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Vidya Sagara / Our Tradition / Advaita Vedanta

Advaita Vedanta

Адвайта Веданта

Advaita Vedanta (Skt. "Vedanta of nonduality") is the first religious and philosophical school that developed within the framework of Vedanta. This is the only consistent monistic direction of Vedanta, postulating the thesis of the unity of Atman and Brahman, and their absolute identity. Some ideas of Advaita Vedanta were outlined by Gaudapada (6th century) and systematically developed by Shankara (7th-8th century) in Brahma-sutra-bhashya and other works.

While maintaining the closest connection with the sacred tradition of Vedanta, Advaita Vedanta, nevertheless, sought to overcome the discrepancies between "statements about identity" and "statements about difference", that is, to reconcile the idea of ​​one Brahman as a "material" and "effective" cause the world with the statement about its immutability and indivisibility. Advaita Vedanta put forward the concept of the so-called vivarta-vada, or the doctrine of appearance, illusion, according to which the universe owes its phenomenal existence to maya - a veil, or magical illusion. Just as a rope in the hands of a magician looks like a snake, a shell can appear from afar as a piece of silver, so the diverse properties of the world are only temporarily "superimposed" on the unchanging and only true basis - Brahman.

The Supreme Brahman is devoid of any properties (and is called "Nirguna Brahman", that is, "qualityless"), he eternally remains self-identical and one. In its “concealing” aspect, Maya is nothing more than avidya (ignorance) - not just ignorance or false knowledge, but the only way of perception available to us and at the same time the way of existence of the profane world. In other words, from the point of view of the "highest truth" (paramarthika-satya), nothing happened to Brahman at all, there was no creation of the world, and Brahman itself remains unchanged and the only reality (sat).

At this level of "highest truth", Brahman is absolutely identical with the pure Atman, or pure consciousness (chit). Such Atman-Brahman, devoid of qualities and attributes (nirguna), cannot at all be considered according to the principle of substance. Rather, it is the pure basis of consciousness, which can never act as an object either for itself or for any other consciousness. At the level of the "profane", "practically convenient" truth (vyavaharika-satya) lies the entire sphere of the natural world, i.e. the sphere of maya-avidya.

Only here, within the empirical world, there is a plurality of individual souls (jiva), and only within it is the creator god Ishvara, who in Advaita Vedanta is considered "Saguna Brahman" (Brahman endowed with qualities). Finally, only within the phenomenal world are sources of reliable knowledge (pramana) valid.

The realization of this identity and the collapse (nivritti) of the illusory evolution of the phenomenal universe are possible only in the mystical act of dissolution in Brahman, where the former division into object, subject and the process of cognition disappears.

Even speaking about the nature of the soul (jiva), advaita-vedanta offers not so much a clear theoretical explanation of the plurality of souls, as a series of equally possible images or metaphors. According to avaccheda-vada (the doctrine of separation), the soul owes its individual characteristics to the so-called. To "passing limitations" (upadhi). Just as a single ether, or space, seems to be fragmented due to the earthen vessels placed in it, a single consciousness seems to be divided due to the limitations of avidya. It is worth removing or breaking these pots, and the unity of space will be restored without any damage. Similarly, the soul, after the removal of time restrictions, immediately realizes itself as Brahman.

Abhasa-vada (the doctrine of reflection) speaks of the temporary reflection of pure consciousness in maya, and bimba-pratibimba-vada (the doctrine of the image and prototype) presents the formations of avidya as a multitude of mirror fragments, each of which reflects the highest Atman in its own way.

From the point of view of Advaita Vedanta, one who pays with austerity, piety or love receives only a "good share" in the next birth. However, this is nothing more than a way of orienting oneself in the world of karma, not leading beyond its limits. The soul, which is essentially identical with the Supreme Brahman, does not act and does not partake of the fruits of its actions; the illusion of samsaric incarnations of the Atman ends once and for all, as soon as its own true essence is revealed to it - a pure consciousness devoid of properties.

Differences in the views of later representatives of Advaita Vedanta concern mainly problems that have not received an unambiguous interpretation from Shankaracharya, in particular, the problem of the source and basis (ashraya) of avidya, as well as the question of the nature of Ishvara and jiva. If Shankaracharya identified Maya and Avidya, then his followers were inclined to think that creative, generating (vikshepa, literally "crushing") functions are more characteristic of maya, and avidya acts, first of all, as a "concealing" (avarana) force.

After Shankaracharya, Advaita Vedanta continued to develop in three main directions. The first of them originates in the views of the closest disciple of Shankaracharya - Padmapada, the author of "Panchapadika" ("Five-domed"). In the 12th century Prakashatman wrote a commentary on the Panchapadika. Its title "Vivarana" ("Clarification") gave the name to the new advaitist school, whose representatives (Sriharsha, Chitsukha and others) - emphasized the positive nature of maya. This brought this branch of Advaita Vedanta closer to the concept of prakriti in Sankhya.

The second direction of Advaita Vedanta was laid down in the works of another disciple of Shankara, Sureshvara (8th century), as well as his followers such as Sarvajnatman and Prakasananda.

Sureshvara noted that although knowledge of the Vedic texts in itself cannot lead to the realization of Brahman, the constant repetition of these sayings helps the adept to move towards liberation. According to Sureshvara, the basis of avidya is not a separate jiva, but pure consciousness itself: this position served as a reason for criticism of the Advaita Vedanta by adherents of the Vishnu Vedanta movement, who indicated that if this were so, the liberation of at least one soul, i.e. the removal of avidya by it would automatically entail the liberation of all souls bound by samsara.

A number of ideas of Sureshvara and his follower Sarvajnatman (X-XI centuries) were further developed in drishti-srishti-vada ("vision equivalent to creation"), the largest representative of which was Prakashananda (16th century-early 17th century). Treating Maya as absolutely illusory, Prakashananda believed that in advaita Vedanta there can be no talk of causality, since the existence of objects is reduced to their perceptibility. Being the second extreme point of Advaita Vedanta, the concept of drishti-srishti-vada is closest to the Buddhist vijnana-vada.

The development of the third direction of Advaita Vedanta is associated with the names of Mandana Mishra (VIII century, author of the treatise "Brahma-siddhi", or "Attainment of Brahman") and Vachaspati Misra (VIII-IX centuries, author of Bhamati). Vachaspati Mishra distinguishes between two types of avidya - subjective and universal, "root" (mula-avidya), which persists even at the end of the next universal cycle. Speaking about the nature of the jiva, the followers of Vachaspati Misra preferred the doctrine of avacheda-vada ("the doctrine of separation"), since, in their opinion, the basis of avidya in any case remains the souls, and not the supreme Brahman. This school of Advaita Vedanta can be considered a compromise between vivarana and the ideas of the followers of Sureshvara.

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