Shankara’s Advaita is Context-Specific

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O Learned and Devoted Servants of God,
[July 03, 2011] The true Advaita of Shankara is only in the aspect of enjoying this creation by a soul just as God enjoys it. The following analogy is given to understand this concept. The director-cum-producer of a cinema, after producing the cinema, himself sits in the audience to watch and enjoy it. His helper also sits along with him and enjoys the cinema. In this aspect of enjoying the cinema as spectators, there is no difference between the two. Of course, this similarity does not make the helper identical with the producer of the cinema. In the context of the producing of the cinema, the difference between the two always remains. But, once the cinema is already produced, there is no relevance of bringing in that difference, which is present in the context of production. Only the context of watching and enjoying the cinema is relevant. In this context, there is no difference between the helper and the producer.

God is that director-cum-producer of the cinema of creation. The ordinary individual soul is the helper. In the context of producing the cinema, there is obviously a difference between the two. God has created this creation while the soul cannot even create an iota of creation. But, once the process of creation is over and it is time to merely watch it like a cinema and enjoy it, there is no need to bring in that difference between God and the soul. God enjoys all the aspects in this creation-cinema. He is not disturbed by the tragedies or comedies in it but derives equal enjoyment from both. Likewise, the soul too can derive equal enjoyment from both if the soul can remain uninvolved with the creation. Hence, Shankara said that the soul is the same as God. This is Advaita or monism. For the process of watching and enjoying the cinema of creation, awareness (Chit) alone is required; no creative powers are required. This awareness is the essence of this common spectatorship of both God and the soul. Shankara called this common awareness as Brahman. In the aspect of this awareness (Brahman), both Jiva (soul) and Ishwara (God) are said to be equal. Hence, Shankara’s view is also called as Chinmatra Vada—the view that awareness (Chit) alone is true (relevant). The Jiva can remain in the same God-like state of an unattached spectator as long as it considers itself to be Brahman (awareness) and does not get attached to the world. In this context of spectatorship, the status of God as the Creator, Maintainer and Destroyer of creation is irrelevant. Similarly, the status of the soul as a created item is also irrelevant. To indicate this irrelevance and to highlight that awareness alone is relevant for spectatorship, Shankara reduced the difference between the Jiva (soul) and Ishwara (God) to zero by calling it Mithya (unreal).

Shankara thus proved that God and the soul can equally derive entertainment or enjoyment from watching the creation-cinema consisting of tragedies, comedies and a variety of other scenes and situations. However, there is an important practical difficulty in this. The essential secret of being constantly entertained by both the tragedies and comedies is in remaining unattached or uninvolved with the creation. This is the biggest challenge for the soul. In theory, the soul can have the God-like state of constant entertainment as long as it considers itself to be Brahman (awareness) alone. But, the question is, how long can the soul remain in that state without getting involved in the world? For God, who has produced the creation-cinema, it is natural and automatic to realize the unreality of creation and remain unattached to it. He has created every scene and situation in the creation-cinema. Every moment, it is crystal clear to Him that this world is His own creation that is meant for His own entertainment. Creation is very obviously unreal with respect to Him. So, He can effortlessly remain in the state of an unattached spectator and continue to enjoy creation. Even when God enters creation as a human incarnation and is an active participant in the creation-cinema, He can internally remain the same unattached spectator. This is seen from the life of Lord Krishna, who enjoyed even the tragedy at Prabhasa that caused the end of His entire family. Moreover, He also witnessed and enjoyed the death of His own body when He was shot in the foot by a hunter. However, the soul is made of the same fundamental elements and qualities that constitute creation. It is a part and parcel of creation. The soul was not involved in the process of producing this creation. Unlike God, the soul does not have the experience of creating this world. So, the soul cannot realize the creation to be unreal. Whenever a soul watches creation, it gets attached to it.

Additionally, the soul is also a participant in the creation-cinema. This makes the soul even more susceptible to getting attached to the creation-cinema. Once attached to the creation-cinema, the soul loses its constant entertainment through the tragedies and comedies of creation. It becomes the ‘doer’ and the ‘enjoyer’. It suffers and enjoys alternately. Thus, the constancy of the soul’s entertainment is interrupted. In fact, the soul, right from its birth has always been in the attached state. It is the soul’s very nature to get attached to creation and the soul is totally helpless in this matter. It has never experienced the God-like state (Advaita) of being an unattached spectator of the world. Hence, the soul has only enjoyed the world intermittently. It has never achieved the ideal God-like constant entertainment throughout all the happy and miserable moments in life.