It is daily experience that we all are different beings , therefore scriptures will be purposeless if they taught that is very obvious. Hence, the actual meaning of scripture must be some unknown thing, that is non-difference, everything is one brahman. Therefore duality is not logical.

In simple words, we know we are different from God or brahman, why should scriptures tell the same that is known to us that 'you are not brahman'. Hence if scriptures say you are brahman, that is something new and useful.

How do non-Advaitins defend against this argument?

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    I don't understand your argument against the non-advaitins here. Can you explain it properly? Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 18:16
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    @Sarvabhouma I think at philosophical level of Hinduism this question is very clear. At the practical level we tolerate, negotiate and compromise over the claims of every sects of Hinduism to that 'one unknown Supreme being'. Commented Dec 29, 2018 at 3:37
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    It is not sound argument. Without scripture, we don't know we are soul, brahman and their attributes. Dualists don't support duality as seen in this world, but difference based on interrelations between Lord and living entity. Since this relationship is unknown, that is not an argument at all. Scripture is actually teaching that which is not known even in this case.
    – user16618
    Commented Dec 29, 2018 at 10:18
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    Your point is valid. you re basically what I m saying in this comment: hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/30105/… @krr
    – Rickross
    Commented Dec 29, 2018 at 17:50
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    deleted my previous comment because the question itself got changed significantly.The statement "we know we are different from God or brahman" is itself incomplete since it is neither obvious nor perceptionally simple. Even if we "know" that and scripture says otherwise, the real question is "how" and not that what we "knew" was wrong.
    – Ambi
    Commented Dec 30, 2018 at 2:28

2 Answers 2


I think it is a pretty simple argument to defend against.

No one knows they are different from or identical to God or brahman, because no one knows there is such a thing called God or brahman from everyday experience. "shAstrayonitvAt", says the 3rd brahmasUtra. Brahman can be known only from scripture. When brahman can be known only from scripture, how can anyone know they are same or different from brahman just from everyday experience? Scripture is not purposeless because scripture teaches brahman, which cannot be known from everyday experience. "janmAdyasya yataH", says the 2nd brahmasUtra. Brahman is that from which the origin etc. of the world proceed. It is not a matter of experience that an intelligent entity (called brahman) gives rise to the universe. If that were so, even materialists would have accepted brahman. But they do not.

Let me elaborate this further, since this question got a bounty of 50 points. Here is an imaginary discussion between a dualist and a non-dualist -

Non-dualist: We all know we are different from brahman from everyday experience. If scripture teaches us the same thing, scripture is not adding anything new to our knowledge. Scripture will become purposeless.

Dualist: We dont even know that there is such an entity called brahman from everyday experience. It is precisely because of this reason that there are atheists and agnostics. The purpose of scripture is to tell us that there is an entity called brahman who is the cause of the world etc. So your statement that we know we are different from brahman in everyday experience is incorrect, because we dont even know there is an entity called brahman from everyday experience.

Let me add a bit more to the answer. This time, I want to turn the tables on the non-dualist.

Let us leave brahman out of the picture since that part is already adequately answered above by me in my opinion. The non-dualist is also claiming that we all know we are different beings from our experience. The non-dualist is correct here. Experience shows we are all different beings. Hence scriptural interpretation cannot and should not contradict this experience. There is a well known saying that thousands of scriptural statements cannot make a black crow white. In short, scriptural statements cannot contradict experience. Therefore, thousands of scriptural statements cannot make "you" and "me" the same. The non-dualist argues that "you" and "me" are the same brahman. In doing so, the non-dualist is essentially making a black crow white. (S)he is pitting two pramANas - pratyaksha and shAstra, against each other, rather than bringing out the harmony between them.

Further addition regarding the jeeva to address a point raised in the comments -

Krishna (scripture) says - dehino 'smin yathā dehe kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā tathā dehāntara-prāptir dhīras tatra na muhyati (Bhagavad geeta 2.13).

By these statements, Krishna/scripture is pointing out the existence of an immortal jeeva even when these bodies die. Such information, is once again unavailable for perception and happily acceptable to a dualist.

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    Dear Naveen, I dont need brahma jnana or Atma jnana to know that I am different from others. Scripture is not contradicting perception. Scripture teaches us that there is brahman, which is the cause of everything, and each of us is immortal even though we take on different bodies. None of this contradicts perception. But none of this can be attained from mere perception. Hope that helps.
    – user16581
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 16:29
  • I can understand you, you are saying if scriptures say fire is cold, but we perceive fire is hot, then we should accept only the perception i.e., fire is hot but not the scripture. Similarly, if scripture say we are same, but from perception we find we are all different beings, we should only accept perception, i.e., we are all different, but not scriptures. Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 16:40
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    Dear Naveen, I am saying something different. I am saying that scripture should be interpreted in such a way that it does not contradict perception. Scripture can (and usually does) add something which is not available to perception. But nothing given by scripture can contradict perception.
    – user16581
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 16:48
  • That is what I am also saying. Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 16:48

Sankara interpreted "tat twam asi" as "you are Brahman". All the Mahavakyas are empty words if you do not realize them. The same truth is realized by many - who may use somewhat different words - Krishnamurti has said "you are the world".

Ramanuja says Brahman is your in-dweller which is essentially the same as "you are Brahman", although Vaishnavites vehemently claim a difference. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa has said Sankara is correct and Ramanuja is also correct.

In other words, although denying the Advaitists' startling claim that you are Brahman, Ramanuja is also saying something different from everyday experience - that you are (we all are) the body of God.

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    Ramanujacarya's stand on tat tvam asi does not translate to "you are brahman" in the same way as Shankaracharya's. He stand on the middle ground between Shankaracarya and Madhvacharya, using sarira-sariri bhava. Which is very different from the meaning that Shankaracharya gave to it. So, it is not simply vehement claims. Ramakrishna might have said both are correct... but one is more correct than others according to which sampradaya they are in. Happens in everything.
    – Ambi
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 16:10

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