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Advaita Vedanta

by Maitreya Ishwara

Advaita, nonduality, is the highest flowering of Indian spiritual philosophy; it is the quintessential mystical understanding. Advaita is as far as the intellect and concepts can go in the direction of truth. After advaita, not much more can be said.

The core advaita insight is: consciousness is all there is, therefore I am That which I seek. Advaita recognises that there is one primordial source to all life; therefore all of existence is made from that source, and that source is God, or consciousness-at-rest. Without an understanding of advaita, spirituality remains confused and dualistic. The leaders of the philosophical school of Advaita Vedanta are some of the most sophisticated intellectuals of India, an ancient, mystical land where an evolved and conscious civilization once flourished.

Advaita's problem lies in its application. Bridging the chasm between nondual logic and direct experience is the challenge that advaitins often fall short on. Many advaitins attempt to gloss over the separate reality of the body and material world with concepts about oneness and nonduality. Sometimes they insist that they donít exist as individuals in a material world. The absurdity of this belief reflects the limitations of logic. The material world does exist and is essential to create the experience of separation. A Buddha is hungry in his belly, not yours.

Advaita's problem dissolves with a dose of pragmatic authenticity. Understanding that reality is multidimensional relieves advaitins of their misguided beliefs about the functional aspect of being human. Direct experience of the absolute realm of non-Being is available only to those few souls who have access to the seventh body of God. Such fully enlightened people are rare; about a dozen are alive today. Even they cannot stay in that arcane realm for very long and, when they return to a functional state of consciousness, they experience themselves as embodied awareness again.

My direct experience is always that God is the only doer in me. My body, brain and nervous system are totally in His hands. I have no trace of personal volition at all. Yet I exist mostly in an embodied reality where my body is apparently separate from other bodies. This separation of bodies is absolutely necessary for the leela, the divine play, to have meaning and intensity. When I dissolve in non-Being, there is no trace of anyone at all to claim: "I am That", or even to think anything at all. When I return from non-Being, just the fragrance of that total dissolution lingers around me for a while. Then I exist as embodied awareness again.

This dance ensures that the mystery that is God always remains mysterious. No one can articulate the subtlety of non-Being, since all sense of Being dissolves and there is no one present to remember the dissolution.

Clinging to absolute concepts about truth is not helpful; it limits you. There is no need to dress up your reality with absolutist jargon. The relative world of matter is also real; it exists as the first body, or realm of God. The universe is transitory; it is born and is destined to die; yet it is the fundamental reality in which we live. Denying the reality of the world leads to subtle anti-life attitudes. Only the absolute realm of God is eternal. In this sense only the absolute realm is real. But every realm of God is real in the sense that it exists and is made from His ultimate reality: the uncreated eternal void of intelligent awareness, or consciousness-at-rest.

Beloved advaitins, you are on the right track: advaita is the truth. Just remain true to your own experience. There is no need to decorate your experience with limiting absolutist concepts about your non-existence. It is better to be pragmatic. You can verify that you are embodied consciousness and that God is the only doer. This frees you from ego burden and allows you to play your part in life without denying the reality of the world. God's creation of existence is complex. Understanding its multidimensional complexity deepens the experience of being embodied consciousness.

God's vision for the new dawn of civilization includes work, meditation and celebration within the context of advaita's understanding: consciousness is all there is, therefore I am ultimately That which I seek.

The application of advaita is much more transformative than the repetition of absolutist beliefs; the application of advaita leads to freedom from ego through conscious surrender: Not my will, but Thy will be done. Western teachers are coming into their time. They bring a fresh vitality to the ancient wisdom of India and the East.

(from the 2005 edition of Maitreya's book, Unity - The Dawn of Conscious Civilization)