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#3572 - Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - Editor: Jerry Katz  

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In Issue 3568 I published an article by Eric Gross entitled Denying the Real: Advaita - and - Affirming the Real: The Navajo.

Three comments are published below:

~ ~ ~

I take issue with Eric Gross on a couple of things that he has said in his introduction:

1. Eric Gross writes "People in India have suffered from famine, despotism (often in the form of organized religion through the cruel caste system), disease, urban poverty, and many other physical and cultural ills."

Advaita evolved many thousands of years ago.   I submit that there has been less cruelty and depravation in India during that time than during the time of the Incas and Mayas and during the dark ages in Europe.  In fact it is my firm belief that you need long periods of peace to give man an opportunity to study  the human condition and to expound a philosophy as sublime as Advaita. At any rate, it is not physical suffering alone that leads to the spiritual enquiry but mental suffering.  Otherwise we would not be seeing the virtual invasion of spiritual organisations in India by people from the "rich" west. Advaita and Buddhism have taken root in the west to such an extent that I am more attracted to the discourses of western exponents of Advaita and Buddhism, who are more atriculate, have a depth of understanding and can expound it in the context of the present times. Is that due to "famine, despotism, disease and urban poverty" in the west or due to the discovery of the emptiness of all material prosperity?

In short, Eric Gross, has erred in equating the conditions in present day India with the conditions that existed many thousands of year's ago and has drawn the wrong conclusions.

2.Eric says "In a world of incredible suffering and hopeless, a spiritual philosophy that claims that it is all just a dream, just a projection could take hold among people powerless to change the nature and quality of their lives. Instead of horrendous suffering, we now have, voila, perfection."

The rejection of the world as a deam is only a preliminary position to help the aspirant to look within.  I submit this from the talks with Ramana Maharshi (Page 181 of David Godman's "Be As You Are - The teachings of Ramaa Maharshi"):

Q:  "Brahman is real.  The world (Jagat) is illusion" is the stock phrase of Sri Sankaracharya.  Yet others say, "The world is reality" which is true?

Ramana Maharshi: Both statements are true.  They refer to different stages of development and are spoken from different points of view.  the aspirant (abhyasi) starts with the definition, that which is real exists always.  Then he eliminates the world as unreal because it is changing.  The seeker ultimately reaches the Self and there finds unity as the prevaling tone.  Then, that which was originally rejected as being unreal is found to be a part of the unity.  Being obsorbed in the reality, the WORLD IS ALSO REAL.  There is only being in self-realisation, and nothing but being.

In my view, constant inquiry and questioning is encouraged Advaita.  It is not cast in stone and is subject to change as man evolves.


~ ~ ~  

Although Eric's take is interesting, IMO, it's based on
a lot of misperception and misconstruction.  His idea seems
to be that the teachings of advaita lead to escapism,
that they are premised on a belief, and that they are
a religion just like any other religion.

I understand his slant, but what he says isn't accurate.
First of all, in India, everything is considered to
be sacred.  A famous quote from Swami Dayananda, "Some
religions say there is only one God.  We say, 'There
is only God.'"

IOW everything which is seen and perceived is a manifestation
of that One.  There is nothing mundane.  Every single solitary
teeny tiny piece of the manifestation is sacred and should
be treated with respect.

Also, the teachings don't say the 'world is unreal,' as say,
the horn of a rabbit is unreal, i.e. it doesn't exist.  What
the teachings say is the world is neither ultimately real,
nor is it ultimately unreal.  Its reality lies somewhere
in between.

What is it?  I've sometimes heard Swami Dayananda say,
"It's magic!"  And it is.  How can something so complex,
so varied, and so ordered come from just one thing?  It
is a kind of magic; and it is also a manifestation of
an infinite intelligence which can be observed to be
woven through and through everything that is seen
and perceived.  Magic!  Infinite, ordered, intelligently
put together magic!

Then, to address something else Eric refers to.  I would
not say that the ancient teachings of advaita encourage
one not to take part in the world, not to try and make
things better.  Look at the Bhagavad Gita for example.
That is a whole teaching of how to realize the truth of
advaita while living in the world and taking action.

So, although I understand what Eric is saying, I don't
think he has looked very deeply into these matters.

Ancient teachings of advaita encourage a person to do
one's 'dharma.'  What is one's dharma?  It varies from
person to person.  But certainly trying to address the
problems of the world which Eric mentions can be part of
a person's dharma.

And doing one's dharma does not preclude understanding
that the ultimate nature of reality is nondual.  Doing
one's dharma can actually help a person to recognize
that.  And if one has recognized that the ultimate nature
of reality is nondual, one actually is in a much better
position to deal with whatever comes up in one's life,
be it personal, or geopolitical.

So I wouldn't say that the teachings of advaita are escapist,
nor do they lead to a type of disrespect for the creation.
Quite the opposite in fact.


~ ~ ~    

Finding out what is real is essential to see through this comparison of the different viewpoints--all the many varying concepts and beliefs --the comparison of one to another as either good and bad.  Asking 'WHO sees ALL of the viewpoints' is key.  We could argue one against the other indefinitely but who sees ALL of them ?? What has to be there first for any of them to be even seen??  THAT is what advaita points to--certainly not the negation of suffering (or the Real) as was mentioned--a kind of la-la keep your head in the sand viewpoint--Suffering can only happen with the belief of a separate someone who suffers. Seeing (by simply looking closely) that there is no one, changes everything.  Pain is seen, joy is seen but there is NO owner therof--
The self-righteousness about the superiority of one viewpoint over another ceases-ALL appear in THAT and As THAT.  


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