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Advaita (Sanskrit a, not; dvaita, dual) is a nondual tradition from India, with Advaita Vedanta, a branch of Hinduism, as its philosophical arm. The theory was first consolidated by Sri Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century AD. Most smarthas are adherents to this theory of the nature of the soul (Brahman).
According to Ramana Maharshi, the jnani (one who has realised the Self) sees no individual ego, and does not regard himself (or anyone else) as a "doer" of actions. The state of recognition is called jnana which means "knowledge" or "wisdom" referring to the idea that in this state of being, one is constantly aware of the Self. Bob Adamson (Melbourne, Australia), once a student of Nisargadatta Maharaj, who belonged to the Navanath Sampradaya lineage, says that a 'Jnani' is the 'knowing presence' which abides with all (of us) yet this knowing is seemingly covered over by identification with the 'minds content'. Ramesh Balsekar comments that it is in order for phenomenae to occur, that the illusion of personal existence and doer-ship (ego) is present:
"Consciousness-at-rest is not aware of Itself. It becomes aware of Itself only when this sudden feeling, I-am, arises, the impersonal sense of being aware. And that is when Consciousness-at-rest becomes Consciousness-in-movement, Potential energy becomes actual energy. They are not two. Nothing separate comes out of Potential energy... That moment that science calls the Big Bang, the mystic calls the sudden arising of awareness..."
However, teachers like Adamson point to the fact that the content of the mind is known, recognized by a presence or awareness that is independent of the mind's content. Adamson teaches that we form an identity based on the content of the mind (feelings, sensations, hopes, dreams, thoughts), however our true identity or nature is that which observes all of these things - the seer, the witness or the Self.
Apophatic description of God
In negative theology, it is accepted that the Divine is ineffable, an abstract experience that can only be recognized - that is, human beings cannot describe the essence of God, and therefore all descriptions if attempted will be ultimately false and conceptualization should be avoided; in effect, it eludes definition by definition:
Neither existence nor nonexistence as we understand it applies to God, i.e., God is beyond existing or not existing. (One cannot say that God exists in the usual sense of the term; nor can we say that God is nonexistent.)
God is divinely simple. (One should not claim that God is one, or three, or any type of being. All that can be said is, whatever God is, divinity is not multiple independent beings.)
God is not ignorant. (One should not say that God is wise since that word arrogantly implies we know what "wisdom" means on a divine scale, whereas we only know what wisdom means to man.)
Likewise, God is not evil. (To say that God can be described by the word 'good' limits God to what good means to human beings.)
God is not a creation (but beyond this we do not know how God exists).
God is not conceptually definable in terms of space and location.
God is not conceptually confinable to assumptions based on time.
Even though the via negativa essentially rejects theological understanding as a path to God, some have sought to make it into an intellectual exercise, by describing God only in terms of what God is not. One problem noted with this approach, is that there seems to be no fixed basis on deciding what God is not.
Apophatic (negative) Theology
Spiritual but not Religious.
Over the past several decades, the number of people who are seeking—and finding—direct access to the mystical dimension has increased dramatically. Between 1962 and 1994, the percentage of U.S. adults who report having had “a religious or mystical experience” grew from twenty-two to thirty-three percent, and more recent polls indicate that this figure may now be as high as forty percent. While this figure would include the “conversion” experiences that are part of Baptist and other fundamentalist Christian sects, the number of Americans who identify themselves with a traditional religion has decreased, and those who check “none” when asked for a religious affiliation have doubled in the last decade. These unconventional “nones,” who, after Catholics and Baptists, are possibly the third-largest group in the country, comprise some twenty-nine million people. According to a 2001 survey, two-thirds of the “nones” believe in God, more than one-third consider themselves religious, and they buy many books on spirituality. Looking at the rise in numbers of people having spiritual experiences and the decline in traditional religious affiliation, it seems very likely that many of those who are now having mystical experiences are doing so on their own, or in unorthodox ways.