Advaita Vedanta. The doctrine of non-duality
“Everything consists of emptiness, and form is condensed emptiness.” This is what albert Einstein said at the time. The 1994 Soviet scientific film entitled “Journey to the nanoworld” reveals the essence of things and their true nature. From the point of view of physics, everything actually consists almost entirely of emptiness. If we consider the atom, of which everything in the material world consists, then a detailed examination of it can be found that its nucleus contains almost the entire mass of the atom itself. But the most interesting thing is that the nucleus occupies only one ten-thousandth the size of an atom. Therefore, everything else is emptiness. Why do things and objects not look nonexistent and have a fairly dense structure? The fact that the processes of attraction/repulsion between atoms are incredibly strong and therefore create the appearance of density of material objects. However, in the case of strong heating, these bonds weaken. It is for this reason that the red-hot metal becomes liquid. Thus, our material world is almost entirely composed of emptiness.
The Central concept of Advaita Vedanta is non-duality. Just as with the statements of scholars that everything is void and therefore identical, Advaita Vedanta asserts that all duality is illusory. That is, any division into good/bad, right/wrong, black/white, hot/cold, useful/harmful, profitable/unprofitable, pleasant / unpleasant is illusory. The founder of Advaita Vedanta is considered to be a spiritual teacher named Shankaracharya or ADI Shankara. He argued that there are three levels of perception of reality:
One can philosophize endlessly that everything is void and identical, but the duality and multiplicity of manifestations of the material world continue to exist. Therefore, Shankaracharya clarified that at the absolute level of perception of reality, everything is indeed nondual and identical, but at the conditional level, things and phenomena exist as if independently of each other. The manifestation of the true reality in Advaita Vedanta is considered to be Brahman, that is, the Supreme consciousness, or the Supreme mind.
From the point of view of the perception of true reality, only Brahman is real, all the rest are only various forms of its manifestations, which due to ignorance are perceived as separate and distinct from Brahman and from each other. In comparison, steam, water and ice are different forms of H2O, giving the illusion that they are different from each other, but in fact they are basically of the same nature.
In this way, according to Sankaracharya, Brahman, taking different forms, acquires the appearance of diversity of the material world. In Advaita Vedanta, the perception of things as distinct from each other and having their own individual nature is considered a conditional reality. This is how most people perceive the world.
The third level of perception of reality according to Shankaracharya is a ghostly reality. This level of perception is manifested by dreams, hallucinations, mirages and so on. When a person wakes up, everything he dreamed disappears into nowhere, and when he falls asleep-dreams appear out of nowhere. Thus, we can say that the dream world is not real, but we can not say that it does not exist at all, because at the level of sensory perception, a person still feels the presence of the world of dreams, mirages, hallucinations and so on. The perception of the world according to Advaita Vedanta is very similar to the philosophy of Buddhism and the concept of Sunyata, which is the basic concept of Mahayana Buddhism. Despite this, Shankaracharya himself openly criticized Buddhism.
Thus, according to Advaita Vedanta, the world is unreal, only Brahman, the Supreme consciousness, is real, which, taking different forms, produces everything. The Jiva, the soul of every living being, is considered from the same point of view. In the tradition of Advaita Vedanta, she is recognized as completely identical with Brahman, but because of the illusions in which she resides, she cannot realize this. Why do illusions arise which divide the one Brahman into many manifestations? Here Advaita Vedanta considers such a concept as “Maya”.
Liberation from illusions
According to Advaita Vedanta, Maya is the cause of the illusion of the Jiva, the soul of every living entity. What is Maya? There is Brahman, the original pure transcendental consciousness. And there is Maya, an energy or entity which, according to the followers of Advaita Vedanta, “neither exists nor does not exist”, but nevertheless imposes illusions or projections that do not allow the Jiva to see the unity of everything and to realize itself as Brahman. It is Maya (according to Advaita Vedanta) that creates the illusion of duality of the one Brahman. To give a comparison, a person is in a dark room and now picks up an object, not knowing what it is. He thinks it’s a rope, and it’s only when the lights come on in the room that he sees it’s a snake and throws it. Similarly, the Jiva, being in ignorance, exposes himself to the dangers of illusory perception of reality, just as a person who in a dark room carelessly holds a snake in his hands.
