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Dec. 26, 2021

Special Episode: A Deep Dive into Advaita Vedanta (Nonduality)

Special Episode: A Deep Dive into Advaita Vedanta (Nonduality)

In this special episode, the Bearded Mystic goes into a deep dive of Advaita Vedanta or Nonduality.  The Bearded Mystic goes through 5 questions that were asked by the listeners of the podcast and gives his honest opinion about the future of the non-dual path.

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Transcript

hello everyone, and welcome to a special episode of the Bearded mystic podcast and I'm your host Rahul N Singh. Thank you for joining today. I wish you all the very Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year. It's great to be able to record this special episode. And what we're going to be doing today is doing a deep dive in to Advaita Vedanta. I had some questions that came from your direct messages on social media, so I basically put them into a category and then formulated some questions based on that, or what were the common questions? And it was nice to get your feedback. And now we can go into what Advaita Vedanta is or what your questions about Advaita Vedanta is, and going into a little bit of depth as well. I'm going to try and keep it as simple as possible because with Advaita Vedanta, this topic of non-duality is very important that we take it from a standpoint of simplicity. It's very easy to complicate it, and yet it is the simplest wisdom out there, it doesn't need a lot of philosophy around it. The only reason why philosophy is necessary, it's because of our complex minds, we have to give these complicated answers, but Advaita Vedanta non-duality, it's very very simple and not complicated at all. Before we go into the deep dive, I do want to talk about my Patreon page with you and I would request if you could please sign up and support the Bearded mystic podcast on Patreon. Now with Patreon what you can do is you get extra content, you get to be in a live stream with me, that's only specifically for Patreon, you get blog posts, you get special bonus episodes of a podcast. There's so many things you get from being in that community. On top of that, it keeps this podcast ad free. How many times have you gone onto a podcast and you've heard an ad and you want to skip, I want to keep us away from corporate donors and anything like that, and just keep us focused on the podcast and the content and keep us editorially free as well. Please take a look at my Patreon page and you can find the link in the video description or in the show notes below. And let's start. By the way I made a cup of tea this morning because I started to set

up around 6:

30 AM in the morning. And I kind of need my tea, so I'll probably be sipping my tea throughout this. This is a very casual episode. It's not formal. It's literally a conversation with you and that's how I want to do it today. Sprinkling in a lot of deep philosophy. Okay. the first question, this was a very popular one. What is Maya? I can understand why it's a popular question. There's a lot of confusion around it. And the main reason for the confusion is that sometimes people have translated Maya as illusion. Now it's not an illusion. According to Advaita Vedanta according to non-duality, it is not an illusion. Maya is very real because on the relative level, you are experiencing Maya and you are dealing with Maya to then turn around and call it in illusion. It takes away the meaning of life or the juice of life or the, the excitement of life, or even the purpose of life. So therefore I think calling it an illusion is not a great word personally speaking. So. Yes. Maya is seen as mithya and mithya just means it is a reality that is relative. It is subject to change, to modification. This is true, if we look at our own body, it is decaying every second. And when it goes, when the life force disappears and we'd be talking about the life force later, that also shows us that we are going to decay. This body does not remain as it is without its vitality. It is mithya. Our thoughts, our mind shows it's mithya. How many people unfortunately end up getting dementia or you start forgetting things just naturally, you know, your memory isn't as sharp as it used to be. That is the subject of modification. So just looking at our body and mind, we can see it as mithya. In the sense, yes, all this is unreal at the absolute level, but how many of us actually live on the absolute level? Even if you are a renunciant who has gone to an Ashram, who has gone to the Himalayas or who is retreated to a forest, how many of them are actually experiencing things on the absolute level of reality? Probably not. Our waking reality does not allow us to do this, in Advaita Vedanta there is the topic of waking, dreaming, deep sleep, and then the Turiya state, the fourth state. Now we won't be going into that. Nobody really asked questions on that. But again, we can see that our awareness is present in all four of these, but subject to how alert we are. Now, when we are experiencing the world, when we are dealing with our clients at work or our friends at school, or our family members, whatever it may be our friends, when we were at the pub having a drink, all this is real at the relative level, you cannot be having a pint with your friends or a drink with your friends, whether it's water, Coca Cola. If you don't drink alcohol and be thinking, oh, this is unreal. Unless your friend is someone that understands Advaita Vedanta and you can talk on that level and have an understanding that's different. And I do that sometimes with my friends and my family, but with someone who doesn't know Advaita Vedanta, or someone who is in the philosophy of duality. I don't think that's a great thing to say. You know, I don't think they're going to get you. If I turn around and say, well, this cup of green tea, is unreal, well, it's not unreal because I'm going to taste it. The heat is very real. The water it's going to quench my thirst, the caffeine is going to wake me up. It's very real. This is what we need to understand about Maya, but that's a relatively simple way to understand it. Maya or the relative reality, I like to call it the relative reality or the transactional