S: In reference to what you said in your last e-mail, you’re right, I’m actually looking for an afterlife experience. Maybe my next step should be to study some dualistic Vedanta lectures. What do you think?
V: Like I said before, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting an afterlife experience. That’s an acceptable goal. However, if your goal is permanent freedom, you’ll eventually give up wanting an afterlife experience when you see that no experience, either in this life or in the afterlife, will last. Here’s the logic. If there is an afterlife experience—and I mean if—the idea is that earn that experience by the actions you do in life. Your actions in life are the cause and the afterlife you get is the effect. The catch is that all the actions you do in life have limited, impermanent results. So how can you get a permanent afterlife experience? It’s not possible. And wouldn’t a temporary afterlife experience be an awful lot like a regular life experience that makes you happy for a while until it inevitably ends, leaving you unfulfilled? Yep. So even in death, nothing has really changed.
If you can follow the logic that nothing you do can give you a permanent result, it means you’re ready to go for freedom directly, meaning you’re ready to understand that you are already free. You’re ready to see that you are ‘beyond’ both life and the afterlife and always fulfilled. If you’re not ready, then you’re not, and that’s completely okay. I’ll still be happy to teach you Vedanta or point you in the direction of other good teachers but maybe, as you’ve pointed out, it’s not right for you, at least not for the time being.
If that’s the case then I seriously encourage you to practice a religion of your choosing. Religion is the only place you’ll find information about how to go to the afterlife. In that case a dualistic form of Vedanta—as you mentioned above—such as the Dvaita Vedanta of Madhva or Vishishtadvaita of Ramanuja may very well be appropriate for you. I’m not extremely familiar with them but I do know they are concerned with the afterlife. I think I’d suggest Vishishtadvaita over Dvaita because Vishishtadvaita is a bit closer to Advaita and of course, I am an Advaitin.
If you’re not interested in the route of religion, I highly recommend starting a serious and dedicated meditation practice. It’s excellent for peace of mind and personal growth and it will help you in any area of study you decide to pursue. Along with your practice you might want to study the Yoga Sutras, the premier text on meditation. If you’re not interested in any of those things, then I’m out of ideas. The bottom line is that you should do whatever appeals to you most. Go in the direction your heart tells you to and you’ll find the right path. For me it was Vedanta. For you it might be something else.
S: Since I don’t believe in god (as presented in Christianity), I was looking for something else, like pure consciousness to hold on.
V: You came to the right place because Vedanta doesn’t require you to believe in pure consciousness. It shows you directly that it exists and that you are it.
S: My understanding is that, according to Advaita Vedanta, pure consciousness, the “I / Me,” is not the perceiver, feeler or thinker of my reality.
V: Right. You aren’t the perceiver, feeler or thinker. Instead, you’re the pure consciousness that reveals them. You, pure consciousness, are like sunlight. And the perceiver, feeler and thinker are like the various objects illuminated by the sun.
S: If I ‘exist’ in deep sleep, I also exist in a coma or a stone.
V: Yes, although technically, they all exist in you.
S: That may be the ultimate truth but that kind of existence is not ‘attractive’ to me. There is no comfort, significance or value for me (as I see it) in this kind of ‘existence.’
V: A common metaphor used to illustrate the significance of that truth is that the mind, body and world are merely waves in the ocean of you, pure existence. Just like water (the ocean) always exists despite the appearance of waves, you always exist despite the appearance of the mind, body or world. And similar to the way water is never affected by the condition of the waves, you are never affected by the condition of the mind, body or world. Since all anyone fears is change (in various forms) or non-existence, understanding for certain that you always exist and can’t be changed is very valuable and comforting.
S: How can ‘existence’ be something for me if it’s not an object?
V: To say that existence is not an object is to say that existence is not any particular object. Instead, it is the essence of every object. It’s not a something but the essence of everything. It’s that by which everything is, rather than isn’t. Since it’s the intrinsic nature of everything, it’s not any particular thing. You can’t point to an object and say, “That’s existence!” because existence doesn’t have a shape, color or any other qualities. Instead, existence is that which makes all shapes, colors and qualities possible. So while everything you experience is a ‘confirmation’ of existence, existence is not defined by anything you experience.
S: How can ‘existence’ be beyond time and space and still be applicable in my life or effecting my growth?
V: It’s applicable for the reasons I mentioned above.
S: Existence, according to Wikipedia, comprises the state of being real and the ability to physically interact with the universe or multiverse.
V: Vedanta only uses the first definition of existence. It says existence is that which is real. And that which is real is that which never changes. According to Vedanta, existence has absolutely nothing to do with physically interacting with the universe. It is the essence of the universe, but never touched by it.
S: Discussing an existence with no dimensions or qualities is nice as poetry. But my problem is that I can’t even relate or develop a real philosophical discussion about existence if it’s not present in my world.
V: How can existence not be present in the world if the world exists? How can existence not be present in the world if you yourself exist? As I said, existence isn’t any particular thing in the world but it’s the essence of everything in the world. Existence is like water and the world is the waves. But the water is never a wave. It’s always water. You’re the existence, the water. The body, mind and world are the waves. So you’re always present as the essence of them all, but you’re never any of those things.
S: Talking about ‘existence’ with no dimensions or qualities is like discussing an existence outside of our universe/multiverse.
V: That’s because you don’t yet understand what I mean by existence. Existence is the very fabric of the universe. The universe is the clay pot, existence is the clay. Just like clay is never a clay pot (or affected by the clay pot) but the clay pot is always clay, you, existence are never the universe but the universe is always you. Right now, you’re focusing on the clay pot (body/mind), and missing the clay (existence/consciousness). Because of that, you think the clay (existence/consciousness) is something remote from the clay pot (body/mind/experience).
An additional thought: Our universe exists. If you say there’s anything outside of the universe, by default you’re acknowledging that it also exists (If it didn’t, it would be non-existent and there would be nothing to talk about). If our universe exists and anything outside of our universe exists, then they are both of the nature of existence. Since there aren’t two ‘existences,’ nothing that is something can ever be outside of existence. Anything that is, is always ‘inside’ existence. Or to put it another way, nothing can exist apart from existence itself, similar to how a clay pot can never exist apart from clay.
S: It seems to me that Advaita Vedanta say: Pure consciousness is the only existence there is and it’s You/Me/I.
S: But this ‘existence’ is not an existence I can grasp/understand/imagine because it’s beyond time and space. It’s beyond my intellectual abilities. So it seems like Vedanta is saying that pure consciousness is an ‘existence’ that doesn’t exist for my intellect 😦
V: Ignorance of who you are resides in the intellect. Therefore removal of that ignorance happens in the intellect. Saying that existence is ‘beyond’ the intellect simply means that existence is not an object. It’s not something you know as a thought, or a feeling etc. You know it directly as yourself. It is self-evident like the sun, not needing to be revealed by something else because it’s the revealer itself.
All my best, Vishnudeva
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