rom the stand;oint o* direct
em;irica' e>;erience, the wor'd is rea'.
- Satya j$"nam-ananta 'rahma , -aittiriya 1panishad, $.&.&.
N Sarva !halvida 'rahma , .hhando*ya 1panishad, F.&,.&@ (eha n"n"sti !i2cana, Brihadaranya!a
1panishad, ,.,.&O@ atha 1panishad, $.&.&&.
N
Four Basic Principles of Advaita Vedanta -- Swami Bhajanananda
But the authoritati+e scri;tures known as the .;anishads dec'are Brahman to be the so'e
rea'ity. Moreo+er, 4reat thinkers 'ike 2a4arjuna ha+e, throu4h ar4uments, shown that the
wor'd we see is unrea'.
This 'eads to the untenab'e ;ro;osition that the wor'd is both rea' and unrea', which is
se'*contradictory. )* the wor'd is sat, rea', it cannot be asat, unrea', and +ice +ersa.
#rom this contradiction the Ad+aitin conc'udes that the wor'd is di**erent *rom both sat
and asat@ it is sad-asad-vila! a a . Such a *act de*ies the 'aws o* 'o4ica' thinkin4@ hence,
it is anirvacan&ya. Another word used in the same sense is mithy". )n common ;ar'ance
mithy" means i''usion or *a'sehood, but in Ad+aita 8edanta it means somethin4
<mysterious=. The terms mithy", anirvacan&ya, and sad-asad-vila! a a are treated as
more or 'ess synonymous@ they describe what is known as vy"vah"ri!a-satt". )t is
Brahman a;;earin4 as the wor'd under the in*'uence o* its mysterious ;ower known as
m"y" or aj$"na.
Absolute Level % Brahman remains in its true nature as nondua', in*inite awareness at
the hi4her 'e+e' o* rea'ity known as p"ram"rthi!a-satt". )t is on'y at this 'e+e' that the
wor'd a;;ears to be unrea' or i''usory.
Abso'ute Rea'ity is a'so e>;erienced direct'y. (om;ared to this e>;erience, the
e>;erience o* em;irica' rea'ity may be described as indirect, because it is mediated by
the sense or4ans. The su;ersensuous e>;erience o* abso'ute Rea'ity is immediate,
aparo! a .
M
This is to be distin4uished *rom pratya! a , sensee>;erience. The aparo! a
e>;erience, which takes ;'ace without the mediation o* the senses, is the resu't o*
Brahman=s se'*re+e'ation. Brahman re+ea's itse'* because it is se'*'uminous. Brahman is
o* the nature o* ;ure (onsciousness, which shines in the hearts o* a'' as the Atman.
G+erythin4 is known throu4h consciousness, but consciousness cannot be known as an
object. (onsciousness is se'*'uminous@ it re+ea's itse'*Ait is svapra!"a. The we''known
de*inition o* svapra!"a 4i+en by the thirteenthcentury Ad+aita writer (itsukha says
that <se'*re+e'ation is the ca;abi'ity to 4i+e rise to immediate se'*awareness without
its becomin4 objecti+e know'ed4e=.
1

Shankara=s theory o* two 'e+e's o* rea'ity, the p"ram"rthi!a and the vy"vah"ri!a, is a
distinct and uniDue *eature o* Ad+aita 8edanta. Sri Ramakrishna has e>;ressed the same
idea in his own sim;'e way as nitya and l&la. This two'e+e' theory is o*ten com;ared to
2a4arjuna=s theory o* two 'e+e's o* truth: samv ti satya , con+entiona' truth, and
param"rtha satya, abso'ute truth. There is no doubt that Shankara was in*'uenced by
2a4arjuna=s dia'ectic, but the *ormer went *ar ahead and bui't a mi4hty ;hi'oso;hica'
edi*ice by inte4ratin4 2a4arjuna=s dia'ectica' a;;roach into 'rahmam&m" s" , the
;hi'oso;hy o* Brahman. There are, howe+er, basic di**erences between the two'e+e'
theory o* Shankara and that o* 2a4arjuna. )n the *irst ;'ace, 2a4arjuna=s theory ;ertains
to truth in 4enera', whereas Shankara=s theory co+ers the who'e o* rea'ity. Second'y,
2a4arjuna=s a;;roach is most'y ne4ati+e and is based so'e'y on 'o4ic, whereas Shankara=s
M 3at-s"! "d-aparo! "d-'rahma , Brihadaranya!a 1panishad, F.,.&P$@ a'so F.-.&.
