On the doctrine non-dualism

The doctrine of non-dualism or Advaita as it is called in Indian Philosophy, though extant even before his time, was explained clearly and propagated by the saint-philosopher Adi  Shankaracharya.

He accomplished this formidable task through debates with scholars and  intellectuals of his time, incessant travels through the land while disseminating his principles to the masses and through his writings comprising profound philosophical thoughts for the learned and simple devotional literature and hymns for the commoners.

The fundamental tenet of Advaita recognizes the fact that everything in this world is a manifestation of the supreme power. Thus every human is an expression of the divine in its highest form, endowed with the intellectual power to think and discriminate. Among Shankara’s various works on this subject, the ‘Vivekachudamani’ stands out for the lucidity of its explanations on this principle. 

Shankara explains that the individual is no different from the divine, but the different forms and appearances that we see are only because of our inability to understand this fact.

This wrong understanding comes in the way of man’s identification of his inherently divine qualities. Shankara explains this with an example. When a lamp is lit in a room to illuminate it, the objects in the room do not affect the lamp in any way, which continues to shed its light.

Similarly, the qualities of the individual body, it organs and its mind do not affect the ‘Atman’ or divine spirit of man, which remains as a detached, unaffected witness to all of man’s actions. It is neither the doer nor the cause of any action.

It is a self effulgent entity, ever present, silent presence that can only be experienced in silence, by a mind that has shed  undesirable qualities.

But, the ignorant men fail to recognize this and get immersed in worldly activities, which, though necessary for life, must be controlled with effort.

Shankara gives another example of the reflection of the sun in water. When the water is disturbed, it appears as if the sun is moving, while in reality, it is the water that is moving, not the sun. Similarly, the unwise men fail to see the divine hand behind the world and its phenomena.  The object remains the same, only the image is distorted due to a faulty mirror.

Similarly, the space in a pot is the same as the surroundings, irrespective of whether the pot is small, large, round, coloured etc. The body may take various forms, but the ‘inner controller’ is the same.  Shankara continues, asking “does the thunder affect the sky?” So with the physical body.

In this manner, Shankaracharya in the ‘Vivekachudamani’ teaches humanity that the one eternal, universal power is what enlivens and animates this universe, which is formless, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient,pure, without parts, changeless, which is the innermost dweller of all beings, which is beyond comprehension, which is non-dual and he exhorts men to understand this truth while leading their mundane lives.

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