reality. That's what I like to call it because it is still real at a transactional level yeah. We've talked about this in previous podcasts episodes, but it's something I still find people are confused about. They don't know how to practice the knowledge of Brahman and that everything is basically unreal on the objective level and the ultimate level of reality, and then deal with the world. They don't know how to do that. They don't know how to marry up the two. And it's very simple. When you're working the transactional reality is at the forefront and then the background awareness is Brahman. And when you're in meditation or in moments of silence or contemplation, Brahman is at the forefront and the transactional reality will always be in the background. While you're alive, you cannot get rid of your transactional reality. So to even attempt to get rid of it is a fool's attempt. And I'm going to go into why that is, but do you not even think about doing this? Trust me if right now you think you have to transcend Maya and get over it and that you need to really understand that it does not exist. That it's all in illusion. I would say, just stop. Don't do that. It's just going to get you into a mess, a big mess. A pool of confusion and nobody likes that. So at the non dual level, this absolute level of reality, maya or the relative reality that we perceive is unreal, because there's only oneness at this stage, therefore there is no perception of multiplicity. Now, what does this mean? That this is unique. So yes, you see the relative reality. You see the world, you see everything around you yet. The main thing here is you see oneness, you perceive oneness, you can understand what is that absolute level of reality that is diffused in all of this, that we see, in all of our perception, what is it that we see? We see Brahman the ultimate reality. That's the difference. That's how you live in the world. And you can live happily in the world, with joy, without confusion, without conflict, because that is the simplest way to live. At the relative reality, Maya is seen as real as we interact with life. And we all know that we feel that it is real. And this is only questioned when we witness a death. This is interesting because only when someone dies, do we understand and contemplate that, oh, I'm going to go then that means that my body is also subject to modification and change and decay. Therefore, what am I doing will life? So Maya only comes into our awareness at this point, otherwise Maya has no particular impact on us. We are happily living in the world, not worried about anything. So when someone dies, do we then think about our own mortality? And this thought that appears is a thought that transforms our spirituality. From that point forward, we end up wanting to live a more spiritual life. Now Adi Shankara Ji has made it very clear and I was listening to a talk of Swami Sarvapriyananda, and he mentions this as well. You see, this is why it's important to also have teachers. Brahman, it's only directly realized and understood when you have a teacher or when you have someone you can learn from. Now, it doesn't mean that you have to personally go to a guru and then take their approval of your discipleship. I would even say now in this day and age, if you listen to their podcast, if you watch their YouTube videos, if you follow them on social media and you really value each and every word of theirs, they are a guru for you. They are a guide for you and that's okay. They will tell you the real knowledge. And if you take everything they say with sincerity with absolute honesty, in terms of practice, you will succeed. For sure. So Swami Sarvapriyananda and Adi Shankara Ji, they have pointed out that Maya is Brahman without Brahman. Maya cannot be Maya cannot exist. And it's only because of Maya that we can understand Brahman with the examples of Maya. You know the classic rope and the snake example. That is using Maya, you using this subjective reality to understand Brahman. So you're walking in the dark, you see something dangling off a branch. You think it's a snake, you get scared and you stand back. The sun rises, there's daylight. You have a look and it's a piece of rope. It was always a rope. You thought it was a snake. Likewise, brahman is like the rope. We think the rope is something else, which is Maya. This Maya, if you want to call it, it's a reflected consciousness of this Brahman. It's a reflection, an appearance. Because only Brahman is then Maya must be Brahman. Yeah, let me say this again. Maya is Brahman. Without Brahman, maya cannot be. And because only Brahman is then Maya must be Brahman. Yeah. Brahman, meaning the ultimate reality. Maya is projected to us like a movie against a blank screen. The blank screen being Brahman and Maya is the projector. Yeah, the colors of the screen, the moving characters of the screen, the scenery in the screen. But when the projector is turned off, then the screen is as it is. The screen was always blank. It only had the appearance of images so right now some of us will be going to the cinema to watch Spiderman or we'd be watching the new matrix movie. All that would be done against the blank screen at the cinema. Again, we're using the understanding of Maya. Now another example of that would be the clay pot. Imagine there are multiple clay pots in front of you, say 50, but really it's only made of one substance - clay. We call it a pot, but actually it's just clay. Right? So even though we call this maya, really it is just Brahman. You see? I dunno, like I feel this is real for me when I'm explaining it to you. I don't know if you're following on. So let me know, write me a comment on social media, get in touch with me, let me know if you've understood what I mean by this whole topic of Brahman is Maya and maya is Brahman and that they're not different. Let me know. Like I said, there may be multiple pots, but really it's just clay. Likewise, with the multiplicity of Maya, multiplicity of naam and roop. Yeah. The name and forms. There is many. But really it's substance is only one. It's only Brahman. This is something we can understand and with the teacher, this can be understood very clearly. I've experienced this in my life. My guru also told me how to directly perceive Brahman in the most direct manner. I didn't look at anything else. My Guru said many things which inspired me, but the biggest inspiration was when I was shown what Brahman is. And once I was shown what Brahman is, I could not deny it. But I'm still working on it. I'm still, you know, not enlightened yet. I'm hoping to be enlightened.. And that's the other funny thing in Advaita Vedanta you are already enlightened, but this is a strong hold of Maya, right? That it keeps you in the belief that you're not enlightened, all that needs to be removed is the veil. Yeah. You know, in the classic example you could use is in India, you see the bride she's has the veil over her face. She hides her beauty. The veil is like and the beauty of the bride is Brahman. Yeah. 