Chapter 6: Light on the Analogy of a Painted Picture
The process of the manifestation of the universe is fourfold, as there is a fourfold process in the painting of a picture. There is, first, a piece of cloth, pure in its original state. It is then coated with starch, to stiffen it into a canvas suitable for painting. The artist draws on the canvas an outline of the picture that is in his mind. Finally, the outline is filled with the necessary colour, giving it the appearance of the contemplated picture.
The universe is a vast picture painted, as it were, on the basis of Brahman. Pure Consciousness, which is the nature of Brahman, is the substratum of all things, and this may be compared to the pure cloth necessary as the background for the painting. The condition in which the projection of the universe is latently conceived and held in a seed-form, unmanifest and invisible, is the state of Isvara, where the universe is in sleep. There is a rousing from this sleep into a dreaming condition of creation in Hiranyagarbha, where faint outlines of the picture of the universe are visible, though a clear perception of it is impossible there. The colourful presentation of creation is brought into high relief in the state of Virat, where is a waking of all things into their own individualities, and where each regards oneself as a distinct entity. All manifested beings, right from the Creator to a blade of grass, animate and inanimate, exist as a graduated series of manifestations, all painted on the substratum of Brahman. Higher consciousness, lower consciousness and unconsciousness are differences introduced in the various items constituting the painted picture of the Cosmos, from the point of view of the degree in which Brahman-Consciousness is manifested in each of them. The difference in the expression of consciousness in different individuals does not mean that the individuals are really possessed of any intelligence of their own, for one and the same Consciousness is manifest in all these, in various ways, in accordance with the subtlety of the medium of expression. The intellect or the Buddhi, being a subtler medium, reflects a greater amount of consciousness than the lower kingdom, in which such a medium is absent. Just as we differentiate, artificially, the painted dresses and the painted human beings from the real cloth on which the picture is painted, we do in this world make a false distinction between the imaginary, reflected intelligence called Chidabhasa, and the real Intelligence, which is Brahman. As these reflections or Chidabhasa are different owing to the difference in the degree of intelligence manifest in them, Jivas are manifold in number, and there are countless ways of drawing a distinction between Jiva and Brahman. As the colour of the painted clothes is unwisely superimposed on the cloth-background by the observers, the individualities and the variegated world-forms are wrongly felt to be in the Brahman.
The feeling that Samsara is real, that it is intertwined with the Self, really, is the bondage of the Jiva, and this is called Avidya. The firm conviction that bondage does not belong to the Atman, that it is a phase of Jivahood or Chidabhasa, is true knowledge, and this is acquired by deep reflection. Hence one should constantly engage oneself in a thorough investigation of the nature of Isvara, Jagat, and Jiva (God, World and Soul). When there dawns the awareness that the world and Jiva are correlatives and have no independent reality or value of their own, they cancel each other, and there rises the higher knowledge of the Paramatman or the Supreme Self. Mere non-perception of the world should not be mistaken for the liberation of the Jiva. Else, there would be liberation in sleep, swoon, death and cosmic dissolution, where the world is not objectively experienced. Liberation is positive knowledge of the unreality of multiplicity, and the reality of the universal Unity. In the state of the true Knowledge the outward perception of the world need not necessarily be negatived. The appearance of the world may be there, but the feeling of its reality is not there. Such a state is called liberation-while-living (Jivanmukti).
Spiritual knowledge is of two kinds: direct and indirect. It is only in direct knowledge that contemplation and meditation reach their culmination. To know that Brahman is, is to have an indirect knowledge of it. To know that one is identical with it in actual experience, is to have a direct knowledge. Towards this end, the nature of Truth is being analysed here. (Verses 1-17)
Jiva and Kutastha
The One Truth appears to have a fourfold distinction as Kutastha, Brahman, Jiva and Isvara, even as the space contained in a jar, the vast universal space, the space reflected in the water contained in the jar, and the space reflected in the widely spread clouds in space may be distinguished from one another. Kutastha is that which is the changeless substratum of the physical and the subtle bodies which the Jiva experiences. This substratum is called the Kutastha because it is unmoving like an anvil, even while it is beaten severely. The intellect which is superimposed on the Kutastha and through which the latter is reflected, becomes the source of the appearance of the Jiva, which is so called because it infuses life into the individuality and appears to get involved in Samsara. As the space reflected in the water of a jar completely covers the real space in it, Jivahood takes the position of the Kutastha and makes it impossible for one to have a direct knowledge of the Kutastha, by mutual superimposition (Anyonya-Adhyasa) of attributes. The existence, consciousness, freedom and bliss of Kutastha are superimposed on Jivahood, and the Jiva begins to feel thereby that it exists as intelligence, freedom, bliss, and so on. Conversely, the changing characters of the Jiva, such as pain, pleasure, etc., are superimposed on the Kutastha, and one begins to feel that one has really these experiences. Thus the Jiva, getting busy with itself and its activities, forgets its own source, and knows it never in its daily life. This forgotten nature is called Mula-Avidya or the original ignorance.
