"Because it matters."
The information below is an elaboration on Vedic nondual or advaita practice and
realization, which is advance reading for the "Nonduality Plus" class. This is a
lengthy discussion, which will be further elaborated upon in class. At the outset,
one could comfortably say with certainty that it is highly unlikely the ancient and modern yogis
and gyanis who have attained nondual realization would ever freely discuss the
quality of their realized state as we do in this age.
The Mundak Upanishad states that the divine nondual state is impossible to grasp
through material senses. It is inconceivable and unthinkable by a material mind.
It is beyond matter, absolute and purely divine. Therefore, it is beyond material
language and concepts. One can be guided to it, but it cannot be spoken of,
the same way that a mute person cannot describe what is sweet.
However, in the past 80-100 years, and increasingly in the past 25 years there has
been a surge of nondual teachings and teachers, many claiming lineages with Indian
Saints such as Ramana Maharishi and others, some with no proclaimed tradition.
A loss of clarity has emerged in both nondual practice and its goal.
Hindu and Buddhist nondual states for many have melded to become one under
the same banner, when in reality both are diametrically opposite to each
other in approach and experience.
Many modern nondual teachings aim at descontructing the material
personality and its conditioned thoughts, feelings and emotions,
and thereby gaining a penetrating insight into ultimate reality.
But according to Vedic teachings, in much the same way the eye can't
see itself, the material mind cannot ultimately deconstruct itself,
and it must be desconstructed by a divine agency to attain knowledge
of Brahman. Such approaches that relax one's egoic fixation simply
offer a unique experience of the fundamental nature of mind and matter,
and not the fundamental nature of divine truth. This is not to say that
such practitioners are not having profound experiences; but the ultimate
experience still lies ahead. That is Nonduality Plus.
Says Who? Authentication and Proof
Hinduism or Sanatan Dharma, the Eternal Dharma, is revealed knowledge.
Its substantiating nexus is the Vedas. The Vedas are called a vinirgat scripture,
a direct revelation of the ever-existing, eternal knowledge of God, which may be
manifest physically as a book or remain in an unmanifest state with the potential
to be experienced in consciousness.
A material human mind is profoundly
limited in what it can perceive and infer about the world in which it lives.
The divine realm and its related experiences remain completely outside of human
conception and perception, and therefore can't be indicated by any material
means. Thus, the evidence of the knowledge of the Vedas is considered the
final authority in determining what is real or unreal, true or false, legitimate
or inauthentic. It clarifies what is unchanging divine truth, the nature of
physical reality, the essential nature of all beings, as well as the path to
perfection. If something is not in alignment with the Vedas, it is the product
of a material mind, and is therefore limited.
The mantras or verses of the Vedas are divided into three sections:
karma (action), gyan (knowledge), bhakti (devotion).
These three sections correspond
to three paths to God - the path of karma (action), the path of gyan (knowledge),
and the path of bhakti (devotion). With the enormous proliferation of paths and
ideologies in the past and present, including the numerous branches of yoga, how could we say there are
only three approaches to absolute truth?
The three paths are related to God's fundamental nature as sat-chit-ananda,
eternal existence, divine knowledge, unlimited bliss. Sat, chit and ananda are
powers or shaktis of God, and may equally be referred to as sat Brahman,
chit Brahman, and ananda Brahman. The nature of sat is karma or action.
The nature of chit is gyan or knowledge. The nature of ananda is bhakti or bliss.
God has three aspects or powers and accordingly there are three paths to the divine.
As a result of the soul's relationship to God (described in more detail below),
these three aspects are also intrinsic to the soul's nature. Because God doesn't have
a fourth nature, there isn't a fouth path. If a fourth path is declared, it falls
within the realm of these three. For example, yoga by Maharishi Patanjali comes in
the category of gyan and so on.