1 Avedyatve sati aparo! a-vyavah"ra-yo*yat" @ (hitsukhacharya, -attvapradipi!a (2irnayasa4ar), O.
M
Four Basic Principles of Advaita Vedanta -- Swami Bhajanananda
a;;roach is ;ositi+e and kee;s 8edantic scri;tures at the *ore*ront. A4ain, 2a4arjuna
denies the rea'ity o* the wor'd e+en at the em;irica' 'e+e', whereas Shankara denies the
rea'ity o* the wor'd on'y at the 'e+e' o* the Abso'ute. Qast'y, Shankara re4ards the wor'd
as somethin4 su;erim;osed on Brahman. This idea o* adhy"sa, su;erim;osition, is
Shankara=s ori4ina' idea which is absent in the ;hi'oso;hy o* 2a4arjuna or e+en in
8ij$ana+ada Buddhism.
!nreality of the "orld #
Shankara=s main interest was in estab'ishin4 the so'e rea'ity o* Brahman, and it was in
su;;ort o* this that he attem;ted to show the u'timate unrea'ity o* the wor'd, which he
did main'y by Duotin4 scri;tures. But *or ;ost Shankara Ad+aitins, the unrea'ity o* the
wor'd and the theory o* aj$"na became the chie* concern because o* the need to de*end
these doctrines a4ainst the ;o'emica' attacks o* ri+a' schoo's.
The crucia' ;rob'em *acin4 ;ostShankara Ad+aitins was to estab'ish the unrea'ity o* the
;henomena' wor'd. A;;ea'in4 to transcendenta' e>;erience was o* no use as many o* the
o;;onents, *or e>am;'e the 2aiyayikas, did not be'ie+e in it and, moreo+er, since
transcendenta' e>;erience is subjecti+e, each ;erson may c'aim his own e>;erience to
be the true one. There*ore, the unrea'ity o* the wor'd had to be estab'ished at the
em;irica' 'e+e' itse'*. #or this the *irst task was to de*ine <rea'ity=. /hat is the criterion
to distin4uish rea'ity *rom unrea'ityH
Two 'ines o* reasonin4 are *o''owed by Ad+aitins to estab'ish the unrea'ity o* the
;henomena' wor'd. 9ne is to eDuate im;ermanence with unrea'ity, and the other to
eDuate objecti+ity with unconsciousness.
(i) Anitya is asatya: The u'timate Rea'ity, known as Brahman, is unchan4in4 and
eterna'. #rom this it is natura' to conc'ude that whate+er is chan4in4 must be
im;ermanent, and whate+er is im;ermanent must be unrea'Aanitya is asatya. This
eDuation was, howe+er, *irst worked out by 2a4arjuna in the second century. )n
+ulamadhyama!a-!ari!a he states: <That which did not e>ist in the be4innin4 and wi''
not e>ist in the *uture, how can it be said to e>ist in the midd'eH
O
Eauda;ada, in his
+andu!ya ari!a, e>;resses e>act'y the same idea.
&%
#urthermore, 2a4arjuna showed the contradictory nature o* a'' dharmas, a'' ;henomena
and e>;eriences. /hat is contradictory cannot be true. Thus, contradictoriness became
a criterion o* *a'sity. #rom this the Ad+aitins deri+ed the idea that noncontradictoriness,
a'"dhitatva, is the test and criterion o* truth or true know'ed4e.
&&
)m;ermanence itse'* is a *orm o* contradiction. The e>terna' wor'd ceases to e>ist *or a
;erson who is in the dream, svapna, or dee;s'ee;, su upta , states. The e>;eriences o*
O (aiv"*ra n"vara yasya tasya madhya !uto 'havet@ 2a4arjuna, +ulamadhyama!a ari!a, &&.$.&.
&%. Eauda;ada, +andu!ya ari!a, $.-.
&&4 A'"dhit"rtha-vi aya!a- j$"na pram" @ see Charmaraja Adh+arindra, Ved"nta Pari'h" " , trans. Swami
Madha+ananda (3o'kata: Ad+aita Ashrama, $%%,), ,.
