## What does Western philosophy in general have to say about Advaita Vedanta?

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From what I understand, Advaita Vedanta is a school of Hindu philosophy which claims that all that exists is one pure consciousness, or what they call Brahman. Each individual, Atman, is identical to Brahman.

They claim that the phenomenal world of space and time we all experience through our senses is an illusory appearance of plurality, analogous to a dream where Brahman has appeared to assume the form of many individuals located in space and time. In actuality, there only is the one Brahman.

I’ve mainly become familiar with Advaita through the teachings of Rupert Spira, who teaches that the one consciousness is “dimensionless”, which obviously means that it is spaceless and timeless. This single dimensionless consciousness then ‘dreams up’ the universe of space and time with all of its apparent, illusory separation.

To me, Advaita seems to be a form of monistic idealism, and Rupert Spira has explicitly said as much in at least one of his YouTube videos.

Does Western philosophy comment on Advaita specifically? If so, what is the general consensus on Advaita in Western philosophy?

I guess if you relegate space, time, and their contents to an illusion or dream of one consciousness, then you don’t need to explain how they arise, because they aren’t necessarily real in the first place.
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Does Western philosophy comment on Advaita specifically? If so, what is the general consensus on Advaita in Western philosophy?

My knowledge about Hindu religion is minimal, but it is my understanding that when eastern philosophies became known in the west, they were considered by western philosophers. In particular, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche expressed interest in Buddhism. Although I don't think there is any evidence that he had come in contact with eastern thought, it has always seemed to me that Kant's concept of noumena has similarities with the Tao.
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Schopenhauer praised Vedanta and particularly the Upanishads to no end. Aside from him, not many of the classical figures in philosophy interacted with Eastern philosophy.
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I’m someone who became very interested in Eastern philosophy through popular books and the like. Actually I’ve encountered Rupert Spira at a new agey conference. I have the utmost respect for Advaita, but I think it’s nearly always misrepresented. (Not saying it is by Rupert Spira.) But in its original cultural context it is part of a living culture and, you might say, ‘culturally regulated’. What I mean by that is that it is generally passed down teacher to student, with a lot of emphasis on discipline, memorisation, deportment, and the general rules of conduct, which in Hinduism like in all traditional religions are quite exacting. Indeed the term ‘Upaniṣad’ which refers to the scriptural texts of Vedanta, means literally ‘sitting close’, referring to the student ‘sitting closely’ to teacher for instruction. All of those texts were also part of an oral tradition, memorised by successive generations of devotees, they were committed to writing quite late in the tradition. So they’re deeply embedded in a cultural form, and trying to extract the essence and boil it down to verbal description is fraught with difficulties.

Now some of these ideas have been disseminated broadly through popular culture due to the activities of emissary teachers (such as Swami Vivekananda and Paramahansa Yogananda) and their association with Western celebrities in music and film (such as the Beatles’ association with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi). And there’s scope for much misunderstanding in that process. Westerners generally will feel they can forego the rigorous training and discipline required by Advaita and somehow ‘get it’ by reading a few books or attending a couple of sessions with a supposedly enlightened guru. In America, yoga and the enlightenment business are worth big dollars - there have been lawsuits launched over intellectual property rights to Sanskrit words.

None of which is to deprecate the profound nature of Advaita teachings and other forms of Eastern spiritual philosophy. As commented above, Schopenhauer in particular was a touch-point between the two traditions; there’s quite a good chapter on his and Kant’s similarities and differences with Eastern philosophies in Bryan Magee’s book on Schopenhauer. I think on a deeper level, Advaita has already had a profound impact on Western thinking, especially since the 1960’s. Steve Jobs comes to mind - he had copies of Autobiography of a Yogi distributed at his funeral. Mitch Kapor named early software hit product Lotus 1-2-3 after enrolling in Transcendental Meditation. Many of the pioneers of the modern IT scene were influenced by the presence of such ideas in the Californian culture of the 60’s. But learning to realise oneself as ‘pure consciousness’ takes more than grasping at the idea; probably something like, creating a mantra around it, and repeating it 10 million times, would be more like the traditionalists recommended methodology.
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From what I understand, Advaita Vedanta is a school of Hindu philosophy which claims that all that exists is one pure consciousness, or what they call Brahman. Each individual, Atman, is identical to Brahman...

To me, Advaita seems to be a form of monistic idealism, an Rupert Spira has explicitly said as much in at least one of his YouTube videos.
[My underlines]

An interesting topic which I've only briefly looked at. However, turning first to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) for an overview:

The essential philosophy of Advaita is an idealist monism, and is considered to be presented first in the Upaniṣads and consolidated in the Brahma Sūtra by this tradition.
According to Advaita metaphysics, Brahman—the ultimate, transcendent and immanent God of the latter Vedas—appears as the world because of its creative energy (māyā).
The world has no separate existence apart from Brahman.

The experiencing self (jīva) and the transcendental self of the Universe (ātman) are in reality identical (both are Brahman),though the individual self seems different as space within a container seems different from space as such.
These cardinal doctrines are represented in the anonymous verse “brahma satyam jagan mithya; jīvo brahmaiva na aparah” (Brahman is alone True, and this world of plurality is an error; the individual self is not different from Brahman). Plurality is experienced because of error in judgments (mithya) and ignorance (avidya). Knowledge of Brahman removes these errors and causes liberation from the cycle of transmigration and worldly bondage.

