Often times I have come across some text or some person trying to explain Advaita Vedanta and had a sense that what they are explaining is not really Advaita. The literal translation of the Sanskrit word Advaita is non-duality. One enthusiastic Yoga teacher once explained to me “Non duality means you and I are connected on some level. We are all the same.” While that may be the logical development of Advaita principle, it is not the principle itself.
The simplest explanation of Advaita Principle, the way I understand it, is as below. This is my understanding after reading “Geeta Rahasya” (Secrets of Geeta) by Lokmanya Tilak.
Normal logic -> one + one = two
Advaita logic-> one + sense of being two = two
Advaita abstracts the duality. It does not necessarily negate the duality. From the Advaita standpoint, it’s the same super being that imagines itself as divided into multiple beings. So the division, or the fragmentation is imaginary. And when that imagination, or that dream, ends, it ends in the realization of being one again. This is how Advaita reconciles the subjective experience of life we all have with the general experience in the material world that almost always what we perceive as multiple entities are just different forms or expressions of the single primal entity.
“So does it mean that we all are nothing but God/super being having multiple personality disorder according to Advaita philosophy?” you will ask.
The answer is yes, and unlike human multiple personality disorder, all these multiple personalities can be present at the same time. But we call something disorder when it interferes with what we consider living normal life. In case of the supreme being experiencing multiple personalities, it is not disorder because it does not interfere with life. In fact it constructs the interactive life, and the interactive world as we know.