1
Four Basic Principles of Advaita Vedanta -- Swami Bhajanananda
dream and dee;s'ee; states contradict the e>;eriences o* the wakin4 state. Bence, the
e>terna' wor'd must be re4arded as unrea'. Brahman as the inner Se'*, pratya*"tman,
a'ways abides within us as the unchan4in4 witness, s"! in . )t abides e+en in dee; s'ee;@
this is known *rom the *act that a*ter a dee; s'ee; we are ab'e to reco''ect, <) ha+e had
a sound s'ee;@ and ) did not know anythin4.= The dream and dee;s'ee; states do not
ne4ate or contradict awareness or consciousness. (onsciousness as AtmanBrahman is
unchan4in4, unbroken, e+er ;resent@ there*ore it a'one is rea', it is the on'y Rea'ity.
)n this connection it shou'd be noted that Ad+aitins acce;t e+en the dream state to be
rea' as 'on4 as the e>;erience o* the dream 'asts. )t be'on4s to a third kind o* rea'ity
known as pr"ti'h"si!asatt", i''usory e>istence. The dream becomes unrea' on'y when a
;erson wakes u;. Simi'ar'y, the wor'd a;;ears to be rea' unti' a ;erson awakens to the
rea'i?ation o* Brahman.
&$
)t shou'd a'so be ;ointed out here that the other schoo's o* 8edanta do not acce;t
Shankara=s conce;t o* a two'e+e' or three'e+e' rea'ity, nor the unrea'ity o* the wor'd.
They acce;t the wor'd as im;ermanent, no doubt, but *or them, im;ermanence does not
mean unrea'ity.
(ii) .it and ja a : The second 'ine o* reasonin4 that Ad+aitins *o''ow in order to ;ro+e
the unrea'ity o* the wor'd is based on the antinomic nature o* the subject and the
object. A major ;remise o* the Ad+aitins is that consciousness is a'ways the subject@ it
can ne+er be objecti*ied. )t is a *undamenta' ;rinci;'e that the subject and the object
can ne+er be the same. )n order to know an object we need consciousness@ but to know
consciousness nothin4 is necessary, because consciousness is se'*'uminous, svaya -jyoti ,
se'*re+ea'in4. This means, a'' objects be'on4 to the rea'm o* the unconscious, ja a .
(hitsukha ar4ues that there can be no re'ation between the subject, which is ;ure
consciousness, and the object, which is ja a . )n *act, the subjectobject re'ationshi; is
*a'se. Bowe+er, (hitsukha a'so shows that the wor'd is *a'se on'y when the Abso'ute is
rea'i?ed.
&F
Aj$na as the Con$oint Cause of the "orld
+"y" or aj$"na or avidy" or i4norance is re4arded in a'most a'' schoo's o* thou4ht as
absence o* know'ed4e, inadeDuate know'ed4e, or wron4 know'ed4e. The Ad+aita +iew o*
aj$"na di**ers *rom a'' other +iews in three ways:
(i) Aj$"na is not mere'y a ;sycho'o4ica' ;rocess takin4 ;'ace in a ;erson=s mind, but
a uni+ersa', onto'o4ica' ;henomenon ;resent e+erywhere.
(ii) Aj$"na is an adhy"sa or adhy"ropa, su;erim;osition. Rea'ity is o* the nature o*
know'ed4e, and aj$"na is a +ei'in4 or co+erin4 o* know'ed4e.
&$ See Shankaracharya=s commentary on Brahma Sutra, $.&.&,: <Sarva-vyavah"r" "m-eva
pr"*'rahm"tmat"- +ij$7n7tsatyat+o;a;atte s+a;na+ya+ah7rasye+a pr"!-pra'odh"t@ a'' em;irica'
usa4es are true be*ore the rea'i?ation o* Brahman as the Se'*, just as the e>;eriences in the dream
state are true be*ore one wakes u;.=
&F -attvapradipi!a, ,%PF.
O
Four Basic Principles of Advaita Vedanta -- Swami Bhajanananda
(iii) Aj$"na is not mere ne4ation@ it is somethin4 ;ositi+e, 'h"var5pa. The count'ess
objects o* the uni+erse are not mere i''usions, they are rea' as 'on4 as the em;irica'
wor'd remains. They are a'' ;roduced by m"y". This shows that m"y" is somethin4
;ositi+e.
/hen it is said that Brahman is both materia' cause, up"d"na-!"ra a , and e**icient
cause, nimitta!"ra a , it on'y means that Brahman is the unchan4in4 nondua' Rea'ity
behind the uni+erse. The +arieties o* *orms and names that we encounter in the wor'd
are the creations o* m"y". The e>act re'ation between Brahman and m"y" is a matter o*
contro+ersy amon4 the di**erent schoo's o* Ad+aita. The more ;o;u'ar +iew is that
Brahman and m"y" act 'ike the two strands o* a ro;e. )n this case, the ro'e o* m"y" is
known as a saha!"ri-!"ra a , conjoint cause or coo;erati+e cause.
