The Advaita is a very important school in the history of thought. It is the foremost institution about Reality. To comprehend the oneness of all Reality, to emphasize its reality and nature as one all through in the face of all empirical and logical evidence is one of the most important standpoints and it is not by any means idealistic, that is to say that it is just a fantastic postulation. It is known that one of the deepest insights into Reality begins to relate the unrelated and bring unity where there is difference and conflict. The grouping of diverse factors in perception which entails the apprehension of gestalt is itself one such efforts of the mind in perception; so too the casual linkage that we make naturally as a law of min or thought between antecendents and consequents and on the basis of similarity reveals the operation of this unification or Advaitic tendency in anumana whether deductive or inductive and casual or dynamic. In fact so imperative and obligatory to all thought does this tendency to assume a one reality or system appear that it has been claimed to be the real criterion of Reality itself. In all fields of existence the search for oneness is not only an obligation of thought but also of living and acting. We are more efficient when we know the unified law or the unifying law or system or order whether imposed or natural. Thus the Advaita is a reality and all that we have to do is to find out what kind of Advaita is real, and ultimately satisfying.
In all branches of live we have the actual existence of manynesses and differences. The differences are so very marked and the identities so very minute and invisible that it has become necessary to assume the absolute distinguishability of the diverse which is the very contradictory of the Advaita or unity of oneness of all. In fact Advaita and Dvaita are contradictories and some ardent thinkers do not see any meeting ground between them. If the one is true the other must be false: the law of excluded middle is applied to this thesis and antithesis. Therefore Dvaita rejects totally as unacceptable Advaita and Advaita reciprocates this attitude.
Unfortunately the law of negation (not contradiction) involves the dynamic instability of both these for one tends to pass over to the other at least logically and cannot exist apart from this counter-predication. They define themselves by their opposites and real Advaita is lost sight of. This is the debacle of dialectical procedures.
Thus any abstract Advaita is bound to be in difficulties even as any Dvaita is bound to come to some kind of compromise with Advaita. Thus we find Advaita assuming a second entity, maya, however much this term is abused by giving it the synonyms of illusion and avidya or ignorance, and thus settles down to the acceptance of dualism and pluralism also for one cannot stay at dualism but must wene all its way to pluralism – of course this pluralism can be abolished at the time of ultimate liberation. Similarly Dvaita or dualism which includes pluralism has to accept the oneness of the Ruler principle which is absolutely different from all the rest for establishing the oneness of Reality or Rule. All become subordinate to this Absolute Single principle. Monotheism rescues pluralism from falling apart; it confers the unity of all as a universe. Thus monism and monotheism are reconciled though as it was clearly noticed monism is irreconcilable with monotheism in religion itself, the latter reconciles this in philosophy or ontology.
Thus we have any number of attempts to restore balance and unity to the outstanding conflicts between pluralism (unmitigated difference, dvaita) and monism.
Sankara himself seeks to arrive at his Advaita by an effort to seek the meeting points of the several darsanas. Starting from a fundamental dualism in sensory experience philosophers confront both the realms of objective material life and the subjective experience of it. Apparently subjective experience of the external work is the only evidence for the externality of the objective world. All experience in one sense is objective and is perceptive or sensory and as Berkeley put it to be is to be perceived, though he was equally certain that existence as a perceiver cannot be lost sight of. A subject is not perceived but experiences perceiving which is of course different. The object is something ‘felt’ to be material and inert and inactive though here again we come to see that it is not necessary for it can stimulate the subject by such characteristics as striking quality, contrast and intensity. However though the object is an object because it is known by a subject and perhaps it may be claimed that the characteristics of an object are only subjective responses to it and not in the object as such as qualities or characteristics, the subject is important for without him there is not experience at all. Experience means the subjects’ experience, conscious apprehension of objects other than itself but yet not independently of it. Having divided the real of reality into two as subject and object it was easy to develop this dualism.
The objective considerations or where the object plays the most important part are the system of Nyaya-Vaisesika, Samkhya-Yoga and Purva-mimamsa. Their considerations are capable of being classified under the adhibhautika (material), adhyatmika (psychological) and adhidaivika (supra-psychological or transcendental). Plurality of elements and atomism of the Vaisesika, the plurality of the souls, and dualism of the spiritual and the physiological-psychological of the Samkhya and Yoga and the pluralism of the gods and the dualism of the worlds of here and hereafter (svarga), are so much explained in these systems that they become problems of the Monism and contrary to Monism.
All these are relegated to the sphere of the maya, as products of maya, and are capable of being products of ignorance and are equally perceived only by the ignorant as such.
The problems are: (i) Dualism and pluralism.
(iii) Pluralism of souls and one world.
- (ii) Matter (object) and Spirit (subject).
(iv) Evolution of the many from the one or diversification in Nature. Is it growth or mutation or illusion?
(v) What is the principal criterion of truth or pramana for Reality?
