Dennis was an early contributor to this site and has provided support since its inception. [See the Archives for June and July, 2005.] His unparalleled grasp of the Advaita Teachings, combined with his ability to transmit the Teachings in a fashion that allows seekers to actually find, explains why so many have sought out Dennis for his directions along the “path.”
The regular postings on this site will continue tomorrow, but today, "Part Two" of a story written by Dennis will be shared. After reading the entire story and considering the pointers, you will understand why the space is being provided to share its content with the visitors to this site.
“WHAT IS ADVAITA,” PART II
“The paper aeroplane is an even simpler example. There never was an aeroplane was there? And I don’t just mean that it was only a toy. There was only ever paper. To begin with, the paper was in the form of a flat sheet for writing on. Then, I folded it in various ways so that it took on an aerodynamic shape which could fly through the air slowly. The name that we give to that form is ‘aeroplane’. When I screwed it up, the ball-shape could be thrown more accurately. ‘Aeroplane’ and ‘ball’ were names relating to particular forms of the paper but at all times, all that ever actually existed was paper.
“Now, this sort of analysis applies to every ‘thing’ that you care to think of. Look at that table over there and this chair on which you are sitting. What are they made of? You will probably say that they are wooden chairs?”
He looked at her questioningly and she nodded, knowing at the same time that he was going to contradict her.
“Well, they are made of wood certainly, but that does not mean that they are wooden chairs! On the contrary, I would say that this, that you are sitting on, is actually chairy wood, and that object over there is tably wood. What do you say to that?”
“You mean that the thing that we call ‘chair’ is just a name that we give to the wood when it is that particular shape and being used for that particular function?” she asked, with understanding beginning to dawn.
“Exactly! I couldn’t have put it better myself. It is quite possible that I could have a bag full of pieces of wood that can be slotted together in different ways so that at one time I might assemble them into something to sit upon, another time into something to put food upon and so on. We give the various forms distinct names and we forget that they are ONLY names and forms and not distinct and separate things.
“Look – here’s an apple,” he said, picking one out of the bowl on the table and casually tossing it from one hand to the other before holding it up for her to examine. “It’s round or to be more accurate, spherical; its reddish in colour and it has”, he sniffed it, “a fruity smell. No doubt if I were to bite into it, I would find it juicy and sweet.
“Now all of these – round, red, fruity, juicy, sweet – are adjectives describing the noun ‘apple.’ Or, to use more Advaitic terms, let me say that the ‘apple’ is the ‘substantive’ – the apparently real, separately existing thing – and all of the other words are ‘attributes’ of the apple – merely incidental qualities of the thing itself. Are you with me so far?”
She nodded hesitantly but, after a little reflection, more positively.
“But suppose I had carried out this analysis with the rose that we looked at a moment ago. I could have said that it was red, delicate, fragrant, thorny and so on. And we would have noted that all of those were simply attributes and that the actual existent thing, the substantive, was the rose. But then we went on to see that the rose wasn’t real at all. It was just an assemblage of petals and sepals and so on – I’m afraid I am not a botanist! In the same way, we could say that the apple consists of seeds and flesh and skin. We may not be able to put these things together into any form different from an apple but Nature can.
“If you ask a scientist what makes an apple an apple, he will probably tell you that is the particular configuration of nucleotides in the DNA or RNA of the cells. There are many different species of apple and each one will have a slight variation in the chromosomes and it is that which differentiates the species. If you want to explain to someone what the difference is between a Bramley and a Granny Smith, you will probably say something like ‘the Bramley is large and green, used mainly for cooking and is quite sharp tasting, while the Granny Smith is still green but normally much smaller and sweeter’. But these are all adjectives or attributes. What is actually different is the physical makeup of the cell nuclei.
“But, if we look at a chromosome or a strand of DNA, are we actually looking at a self-existent, separate thing? If you look very closely through an electron microscope, you find that DNA is made up of four basic units arranged in pairs in a long, spiral chain. And any one of these units is itself made up of atoms of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, again arranged in a very specific way. So even those are not separate ‘things-in-themselves’; they are names given to particular forms of other, more fundamental things.
“And so we arrive at atoms – even the ancient Greeks used to think that everything was made up of atoms. Are these the final ‘substantives’ with all of the apparent things in the world being merely attributes? Well, unfortunately not. Science has known for a long time that atoms mainly consist of empty space with electrons spinning around a central nucleus of protons and neutrons. And science has known for somewhat less time that these particles, which were once thought to be fundamental, are themselves not solid, self-existent things but are either made up of still smaller particles or are in the form of waves, merely having probabilities of existence at many different points in space.
“Still more recently, science claimed that all of the different particles are themselves made out of different combinations of just a few particles called quarks and that those are the ultimately existing things. But they have not yet progressed far enough. The simple fact of the matter is that every ‘thing’ is ultimately only an attribute, a name and form superimposed upon a more fundamental substantive. We make the mistake of thinking that there really is a table, when actually there is only wood. We make the mistake of thinking that there is really wood, when actually there is only cellulose and sugars and proteins. We make the mistake of thinking there is protein when this is only a particular combination of atoms. “Ultimately, everything in the universe is seen to be only name and form of a single substantive.
The journalist was transfixed; not exactly open-mouthed but her pencil had not moved for some time. Eventually, she asked in a small voice: “But then where do I fit into all of this?”
“Ah”, he replied. “That again depends upon what you mean by the word ‘I’. Who you think you are – ‘Sarah’ – is essentially no different from the table and chair. You are simply name and form, imposed upon the non-dual reality. Who you really are, however… well, that is quite different – you are that non-dual reality. You see, in the final analysis, there are not two things; there is only non-duality. That is the truth; that is Advaita.”
You may find more information about Dennis and his books—and you may order your copy of his latest book, Back to the Truth: 5000 Years of Advaita—@ http://www.advaita.org.uk/.