The para dharma or highest dharma teaching of the Vedic scriptures is that the soul
desires to fulfill its ultimate aim of attaining unlimited divine bliss. This is
our singular quest and our failure in accomplishing this so fuels our persistent
sense of restless incompletion, painful separation and suffering. It is upon attaining
divine bliss that we not only become complete and blissful, but we are also freed from
The Guru Principle
The Guru represents a power who is both transcendent to the material field,
rooted in divine phenomena, and is also present on the earth, engaged in
human interaction. A Guru's guidance, knowledge and grace enables the
transference of the divine state to a disciple. As such, the Guru is the
joining factor between the soul and God. The Mundak Upanishad describes
that a true Guru's distinguishing qualities as being shrotriya, full divine
scriptural knowledge, and brahm-nishtha, establishment in the divine state
A true Guru removes a disciple's darkness of material or mayic ignorance
and enlightens him with divine knowledge and experience. It is the Guru
who awakens a disciple's dormant spiritual potential, and according to
the disciple's degree of dedication, internally protects his disciple's
spiritual progress. The Guru ultimately bestows the final grace that
enlightens a disciple with divine realization.
This is reflected in a very famous verse of Saint Kabir who once stated,
"Both God and Guru are standing before me. To whom should I prostrate first?
I will prostrate first to my Guru, because it is through his grace that
I have found God."
Role of the Saint as Jagadguru
The term 'Jagadguru' (spiritual master of the world) found in Sanskrit texts
in its ultimate sense refers to God. The use of this as a title for a
Saint began from the time of Adi Shankaracharya, whose brief biography
follows. During the course of his lifetime, a Jagadguru restores the
integrity of Vedic knowledge and his teachings serve as an authoritative
touchstone that reveal and establish an unsurpassed standard of divine understanding.
It was customary for the foremost scriptural scholars and community of holy men
and women to collectively agree on a potential Jagadguru's qualifications and whether
he was deserving of this accolade. The requirements are an intellectual understanding
of Vedic scriptural texts that surpasses the common standard, and an enlightened
realization of the same truths. If unanimously accepted by the spiritual community,
a Jagadguru is considered the prime spiritual authority living in that age.
All of the Jagadgurus have described the nature and relationship of three tatva
or entities (described below) in their commentaries on the Vedas and on prasthan
trayi, which are the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Brahm Sutra or Vedanta.
Shankaracharya was the first original or mool Jagadguru. After Shankaracharya,
the other mool Jagadgurus who established their philosophies were Ramanujacharya,
Nimbarkacharya, and Madhavacharya. In this age Shri Kripalu Ji Maharaj was recognized
in 1957 as 'Jagadguruttam', or the supreme Jagadguru for his reconcilation of the
philosophies of all the preceding mool Jagadgurus. Shree Maharaj Ji is still alive
and teaching in India.
Hinduism Basics: The Entity Triad
The Vedas describe that there are three eternally existing tatva or entities.
These are: (1) the power that is God (swaroop shakti), (2) the power that is the soul
(jeev shakti), and, (3) the power that is material existence or Maya (maya shakti).
Vedic nondualism is unique in that it accepts the existence of only one entity,
supreme Brahman. However, it is important to note that Adi Shankaracharya ultimately
accepted the existence of all three of the entities described here. How and why he
accepted them is critical to perfecting the nondual path of advaita.
The Shvetashvatar Upanishad refers to all three entities as God - there is God the
Inspirer, God the Enjoyer, and God the Enjoyed. This is also reflected in the declaration
of the Vedas that nothing exists but God and God alone. Whatever exists, exists within
these three. The only time a fourth existence is stated is in reference to the divinely
realized Guru. He would declared as such simply for the sake of highlighting the important
role he plays in the spiritual advancement of a soul.
The Shvetashvatar Upanishad states that each of these three entities is a combination
of all three. For example, wherever and whatever God is, the souls and Maya are also present.
Wherever and whatever the souls are, God and Maya are present. Wherever and whatever the world
is, God and the souls are present.
Even though all three existences are God, they each possess distinguishing
characteristics that cause them to be absolutely separate from each other. Thus,
even though being one, and even while existing together, they do not completely merge
into a single entity.
