[Updated on: 15-Sept-2016] - Added Q-5: Does advaita accept the existence of jIva?[Updated on: 22-June-2016] - Added Q-14: Is assuming this world as illusion or unreal enough? Does it not contradict day-2-day experience?
This page displays Queries (SankA) and it's Answers i.e. solutions (samAdhAna). Q & A are not arranged in any specific order.
We will denote Query / Question by 'Q' and answer / solution by 'A' or 'S'.
A: Yes. vidyAraNya svAmI in pancadaSI cites amrit nAda upanishad, which is of yogic nature and explains that yOga is useful for those who are not sufficiently inwardly pure and whose mind is not calm and hence hence are not able to concentrate and practice Atma-vicAra.
sadAnanda yOgindra in his vedAnta sAra describes eight limbs of yOga in brief.
Our AcArya Adi Sankara has written a gloss on patanjalI yOga sUtra by the name yOga tArAvalI. yOga is helpful to gain concentration and attain sufficient purity. haTha yOga is also practised by many in the beginning.
Q-2: In the example explaining draSya and draSTA and the difference between them, an example of rose flower is given. But it is said that since there are two objects the knower and the known, dvaita (duality) is established. Similar is the case with other examples like clay and pot , etc. How to correctly interpret an example?
A: Upadesha-s should be said and has to be understood from the perspective which makes one introvert.
kuTastha (AtmA / Brahman) is reflected in pot water and is called as chidAbhAsa (jIva). jIva spreads through the body via 72000 nADI-s. jIva with the help of mind and mind with the help of senses becomes extrovert.
Dṛṣṭi though is translated into ‘vision’ is not to be taken as just ‘vision’. By vision, we mean our ‘perception’. When we see something, say a golden brick, we add our own value to it. So Gold is not perceived just as a ‘metal’, but as ‘valuable metal’. When we see something, image gets projected inside our brain. This is called as sensation. Brain processes this image and tries to give a meaningful suggestion. This meaningful suggestion is our own suggestion based on information collected in past and our opinion attached to the information. So perception can be defined as ‘sensation + meaningful suggestion’.
According to Science, light rays fall on eye lens, are carried onto brain to form an image. This image is the cognised. However our shāshtra-s give different explanation. Mind travels up to object via senses, feels it and then projects its own opinion on the object. Shāshtra-s speak from mental level.
Sensation without meaningful suggestion makes no sense. Any sensation has to be coupled with meaningful sensation. If no meaning can be deduced, mind rejects it. For example, while walking on road, eyes see many people, but do we remember all faces? However, if we spot a known face, say our friend, we will respond to him. We not only see an image of human being, but we see our friend in it. Along with friend, we keep his nature (character or personality and behaviour towards us) in mind while dealing with him. On other words, we have ‘an opinion’ about our friend. Hence we just do not sense or see, but we ‘perceive’ in our own unique way due to unique opinion. This perception is based upon our own imagination and preconceived notions. Likewise, what may be important to one may not be important to another. Shāshtra-s call this selective perception as ‘likes and dislikes’ i.e. ‘rāga and dvesha’.
So we do not just see the object, but we perceive it. In other words, mind tries to ‘know’ the object via senses. Hence seeing (which is actually perceiving) is knowing.
There are two types of images - external and internal (inside mind)
The process of seeing or dRShTi refers to perceiving external objects. This is called as bahir draShya or external image..
sanchita Jnana is that which is already known in past. It means mental reflections present in mind. This refers to internal objects. It is called as antar draShya or images inside our mind or simply images that mind creates.
Ours is an outward journey from Brahman to jiva to mind to 5 senses. Spiritually, our journey is to go back from extrovert to introvert. Both the reflections i.e. external (outside our body - in material world) and in inside us (in our mind) are to be renounced. In other words whatever is draShya (observed) be it worldly objects or their reflection in mind, are to be renounced and mind has to be turned introvert.
This could be presented as
external objects --> internal objects --> source of both (no objects).
With this as background, lets come back to the question. As per questioner, since rose flower and observer of rose flower are two objects, duality is established and hence non-duality is falsified. another example of pot nad clay infers the same.
