Reply To: Advaita-Samkhya-VishishtAdvaita and their compatibility with science v/s dvaita

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Ashish Dalela

As regards duality, we have to first understand what it means. The naive understanding of duality is “twoness”, but a more sophisticated understanding is antinomies.

Just like if you are trying to buy a car, then there is an antinomy between cost and features. If the car is cheap, then it lacks many features. And if all the features are there, then the car is very expensive. Now, don’t you want the car to have all the features, and yet be very low-cost? Everyone wants that. But we cannot get it in this world. Therefore, to reduce cost, we remove features, and to increase features we pay a higher price. Both are undesirable conditions, but one undesirable condition must be chosen. This choice between two bad alternatives is the true meaning of duality.

The material world is duality because every choice is a choice between two bad alternatives. If you get one thing, you will not get the opposite thing. This is the meaning of antinomy. And Advaya or Advaita means where you get both the opposite things. That is, the simplest thing is also the biggest thing; the lowest-cost thing is the most functional thing.

The Advaita system says: Let’s remove all the qualities. And that removal of all qualities is very hard. So by that effort, they get a car which has a huge cost, and zero functionality. But that is not the only understanding of Advaita. There is another meaning of Advaita in which we maximize the functionality and minimize the cost. The maximum is the whole truth, and the minimum is zero cost. This is another, superior, understanding of Advaita.

Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad-Gita: patram pushpam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayachatti. By offering a leaf, flower, fruit, or water, with bhakti, you can please Krishna. So, the cost is low: a leaf, flower, fruit, or water costs nothing. And yet, the Absolute Truth is bound by this love or devotion. Then when the Absolute Truth is pleased, then you get everything else. You can even offer this fruit, flower, water, or leaf mentally. So, it is zero cost. All that is needed is devotion. So, with zero cost, you can get everything. Therefore, this is also Advaita–there is no dichotomy between cost and functionality.

So, those who are engaged in bhakti, are not doing it whimsically. This is Krishna’s statement in Bhagavad-Gita that by offering fruit, flower, water, or leaf you can please Him. It is an easy process, and has zero cost, but it delivers the full result. The impersonalist likes to think that the full truth must be very hard, so we have to endeavor very hard to obtain liberation. But they don’t know that the full truth is easily conquered by love.

That love costs nothing, and it is the spontaneous nature of the soul. The soul wants to love, and loving is zero cost. In the material world, loving costs a lot — you have to give up so much and you get nothing in return. If you get a guest in your house, and you just give them a leaf and water, they will feel insulted. But God is not like that. He sees only the devotion. The impersonalist doesn’t understand this. He thinks that loving is bad, when only loving materialistic people is bad. God can be satisfied by just a leaf and water.

Gajendra offered a flower, and Lord Vishnu came to save him. And before that, Gajendra was struggling with the crocodile for hundreds of years. This is also our nature. We don’t want the simple solution. We want a solution where we will fight and conquer the material nature just like Gajendra wanted to conquer the crocodile by his own efforts.

So, this is the mentality of pride–I will do it myself, I don’t need anything else, and I am fully capable. If you think like that, then you use a lot of effort to get zero functionality. But it is not impossible. You can do that if you want. But it is the less intelligent option.

So, if we understand what duality means, and then what Advaita truly means, then the conclusion is not different from bhakti. But because duality is not understood, therefore, Advaita is misrepresented as physical oneness. The principle of non-duality is not wrong. It is stated all over the Vedic texts. But it is stated in a condensed form where it is not understood properly. Then some people take advantage of that summarized statement. So, the devotees are also non-dualists and they follow Advaita, but they have a different understanding of Advaita. The debate is not between Dvaita and Advaita. It is about what Advaita truly means. But since this is a deep subject, therefore, most people cannot understand it, and they try to misrepresent bhakti as Dvaita without Advaita.