What is Advaita


     The Sanskrit word ADVAITA means “not two”, or “nonduality”.   So, what is it, really? Looking at the world from the standpoint of dualistic perception is partial and errant perception mixed with superimposed conceptual classifications with reference to ego-notions and selfhood.   Awakening to the standpoint of nondual wisdom where there is certainty of understanding in spontaneous presence we can remain in the absence of false discrimination. What is usually taken as normal perception and cognition is, in fact, a state of false understanding in which nearly everyone abides constantly when they fail to honestly inspect their mental mechanisms and recognize the truth of things as they really are. Enlightening texts always suggest inspection and analysis of our inner and outer worlds so we can awaken to the real nondual situation.  Even the “inner” and “outer” are mere conceptual designations and are not two in reality because reality cannot be split.   But this is the way the mind habitually splits one reality into a relative pseudo-dualism.

     The real nature of phenomena is nonduality.     No single object or event has its own self-essence, so no two things can be ultimately different since they both are merged in the totality of the matrix of existence.  The flux, the process, and all functions within the totality of existence are the matrix of reality.   Reality has no opposite or anything that is not included within it.   There is nothing outside the matrix; it is all-inclusive.

        There is no thing that can be accurately or completely described and defined by limited language because characteristics are infinite.    Therefore, reality is inconceivable, beyond any kind of conceptual elaboration, beyond the discriminations of the mind.   All manifested appearances of objects and events are always simultaneously the same in their real identity, no matter what the apparent temporal differences and characteristics may seem to be.   The reality of any thing is the same as the real reality of anything else.  The interdependence of all phenomena is as it is because, ultimately, any one thing depends for its existence on all else, and all depends on each one, whether remotely or immediately.

      The mind gathers in partial details and characteristics of things through sense contact, and then compares qualities and discriminations.    The human mind is limited, while details of knowledge are limitless because of the limitless change and infinite motion taking place within conditional perpetual flux.   Reality cannot be known through any intellectual construct; reality is known only through identity with it.   This means it is crucial to dissociate with conceptual error.   To try to conceptualize what is too vast to be conceivable by the discriminating mind is to quit the race one step short of the finish line.

     Consciousness in the individual is just ordinary wakeful awareness interacting with the supposed differentiations of the manifested world. In its unobstructed and unconfined state consciousness has a natural lucidity. The individual contemplative, once having recognized his natural holistic presence, is then concerned with integrated wholes, or the total system of manifestation within the phenomenal matrix, rather than with deluded absorption in and attachment to the supposedly separate parts of it.       All phenomena are then recognized as they really are, as interrelated components of the unified field of ever changing conditionality. In undifferentiating, nondual holistic lucidity all the implications of the afflictions of conceptual dualism have ceased to be and the phenomenal matrix is clearly observed and understood.

     The basis of nescient dualistic concept-making and distracted inattentiveness is the ego-notion.  That’s all ego is; it is not an entity, but only an habitual errant notion. The objectifying of one’s subjectivity is the dichotomy of errant perception to be transcended, and one who has stabilized his attention perfectly does not fluctuate back into conceptual aberration.   This means one must learn to detect and recognize the very beginnings of distraction and gain a decisive understanding of its mechanics.  When automated, reactive concept-making is stopped by attentiveness to present mental situations themselves, always based on the dualistic ego-notion, then the ego-notion will simultaneously subside and automated dualistic thought activity will stop.  This is the nondual, nondichotomous realization of one’s true identity as pure consciousness, but possible only in the total absence of the counterfeit identity, ego.

     A Sanskrit word that pertains to such a deconstruction process is apoha, or “what something is not”.   So we can get a little closer to understanding what something is by knowing what it is not.   When it comes to the realization of nonduality we need to exhaust every device, and apoha is an efficient device, up to a point.    Eventually we will have to make a radical leap beyond all devices and beyond all of our usual conceptual strategies.

    But it’s not easy.  Why not?  Most Advaitists keep on saying, “you are already that”.   The Upanishad says, “Tat Twam Asi”, or “You are That”.   So we accept the possibility that we are (already) that nondual whatever-it-is.   But it will not be easy for most of us to uncover the evidentiary fact of our real identity since old mental habits die hard.   This is the real meaning of “detri-mental”.

     There is an old injunction that we should “just let go”.     That won’t be too easy, either, since we have become so habitually automated in our misperception of ourselves as some objective identity (i.e., the body-mind vehicle).    A conscious effort will be required to “just let go” of our fixated and abberated perceptions and conceptions. Those who say that no effort is required are mistaken because it is an effort to put a stop to any habit.     The effort required will be one that is directed to recognizing our errant dualistic perspectives. When dualistic, or dichotomous, perception stops, then it is absent and nondualistic perception (already there) is present.   Negating the dualistic perspective can happen when the error of it is understood, and when the process which creates such a wrong view is undone or deconstructed. Then it’s time to relax.

        In this relaxation of errant perspectives, or when they are “just let go”, what is left over is the nondual totalistic apperception. So nonduality is the mere absence of the dualistic perspective, the presence of unconditioned truth.     One step further and we can relax into the whole and perfect truth: dualisms are conventionally valid and can be described, at least partially, with language which, alas, always operates through dualistic terms.    If the totality of seeming dualisms is known as the wholeness of functioning in our holographic and totalistic universe of unified interdependency, then that’s the big picture of nonduality.     That’s what is meant by the Zen term “the one taste”. Vigilant persistence will be necessary.   Another big question is: “Who will persist?” – Who?   A dualistic “me” or “you” ??

   The A in Advaita means “not”.    Dvaita means “dual”.   Nonduality doesn’t mean monism.   Monism is the perception that there is only one.   Dualism means that there is always two.   Dualism and monism are not quite the whole real truth. If there is multiplicity in existence, this and the others, this thing here and that thing over there, then there can be no real monism.  Yet, if all things here and there in time and space are the same in essential identity, the essence of the same one source, then this is a type of monism, a monism that contains in itself a multiplicity.  So real monism is also real dualism.   Yet there is no real dualism.  So it is not possible to accurately speak of the inconceivable; it cannot be said, there is monism or there is dualism. Therefore, we say Advaita, nondualism. It’s as close as speech can come to describing the indescribable.  We can know what IT is not: it is not two.  Heterogeneity-homogeneity, yin-yang, all the opposites are not two.  The mind cannot conceive of real actuality, therefore all the sages who learned to see the truth of this always gave the injunction to transcend the mind.   The real truth can be known, but not through a dichotomizing mind.

      True Advaita, true nonduality, means that within the absolute totality of existence there is no such thing as a real division between any phenomenon and any other phenomenon, between homogeneity and heterogeneity, between noumenon and its phenomena, between the absolute and the relative, between the yin and yang of Taoism, between the two truths of Buddhism, between the Shiva and the Shakti of Kashmir Shaivism, between the this and the that, anywhere or at anytime.  True Advaita insists on an interdependent, intermingling, co-existing, co-functional totality of all and everything in existence. Even existence and non-existence must be considered as “not two”, with no division. Any division in any way must be known as concept-only; there are no real divisions, just appearances, illusory dichotomous conceptual fabrications of mind that seem to infer dualities.    But the seeming dualities are always and only mentally fabricated delusive appearances.   Advaita, and the non-division defined by Advaita, is a potent device enabling the complete understanding of reality and the living in certainty of all the implications of that reality, culminating in holistic apperception and the wisdom inseparable from it.   Advaita means we can live with the sense and realization of unity while living individually; the integrated existential unicity that understands and realizes holistic differentiations is the complete Advaita.

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