Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Interesting Thought Experiment - Adwaita Vedanta

There are many complaints about Hinduism - It is unscientific, promotes idol worship, ritualistic, too many gods, not systematic etc. If we dig deeper, the people who complain such are those who have not spent anytime reading the scriptures (reading Devdutt Patnaik or Meluha series is not scriptural study)

While no one comments on quantum mechanics, theory of relativity (special / general) or heck even some basic Botany without studying theory, Hinduism is fun to comment about without any knowledge. [I know about God, it is an experience, it is a personal thing etc will be applied to Hinduism and not any other subject]

For those delusional people, my humble request is spend a couple of years reading scriptures under a proper Guru and then talk about Hinduism.

With that heavy rant off my chest, I would like to talk about Adwaita Vedanta. As much as I love Sri Sankara, He did not 'create' Adwaita - It was there before Him, and the Truth is eternal and hence is beyond time.

In its Highest Form, Adwaita propounds that God alone exists. And, nothing else Exists. (ekam eva adwitiyam - There is only one non-differentiated)

If God alone exists, am 'I' real? Why does the world that I experience appear real? I am able to read this blog in a computer / phone. I am able to feel my car, the chair, my things etc.

To explain this, Adwaita introduces a concept of Mitya - This is probably the most misunderstood word. Mitya means 'not absolutely real'

Vedanta says, we experience 3 different states - Waking, Dreaming and Deep Sleep states. That which is absolutely True should be True in all three states.

You go to sleep with a water bottle next to you. In the dream you feel thirsty. But, the water bottle next to you is useless. Only dream water can quench your thirst in dream. The water bottle next to your bed has reality only in waking state.

Suppose you cut your hand in the dream. You apply dream medicine. When you wake up, there is no cut in your body. Though it seemed real in dream, the cut in your hand is real only in your dream. The medicine you bought in the dream is not useful in waking state.

In the deep sleep state, there is no mind and hence no perception of space or time. (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and Mandukya Upanishad has some mind-blowing information in this space)

Since the world in waking state is real only in waking (since it cannot be accessed in dreams) and vice versa, we can conclude that these experiences are not *absolutely* real - They are real only within their reference states (and hence called Mitya)

Also, when we wake up, we say 'Oh I slept very well, like a log (or a dog :D )' - Which means there was a perceiving consciousness even in Deep Sleep state

If you carefully went over the above text above, you'll realise that the only thing that is 'real' or 'constant' in all three states is the feeling 'I' - Even your favourite God / Goddess can be experienced only in the first two states (waking / dreaming). In deep sleep state, they cannot be experienced.

So, the only truth is I and this I is not different the cosmic self. (Adi Sankara beautifully says, Brahma Satyam. Jagan Mitya. Jeevo Brahmaiva Na Para:  )

This gets confusing - Probably, we get that the experience of 'I' alone is constant in all three states. But how does it get to be the Supreme God? Isn't that blasphemous?

Now, enter the thought experiment :

Suppose you can get entry into your own dream! I.e., your dream body exists. But, you also enter your dream with the same waking personality. And you can also interact with your dream 'self'

In the dream you see your dream self in extreme poverty. The dream self  is crying out loud and is in extreme pain because he burnt his hand. What would you say to your dream self?

You would say that this whole thing is unreal. It is a creation of your mind. You are not actually burnt. You would say this is not your real identity.

Your dream self would obviously be pissed. He would ask who are you? You would say that the whole world is your creation. There is nothing which you did not create. (The dream is of course the projection of mind. Everything in the dream is projected by your mind)

You would also say that you are everywhere. And no fire can burn you (remember Bhagawat Gita?). You would then ask your dream self to 'wake up' to realise that all this is false.

There is a critical difference (important one too) between this example and Adwaita Vedanta. But, adding that would only add to confusion here. May be subject of a different post.

I want you to think more of what else you would say to your dream self (probably share it in comments)

I'll be back :)