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If we consider humans as finite beings, what evidence do we have that “eternity” actually exists?

Physical bodies are finite, corruptible, but are human beings just their bodies (and their finite minds)? There is a mysterious, undefinable, and unmeasurable entity called consciousness which appears to pervade all sentient beings and nature in general. Nature, all life, is conscious – dare we say? This entity – consciousness – is undeniable, for it is our most direct and unfalsifiable experience. Consciousness – by consensus of a majority of physicists – escapes all parameters of physics, neurophysiology, and brain studies. But not only consciousness, but the so-called matter is also in the same category of the intrinsically unknowable, even if there are methods for measuring and experimenting with such entity as matter-energy.

Again, no one knows what eternity might be, such are the limitations of our means of understanding reality, even though physics and mathematics come to our aid in this and also with the phenomenon of space (space-time). What is more, philosophy and metaphysics have a better grasp of the extra-physical dimensions of reality aided and abetted as they are by (universal) intuition. For metaphysics time does not exist outside of our minds, and, rather than eternity-(duration), timelessness – or what is the same, that only the PRESENT exists – is what, as a concept, gives a semblance of reality to reality (all that is and ever has been) – incomprehensible to the unaided mind.

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“Can we still hold that modern science is far from realizing the unreality of the world, the basic teaching of Advaita?”

It’s clear to me that philosophical statements such as “the world is unreal”, or “reality is spiritual” express not empirical but a priori propositions. As such, they are independent of sense experience in that their truth or falsity is not determined by the facts of sense experience. Such statements can neither be confirmed nor confuted by sense experience. Observation and experiment are simply irrelevant to their truth or falsity. Thus, they fall outside the realm of the empirical sciences, whatever be the speculations of individual scientists when assuming the role of members of the laity. Further, in the contexts in which they most often occur, such statements are not regarded as provisional truths subject to refutation or revision as in the sciences, but as absolute and irrefutable truths vouchsafed by unimpeachable authority. (From another thread – forgot author).

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Consciousness is prior to the universe

What is the scriptural basis for Advaita consciousness being an awareness preceding the universe?

That’s an ‘easy’ one. 1) Consciousness and awareness are the same for Advaita Vedanta. 2) Atman-brahman, or Consciousness, is the sole reality – the universe is in essence not other than Atman (Consciousness or ‘Spirit’). 3) Consequently, there is no creation – no causation, including space and time which, as everything else, are phenomena, appearances.

Mundaka Upanishad 2.1.10: ‘the world is brahman alone’.

K 3.18. In this karika Gaudapada demonstrates that creation is only apparent, because reality cannot undergo change (and it is taught that the effect is not other than the cause).

Katha Up. 2.1.10: ‘Who ever sees difference between what is here (individual Atman/’soul’) and what is there (brahman) goes from death to death’.

Brihadaranyaka Up. 2.5.19: ‘The supreme being is perceived as manifold on account of Maya’ (magic).

Taittiriya Up. 2.6: ‘Brahman, which is the absolute reality, became reality (satya) and unreality/appearance (asatya)’. That is, the cause itself appears as various effects due to superimposition, which is itself the core, or definition, of ignorance (avidya). Cf. Tai. 2.6, Chandogya Up. 2.8.4, and Bhavagad Gita 4.13 and 13.2.

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Ramanuja & Shankara

Who would win in an argument between Ramanujacharya and Shankaracharya?

As non-duality can be said to go beyond, and at the same time enclose duality within itself, we can also say that Shankara, being a non-dualist philosopher, goes beyond and ‘incorporates’ Ramanuja, that is, the latter’s philosophy (it has been said: a jñani understands a bhakta, not vice versa).

Ramanuja took the ego (psychological self) as being the Self, an error for an Advaitin. For the former, destruction of the ego (“me”) will thus entail the destruction of the Self. For an Advaitin, the ego or subtle body (mind, senses, and vital breath) dissolves when the body dies – not so awareness or pure consciousness.

