Q. Are we not simultaneously a person AND everything?

Q. The thing here is… we (Brahma) incarnated on this planet as 7.4 billion people and countless animals and plants and the planet itself. Brahma chose to be us, in different bodies and different personalities and different life stories and ultimately, these bodies and personal identities will end, but while we are incarnated in our current forms, are we not looking for the “middle path” as we make our way through the world? We are individually and collectively Brahma and Atman simultaneously.

I understand and fully comprehend everything that Sri Ramana Maharishi is saying [in these quotes] . But I get the sense that you are inviting people to abandon their egoic sense of self (Atman) in favor of identifying as Brahma. The middle path IMHO is when one can hold both illusions (or ultimate truths depending upon your perspective) in mind simultaneously. When you are at work and a patient or coworker says “Dr. Tom Das” you don’t ignore them or say something confusing like “I am not this body, I am not this name, I am pure conscious awareness disguised in human form” you go ahead and answer to your name. You and other people who have experienced awakening and not ended up in a no-self dissociative state continue to have an ego. It’s how you and everyone else navigates this world. I don’t find it particularly useful to deny the continued existence of this ego.

You ARE Tom Das and simultaneously, you ARE everyone and everything and everywhere and everywhen. I don’t see the Atman / Brahman as an either/or decision. It’s NOT a case of mutually exclusive choices. We can and ideally are a mixture of both. Deny the existence of Tom Das all you want but you will still answer to your name and show up and fulfill your roles in life and at work. Repeated denials that you are Tom Das seem even sillier than an actor on the stage repeatedly telling the audience “I am not really Hamlet.”

Tom: I agree it is not about abandoning one view for another – that is more duality, more ego, more ‘me’. What you have written is also not the middle way, which is about not being attached to any conceptions of self, at least according to Nagarjuna.

The teachings, as I have explained before, are pointers that tend to aim at removing ignorance, not truths.

The view you are advocating is called Vashisthadvaita in the Vedic texts in which multiplicity is acknowledged to co-exist with Brahman, whereas the views coming from myself and Ramana in the above quotes are advaita (no multiplicity) at times and ajata (no creation) at other times.  Traditionally the non-dual teachings proceed from dvaita (duality) to vashisthadvaita, to advaita to ajata, so you will find all 4 types of expressions in the scriptures and from the sages.

Traditionally the non-dual teachings proceed from dvaita (duality) to vashisthadvaita, to advaita to ajata, so you will find all 4 types of expressions in the scriptures and from the sages.

The first 2 of the views (Dvaita and Vashisthadvaita) can be understood by the mind and seem to make sense within the subject-object reality that is imagined to be real by the ‘me’ or ‘ego’. The fact that they are understandable and they do somewhat relieve suffering makes them valuable teachings to the seeker (ego), whereas Advaita and Ajata cannot be comprehended by the mind and makes no sense to the mind which only  can think in terms of subject-object.

If everyone thinks an actor is only Hamlet, and they don’t realise he is an actor playing the role, the teaching ‘I am not Hamlet’ becomes more important, which is why these teachings tend to be emphasised. You could say I appear to be Tom Das, and there is no need to deny this, but in reality there is only the Inexpressible This.

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