Thursday, 25 September 2014

Integral Advaitism by Sri Aurobindo

Earlier I made a post titled "The philosophical differences between Advaita, Buddhism and Samkhya" where I said that it was Shankara who took us out from the repeated onslaught of Buddhist philosophy and re-established the doctrine of Advaita all over India but if anyone had noticed carefully I said that even Shankara was too influenced by Buddhist philosophy and introduced his theory of Mayavada or illusionism into the Vedas and the Upanishads which is in complete variance with Indian philosophy which always considered the creator and the world to be real.

This post is just about that which refutes Shankara's theory of Mayavada or his theory of superimposition, a refutation which results in a wide range of implications for Indian philosophy which would place it along side Neo-platonism and Neo-platonic Christianity on a much firmer ground by embracing the philosophical position of Platonic realism. This is the reason why I'm a strong platonic realist and not an idealist or a scientific realist. Its also the same reason why I have not given up my works and has taken up celibacy or sannyasa ashrama.

Sri Aurobindo, the great mystic was the first to raise his strong voice against Shankara's theory of Mayavada and criticized him relentlessly through his voluminous works on the Vedas and especially on one important Upanishad of all which is the Isha Upanishad which forms the very soul of my research and my life.

Sri Aurobindo takes an all out attack on Shankara's theory of Mayavada using Isha Upanishad as his main scriptural source and I love every point he makes in his criticism.

The main obstacle that stands in the way of accepting the straightforward meaning of the Isha Upanishad and rightly understanding its inner truth about the Brahman, the Self and the Divine, is Mayavada, Illusionism, preached by Shankaracharya and the commentary he wrote on this Upanishad. The one-pointed drive towards withdrawal that is Illusionism and the much-praised inaction of the Sannyasi are completely at variance with the Isha Upanishad. If the meaning of the slokas is strained and tortured to give an opposite sense, the solution of this quarrel becomes impossible. The Upanishad in which it is written: “Doing verily works in this world one should wish to live a hundred years”, and again: “Action cleaves not to a man” — the Upanishad which proclaims with courage: “Into a blind darkness they enter who follow after the Ignorance, they as if into a greater darkness who devote themselves to the Knowledge alone”; and again says: “By the Birth one enjoys Immortality”, how can that Upanishad be reconciled with Mayavada, Illusionism and the path of withdrawal? A highly erudite person, who was possibly the chief sponsor of Monism in South India after Shankara, expunged it from the list of the twelve Upanishads and installed the Nrisimhatapini in its place. Shankaracharya was not so daring as to alter the prevailing canon. The Upanishad was a “Sruti” (heard scripture), and Illusionism was a subject for inquiry in the “Sruti” and as such, he assumed, the meaning of the “Sruti” could not but be favourable to real Illusionism.

Even though I am from South India I completely agree with Sri Aurobindo here because one has to speak the truth and criticize the mistakes made by anyone even though he or she is an highly famous and a reputable person. No hard feelings here and we agree with everything Shankara says except his theory of Mayavada or his insistence that only Brahman is real and the world and God are unreal. This doctrine of Mayavada put forward by Shankara around 6th century has destroyed the all important Indian philosophy of Purva Mimamsa (deals with Vedic rituals) which is as important as Uttara Mimamsa (Vedanta - enquiry about Brahman) because one cannot exist without the other and this lack of knowledge of Purva Mimamsa and the Vedas is the main reason for all the confusion which exists in understanding the relationship between Ishavara, Prakrithi, Purusha and Jiva in Advaita which many followers face.

The truth has been buried under the carpet for well over 5000 years which is a very long time and this change of perspective has global ramifications because it shows that we have to seriously consider the Vedas and the Vedic deities in it to fully understand the true integral Advaita of the Vedic rishis as they viewed it who gave equal importance to both a personal God with innumerable qualities and an impersonal God without qualities. For many whose main mode of acquiring knowledge is through Logic and reason this is highly unacceptable as both of these concepts are contradictory notions and forces one to make the wrong conclusion that either one view has to be false and the other view has to be wrong but as Aurobindo says the great seer rishi Yajnavalkya at each step tramples at the Law of Contradiction and in each sloka announces its invalidity; he finds in the secret heart of the opposites the place for the reconciliation and harmony of their contradiction.

God is beyond logic and reason and yet many meta-physicians  try to understand metaphysical concepts like God through logic and reason despite the fact that Kant destroyed the synthetic priori knowledge of metaphysics centuries ago and William of Ockham who postulated the occam's razor was himself a theist and he seems to have said that "only faith gives us access to theological truths. The ways of God are not open to reason, for God has freely chosen to create a world and establish a way of salvation within it apart from any necessary laws that human logic or rationality can uncover."

Very few people are aware of the traditional interpretation as to how the Isha Upanishad came into existence in this world. It was actually revealed by the Sun God who is the master of the Vedas and the supreme God of the universe.

According to traditional accounts, Yājñavalkya was the son of Devarāta and was the pupil of sage Vaisampayana . Once, Vaisampayana got angry with Yājñavalkya as the latter argued too much to separate some latter additions to Yajurveda in being abler than other students. The angry teacher asked his pupil Yājñavalkya to give back all the knowledge of Yajurveda that he had taught him.

