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What Is Advaita?

Updated on June 18, 2009

Aye aye, Robot

An utterly poor definition of Advaita

What is Advaita? It’s a tough question… to answer. I could spew words out about it for hours and never pinpoint it. (But isn’t that true of everything?)

I think I have gone into a bit in another hub, but maybe I’ll give a more comprehensive answer here.

First of all, let’s do the obligatory verbal breakdown: Advaita is an old Sanskrit word which basically means “not two”. A (not) + Dvaita (two) = not two, or nondual. Anyway, that is the academic definition.

Advaita in a more practical sense refers to a branch of Vedantic philosophy emanating out of ancient India. It is one school of thought in the big, old pot of fun called the Hindu religion.

What does it postulate?

Some modern teachers of Advaita (or nonduality) have come to focus on a couple different aspects of the Truth. People like Ramesh Balsekar, Tony Parsons, John Sherman, Adyashanti, Wayne Liquorman, and an ever-growing host of other teachers talk about it in different ways.

Of course, the tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. So all words are lies.

My favorite 3 Advaita books (they can explain it better than me)

You don't exist

The you that you think you are is not real. It is a phantom. It is a false belief that was implanted into you when you were about two years old.

You think that you are an entity, a mind which sort of operates itself and the body hanging off of it. But can a thing really operate itself? Where does its power to do so come from? Where is the border that separates its autonomy from the outside world (which it has no control over)?

And what are you really? Are you the mind or are you a silent thing that’s behind the mind? Oh, you think you are a little nonphysical self that sees your own thoughts and then bats them around in order to get the body to do things, which in turn makes things happen in your life.

Advaita questions the assumption that there is a you in there which can “do” anything. Most people, I think, believe that they are in there somewhere. Yes, the world is big and powerful, and I have little say over most of it, especially when you start getting further out on the radius away from me. But right here, inside me, and within a few feet radius of me (and further if I use modern technology like the telephone) I can effect things. I can have an impact.

100% effect, 0% cause

Advaita pushes us to look at whether we have any causative power… at all. It says we are like the character on the movie screen. Or the leaf falling in the wind. It has no say in which way it falls. And it didn’t have a say in its own creation. It didn’t have a say in the patterns on it, or the distribution of its weight, the length of its stem. It had no say because there really is no “it”.


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      soumyasrajan 7 years ago from Mumbai India and often in USA

      Hi! Will James

      You write with your convictions. That is the good part?

      I do not know what you read about Advaita, I have not seen any of above references. For right information one does not need to go too far. But facts you present are wrong and aggressively twisted. Looks like goal is just to win some sort of score "Hey I am right and I was always right". Does one need any thing more. Wish you all the good luck if enjoy just feeling of winning such games. Any way you must have already won all of them.

      Your picture of robot is good.

    • Will James profile image

      Will James 8 years ago from New York, NY

      Not sure what you're talking about khoustello. Please explain yerself er else wutt urr we sposed to think?

    • profile image

      khoustello 8 years ago from lancashire

      Is this the same Tony Parsons as the one who said that Katie Price was a working class hero!Oh dear oh dearwhat a disaster.

    • chandanakumarct profile image

      chandanakumarct 8 years ago from Bangalore

      Wow. Excellent info. I never heard of this info. Thanks Will James from bringing up.

    • Will James profile image

      Will James 8 years ago from New York, NY

      Yeah I do it no service in my bumbling expression. But any of those books will explain it well.

      For instance, here's a quote from Ramesh Balsekar:

      "The universe is uncaused, like a net of jewels in which each is only the reflection of all the others in a fantastic interrelated harmony without end."

      This is what is known as Indra's Net in Indian mythology.

      In Buddhism, I think they talk about being able to see the entire universe reflected in a tiny raindrop.

    • Alex ONeill profile image

      Alex ONeill 8 years ago from Sweden (But I'm from Colorado)

      Awesome info. Never knew that about Indian spirituality. Quite beautiful in thought.