Shri Datta Swami

Posted on: 30 Mar 2021


How could Adi Shankara convince atheists that they are God in the absence of practical experience?

Note: This article is meant for intellectuals only

[An online spiritual discussion was conducted on March 27, 2021, in which several devotees participated. Some of the questions of devotees answered by Swāmi are given below.]

[Śrī Anil Antony asked: Pādanamaskāraṃ Swāmi! Śaṅkara used a simple logic to prove to atheists that God exists. He said: You are God and you exist; so, God exists. How did atheists get convinced with this logic in the absence of any practical experience that they were God? Did they practically get some mental peace or miraculous powers, at least? Without any practical experience, how did the atheists simply believe this concept, which was basically a lie meant to uplift them?]

Swāmi replied: Śaṅkara told that the world is unreal if God (or atheistic soul) withdraws His absolute existence from the world. Based on this fact, the only existing God will have absolute peace. Śaṅkara said that since world is unreal if it is isolated from God; there is no need of any miracle having its own existence if God withdraws His absolute existence from the miracle. Coming to the angle of God continuing in the world getting entertainment, Śaṅkara also said that such omnipotent God will be expressed in the atheistic soul once the soul comes out of the practical longstanding effect of self-ignorance in course of time by concentration of mind on God. Śaṅkara said that mere knowledge that soul is God can remove the theoretical phase of ignorance (Āvaraṇam), but, it cannot remove the practical phase of longstanding effective ignorance (Vikṣepa and Mala). Atheists believed this because of the experience of practical examples given by Śaṅkara. A person seeing false snake on the real rope may know that the snake is rope on hearing the truth from somebody, but, this does not remove his practical ignorance unless he himself sees it with the help of torch light. Mere knowledge can’t bring the realisation of truth (because Āvaraṇam is removed but, Vikṣepa is not removed). Even after seeing the rope with the help of torch light, the fear exists for some time in the form of shaking (because even if Āvaraṇam and Vikṣepa are removed, Vikṣepa Mala, which is the long-standing effect of ignorance, is not immediately removed). By such powerful logical examples, Śaṅkara made atheists to become theists and also advised them to become devotees to achieve God. Rāmānuja and Madhva helped such atheists turned to theists to become strong devotees to God. By this, Śaṅkara did not cheat the atheists because He made them to become theists and further to become devotees. A devotee has always the chance of becoming God if God wishes so by becoming incarnation for some good welfare of the world. The only difference in this journey of the soul in Spiritual path is that the atheist-converted-theist-converted-devotee loses his original ambition and aspiration to become God so that such devotee has a fair opportunity to become God. This is a very difficult process of transformation of the soul and naturally it will have several intellectual twists.