The word Advaita translates to “Non-Dual”. Advaita Vedanta is nothing but the philosophy of Oneness or Monism. This philosophy says that the single reality in the world is the Brahman, which means the “Oneness”.
This Hindu philosophy came from the Upanishads and brought to the people by great scholars like Sri Adishankaracharya and Gaudapada. Advaita simply means the absence of duality between an object and subject.
The philosophy of Advaita Vedanta says that the world we see around us is only a cover, a relative reality. Brahman, which is at the base of the world, is the absolute reality. Everyone’s individual consciousness is again a relative reality, and at this moment, we are the Brahman itself.
Vedants and Upanishads
The Advaita philosophy is based on the Vedants or Upanishads. These are a part of Vedas, which are the religious scriptures of Hinduism.
The Vedanta or Upanishadic philosophy has three primary schools:
The three schools are based on the same scriptures, which are the Upanishads. The main difference between them is that they interpret the sutras of Upanishads in different forms.
Dvaita translates to Dualism. In this, God and the world are two separate existences. God is the creator of the world, and the world is the creation. They both exist separately, with God being the higher existence and the world with us, the lower existence.
Vishista-Dvaita is the pathway to Monism. Just like Dvaita, God has created the world, but he used a part of him, a part of his substance in the process. So, God and the world are not individual entities, and we are also a part of the Divine.
It is the third school of Vedanta philosophy. This school of philosophy says Brahman is the only form of reality and that the world exists in the lower level of reality. It also says the world exists as an ambiguous reality with Brahman as the root.
Brahman – The Root
The philosophy of Advaita says that the world exists only with ambiguous reality. The Brahman is at the root of the world. This makes Brahman the true reality of the world, and the reality we live in right now just an illusion.
Take an example of a burning candle. A blazing candle changes to smoke, ash and gives energy in the form of heat and light. In the beginning, the candle exists as wax, which then changes form to energy and smoke, and finally dissipates into smoke and energy.
Among all the changes the candle goes through, there is something common in all three stages. This commonality can exist as a candle alone and can also exist as ash, energy, and smoke. So, compared to this, it is true that everything in the world is just the various forms and has only relative reality.
There should be something absolute beyond all this, and that is the Brahman in the Advaita Vedanta.
Consciousness and Brahman
Just like how Brahman is related to the world, it is related to consciousness as well. Think about the individual consciousness, your thoughts, sensations, ego, etc. You cannot categorize them as absolute reality, and they do not have a unique identity.
Still, you exist, and your individuality exists. So, your existence does not rest on any temporary individual thoughts or feelings. There should be something that has an absolute reality, which is the root of our awareness.
And this unchanging root of consciousness is the Brahman.
Who Are You?
As the root of consciousness itself is the Brahman, the Advaita philosophy gives you the answer to the universal question, “Who Am I?”
According to the philosophy, the answer would be “I am Brahman”, “Aham Brahmasmi”.
In the day to day life, you identify and understand yourself with individual consciousness. The myriads of thoughts and sensations that travel through you constitute your identity. Mindlessly everyone rushes along with the flow turning blind eyes to the absolute reality.
When you sit down one day and read these thoughts and sensations, you will realize that they are temporary. And if this is going to be your identity when you live around this world, there is nothing more insubstantial.
Advaita Vedanta imparts the knowledge of how to recognize your true identity. Absolute Brahman stays at the base of the true identity. Once you open your eyes and break away from the cycle of emotions and thoughts, you will start to exist as Absolute Brahman, the true self. Follow these principles, and your life will get more uncomplicated.