'Satyam, Sunderam Shivam.' satyam we know is Truth Sunderam is beauty. Shivam is consciousness. And here you have to lift the veil to see the beauty of the bride or even the groom. When you see the beauty, then you can see Brahman directly. You don't need the veil. The veil is no longer obstructing that beauty. Likewise, the guru lifts that veil, and then you can directly perceive Brahman and the group will never be in between you and Brahman. Never. Between you and that formless consciousness. The Guru will never, ever come in between. The Guru will tell you concentrate on this. This is who I worship. You also worship this. Due to avidya, our individual ignorance, we do not acknowledge that our eyes are veiled. We think the world is only made of the material substance, but we know that much is not seen because our senses veils our full perception. Our senses are so limited, it only sees the material substance. It didn't see the immaterial substance. And this is what the Guru helps us in or what knowledge helps us in. It shows us what the reality is. There's things that our senses can't perceive that other animals can perceive. That's why, whatever is material, don't take it as complete. You're not seeing the full picture. This is why in many ways, I wonder whether this endeavor with science is ever going to be successful because do we have the apparatus to see the truth? To see reality as it is with the limited senses that we have. That's why in Advaita Vedanta, in spirituality, it's told of us to go beyond our senses. And that is just awareness. And I wonder now whether with the advancement of technology and science, whether they will now start looking at how in the east, they have been describing levels of reality. It'd be interesting to see if they go towards that. I know there is talks about it and someone who's actually leading this is the Dalai Lama in this endeavor, bridging science and the subject of consciousness. It's very interesting. We must understand that the world you live in is empirically real and that this appearance of multiplicity will continue. It's going to go on for infinite times, whether it's there or not, who cares? It's going to continue. It's not going to disappear. All that we call Maya is the naam and roop of Brahman and with the knowledge of Brahman, we can see that this naam and roop is just an appearance. Therefore, even all this answer I've given to you about what is Maya, it's all mithya. It's all subject to change, to modification because reality itself is non-dual and is beyond explanation. This is why it's so beautiful. Earlier I mentioned, what would things be at the non dual level? That's what it is. It's beyond explanation. Alright. The next question. What is the purpose of Advaita Vedanta if all is Brahman? Now I think the answer that I gave in Maya answers this to some level, but I think it may require a little bit more depth. So this was, again, another common question and when we say that all is Brahman and that is all you need to know, then when you mix that in with incorrect understanding of Maya, people, then think, well, what's the point of life? What's the meaning of life? What's the purpose of life? I can tell you there's a couple of purposes in human life that we must adhere to as we are followers of Advaita Vedanta. And the first one is to ensure you have enough for your daily living, do not rely upon anyone else. If you don't have enough, then spirituality is a no go zone. So first thing is to ensure that you have the means for survival. So if it means that you have to go and get a job, go get a job. If it means you need to feed your family, make sure your family is fed, work with your spouse or your partner, and make sure that happens. If you're a single parent, do your level best to ensure how you can do that effectively. Utilize karma programs to help you. Those are the things we need to do. Make sure at least the basic things like food, water, electricity, now the internet. All these things are provided. Ensure that you can satisfy your personal desires. However, they may be as this will empower you to think of something beyond this body and mind. Whatever personal desires you have, you want to get a particular car, you want to get a bigger house. You want to move to a different area or location. You want to buy something in the house, whatever these personal and desires of yours are, meet them. Now, when I say meet them, I don't necessarily mean to just go and get what you desire. What I mean is put them under an inquiry. Think about them, look into them, see if they are necessary. So once you're happy with your personal needs met and you're satisfied, then you can think of the community and you can expand this from your home to your neighborhood and if possible your country, and even better this whole world, this earth and help them with their needs. You find this to be a responsibility worth keeping, helping others selflessly is a goal, many aspire to. So have that feeling of helping others, of being there for others. Now you can't change the world in a moment, but you can change the world a little bit and you can always do this. So if that means giving money to charity or offering your services to charity, doing whatever you can. Help others. In your family if you're a kid yeah, help your parents clean the house, support them. Cook a meal for your mom and dad one day. Do those things. Yeah, it would make them happy. Once you've met all those desires and your helping