MLBD (Motilal Banarsidass) Newsletter
Tat Tvam Asi (That Thou Art): The Path of Fire According to Asparsa-Yoga, by Raphael.
Delhi, 1992. viii, 122 p. Index. Rs. 150. ISBN 81-208-0934.3
This statement is contained in the Chandogya Upanishad (VI, VIII, 7) as well as in many others, and is the essence and synthesis of the teaching of Asparsa-yoga, the yoga of Non-duality.
Asparsa-yoga and therefore Advaita Vedanta is the philosophy of Identity, and it teaches that being, in its essence, is the Absolute itself. That thou art is the most profound message that the Upanishads offer to restless and striving man. Individuality is separated and until its unity is restored it is destined to live under the sway of need, devoid of Freedom. Psychological slavery may be solved once and for all only when the first cause, metaphysical ignorance (avidya), is uprooted.
This book is a dialogue between a searcher of the ultimate Truth, stifled by his sufferings, and an Asparsin. Antonio (A. in the text) has gone through every kind of experience without however finding fulfilment and a solution to his existential problems. This situation led him to the brink of suicide. Wandering through the thicket of samsaric duality he meets Raphael (R. in the text) and begins a realization training with him which gradually transfigures his restless and dissatisfied consciousness.
The Pathway of Non-Duality: Advaita-vada
Delhi, xi, 88p Index. Rs. 125 (HB). ISBN. 81-208-09297
This book is composed of a series of questions and answers regarding some aspects of Non-duality (Advaita) discussed by Raphael, a Researcher-Philosopher who has achieved Asparsa-vada (i.e., the pathway of no support) and keeping alive Advaita Tradition which has had in Gaudapada and Sankaracarya its most representative revivers both from the point of view of Realization and Doctrine. Raphael, using a conceptual methodology in keeping with the characteristics of the Western mind, elucidates the vision of Gaudapada and Sankarascarya who, solidly established in metaphysics, show how the Supreme Being is pure actuation which excludes not only multiplicity, duality and ontological unity, but also all passages from potentiality to act. They indicate the true metaphysical pathway leading to the realization of the unqualified Absolute Being.
It can be said that this doctrine, which is of a deeply philosophical and metaphysical nature, not only gives an answer that is new to the West but it also points out the pathway by which to achieve the Identity of the being with Being. Raphael, using a conceptual methodology in keeping with the characteristics of the Western mind, helps us to understand the vision of Gaudapada and Sankaracarya.
A Monthly Journal of the Ramakrishna Order. Published from Sri Ramakrishna Math, Madras 600-004, India
Volume 80 May 1993
Tat Tvam Asi (the Path of Fire according to Asparsa Yoga) 1992. Pp. 122. Rs 150.
The Pathway of Non-Duality. 1992. Pp. 88. Rs 125.
Both books by Raphael (Asram Vidya Order). Motilal Banarsidass, Bungalow Road, Jawahar Nagar, New Delhi 110 007.
These two books by Raphael form a concise introduction to Advaita Philosophy as expounded by Gaudapada and Sri Sankara. To modern students there cannot be a better guide to the Vedanta philosophy than a study of Gaudapadas Karikas and Sri Sankara commentary on them. Raphaels Tat Tvam Asi provides a lucid exposition of it in the form of a realizative dialogue between Raphael and Antonio the former playing the role of an Acarya and the latter a disciple who becomes a neophyte. The book starts with a definition of the one Reality as opposed to the empirical/relative realities, the pursuit of which has led the young disciple to the brink of despair. The sections that follow describe Saguna Brahman and Nirguna Brahman according to Advaita Vedanta and Sri Sankara, and show how non-dualism is eminently universal, taking us beyond all avidya, the state of nescience which obstructs realization.
Speaking of the special kind of yoga necessary for the realization of Nirguna Brahman (the unqualified Absolute), Raphael calls it Asparsa Yoga its exponent being Gaudapada who was inspired by the God-principle Naraya
a to write his karika-verses and add them to the Mandukya Upanishad. These verses, together with their interpretation by Sri Sankara, provide the basic text of the Asparsa Yoga.
The section on Saguna Brahman, defined as the principle-seed with indefinite expressive possibilities, and that on maya as not a substantial entity but a fleeting contradictory and impermanent datum, are not as logically/metaphysically convincing or precise as the chapters on Nirguna Brahman, and the dismissal of Evolutionism as something belonging to the world of maya is too brief and rather indecisive. It leaves out the traditional distinction between Prakrti and Paraprakrti, the different definitions of maya, and dismisses all vicara regarding the meaning and purpose of the created/evolving universe.
The sections on Traditions Jung, the Subconscious, and Transmigration reveal a sense of discrimination and clarity rare in discussions of such controversial issues and in the advice to the disciple that he should emerge from what psychology calls the collective subconsciousness and spread his wings and take to the sky towards the highest peaks of knowledge.... There are many who struggle in order to change the social structures. The disciple is advised to try to transform peoples consciousness, but this cannot be done until the disciples own consciousness is transformed. This teaching is most valuable and relevant to all of us.
