Posted by: adbhutam | August 29, 2009


Shrigurubhyo namaH

Advaita begins where dvaita ends

A paradigm shift, both in human experience and scientific enquiry, demands a set of tools that are out-of-the-ordinary.  Just like the Newtonian model that could suitably explain classical physics was found insufficient to cater to the demands of modern physics characterized by the relativistic model, so too the advanced examination of the human experience of subject-object duality necessitates the development of tools that are quite different from the dualistic model.

The karma-kAnDa, the earlier portion of the Veda, has for its central theme the doer-enjoyer as the subject sentient being and the object-designated enjoyable world as the inert entity.  This level of subject-object duality is easily explained by the Vedic model of God-creation-world.  In this model, the Creator is immanent in the entire creation and every object in creation is taught to be charged with the indwelling God.  A sentient subject performs actions and enjoys the fruits of action in this world or in other worlds.  The dualistic model can at best explain this portion of the Veda. This is the realm of aparaa vidyaa.

On the other hand, the Jnana-kanda, the latter portion of the Veda, has as its core theme the discarding of all objectivity and the retention of the sole subject, the Consciousness.  The Mandukya Upanishad 7th mantra is perhaps the best example of this feature.  In this mantra the entire created universe, both in its cosmic and individual aspects, is negated and the Turiya, the Consciousness that is only a witness of the inert created objectified universe, is taught as the Reality, the realization of which results in liberation.   This process demands a higher level of instrument that surpasses the set of tools used in the dualistic model.  This is the field of paraa vidyaa.

Does Dvaita help the present quest of Science?

The Dvaita-explanation of the relationship between God/Brahman and the material universe is the one that is already provided by Advaita.  This is in the dualistic model.  In other words, Dvaita does not offer anything new in the dualistic model that Advaita has not already given.  The present scientific enquiry is not interested in this.  The higher Advaitic model of monistic metaphysics is what is sought by Science in taking its quest forward.  In this process Dvaita has little to offer to Science.  The dualistic model of the Vedanta is common to both Advaita and Dvaita.  The unreality of the world is spoken of by Advaita only from the transcendental, pAramArthik, standpoint; from the vyavaharik, paratantra, standpoint Advaita does not deny reality to the world.  Science, facing the dualistic dilemmas of the observer-observed, uncertainty, etc. has started questioning the very reality of the world which is the realm and limit of duality (Dvaita).

The paradigm shift demonstrated in Shankara’s commentary for the two consecutive mantras of the Mandukya Upanishad can be appreciated thus:

Mantra 6:     एष सर्वेश्वर एष सर्वज्ञ एषोऽन्तर्याम्येष योनिः सर्वस्य प्रभवाप्ययौ हि भूतानाम्

[This one is the Lord of all; this one is Omniscient; this one is the inner Director (of all); this one is the Source of all; this one is verily the place of origin and dissolution of all beings.]


//This one, when in his natural state; is surely sarveshavra, the Lord of all, of all diversity inclusive of the heavenly world; and contrary to what others believe in, He (the Lord of all) is not something intrinsically different from this one (that is Praajna), as is borne out by the Vedic text, ‘O good-looking one, (the individual soul conditioned by) the mind is tethered to (that is to say, has for its goal) the Vital Force (which is Brahman), (Chandogya Up. 6.8.2).’  This one, again, in his immanence in all diversity, is the knower of all, hence this one is Omniscient.  This one is the antaryamin, the inner Controller; this one indeed, becomes also the Director of all beings by entering inside.  For the same reason he gives birth to the universe together with its diversities, as described before; and hence this one is the Source of all.  And since this is so, therefore this very one, is certainly the place of origin and dissolution of all beings.//

As can be readily seen, this is the Upanishadic teaching of the dualistic model which the Advaitic commentary has faithfully brought out.  This is what Dvaita has to say about the relationship of God and the material world inclusive of the beings.