The sun produces heat and light, which are dependently established in the sun. If
the sun were extinguished, heat and light would cease to exist. When heat and light
are produced, even though their existence is dependent upon the sun, they also have
their own separate existences and unique features. Heat and light move in one direction;
they can't return to their source to heat or illumine the sun with their qualities.
Similarly, God is the base of His two subordinate powers, the souls and Maya. Even
though these two powers are dependently established in God, they also have their
own independent existences and unique features.
God - The Supreme
God is the supreme power who governs two dependent and subordinate powers, the individual
souls and Maya. The Upanishads declare His greatness is immeasureable, unsurpassable,
limitless, endless and infinite. God is the greatest and He also makes others great.
He is the original enlivening power of both the the individual souls and Maya. His
fundamental nature is unlimited divine bliss.
God is the abode of simultaneously existing opposite qualities. Due to this, He is both
endowed with qualities and embodied, and also an undifferentiated formless existence. He is
a complete non-doer and also the giver of grace and love who performs unlimited and uncountable
pastimes. He is one and also many. He is subtler than the subtlest and greater than the greatest.
While remaining omnipresent, He also simultaneously resides in the heart of all the living beings.
He is immanent in creation and transcendent to it. He is the origin, support and refuge of all that is.
Just as water has three aspects, as liquid, solid, and gas, so the same God, who is one indivisible
power (swaroop shakti), has three inseparable forms called brahm, paramatma,
and bhagwan. Each of these aspects is
an expression of the extent to which God's powers are revealed.
When God reveals only two powers - existence and bliss, He is impersonal brahm.
When He partially reveals additional powers that include the embodied qualities of name,
form and attributes - He is paramatma or Mahavishnu. When He fully expresses His powers and
embodied qualities, He is bhagwan or Krishna. Brahm is a formless, non-active blissful existence.
Paramatma and bhagwan are blissful and embodied, and the givers of grace. All three are one
Maya - Material Creation
Maya is an eternally existing, lifeless, and subordinate power of God. It is comprised of
three qualities or gunas: rajas, tamas and satva.
Representing opposites, these qualities manifest a perfect duality in all of mayic creation.
Maya produces the external physical world as well as the the body and subtle inner world of the
senses, mind and intellect of all living beings. All three gunas are present in every product of
Maya. Time or kal, a material energy that is one of the first evolutes of Creation, produces motion
among the three gunas, which in turn produces change and imperanence. This movement is the source
of the temporary and destructible nature of the world, which affects the external world of matter
and the internal world of our thoughts and feelings.
Because Maya is devoid of consciousness and therefore intention or will, it is
animated through divine inspiration to create. The cycle of creation of the physical
universe and its dissolution is endless. When unmanifest, Maya resides in a subtle form
within God. When manifest, God resides omnipresently in Maya and His enlivening power
maintains this expansion. During this time, Maya binds the souls and produces ignorance,
and this, in turn, causes suffering of many kinds including physical and mental pain, pain
inflicted by others and one's environment, the pain of undergoing the effects of the
consequences of one's actions, and the suffering caused by one's continued engagement
in the cycle of birth and death.
Maya has two aspects - as the power that manifests physical reality, and the power that
produces the internal world of our thoughts, feelings and desires. The external world
is a fact; the internal world is illusory. Maya cannot be understood or transcended
without God's grace. As long as God isn't known or practically experienced, Maya will
remain, just as wherever the sun (divine truth) is not present, there is darkness
(ignorance). When God is known, the illusory effect of Maya ceases to exist for that
soul, but the ever-existing original power of Maya remains.
Soul - The Essential You
Like Maya, the individual soul is a subordinate and dependent power of God. Every individual
soul has a discrete eternal existence, whether he remains under the
binding and illusory effects of Maya or becomes enlightened and in turn is liberated from
The soul is not equal to God, but is instead a minute part of God. If it were equal,
it would be omnipresent, all-knowing and unlimitedly blissful. Instead, due to the effect of
Maya, the soul has limited knowledge, limited material happiness, and because it identifies
itself with the body, it perceives it has a limited existence.
