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Vedanta Basics

An Introduction to the Metaphysics of Vedanta

Our very nature is Freedom. Only our minds tell us otherwise. Therefore there's nothing positive for us to achieve... only something negative to eliminate. And this is done by applying various techniques such as viveka, which is discriminating between the real and the unreal--that is, finding out what existential attitude or approach carries permanent versus temporary fulfilment. This, as well as certain other methods are applied in due course, each of which contributes to our ability to one day successfully employ our divine weapon, being the Atmavichara (method of Self-enquiry), which is a devastating process for the ego-Mind, causing it to relinquish its stronghold on the individual. Liberation results.

Over the course of a few centuries, the idea of metaphysics and what its practical study has come to imply, especially within the New Age community, is actually the polar opposite of what it was really intended to represent. Exactly how this occurred is not important beyond the fact that the accumulation of 'average' people who chanced upon it misconstrued its deeper meaning, hence its popularized mutated [superficial] version.

This article is therefore an attempt to not only correctly define metaphysics, but in so doing, to hopefully succeed in transmitting its essence to whoever may pursue reading it.

Before we commence, we have to eliminate some obstacles to our understanding by way of re-evaluating and re-defining certain relevant concepts and perceptions, which strategy represents a necessary elimination of false ideas accumulated.

First, let's define metaphysics. What is commonly referred to as metaphysics would more accurately be generally termed 'non-ordinary physics,' since only insignificant portions thereof deal with what is genuinely metaphysical. Such capabilities of the mind as telepathy, clairvoyance, prophesy, or divination (via Tarot, astrology, palmistry, etc.) as well as 'psychic' and 'thaumaturgic powers' such as psychokinesis, levitation, astral projection, etc, actually fall within the domain of physics, since they are all qualified or modified forms of energetic phenomena, and therefore have a materially quantifiable counterpart--albeit possessing the nature of unfamiliar forms--hence the term 'non-ordinary physics.'

On the other hand, metaphysics is beyond physics (as the word implies, although not actually defined as such in the dictionary-- since, as mentioned, its usage has been misconstrued over time). Now, what does this signify? The answer to this is profoundly simple yet equally profoundly elusive, as we shall see.

What follows represents the culmination of three decades of comparative religious, philosophical and scientific study. During the course of this study there emerged for me [what was later realized to be] a universal metaphysical conception which, in turn, eventually achieved a marked level of certainty and reliability. Whereupon, the latter decade was devoted to seeking out and simultaneously discovering certain historic [scriptural] documents that again and again corroborated this conception--thereby not only further reinforcing it but, more importantly, furnishing the understanding that virtually every culture in every time arrived at the same fundamental realization. Some of these documents include: the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Dhammapada, Bardo Thodol, Tao Te King, Kabala, Zend Avesta, and the Gospels of John and Thomas.

Additionally, the so-called New Physics (Quantum Physics) is tending toward a parallel collaboration with metaphysics (Vide: Michael Talbot's The Holographic Universe; Fritjof Capra's The Tao of Physics; Gary Zukov's The Dancing Wu Li Masters; as well as physicists Einstein, Planck, and Bohr, among numerous others, who paved the way in this direction).

Please understand that this is an abridged essay and therefore some observations made are not expounded upon insofar as addressing some pertinent and quite valid objections that may arise.

Before we begin, it's important to understand that there is nothing to achieve which you have not already in your possession. You are already fully enlightened. You already [naturally] own the very thing you're attempting to possess. The illusion that you are mortal, finite, suffering, and in bondage, is itself an illusion! That you think there are obstacles to overcome, mysteries to solve, or powers to attain, are themselves the very obstacles blocking your way to the reality of what you ALREADY are. That you doubt this and believe you are yet in need of something is, in fact, a mind-trick (fabrication), and will be attempted to be disproved by the observations that follow.



Technically, non-dual metaphysics (of which Advaita Vedanta represents the Hindu version), has no philosophical agenda. That the only premise it’s really working from is that--as King Janaka said to his Guru Astavakra, quite succinctly [paraphrasing]: "The mind is the thief stealing my natural bliss; I shall deal with it summarily." That the primary objective is to disassemble, decimate, defuse [or however you want to put it] the stubborn judgment process in/of the mind... specifically in the philosophical Mind.