&,
+"y" or aj$"na is said to ha+e two ;owers: (i) "vara a-a!ti , which co+ers Brahman and
;re+ents Brahman=s true nature *rom bein4 known@ and (ii) vi! epa-a!ti , which conjures
u; the objects o* the uni+erse.
&-
#rom the abo+e it is c'ear that, *unctiona''y, m"y" or aj$"na is as rea' as the Prakriti o*
Sankhya ;hi'oso;hy and the Shakti o* Shaktism. At the same time, since aj$"na is a
ne4ati+e *actor and is itse'* i''usory, it can be e'iminated or sub'ated throu4h true
know'ed4e, 'ea+in4 the nondua' nature o* Brahman intact. This bri''iant stroke o* the
inte''ect e>ecuted by Shankara has *ew ;ara''e's in the history o* ;hi'oso;hy.
But this conce;t in+o'+es certain contradictions. )n the *irst ;'ace, i* Brahman is se'*
'uminous and is nothin4 but ;ure know'ed4e, how can i4norance e>ist in itH (an darkness
e>ist in 'i4htH Second'y, since Brahman is in*inite, aj$"na must be in*inite too. )n that
case, rea'i?ation o* Brahman by one ;erson wou'd im;'y the remo+a' o* the entire
aj$"na in the uni+erse, which is ob+ious'y an absurd ;ro;osition. A'thou4h attem;ts ha+e
been made to answer these and other objections, none o* them is satis*actory.
Aj$"na or avidy" is o* two kinds: !"ra a-a j$"na, a'so ca''ed m5l"vidy", and !"rya-
aj$"na, a'so ca''ed t5l"vidy". )t is !"ra a-a j$"na that is the cause o* the creation o* a''
the mani*o'd thin4s in the uni+erse, inc'udin4 the e4oAthis is known as &varas i , Eod=s
creation. 9ur attachment, hatred, *ear, dreams, and such other reactions with re4ard to
e>terna' objects are ;roduced by !"rya-aj$"naAthis is known as j&va-s i .
&N
&, #or di**erent theories on the causa' ro'e o* m"y" or aj$"na, see Cinesh (handra Bhattacharya,
<PostKankara Ad+aita=, -he .ultural /erita*e of 0ndia, M +o's (3o'kata: Ramakrishna Mission )nstitute o*
((a'cutta: Eu;ta Press, &ON$). See a'so Swami Tattwa+idananda, <Mu'a+idya, A+astha+idya, and
Tu'a+idya=, Bulletin of the Rama!rishna +ission 0nstitute of .ulture, ,O"- (May &OO1), $$,P-.
&- The "vara a-a!ti itse'*, accordin4 to Madhusudana Saraswati, consists o* three +ei's. The *irst +ei'
co+ers the sat as;ect o* Brahman, the second +ei' co+ers the cit as;ect, and the third +ei' co+ers the
"nanda as;ect. The Ad+aitic rea'i?ation is a ;ro4ressi+e 'i*tin4 o* these +ei's. See 2a'inikanta Brahma,
Philosophy of /indu Sadhana (Qondon: 3e4an Pau', Trench, Trubner, &OF$), &,M. Sri Ramakrishna a'so,
;unnin4 on the names o* three 4reat 8aishna+a saints o* Ben4a', used to say that Eodrea'i?ation has
three sta4es: Ad+aita, (haitanya, and 2ityananda. See M, -he 6ospel of Sri Rama!rishna, trans. Swami
2ikhi'ananda ((hennai: Ramakrishna Math, $%%$), $M$, F%1.
&N "ra a-a j$"na and !"rya-aj$"na are discussed in Madhusudana Saraswati=s Siddhanta-'indu.
7varas i and j&va-s i are discussed in 8idyaranya=s Panchadashi.
&%
Four Basic Principles of Advaita Vedanta -- Swami Bhajanananda
Qast'y, we ha+e a'ready ;ointed out that in Ad+aita, aj$"na means adhy"sa or
adhy"ropa. Adhy"sa itse'* is o* *i+e ty;es, which are ;o'ar in nature (see Tab'e).
To ha+e a c'ear understandin4 o* Ad+aita it is necessary to understand *irst these *i+e
;o'arities in adhy"sa.