Now comes the paradigm shift, from the dualistic to the unmistakably monistic model:
Mantra 7:  नान्तःप्रज्ञं न बहिःप्रज्ञं…..प्रपञ्चोपशमं..अद्वैतं….आत्मा…

[They consider the Fourth, Turiya, to be that which is not conscious of the internal world, nor conscious of the external world, nor conscious of both the worlds, nor a mass of consciousness…beyond empirical dealings….uninferable….in which all phenomena cease….non-dual…Self…That is to be known (for liberation)]


// The attributes, such as……have been negated.  ……In ‘Prapanchopashamam’,  the one in whom ‘all phenomena have ceased’, etc; are being denied the attributes of the states of waking, etc.  …Since It is advaitam, non-dual, free from illusory ideas of difference,;;;Turiya…distinct from the three quarters that are mere appearances.  That is the Atma, Self, that is to be known.  This is said to imply that just as the rope is known to be different from the snake, the crack on the ground, or the stick, superimposed on it, similarly the Self is to be known (as different from the superimposed states)…the Self that is presented in the sentence ‘That thou art’ (Chandogya Upanishad 6/8/16). ‘That is to be known’ – this is spoken of from the standpoint of the previous state of ignorance, for on the dawn of knowledge, no duality is left ज्ञाते द्वैतं न विद्यते (jnAte dvaitam na vidyate). //

It must be evident to the reader that the seventh mantra and the commentary is a clear shift from the dualistic paradigm.  In this Advaitic model all duality is transcended.  It is this kind of a model that Science seeks to help in its quest.  Quite evidently, the Dvaita school cannot offer this model; its limit being the model described in the 6th mantra/commentary that we have already seen.

Where does the paradigm shift?  In the dualistic model the observer subject interacts with the objective universe with the mind, sensory and motor organs.  ‘I am the knower of this object’ is the thinking he has.  But in Vedanta the ‘knower’ himself is shifted to the object category and this knower-included-object is objectified by the Consciousness, Atman.  This entity is variously termed the SAkshi, the Vishayi, Kshetrajna, etc.  The entire experienced universe is thus a ‘creation’ of this SAkshi.  It is not that an already crated universe is experienced by the subject but the very experiencing the object is creation.  When I experience a tree, a question arises: Am I experiencing a tree that is there OR is the tree there because I am experiencing it?  In terms of science, ‘Am I observing a particle that is there OR is the particle there because I am observing it?’  It is here that the dualistic paradigm shifts to a non-dualistic paradigm.  Shankaracharya presents this paradigm shift in the most revealing way in the opening sentences of His commentary to the Brahma sutras.  This very section is termed ‘Adhyasa Bhashya’, a commentary on superimposition.  The impossibility of the commingling of the observed and the observer is very eloquently brought out and the observer of the dualistic model is clearly shown to belong to the observed category.  This ‘new’ observed category has as its observer the Pure Consciousness, Atman.  The subject matter of spirituality thus becomes redefined as it were in the hands of Shankaracharya.  The entire Upanishadic teaching is based on this discriminating exercise involving the Atman and the anAtman.  The problem of samsara is in taking a part of the anaatman as the Atman, oneself.  The solution lies in properly re-classifying the Atma-anAtma pair culminating in the rejection of the entire anAtma as an unreal creation and realizing the Atman as one’s true self.

The dualistic model that we saw earlier as explaining the vedic karma kAnda is accepted only  provisionally by Vedanta.  The dualistic world is ‘accounted for’ with this model by Vedanta. Advaita takes for granted this dualistic model and therefore there is nothing new that non-advaitic schools have contributed in the realm of the vyavaharic world. That the Creator God has penetrated every pore of His creation is the provisional teaching of the Veda that Advaita accepts as the preliminary ‘explanation’ for the world phenomenon.  But the purport of the Veda is not in asserting a real creation.  The avowed purpose of the Veda lies in transcending creation by negating the entire created universe, including the mind-body-senses of the observer, which are essentially matter.  It is in this sphere that the Advaitic model becomes singularly relevant.  The direct contribution of non-Advaitic schools in this realm is nothing.  Let us consider two statements:

  1. The Sun illumines everything  सविता प्रकाशयति
  2. The Sun is luminous   सविता प्रकाशते

In the first statement, evidently, there are two categories: the illumining Sun and the illumined objective world.  This is the dualistic model.  This is the realm and limit of non-advaitic schools in explaining the world.