others, but now you still feel that something is missing in life. In each stage of your life so far, whether it was meeting the needs for your survival. Then meeting your personal desires, then helping the community, all these three things, once you met them, once you got your desire, once you helped someone you felt good, but then that feeling subsided, it disappeared. Then you come across the fourth one. The fourth point here. That is once you're content with life, then you want Moksha, you want liberation. This is something that many of us want to experience, want to go for. If you're listening to my content on my podcast, then this is something you know that I am very serious about. When I say serious, you know, serious with a smile, but at the same time moment, expecting that at some level you are also prepared for this, even if right now you're not after liberation or moksha, but you will be, and this is a beautiful, beautiful desire to have in life. The whole journey of spirituality is based on this one thing, liberation, or moksha. So the next question we have. Does liberation mean that we have been reincarnated? Does our karma help us in the next life? So I had some questions on karma and reincarnation. So based on the other two questions that we've been looking at, I then put this into a question. Karma is literally about the cause and effect of the actions that we do. Very simply cause and effect that's it. Remember an intention is an action of the mind and so is the thought. Don't think that a thought or an intention or your emotions aren't karma. It is it's a cause and effect. My guru used to say this very wonderful example, that be such a person that when you enter the room, people feel happy. Don't be a person, where when you leave the room, everyone else is happy that you've left. They feel relieved. That means that your energy speaks, your emotions speak, your intentions speak. If you're moody, if you're so self-absorbed, nobody wants to be around you. Nobody likes you. Nobody wants to share things with you. But if you're nice, if you're welcoming, if you're loving, if you're content in yourself, whatever room you go in, whoever you meet, they feel so happy to meet you. They feel so content to meet you. They feel that they've come to a place where they feel relaxed and free. This is the type of person you want to be. That I want to be. That's the whole aim. That's why we love being around highly realized people, gurus and teachers, meditation teachers. Why do we love being around them? Things don't start off as a cult of personality. It starts off with the genuine love for the person. That's because that person shows you your higher self and loves you at the point where they're looking at you at the vision of the highest self and so that is what attracts you. To go on the deep dive into that is you have the intention to have a cup of tea or a cup of coffee. You think of the thought to boil the kettle, you pour in cold water into the kettle, you switch it on. And then the kettle boils boiling water. This is the basic cause and effect. You had intention, there was an effect. There was a cause. The cause was the cold water in the kettle and the effect was boiling water. Karma is everything that we do will have a reaction that will follow. It's waiting. It is pending. Sometimes it arrived sooner. Sometimes literally within seconds, there is the effect of that karma that action, or it takes a bit of time to catch up. This can be seen, the way I look at karma is I see it as a marathon. It's vision is not just this life. Karma is basically not like a hundred meter race where you run then that you win or you lose. Karma is not like that. It may not be so quick. It will take its time. Life is incredibly confusing as well, this makes karma complicated. What do I mean by this? Because we see bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. It leads to, well, what is this karma? How can it be real? How can you justify this? We wonder about the fairness in all this, the equity in all this. Yeah. Now in Advaita Vedanta, karma and reincarnation can be simply understood, but we will go into that as we conclude this question. But say, we believe in karma and reincarnation. How do we explain it? There's two things. One thing is we have something called vasanas. These vasanas are our tendencies that we have, our conditionings that we have. These are built according to our actions in the here and now. So whatever we do now, they cause habits and tendencies for the future. There make our character. They build upon that. Everything we do in the here and now, that's why it's requested from the saints and sages that we live a more ethical life. One that cares for others. One of compassion, forgiveness, love, humility. All these things are asked in the here and now because they build up our tendencies. We act according to what at inherent tendencies wants us to do and this adds onto our sanskaras. These sanskaras are tendencies we are born with from previous lives. Or vasanas, the tendencies accumulated in past lives. Sometimes you can see this, you have siblings. One sibling is really into art. The other sibling is really into economics, totally different. Nobody is the same. We carry on these tendencies from previous lives. This is if you believe in karma and reincarnation, and this is my understanding too, this is what I feel to be true for myself. Now a true Advaitin acts only in the present moment, not desiring a result, but the action will still have a result. We can't escape that if even if you're enlightened, you would still face the result of your actions. Even from the previous lives, they will have to be dealt with and exhausted the fruits of all your actions. If the actions are one of more righteousness, it will bring its fruits in the current life or in the future birth. If the actions are one of less righteousness, it will bring it's fruits in the current life or in the future birth. Regardless everything can happen either right now in the present moment, or it can happen in the future. Now, a true Advaitin, an enlightened Advaitin, if they reached the highest stage of realization, they can get rid of all their karma, where they do not accumulate any more. Remember, they will follow the