The Samkhyan system accepts dualism of Matter and Spirit; it accepts the plurality of souls; and it accepts the oneness of prakrti and not many prakrtis for the many souls (purusas); it accepts the evolution and involution of prakrti without the active participation of the souls, and this means that the subtle condition of the object becomes diversified or gross or perceived by the purusa and then it once again regains its subtle state after the liberation of the purusa. Thus the cause contains the effect and the effect returns to its causal state. Thus differentiation of Nature leads to jnana and clarity of knowledge is the goal of all consciousness in experience. Finally it is the distinct and clear knowledge of prakrti that makes the purusa see its difference from prakrti with which he had identified and thus get liberation. This knowledge of difference is the liberator of the purusa or the withdrawal of the prakrti. It is intelligence that reveals this difference in its dispassionate and sovereign condition of knowledge.
Vaisesikas however hold that prakriti or nature or objects of knowledge are many, atomic, differentiated from one another. The souls are also many. The categories of manas (mind) are all individuated as instruments to each soul when it conjoins the grouping of the atoms and begins its organic life. The Vaisesikadarsana does not accept the growth-theory but only composition-theory. Thus the effect is something that is new and novel, something produced – it does not matter by whom, it in fact seems to entertain the view that there are four causes as even Aristotle distinguished, namely the material cause (upadana), the efficient cause (agent or his instrument) (nimitta), the instrumental cause also comes under this category – things with which the effect is shaped or built, the formal cause (the pattern to be produced which is in the mind of the agent) which can be seen to have been given to the matter and as such distinguishes the cause from the effect materially considered and lastly, the final or purpose cause. These four are capable of being considered separately. In a sense the definition of cause as a totality of conditions or causes in the presence of which the effect occurs and in the absence of which the effect does not occur and as such is the fixed law of causation (niyata-purva-vritti) of effect is fully explained here. Thus we cannot speak of subtleness and grossness as the distinguishing features between cause and effect. Thus the effect is non-present in the cause in any condition taken formally and therefore, the theory is called arambha-vada and asat-karya-vada.
The defect of this view is that it does not accept the identity of the material and efficient and formal and final causes which is claimed by the Advaita. This is against experience. Even the Samkhya cannot escape from this dilemma for it has atleast to accept the two causes, purusa and prakrti though the consciousness-reflection (pratibimba) in prakrti seems to do what consciousness directly can – a claim that is no where proved by experience as such.
The Purva-mimamsa is concerned with transcendental satisfactions of desire and in respect of the fruits to be achieved from the performance of yajna or yaga it is postulated that the result is apurva, not existent priorly in the yajna or yaga but has to be granted (automatically or mechanically or as prasada by the Gods) – and as such is a new product. This shews that parinama-vada is not accepted by them by only arambha-vada or asat-karya-vada. This is of course a limited application of the principle of non-identity between cause and effect. The whole problem of identity of cause and effect should not be restricted to material-efficient causes but to the whole of reality. But this cannot be done in experiences of such wide difference as the sensory, and the practical and the spiritual.
What does Sankara do with these ideas so divergent as these. It is possible to say that all these are wrong views but the fact remains that all these appear to be right in parts and in a critical valuation one should put them in their right places within which they will not only appear to be right but be right.
Dividing Reality into two as noumenal and as phenomenal, (para-marthika and vyavaharika satta) Advaita of Sankara accepts the Samkhyan sat-karya-vada phenomenally but refutes it in the paramarthika for the paramarthika is entirely different from the vyavahara world and is no cause of this and does not posses this even in a subtle form. It accepts the asat-karya-vada of Nyaya-Vaisesika but in a modified sense. The vyavaharika reality is the illusory manifestation of the paramarthika and is in every way a new thing, characterized by contradictory attributes of the paramarthika word or being or anubhava. This it calls the vivarta-vada.
Phenomenally the Advaita accepts akhyati-vada (non-observation) of the Samkhya as the cause of avidya or result of avidya, whichever is the cause, but transcendentally it accepts the anyathakhyati of the Vaisesikas which is the perverse perception due to karma, avidya and so on the evolutes of maya, and calls its own species as anirvacaniya-because the perverse perception is indeed a fact of the phenomenal order. It is real, but since it is dissolved or dissipated (badhita) when the real experience occur it is asat (non-existence): thus being both sat and asat it is incapable of being defined as existent or non-existent. The pramana is claimed to be svatahpramana needing no other pramana to prove its reality for it can be logically shown to be consistent or inconsistent but actually like the Naiyavikas the extraneous test of another pramana is utilized to prove a thing’s reality and truth by its concept of abadhita-jnana (uncontradicted testimony).
Phenomenally it accepts the karma-kanda of the Purva-mimamsa as helpful to the purification of the body or the soul but transcendentally it rejects its value, because karma and jnana are said to be opposites or contradictories. How jnana can come out of karma and karma out of jnana is a problem of deepest concern and by refusing to solve it the Advaita relegates it as a dichotomy in its attempt to arrive at Identity or Unity. In fact maya is all solution but it cannot solve itself except by a fiat of transcendental anubhava.
The Advaita accepts the value of pratyaksa, anumana, upamana, arthapatti and anupalabdhi (a species of abhava) along with all other systems by taking all of them as valid within vyavahara experience. But all of them have no value for the ultimate reality depends on those Monistic texts alone which teach what these cannot and do not teach, and as such true sabda, paramartha. These texts alone are the means to transcendental experience – aparoksanubhuti – mystic revelation that once for abolishes the vyavahara world as a dream and influence of maya that deludes and makes one ignorant and creates all diversities that cause suffering and blindness.