Let us discuss the nature of Advaita. We say that the expression “There is no other existence apart from the existence of Self (Atman)” (Chandogya Upanishad 7.25.2.) shows that there is nothing separate from Atman. In this sense the Self is one without a second. It does not mean that any existence imagined as other than Atman is necessarily non-existent. But it means that any object thus imagined is inseparable from and the same in essence as Atman, It is clear therefore that anything other than Atman exists merely in imagination and not in reality.
If we consider the words “Atman” and “Brahman” in this sense, the meaning of Advaita will be clear to us. “Atman” is an eternal principle and the subjective aspect of ultimate Reality. It is an indivisible principle of non-duality and there is no possibility of any difference in it at all. The word “Brahman” denotes the external objective reality of the same principle. In it there is a unity of the inner and the outer, the subjective and the objective. In one sense it is clear that “Atman” also means both the subjective and the objective ultimate Reality.
The conception of the nature of Brahman resembles the European theory of absolutism; yet there is a great difference between the two. Brahman, according to Vedanta, is a spiritual Reality and Truth; the Western absolutism is based on logic and hypothesis. Bradley has tried to prove that what is logical is real, but in Vedanta, his thesis is not fully acceptable. Bradley postulates only the possibility and not the certainty of the Absolute.
Another great difference is that the logical conception arrives at the unreality of appearance on the basis of absolutism; the metaphysical reality to Bradley is the logical whole. Shri Shankara lays more emphasis on experience than on logic. He shows that the one indivisible non-participating (Asanga) Self is the support of the universe. This partless and indivisible Self (Atman) is the same as the all-pervasive existence called Brahman. It is not an element abiding in Brahman but it is the very nature of the innermost reality called Brahman. The world can be called in a certain sense an aspect or a part of Brahman because it is distinguishable from Brahman, but when we consider it in the sense that it is supported on Brahman and is not different from It, we cannot call it a fraction of Brahman. The world is a distinguishable existence but it is not a reality distinct from Brahman. Though by nature it has an existence, nevertheless its reality depends on the indistinguishable inseparable Self aspect of Brahman. The followers of Shri Shankara, the great Acharya, have enlarged most learnedly and profoundly on this aspect of the philosophy of Advaita and have explained the real meaning of Jagat on these lines.
Index for this series of essays