very principle that Shri Krishna told us to follow in the Bhagavad Gita, which is you commit to actions. You have free will to do what you'd like, but remember that you are not responsible for the fruits of those actions. You cannot expect anything as a fruit of an action. Whoever does that, they're free from the effects of karma. They are free from the effects of actions because they're living on that level of reality. Therefore everyone must go through this process of reincarnation with our accumulated sanskaras or karma. So if you do bad, you may get a life form that takes you away from reaching the goal of moksha. Whilst if you do good, it will take you to a form or circumstances that brings you closer to moksha or allows you to be in the right circumstances to be liberated. This can be understood in many ways One thing that is said is that this human birth is the highest. The scriptures tell us this. And the reason for this is because it's only in the human birth, that one can be liberated as an opportunity that is available for everybody. Now that doesn't mean that animals cannot be liberated or plants cannot be liberated. I don't know. But for sure, we know that it's available to every single human being. Whilst for animals and plants, it may not be available to each and every one of them. Now, whether this is true or not, who knows? But its purpose is to inspire us. Let's be inspired to be enlightened, to be liberated. For an Advaitin, I was talking about what is it for Advaita Vedanta? What's the real non-dual aspect. For us, there is not even one life nor is there many lives because all is the Self. Brahman is beyond birth and death beyond life, beyond these moments. Brahman is, as it is. That's why Brahman is seen as eternal and self existent. This is who we are. So for an Advaitin, there's no one life and there's no many lives. This is to be understood and when I say understood, I want us to really feel these words, really experience them. Don't just catch onto my words. Think about them, contemplate on them. Like when I just said there's not even one life or many lives, then ask yourself, then what is? Experience this. This in itself is a meditation. I will say for an Advaitin, meditation on Brahman is a must. Even if it's for one minute or even 10 seconds, making sure one meditates on Brahman Thinks of Brahman throughout the day. Before I go into question four, I wanted to discuss one thing. I was asked about the caste system, about the varnas, about whether we believe in them? An Advaitin does not believe in the caste system. The caste system has no basis in Brahman. If you really are an Advaitin most likely you have transcended the caste system as well. This is necessary because a lot of people are subjected to a lot of violence, of conflict, of pain and suffering because of the caste system. An Advaitin will always transcend this. They will always be beyond the caste system. They will even look to abolish the caste system because it is bringing harm to others. It is less righteous to others. It may have had a function in the past. It does not have a function today. This needs to be understood that an Advaitin does not follow the caste system. Question Four. This was also a really popular one. I was really shocked at this. But I'm glad that we've asked this question and I added something onto this. But you will know what I've added on. Do we have a soul and are there multiple souls? I guess that's because we ask, well how can there be multiple souls and liberation? How can that be? If the population is increasing, does that mean that reincarnation isn't true? On the contrary, I think it saying it is true. Many people aren't getting liberated, hence they're coming back. Some animals are getting extinct. We don't know what in the universe is getting destroyed and so forth. What I've added to this is what is the Jiva. Now this is an important thing to understand and we'll be going into this. Firstly, when we think of souls, we only think of human beings having souls. Then we think that something happens to the soul. So Advaita Vedanta has a better way of explaining this and that is called the Jiva. The Jiva is the life force that inhabits the body and mind. It is the life force that goes from one life to another. Without the Jiva, you're not alive. It's the Jiva that powers up the body and mind. It is the one thing that infuses life. Without the Jiva, you will not be able to live in this body. Actually what leaves the body at death is the Jiva - the life breath, the life force. People may say, well how can you measure this? How do you know this? Well, we see this when someone takes their last breath. I've seen it happen in front of me too. I saw my brother leave his body infront of me. And I saw how when the life breath goes, what happens to the body? It's a tough thing to see. The thing that you called 'alive' is no longer there. That's why in India. Once somebody dies, they never refer to the body as the name. So when I die, they will not refer to me as 'Rahul' because actually the life force that made 'Rahul' has now gone. Yeah. It's no longer there. The very thing that you called 'Rahul' is no longer there, it's disappeared. We say the body will be cremated. The body will go into the house. People will do darshan of the body because without that life force, the body has no meaning. The Jiva is in everything that has a lifespan. Until we gain the knowledge of who we are and understand what Brahman is, this Jiva will go through the process of rebirth. So it will find the circumstances it's meant to go into. Maya has this whole system in order. Now let's go into what the soul is, and what the Jiva is. Some people say Atman for the soul. Now the Atman is the all expansive Brahman that is individualized in the particular name and form. So it's the understanding. Okay. When this Jiva knows that it is Brahman, then it can be called the Atman because Atman is Brahman. That's why Adi Shankara ji even says that the Jiva is Brahman because once you get rid of the individuality, the multiplicity of name and form, there is only the Atman. And Atman is synonymous to Brahman. The Jiva even though it is Brahman, it thinks it is only the body and mind and therefore things that it is individual. Hence, the Jiva collects karma and goes from one birth to another. It's as simple as that, nothing complicated. The Atman knows that the person will die, but I, the 'Atman' will not. Whilst the Jiva that believes that it is an individual in this name and form only, this body and mind only, it will think it will die and will fear it regardless if they believe in heaven or in future lives. Regardless of what that person may believe, they will end up fearing death because they believed they're the Jiva. Whilst the atman because it is the true 'I am' It's the 'I am' before the body. Yeah, 'I am' the body = 'I am' is the Atman. The body is naam and roop. The naam and roop will go. The name and form will disappear. 