&M
9win4 to 'imitations o* s;ace they cannot be discussed here.
Dharm&adhy"sa (Substanti+e su;erim;os.) +s Dharmaadhy"sa (Attributi+e su;erim;;os.)
Anyonyaadhy"sa (Mutua' su;erim;osition) +s 8!onmu!haadhy"sa (.ni'atera' su;erim;os.)
-"d"tmyaadhy"sa ()denti*ication su;erim ) +s Samsar*aadhy"sa ((ontact su;erim;osition)
"ran a adhy"sa ((ausa' su;erim;osition) +s "ryaadhy"sa (G**ect su;erim;;osition)
Arthaadhy"sa (9bject su;erim;osition) +s j$"naadhy"sa (3now'ed4e su;erim;osition.)
The %on-duality of &nowled'e
9ne o* the most *undamenta' ideas o* 8edanta is that ;ure (onsciousness, cit, or ;ure
know'ed4e, j$ana, is se'*e>istent@ that is, it e>ists by itse'*, inde;endent o* body and
mind. This idea is shared by the Sankhya and Ro4a systems a'so, but by no other system
o* thou4ht in the wor'd. )n /estern thou4htAre'i4ious as we'' as secu'arAconsciousness
or know'ed4e has a'ways been re4arded as a ;ro;erty or *unction o* mind, or e+en o* the
brain, and can ne+er e>ist inde;endent'y.
Ad+aita 8edanta ad+anced the idea o* the inde;endence and se'*e>istence o*
consciousness sti'' *urtherAmore than Sankhya and Ro4a e+er didA and ;osited that ;ure
3now'ed4e or (onsciousness is one and nondua'. )t is to be remembered here that
<Ad+aita= does not mean mere oneness o* rea'ity. Se+era' /estern thinkers, *rom
Parmenides and Aristot'e in ancient Ereece to modern Duantum ;hysicists, ha+e s;oken
about oneness o* rea'ity, but it is in+ariab'y oneness o* either matter or mind, or e'se o*
<substance=, which is a tertium 9uid. Ad+aita a'one s;eaks o* the oneness o*
(onsciousness or 3now'ed4e. Accordin4 to it, (onsciousness is the so'e Rea'ity.
2ow, know'ed4e or consciousness is o* two main kinds: Se'*know'ed4e, "tmaj$"na, and
objecti+e know'ed4e, vi aya j$"na.
tma-j$(na) Self-knoled!e
This, a4ain, is o* two kinds: astitva-j$"na and svar5pa-j$"na.
(i) Astitva-"#na) knowled'e of one*s e+istence, )* Atman and Brahman were
com;'ete'y hidden by aj$"na, then we wou'd know nothin4 about our own e>istence or
about other thin4s, and we wou'd be no better than a stone or a c'od o* earth. But, 'ike
the 'i4ht o* the sun comin4 throu4h dark c'ouds, the 'i4ht o* the Atman comes throu4h
the co+erin4s o* aj$"na. )t is this *i'tered 'i4ht o* Atman that 4i+es us the notion <) e>ist=.
My own e>istence, astitva, does not need any ;roo*@ it is se'*e+ident, svata -siddha .
&M A sim;'e descri;tion o* these *i+e ;o'arities in adhy"sa is 4i+en in the Ben4a'i te>t
Vedantadarshanam,trans. and annot. Swami 8iswaru;ananda ((a'cutta: .dbodhan, &OM%), $N.
&&
Four Basic Principles of Advaita Vedanta -- Swami Bhajanananda
This awareness o* our own e>istence comes *rom the Atman in us.
)t shou'd be mentioned here that the <)= or e4o in us is the resu't o* the association o*
the Atman, which is cit or ;ure (onsciousness, and 'uddhi, which is ja a or aj$"na. This
association is concei+ed as a <knot=, cit-ja a-*ranthi , or as a redhot iron ba''A*ire
stands *or the Atman, the iron ba'' *or 'uddhiAor as a trans;arent crysta' a;;earin4 as
red owin4 to the ;resence o* a red *'ower near it.
/hen we say <) e>ist=, the <e>ist= as;ect comes direct'y *rom the Atman.
(ii) Svar$pa-"#na) knowled'e of one*s true nature, /hat is the nature o* this
AtmanH .n*ortunate'y we are aware o* on'y the e>istence o* the Atman but, owin4 to the
co+erin4 o* !"ra a-a j$"na, we are not aware o* its true nature, svar5pa. Accordin4 to
Shankara, the true nature o* the Atman can be known on'y *rom 8edantic scri;tures. The
.;anishads state that the true nature o* Atman is Brahman.
