Tag Archives: Shankara

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