Monistic Theism

June 19, 2013 Comments Off on Monistic Theism

In India’s spiritual traditions there have been for ten thousand years or more two major streams of thought, one called advaita in Sanskrit, or monism in English, and the other called dvaita or theism. Our own tradition, known by many names–monistic theism, Advaita Siddhanta, monistic Saiva Siddhanta or Advaita Ishvaravada–embraces them both fully. I discovered that the path of monism and theism is the whole of life. As my satguru explained, it is the entire path. He compared it to an orchestra and an audience. Playing in an orchestra and being in the audience are two different experiences. The audience without the orchestra is not complete. They would be just sitting hearing nothing. The orchestra without the audience is not complete. They would be entertaining no one. So it is in the plane of duality. We have to practice duality in an intelligent way. Satguru Yogaswami had the full advaitic realization of the Self, Parasiva, but at the same time he had the fullness of dvaitic devotion toward God, the Gods and his guru.

There was a Vedantin in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, who was very pompous and looked down his nose at duality and temple worship. He did not have a great relationship with Siva Yogaswami, who was always having fun with him in one way or another. One day Yogaswami saw the Vedantin in the marketplace and, coming up from behind, tapped him on the shoulder. The man spun around and asked, “Who’s there?” Yogaswami exclaimed, “What do you mean, ‘Who’s there?’ Didn’t you say there was only one!” Yogaswami had shown the Vedantin that he could not keep the top of the mountain–the highest realizations of truth–separated from the bottom of it, the day-to-day world. He was making the point that the man had reached the summit only intellectually, through reasoning out the Vedic truths. Therefore, according to the same reasoning process, he had to reject the bottom of the mountain to maintain his arguments. This is the simplistic Vedanta philosophy, sometimes called the path of words, the vak marga, expounded by people who can eloquently explain Vedanta but have had no personal spiritual experience. They have attained the power to live a completely ordinary life as philosophically perfect anava marga adepts.

By the example of his own life, Satguru Yogaswami showed that, having reached the top through realization, the seer cannot reject any part of the mountain, because he remembers his experiences at the bottom, his experiences in the middle and his experiences at the top. Yogaswami taught that we cannot reject direct experience. No one can take that away from us. It is recorded in the akasha forever. Therefore, realization is not synonymous with the word understanding.

When a musician is playing an instrument in an orchestra, he is having the experience of moving his fingers, arms and hands. The musician is hearing what he is playing and what everyone else is playing as well. Each player is realizing the unity of the entire orchestra. This is the experience of monism–that wonderful oneness. A member of the audience listening to the orchestra is not hearing just one instrument, but all playing together in unison. But he is only experiencing through his ears. That is the experience of theism–that wonderful twoness.

The orchestra can exist without the audience, but the audience cannot exist without the orchestra. That is why the monist can go on with his practices even if there is no temple close by to worship in. He can go on with his practices even without an image of God. The theist cannot do this. Without the image of God or a temple to worship within, he is lost.

Monistic theists are practical philosophers. They put the orchestra and the audience together. They have the grand experience of the fullness of life. They enjoy the top of the mountain and its bottom. They put monism into theism and bring theism into monism. They are the full persons on this planet. All the great yogis and sages wandered from temple to temple worshiping externally, and in their internal worship realized God and the Gods within themselves.
– Lesson 306 from Living with Siva, by Satguru sivaya Subrahmuniya SWami

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