We all perceive objects and beings with the senses, conceive ideas with the mind and we have an awareness of ourselves. Everything that we know and experience can be broadly brought under three – matter, mind and consciousness.
A goal of science and philosophy is to come up with a model that will explain all our experiences. The first question is, “Is there one fundamental entity of which the other two are made of?” If we assume, “No”, it is called pluralism. If we assume, “Yes”, then it is called monism. Based on what is considered as the fundamental entity, there are three monistic philosophies.
1. Matter as the fundamental entity – Chaaruvaaka (Realism)
2. Mind as the fundamental entity – Buddhism (Idealism)
3. Consciousness as the fundamental entity – Advaita Vedanta (no equivalent in Western philosophy)
Science follows realism, which is also called materialistic monism. Here matter is the fundamental entity. Mind emerges from matter. Consciousness emerges from mind. This concept is called “emergence” in Western philosophy. The concept of “emergence” is the equivalent of “superimposition” (adhyaasa) in Advaita Vedanta. So, in Realism, the mind is a superimposition on matter and consciousness is a superimposition on the mind. Similarly, in case of Idealism, matter and consciousness are superimpositions on the mind. In Advaita Vedanta, matter and mind are superimpositions on the consciousness. In all the three cases, finite individuality is only an imagination.
Now, the question as to which of these three is the reality is unprovable. So, any of them can be taken and a complete logical system can be built around it. However, if I choose realism, then “I” am reduced to a non-existent entity. If I choose idealism, then “I” am reduced to a temporary entity. If I choose Advaita Vedanta, then “I” become the Eternal Infinite Partless Conscious Existence.
Given these three choices, with no way to prove or disprove any of them, I would prefer Advaita Vedanta to science. I would prefer to exist eternally as Infinite Consciousness than not to exist at all.