From the viewpoint of Advaita Vedanta, ‘consciousness’ is another name for reality/being/existence: all there is or that can be (all possibilities of existence). Neither ‘subject’ nor ‘object’, it annihilates this (mental) division, as well as sublating all concepts.

Or, as Francis Lucille, a well-known teacher wrote: ‘Simply put, non-dualism is the hypothesis that reality is non-dual, that there is only one single reality which is the substance of all things, of all phenomena, of both mind and matter. If that is true, it follows that the reality of our ordinary consciousness, meaning whatever is really perceiving these words at this moment, must be this non-dual, single, and universal reality.’

Shankara said:

‘An enlightened person, after his death, does not undergo a change of condition – something different than when he was living. But he is said to be “merged in Brahman” just due to his not being connected to another body.’ Quoted from ‘The Method of Early Advaita Vedanta’, Michael Comans.

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Freewill vs. determinism

Is every action predetermined or is there free will?

The notion of ‘free will’ is of Jewish-Christian origin, and is the other side of the coin which consists in that other nostrum, ‘(the problem of) evil’, and which complicates things even more. God, being the summum bonum, is not responsible for evil; therefore that responsibility falls entirely on (fallen) man.

There is no notion in Plato (and generally among the ancient Greeks) of the concept of ‘free will’, in the sense of a faculty of the soul which determines a particular course of action – choice, in other words. Rather, it is an inclination or appetite (desire) which motivates action and which is either for the highest and noblest aspiration in man or for his lower preferences (they correspond to Being and Becoming respectively). When the inclination is towards the Good Plato calls it Eros. This account of ‘good will’ was preserved in St. Augustine (dilectio or caritas).

A similar view can be found in Br.Upanishad 4.4.5: “Man is fashioned by desire; according to his desire is his discernment; according to his discernment he does his work.” Also: “For just as men here below pursue the aim after which each aspires, as it were done at command, whether it be a kingdom, or an estate, and live only for that, (so in their aspiration for heavenly rewards they are the slaves of their desires”) – Chand.Upanishad 8.1.5). Paul Deussen, in ‘The Philosophy of the Upanishads’, from which I just quoted, concludes: “The standpoint of the Upanishads, therefore, is a rigid determinism”.

That judgment, however, should be applied only to the empirical viewpoint of the everyday world, not to the higher one, where Atma (-Brahman), the only reality, reigns with absolute freedom. ‘That Thou art’.

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Who am I? Someone who wants to play. I borrowed that expression from you.

Neo Advaitist- No play. I told you I don’t believe in any teaching; only, ‘Being is’, and that is what I am.

Some say, Being is not. Who is right?

… I am champion of the world.

Champion of what?

Champion of ‘I’.

Champion of you?

No, champion of ‘I am’.

Have you discovered it?

Yes, I have discovered it to the nth point: I am that I am.

But those are the words of God – God’s proverbial utterance.

Is there any difference between God and me?

 Not in the lower realm.

I forgot; you said that before. How about the higher realm?

That I am too.

Can you explain it?

No need to explain it, I know it… I just know it by heart.

How about non-being?

No, I am not that… told you that before.

To be or not to be?

That is the question, but you want to confound me.

Me is me?

Told you also…. I am everything… and of course, everybody. I just know it.

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Not thinking

What are the antonyms of thinking? Thinking is a conscious act. So, I think, the antonyms of thinking must express an unconscious action like sleeping, but I can’t find the exact word.

Profile photo for Alberto Martín

Unconsciousness is the antonym of consciousness, not of thinking. The antonym of ‘thinking’ has to entail ‘not thinking’ in it’s meaning (the answer or term). What is it where thinking is absent but not so consciousness? The answer is, silent contemplation (or a state of wordless absorption). Samadhi – a thoughtless experience not devoid of consciousness – would also do as an answer. What will not be acceptable to a majority of readers is that even in deep sleep consciousness is present (objectless consciousness) – Advaitins do, and I am with them.