If we take this approach, can we reach the source of both (which is the substratum of every reflection). Always remember that vAchyArtha can be dual in nature, but laxyArtha is always non-duality. Hence what an example implies is important. For example, tat-tvam-asi on it's face value implies that are two tatva-s tat (brahman) and tvam (jIva), but it's laxyArtha is emphasized by the word 'asi' ('are'). Hence the statement indicates - 'you are that' or 'thou are that'
Hence we must interpret an example in right spirit that takes us to non-dual plane. If we keep seeing pot and clay will mind calm down and merge in source?
The focus is on clay and not the name and form which is 'pot'. brahman is sat-chit-Ananda all else consists of names and forms, which are once created and are of destructive nature. Pot in reality is clay only. It is clay that we must try to perceive.
Similarly, rose flower example is intended to teach us separation by discrimination. Object of observation is different from observer. Since you 'see' rose flower, hence you cannot be rose flower. In other words, whatever can be seen or perceived separately from yourself cannot be you.
If we take this example further from meditative POV, and take it as a mental phenomenon, we can observe that
1. Object of observation (rose flower) is different from observer.
2. After discrimination, the observer becomes a witness of object (rose flower).
3. Since there is no attachment towards rose flower, one remains detached.
4. Once object fades away, Focus shifts to the 'observer' or 'knower' or 'SAxI'.
3. One dives deep into self. What is left is just 'I'.
So this example, when taken in right spirit helps us to discriminate, be a witness of object.
S: Our intellect should be used in a way that it increases our devotion. We must have full faith in our shAstras and our guru.Being sceptical is not a solution. While not all westerners have hidden motives, some do have. Also note that meditation is extremely important. Certain things are not cleared even by shAstras. They are only cleared by personal direct experience. Inquiring about your true nature is not sceptical. It is inner exploration to find ultimate truth. Genuine doubts which are naturally created while searching for truth i.e. by doing Self Enquiry or practising neti-neti (not-this not-this theory of negation) or chanting praNava OM are addressed so that one gains clarity, better vision and proper direction on this invisible path.
Advaita is connected with last stage of life (sanyAsa ASrama). As Adi SankarAcArya in his TAi. Up. 1/11 bhASya says satyam vada, dharmam cara meaning speak truth, follow the dharma.
Sub-commentaries and further sub-commentaries / glosses on bhASya says that one must practice vedic karma-kANDa, not just once but until one is sufficiently purified. After attaining certain level of inner purification, one is taught to think in an introvert way (vAnaprastha ASrama) and then finally it is sanyAsa of mind. So mind is made introvert.
Now, while performing karma-kANDa, one must have unflinching faith in our shastras or vedas so to say. So bhakti also has to be there. Naturally one must believe in God. Advaita (and vedAnta in general), asks one to renounce these external rites, BUT NOT BHAKTI. Our faith in shastras, god and guru are still there. They need not be renounced. The base has already been setup in karma-kANDa, upon which advaita rests. Hence one cannot say that advaita is an atheist philosophy.
As on regularly performs vedic rites and rituals, faith in God increases. Sattva is born in mind and with it love for God dawns in heart of devotee. How can a path which rest on vedic karma-kANDa be an athiest philosophy?
Yes. Advaita does accept the existence of jIva. Adi Sankara in tatva bodha and other prakaraNa grantha-s have explained who is jIva i.e. characteristics of jIva. It is also explained in mANDukya kArikA 16, which is a commentary on verse 7 of mANDukya Upanishad. Here jIva is defined as the one who says - "This is 'my' father", "This is 'my' son", "This is 'my' grandson", "This is 'my' property", "This are 'my' animals". jIva, the individual soul, is subject to transmigration, is subject to cause and effect. jIva is 'sleeping' under the influence of mAyA. Here sleeping means absence of knowledge of true Self. The fourth state - turiya is ever awake and is not under the influence of cause and it's effect. jIva has been under influence from time immemorial. No one knows when jIva was born or when mAyA was born. Both are hence considered as anAdi i.e. beginningless and the phenomenon of mAyA influencing jIva or creating universe is called as anirvachaniya i.e. inexplainable. Though the ignorance is anAdi i.e. beginningless, it ends in GYAna. When a realized guru teaches the truth and jIva is awakened from sleep, it realizes it's true nature.
