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Advaita Worldview, The

God, World, and Humanity

Anantanand Rambachan

Publication Year: 2006

In this book, Anantanand Rambachan offers a fresh and detailed perspective on Advaita Vedaµnta, Hinduism’s most influential and revered religious tradition. Rambachan, who is both a scholar and an Advaitin, attends closely to the Upanis|ads and authentic commentaries of Såan³kara to challenge the tradition and to reconsider central aspects of its current teachings. His reconstruction and reinterpretation of Advaita focuses in particular on the nature of brahman, the status of the world in relation to brahman, and the meaning and relevance of liberation. Rambachan queries contemporary representations of an impersonal brahman and the need for popular, hierarchical distinctions such as those between a higher (paraµ) and lower (aparaµ) brahman. Such distinctions, Rambachan argues, are inconsistent with the non-dual nature of brahman and are unnecessary when brahman’s relationship with the world is correctly understood. Questioning Advaita’s traditional emphasis on renunciation and world-denial, Rambachan expands the understanding of suffering (duh|kha) and liberation (moks|a) and addresses socioeconomic as well as gender and caste inequalities. Positing that the world is a celebrative expression of God’s fullness, this book advances Advaita as a universal and uninhibited path to a liberated life committed to compassion, equality, and justice.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-ix


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pp. xi

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pp. 1-8

On the basis of a well-known principle of classification, the indigenous religious systems of India are divided into two broad categories: āstika (orthodox) and nāstika (heterodox). The criterion of orthodoxy is the acceptance of the Vedas as an authoritative source of knowledge. Among the systems that are regarded as orthodox, the Advaita tradition has perhaps exerted the most ...

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CHAPTER ONE: The Human Problem

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pp. 9-18

The Chāndogya Upanisad describes an encounter between a student named Nārada and his teacher, Sanatkumāra.1 Nārada desired religious instruction from Sanatkumāra, but the teacher requested him to describe first the various intellectual disciplines and skills that he had already acquired and mastered. Nārada went on to provide an exhaustive list that included the ...

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CHAPTER TWO: The Requirements of Discipleship

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pp. 19-30

My purpose in citing the above verse is to draw attention to the emphasis, in the Upanisads, on the appropriate mental and emotional state, along with a corpus of values, that makes learning about the nature of brahman possible. The text mentions one with a calm mind (praśāntacitta) and self-control (śamānvita). The cultivation of basic moral values is an essential prerequisite ...

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CHAPTER THREE: The Nature of the Ātman

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pp. 31-46

The basic problem of human beings, according to the Advaita Vedānta tradition, is that the experience of the finite and the satisfaction of desires for wealth and pleasure leave us wanting. Secular knowledge, as Nārada discovered, also culminates in the discontent of sorrow. Even the more intangible gains such as fame, power, and social prestige leave us with a sense of incompleteness. ...

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CHAPTER FOUR: The Source of Valid Knowledge

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pp. 47-66

In chapter 3 we discussed the Advaita understanding of the nature of the self (ātman). The ātman is self-existent awareness, limitless and non-dual. The self (ātman), in other words, is non-different from the infinite (brahman). The purpose of Advaita is to teach this identity between ātman and brahman as proclaimed in the great sentences (mahāvakyas) of the Upanisads and, in ...

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CHAPTER FIVE: Brahman as the World

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pp. 67-82

Brahman is limitless (ananta) and, since the limitless cannot be two, brahman is regarded as non-dual. The term advaita actually means “non-dual” and its use is indicative of the general preference in the Upanisads, and in the Advaita tradition, to speak about brahman by describing what it is not. Since all words have finite references, the limitless brahman cannot be directly and positively ...

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CHAPTER SIX: Brahman as God

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pp. 83-98

In the previous chapter, we considered the status of the world in relation to brahman. While the world cannot express fully the nature of brahman, it partakes in the nature of brahman and derives its value from this fact. The world is not an illusory projection of the human mind and Śankù ara does not equate it with the reality of a dream. Unlike mental illusions, which cease to exist ...

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pp. 99-116

The fundamental human problem, articulated in Advaita, is self-ignorance. The existence of the self (ātman) does not have to be established by the use of any means of valid knowledge (pramāna) since the self, as awareness, is self-revealed. The existence of the self is implied in every act of thinking, even in the act of doubting the existence of the self. “Every effort to disprove the existence ...


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pp. 117-132


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pp. 133-138


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pp. 139-145

E-ISBN-13: 9780791481318
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791468517
Print-ISBN-10: 0791468518

Page Count: 158
Publication Year: 2006