How to “turn on the light in the room”? From the point of view of Sankaracharya, all the questions to these answers are hidden in the Vedas. Shankaracharya proposed Jnana yoga-the yoga of knowledge — as almost the only way that can lead to the breaking of the shackles of ignorance, or Avidya, and to Liberation. The path of karma-yoga (yoga of action) and bhakti-yoga (yoga of devotional service to God) is considered in Advaita Vedanta to be either completely useless or only initial practices on the path to Liberation. According to the followers of Advaita Vedanta, the ultimate goal of the path can be achieved only by studying the Vedas and practicing Jnana yoga. “Tat tvam ASI” is one of the four basic sayings of the Vedas, otherwise called mahavakya. Translated from Sanskrit means ‘that you are’. It is in this saying that the whole essence of Advaita Vedanta is summarized. The word “that” means Brahman, the Supreme consciousness, the word “you” means the Jiva, the soul of every living being, and from this interpretation the meaning of this mahavakya indicates the identity of Brahman and Jiva. It is after the realization of the essence of this saying, that is, the realization of the equality of Jiva and Brahman, that Liberation is achieved.
In Advaita Vedanta, Dhyana, the highest form of meditation, is also practiced, as in many other branches of Hinduism. But according to the teachings of Sankaracharya, Dhyana without knowledge of the Vedas is meaningless, because it does not lead to Liberation.
Thus, according to Advaita Vedanta, there is nothing but Brahman, which under the influence of Maya creates the illusion of duality. How harmonious such a view of reality is is an open question; one can only say that extremes and fanaticism can pervert any teaching. That is why Shankaracharya rightly observed that there is both true reality and conditional reality. And the key word here is “reality,” which means you can’t ignore any of them. The perception of everything as a manifestation of Brahman itself leads to detachment, equanimity, impartiality and nondual perception. In the process of this perception, the division of neutral objects and phenomena into pleasant and unpleasant ceases, which in turn ceases the emergence of attachment and aversion. However, it is important to understand that the concept that everything is an illusion should not lead to inaction. It is the view offered by Shankaracharya that will be more harmonious — to constantly meditate on the true reality, but not to deny the conditional one. If the Jiva has already incarnated in this material world, then the soul has some tasks to perform, and one should not deny the existence of material reality at all, while the realization of the true nature of things and phenomena, as mentioned above, allows one to remain in equanimity, free from attachment and dislike.
This position is very well stated in the Bhagavad-Gita:
“Do not strive for fruits, do not need their delight,
However, it is also not necessary to do nothing.
Misfortune and happiness-earthly worries-forget,
Be in balance, in yoga.
Before yoga all deeds are nothing, for they are false,
And people who crave success are insignificant.
Sins and merits reject you at once,
Who came to yoga, he comprehended the Supreme Mind.
Rejecting the fruit, throwing off the fetters of birth,
You will attain Dispassion and Liberation.”
These words were spoken five thousand years ago during the battle of Kuruksetra. So Krishna instructed Arjuna. But this philosophy is still relevant. It is not so important what doctrine a person adheres to, what is important is the result that he achieves, as well as the effectiveness of the actions performed by this person, and the benefit that he brings to others. And if the perception of the world as an illusion leads to detachment, impartiality and equal perception, but does not make a person indifferent and allows him to act effectively for the benefit of others, this will allow him to achieve success on the path of spiritual development. If the concept of the illusory world lead to the question: “Why do anything at all, if all illusion?”then it is better to seriously reconsider such views, because, as rightly stated in the Bhagavad-Gita, both attachment to the fruits of action and inaction are two extremes that will not lead to anything good.
It is also important to understand that everything in this world is harmonious and fair. And if there is something in it, then the universe would be incomplete without it. And if Maya, which creates the illusion of duality, is present, then it is necessary for the development of living beings. For if there were no Maya to mislead the Jiva, if there were no obstacles that Maya creates for the Jiva, there would be no possibility for the Jiva to develop. Only difficulties on the way allow us, overcoming them, to evolve.