Accepting jIva even in advanced text like mANDukya kArikA, which expounds the highest truth and boldly says 'there is no creation' by preaching ajAti vAda accepts jIva, but only under ignorance. Like jIva the existence of jIva is accepted at vyavahArika level (for a particular class of seekers) and they both are non-existent in the fourth turiyA state.
S: The acceptance of non-difference is due to bhAga-tyAga laxaNa or jahad-ajahad-laxaNa.
ISvara = Brahman + vidyA mAyA
jIva = Brahman + avidyA mAyA
Common factor (Brahman) is accepted and uncommon factor which is vidya mAyA (in case of ISvara) and avidyA mAyA (in case of jIva) are rejected (tyAga).
The word ISvara has 6 upAdhi-s associated with it. Talking as a laymen, God or ISvara is all powerful. Rama and Krishna or Shiva all have their own typical character. We cannot equate ourselves with their character, persona, aishvarya and replicate their acts which are often called as lIlA-s (divine play).
Advaita only sees common factor Brahman in both.
ISvara will merge in Brahman at will and does not need grace of anyone.
Saying that jIva will BECOME ISvara is not correct, as here there is an a-priori of 'I' being jIva. Advaita asks one to question this very notion.
Advaita says, jIva (in reality) is Brahman
Advaita does not say, jIva becomes Brahman
Advaita does not say, jIva becomes ISvara
One does not begin to appear like 4 armed viShNu or Trident holder Siva. One does not become a viShNu or Shiva look-a-like - advaita does not speak of this type of non-difference. Name, form, character, etc are unique to each one of us. No two objects can be exactly same, not even two fruits from same stem.
All AcArya-s surrender and revere to ISvara. Kanchi Paramacharya says that without grace of mAyA, one cannot have salvation. It is a custom that whenever someone bows down to a SankarAcArya, they reciprocate it by saying nArAyaNa-nArAyaNa.
It is only the path that does not give importance to names and forms.
Advaita does accept higher authority (brahman), but in formless state.
All vedAntin-s accept bhagavad gItA as authentic scripture and as word of bhagavAn kRShNa. How is it possible that we accept bhagavAn's words but consider kRShNa as 'illusion'? Please think. However, we do not limit kRShNa to any other form of Ishvara as only having a form. Ishvara can stay in nirAkAra svarUpa (formless state). Ishvara can also arise beyond 3 guNa-s by his own will and stay as brahman. kRShNa of an advaitin is not just murlidhara kRShNa, a person, but is also nirAkAra. kRShNa is often called as lahiri (wave) - Ananda lahiri, prem lahiri and saundarya lahiri. kRSNa is beyond guNa-s as bhagavAna in gItA BG 3.28 also says 'गुणा गुणेषु वर्तन्त' 'guNA guNesu vartanta' means guNa-s act among themselves. Hence bhagavAn is beyond guNa-s and is of non-dual nature.
BG 3.28 can be explained as: The gunas of prakriti – sattva, rajas and tamas – which are the constituents of the sense organs, come in contact with the very same properties of prakriti which also constitute the object of sense. So the object and the subject come in contact with each other because of the fact that both are constituted of the same substance, prakriti – sattva, rajas, tamas.
yOgi-s gives importance to kuNDalini, while advaita considers it as an illusion and hence neglects it. This does not mean that kuNDalini of an advaitin is not activated. It is, but that part is not focused by advaitin. A yOgi / Sakta / tAntrika will intentionally arise kundalini to sahasrAra, whereas an advaitin or a bhakta will not make any special effort to arise kunDalini. It rises by herself. Until one is not beyond mAyA, one keeps experiencing what others are experiencing, but by not giving importance to experiences, one stays neutral and stable. In this way, one remains rooted in Self.