Unlike Maya, which is lifeless, the soul is live and it gives life to the material
body by its presence. The source of its life is God. It is extremely subtle and
resides near the heart. It is also referred to as a neutral or intermediate power
because: (a) it is not a part of lifeless Maya due to its intrinsic life-factor, and,
(b) the soul is also not God, because it is bound by Maya. If the soul were God, and
yet were still bound by Maya, then Maya would be the supreme power, but this is not
the case. Therefore the soul comes in its own category as a power. It is a fraction
or part of God, but before attaining perfection it is controlled by Maya.
As a neutral power or intermediate power, the soul has the capacity to be directly
influenced either by Maya or God, in much the same way a person sitting on a fence
can jump to either side. Whichever side a person faces, he is accordingly
influenced. Because he is not facing towards God, he is overpowered and therefore
controlled by Maya. If he were to face towards God completely, the control of Maya
would end and he would become blissful and liberated from mayic effects. Therefore,
even though the binding effects of Maya have eternally existed for a soul, they
don't have to continue to exist; they are purely conditional. If the soul turns
towards God, he could be liberated from Maya.
The Point of It All
The soul is a part of God who is sat-chit-ananda, unlimited existence, knowledge,
and bliss. It is due to this we also desire life, knowledge and happiness in its ultimate
form as God. To be freed from ignorance and attain unlimited bliss, we must come to know
God in a practical way. This is the ultimate aim of a soul. Two things are required for
this journey: the Guru and knowledge of the path.
During a short life span of 32 years (509-477 BCE), the original or 'Adi'
Shankaracharya revitalized and reestablished Vedic teachings in India through
his extensive propagation of advaita philosophy. Born in South India in the home
of devout Shiva worshippers, Shankaracharya is widely regarded to be the descension
of Lord Shiva. Although nondual teachings are an eternal aspect of Vedic knowledge,
Shankaracharya is oftentimes regarded as the original propounder of advaita philosophy
because of the prominence this received from his life's efforts.
During Shankaracharya's time, India was besieged not by outward forces - although
these days were to come - but by conflicting diverse ideologies that promoted nontheism
(Buddhism), pure hedonism (Charvakvad), religious ritualism (Meemansa), and a host of
sectarian philosophies that advocated a variety of views of reality and life based either
on mere emotion or intellectual reasoning, and not on the practical realization of divine
truth as revealed in the Vedas.
In the process of promoting advaita, Shankaracharya wrote important and authoritative
commentaries on all the prime Vedic scriptures which supported his spiritual insights
and gave credence to this perspective. His prodigious writings validated nondual
philosophy and realization and he also elaborated extensively on the qualifications
and methods of nondual practice.
Even in those days with very few facilities, Shankaracharya traveled widely throughout
India to propagate advaita philosophy and convinced many through his indomitable powers
of scriptural debate. Wherever he could not go, he sent his chief disciples. Apart from
his own sanyasi order, he also established ten orders of monks, known as the Dashnamis
for the preservation of dharma. He founded spiritual seats in the four cardinal points
of India to carry on the work of his mission: Jagannath Puri in Orissa (east), Dwarka
in Gujarat (west), Badrinath in the Himalayas (north), and Shringeri in Karnataka (south).
He sent four disciples to these four seats, and they initiated the Shankaracharya tradition,
whose physical lineage continues until today.
A prodigy, scriptural genius and true Saint, Adi Shankaracharya instilled dedication
and faith in others through his intellectual prowess and the divinity of his being,
and inspired a spiritual renaissance whose effects are still being experienced today,
not just in India but throughout the world. It is a personality such as this who not
only earns, but deserves the title of Jagadguru or world teacher.
Nondual Philosophy - The Gist
The path of nondual realization is called the path of gyan (or jnana). Gyan literally
means knowledge or understanding, but knowledge is also required for the paths of karma and bhakti.
Gyan in this sense refers to advait gyan, the knowledge
that the soul and nirakar brahm or impersonal divinity are one. In most of his writings,
Shankaracharya argued that the soul and Maya were not discrete entities with their own
separate existences. Rather, the soul is brahm. Brahm as realized by gyanis is formless,
attributeless, actionless, undifferentiated and without any kind of external or internal
differences. Brahm is sat-chit-ananda, eternal existence, divine knowledge and bliss.