So that the method of Advaita hones in on defusing, or rendering what may be referred to as the ‘ego-Mind,’ harmless... ideally becoming an instrument whose function is merely being a witness to 'What Is.'

Advaita seeks to unify our fields of experience, Within and Without, for the express purpose of affording us the opportunity to exhaust our obsessive-compulsion to judge and categorize... releasing our habit-mode of analyzing Life and everything in it [as per 'Self vs. not-Self']. The Vedic saying, "The Mind is the slayer of the Real," pinpoints the problem at hand. And the aspect of the Mind it's referring to is its compulsion to judge and categorize [not only everything in its environment, but most importantly the qualitative status of its own self], causing thereby a psycho-spiritual contraction (a delimitation in one's otherwise holistic awareness).

Whatever means is adopted to affect this end (some refer to as 'the attenuated Mind') is justified. That is, the philosophic ideas themselves have no other weight than the end they're capable of affecting! This is based on the fact that the World as well as its source in Brahman are collectively an unfathomable Mystery!

Advaita therefore seeks to establish that there is no real difference (no duality) between the Unmanifest and Manifest components of Reality: the nir-guna and sa-guna aspects of Brahman [or the Primal Spirit and its projection into the World]. It provides therefore the means to experientially connect our body-mind complex to its source in our true Self or Primal Being [variously referred to as Brahman, Ayn Soph, Allah, the Tao, Nagual, etc].)

This habit of judging is sustained by the internal philosophical battle that the Spirit is at odds with the nature of the World... based on the idea that the World is purely an illusion...a popular myth that needs to be dispelled at this juncture.

The sage of Arunachala, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi said this, re the nature of the World:

Visitor: "Sri Aurobindo says the world is real and you say it is unreal. How can the world be unreal?"

Bhagavan: "The Vedantins do not say the world is unreal. That is a misunderstanding. If they did, what would be the meaning of the Vedantic text: "All this is Brahman"? They only mean that the world is unreal as world, but is real as Self. If you regard the world as not-Self, it is not real. Everything, whether you call it maya or leela or shakti, must be within the Self and not apart from It. There can be no shakti apart from the shakta."

And Swami Sivananda said this:

"This Maya and Brahman are inseparable."

The above is the very essence of non-duality; and it has wide-sweeping implications, especially regarding the proper perspective on matters such as the way the ego-Mind apprehends and organizes its attitude toward the nature of the world--generating therefrom [prior to moksha] its entanglement in the web of constant, haunting judgments and antagonisms (the very foundation of the ego-Mind or jiva's [dilemma re its] mysteriously apparent internal battle! Emphasizing here 'mysteriously apparent' because upon Self-enquiry, no such battle or even mind, as such, can be found!)

Obviously, what we're really after is Self-realization. And, as alluded to above, whichever way we chose to perceive the matter of the ideas involved is, in of itself, not the overriding/pressing issue. The reason non-dual philosophy is so powerful is it avails the most expedient way for the Mind to cease and desist its habit-formed campaign of obsessive judgment and hence alienation from its own source in the Self. It clings to the constant battle between what the senses (indriyas) are transmitting and what it wants to believe is existentially apart from such data received. This battle is the result of the inability to effectively reconcile the two! And to maintain the attitude that the World is purely an illusion, only helps perpetuate it!

In light of this, in fact, any ideas held [short of concluding 'ALL THIS IS A MYSTERY'] only serve to sustain the colossal dynamo of ego-Mind and its ages-forged machine of churning judgments.

Sri Ramana has also said, in so many words, that as one approaches the final threshold of moksha, the greatest of all obstacles is his precious collection of philosophical ideas [sustaining preconceived notions and therefore expectations].



* which [methodology] in turn, represents the Path that leads us to
Self-realization (this correlates to the meaning of the title of the

(note: see glossary below for the few sanskrit terms used.)

1. Ordinary awareness accepts at face value the idea of the conditional setup of the self confronting the world. That the self and the world are contradistinctive and mutually exclusive. This may be termed the ‘Naïve Standard Life-Code of Reference.’ Within its core lies the influence of Maya, breeding the illusion of separativeness. (It should be noted that Maya actually comprises a twofold nature--having a real and an unreal component. The context here concerns its unreal manifestation.) From such Maya, Ignorance is born, giving rise to fear, bondage, and suffering.