Also saying that ISvara dies is not correct. It is like saying, when snake renounces it's skin, it dies.
Adi Sankara has many times attributed his reverence to Vishnu / Krishna. In PrabOdha sudhAkara, his lesser known work, Adi Sankara says that there are two ways of worship - bhakti and Jnana. In fact he says that there are three ways to reach absolute - mind and breath control (yOga), devotional worship (upAsanA) and disassociation with non-Self through viveka.
From practical reality, we do revere all forms of God with dAsa bhAva. Only from absolute reality, we focus more on nirguNa aspect which is an adobe of peace and bliss.
Remember the example of Sun veiled by clouds? Both views, sun being veiled and sun never being veiled are true but from different standpoint.
Advaita is not atheist philosophy, one does not become a viShNu or Siva look-a-like, nor does ISvara die and ofcourse, advaita accepts ISvara. another mis-belief is that jIva dies when it merges in Ishvara (Brahman). this is not true. One does not experience death. throughout the entire process from being an observer (witness) to becoming aware of non-dual state, 'I' never cease to exist. Infact all experiences occur only because of 'I', which is consciousness. It is only we who think that we are not consciousness or that we are bound by 5 bodies and make ourselves limited. In reality, when the attachment with body, mind, intellect and ego is destroyed, 'I' is freed from being caged by them. One abides in true nature, which is non-dual. This state is indescribable, but for sake of explanation it is described.
A: Yes. Adi Sankara in his viShNu sahasranAma bhASya, while explaining meaning of attributes 27 Siva, 114 rudra, 491 maheshvara and 505 soma, explains non difference between them. While explaining 27 Siva, Adi Sankara cites Kaivalya. Up 8 to indicate non-duality of Siva and viShNu. While explaining 114 rudra, Adi Sankara cites Siva purANa to explain non-difference. Adi Sankara further says that Siva is rudra and is the cause of all (parakAraNa). For more details, please visit here
In mAyA pancakam, Adi Sankara indicates non-difference between brahma, viShNu and Siva
Bramayathi hari hara bhedha bhava,
Nagathitha ghatanaa patiyasi maya. 5
Who know that laws do not tell of the differences between Vishnu and Shiva,
Delude themselves and make them see differences in Shiva and Vishnu - 5
Similarly in praSna uttara ratna mAlikA, Adi Sanakra says
Bhagavadavataarah kashcha bhagavaan?
Q: Who is Bhagavaan?
A: The one Supreme Lord in whom Shankara and Naraayana are united.
(part of question 65)
In a lesser known work prabOdh sudhAkara, Adi SankarAcArya says that Brahman is both with with and without attributes. Our AcArya cites brihadAraNyaka upanishad (pra. su. 169-170). AcArya also cites BG 12.5.
Commenting on BG 12.5 our AcArya says that for those whose consciousness is strongly embedded in physical body, the struggle is greater. He does not say that the path is difficult for all.
In moha mudgara, popularly known as bhaja govindam, AcArya says bhaja govindam, bhaja govindam, govindam bhaja mUdhA madhe. Here the word 'mUdha' indicates the one whose consciousness is strongly embedded in physical body. In simple words, the one who considers himself as body is called as mUdha. Many wrongly translate 'mUdha' as 'fool' and some like Srila Prabhupada translates it as 'rascal'. The reason for composition of moha mudgara (Bhaja Govindam) is that once Adi Sankara saw an old man givin advaita instruction and remaining engrossed in debates. But this old man did not speak from experience. He was not detached from his own body. Instructions were purely intellectual. Hence Adi Sankara spontaneously composed Bhaja Govindam. This was in accordance with BG 12.5 and 12.6. Dry Philosophy is of no use. All AchArya-s stressed on experience than mere philosophy.
Since Adi Sankara's parents were Siva bhakta-s and Adi Sankara was a viShNu bhakta, it is evident that the equality of all forms of god is only found in smArta dharma. Adi Sankara also has to reconcile the differences in SAstra-s and harmonize them into one system, which was possible through only smArta and advaita.
polemical debates are different and teaching for masses is different. Not all want moxa (moksha), not all are inwardly pure. Not all are sincere in spiritual practices and are not ready to quit worldly desires and objects. As a jagadguu Adi Sankara had to take care of common people who are spiritually inclined to a limited degree.
