Aparokshanubhuti by Adi Sankara- Advaita Vedanta in a Capsule

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The 2nd and 3rd  question regarding the cause of the world and who created it respectively is  answered now. To state in simple terms, the problem is what we see is not real  and what is real we do not see. Then how to solve the puzzle? To put it  differently, how is this pluralistic phenomenon born? How is it we perceive the  phenomenal world but not the Truth?

The answer given here is that all  this is the result of our own ignorance, our own mental modifications. The  non-apprehension of the reality has brought about the misapprehension of the  reality. This is just a deception of the mind. When the intellect fails to  judge correctly, the mind will start its own projections based on its vasanas,  pre-existing tendencies. When the right knowledge dawns, the pluralistic world  disappears completely.

For example, in the inadequate  light, we confuse a lamp-post for a ghost. This misapprehension of reality  vanishes no sooner a right apprehension of the post arises in us on account of  a torch light. The post is there only, all the time. But we superimposed our  ignorant imagination of a ghost on it and misunderstood the post to be a ghost  and started perspiring on account of fear.  When the torch light is focused on the post  the ghost completely disappeared. This is just a trickery of the mind. Thus the  cause for the confusion and fear is nowhere else than in our ignorance of the  true nature of the post.

Similarly, in our ignorance, we project  a world of plurality and identify with it. Consequently, we undergo all the  trials and tribulations of the world. Thus the cause for the phenomenal world  that is spread before us lies in the ignorance that covers the reality which is  called Maya.

When we start enquiring who the  creator of this world is, the inevitable answer given by Sankara is that we  alone are the creator of the universe by virtue of the modifications of our  mind. As the agitated mind created the ghost, so too the mind created the  agitated or agreeable world. In deep sleep when there is no mind there is no  world.

The 4th question ‘of  what material this world is made?’ is replied now. According to Vedanta three  factors of production are required to create any object. They are the material  cause, the efficient cause and the instrumental cause. For example in making a  clay pot, clay is the raw material or the material cause, the potter who makes  it is the efficient cause and the wheel with the help of which the pot is made  is the instrumental cause.

We have seen earlier that  non-apprehension (avarana or veiling or the ignorance) of the Reality  gives rise to its misapprehension (vikshepa or projecting) as the pluralistic  phenomenal world. The material cause for both these i.e. ignorance of the  Reality and the consequent inaccurate thinking about it, is the one subtle and  unchanging Sat (Existence). This entity called Sat is the One  without a second i.e. it is a homogenous whole without any division or parts.  It is subtle because it is not apprehended by the mind, intellect and sense  organs and unchanging because it is always constant without any modifications.  Thus what we see around us are mere projections arising out of our own various  thoughts. This is explained by the following illustration.

Clay is the material cause for all the pots  that have come about from the clay. The pots are nothing but different forms of  clay; when they are broken they are no more called as pots and become clay only.  It follows that pots are only clay and that ‘pot” is in our minds only and it  has no independent existence other than clay. Thus clay is the only Reality.

Similarly the unchanging Sat (Existence) is the only Reality out of which the universe is projected. So our  ignorance and the thought process are different expressions of the unchanging  Consciousness or Sat or Existence.

Sankara says “I am the only One, the Subtle, the Knower, the Witness,  the Ever Existent, the Unchanging, so there is no doubt that I am That  (Brahman)”.

Here we have to be clear what the  word “I” stands for. Think of a sentence which reads “I know that I exist.” In  the phrase that “that I exist” the “I” connotes the ego while in the phrase ‘I  know” the “I” connotes the subject.  Although  the “I” is common, in one case “I” is the observer, the knower, and the subject  while in the other case the “I” is the observed, the known, and the object. At  the macro level the subjective ‘I” is the Supreme Knower. The “I” at the micro level,  the ego when it is divested of its limiting factors like body, mind and  intellect etc becomes one with That, the Brahman at the macro level. The  limiting factors are but the creation of ignorance.

This leads us to the conclusion that  we are different from body. We are Pure Existence, the one without a second.

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