In this formless aspect, God is purely a blissful divine existence. The world is merely
an illusion produced by the mind and an indescribable phenomena interfering with one's ability
to recognize one's true nature as brahm. The consequence of realizing these truths is the
experience of brahm-ananda, nondual divine bliss, and kaivalya moksha, absolute liberation from Maya.
To illustrate the oneness of the soul with brahm, Shankaracharya used the example of a clay pot.
An empty clay pot has space on the inside, and it resides in the atmospheric space outside.
The pot is a metaphor for the illusory material or mayic mind that produces a sense of a
separate self. If the pot were broken, the interior space would join the exterior space
and become one. Similarly, when a practitioner attains brahm gyan, the highest nondual
knowledge of God, the illusion of the material mind that he is separate from God comes
to an end and he realizes, "I am brahm."
The nature of the world is illustrated through the example of a snake and a rope.
A person walking on a dark path may mistakenly think a rope to be a snake. This confusion
causes him fear and anxiety, but his condition is based on a wrong assumption due to an
optical illusion. Similarly, the soul's ignorance (or mental illusion) of his own true
nature as brahm causes him to mistakenly identify himself as the body living in the world.
Due to this, he experiences confusion and suffering. The goal for a gyani is to pierce this
illusion and realize his oneness with brahm through intense intellectual discrimination
To realize the practical truth of nondual philosophy, practioners must pass through
rigorous preparatory stages. These practices culminate in the meditative state of samadhi,
which ultimately leads to the final divine nondual realization.
Nondual Meditation Practice
In Vivek Chudamani (Crest Jewel of Discrimination), Shankaracharya details the four
preparatory stages that an aspirant must perfect to qualify for nondual meditation practice:
- Sat-asat vivek -- To discriminate between what is real and illusory, divine and material;
- Anubhavatmak jnana -- practical knowledge
- Shamadi shat sampatti
- Sham, To control the mind;
- Dam, To control the senses;
- Shradda, To have firm faith in the Guru and the scriptures;
- Samadhan, To maintain a consciousness of oneness with brahm;
- Uparat, To have a lack of desire for or interest in the world;
- Titiksha, To be physically and mentally tolerant of all situations;
- Mumukshu -- To have an intense desire for nondual realization and liberation.
In gist, this means the practitioner must be completely one-pointed and renounced.
Veda Vyas reiterates this point in the Bhagwatam (11/20/6). He writes one must be completely
nirvinna, detached, for nondual practice to be successful. This same admonition is reiterated
by Maharishi Patanjali in the Yoga Darshan (1/15). A nondual practitioner must be fully
detached from material desire.
Shankaracharya indicates in Vivek Chudamani that if the practitioner perfects the above
preparatory steps, he is qualified to receive the nondual teachings for gyan meditation.
In his commentary on the first aphorism of the Brahm Sutra,
Athato brahm jigyasa ("Now, after this, an enquiry into the nature of brahm")
he elaborates that "after this" means that an enquiry into brahm begins only after
the practitioner successfully perfects the four preparatory stages.
Otherwise, for the unqualified nondual practitioner, an unfavorable spiritual crisis
is virtually guaranteed. In the process of equating the soul with brahm (basically
impossible with a material mind) an unqualified gyan practitioner will equate
his ego with brahm instead. Thus, instead of purifying his mind, his practice will
only further increase his ego, deepen his mental impurity, and take him farther from
his spiritual goal. This is a very subtle mistake that a gyani cannot correct on the
basis of his own discernment. Thus the need for the association of an enlightened gyani
Guru who can indicate this to his disciple and properly guide him through these very
subtle stages. Therefore, Shankaracharya has made very strict rules that a practitioner
must be fully emotionally detached from sense objects of every kind, thus giving him
the greatest chance to be free of ego.