From viShNu sahasranAma bhASya, it is concluded that Adi Sankara did not considered any difference between Siva and viShNu. Regarding other gods, like tripurAsundari, gaNeSa and sUrya deva, tripurAsundari (Sakti) is the main deity of Sakta-s. Similarly gaNeSa is the main deity of worship of many people. sUrya is the only deity that is visible with physical eye. Adi Sankara added the sixth deity skanda, who is very popular in south. In this way, he blended the worship of all forms of God, considering them as equal and manifestations of supreme brahman. One form of God remains central and is kept in centre. Rest four are on four sides. One member of family can have Siva as his ISTa devatA, another one viShNu, yet another one can have Sakti as his main deity of worship. Option to worship another form of Ishvara is better as each one of us has different liking, different temperament and so different mantras are suited for different people.
His independent compositions like daxaNAmurtI stotra, SivapancAxara stotra, soundarya lahiri, and other independent hymns dedicated to other devatA-s indicate that for masses he propagated smArta dharma. For a small percentage of people, who are inwardly pure due to intense meditation in this life or due to intense meditation and nitya karma, vedic karma in past life/lives, are qualified to practice the direct path - advaita, which is the highest philosophical truth, and can be directly experienced.
A: Adi Sankara established Advaita as the supreme goal, param pada. His ISTa devatA was bhagavAn viShNu, but he never denigrated status of any devatA. The word 'demi-god' gives false impression. Adi Sankara never used the word demi-god for Siva and purposefully denigrated rudra or any other form of Ishvara.
Advaita can be practically applied by only purified mind who longs only and only for liberation. For mental purity, other systems like yOga, pUjA archanA, upAsanA, visiting places of pilgrimage, doing nitya-karma, reciting veda-s, practising karma-kANDa, etc are acceptable until one attains sufficient purity to practice advaita.
Q-11: Is Advaita, as preached by Adi Sankara, a covered Buddhism? What is the difference between Buddhism and Advaita?A: Buddhism has many sub-divisions. The most similar Buddhist philosophy is shUNyavAda, as propounded by famous buddhist nAgArjuna. According to this system, Atman is nothing but void, zero state. They say Atman is non-existence. Advaita disagrees with it. According to advaita. you cannot negate your own Self. This Self is indestructible. It is none other than Brahman. advaita questions the buddhist philosophy - who is the the knower of zero state? i.e. know says that Atman is zero state? To make a statement, someone has to know this zero state. It is Atman or Brahman only. In non-dual state there is no one else to experience Atman. To preserve non-duality and to retain supremacy and eternal existence of Brahman, it is said that Brahman is indescribable. Other difference between Buddhism and Advaita is that, advaita accepts veda-s as valid supreme authority (shabda pramANa). shruti is not considered as 'asatya', as long as one is under ignorance. After entering into nirvikalpa samAdhi, one does not need veda-s. It is said in Br. Up. 4.3.22 that in deep sleep, veda-s become non-veda-s. samAdhi is beyond deep sleep. Hence veda-s are authority only until one is in duality. Everything except Brahman is non-existent in the supreme state (nirguNa Brahman). In other words, since the purpose of veda-s is fulfilled or laxyArtha of veda-s is achieved, hence they are of no use when one is established in nirguNa Brahman. As mentioned earlier, supreme eternal status of Brahman is never compromised.
Note: It is widely believed the Lord Buddha rejected veda-s. However, if we carefully understand, it is not what Lord Buddha meant. If rites, rituals, yajna-s, philosophy is what he had rejected, then he himself would not have given 8-fold path, and Buddhism would not have composed it's own sUtra-s like diamond sUtra, Heart sUtra, etc. If they had rejected Godhead, guru and dharma (dhamma), then there would have been the famous mantra - 'Buddham sharaNam gacchAmi, dhamman sharaNam gacchAmi' meaning, 'Take refuge in Buddha, take refuge in dharma'. Hence bhagavAn buddha, as an avatAra, did not descend to delude people from vedic path. We must understand that bhagavAn buddha never rejected importance of philosophy, rites and rituals, discipline, dharma, mantra chanting but the wrong intention with which they were carried out at that time. Often great saints are misunderstood. While we do not claim to understand them, we do not denigrate them.