2. This world [projected out of the Absolute Brahman] is indeterminably immense, complex, mysterious, of reasonably unknown origin, and endowed with indelible laws of physics, gross and subtle, all within the framework of space-time Relativity.

3. What is not ordinarily attended upon is the fact that whatever is witnessed in this world is done exclusively through the only conceivable instrument capable of doing so: the Mind.

4. When this Mind is studied, some hitherto unrecognized characteristics begin to surface. First and foremost, it is observed to go through phases of waking, dreaming, and deep sleeping. And, since such phases exist, we must conclude that the Mind lacks continuity; especially since it is observed to be utterly non-existent in the deep sleep state. This becomes our first clue.

5. We are inherently compelled to seek out the truth of what, a priori, is. That is, what is it that exists in reality, apart from what our thoughts are telling us about it. To accomplish this we must set up a standard for Reality.

Consider: there are many characteristics that could feasibly be integral to the essence of Reality. Whatever such characteristics we may settle upon, there is one that must be indispensable and foundational to each of them, and cannot be violated under any circumstances: Existence Itself. And, as is inherently implied, Existence cannot be here today and gone tomorrow; It must be permanent and omnipresent (i.e. not subject to birth and death; not found in one place over another; nor present in one lifeform over another). Therefore, our Standard of Reality must rigidly adhere to that which is in an unchanging state of universal permanence.

6. Returning to our first clue (viz. that the Mind cannot be considered a permanent principle), and applying it to our Standard of Reality (viz. that which is not permanent cannot be considered real), we must hence conclude the Mind is not real, as such. (As was earlier shown, technically the Mind is considered to be ‘relatively real,’ since it’s a product of the shakti of Maya. However, the point being made here is that it is a meager fraction of the totality of our Self, and not in the least the all-encompassing, all-controlling awareness-generator we've allowed it to become. And so, in order to defuse its all-consuming dictatorship role, it is efficacious in this philosophical context, as well as strategic per our Path of Return, to regard it as being unreal. In fact, relative to the qualitative/quantitative degree of power we ordinarily ascribe to it, it is comparatively quite unreal. This is so simply because, specifically the way it's experienced--as a peerless authoritative function, it convincingly establishes itself as an isolated and exclusive phenomenon, apart from its source in the Whole [of the Absolute Brahman Existence]!)

7. If the Mind is not [independently/exclusively] real, are we to hence conclude that we are not real? Yes, if we consider that we are merely the Mind. However, we are not merely the Mind! (For, when the Mind shuts off in deep sleep, we do not lose our continuity of Self--a Johnson, going to sleep, doesn't wake up a Benson.) The mind is technically an insignificant, infinitesimal fragment of who and what we are! This is our second clue.

8. Since the Self continues to thrive through the phases of the mind, it qualifies as a candidate for Reality, providing that it does not suffer an interruption with the advent of the death of the body and the mind. Let's investigate further.

9. What follows is a twofold proof--from the scientific and metaphysical standpoints--that there is no real death for the Self (as opposed to the ego self which is intimately bound to the mind).

The scientific proof: As per the Law of the Conservation of Energy and Matter, "energy can neither be created nor destroyed." (Although the forms or modifications of energy appear to change, their source is a constant (i.e. fire absorbed into an object and changing its form to heat, whereas the source of fire and heat is always energy). So is the mind a modification of its source, the Self. Therefore the Self, being likened to energy, was never created nor will it ever be destroyed.

The metaphysical proof: Since Existence meets our requirements for our Standard of Reality, there must logically inhere, as part of its fundamental nature, the attribute of consciousness. For the simple reason that Existence, by virtue of the fact that It’s substantive, must also be sentient. If Existence could be considered nescient, we’re then compelled to ask "what is it, per se, that exists?" Therefore, since it must be conscious, it must also have--central to it--a locus of Being-ness generating this consciousness. That locus is the Self. (Hindu metaphysics [Vedanta] refers to this as Sat-Chit-Ananda, which is translated as: Pure Existence, Pure Consciousness, and [as a natural by-product of the latter two] Pure Bliss.)

10. Based on the clues provided, the first key for the journey to freedom can now be given: since the body is not real, pay no mind to it. And the second key: since the mind is not real, detach yourself from its thoughts.