Here, the experiencing self is described as different, like 'space within a container' within space itself.
So, the individual body/self is different from Brahman. Again, the 'self' as a concept has been discussed many times...it's partly what has kept philosophy alive...since at least Plato.

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Does Western philosophy comment on Advaita specifically? If so, what is the general consensus on Advaita in Western philosophy?

'Western philosophy' like 'Eastern philosophy' covers so many different views or visions, that it is unlikely that there is a 'general consensus' on anything.

The major metaphysical concepts in Advaita Vedānta tradition, such as māyā, mithya (error in judgment),vivarta (illusion/whirlpool), have been subjected to a variety of interpretations.
On some interpretations, Advaita Vedānta appears as a nihilistic philosophy that denounces the matters of the lived-world.

The Advaita Vedānta ideas, particularly of 8th century Adi Shankara, were challenged by theistic Vedānta philosophies that emerged centuries later, such as the 11th-century Vishishtadvaita (qualified nondualism) of Ramanuja, and the 14th-century Dvaita (theistic dualism) of Madhvacharya.[293]

Advaita Vedānta and various other schools of Hindu philosophy share terminology and numerous doctrines with Mahayana Buddhism.[307][308] The similarities between Advaita and Buddhism have attracted Indian and Western scholars attention.[309][310] and have also been criticised by concurring schools.

To suggest that there is 'One Absolute Truth' or 'One Pure Consciousness' and then to have other schools, variants or understandings...( as above)...has become an industry, or business, in itself.
There is plurality in the world - how can it be an 'error' ? It is what it is.

The perennial philosophy (Latin: philosophia perennis),[note 1] also referred to as perennialism and perennial wisdom, is a perspective in philosophy and spirituality that views all of the world's religious traditions as sharing a single, metaphysical truth or origin from which all esoteric and exoteric knowledge and doctrine has grown.

Perennialism has its roots in the Renaissance interest in neo-Platonism and its idea of the One, from which all existence emanates. Marsilio Ficino (1433–1499) sought to integrate Hermeticism with Greek and Jewish-Christian thought,[1] discerning a prisca theologia which could be found in all ages. [2]

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463–94) suggested that truth could be found in many, rather than just two, traditions. He proposed a harmony between the thought of Plato and Aristotle, and saw aspects of the prisca theologia in Averroes (Ibn Rushd), the Quran, the Kabbalah and other sources.[3] Agostino Steuco (1497–1548) coined the term philosophia perennis.[4]

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But learning to realise oneself as ‘pure consciousness’ takes more than grasping at the idea; probably something like, creating a mantra around it, and repeating it 10 million times, would be more like the traditionalists recommended methodology.

Have you realised yourself as 'pure consciousness' ?
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I’m just a regular person with no such attainments to speak of.
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’m just a regular person with no such attainments to speak of.

Glad to hear it. I thought you were some kind of a God - with all the answers re Consciousness.
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‘There would no fool's gold if there were no gold’ ~ Rumi
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In philosophy - rich seams of both.
Ideas of value and insubstantial dreams.
In, of and sailing through the mind.
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Thanks for the useful information about Schopenhauer and Nietzsche considering Eastern thought, I’ll definitely look into that some more. It’s also interesting that there are potential parallels between some of Kant’s ideas and Taoism.

I have the utmost respect for Advaita, but I think it’s nearly always misrepresented. (Not saying it is by Rupert Spira.) But in its original cultural context it is part of a living culture and, you might say, ‘culturally regulated’.

So they’re deeply embedded in a cultural form, and trying to extract the essence and boil it down to verbal description is fraught with difficulties.

I agree with these points and this analysis. It’s probably a mistake for anyone to try to isolate Advaitan philosophy from the culture in which it has been embedded for so long. You’ve also made some interesting comments on how the West has effectively commercialized much Eastern thought, though this hasn’t denigrated the core of the philosophies. Also, I do agree that Western thought has been influenced to a significant degree by Eastern thought.

Here, the experiencing self is described as different, like 'space within a container' within space itself.
So, the individual body/self is different from Brahman

I’m by no means an expert in Advaita so I could be wrong, but it says that the experiencing self seems different from Brahman, when in actuality it isn’t different. The seeming difference is the misidentification that must be overcome in order to achieve moksha (liberation).

'Western philosophy' like 'Eastern philosophy' covers so many different views or visions, that it is unlikely that there is a 'general consensus' on anything.

Fair point. And I also agree with what you said @Amity about the industry surrounding Eastern thought.
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but it says that the experiencing self seems different from Brahman, when in actuality it isn’t different. The seeming difference is the misidentification that must be overcome in order to achieve moksha (liberation).

I stand corrected.

How do you know that it is a misidentification ?
How do you overcome this ?
What is moksha ( liberation) ?
What is it freedom from and to where ?
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How do you know that it is a misidentification ?
How do you overcome this ?
What is moksha ( liberation) ?
What is it freedom from and to where ?