'I am' will remain. ' I am' does not depend on name and form. Or the 'I'. So this is why Ramana Maharshi used to say, look into this 'I'. What is this 'I'? When you say 'I am', or when you say "I need this." "I want this." Who is this 'I' that is wanting this thing? Who is this 'I' that is needing this thing? Have a look into this 'I'? In the beginning, you think it's the name and form, but eventually when you inquire deeper and deeper and you keep asking this question, who am I? This 'I' disappears of name and form. Then the 'I' of the Atman is revealed and shines forth. This is what needs to be understood. When we say there's many souls, actually there's many Jivas, there's many life forces and the soul is just one. It's Brahman. When we understand oneness then we understand the Atman. I hope that this topic of the jiva and the Atman is understood and is clear now because it's very important that we understand that. So the final question and this question is going to be interesting. Does Advaita Vedanta believe in a God? If not, then what does it believe in? Now, before I go into this, there's two schools of Advaita. There's the traditional school of Advaita, which I tend to adhere to. And then there's the more Neo-Advaita, the new school of Advaita and this has mainly come out from people who have followed Ramana Maharshi, Poonja ji or Papa ji as he was referred to and Nisargadatta Maharaj. They created this Neo-Advaita, not of their own volition. They didn't intend to, it just happened. The problem is that their teachings were done on such a level that you had to be kind of ready for enlightenment, right? You had to be prepared for enlightenment. And most likely those that went to them at that time were genuine seekers and therefore they got genuine responses from these gurus. So when these gurus said, there's no liberation, there's no soul, there's no life. There is nothing. There's just consciousness, just Brahman, just the self. Then what happens is, and you know, someone may ask a question about the ego. They will say, well, there's no ego. Yeah, there's no such thing as the ego. There's no such thing as your body and your name and your prestige. There's no such thing as this planet. And what happens is when this is misunderstood and when this is given to someone who is not prepared for the knowledge, they will go out and say to the world, and you see these people, a common person, I'll name them is Tony Parsons. There's no self, there's no ego. There's no story. Say Tony Parsons has really understood this. Yeah. And he says, there's no liberation. No teaching. No satsang. Then why is he holding meetings? If there's no book, why has he written a book? This is why it's called Neo Advaita because it's not fully understood. The knowledge of Brahman and this deviates away from Adi Shankara ji. Now, whether this knowledge is valuable is another question, whether this is advancing Advaita Vedanta, maybe it is, maybe it's showing us a sign of what could happen. When it is misunderstood, therefore, how do we bring the traditional Advaita into a more modern setting? And this is my whole endeavor. People like me. There's many people like me on TikTok and social media that are trying to do this. We're trying to modernize Advaita Vedanta or Hinduism and we're trying to make it more simple and palatable for people because we have to advance. Now, what hasn't changed is Brahman. Even when Tony Parsons is saying, there's no self there's no this, he's also talking about Brahman. Yeah. He may not call it Brahman. In fact, he's possibly doing something a lot deeper. He's trying to get us beyond words, which is very good. Yeah. But the problem here is that when your audience isn't ready, what will happen is when they just intellectually understand, they will also repeat the same thing and they will just parrot it. Therefore it doesn't become a genuine teaching. Now what I'm trying to do, and what others are trying to do is modernize this teaching. We're looking for ways. I'm still trying to find out how do I do this? How do I make it more palatable? I don't know if I'm successful at this until I get the feedback that what I'm saying is making sense. I'm trying to make it easy for people to understand what Brahman is. But then I also know how difficult it is for people to perceive and understand. There are two schools of Advaita right now, but now I could say there's a third school that is trying to merge the two schools together. That is giving the true spirit of Ramana Maharshi, of Nisargadatta Maharaj of Atma Krishna Menon. With the non dual Zen teachings of Osho, along with Krishnamurti's direct teachings of understanding reality as it is, and then using traditional Advaita from Adi Shankara ji and following that tradition, there's this third school. And I would say that me and others are trying to formulate what this third school is looking like. We're not there. I don't feel we are there. I'm not there. I'm still trying to think about how we can make this accessible. And the whole purpose behind me asking you all to ask questions was to build up a framework, which I could use and think about. And maybe even write a little book of this talk. So you have these two schools, we're looking for a third school and there may be many schools of this eventually. And I pray that it continues to evolve. But if we are now to understand this deep question that was being asked, we need to understand that there's two different schools. Just remember that Ramana Maharshi, Atma Krishna Menon, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Osho