There are a number of ways that this can be practically approached. The easiest is to accept that the mind is on its own journey and will generate thoughts as it pleases. In this sense you can watch them like a motion picture in a theater. They are not you yourself, nor do they represent the truth or totality of you. For, really, who are you? If you're an ego (by definition, an exclusive entity, apart from everything else [viz Existence Itself]), then 'your' thoughts can be equally regarded as being you. But this is actually absurd to even imagine. Why? Because self-enquiry exposes that the ego is merely a fiction. So then, who are you? We'll explore this in item number 11.

Another approach--more difficult or less, depending on one's temperament--is to seek out the root-thought--which is the "I"- thought--and chop it down like the trunk of a tree, and all the branches of ideas and leaves of thoughts will simultaneously topple. (This is only an analogy; technically the thoughts will not dissipate into a puff of unreality; rather they will assume their rightful place in the overall constitution of the Self.)

11. The most powerful method known as Atmavichara (Self-enquiry) is applied by asking oneself "Who am I?" (i.e. What is my true nature? What is the source of the phenomenon experienced as "I"?) This can be practiced in or out of the steady state of meditation. In fact, it becomes more effective when performed during the course of normal activities, since then it has a better chance of allowing the practitioner to disengage his identification with not only the ego but the world, as well as his activities in the world.

12. As with most yogic methods, there are a number of approaches within the Atmavichara. The most popular one involves a vigil kept on the Mind [in the course of asking oneself "Who am I?"] where, as each answer comes, it is categorically denied as possessing any holistic value in the face of the Self. In this way each thought is indiscriminately rejected as not-Self by inwardly addressing each as "neti, neti, etc" (not this, not this, etc). And since virtually every idea, thought, or description is negated along the way, what is left over cannot therefore be in the nature of a relativistic value or property but rather is at once transcendental as well as all-pervading. It is in fact the core of the Self Itself. In this way the Mind--which itself is the thought process--is slowly but surely weakened, undermined and eventually finally destroyed (technically defused). (Of course, this is the speculative philosophical portion residing within the concrete reasoning Mind, where the remainder of the reasoning as well as the intuitive Mind is left in tact, in order to function in the world, of course. Therefore, the specific part of the Mind that gets defused in the advent of Self-realization is the ahamkar or ego-Mind, which by definition is the conception that one--in the sense of dehatma buddhi or "I am this body-mind complex utterly in contradistinction from all else in existence.")

The only thing the mind is capable of realizing is that it hasn't the ability to realize [Reality]. Enquiry is the means for the Mind to discover this. Once it's discovered, the Mind can no longer hold its jiva captive and victimized/manipulated [as a leaf at the mercy of the wind]. And since the Mind is no longer the commander-in-chief attempting to dictate Reality, the Self (Paramatman) automatically surfaces. In the strictest sense, there is nothing (no entity) that realizes anything else (another entity). Rather the Self shines unimpeded. The fogbank of avarana (veil of ignorant distortion) is isolated in the beam of atmavichara and eventually burned away by the sun of the Self. The Self was always there, only the mysterious fog seems to block it. Yet such fog isn't in the least substantial. Here lies the paradox that would be better left forgotten, for indeed there is no paradox upon honest enquiry! It simply all crumbles itself into a dream of perfect void.

Yes, Brahman is all that is. Doubts are so many fictions...

13. If Self-realization is genuinely accomplished, our journey has reached its zenith...there is no further distance to trek in the evolution of consciousness...[in Sri Ramana’s words:] "it is the end of the road... the end of all."



  • Atmavichara: Self-enquiry. Method of asking oneself, "Who am I?" Considered the most powerful and effective method in Advaita.
  • Brahman: Absolute Reality; the Unknowable Essence of Being.
  • Leela: the World; the [projected] Play or Sport of Brahman.
  • Maya: popularly translated as illusion. It is, however, esoterically considered to be the manifestation or outbreath of Brahman, a.k.a. Saguna Brahman. Therefore, it is technically not illusion. However, out of Maya is born the condition of mithya (i.e. unreal). Shankaracharya refers to it as 'real and unreal,' and ultimately anirvachaniya (indescribable).
  • Moksha: liberation (specifically, liberation from the attachment to ego-Mind as a thing as such [or apart from its source in Brahman]).
  • Shakti: the Ineffable Power responsible for the appearance of differentiated, relative Manifestation being a mysterious emanation of Brahman)