Hinduism - ADVAITA

What Is Advaita?

Non-duality or 'not two-ness' is the literal translation.

One of the primary schools of Vedanta, Advaita, advocates a philosophical perspective. 

It is the concept that multiplicity is, in the end, the manifestation of a non-dual reality.

This philosophical stance is sometimes referred to as monism in the West (the belief that reality is one), but the meaning of 'non-duality' in a Hindu context is more nuanced, because it does not involve the postulation of even a single entity, because 'Being' (sat) is said to be beyond all signification, including the postulation of a One.

The non-dual principle of reality underpins the cosmos, yet it is not an entity in the same way that the many objects and entities do.

It is the foundation of their existence.

Furthermore, labeling such schools as monistic is difficult since they often preserve a multi-leveled definition of truth that does not necessitate rejecting the existence of plurality.

The idea is that the ontological substratum that permits such creatures to appear is fundamentally a non-dual principle of being.

The Upanisads include the oldest explicit exposition of non dualist notions, with Brahman as the basic substrate of existence from which the cosmos is believed to originate.

Early Upanisads, such as the Chandogya, compare the connection between Brahman and each individual being's basic self (Atman) to the mixing of salt and water in salty water.

The water tastes like salt that can't be seen, and the difference between the two is undetectable, just as Brahman can't be seen yet permeates the whole cosmos.

'You are That,' the sage concludes (tat-tvam-asi, Chandogya Upanis.ad 6.10.3).

Numerous schools evolved in response to the primary topic of the link between the individual ego and Brahman, the substance of the cosmos, as a result of various efforts to construct a systematic philosophical interpretation of such passages in the Upanisads (veda-anta or 'end of the vedas').

The difference-non-difference school, dualists (who claimed a clear ontological split between the two), qualified non dualists, and non-dualist interpretation were among them.

The Mandukya Karika (also known as the Agamasastra or the Gaudapada Karika) is the earliest unambiguous explanation of Advaitaphilosophy.

It was presumably written about the sixth century of the Common Era.

Sankara, however, is the most well-known Advaita proponent (eighth century CE).

The universe of plurality, according to believers of the Sankarite view, is ultimately nothing more than a magical illusion (Maya).

The specific nature of this illusion was the topic of much debate (and opposing schools' contention), but the general consensus was that maya is unexplainable, being neither completely existing nor non-existent.

The key to grasping this concept is to recognize that there are two degrees of truth for Sankara: ultimate truth (where the non-dual Brahman is the solitary reality) and daily, practical truth (where a variety of diverse things exist).

Maya is a cosmic illusion, but it is not a mental delusion (as in a hallucination or a dream), not least because the concept of an individual self (jivatman) is ultimately illusory from the standpoint of ultimate truth.

The world of waking awareness is not a subjective deception, according to Sankara; it exists and acts on a practical plane of reality.

This universe is unreal in and of itself, but real in the sense that it is identical to Brahman, the source of all existence.

According to Sankara, avidya - metaphysical ignorance – is the root of the universe's seeming manifestation, which is basically our ignorance of the reality that everything is Brahman.

At the individual level, this entails projecting categories or 'adjuncts' derived from previously acquired experiences (including those from prior incarnations) onto the non-dual reality, causing it to look as something it is not.

Sankara utilizes the well-known example of the rope and the snake to convey his point.

In low light, a rope might resemble a snake.

We think we're looking at a snake, but it's only a rope.

We can realize the error that was committed in daylight (that is, with the benefit of knowledge) and no longer project the image of a snake onto the rope.

Similarly, Brahman is the source of all things, but we misinterpret it as distinct objects due to our inability to transcend our ignorance of reality's actual nature.

Sankara's interpretation of Advaita, on the other hand, is far from the sole kind of nondualism found in Hindu traditions.

The Bhagavata Purana (c. eleventh century CE) is centered on the playful figure of Krishna and mixes non-dualistic notions with Vaisnava devotionalism (bhakti).

Non-dualistic philosophies may also be found within the many Saivite movements.

The Pratyabhijna or Recognition School, which is commonly connected with Kashmir but also exists elsewhere, is notable for its clear rejection of Sankara's notion of maya's illumination.

The world is real, according to this school, since it is a vibration (spanda) of Siva's dynamic and creative awareness.

Later works, such as Vasistha's highly poetic Yoga Teachings (Yogavasistha), synthesize themes and concepts from a variety of non-dualist schools (including Buddhist ones), but with a clear orientation towards Vedantic interpretations.

Interest in Sankara's philosophy by various Western Orientalists and Hindu reformers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries helped to establish non-dualist ideas as important sources. 

Many of the key intellectual figures and gurus of Hinduism in the modern period, including Ramakrishna, his disciple Swami Vivekananda, SarvepalliRadhakrishnan, Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Raj, Sri Aurobindo, and, to a lesser extent, Mahatma Gandhi, advocate non-dualism as a central aspect of their teaching.

Swami Vivekananda, perhaps more than anyone else, was responsible for catching the imagination of Hindus and Westerners alike with his promotion of non-dual ism as Hinduism's basic doctrine and 'spirituality' as the distinguishing quality of Hindu devotion.

~Kiran Atma

See also: 

Atman, Bhakti, Brahman, Buddhism's relationship with Hinduism, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi,Aurobindo Ghose, Modern and contemporary Hinduism, Kashmiri Saivism, Krishna, Maya, Puranas, Sir Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan,Sri Ramakrishna, Ramana Maharshi,Saivism, Sankara, Siva, Upanisads, Vaisnavism, Vedanta, Swami Vivekananda,Yogavasistha

References And Further reading:

King, Richard. 1999. Indian Philosophy: An Introduction to Hindu and Buddhist Thought. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Ram-Prasad, C. 1991. An Outline of Indian Non-realism: Some Central Arguments of Advaita Metaphysics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sharma, A. 1993. The Experimental Dimension of Advaita Vedanta. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.