This kind o* know'ed4e is at *irst on'y a conce;tua' know'ed4e ;roduced by menta'
v tti s, modi*ications.
But this v tti- j$"na is the startin4 ;oint. Accordin4 to Shankara, once this know'ed4e is
4ained, a'' that remains to be done is to sto; identi*yin4 onese'* with one=s body, mind,
and so on. This nonidenti*ication, ;ractised with the he'; o* the <neti, neti = ;rocess,
be4ins as d *-d ya-vive!a Adiscrimination between the seer and the seenAand
cu'minates in a hi4her ty;e o* inner absor;tion, known as nididhy"sana.
Sureshwaracharya eDuates nididhy"sana with savi!alpa sam"dhi. Beyond this 'ies
nirvi!alpa sam"dhi, in which a!ha d"!"ra-v tti , a unitary menta' mode, remo+es the
m5l"vidy", causa' i4norance.
/hen the m5l"vidy" is com;'ete'y remo+ed, the Atman is rea'i?ed as Brahman. /hen
this ha;;ens, astitvaj$"na is re;'aced by svar5pa-j$"na.
The ;o;u'ar notion that in Ad+aitic e>;erience the Atman <mer4es= into Brahman is not
Duite true.
The Atman remains as se'*e>istence. 9win4 to the co+erin4s o* aj$"na and its ;roducts,
the Atman is at *irst e>;erienced as <) e>ist=. But as the co+erin4s are remo+ed, the
Atman=s se'*e>istence e>;ands unti' it becomes in*inite. The same Atman that was at
the be4innin4 remains at the end a'so, on'y its co+erin4s are 4one@ we then ca'' it
Brahman.
%i a&a -j$(na) 'b"ective (noled!e
/e ha+e a'ready seen that the 'i4ht o* the Atman, in s;ite o* bein4 co+ered by aj$"na,
sti'' shines *orth, 4i+in4 rise to the notion o* <)=. The same *i'tered 'i4ht o* the Atman,
when directed towards the objects, re+ea's them. This is how we see objects. The
+unda!a 1panishad states: <-asya 'h"s" sarvamida vi'h"ti @ by Bis 'i4ht a'' this
&$
Four Basic Principles of Advaita Vedanta -- Swami Bhajanananda
shines.=
A'thou4h the .;anishads s;eak o* the 'i4ht o* the Atman re+ea'in4 objects, accordin4 to
the e;istemo'o4y or theory o* know'ed4e de+e'o;ed by the Sankhya, Ro4a, and 8edanta
systems, the ;ure Atman by itse'* cannot ha+e objecti+e know'ed4e. To ha+e objecti+e
know'ed4e, the 'i4ht o* the Atman must be re*'ected by a modi*ication o* the
anta !ara a , inner or4an, known as v tti .
The ancient SankhyaRo4a teacher Panchashikha e>;ressed this ;rinci;'e as an a>iom:
<8!ameva daranam !hy"tireva daranam@ there is on'y one way o* seein4, v tti- j$"na is
the on'y way o* seein4.= Accordin4 to the SankhyaRo4a theory o* ;erce;tionA brie*'y
described by 8yasa in his commentary on 3o*a Sutra, &.MAthe anta !ara a 4oes out
throu4h the eyes to the object and takes the *orm o* the object@ this modi*ication o* the
anta !ara a is known as v tti . The 'i4ht o* the Purusha or the Atman then 4ets re*'ected
in this v tti , and this re*'ected 'i4ht re+ea's the object. Thus, vi aya j$"na or objecti+e
know'ed4e is in+ariab'y v tti j$"na.
The abo+e theory o* ;erce;tion was ado;ted by Ad+aitins. ;ostShankara Ad+aitins,
howe+er, added two more ;rocesses to those ;ro;ounded by yo4a teachers.
(i) Accordin4 to the Ad+aita +iew, a'' objects are co+ered by aj$"na, and it is owin4
to this aj$"na that the objects are not seen. There*ore, be*ore the anta !ara a takes
the *orm o* the object, it must *irst remo+e the aj$"na co+erin4 the object. )t shou'd be
noted that this co+erin4 aj$"na is di**erent *rom the !"ra a-a j$"na and !"rya-aj$"na
mentioned ear'ier. )t is known sim;'y as vi aya*ataaj2"na , or as avasth"-aj$"na.
