This blog is an attempt to discuss the essential philosophy of Advaita Vedanta in a scientific, philosophical and "traditional-religion"-agnostic point of view.

Philosophical blindspots in religious drives

A lot of philosophical discussions, especially older philosophies, tend to revolve around religion and religious beliefs. Due to the recent (last 100 years, perhaps) backlash against religion in general, a lot of these philosophical ideas get ignored or rejected just because they are explained in terms of the religious beliefs.

In my mind a religion is a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of your existence that helps you define your way of life. We all have our beliefs and we make that a part of the life we lead. As the beliefs get shared and adopted by more and more people, then that religion starts becoming popular and slowly gets formalized into rituals and commandments. However, unless it appeals to your rational intellect in some way or form (faith / fear / logical reasoning / scientific reasoning, etc.), you cannot make it a part of your life.

Vedantic philosophies...

A very simple way to look at some of the philosophies...

Dvaita


   I am the wave, you are the ocean.
The body, mind and intellect is separate from the objects it perceives. This separation of the perceived from the perceiver is Dvaita. 
Vishishtadvaita





 
I, the wave, am but a part of you the ocean.
The body, mind and intellect are actually a part of the object it perceives. The Brahman encompasses the perceiver in the body, mind and intellect.
Advaita



   You, the ocean and I, the wave are nothing but water, perceived.
The body, mind and intellect and the objects it perceives are in fact all the same and unreal and a result of the projection of the one reality of Brahman, a projection caused due to the perception itself.

The teacher...

The teacher starts: You experience the world the way you do because that is how it is perceived through your senses.

Student inquires: Then how is it that everyone describes it the same way?

The teacher questioningly asks: Which everyone? (implying of course that everyone else, including the teacher explaining this, is also part of that perception)

The student suddenly feels completely alone...all alone in this entire system of existence!

The teacher continues: Of course the mechanism of sensing is also "sensed" and hence non-existent; the "you" sensing the world also become the sensed. What remains is just the pure consciousness and that is the ultimate truth.

Why chase permanent bliss?

Advaita says that going beyond Maya will bring you to the state of permanent bliss where you realize that all that you see in Maya is “un-real”. You can reach this state of “super-consciousness” or Nirvana by several means of merging the “I” with the “non-I” (see Super-consciousness) and then you truly understand the world of Maya and its triviality.

But here’s an obvious question: Why should I put in the effort to go beyond Maya? Why should I chase that state of personal bliss? Is it not a selfish act to try and escape the world of Maya to move into a state where you deem the real-world issues as trivial or “un-real”?

True understanding

Trying to understand the philosophical aspect of Advaita stimulates your intellect. But true understanding has to come from your Inner Self which is subtler than your intellect.

Before any idea can be truly understood, it has to pass the various aspects of your being. Your senses have to be able to first perceive and identify the idea. Then your mind has to have enough focus to start developing an interest in that idea. The idea then has to go past the gates of your rational intellect. Only once it is accepted by your intellect can you truly surrender to it and only this pure surrender can bring the idea into your inner self.