As per the demands of his Guru, Yājñavalkya vomited all the knowledge that he acquired from his teacher in form of digested food. Other disciples of Vaisampayana took the form of partridge birds and consumed the digested knowledge (a metaphor for knowledge in its simplified form without the complexities of the whole but the simplicity of parts) because it was knowledge and they were very eager to receive the same.

The Saṃskṛt name for partridge is "Tittiri". As the Tittiri (partridge) birds ate this Veda, it is thenceforth called the Taittirīya Yajurveda. It is also known as Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda or Black-Yajurveda on account of it being a vomited substance. The Taittirīya Saṃhitā thus belongs to this Yajurveda.

Then Yājñavalkya determined not to have any human guru thereafter. Thus he began to propitiate the Sun God, Surya. Yājñavalkya worshipped and extolled the Sun, the master of the Vedas, for the purpose of acquiring the fresh Vedic portions not known to his preceptor, Vaiśampāyana.

The Sun God, pleased with Yājñavalkya penance, assumed the form of a horse and graced the sage with such fresh portions of the Yajurveda as were not known to any other. This portion of the Yajurveda goes by the name of Śukla Yajurveda or White-Yajurveda on account of it being revealed by Sun. It is also known as Vajasaneya Yajurveda, because it was evolved in great rapidity by Sun who was in the form of a horse through his manes.The rhythm of recital of these vedas is therefore to the rhythm of the horse canter and distinguishes itself from the other forms of veda recitals. In Sanskrit, term "Vaji" means horse.

Yājñavalkya divided this Vajasaneya Yajurveda again into fifteen branches, each branch comprising hundreds of Yajus Mantras. Sages like Kanva, Madhyandina and others learnt those and Śukla Yajurveda branched into popular recensions named after them.
Every one cites the Isha Upanishad and interprets the text as though he is an all knowing god without showing any sensitivity, humility and thought to understand how the Shukla Yajurveda tradition interprets this particular Upanishad from the traditional point of view.

The Isha Upanishad introduces to us the integral spiritual realisation and the principle of the integral yoga; within a short space it resolves many difficult problems. It is a śruti replete with sublime, profound and fathomless significances. This Upanishad, concluded in eighteen slokas, explains in these small mantras many major truths of the world. Such “infinite riches in a little room” can be found only in this śruti.

Synthesis of knowledge, synthesis of dharma, reconciliation and harmony of the opposites form the very soul of this Upanishad. In Western philosophy there is a law called the law of contradiction, according to which opposites mutually exclude each other. Two opposite propositions cannot hold good at the same time, they cannot integrate; two opposite qualities cannot be simultaneously true at the same place and in the same instrument. According to this law, opposites cannot be reconciled or harmonised. If the Divine is one, then however omnipotent He might be, He cannot be many. The infinite cannot be finite. It is impossible for the formless to assume form; if it assumes form, then it abrogates its formlessness. The formula that the Brahman is at the same time with and without attributes, which is exactly what the Upanishad also says about God who is nirguṇo guṇī, with and without attributes, is not admitted by this logic. If formlessness, oneness, infinity of the Brahman are true, then attributes, forms, multiplicity and finiteness of the Brahman are false; brahma satyam jaganmithyā, “the Brahman is the sole reality, the world is an illusion” — such a totally ruinous deduction is the final outcome of that philosophic dictum. The Seer-Rishi of the Upanishad at each step tramples on that law and in each sloka announces its invalidity; he finds in the secret heart of the opposites the place for the reconciliation and harmony of their contradiction. The oneness of the universe in motion and the immobile Purusha, enjoyment of all by renunciation of all, eternal liberation by full action, perpetual stability of the Brahman in movement, unbound and inconceivable motion in the eternal immobility, the oneness of the Brahman without attributes and the Lord of the universe with attributes, the inadequacy of Knowledge alone or of Ignorance alone for attaining Immortality, Immortality obtained by simultaneous worship of Knowledge and Ignorance, the supreme liberation and realisation gained not by the constant cycle of birth, not by the dissolution of birth but by simultaneous accomplishment of Birth and Non-Birth, — these are the sublime principles loudly proclaimed by the Upanishad.

Unfortunately there has been a great deal of unnecessary confusion regarding the meaning of this Upanishad. Shankara is generally recognised as the most important commentator of the Isha Upanishad, but if all these conclusions are accepted, then Mayavada, the Illusionism of Shankara, sinks in the bottomless ocean. The founder of Mayavada is incomparable and immensely powerful among the philosophers. Just as thirsty Balaram brought to his feet the Yamuna unwilling to alter her course, by dragging and pulling her with a plough, so also Shankara, finding this Upanishad destroyer of Mayavada and standing across the path toward his destination, dragged and pulled the meaning till it agreed with his own opinion. One or two examples will suffice to show the miserable condition to which this Upanishad has been reduced by such treatment.

For a more deeper understanding of the differences between our integral Advaita and Shankara's Advaita please read Integral Advaitism by Sri Auorbindo by Ramachandra Mishra. I am very much happy that whatever I was arguing for well over five years or so slowly everything is reaching its fruition. But the job is not completed yet we still have to revive the Vedas, Neo-platonism and Neo-platonic Christianity and master it completely by uncovering the great mysteries hidden inside them.