&1
(ii) Second'y, Brahman is a'';er+adin4, and so there is caitanya, consciousness, not
on'y in the seer or subject, known as pram"t -caitanya , but a'so in the object seen,
known as vi aya-caitanya or prameya-caitanya. PostShankara Ad+aitins he'd that, in
order to see an object, mere re*'ection o* the 'i4ht o* the Atman on the v tti is not
enou4h. )t is a'so necessary that pram"t -caitanya and prameya-caitanya become
uni*ied. This is because true know'ed4e is nondua'. There*ore, e+en in ordinary
em;irica' ;erce;tion there must be unity o* the subject and the object.
Thus, the Ad+aitic theory o* ;erce;tion in+o'+es the *o''owin4 menta' ;rocesses:
(i) Be*ore a ;erson 'ooks at an object, say a cow, the object remains en+e'o;ed in
aj$"na. This i4norance is known as vi aya*ata-a j$"na or avasth"-aj$"na.
(ii) /hen the ;erson directs his 4a?e towards the object, his anta !ara a issues *orth
throu4h his eyes and remo+es the i4norance co+erin4 the object. This ;rocess is ca''ed
"vara a-'han*a .
(iii) The anta !ara a now takes the *orm o* the object. The resu'tin4 modi*ication o*
the anta !ara a is ca''ed a v tti . At this sta4e the anta !ara a has three ;arts or v tti s:
&1 The Vedanta Pari'hasha mentions vi aya*ataaj2"na on'y. The term avasth"-aj$"na is mentioned in
Ro4endranath Ba4chi, Advaitavade Avidya
&F
Four Basic Principles of Advaita Vedanta -- Swami Bhajanananda
a) pram"t", the ;art within the ;erson@ b) pram" a , the ;art that issues *orth@ and c)
prameya, the ;art that takes the *orm o* the object.
(i+) The pram"t -caitanya in the ;erson e>tends throu4h the anta !ara a @ this
e>tension o* consciousness is ca''ed pram" a-caitanya or cid"'h"sa. .id"'h"sa 4ets
re*'ected on the v tti . This <taintin4= o* consciousness is ca''ed cidupar"*a.
(+) At this sta4e the unity o* consciousness takes ;'ace. Pram"t -caitanya , pram" a-
caitanya, and prameya-caitanya become one. This unity o* consciousness is ca''ed
a'heda-a'hivya!ti.
(+i) As a resu't, the know'ed4e <) see a cow= arises in the mind.
These menta' ;rocesses mentioned abo+e are shown dia4rammatica''y be'ow.
&O
The *o''owin4 im;ortant ;oints are to be noted in this conte>t:
(i) The se+era' menta' ;rocesses described here are a'' su;;osed to take ;'ace
simu'taneous'y, not in sta4es.
&O The descri;tion o* the menta' ;rocess in ;erce;tion 4i+en abo+e is based on Charmaraja Adh+arindra=s
Vedanta Pari'hasha. #or a detai'ed discussion on this subject see, C M Cutta, -he Si: ;ays of nowin*
((a'cutta: .ni+ersity o* (a'cutta, &OM$), N&PO&, and Swami Sat;rakashananda, +ethods of nowled*e
((a'cutta: Ad+aita Ashrama, &OM,), O1P&%O.(u'ture, $%%&), F.$--.
&,
Four Basic Principles of Advaita Vedanta -- Swami Bhajanananda
(ii) )t is the 'i4ht o* the Atman that re+ea's an object@ this means that e+ery time we
see an object the Atman re+ea's itse'*. But owin4 to the co+erin4 o* ;rimordia'
i4norance, m5l"vidy", ordinary ;ersons are not aware o* this constant se'*re+e'ation
takin4 ;'ace in our daytoday 'i*e.
(iii) )n e+ery ;erce;tion there is a'so the e>;erience o* the nondua'ity o* know'ed4e,
but a4ain, owin4 to ;rimordia' i4norance, ordinary ;eo;'e are not aware o* this *act.
Accordin4 to Ad+aita, a'' true know'ed4e is the resu't o* the unity o* the Gye in a'' other
kinds o* ;erce;tion, inc'udin4 mystica' +isions o* deities. The di**erence between the
di**erent ty;es o* ;erce;tion 'ies in the nature o* the v tti in+o'+ed. )n ordinary
;erce;tion the v tti in+o'+ed is a 4ross and im;ure one. )n the +ision o* a deity the v tti
in+o'+ed is a ;ure, subt'e, satt+ic one. )n nirvi!alpa sam"dhi a'so a simi'ar ;rocess takes
;'ace, but here the v tti in+o'+ed is known as a!ha "!"ra-v tti , which is ca;ab'e o*
takin4 an in*inite dimension. Another major di**erence is that in ordinary ;erce;tion
on'y a 'itt'e avasth"-aj$"na co+erin4 the object is remo+ed.
