Since I noticed many people around me seem interested in Advaita (as I’ve come to know by their reactions to my WhatsApp stories and their tendency to ask questions to me about Advaita), I’ve thought of writing a series of blogs on Understanding Advaita. I don’t know how many parts/blogs this will eventually require, but I’ll start with part 1. So, here you go.
In part 1, we’re understanding Advaita relative to Dwaitha. The reason is that Dwaitha is much well-known to everyone, so it helps in understanding the less known, Advaita. Moreover, I want to, first of all, discard the myth that Dwaitha and Advaitha are opposites.
Dwaitha and Advaitha are not opposites!
Like Dwaitha, Advaitha too can be understood by all that we see. And now, with different views/perspectives, let’s try to understand the same.
I don’t know why isn’t this obvious. Why are people debating 1 vs 2? A debate has its place when there are discrepancies between two facts. But here, there is not. You want to say 0 and infinity are opposites, that’s agreeable, but how are 1 and 2 on opposite sides? [FIY: Advaitha does not discard Dwaitha, more on that in the upcoming blogs of this series]. Can there be multiple, without “one”?
Who doesn’t know the yin-yang model? Who hasn’t seen the yin-yang symbol? Everyone has seen that symbol and knows the philosophy behind it. There is a black/dark side and a white/bright side. And it clearly depicts they are inseparable with dots of the other side on each side. Again, at the surface level, you might say there are two things. But if you see clearly, both of those aspects still are in the form of one circle. I repeat. They both emerge from the “One” circle.
Thinking of those black & white in the yin-yang circle leads me to my next approach.
Light & dark approach:
White is essentially all-colored lights. Black is void of light. We know that darkness does not have an independent existence. So that leaves with “one” thing – Light.
Speaking of light, I think of Sun, which leads to my next approach.
Sun & Moon approach:
Sun is a star, he is a source of light. Moon does not have his own light right? So, there are two different celestial bodies but one source of light right? Ok, in this example you may say that yes that’s what dualism says, the god with form (Sadhguna Parabrahma) is the only source of light. But go wider again, you may see that light exists in other regions of galaxies and even outside of galaxies, right? That means light is in many other stars other than the Sun right? Light is not limited to ‘our’ sun alone. Light is in all!
Ok, leave that. How about this analogy? It’s said that Sun and Moon are two eyes of the Lord Vishnu. At the upfront, there are “two” eyes, but where do those “two” eyes belong? To “one” body! Those are “two” eyes on “one” Vishnu’s face, right?
Fire & Water:
It’s a common example of opposites we shouted at teachers at school when we were kids. Fire and water are opposites in terms of how they react to each other or how you feel exposed to them. But are they truly opposites? No. From one perspective, they are just 2 elements of the panchabhoothas.
In another perspective, Fire and water are essentially dependent on “one” – gas. Fire cannot exist without oxygen, can it? Water cannot exist independently without gases, right? (Hydrogen and Oxygen being gases in H2O).
And going even further, even wider, what are hydrogen and oxygen? Elements.
If you haven’t yet, go and listen to my composition FLIP, which is a composition made of 2 ragas Mohana and Hamsadhwani, flipping every bar. So, there are swift changes in two ragas, and hence two distinct expressions and emotions. So, it looks as though the music is clearly depicting ‘two’ things. However, if you view it from a wider perspective, you’ll notice there may be another “one” raga that is of this type (Mohana and hamsadhwani combined), if not, you will be able to notice that both are major scales, or if not that, you’ll be able to at least see that, both ragas are essentially from the same entity called Music isn’t it?
In fact, the next composition I’m creating appears to show the same but within a single raga. Splitting the expressions and emotions of the same raga into two, all to realize that it has been derived from the same raga. That is precisely what Advaitha is!
Ragas are essentially the boundaries that we’ve put in order to perceive, understand and play music. Even if you say there exist two separate entities called Shruthi and Laya in Music, I urge you to ask yourselves, are those two entities really separate from each other? Each pitch(Shruti) has laya, doesn’t it? (Pitch is nothing but the frequency, and frequency is the number of oscillations per unit of time). And what about the existence of laya without Shruthi? They are inseparable.
And anyway, they are entities of one dimension.
The best way to understand and explain what is Advaitha relative to Dwaitha is this. As we saw in the previous examples, we see dualism everywhere in our universe, but when we pause to see clearly, we see that non-dualism is in all of those examples used to depict or understand dualism.
So, when I said, when we pause to see clearly, what we are essentially doing is viewing from a wider perspective.
Now, let’s imagine a camera. Let’s say the camera is set to 55mm (or 85). Whatever you’re seeing through the eyepiece of the camera is a specific area and maybe is real and beautiful. And now, let’s say you turn the lens to a 10mm focal length. Now, you have a whole wide area that you discovered. And you realize so many aspects of that area you previously saw using 55mm focal length of the same lens. You’ll realize that the area you saw, the truth, and the beauty belonged to a much bigger entity, absolute truth, which may be even more beautiful.
So, how can you talk anything about the wider perspective, when all you’re seeing is through that 55mm lens?
When the whole world is designed this way [depicting dualism upfront and leading to one source when you go deep, or in other words, when you look at it from a wider (wiser) perspective], don’t you think that even we are designed that way?
At the front (surface level), we may see just Jeeva(any being) and Paramathma (God) are two separate entities, and that’s the end of the story. But, is it truly that way?
All I can do is provide the questions and reflections to ponder. You are free to think and understand in your own way.
Sanath Kumar Naibhi
Blog 59: Understanding Advaita – Part 2 – Busting the most common myths around Advaita
Blog 60: Understanding Advaita – Part 3 – Why the discrepancies?