However, in the second statement we have just the Sun which is luminous.  The Sun, from its standpoint, does not ‘illumine’ anything; it never cares whether there are things to be illumined or not; its nature, svabhaava, is just luminosity.  This is the non-dualistic model that is clearly beyond the ken of the non-advaitic schools.

In other words, the dualistic model reaches its limit when the vyavaharik world is questioned.  The transcendental realm demands a non-dualistic model and this is where Advaita becomes relevant for the seeker, both spiritual and scientific.  It is this field that science seeks to explore with the aid of Advaita.  We have seen in the earlier parts of the series ‘Advaita and Science’ several instances of this influence of Advaita in the quest of eminent scientists.  Here are a few excerpts  from some sites:

dRshTi-sRshTi vAda :-
This brings me to the third view, namely dRshTi-sRshTi vAda – the view that cognition and creation are simultaneous. It is generally assumed that this view was first propounded by prakASAnanda sarasvatI (ca. 16th century CE) – in his vedAnta-siddhAnta-muktAvalI. This author also wrote texts on SrIvidyA, such as tArAbhakti-tarangiNI. It is generally assumed that this view is an entirely new position, unknown to earlier authors in the advaita tradition. However, it should be pointed out that the gauDapAdIya kArika also teaches a very similar view in its arguments leading up to ajAti vAda. This view comes close to many schools of subjective idealism and to the buddhist vijnAnavAda. It also seems to throw up the most interesting logical paradoxes that are familiar to those interested in interpretations of quantum mechanics, e.g. the act of observation itself causing a particular collapse of a wave function, thus creating its outcome in some sense, and the absolute necessity of the observer in any description of an event.

Advaita and Science

According to some followers of Advaita, it may very well be a place where the scientific world intersects with the spiritual world. They point to the relationships between mass, frequency, and energy that 20th century physics has established and the Advaitic ‘Unity of the Universe’ as the common ground. They feel that these relationships, formalized as equations by Planck and Einstein, suggest that the whole mesh of the Universe blend into a One that exhibits itself as many (namely, mass, energy, wave etc), and that this follows Advaita’s view that everything is but the manifestation of an omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent “One”. They also connect the De Broglie waves of modern physics to Aum in Hindu philosophy. Conversely, scientist Erwin Schrödinger was also a Vedantist and claimed to have been inspired by it in his contributions to quantum mechanics. Fritjof Capra’s book, The Tao of Physics, is one among several that pursue this viewpoint as it investigates the relationship between modern, particularly quantum, physics and the core philosophies of various Eastern religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism.

Vedanta provides the core principles on which one may build a mathematical theory of spirituality. It is an ancient system of philosophy originating in India that has won the admiration of thinkers in both East and West. Schrödinger, the creator of the mathematics of Quantum Mechanics, calls the Vedantic identity of Brahman and Atman “the quintessence of deepest insight into the happenings of the world”. The German philosopher Schopenhauer exclaims that “in the whole world there is no religion or philosophy so sublime and elevating as Vedanta… this Vedanta has been the solace of my life, and it will be the solace of my death.”

“The teachings of Vedanta are profound, yet simple; coldly logical, yet warming the heart with love; completely personal, yet universal; and above all very relevant in today’s world. Even as Quantum Mechanics reveals the subtleties of the world of matter, so does Vedanta reveal logically the nature of the self, its relation to the world of happenings, and beyond that, to the ultimate Reality that underlies both. Today, as ever, Vedanta shines as a stunning testimony to the ability of the human mind to ponder and penetrate the abstract.”

A very inspiring and informative article:


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