But in nirvi!alpa sam"dhi, m5l"vidy" itse'* is remo+ed. Bowe+er, it is im;ortant to note
that the a!ha "!"ra-v tti on'y remo+es the m5l"vidy".
As soon as this takes ;'ace, Brahman re+ea's itse'*@ the cid"'h"sa cannot re+ea' Brahman
Athat wou'd be 'ike tryin4 to see the sun with the he'; o* a *'ash 'i4ht. That is to say,
the se'*re+e'ation o* Brahman takes ;'ace without any v tti . This rea'i?ation is what was
described abo+e as svar5pa-j$"na.
The di**erent ty;es o* know'ed4e discussed so *ar are shown in the *orm o* a chart
be'ow.
j$7na
3now'ed4e
SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS
i i
5tmaj$7na 8i aya j$7na
Se'*know'ed4e 9bjecti+e know'ed4e
SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS
i i i i
Astit+aj$7na S+arL;aj$7na SLk ma+ tti SthL'a+ tti
(<) e>ist=) (Brahman e>ists) 8ision o* Ce+ata Perce;tion o* senseobjects
To sum u;, i''usoriness o* indi+idua'ity, a two'e+e' rea'ity, aj$"na as the conjoint cause
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Four Basic Principles of Advaita Vedanta -- Swami Bhajanananda
o* the wor'd, and the nondua'ity o* know'ed4e are the *our ;rinci;'es constitutin4 the
rea' essence o* Ad+aita 8edanta.
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T T T T T T T T T T T T T T T T T T T T T
Appendi+
-. -/01A VIV2&A
8edanta ;hi'oso;hy describes at 4reat 'en4th the distinction between the <Seer= (dr. 4)
and the <seen= (dr. Kya), the Subject (+iKayU) and the object (+iKaya), the <G4o= (aham)
and the <nonG4o= (idam). The <Seer= is the ;ercei+er, identica' with the Subject and the
G4o, and is o* the nature o* (onsciousness and )nte''i4ence. The <seen= is the thin4
;ercei+ed, identica' with the object and the nonG4o, and is insentient by nature. The <
Seer= is a'' sentiency@ there*ore the <Seer= and the <seen=, the Subject and the object,
the <G4o= and the <nonG4o=, are mutua''y o;;osed and must ne+er be identi*ied with
each other.
)* one associates the attributes o* the Subject with the object, or, +ice +ersa, those o*
the object with the Subject, one is a +ictim o* an i''usory su;erim;osition, the resu't o*
one=s own i4norance. Ret it is a matter o* common e>;erience that in dai'y ;ractica' 'i*e
;eo;'e do not distin4uish between the Subject and the object, but su;erim;ose the
attributes o* the one u;on the other.
Throu4h i4norance they con*use the Subject with the object. This con*usion is
obser+ab'e in e+ery action and thou4ht o* our dai'y 'i*e, and is e>;ressed in such
common statements as <This is )= or <This is mine=, whereby we identi*y the <),= which is
o* the nature o* Pure (onsciousness, with such materia' objects as the body, the mind,
the senses, house, or country. 9n account o* the same con*usion we associate the
Gterna' Se'* with such characteristics o* the body as birth, 4rowth, disease, and death@
and this con*usion is e>;ressed in such statements as <) am born=, <) am 4rowin4=, <) am
i''=, or <) am dyin4=. Ciscrimination between the <Seer= and the <seen= is the road 'eadin4
to the rea'i?ation o* Truth. The <Seer= is the unchan4eab'e and homo4eneous
(onsciousness, or the knowin4 ;rinci;'e. )t is the ;ercei+er, the Subject, the rea' <G4o=.
The <seen= is what is ;ercei+ed@ it is outside the <Seer= and there*ore identica' with the
object. )t is matter, nonSe'*, and <nonG4o=. The <seen= is mu'ti;'e and chan4eab'e.A
Swami 2ikhi'ananda< Self-nowled*e< =>?= D *-D ya-Vive!a V
gh
#or simi'ar materia' and more in*ormation
+isit our website:
www.+edanta.4r
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