The four advanced stages of gyan are:
- Shravan -- To learn nondual meditation from a Guru who has achieved nondual realization;
- Manan -- To continuously reflect on and meditate on the soul's oneness with brahm using the mantra Tatvamasi, "You are That" (brahm)
- Nididhyasan -- To continuously reflect and meditate on the soul's oneness with brahm
using the mantra Aham brahmasmi, "I am that," until one's aham or sense of separate
personal identity ends;
- Samadhi -- To enter into nirvikalp samadhi, or the thought-free, non-conscious,
transcendent state of nondual absorption.
It is in the eighth stage of samadhi that a gyani's mind purifies fully and
he attains atma-gyan (knowledge of the soul or self-realization). On the base of his
purified material mind he experiences atma-ananda, the bliss associated with the
perception or knowledge of the soul's existence. The nature of this bliss and what the
gyani must do from this point is described below. Scriptures point out that arriving
at the stage of atma-gyan is not the result of a few years of meditation practice
or even of one lifetime; it is the consequence of millions of lifetimes of spiritual effort.
Advaita Realization: Are We There Yet?
A prisoner is not released from prison
merely by knowing who the king is.
(Shandilya Bhakti Sutras)
The bliss of self-realization experienced by the gyani who has reached the statge of nirvikalpa samadhi
is the greatest form of material happiness that exists. Because of this, an atma gyani at this stage of
realization may believe he has become a brahm gyani, one who has realized the ultimate nondual
knowledge and bliss of God. Scriptures are very careful to point out that self-realization,
although a state of profound and overwhelming bliss, is still a suble form of material happiness,
and this is but a partial or incomplete realization of divine truth, as the soul is but a part of God.
Maya has two aspects that must be transcended for liberation to be attained: (1) avidya maya,
and (2) vidya maya. Avidya maya relates to the tamas and rajas qualities of Maya.
Vidya maya relates to the satva quality of Maya. It is satva that produces the bliss
gyanis experience in the state of self-realization. (Gita, 14/17, Bhagwatam, 11/25/24 and 29).
Through nondual meditation practice, the mind slowly purifies, and after perfecting the stages of
shravan, manan and nididhyasan, the gyani has completely suppressed the tamas and rajas
qualities of the mind. What remains is satva, on the basis of which a reflection of the soul's
existence is experienced in consciousness. In effect, the material mind the gyani seeks to transcend,
is the same mind that is enabling the gyani's experience of the soul's existence. Yet while the
material mind continues to exist, the gyani has not received final divine realization.
He is still bound by Maya, and the potential to fall from this spiritual height is a real
and continued threat.
While avidya maya is overcome through self-effort, vidya maya is only transcended
through divine grace. It cannot in any way whatsoever be eliminated through one's personal
efforts or by the strength of one's meditaton practice, regardless of the stage one has achieved.
The Bhagavad Gita (7/14) reiterates that because Maya is God's power, only God has the power to control
or remove it. But the divine state desired by gyanis is impersonal brahm, whose
fundamental nature is inactivity and actionlessness. Even Shankaracharya accepted that this
non-active state was the nature of brahm. Brahm is only undifferentiated bliss with no other
expressed powers or qualities.
It is at this point that the gyani must surrender to bhagwan, the personal or embodied
form of brahm who is the giver of grace. It is only through grace that this mayic bondage
is ultimately destroyed, and to receive grace, he must practice bhakti or devotion.
The need for this final step in nondual practice is described clearly in the Bhagavad Gita
(14/5-6, 16) and other scriptures. Maharishi Patanjali also indicated that one must engage
in devotion or bhakti and receive God's grace in order to attain the ultimate perfection of
yoga (Yoga Sutras).
Similarly, Shankaracharya also accepted the need for the gyani to engage in devotion.
In his commentary on the Brahm Sutra (2/3/40). He said one aquires brahm gyan through
God's grace, and as a result, one attains final liberation. He himself stated,
"I have been liberated from material bondage, attained divine bliss and am now complete. Oh, Krishna, this was due to Your grace." For this reason, Maharishi Shandilya stated,
"We are under the bondage of Maya not because we have forgotten our true self,
but because we do not practice devotion to God." (Shandilya Bhakti Sutras)
After a gyani is graced with brahm gyan and until his physical death, a faint remnant
of the material mind call lesh avidya (or "trace of ignorance") enables him to experience
the divine bliss of impersonal brahm. At the time of his physical death,
this final vestige of Maya is destroyed. He has now attained absolute liberation
or kaivalya moksha and his soul enters the state of ekatva or divine unity.
