Tag Archives: Advaita Vedanta

How to Charm a Rope

Continuing with our musings on the relationship between illusion and reality, I concluded my last blog entry with a couple of questions: how does Shankara, the founder of the school of absolute non-dualism, explain our experience of a dualistic world if, as he insists, we are, in reality, identical with Brahman – the highest truth – and Brahman is not subject to illusion nor in possession of energies that may be subject to illusion? Has the supreme reality of undifferentiated oneness somehow been subdued by an inferior illusion of differentiated many-ness? Continue reading

Reality, Illusion, and Vedanta

In my last post I offered reasons to believe that reality was greater than illusion and suggested that there’s a popular brand of yoga philosophy that asserts just the opposite: that illusion is greater than reality. In order to identify this philosophy we’ll have to venture outside the confines of ‘Yoga’ proper and into the realm of Vedanta.

Like Yoga, Vedanta is one of the six darshans, or schools of Indian philosophy. Veda means ‘knowledge’ and anta means ‘end’, so vedanta means ‘the end of knowledge’ and refers to a summary understanding of the Upanishads, which are the grand finale of the ancient collection of knowledge texts known as the Vedas. Yoga makes its first historical appearance in the Vedas and there is an important relationship between Yoga and Vedanta.

The essence of Vedanta philosophy is expressed in the Vedanta Sutras; a collection of terse aphorisms that, like a coded data file, needs to be de-coded by informed interpretation and commentary in order to be comprehensible. Also known as the Brahma Sutras, the Vedanta Sutras begin with a declaration that the great imperative for those gifted with a human birth is to pursue knowledge of the ultimate reality, which is subsequently defined as the source of everything. In Sanskrit the first two sutras read:  Continue reading

Sankara’s Selfless Service

“I know that the choices we make, every choice, including the choice not to do something, makes a difference in the world because no choice is made in a vacuum. So can one person make a difference? Duh!  It’s impossible to NOT make a difference so the question we must ask ourselves is not ‘can I make a difference’ but ‘what kind of a difference do I want to make in the world?”

Julia Butterfly Hill

Some time back I pointed out how translations and commentaries on yoga texts like Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are often written from a point of view – the philosophy of absolute non-dualism – that’s not inherently part of the text being translated or commented on. And I left you with an unresolved question: why does this matter?

I’ll answer my question with a question: does what we do matter? Continue reading

The Hermeneutics of Confusion

“Anyone who isn’t confused really doesn’t understand the situation.” – Edward R. Murrow

At the conclusion of my previous blog post I asked a not so rhetorical question: where does the popular association of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra with non-dualistic philosophy come from? A good example of how this happens played out a few months ago: A respected teacher of yoga philosophy spoke about the Yoga Sutras at a local yoga studio. He gave an insightful overview of the Sutras from Patanjali’s definition of yoga all the way to asamprajnata samadhi; the stage at which the yogi relinquishes the mind altogether and experiences the fully liberated self by direct perception.

Elaborating on this final stage of self-realization, the speaker matter of factly stated that, according to Patanjali, all sense of our individuality, along with the apprehension of a multiplicity of beings, disappears as we experience the absolute oneness of pure awareness. Continue reading