Advaita Guru Parampara and Advaita Vedanta

Posted: July 11, 2012 in Aware
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In the Indian religious and philosophical traditions, all knowledge is traced back to the Gods and to the Rishis who saw the vedas. Thus, the advaita guru-paramparā begins with the Daiva-paramparā, followed by the Ṛṣi-paramparā, which includes the vedic seers Vaśiṣṭha, his son Śakti, his son Parāśara, his son Vyāsa, , and Vyāsa’s son Śuka. After Śuka, we turn to the Mānava-paramparā, which brings us to historical times and personalities.

Advaita (literally, non-duality) is a system of thought where “Advaita” refers to the identity of the Self (Atman) and the Whole (Brahman). Recognition of this identity leads to liberation. Attaining this liberation takes a long preparation and training under the guidance of a guru.

Mahavakya – The Great Sentences

Mahavakya, or “the great sentences”, state the unity of Brahman and Atman. There are many such sentences in the Vedas, however only one such sentence from each of the four Vedas is usually chosen. They are shown below

Sr. No. Vakya Meaning Upanishad Veda
1 प्रज्ञानं ब्रह्म (pragñānam brahma) Consciousness is Brahman Aitareya Rgveda
2. अहं ब्रह्मास्मि (aham brahmāsmi) I am Brahman Brhadāranyaka Yajurveda
3. तत्त्वमसि (tat tvam asi) That thou art Chandogya Samaveda
4. अयमात्मा ब्रह्म (ayamātmā brahma) This Atman is Brahman Mandukya Atharvaveda

Theory of creation

In the relative level, Adi Shankara believes in the Creation of the world through Satkāryavāda. It is like the philosophy of Samkhya, which says that the cause is always hidden into its effect—and the effect is just a transformation of the cause. However, Samkhya believes in a sub-form of Satkāryavāda called Parinamavada (evolution) — whereby the cause really becomes an effect. Instead, Adi Shankara believes in a sub-form called Vivartavada. According to this, the effect is merely an apparent transformation of its cause — like illusion. For example, in darkness a man often confuses a rope to be a snake. But this does not mean that the rope has actually transformed into a snake.

At the pragmatic level, the universe is believed to be the creation of the Supreme Lord Ishvara. Maya is the divine magic of Ishvara, with the help of which Ishvara creates the world. The serial of Creation is taken from the Upanishads. First of all, the five subtle elements (ether, air, fire, water and earth) are created from Ishvara. Ether is created by Maya. From ether, air is born. From air, fire is born. From fire, water is born. From water, earth is born. From a proportional combination of all five subtle elements, the five gross elements are created, like the gross sky, the gross fire, etc. From these gross elements, the universe and life are created. This series is exactly the opposite during destruction.

Some people have criticized that these principles are against Satkāryavāda. According to Satkāryavāda, the cause is hidden inside the effect. How can Ishvara, whose form is spiritual, be the effect of this material world? Adi Shankara says that just as from a conscious living human, inanimate objects like hair and nails are formed, similarly, the inanimate world is formed from the spiritual Ishvara.

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