In this, our fourth and final interview exploring the mysterious
Singular Absolute world of Advaita Vedanta, or teachings of absolute
nondualism, we are pleased to present an electrifying, ultimately
challenging and thoroughly provocative interview with the truly
outrageous Dr. Vijai Shankar. Who is Dr. Shankar? Well, true to his
teaching of Advaita, he refused to speak about his past (he even made
sure to tell his publicist that whatever details we did
manage to squeeze out of her, he wanted it to be absolutely clear that they had not come from him!
). Why? Because, as Dr. Shankar unselfconsciously and boldly declares, he does not exist!
Neither do any of us, for that matter.
Advaita simply tells us that the only reality, the one truth of
existence, is that there is only one Self Absolute—beyond name, beyond
form, beyond concept—the realization of which will utterly and finally
release any man or woman from the nightmare of embodied temporal
existence. It is Dr. Shankar's unwavering adherence to his realization
of his absolute nature that makes him such a remarkable example of this
uncompromising teaching. As a matter of fact, it is due to his thoroughly
uncompromising adherence to the nondual perspective of Advaita
philosophy that one could even say he is a fundamentalist! And it is
precisely because of his absolute unwillingness to admit even the
slightest trace of reality to anything
other than that nondual Absolute that we were interested in having an encounter with him—our own SELF?
—for this issue of WIE:
enlightenment? Does anybody know what they're talking about?"
You see, the most interesting and provocative question for us
in relationship to this whole question of nonduality
is precisely this: What is nonduality in relationship to enlightenment, exactly?
Does it, as classical interpretations of Advaita would tell us, completely exclude
temporal existence? Or does it, as some more modern interpretations would tell us, include
this world of time and space? Is that which is Absolute exclusive
Dr. Shankar's unrelenting insistence on the unreality of temporal
existence automatically presents some pretty challenging questions about
the very nature, meaning and purpose of embodied existence, and of the enlightened perspective itself
. If, as Dr. Shankar so passionately declares, we do not exist,
a Pandora's box of undeniably relevant questions automatically appear. For example, what is the right
relationship to embodied existence if, in fact, it does not exist? What is the wrong
relationship to embodied existence if, in fact, it does not exist? And finally, what is no
relationship to embodied existence? After all—how can you have a relationship with something that doesn't exist?
It seems to us that Advaita's insistence on the unreality of
the world presents an impossible paradox—an impossible paradox because
the very reality of embodied existence always presents very real
questions that the perspective of "unreality" in and of itself can never
We've all been inspired by the Doctor's powerful and unwavering
passion in his unequivocal insistence on the unreality of anything
other than THAT. For example, he boldly declared that this interview was
the plain white paper that it would be printed on—free from words,
concepts and opinions—would be of more value to the sincere seeker than
the interview itself. And yet, at the same time, we couldn't reconcile
the perplexing incongruity of his insistence
after the interview was over that he be able to review all of our copy! Dare we ask the inevitable question: Who
to know? And there was the remarkably challenging ordeal of negotiating
with his at times overzealous "Director of Information," who was
horrified to discover that we don't print contact information at the end
of our interviews, and therefore asked in annoyed tones, "Well, what's in it for us?"
Seeing as, once again, neither Dr. Shankar nor his representatives, nor ourselves for that matter, actually exist
what difference could it possibly make whether we printed their contact
information or not? And in any case, we had reiterated to her that we
always diligently forward inquiries that we receive about our
It is because of these and other similar, always intriguing and
ultimately unavoidable questions about the absolute nature of
enlightenment and its relationship to embodied existence that we are
pleased to present this provocative interview with the remarkable Dr.
Vijai Shankar. There is no doubt that he's for real
, but the question is: Does what he's saying make sense?
And for that matter, is Advaita a viable teaching?
Which means: Does it answer the ultimate question but still leave too
many other questions unanswered? Or does finding the answer to the
ultimate question instantly remove all other questions once and for all
and forever? You decide.
By the way, even though it's irrelevant information as far as he's
concerned, we thought that you
might be interested to know that Dr. Shankar works as a research scientist, and lives and teaches in a garage apartment-cum-ashram
called Kaivalya Shivalaya ("Abode of the Absolute"), in Galveston, Texas.
Our courageous and independently-thinking editor, Simeon Alev, took the plunge with Dr. Shankar by phone at the end of June.