The second book, The Pathway of Non-duality, takes up specific problems and issues arising from the earlier book. The most interesting chapters are surely those on Ajativada and Asparsavada, Parmenides and His Vision, The Fall of the Soul, Karma and the Siddhis. The chapter on Ajativada succinctly summarizes Gaudapadas position; the one on Parmenides shows how close Parmenides vision is to Gaudapadas. The Fall and Karma discuss in a clear way the implications of the theories. The section on Siddhis accounts for miracles performed by saints and godmen. While it questions the value of the miracles by bringing in an anecdote from the Buddha, it also explains why saints use these powers occasionally.
V. S. Seturaman
Pathway to God
The Pathway of Non-Duality: Advaita-vada by Raphael
Translated from the original Italian by Kay McCarthy: first edition 1992; Delhi Publishers: Motilal Banarsidass; Demi 1/8: pages XI +88: Price Rs. 125
This is a profound book on philosophy and metaphysics by Raphael, who is a saint and philosopher. Herein, he restates faithfully the contents of Gaudapadas Ajati-vada and Sankaras Advaita-vada, which are one and the same in import. This book is specially useful for the Westerners. Mystics of all climes and ages give out the same message though differing in various languages. Thus, as pointed out in the preface, the metaphysical conclusions of Gaudapada and Sankara were later confirmed by Orphism, Platonism, Neoplatonism, etc. These eternal truths have been restated by Raphael in the form of questions and answers.
The contents of this book are conveniently graded into fourteen sections. They start with the definitions of Dualism, Non-dualism, Monism, etc. and culminate in Maya and the discussion of the Fall of Man. The answers are comprehensive, succinct and at the same time lucid. To the Indian Mind, the book does not enlighten much, though the ideas are clear cut. Raphael declares: Between the Real and the non-real (which appears as real), stands Maya. It is sufficient to eliminate Maya to discover the sole substance that is the Supreme Reality, always identical to Itself (p. 4). Maya is defined as Prakrti, Nature, Sakti, Avidya... veiling Superimposition (p. 47) and Time-Space represents another name for Maya (p. 51).
The well-known divisions of Reality (satya) as Paramarthika, Vyavaharika and Pratibhasika are referred to by the author, who sums up Advaita as that Being and becoming are both dialectical moments of Absolute or non-qualified Supreme Reality (p. 13). He also affirms that liberation is from false representations, from the false ego... which we call Self (p. 34). The usual rope-snake illusion and the three states of waking, dream and deep sleep are effectively utilized to arrive at the Pure Being in section 7. Section 10 refers to the Fall of Man. Is he a product of evolution or involution? The answer is both. The physical body may have been evolved but the Spirit has been involved in as much as it appears as false duality. This process of scission is symbolized by Isis and Osiris in ancient Egypt and Orphism in Greece (p. 61). In the end the Karma and Siddhis also are referred to and the usual Indian view is expressed.
But for the comparative study of the world mysticism with reference to the experiencial knowledge of Plotinus, Pythagoras, Plato, Parmenides, Aristotle, etc., Raphael sounds like any Indian mystic like Suresvaracarya or Vidyaranya. After reading the book, the reader is awakened to the fact that this mystic experience of Advaita is not the monopoly of Indian Saints but it is also Universal and as such the only ultimate experience. The book is a must for every home library.
Dr. C. N. Deshpande
9, Anand Nagar Dharwad-580 007
Initiation into the Philosophy of Plato
Among the numerous books that Raphael authored, only one is explicitly dedicated to Plato; this is "Initiation into the Philosophy of Plato" (Ed. Asram Vidya, 1984; Ed. Shepheard-Walwyn, 1999). Plato and the neo-platonic school, however, are a constant reference in Raphael's work, and we find innumerable citations of them in all his other books.
Raphael considers Platonism as one of the best expressions in the West of the Metaphysics of Non-duality, as valuable as the Advaita Vedanta in India, and he often draws parallels between the two schools. We want to remind the reader that Raphael is one of the few commentators able to compare adequately the Metaphysics Tradition in the West to the Metaphysics Tradition in the East, as he has realized the deepest essence of both, going beyond notions and mere concepts. So in his books, we find that he emphasizes the many relationships that exist between Plato, Plotinous, Gaudapada, Sankara... especially with respect to the highest elements of these philosophers' thought, such as the Idea of Good and Oneness; elements that are often misunderstood or incorrectly presented by contemporary Western interpreters.
With respect to the topic we are discussing here, the Idea of Good in Plato, Raphael's comment to it represents one of the best reflections on this subject in our time; above all, his comment seems essentially in harmony with the spirit of Plato's thought. In particular, we invite the reader to meditate on the chapter titled "The One-Good as metaphysics reality".
We stress that the books authored by Raphael do not have erudition as their main goal: this, rather than being a fault, increases their value.
Associazione Filosofica Trevigiana, Notebook NO: 7/2001 - Year XXII