These are all great questions.

I would say, based off of my limited understanding of Advaita á la Rupert Spira, the first step is gaining the intellectual understanding and knowledge/information from the teaching that all that exists is the one consciousness. Dropping the notion that you are a ‘separate self’ follows the gaining of knowledge/information from the teaching. The prior misidentification becomes obvious when one realizes themselves as the one consciousness, under Advaita.

Spira has said that your experience of the world does not change at all upon liberation/enlightenment, you just no longer see yourself as separate from the one consciousness, which by the way is spaceless and timeless.

Addressing what moksha/liberation is, I would say it is the freedom from the suffering that believing you are a ‘separate self’ causes. The notion of a ‘separate self’ under Advaita tends to create distinctions between self and other, which leads to egoism and selfish tendencies, all of which create at least some suffering in the life of the individual who believes themselves to be separate from the one consciousness.

I will note here that I personally am not fully committed to Advaita’s metaphysical position being true, as I am currently agnostic towards monistic idealism in general. Just wanted to give you the perspective of Advaita from what I understand of it :smile:.
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Also, I forgot to mention in my previous post that there is another school of Hindu thought called Kashmir Shaivism which is similar to Advaita in many ways, the main difference being that the phenomenal world is a direct manifestation of the divine energy of the one consciousness and not necessarily an illusion.
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‘There would no fool's gold if there were no gold’ ~ Rumi

Yet there are holy grails.
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There would no fool's gold if there were no gold’ ~ Rumi
And especially if there were no fools.
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Welcome to the forum.

You write well and your ideas are interesting and well presented. I hope you'll hang around for a while. As I noted, I won't be much help with any Hindu philosophy/religion questions, but it will make @Wayfarer happy.
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Thanks for the welcome and kind comment! Much appreciated.
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I'm not so sure, at least not as certain as I'd have preferred, but Indian & Chinese philosophies are clubbed together as distinctly separate (eastern) from Greco-European (western) philosophies and oddly, linguistically and racially Indians are closer to Europeans than to Chinese. Something's off unless...I've got the wrong end of the stick.
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Something's off unless...I've got the wrong end of the stick.
Nah, not your usual 'chasing cars and catching bumpers', Fool. :joke:
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Nah, not your usual 'chasing cars and catching bumpers', Fool. :joke:

:grin:
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'Western philosophy' which can be shortened to just 'philosophy' is the practice of using reason to find out what's true. (Anyone can do it, as it is not geographical).

The view you have expressed was defended by Parmenides and Zeno of Elea.

What rational support does it enjoy? That is, for what evidential reason do you think it is true?
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Does Western philosophy comment on Advaita specifically?
Not the tradition itself "specifically" but it seems a number of philosophies fall under the umbrella of a "nonduality" concept of dialectical monism.
If so, what is the general consensus on Advaita in Western philosophy?
I'm not aware of any if there is one. 'Duality' (dualism) predominates whether implicitly or explicitly in philosophizing (e.g. one-many, self-other, immanence-transcendence, appearance-real, existence-essence, master-slave, group-individual, sacred-profane, cultural-natural, etc).
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[???] $\rightarrow$Anthropocentrism $\rightarrow$ Animal Rights Movement$\rightarrow$ Environmental Movement $\rightarrow$ The Cosmic Perspective

[???] $\rightarrow$ Geocentrism $\rightarrow$ Copernican Revolution $\rightarrow$ Heliocentrism $\rightarrow$ The Great Debate (Astronomy)

The mind's very own inflationary model mirroring the physical universe's (The Big Bang).

We are all connected — Niel deGrasse Tyson

We are way for the cosmos to know itself — Carl Sagan

Can you make me one with everything? — Karl Stefanovic (interviewing the Dalai Lama)

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Also, I forgot to mention in my previous post that there is another school of Hindu thought called Kashmir Shaivism which is similar to Advaita in many ways, the main difference being that the phenomenal world is a direct manifestation of the divine energy of the one consciousness and not necessarily an illusion.

This is not exclusive to Kashmir Shaivism. In his commentary to the Brahma Sutra, Shankara speaks of Māyā (“Illusion”) as the creative power of Brahma, i.e., the power of the Absolute in its aspect as Ishvara or Creator God. And similar statements may be found in the Upanishads and elsewhere.

Shankara also equates Māyā with Avidya or Ajnana (Ignorance). Obviously, from the perspective of Brahma, Māyā can be neither “illusion” nor “ignorance” as it is Its own creation and Brahma is perfectly aware of it. So, Brahma is comparable to an illusionist or magician who performs a feat of magic whilst knowing perfectly well what he is doing.

From the perspective of the human soul (jiva) who is a manifestation of Brahma, the world is not an illusion either, as its experience of the world is real in every sense.

The illusion or ignorance consists in the soul thinking that the world has any existence independently of Brahma, that the world is the only reality, and its lack of knowledge of its true identity as a manifestation of Brahma.

We can see some parallels here with Platonism’s belief in the physical world as a “world of shadows” created by the Cosmic Intellect, the essential identity of the human and divine intelligence, etc.
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