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Re: [advaita and vishistadvaita]

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_alum.calberkeley.org)
Date: Fri Nov 03 2000 - 08:01:56 PST

Sri Hari and Sri B.N. Suresh have very nicely given detailed
answers to this question. But I feel one point remains to be
clarified:

Sri Hari wrote:
> In advaita, there is no scope to realize that "god is within jeevatma" 
> because there is actually no God in advaita. In advaita, the God, jIvAthma 
> and matter are all unreal.

Broadly speaking, there are three levels of reality in Advaita -- 
(a) that which is unreal, or logically impossible, such as a flower 
    growing in the sky
(b) that which is false, or only apparently real, such as a rope being 
    mistaken for a serpent
(c) that which is truly real, such as Brahman

In Advaita, God and the world are not "unreal", in the sense of being
logically impossible. In the final analysis, God, the world, and 
individuality are "false" (mithyA), because they are caused by
illusion, which is superimposed on a real substrate.  In other words,
God has reality as His basis, but is not ultimately real. The idea of
an individualized God is ultimately transcended once Brahman consciousness
sets in.

For Advaita, in the phenomenal world, God does exist from a practical,
conventional standpoint. But ultimately, according to Sri Sankara, 
'brahma satyam, jagan mithyA; jiva brahmaiva na paraH' -- Brahman alone 
is true, the universe is false. The individual self is absolutely identical 
with Brahman and is nothing different.

In the process of meditation, therefore, Advaita accepts God as the
purest example of Brahman in the conventional world.  Meditation, worship,
etc., of God all exist as long as one perceives the conventional world
as existing.  Therefore, just as in Visishtadvaita, there definitely is 
scope to realize that "God is within jIvAtmA" in the same way as 
Visishtadvaita. Advaita even posits a blissful state of communion with
God such as Sri Vaikuntha. The only difference is that in Advaita ultimately 
this state itself is transcended as the consciousness of the non-dual
Brahman sets in, and all perceptions of duality cease, including the
very notion of "I".

Visishtadvaita, being a realist philosophy, takes a very different view
ontologically.  This idea of Brahman comprehends the concepts of matter
and individual selves within itself, without denying their reality.
These two categories are eternal concepts maintained by the will (sankalpa)
of Brahman, who lends them reality by being their Innermost Self.
Ceaseless, loving, meditation on Brahman as being the Innermost Self of 
all that exists, including the jIva, is the knowledge that leads to moksha. 
Such moksha consists of blissful communion with Brahman, the Highest Self, 
which Itself consists of eternal bliss. In Visishtadvaita the "I-ness" of the 
jIva is never totally lost. What is transcended is any limitation due to karma. 
Karma is the very basis of bondage and inappropriate understanding of the nature 
of the world. As one transcends karma thanks to purifying meditation and the 
grace of Brahman, everything is placed in proper perspective, and all sorrows
fall away, leading to the eternal, blissful perception (sAkshAtkAra) 
of the Absolute God.

aDiyEn rAmAnuja dAsan
Mani



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