and J Krishnamurti and others like them. Rupert Spira, Greg Goode. All these really great teachers. They are at least still continuing on the traditional teachings of Adi Shankara Ji. I know there's people out there who believe they're not, but they're literally getting to the same truth because their message has been misunderstood does not mean that they should not be considered as carrying on the traditional school. They have, but they've made it more accessible. Along with Swami Vivekananda. I forgot to mention him, but his whole Ramakrishna Mission. Even Swami Sarvapriyananda who I believe is the Sage today, who is making Advaita Vedanta address the hard problem of consciousness. He is directly dealing with this and he's a great teacher in that regard. I tell you one thing I like about Swami Sarvapriyananda he did a talk on Buddha at the gas pump with Rick Archer and Rick Archer has been saying how Swami Sarvapriyananda is personally teaching him. He's willing to help someone on the individual level. So even to do this, it's obviously through virtual meetings, but this shows that the knowledge of Brahman can be given even virtually. You don't have to be physically in the presence of a teacher. Look for a genuine teacher who can teach you Advaita Vedanta. Anyway, let's carry on. So the question is, does Advaita Vedanta believe in a God? If not, then what does it believe in? Beautiful question. I love this. Many questions were do you believe in a God? Because when some people hear me talk, then they're confused about whether I'm an atheist or whether I do believe in God. And my answer is the same as the Buddha, I don't know. It's better to be silent, but Advaita Vedanta gives us a solid answer and this answer I really like. The more I think about it, the more I fall in love with it. So what does it believe in? Advaita Vedanta doesn't necessarily believe in a God, although many beginners of the path may start with the belief that there is a God, this God that takes on the attributes of Maya, this world is called Saguna Brahman or Ishwara. If we want to really understand this, we will go deeper into it, but isn't necessarily to believe in anything or to believe in a God. In my opinion, we should not throw the baby out of the bath water. Yeah, the reason for that is it's very easy to say there's no God. And at one time I was an atheist, but I thought I was an atheist then I became agnostic. Now I just cannot be defined about what it is, because even if we use Brahman, which we are going to, as you can tell from the answer, the Nirguna Brahman. Brahman without attributes, I don't know how that fits in because we're talking about, we're talking about yourself, we're talking about you, we're talking about me, I'm talking about myself. You are talking about yourself, your real self. So how do you, what do you call this? I don't know. But it's definitely not a God up there or a God that is separate to you. However, some people may need this and Advaita Vedanta says, okay, we see where you are. We know you need something, so we're going to give you something. But we want you to understand that you have to transcend this. But before that let's entertain you for a while. Let's bring you in so you can then get to know the deeper truths of reality. See, this is why there's no gatekeeping in Advaita Vedanta. This is the one answer that proves it when you bring in Saguna Brahman, which means the attributes of Brahman, the attributes of the world, which is similar to a personal God. When you do this, what you're doing is saying, okay, come in! Now, look at the philosophy. Now, if I said to you, there is no God, then I'm turning away others that may be interested in deeper knowledge. They may have a fundamental belief in God. This is why it's really important that we understand that. Yes. While we're in Maya, in the beginning, there may be Saguna Brahman and let's go to this. It is this collective attributes of Saguna Brahman that projects Maya and powers its influence on us. It's projecting Maya. It is showing this magnificent appearance and it is the appearance itself. It's full of its attributes and qualities. We worship it. Saguna Brahman can be seen in the many devis and devtas in the Hindu Pantheon that we know about. The gods and goddesses of the Hindus. Whether it is for the earth, wind, sun, the moon, the Ganges, knowledge, wealth the creator, the sustainer and the destroyer. All these attributes are of Saguna Brahman. Now what happens is you may want to concentrate on a particular attribute and that is your isht-devta, your loving devta, the one that you worship. When you pray and you want something, you're most likely going to be asking for Ishwar or that Isht-Devta, or your favorite deity, and this is the same as worshiping Saguna Brahman. It's the same thing. And you pray to that appearance or form, but you acknowledge that it's made of a higher principle. When you're worshiping the Devi of wealth or knowledge, but you know that that Devi is a representative or an attribute of Brahman. You're acknowledging the higher principle. Yet, you're asking for something. If you want your business to be successful so you can have money, you worship Maa Lakshmi and Maa Lakshmi if she wants to, will provide you with that boon. But really Maa Lakshmi is neither a he or a she. We've made the image into a female, but it's an attribute. These deities are just as real as you and I. These attributes, for example, wealth we know is real, we touch money, we see the money in digits on our phone or on the ATM machine or on online banking. We know wealth is real, knowledge is real. I'm reading this to you. You're taking this all in. It's knowledge. So we know that these attributes, so they are real as you and I. So that's why you can worship Hanuman ji. You can worship Krishna, you can worship Rama ji, you can worship anybody, for they are attributes, name and forms of that Brahman. I hope you're following me, it's very deep, but it's beautiful examples. In the end, we all know that all of this is mithya, all this appearance is mithya because only Brahman is. Now, we're going to get to the deeper stuff now, and this is going to be interesting. I love this stuff. Advaita Vedanta understands one fundamental