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Advaita Versus Dvaita Versus Convention

It is in the “Wellspring of Nonduality” phase, however, that the keys to understanding India’s integral success in dharmic life, religious observance, philosophical excellence, and spiritual experience are found. From very early on, when other cultures were still caught up in the fiery throes of formulating a civilized race of peoples via the questionable methods of war, exploitation, and domination, India, with Her foundational principles of ahimsa (nonviolent coexistence) and yuga-dharma (divine life in the natural context of cosmic harmony), had already developed a culture and caste system that generously contributed to and successfully maintained the difficult ideal of ongoing harmony amidst pressing chaos.

More importantly, however, Her sages and seers realized that rare and unique principle of nonduality (Advaita) which simultaneously balances the universe of name and form and lends it a sense of meaning while revealing the way to transcend the universal suffering of cyclic existence — birth, life, death, and rebirth all included. When other religions (by the time they had attained any maturation) were still puzzling over questions relative to the relationship between an anthropomorphical God and a sinful and suffering humanity, India was already producing hosts of realized saints, sages, seers, and saviors, along with systems of higher perception which afforded them the heretofore unforeseen ability to rise above and even fully transcend duality and multiplicity.

While exponents of various world religions (if they did not merely remain stuck in matters of worldly convention and mundane affairs) duly engaged in ongoing arguments about such secondary matters as the existence or nonexistence of God, the attainment of heaven, the purpose for life in the world, and the destiny and place of mankind in the material scheme of things, India’s seers, like Shankara and others, had already consciously pierced through the intellectual and cosmic layers of phenomenal existence to pronounce all conceptualizations such as God, gods, devils, objects, worlds, and living beings to be nothing other than nondual Reality dimly reflected through an ever-changing panorama of mentally projected names and forms. And this marvelous feat, representing the true essence of spirituality (and its supremacy over conventional religion), was duly accomplished by a superlative insight which, to this day, conventional religion is still incapable of understanding — that being the illusory nature of all realms of name and form, called Maya. For wonder of wonders, what religion has ever even suspected that the worlds of name and form, inclusive of all dualities and diversities, obscure Reality? And mere suspicions aside, who has then moved to detect and uncover such an enigmatic presence, let alone assign a title for it and thereafter fashion ingenious methods for its transcendence? This is true revelation, found outside of Maya, not within it.

Internal and External Revelations

As for revelation itself, the essence of which India’s seers arrived at early on, it lies at the philosophical center of all the world-religions. The great founders of world religions such as Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, all spoke in terms of inner vision and revelation. However, in all these cases the subtle force of this initially internal vision eventually got diluted and condensed down into a set of mere moral codes and ethical systems, or ended up inextricably associated with all that is sensational, mystical and, invariably, externalized. According to the ancient seers of India and their astute philosophical systems, everything that is perceived by the five senses, and abiding in the realm of change, is automatically suspect and therefore is to be examined under the microscope of refined human intelligence and, more importantly, under the impeccable scrutiny of trans-human Awareness realized via intense spiritual practice. This superlative process saves human beings from countless mistakes and sidetracks along the religious path, protecting them from both attraction to the occult powers (astabala-siddhis) such as domination over others, and philosophical misconception (bhrantidarshana). It was therefore that Vivekananda commented:

“I am perfectly aware that although some truth underlies the mass of mystical thought which has burst upon the Western world as of late, it is for the most part full of motives unworthy or insane. For this reason I have never had anything to do with these phases of religion, either in India or elsewhere, and mystics as a class are not very favorable to me.”

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