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Brahman & maya

Can Advaitins explain how Maya can be an attribute of the supposedly attributeless Brahman? Why was the creation needed if Brahman alone existed? What is Ishwara?

1) Maya is not an attribute of Brahman which, as you say, is attributeless. Maya is a diffuse, or polyvalent, concept that gives rise to much confusion, particularly by translating it as ‘illusion’ (see below). This concept can be viewed from the psychological, epistemological, and ontological perspectives. Purely from the standpoint of Shankara’s Advaita Vedanta, maya is tied in with the concept of ‘ignorance’ (avidya), which is prior to it; that is, avidya is the necessary condition for maya. Once ignorance has been annihilated by knowledge, maya disappears. That means that from the higher (of two) point of view maya does not exist. This is contrary to most post-Shankara authors, with the exception of Suresvara, who taught that maya is a positive entity or force. If that were the case, how could a positive entity be removed by knowledge? Swami Satchidanandendra, practically alone in the 20th Cent. has defended the former, Shankarian position.

Maya can also be viewed as the power or energy of Brahman to create the world, and etymologically the word comes from ‘magic/magician’. But note that the (phenomenal) world is not pure illusion, as stated above, but mithya (relatively real)

2) ‘Brahman alone is real. The world is appearance. The world is not other than Brahman’ (one of the ‘great sayings’ – mahavakya).

3) Ishvara is Brahman considered as creator and ‘personal’ by those who need or are proclive to a devotional relationship (creator/creature). It is also known as ‘saguna brahman’ (Brahman with attributes), as (apparently) different from ‘nirguna Brahman’.

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Science & reality

How far does science tell the truth or reality?

 ‘Truth -or- reality’ is a metaphysical term or concept, an ideal model if you wish (ideal in the Platonic sense) which is beyond the ken of empirical science. The latter can provide (“envision”) working models or blueprints of reality (which is a wholeness), but it will always fall short due to the fact that these, pretending to be objective, are reductionistic, cosmological at most, not factoring in a/the subject*.

In other words, truth or reality cannot but be a transcendental vision where the individual is a mere contemplative observer or subject (himself being a part of the undivided whole itself – a sort of co-opted witness, as happens in mysticism and also non-dual view of things (as in Eastern philosophies, Taoism, etc.).

*the subject is part of the landscape. Alternately the subject or observer disappears altogether.

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From where did everything originate?

Posted on  by amartingarcia

Existence is its own ‘origin’, as awareness is aware of itself, (though not in a self-reflective subject-object relationship) as well as of everything else; or as the first cause is the uncaused cause, the unmoved mover of Aristotle, Plato, etc. Existence IS. It is the super ‘Big Bang’ or prior to ever being a Big Bang, for it is a metaphysical principle, indescribable, unexplainable, and having no parts – the ’given’ and originator of all things, without which nothing is. It is, in fact, the arché, first or highest principle or noumenon – consciousness or reality itself. Before anything existed, existence was/is – that is its mystery.

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(‘The word is ArSha or ārṣa. The meaning is given as “relating or belonging to or derived from RRiShi-s or ṛṣis-s”.)

D quotes…’Brihad. Up. 1.4, explaining how ṛṣi-s and devatā-s have got ‘extraordinary body-mind-complexes, which enable them to gain knowledge intuitively’. As regards humans, ‘in some special cases it is possible to gain brahmavidyā without the conventional guru and śāstra.

Both D & R agree that intuition (arsa or anubhava) is the province of the seers almost exclusively. But, is it so?

Intuition being a faculty of knowledge (there is sensory, mental or intellectual, and transcendental intuition), there are (must be) different degrees and subjects thereof. Further, intuition is (must be) itself a universal faculty. This is the sense in which SSSS employs the term and which appears frequently in his writings – ‘It is this immediate intuition alone that has been regarded as the valid means of right knowledge by Shankara, when he is speaking of the knowledge of Brahman’. – ‘Articles and Thoughts on VEDANTA’. p. 55.

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