Intelligibility of Advaita

The problem with the advaita tradition today is its lack of intelligibility. ‘Maya’, for instance, does a tremendous lot of explanatory work, but it is hardly clear what it is; multiple concepts like ‘manas’, ‘buddhi’ and ‘chitta’ occur and we do not know how these concepts relate to each other, whether they refer, whether they are a part of psychological theorizing or merely an exercise in philosophical anthropology. It is further unclear whether they are ‘psychological faculties’ or theoretical terms. The nature of ‘atman’ is unclear: is it a physical body or non-physical body? What its relationship to the organic body? Is it a form of monism (‘everything is atman’) or dualism (‘atman is the sovereign’) or something entirely different altogether? How do these terms relate to the different forms of psychological theories we have: from commonsense psychology to cognitive science? Further, it is unclear too what gets reborn if ‘punarjanma’ means rebirth. If atman is not the organic body, is it an emergent property of the brain, or of consciousness? If not, how can it ever become ‘self-conscious’? And, of course, there is the preoccupation whether Advaita is compatible with the results of scientific research. These are merely some of the reasons why Advaita lacks intelligibility today.

[In the Middle Ages in Europe, one spoke about a “faculty of Volition” as a part of human psychological makeup. Today, no psychologist (from any research programme) speaks in terms of “faculty psychology”.]

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