Advaita Philosophy, Yoga Philosophy

Realistic vs. Idealistic Metaphysics – Page 3


Brihadaranyaka Upanishad:


Because when there is duality, as it were, then one sees something, one smells something, one tastes something, one speaks something, one hears something, one thinks something, one touches something, one knows something...

Here we find stated clearly why the Upanishads define a realistic metaphysics.

We can see something only when there is duality, that is, when there is both the seer and the seen. We can smell something only when there is duality, that is, both the smeller and the thing to be smelt. And so on for taste, speech, hearing, thought, etc.

Here it is defined, thought exists because there is duality, there is both the thinker and the thing–thought–of. So also for the others, eg, sight exists because of duality, there is both the seer and the–thing–seen. And so on. Therefore, the fact that sight, thought, taste, etc. exists proves that there is duality, ie, presence of both the thinker and the thing–thought–of, seer and the thing seen, and so on.

So in this sutra, we have the fundamental formula as discussed before, ‘Thought exists, therefore the thinker and the thing–thought–of exists’. Or we can place it as, ‘Sight exists, therefore the seer and the thing seen exists’, and so on.

Thus in this sutra we find the cause of why realistic metaphysics is accepted and not idealistic.

The real purport of the sutra however is not to define metaphysics. The sutra goes on to explain that this duality exists only as long as we are in the relative plane, when we achieve mystical union with Brahman, all such duality is lost and then there is no more thought, speech, sight, etc.

...But when to the knower of Brahman everything has become the Self, then what should one see and through what, what should one smell and through what, what should one taste and though what, what should one speak and though what, what should one hear and through what,what should one touch and through what, what should one know and through what? Through what should one know that owing to which all this is known? This self is That which has been described as ‘Not this, not this.’ It is imperceptible , for It is never perceived; undecaying, for It never decays; unattached for it is never attached; unfettered – it never feels pain and never suffers injury. Through what, O Maitreyi, should one know the Knower? So you have got the instruction, Maitreyi. This much indeed is the means of immortality, my dear. Saying this, Yajnavalkya left.

This important sutra is the last teaching of the sage Yajnavalkya to his wife, Maitreyi, before he leaves for the forest. In this we find encapsulated the theory of Advaita and also the mystical experience. It also contains the formula, ‘Neti, neti’.

Once non–duality is known, then the duality which makes us know, think, speak, etc. is lost and all is one. This is the purport. So in the final mystical experience of Advaita, realistic ontology is also negated.


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