In this state, his soul does not merge into God. The Mundak Upanishad (3/1/3)
explains that the soul attains God, but it doesn't become God. The soul as
discrete entity eternally remains, but without material senses, mind and intellect.
With no faculties of perception or knowing, the gyani's experience of bliss also ends,
but he is forever liberated from Maya. This is the ultimate divine nondual state of advaita.
Some Contradictions and Reconciliations
Shankaracharya recognized and accepted several aspects of philosophy that were in direct
conflict with his original nondual teachings. For example, Shankaracharya accepted the existence
of the personal and embodied form of God and also clearly stated that devotion must be done to this
aspect. This was expressed in his commentaries (Brahm Sutra, 1/1/20, 1/2/21, 3/2/13, 3/2/15, 4/3/10)
and in his final writing, Prabodh Sudhakar (167, 169, 170, 191-193, 200) and in numerous other places.
Yet he also referred to both the personal embodied form of God as well as the soul as
"mayopahit brahm", brahm that has been overcome or distorted by Maya.
If devotion is to be done to the personal form of God, this would mean that the one being
worshipped is brahm overcome by Maya, and the one worshipping God is also brahm
overcome by Maya.
The Brihadaranyak Upanishad (2/3/1) states that there are two inseparable aspects of God;
one is formless, the other is embodied. The Shvetashvatar Upanishad (6/8) explains that God's
own personal power makes this embodiment possible. Shankaracharya accepted that God had a
personal form and in Prabodh Sudhakar he further elaborated that the God's embodied form
is not material, but divine. Although this divine embodiment is perceived to be in one place,
it is actually omnipresent. So the capacity or power that God has to accomplish this is described
in the Upanishad as swabhavik, inherent. Inherent means that it is intrinsic to God's
nature. Yet Shankaracharya denied this. He interpreted the word swabhavik as kalpit
or imaginary, and denied that brahm possessed any such powers.
Shankaracharya accepted that Maya was merely an indescribable illusion and essentially unreal.
But in Prabodh Sudhakar (105), he later accepted that Maya was a power of God.
In Prabodh Sudhakar, Shankaracharya states, "Oh, Lord, the truth is that there is no difference
between myself and You. Substantially we are one. But just as a wave cannot become the ocean,
so the individual soul cannot become God, but he can become God's servant."
In light of the deeper understanding of the devotion and grace that is required for full nondual
realization, we may understand that these contradictions impart the full and essential revelation
of Vedic philosophy, and without them, nondual realization is not only incomplete, but impossible.
In this sense, these contradictions are not a case of this or that, but of this AND that.
The central tenets of Sanatan Dharma not only embrace the contradictions of nondual, impersonal and
undifferentiated brahm and the divinely embodied bhagwan or Krishna with unlimited
qualities, but indicate they are inseparable and, in the case of the personal form and the giving
of divine grace, indispensible. Due to this, all the remaining Jagadgurus who succeeded Adi
Shankaracharaya regarded his commentaries and nondual interpretations as purva-paksha,
simply a preceding proposition that set the stage for a later and more complete explanation.
The full philosophical exposition of the nature of the three tatva, namely God,
the souls and Maya, was understood through their commentaries.
Apart from ultimately integrating a more complete expression of Vedic philosophy into his work,
we could look to the spiritual climate of India during Adi Shankaracharya's time to understand
how these contradictory statements could exist in such stark contrast to each other.
We might imagine that to re-establishm a feeling of regard for Vedic philosophy, he had to
make his teaching conform to some extent to the principles of Buddhism or the public would have
found such teachings unacceptable or difficult to relate to. It would be much easier to promote
a formless brahm that culminates in a state of divine fullness to those who had
already accepted the Buddhist concept of shunyata, which culminates in a state of non-divine emptiness.
