I have long been a follower of Advaita Vedanta.
The major points of Advaita are:
1. Everything is connected. (traditionally Advaita, which means not-two)
2. This is connected whole is called consciousness. (traditionally: Brahman)
3. This consciousness (Brahman) is also our personal consciousness. (traditionally: atman)
4. Our personal consciousness (synonym: awareness) is what we are.
From this follows:
5. There is no separate self.
6. There being no separate self, there is no free will.
7. There is no self to suffer.
8. Realization – knowing this “deeply” – is the end of suffering.
Lately however if have begun to have doubts about Advaita.
Mainly point 3, I can’t really understand how our personal consciousness could be the substance of the universe. Part of it yes, but the same?
Practically it is usually approached as in point 4, we are our personal consciousness. So we are not our body or mind, but we are consciousness. The logic behind this is that we can perceive our body and our mind, but not consciousness itself, so it must be what we are. This doesn’t make sense to me either, I understand that we cannot reduce our self to just the body or just the mind, but why would we do this with our awareness?
Does anyone have any thoughts about this?
You might be wondering, why bother with this at all? The answer to that is, because of point 8, if suffering can be eliminated or even lessened, it would be worth it to follow this philosophy to the best of my ability.
The reason I post this here is because I want people to look at this critically. I would never get that from followers of advaitic philosophy.
Based on what I’ve gathered from wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advaita_Vedanta), it seems that what you refer to as personal consciousness means an Atman or a permanent self or soul to be merge with a Brahman the godhead or whole consciousness, at you puts it.
For better clarification, we will use the term Soul (a permanent self or an active consciousness that is compounded from past reincarnations) and we will use the term Brahman (a god, godhead or an absolute unifying being of some sort).
Given this Brahman theory exists similar to the Chinese concept of Tao, then theoretically speaking, all phenomena manifested from the Brahman to a permanent Soul is similar to all phenomena manifested from Wuji to Taiji (Yin and Yang). Thus, it is like a mother who gives birth to a child. The child would have characteristics of the mother, analogously speaking.
General awareness of an object lacks details. Personal consciousness is personal experience and not general awareness. For personal experience is totality result of the of compounded consciousness from contacting with their respective sense objects and associates with other mental faculties and processes. So in short, personal consciousness or experience gives not only the details of an object via perception, but the sense feeling and possible volitional actions.
With the general category of Samatha (calm) meditation alone, a practitioner cannot penetrate the nature of consciousness (among other objects) down to sub atomic level, which may be absent in most of if not all types of non Buddhist meditations. Only in Vipassana (clear seeing or direct seeing, aka insight) mediation founded only in Buddhism can do this.
From what I understand of Hindu teachings, there is the possibility of cessation in the cycle of rebirth (Samsara) like in Buddhism by extinguishing all desires. In Buddhism, the source of such desires is the Five Aggregates of Clinging (Five Khandhas) which is the cause of suffering (Dukkha). I’m not sure of the methodology specifically in Advaita Vedanta, but in Buddhism it is based in the Three Fold Practice from The Noble Eightfold Path (aka. The Middle Way or Middle Path).
Threefold Practice From The Noble Eightfold Path:
1. Morality, Ethical or Virtuous Conduct (Sila) (development of non dual or de-conditioning of dualism).
2. Mental Discipline or Concentration (Samadhi) (development for Samatha mediation).
3. Insight or Wisdom (Panna) (development for Vipassana mediation).
Like in the 8 steps of The Noble Eightfold Path, the Threefold Practice too overlaps one another without any linear sequence or patterns as all events and processes are never linear in nature due to the nature of many conditions involved. All paths are really preparatory stages for first Samatha mediation, then Vipassana and finally both simultaneously.
Let me know if this help you any.