20 August 2007

Why Advaita?

[A friend asked me for my view of Vedanta. So here we go]

This theory (of the unity of all creation) can be known as a fact only by those who have realised Brahman. What about the rest of us? We can either accept it as true (based on faith) or reject it (based on reason/doubt/whatever). Religious/spiritual people can do the former; while rationalists, skeptics and materialists will do the latter.

What about me? I am a fence sitter. I am also a pragmatist ("What is true? That which works"). I am more interested in the ethical implications of an idea than its metaphysical truth. In the case of Advaita, as I have already pointed out, the ethical implications are too good to ignore. A philosophy that preaches the essential oneness of all men is the only cure for the ills of today's world.

Some will criticise me for taking such a gross instrumentalist view of such a sublime philosophy - arguably the greatest achievement of the human mind. It is like drinking amrita to slake one's thirst (something that can be achieved by drinking tap water). Well, what to do? I am like this only.

5 comments:

Sudhir said...

You are deriving an ethical implication from Advaita Vedanta implies that you are accepting it as true. Advaita Vedanta says that there is unity in creation because everything is verily Brahman. Unless you hold this theory as true, how can you derive an implication from it ?

Psomax said...

You don't have to accept a theory as true to derive its ethical implication. You can
1. assume a hypothesis to be true,
2. see what its implications are,
3. then decide to accept or reject it (based on its implications). If the implications are good, you accept the theory. If bad, you reject it.

Sudhir said...

Do you mean to say that the implications of Advaita are good and hence you accept it ? If so, then you are no longer a fence sitter.
Isn't assuming a hypothesis to be true same as faith ?

Psomax said...

When I said I'm a fence sitter I was referring to the religious/spiritual vs rationalist/materialist divide. And there's a difference between accepting something because you think it is true and accepting something because you think it has beneficial effects.

krishna koundinya said...

Well, I myself don't hail from the Advaita school and am certainly no fence sitter. Anyway's, I agree with Mr. Sudhir that one needs to accept the theory to derive an implication and make use of it thereafter, accepting or not is only after that.

Secondly, I would definitely contest Dvaita philosophy as against Advaita, mind you this contest is not for "who's the best" post. The simple reasoning is Advaita propagates "Aham Brahmasmi" meaning "I am HIM" which itself cuts out the idea of there being a superior power above us. By equating oneself (even if one means the soul) to a superior power, we are not raising ourselves, but bringing HIM down, thus defeating the idea of karma and sadhana yogas. Also to ponder is the philosophy that all the world is "mithya."

Dvaita on the other hand proposes the duality of being, that there is a omnipresent, omnipotent being above all and we are all reflections of HIM in our own way. As much as it is true that HE is present it is true that we are present. If there is no object there can be no reflection, thus the world is as "satya" not "mithya."

Again, I would like to emphasize that these are my views and are not to be taken as a contest between 2 schools of thought. In fact, I have the greatest veneration for the acharyas of all the 3 schools. What is to be appreciated is these 3 single-handedly revived Hindu culture and ethos at different periods of time, particularly when Hinduism was in peril of being negated by other faiths and people. Hail to the 3 acharyas! Whether it is Advaita, Dvaita, or Vishishtadvaita, they all have contributed to the upliftment of the Vedic faith in their own way.