I had a comment on an old post recently that I think is
worth including here as it points to a common misconception. The misconception might only be slight but when it comes to spiritual truth a miss is often as good (or as bad) as a mile.
doing an objective critique on what is posed as argument... "I believe
advaitin mistakes identification*..." is itself an inconsistency. One
should go through Kant's Critiques, Hegel's Phenomenology to understand
Sankara's philosophy. Becoming is subsumed under Being. All identification is
about an apparent form that will subsist only till such time it is disproved
under a higher truth. The highest truth is the form of unity called as Absolute
because there is nothing beyond it, call it God and it is immediately given the
form (conceptual) of God.
To which I replied.
Or call it the Absolute and it is immediately given
the form of the Absolute.
I don't think you need Kant or Hegel to understand
Sankara. If you do then he failed to get his point across. I appreciate what
you mean about becoming being subsumed in being and perhaps that
is what happens insofar as the locus of identification or centre is concerned.
But I believe the mistake of advaita is then to ascribe to the relative world
no point or purpose at all. This is indicated by Sankara's inability to explain
why the world should have arisen in the first place and what its purpose might
Individuality is not the result of ignorance but a
real God-given thing without which we could never even know the Absolute or
God, call it what you will.
It's easy to get lost in intellectual abstractions
(a bit like Kant and Hegel) and advaita quite frankly is often guilty of that.
I'm not aware of one person who really demonstrates the truth of advaita in
themselves and I include such people as Ramana and Krishnamurti for whom I have great respect as well as a whole host of lesser luminaries. In each of
them, very obviously, the individual still remains and, in fact, must do as the
vehicle of their realisation. Are we really saying that the consciousness of a
Buddha or Ramana is the same as the consciousness of the Creator of the universe?
Really? If not then individuality must be a real thing, and a lasting one too
even if it is transformed.
That is why I regard the true goal of the spiritual life as the
integration of being and becoming, not the perception of the former as
fundamentally illusionary in the light of the latter. And this is why we need the experience of being born in this world. It gives us something we need and did not have before which is the knowledge of duality that, when resolved, gives us a deeper entry into reality than simple oneness or non-duality would allow.
This world is a far richer and more meaningful
thing than advaita allows. It is the expression of love which, if advaita
practiced what it preached, could have no real meaning. It’s no
good saying that love exists in the world of maya but not at the level of pure
non-duality because that leaves love as a manifestation of ignorance in which
case it is hollow.
Advaita fails to see that reality transcends a mere
logical interpretation of it, and that there is differentiation right at the
heart of unity. That is how a universe can arise. God cannot be limited to
oneness or non-duality. Advaita needs to be supplemented by the Christian concept
of the Trinity to give a living understanding of life and not a mere philosophy which doesn't stand up to examination when all aspects of reality are taken into consideration.
There is a state of consciousness that can be
described as non dualistic in that the perfect oneness of all things is known but
all things still have their own individual quality and integrity. To reduce life to one or the other is to limit it. This is because proper perception does not entail the sublation of all diversity to unity but the subordination. This allows for love and true understanding comes only through
Spiritual understanding does not reveal there is no individual self but there is something beyond the individual self. No mystic would dispute this but how would one even know it unless there was a self to know it? Are you saying it is God knowing God? In one sense it might be but then we are not God even though God has given us his being as our being and we can be aware of this uncreated part of us as the very essence of our being. It is at a deeper level than our self but it needs our self as a subject to know this. So there are always two even though they are one. * The full quote was "I believe the advaitin
mistakes identification with the ground of his own being for union with God but
that latter is a higher state and the reason we were brought into being and
sent out into this world. Non-dualistic realisation would not have required
that. We could have just rested in pure being, pure awareness, but God created
human souls in order for them to integrate being and becoming, not renounce
becoming, and that is a much greater state than passively resting in pure being
Atheists say that you can have morality without
religion and they are, of course, right. Any society that wishes to function in
a way that allows most of its members to lead a reasonable life must evolve a
morality of some kind or it will rapidly descend into chaos and self-destruct,
and the so-called Golden Rule is the obvious way to go. Basically it means that
if I respect you and your rights then you respect me and mine and we can all
That is fine as far as it goes, and it satisfies
our innate sense of fairness (which comes from where, we might ask ourselves),
but, at root, it is really just a pragmatic way of looking at things and
says nothing about the source of a true morality which would be based on an
understanding of spiritual truth on the one hand and love on the other.
Humanist atheists would maintain that their morality arises from a recognition
of the oneness of humanity and that is doubtless correct, but theirs is an
intellectual or ideological understanding of oneness not a spiritual one. In other
words, it is merely thought based not a fact of being. So it is devoid of love. But love only has any meaning
in the context of a spiritual reality and the recognition that we are all individual
manifestations of the One God in whom we are all united. Otherwise it is just based on what gives me
Another point to take into account for those who consider that secular morality can act as a substitute for religion is this. The primary
function of religion is not morality as such but salvation. Or, if not that, then as something which can take us beyond the limited state of body/mind restricted individuals to a more transcendent
state of being which is our true self.
From a religious perspective actions which are described as sinful, and therefore immoral, are those
which put you in disharmony with God and spiritual reality. This results in a
diminishment of the ability to resonate to and embody higher truths and it has
karmic consequences as well in that what you sow you will reap. Sin, whether of action or thought, locks you
more deeply into the lower earthly self and separates you from the higher spiritual self. It therefore affects the quality of consciousness and the depth of insight of the individual concerned. It is really a kind of self wounding.
Many spiritual people today have a moral system
that doesn't differ too much from that of the materialists, the standard
left/liberal model which actually originates from a denial of spiritual truth so is of dubious worth on that score alone. It is basically just an elaboration from the belief in equality, but while life may be one in essence it is very far from being all the same in expression. The oneness of
life must always be seen in conjunction with an understanding of its hierarchical
nature. If you don't see this and believe yourself to be a
spiritual person your spiritual understanding is flawed and your morality is limited.
The spiritual philosophy of non-duality is increasingly popular today but, while it claims to give an unvarnished description of reality, I believe it rests on a metaphysical mistake. It derives from India, where it is known as advaita, and it basically reduces everything to undifferentiated oneness, regarding anything other than that as, to all intents and purposes, illusion. Thus it is prepared to offer multiplicity a conditional reality for those in a state of ignorance but ultimately sees it as unreal. However a subtler grasp of how things are sees oneness and differentiation existing right down to the wire, being two parts of the one whole with the latter not in any way unreal, though still seen in the overall light of God. God is the source of everything, of course, but what he creates is real. It is important to get this right because our understanding of spiritual reality affects everything we think and do and feel and are.
Non-duality is a very easy philosophy to adopt and consequently think one has 'cracked the cosmic code'. It's also convenient in that it does away with God which suits the modern mentality very well. But if understood to mean that there is the One and nothing else has any reality at all, it rests on error. Certainly all serious religion acknowledges the unity of God and see all life as his but rather than using this to deny the reality in creation a more alert understanding sees that God gives his life to creatures and that they then have their own life, given by him but still theirs, and that this is perfectly real. The absolute oneness posited by non-dualists only exists in the realm of the complete unmanifest and unexpressed. Move one metaphorical (or metaphysical) inch away from that and this oneness, though underlying all, is immediately qualified by other expressions of truth which must always be considered if one is to understand the whole. In fact, for the created being, which we all are, they are in a certain sense primary.