Many talk of two Buddha-s and give various references from purANa-s and commentaries of AchArya-s. The originator of Buddhism was not the one who had incarnated to delude people.
A: When one thinks of brahma-satya-jagad-mithyA, such questions may arise. However, as we are aware, advaita accepts two levels of truths -
1. Relative Reality or lower truth
2. Absolute Reality or higher truth
Relative reality is further split into
a. Practical Reality / Empirical Reality - vyavahArika satya
b. Dream Reality - prAtibhAsika satya
Hence there are three levels of reality. Dream reality is different from practical reality. Dreams are abstract, with no connection to each other. Dreams do not continue from one night to another. Practical reality is continuous. i.e. we continue from where we had left day after day.
Rules and verses that are for absolute reality are not to be applied for practical reality. For practical reality, we advaitns follow veda-s (samhitA-s, brAhmaNa-s) and dharma smriti-s. We accept duality on this plane and act accordingly. We do not act foolishly :) . Advaitins are mentally balanced and use their common sense. But we see all this as play. Like an actor will put his heart and soul in his acting, yet he knows that he is not the character, but the 'actor', we understand from logic that we do not cling to any of the worldly issues or persons. We follow what bhagavAn says in gItA about how one should do karma.
When meditating, we try to rise above mAyA and apply all those shruti-vacana-s said from the plane of absolute reality. The separation of from our body is is experienced and this experience and other experiences like constant feeling of peace and bliss are carry forwarded after we come out of meditation and are engaged in day-2-day work. It is like charging a mobile. Charge for 1 hour and it works for 1 day. In the same way, the effect of meditation lasts the whole day, which helps you to not to get involved in any issues or in the work you are doing. On the other hand remaining alert that we do not get attached ot anything helps in meditating in better way.
bhagavAn in gItA says in chapter 14 to rise above 3 guNa-s (last few verses) and in chapter 3, it is said to be in sattva guNa and do the work.
Q-13: Advaita depicts mAyA in a 'negative way', then how is deity worship, and this world being real and praying to ISvara justified since ISvara, the creator too does not exist in nirvikalp samAdhi?
Traditional teaching of advaita is adhyAropa-apavAda, which means, (false) superimposition followed by subsequent retraction.
This can be split into two parts
2. Retraction of superimposition
Here, the creation theory is established, multiplicity nature or dual nature of this world is established. to create this world, the creator 'ISvara' who is not affected or who is in total control of mAyA is accepted. Since our mind is attached to names and forms. Praying to a name and form is acceptable. Hence glories of God are sung. When mind become sufficiently purified, then one comes to know that ISvara can exist without name and form as Brahman, which is formless and without attributes. The attributes like sat-chit-Ananda are described figuratively and not in absolute sense. One does not experience them separately. Now comes into picture the second part 'Retraction of superimposition'.
2. Retraction of superimposition
Now the search begins to know the true nature of Self. One asks the presumption does 'jiva' exists. Am I jiva? One is taught to be a witness and separate from what is not 'I'. In this process of neti-neti, all that is 'not-I' is discarded by being a witness to 'not-I'. Finally what remains is pure Self which is limitless and it is not experienced separately. There is only one tatva i.e. Brahman.
So it is in the second phase of teaching that mAyA is depicted as 'something that is negative' not in the first phase when superimposition on Self and Brahman is applied.
Even after one is Self Realized, for the good of all, a GYAnI stays in dual plane and considers himself as jIva who is powerless and is working according to the will of ISvara.
In advaita, Ego is defined as 'sense of individuality'. In jIva bhAva, though one is the servant of Lord, still one has ego. Finally the 'ego of servant' melts into oneness.
