What You May Believe
You may believe anything, of course. Advaita does not change that. This is not condescension. This is not: “You may believe such, but you are wrong.” This is: “You may believe such, and you are right.”
Except for one thing, and we must clear this from the table first.
Awareness does not arise within material beings. Awareness is primary. The unity of the Universe is Awareness. God as ultimate is not a being, but the totality of Awareness. The distinction may be hard to grasp. In the end, it may not matter. For God as being may “exist.” Just not as ultimate Awareness. Awareness is not a being. Awareness is not a thing. Awareness is, always has been, and always will be: Infinite and Eternal.
Advaita, the understanding of Awareness, is not a religion. Like original Buddhism, it is a philosophical understanding of enlightenment. The perception of ultimate truth as non-duality.
Awareness does not arise in material beings.
Material beings arise in and from Awareness.
Perhaps, to be more conceptually stable: Material beings arise as local constrictions of Awareness. A kind of chosen obscuration of perception into something individual and physical. And in this sense, we have God as the Creator. For such constrictions of Awareness obviously occur in levels — a hierarchy, if you will. So, there is every reason to accept the common religious belief of a Creator God who wills himself into being. The logical consequences of this are created material beings who perceive themselves as separate from their God. In truth, we are simply God seeing himself as separate from Himself.
But this comprehensive inclusion of beliefs goes well beyond this, too.
The notion of reincarnation has become subject to opinion, for some, and belief, for others. There is nothing in Advaita to dispute the issue, but every indication for how this might be.
One conceptual way to understand the hierarchies of Awareness is to think of souls and oversouls and God. Just labels, but useful descriptively. Enlightenment is the direct path to understanding. From the perspective of the individual person, however, the normal path is through experience, and experience appears to evolve in ever-rising, ever-inclusive levels. In other words, if a piece of soul incarnates as an individual, when the individual dies, he returns to soul, which is comprised of the experiences of many such individual lives. Reincarnation, seen thus, is not the living of many lives by one individual. Rather, it is the soul’s experience of living many lives as many individuals. The perception of the individual is that he has lived many lives. But the perception of the soul is that each individual life is just one-among-many of now inclusive experiences. This is the drop of sea returning to the ocean.
The notion of animal communication has also become subject to opinion, for some, and belief, for others. Again, there is nothing in Advaita to dispute the issue, but every indication for how this might be.
The conceptual way to understand the connection between species is first to see that everything is ultimately Awareness. Animals are simply a different constriction of Awareness into a different form of “being.” But animals are every bit as Aware as human beings, probably more so since they spend most of their time in the present moment, not worried for the future or regretful about the past. The Awareness that sees through an animal’s eyes is the exact same Awareness that sees through ours. Only the experiences, or the filters, are different. The eagle and the horse see the world as an eagle and a horse. The Awareness by which they see, however, is precisely the same. Obviously, this fundamental, primary Awareness, when accessed by the human, lends itself to understanding, even in human verbal terms, what an individual animal is “saying.” The only effort involved is anti-effort. The exact same unfolding of intention and attention as acquired through meditation.
The point of these examples is to show that Advaita does not advocate for belief. Advaita means only to enlighten one’s understanding. To show that specific beliefs are for the individual (group) only, but that higher understanding is universal. The truth comes in a variety of forms. As does experience. Understanding, however, is singular.
I often think this is what Julian of Norwich, the Christian mystic, meant when she revealed: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”