--> Skip to main content

What is Advaita? – Simple Explanation

What is advaita? - A simple explanation.

When you see something or someone, even your reflection in a mirror, you see that which is seen as something different from you. Though the reflection in the mirror cannot be there without you, you see the reflection as something separate from you. It is not separate but you sense a separation because of a wrong understanding. We see everything or everyone as separate or distinct or different from us. In their essence, nothing or no one is separate from you. I am not separate from you. You are not separate from me. We do not understand this because of a fundamental error in the way we see things. We could call it a manufacturing defect.

How do we know that we have a manufacturing defect? Suffering is the indicator that we have some problem by default. If things were working fine, we should not be suffering. We should not be having all the problems like greed, jealousy, anger, pride, and hatred. The way to get around this manufacturing defect is the way of Advaita. To know that there is no difference between you and what you see is Advaita. It goes further. You see yourself changing with time. You see yourself changing with place. If you go to Alaska, you will certainly feel cold! You go to the Sahara Desert in summer and of course, you will melt! Advaita is the knowledge that you do not change with time and place. It is the knowledge that you will not change even if your body stops functioning, even if you die, or more accurately, even if your body dies.

Advaita is the path that will take you beyond suffering, beyond separation, beyond distinctions, beyond differences. Advaita is the path to the knowledge that there is nothing or no one from which you will be ever separate.

Advaita is not merging into something. It is the understanding that there is nothing or no one to be merged into just like that there is nothing or no one different from you. Advaita is not merely denying the experiences that you have but it is asserting that these experiences are not real, but are merely factual statements. Advaita is not denying the existence of this universe but it is asserting that this universe is not really what it looks like. Just like when you see water on a tarred road in an afternoon, you go near it and find that there is no water, Advaita is going near the true nature of this universe and finding that everything in it is only a permutation and combination of that one, true, Reality, which is beyond any name and form.

The mind and the body are not obstacles to practising Advaita. The mind will have its ups and downs. That is its nature. The body will have its strengths and weaknesses, its health and illnesses. That is its nature. You definitely do not blame a pen for not writing. Writing is not there in your pen. It is in you. If the pen does not work, you change the pen till you can write what you want to write. Your true nature, the Reality, is in you, the real, not in the body or the mind. You will keep on changing the body and the mind, till you get that real you.

Advaita is not something that cannot be practiced in the body and the mind. You might ask: ‘I am in a body; how can I understand something beyond the body?’ Advaita answers: ‘The truth is that you are not in a body; you are mistaking yourself to be a body. How can you understand the truth if you insist on believing what is false? If you insist that there is water on that tarred road, in the afternoon, and do not go near it to examine if there really is water, how can you know the truth that there is no water? And, will that water quench your thirst?

Yes, we need the water of Advaita to quench the thirst of suffering. We need to experience our non-separate nature to be free.

SourceExcerpts from Prabuddha Bharata editorial January 2020