Very few attain sufficient purity to be ready for the teachings of second phase. Spirituality is not about intellectually knowing SAstra-s. Our mind should follow the direction of intellect. If one decides to renounce the attachment towards family members mentally, then mind should faithfully follow this instruction. In many cases this is not possible. Hence for the sake of devotees who have not attained sufficient purity and these are the majority of sAdhaka-s, describing mAyA as positive is justified. In this way, idol worship, deity worship, vedic rites and rituals, service to ISvara and singing his glories are all justified and accepted by advaitins. At right time, ISvara himself with inspire a matured devotee to practice advaita's philosophy of negation.
A matured advaita vedAntin will never make fun of deity worship and deity worshippers. Advaitins also experiences bhAva. Advaitin may experience kundalini Sakti, chakra- and higher worlds. S/he is taught to remain neutral and rise above it. In order to stay neutral and not get mesmerized by these divine phenomenon, kundalini, the world, mAyA etc is spoken negatively. Negating anything does not mean disrespect.
Q-14: Is assuming this world as illusion or unreal enough? Does it not contradict day-2-day experience?
In the process of neti-neti or as taught by bhagavAn in gItA chapter 13 that kshetra (field of observation, which is the world we live in or experience) is different from kshetraGYA (witness, observer known as sAkshI). There are various reasons why we must superimpose the unreality of this world firmly in our mind even though we experience this world and are affected by different situations we face in our life. Of-course, certain level of purity is necessary in order to be a witness. Just like water when mixed with milk becomes inseparable from milk, our consciousness is mixed i.e. strongly embedded, attached) to our mind, which in turn is strongly attached to 5 senses, which in turn rely on physical gross body. We must by any valid means separate this consciousness from mind, body and senses.
One way of doing it is to make our mind understand and agree that this world is unreal. This is not an assumption, but an affirmation. Affirmations are like auto suggestions which are used to marathon runners, psychiatrists, hypnotists and all those who work with subconscious mind. Suppose you have got fracture in hand. By repeatedly reminding or auto-suggesting your mind that 'I am healthy', 'my hand is healed', 'There is no more fracture in my hand', 'My hand is strong and healthy', 'I am completely healthy', etc. By daily repeating this instruction with calm mind, relaxed body without any thoughts in background and without having any doubt on affirmation whether they will work or not, one recovers very fast. This happens when the prime thought in your mind becomes 'My hand is healed' and there is no contradictory thought of failure to recover. There is no fear at the back of mind while repeating affirmations. Affirmations also must be accompanied with bhAva or emotions. Just before you go to sleep, get into sleepy state. Then with relaxed body and mind repeat affirmation 3-4 times and go to sleep. It so happens that they may continue throughout night in subconscious mind. When there are no stray thoughts, mind is calm, and thoughts are said with strong faith, they enter into subconscious mind. Once they enter subconscious mind, subconscious mind will make sure that whatever has entered inside it gets executed. Subconscious mind does not do rational thinking, yet it has 90 % power as compared to the conscious mind which has just 10 % power. Hence subconscious mind over powers conscious mind and executes what was feeded to it without discriminating.
When any thought is repeated or any action is repeated, it becomes habit. Similarly, Self Enquiry or neti neti or OM chanting becomes habit and goes on spontaneously. In this way, one can stay connected with Brahman even if one is engrossed in work. Chanting goes on in subconscious mind. As soon as one becomes free, mantra re-enters conscious mind and continues by itself without any effort on our part. Similarly, the process of removing wrong belief that 'this world is real' or 'I am body' or I am mind or I am jIva (incarnated soul) can be removed by putting right belief in subconscious mind. Hence though we experience exactly opposite, we keep affirming that this world is unreal, I am not body, mind, intellect, ego or soul, I am Brahman, unchanging, immortal, unborn supreme reality.
Subconscious mind is the key to our spiritual progress. All questions like
Why and how to prayers work?
Why prayers does not work all time?
Why we get opposite to what we pray?