Nonduality Plus - Plus More
It is an unfortunate by product of modern nondual teachings and unqualified nondual teachers
and students that the value and importance of embodied divinity is relegated to a practice of a
lesser stage of one's spiritual journey or is ignored completely. Yet, the ultimate integration
of these two aspects, formless and embodied divinity, are seen in historical examples of divinely
enlightened gyani Saints or brahm gyanis.
One of the greatest gyani Saints of this age was Shukadeva, son of Veda Vyas. It is
described that he remained in a state of full divine realization in his mother's womb until the
age of twelve. With a promise from his father that he would not be overcome by the illusory effects
of Maya, Shukdeva finally entered the world. After his birth, he simply stood up and walked into
the forest. His father followed behind, calling to him and begging him to stay back.
Shukdeva was unable to hear his words and continued on the forest path, and while doing so,
he passed a pond in which beautiful celestial apsaras were bathing. With non-seeing eyes,
he continued walking. The apsaras likewise continued bathing undisturbed. When Veda Vyas came
into view, they quickly gathered their garments and covered their bodies. Veda Vyas was astounded
and asked them why they didn't respond like this before a youth, but suddenly became modest before him,
an old man. The apsaras explained that upon seeing Shukdeva, they knew immediately that he
was in the paramhansa state of complete nondual absorption.
In the paramhansa state, a gyani cannot see, smell, hear, taste, touch, know or
conceive anything. His mind is completely stilled and absorbed in divine nondual bliss. Shukdeva
continued walking and eventually came to a place where he lay on the ground.
After some time, Shukdeva was discovered by disciples of Veda Vyas, who reported a beautiful young
boy lay in the jungle, completely unresponsive to their contact, yet somehow alive. At this time,
Veda Vyas was looking for a suitable qualified candidate to whom he could impart the teachings
of the Bhagwatam. After hearing the disciple's report, he knew this could only be his son.
But how to rouse him from his divine nirvikalpa samadhi? He told one of his students to
come close to Shukdeva's ear and sing two verses from the Bhagwatam, both describing the
causelessly gracious nature and the divine beauty of Krishna, the supreme form of bhagwan.
The student did as instructed, and the divine fullness of Shukdeva's samadhi state was broken.
A desire arose in his heart, he opened his eyes and simply said, "I wish to hear more."
A similar event is recorded in the life of King Janak, who was such an established brahm gyani
that he was called 'Videha' Janak, one so renounced and established in the divine state of
nonduality that he had no body consciousness. When Lord Ram entered his court and
Janak's gaze fell upon Ram's form, tears of bliss began to stream down his cheeks and he said,
"My body consciousness has returned and my experience of impersonal bliss has vanished.
I cannot take my eyes away from this divine beauty and my heart is overflowing with
the bliss of divine love."
The significance of these experiences is two-fold. First, this indicates that the
impersonal bliss of formless brahm is non-different from the personal bliss of embodied divinity
or bhagwan. These two aspects of God are inseparable. Second, the same Brahman reveals itself
in consciousness according to the intention, practice and goal of the practitioner,
whether that may be the nondual, impersonal blissful realization of a gyani, or the
divine love bliss of the embodied form of God of the bhakta. However, the sweetness
of the bliss of embodied divinity is so great for an enlightened gyani,
that it forcibly causes the gyani's nondual realization to abruptly end,
only to be replaced by a deeper and more enriched state of divine love.
Drawing Some Conclusions
From this short analysis, we can understand there is a robust philosophy of both dual and nondual
realization that remains unchanged through the ages. The finer aspects, practice and qualifications
for both the nondual and dual approaches to the divine are correspondingly taught by true nondual
and dual Saints as Gurus. This divine and living association with a Saint who embodies and transmits
this truth clarifies the deepest aspects of these approaches, including how we may embrace the practice
of devotion to the personal form of God to receive God's grace. When we embark on this process as
a practitioner of the path of nondualism or advaita, this is truly Nonduality Plus.