truth. That for something to be eternal, to be formless has to be without attributes of all kinds and this is referred to as Nirguna Brahman. While you're in the world, while you're in the circus of the world, you need Saguna Brahman. You need something to hold on to. You need to worship something. It creates devotion out of you, but eventually your devotion will get to such a point where you will transcend all these attributes and you will become directly in union with Brahman, with Nirguna Brahman. Then at that point, you will understand the difference between the two. Saguna Brahman is also mithya. It is also subject to modification and change. But Nirguna Brahman is not because it has no form. It has no attributes. It has no qualities. It is just simply reality as it is. It is simply awareness. Nothing more than that. Very simply. This is it. But we are people with minds and thoughts and ideas and tendencies, as we've been talking about sanskaras. So we have to deal with this. We have to address this question. This is the only reality that is. Pure consciousness. That is what it is. It is pure consciousness. It is eternal and limitless. The other way to understand this is you have the wave and the ocean, but both are dualistic in name and form. Water is both the wave and the ocean. Likewise water is Nirguna Brahman. Saguna Brahman is the ocean and the wave is this multiplicity of forms. So when you see many waves, it's the multiplicity of forms. They appear, they disappear. The ocean is there. It is the one that powers the appearance of the waves but water is what it is made of. That is a substance. Likewise, the substratum of everything is Brahman. This Nirguna. So when one truly understands the truth, then only Brahman remains. Then there is no need for me to say Saguna Brahman or Nirguna Brahman. But why do I talk about these two is so we can understand the truth more deeply. To point towards Nirguna Brahman so that we can attain the right understanding, the right knowledge. The ultimate reality, this Brahman does not change with time or place. Nor does it belong to anyone. It is revealed everywhere and is never hidden for, we are this. We are this Brahman. You are this ultimate reality. When you meditate, you can directly understand this awareness. You can directly perceive this awareness. You can fully be Brahman and transcend everything. You will be able to understand this formless awareness. When I say understand, it's not the mind understanding. No. It is the Jiva that understands it. Hence the mind then understands. And the Jiva says this is what you are. Mind you're not what you think you are. You're not name and form. You are nameless and formless. You are this awareness, this ultimate reality. So there is no separation. You are this, you think you are the appearance, but you are this. Hence there is no duality in reality. It is revealed everywhere and is never hidden for we are this. Never hidden, really want to emphasize this. It's always here always. Now it doesn't disappear. It's always there in the background, waiting for us acknowledge it. Waiting for us to get to the right knowledge, to the right teacher, to the right guide, who can show us what it is. And it's not a secret. It's there everywhere. In the scriptures it is written and with the right teacher, the scripture can be understood for what it is. The Upanishads guides us to understand that the sole reality beyond existence and non-existence is Brahman. The Upanishads, other texts in Advaita Vedanta, adi Shankara ji emphasized upon this. Existence and non-existence beyond this is Brahman this awareness or pure consciousness is independent of the body, mind, intellect and senses. It's beyond them. The way to know that one has understood this and has allowed the knowledge to become their lived experience. The vision of oneness is what that person has. Oneness is the experience of the enlightened being. Once you see all as one, once you see the world as one, of this Brahman, you are Brahman. Everything else is Brahman. Only Brahman is. When this is really experienced, the lived experience. And the ultimate reality is there at the forefront at all times, even while doing work, that person is enlightened. This is what the scriptures have guided us. This is what the saints and sages of the past have guided us to do and can be done. So do we believe in a God? Yes and no. What we believe in is that you are God. But the word God still limits what Brahman is because you will think of Saguna Brahman. Something with a name and form with qualities, with attributes. But this Brahman has no attribute. Doesn't need any attributes. It can be talked about. That's it. You can go around it, but to go directly into it, you have to be it. To directly know it, you have to be it. This is the key. So to understand Advaita Vedanta and this is the sum of the whole episode. One, the vision of oneness has to be your vision, your perception. Why? Because only Brahman is. Until you get there, you're going to accumulate karma, sanskaras, vasanas, tendencies, and they will be exhausted whether in this life or in the future life. And most of all understand there are billions and billions of Jivas and until the Jiva understands, it is Brahman, it will continue to go in this cycle of birth and rebirth. And am I missing anything else? And yes, the main one. The appearance that we see, that we define as Maya is nothing but Brahman. Without Brahman, Maya cannot be. And because of Maya, we know Brahman is. Thank you very much for listening to this episode, this bonus episode to end 2021. I hope and pray that 2022 is one of prosperity for you. May we all go towards this path of liberation, attain moksha and make this world a better place to live in. May we all stay safe during these holidays. Most of all, wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a happy new year also. Please do write a review, do leave a five-star rating. As I mentioned earlier on take a look at my Patreon page and if you'd like to follow me on social media, you can find my account details in the video description and show notes below and yes, take care. And we'll end with the mantra that I normally end with that is Aum Shanti, Shanti, Shanti. Aum peace, peace, peace. Namaste to you