Advaita Philosophy, Yoga Philosophy

Advaita Philosophy: Metaphysics of Vedanta Hinduism and Spiritual Awakening


Advaita is the philosophy of Oneness, or Monism. It is one of the three schools of Vedanta philosophy of Hinduism. Vedanta philosophy is based on the Vedantas, or Upanishads, of the Vedas. They are the oldest extant and continuously followed religious scriptures in the world, and are more than 5000 years old.

The three schools of Vedanta philosophy differ on the way in which they define the relation between the Absolute, called Brahman, and the world. The world here includes both the material world, the non-living objects, and the living, our souls. The three schools are:

Dvaita: the school of Dualism. In this, the Absolute and the world are two completely separate and different entities, and Brahman has created and supports the world. Here humans are seen in a subservient role to the Absolute.

Vishista Advaita: this is the path of Qualified Monism. Here also, the Absolute and the world are two separate entities but God or Brahman has created us out of His own substance, and we are a part of God. The analogies given are the fire and sparks, the sea and wave, clay and pot,etc. In this, we are nearer to the Brahman because we enjoy a relation of part and whole, and thus we can seek Brahman within our own hearts.

Advaita: Advaita is the path of Monism. Dvaita means dualism and hence Advaita means Non-dual. Here, the reality of the world is denied and the Absolute is said to be the only reality. The world is said to have only relative reality, and therefore its reality is ambiguous, and it is only Brahman which is the root of the world which has reality.

The chief exponent of Kevala Advaita or Advaita is Shankaracharya. He lived around the eight century. He had a large number of achievements to his credit. He wrote commentaries on the ten principal Upanishads, The Bhagavat Geeta and the Brahma Sutras. He traveled around the country and established Advaita, and was one of the chief factors that led to the eventual downfall of Buddhism in India. Other important teachers of Advaita are Vacaspati Misra and Prakasatman, and also Mandana, Padmapada and Suresvara.

Advaita Vedanta does not deny the reality of the world completely. It does not say that this world does not exist at all, it only denies that the world has absolute reality. The things of the world do exist, but they exist only as half real things without any absolute reality.

If we take the example of a burning candle, we see that the candle changes into smoke and ashes giving off energy (in the form of heat and light). In this change, at first it appears that there is nothing that is common to these forms. But we know that it is the atoms of wax (like carbon, hydrogen, etc) which was constant, and in reaction with the atoms of oxygen gave off energy. So here it is the matter in the form of atoms was common to all the forms, and which existed first as the candle, then as burnt wax, and finally as ashes and smoke. So here the candle is a relative reality and the atoms the absolute. Again, we know from relativity, E=MC2, that matter can be expressed as energy and energy as matter. So there must be something common to matter and energy, and which can exist in one form as matter and in another as energy.

In this way, we can see that behind all this changing forms in the world, there must be something which is common, something which is absolute beyond this world and which is the only absolute reality. This absolute reality is called Brahman.

As in the non-living world, so also in our consciousness, our individual consciousness is said to be a relative reality only and there is an absolute reality beyond it. In analyzing our individual consciousness, we see that our thoughts and sensations are an everflowing stream which have no constancy. There is no single thought or sensation which we can catch of and say that this is permanent. But yet we know that we have a reality, an existence. Therefore there must be something inside us which has an absolute reality, something around which these thoughts-sensations revolve. This absolute reality within us is said to be Brahman also.

Thus Advaita Vedanta declares that there is an absolute reality beyond all this world, both beyond the material non-living world and our consciousness, and this absolute reality is Brahman.

Studying the material world is interesting as philosophical speculation, but it is Brahman as the root of our consciousness which leads us into spirituality.

When we see that our individual consciousness has only relative reality and that the only Absolute Reality in our consciousness is Brahman, we immediately see that our real identity is Brahman itself. We are and always have been this Absolute Reality, we were never this puny individual consciousness. This individual identity is but like a cloud which obscures the sun. It was a delusion that led us to identify with this individual consciousness and not our absolute reality, Brahman.

Thus we see the path that leads us to Spiritual Awakening. It is to free ourselves of our delusion that we are this individual identity, this ego of ours that we consider to be our ‘I‘ in our everyday world. We feel that we are a small existence, an isolated consciousness making its way in the world. The way to free ourselves of this delusion is Yoga.

There are four main paths of Yoga, Raja Yoga, Gyana Yoga, Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga. These paths all lead to the same spiritual endpoint, the Absolute or Brahman. We may take up any of these paths that is best suited to our temperament. By diligent practice, we can then free ourselves of this delusion of individual identity.

Then the moment of Awakening will dawn on us, when we will see that we are the Brahman itself, that we are an absolute reality and the root of all this that exists around us.

This Spiritual Awakening is the endpoint of Advaita Vedanta.

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* To read more on Advaita Vedanta and Yoga and its harmony with modern science and reason, you can go through my book on Amazon:

Advaita Philosophy, Yoga Philosophy

The Circle of Fire: The Metaphysics of Yoga

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