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Posts Tagged ‘Non Duality’

Visista Advaita, Qualified Non-Dualism

The second Hindu system we’re considering is called Visista Advaita, a system of qualified non-dualism, proposed by one, Ramanuja, in the 11th century after Jesus. He disagreed with Shankara’s position regarding the nature of God, the universe and humankind. For Ramanuja, as with Shankara, God (Brahman) alone is eternal (sathyam). But according to him, God is not nirguna, without qualities, but saguna, with qualities.

Ramanuja taught that God is personal. The universe and our world (jagat) is the manifestation of Brahman (not a mere appearance, mithya, as with Shankara). The universe isn’t created by God, but rather is seen as an emanation from God. God is the instrumental and the material cause of creation. We are part of God but not identical with God. There’s a subtle essential difference between God and us.

Ramanuja saw the universe and humankind as the ‘body’ of God. The relationship between God and the universe, he taught, is like soul and body, or the body and the hair that grows on and from the body. God and the universe are inseparable. The material world isn’t an illusion, mithya or maya. Maya, he teaches, is the creative power of God through which he manifests the world and everything in it.

If we go back to the analogy of water and ice, Brahman, according to this system, is water; ice is the universe. The universe isn’t an illusion. It’s the manifestation of Brahman. It’s the body of Brahman. But there’s a subtle difference between God and the universe, which includes humankind — it isn’t identical with Brahman.

Ramanuja also proposed the way of devotion, bhakthi marga. One has to surrender to God, he taught, through devotion or faith — to God’s will — and one finds peace and joy in this surrender. There’s no human soul identifying with God. No one can say, ‘God and I are one.’

For him, a personal relationship with God is very important. If a human soul was one with God, then no personal relationship is possible — it takes two to tango! He taught that we can have a personal relationship with God in one or more modes such as: father and child, lover and beloved, protector and protected, physician and patient, owner and the owned, sustainer and sustained, supporter and dependent, sun and lotus etc.

Ultimate liberation, Ramanuja taught, happens only after the death of the physical body. In general he is considered to be a pantheist. But this may not be correct since he holds that there’s a subtle essential difference between God and the universe in general or humankind in particular. From the Sun come many rays, but one cannot say that every ray is a Sun. There is only one Sun and the universe is its manifestation.

John Martin Sahajananda

Continued next week

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Advaita – Non-Duality

The first Hindu philosophical system we shall consider is called Adviata, a system of non-duality proposed by Shankara in the 8th century after Jesus. According to Shankara, God (Brahman) alone is eternal (sathyam). The universe (Jagat), he taught, has only the appearance of reality. The illusory nature of the manifest world, in this system, is also known by the more often used word: maya.

Ultimately, the human soul (jivatman), he taught, is identical with God (Brahman). This can be explained with the analogy of water (representing God) and ice (representing us). Ice, as we know, comes from water and melts back to water. It could be said, that a block of ice doesn’t have an existence independent of water. Also, the block of ice always has a beginning and an end — it comes and goes, as we see with glaciers or icebergs.

The iceberg (or ice cube in your drink) is essentially one with the water in which it floats, though it is functionally different. The ice doesn’t become water. It is water. But it isn’t aware that it’s water. Because it’s solid, it imagines, let us say, that it’s an object like a stone. If this were the case, we could say it was in a state of ignorance. It would then need to free itself from this ignorance and realize that it is essentially water … or God.

Shankara proposed a way of wisdom known as jnana marga. The paths of devotion, bhakthi and action, karma can prepare the way, but jnana is the ultimate in his view. Shankara taught that ignorance can be removed only through wisdom or understanding and not by devotion or action, as they’re not the opposite of ignorance.

For Shankara also, God or Brahman is nirguna, without qualities. Brahman is impersonal. Human beings are essentially one with God, but they’re ignorant of this truth. They need to awaken out of ignorance and realize the liberating truth about themselves. According to him, ultimately every one of us can say ahambrahmaasmi, ‘I am Brahman, God and I are one.’ A person who realizes this truth while alive is called jivan muktha — liberated while alive.

In general, Shankara is considered to be a monist, but a better description would be that he’s a non-dualist: God and the universe, he taught, are not two independent or separate realities.

John Martin Sahajananda

Continued next week

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Hindu Monotheism

The expression Hindu monotheism may surprise some. In general Hinduism is described as monism, non-dualism, pantheism and polytheism! But one has to be aware that according to Hinduism, there’s only one God or absolute Reality (monotheism) but this God isn’t the creator but he/she/it manifests everything that is known. Hinduism doesn’t propose the theory of creation out of nothing. This is the basic difference between prophetic monotheism and Hindu monotheism.

There are three important theological positions in Hinduism. These positions are based on the interpretations given to the teachings of the Upanishads, the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Brahma Sutras — the sacred scriptures of Hinduism. The Upanishads belong to the period of 5th century before Jesus and the Bhagavad-Gita belongs around the 1st century before or after Jesus.

These scriptures didn’t propose any theological system, but the systems came later. The fundamental question of these systems is the relationship between God and the universe, or, God and humankind. In prophetic monotheism, this question seems to have been resolved with the theory of creation out of nothing. Since Hindu monotheism doesn’t accept this solution, it needs to propose different solutions.

Br. John Martin Sahajananda

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