How can one heal oneself very fast in half of expected time?
etc, can be answered to taking subconscious mind into account
There are other practical reason for affirming that this world is unreal. Once you mentally accept that this world is unreal and temporary, you will make every effort to remain conscious, not to get pulled into it. Mind which is supposed to control 5 senses has become their slave. Senses are directed extrovert. One sees anything when light projects on retina, is projected to brain as an inverted image. However, according to shAstra-s mind travels along with senses or via senses to the object, feels it and then infers a meaningful suggestion to it. Remember that mind and brain are different. So we must make efforts to stop mind running behind senses and its hunting for worldly object. Pull it backwards and make it stable. Then make this introvert mind merge into it's source which is Brahman. Mind itself does not have any power. It is jada (gross). Like moon it reflects the power of Atman or Brahman. When mind moves towards it's source, it merges in it. Hence in order to create dispassion we must cultivate in our mind very firmly that this world is unreal. But developing just dispassion is not enough. We need to surrender ourselves to Ishvara or Brahman and pray to take us beyond mAyA. Since one disassociates oneself from sense objects, body, mind, ego and intellect by practising dispassion, surrender to Ishvara and by being witness, this path is called as 'path of negation' by it 'neti-neti' or 'Self Enquiry'. Even by chanting OM, one is technically doing neti-neti, as one is separating or dis-associating 'I' or 'Self' (kshetraGYA) from all that is non-self (kshetra). Mind focusses on OM and later on, it searches for the origin of OM and merge in it. Origin of OM, which is turiyA avasthA or peace is nothing but Brahman.
When one becomes a witness, one gets separated from the objection of observation. When one gets attracted or associates oneself with any object, one becomes fused with it, mixes with it and considers oneself to be non-different from the object. We all unknowingly accept ourselves as 'body'. Accepting unreality and temporary nature of world helps us becomes witness to it and not get attached to it. Staying as witness increases our awareness as a separate entity then object of observation. Finally one separates from mind-body-intellect-ego-soul complex and becomes aware of non-dual Brahman. But to be a witness, mind has to stop longing for sense objects. Hence establishing unreality of this world is necessary.
We understand that there is no assumption of being 'Brahman'. Just assuming does not make one 'Brahman'. One has to realise one's true nature. Hence 'I am Brahman' or 'Brahman satya, jagat mithyA' is not just assumption, but a process of 'neti-neti' or 'the path of negation'.
If one is a doer, then one cannot be a witness. A witness cannot act, as s/he is a witness. In Gita, we are taught to be the witness. Laws of karma are for those who are doers. Hence to break free from the law of karma, one has to disassociate oneself with doership by being a witness of the karma that one does. Atman is a witness and bhagavAn in gItA BG 10.20 says 'aham AtmA ghuDhAkeSa' meaning, 'Oh Arjuna I am the Atman'. bhagavAn in gItA teaches us to be a sthita praGYa. In chapter 13, Atman is called as 'kshetraGYa', the knower of kshetra and is a witness to everything.
The law of karma is only for doer and not for non-doer (witness). bhagavAn in gITa BG 3.28 says ‘गुणा गुणेषु वर्तन्त … ।।3.28।।’ ‘guNA guNeShu vartante …’ which means 'guNa-s as senses move amidst the guNa-s as the sense-objects, and the GYAnI is is not attached, as he is the knower of guNa and karma vibhAga and is separate from gunas [by being their witness].
guNa-vibhAga means the products of prakRti which consists of the three gunas.They are the five subtle elements, mind, intellect, ego, five sensory organs, five motor organs and five objects (sound etc.) of the senses.
karma-vibhAga means the varieties of inter-actions among these.
The verse means:
He who knows the truth that the Self is entirely distinct from the three Gunas and actions does not become attached to the actions. He who knows the truth about the classification of the Gunas and their respective functions understands that the alities as sense organs move amidst the alities as sense objects. Therefore he is not attached to the actions. He knows? I am Akarta -- I am not the doer. (B.G 14.23).
In brief, Atman is the witness of everything that is happening and is separate from everything. Atman is akartA, the non-doer. Atman does not do anything.