'Text-days' are for delving into the words and theory of Advaita Vedanta.
[You are reminded that reviewing the previous week's posts will become essential as the meanings of the Sanskrit terms may not be repeated. There may come additional or alternative meanings, but all should be noted. As study progresses, the technical terms must necessarily become 'second nature' to the student. When the Sanskrit is used, the translation will fall easily into place - or likewise, if the English is used, the Sanskrit term must easily come forwards.]
Please revisit THIS post and chant the mangala-charana. Please use the TattvabodaH label to access all posts relevant to this text.
The enquiry into Truth is now our subject. Note that the chanting for this will be given next week, as the longer section follows this initial question.
The shishya, having enquired and heard Guru's responses on sadhana chatushtaya, now finds that the question arises as to
आत्मा सत्यं तदन्यत् सर्वं मिथ्येति।
aatmaa satyaM tadanyat sarvaM mithyeti.
"what is this enquiry into Truth?"
"It is of the firm conviction that the Self is Real and all, other than That, is unreal."
Viveka is here used as 'enquiry', as in 'determination'. What is it, exactly, that we are supposed to be understanding here? To what are we expected to apply our discriminative talents? We are told that it is the act of discovering what is True and what is False. Even at this beginning stage, the guru does not hold back from facing the student with highest concept… nothing at all which we perceive is to be considered as 'real'. Only by coming to full appreciation of Self can we say that Truth is found. Advaita Vedanta is the only दर्शन /darshana (philosophy) which propounds this esoteric understanding. All others vary in how much they accept as being 'real' external to the person. In AV, even nature, the cosmos itself, are unreal. It is the philosophy of Pure Consciousness. It is the one abiding and permanent factor. Absolutely everything else is impermanent, even this cosmos of the greatest age that we can conceive. We know - science knows - there was a beginning and it predicts an end. That which is impermanent is unreal, according to Advaita. This is the discrimination and understanding to which we must apply our intellect.
There are those who misunderstand and say that, in the end, Reality = nothing. Non-existence (non-consciousness) is illogical. From nothing, only nothing can arise. By virtue of the fact that something - albeit an illusion - has arisen, there is proven a pre-existence, a something from which the illusion can project.
Here, at our novice stage, we are 'experiencing' the world. However, we can negate everything about this existence. Nothing in it is in the least bit permanent. There are two aspects to life. "I" (the experiencer) and "The World" (the experienced). The relationship between the experiencer and the experienced is the experiencing. The name, form, quality and so forth, of every object in the world is a changeable quantity - including the body in which this "I" resides. "I", the observer of it all, do not change. The "I" is never absent even as the world gets negated… it is this "I" - the ultimate witness of all things - which is the Reality.
However, due to misdirection and attachment to the world, "I", as in The Big Self, lost its way and have become identified with body, mind and intellect. The Big Self has become small and mean and lonely in its travails within the illusion, The Big Dream. We say "I" all the time, meaning this small individual with an ego-identity, believing ourselves to be separate and independent of the Whole. This was the 'original sin', as far as AV is concerned, this is the great fall of Man; that he forgot his divine nature.
The ancient seers understood this and brought down the teachings in order that those who are of sufficient awareness, who have the burning curiosity, will ask precisely the sorts of questions being put forth by the shishya in TattvabodaH. The Guru here is pointing to the exact nature of all enquiry which will follow. To determine the Real from the unreal, it is necessary to go through a process of negation, testing everything which, till now, we have held as being real and removing the illusion created by Maya. This is referred to as अध्यरोपापवाद /adhyaaropa-apavaada - revealing the superimposition (of Maya) by negation. We keep going through all the processes of negation until there comes a point where no further negation can take place. That is the point of Truth.
Now, of course, all hard-thinking students are wondering, 'what exactly then is the Self, never mind the enquiry into it? We can see easily all this which is not That....but what is That?' A perfectly valid question.
This we shall take up next week. Ponder the points made here. Give proper mananam. When Adi Shankara wrote this text, it was directed at students who had already spent some years in spiritual study within santana dharma and who already were proficient in Sanskrit. The Truth is there for all who are ready to stretch themselves intellectually. That is the promise made in this early text. Be aware, that it is impossible to make this enquiry and not be affected by it, provided the heart and mind are open. It is a mystery of Truth that, when we start to experience it, we find that actually we already knew it ...