Avidya exists as Avarana and Vikshepa, on account of the operation of which one makes the assertion “I do not know the Atman; and it is not there”. This is the work of the Abhana and Asatta aspects of Avarana. Though the Atman is the Centre of everyone, it is not known, and its existence is practically denied in the daily business of life. That such an Avidya exists is self-evident to everyone, though it will not stand the scrutiny of logic. The existence of Avidya is a mystery which is accepted by everyone in experience, but none can investigate into its nature, as the process of investigation, logical analysis, etc., is a working of the intellect, which itself is an outcome of Avidya. Yukti (reasoning) should be based on Sruti (scripture), logic should ground itself in intuition. Kutastha-Chaitanya or General Consciousness is not opposed to the existence of Avidya; else there would be the negation of Avidya in the state of deep sleep. Avidya has no meaning for the Atman, and hence the opposition of Avidya by the Atman has also no meaning. Avidya is dispelled by a Vritti of the mind in its cosmic form, which is called Brahmakara-Vritti, as this supreme Vritti has no other object than Brahman; it subsides after bringing about the requisite elimination and does not continue to proceed as the Vishayakara-Vritti, which has an external object correlative to it. As silverness is superimposed on the mother-of-pearl, the Chidabhasa, together with the bodies, is superimposed on the Kutastha. Here, in this superimposition of silver on nacre, the reality of nacre and its immediacy referred to as ‘thisness’ are transferred to an unreal silver, whose shining character is brought into contact with the nacre in an erroneous perception. Thisness and reality are the common features which are recognised in the silver that is not really there. Selfhood and substantiality are likewise characters of the Kutastha, which are falsely seen in the Chidabhasa. Just as the special features of nacre, such as bluish black, triangularity, etc., are completely overlooked and are not seen in the perception of it as silver, the unattached condition and the blissful nature of the Kutastha are forgotten in the mistaken notion of it as the Jiva, and vice versa. Even as what is superimposed on nacre is called silver, here, in our own case, what is superimposed on the Kutastha goes by the name of ‘Aham’ or ‘I’-ness. By seeing merely the ‘this’-ness of nacre, one wrongly feels that it is silver. And while, in fact, there is only the experience of Kutastha, one mistakes it for ‘I’-ness or ‘ Ahamta’.
In the observation this silver, ‘thisness’ and silver are two different things. So also, Selfhood and ‘I’-ness are different from each other in the feeling: “I am”. The general and the special features are not to be confused with each other, and the ‘Self’ is an invariable concomitant in such common usages as “Devadatta himself is going”; “you yourself may see”; “I myself will not be able to do this”, etc. The term ‘Self’ that is used here is a general feature in all cases, as in such statements like, “this is silver”, “this is cloth”, etc., where thisness refers to the common feature in things. The Selfhood of things is the Kutastha, and it is their reality; particularities like ‘I’-ness etc. are special features which are different from Selfhood. The Self is other than all sense of objectivity.
Though it is a fact that the Self is present, as far as we know, only in what we call a sentient being, we, in our language, use the word ‘Self’ even when referring to insentient objects like a pot. In such statements as ‘a pot by itself has no consciousness’, we unconsciously introduce selfhood into the pot, though the pot has no consciousness and has thus no characteristics of Self. But the Self or the Atman is not only consciousness but also existence. When we say a pot exists, we say the least that can be said about it, viz., that it is. We also mean thereby that it is real, because the unreal is not; but the real is not capable of being seen as an object outside consciousness; yet we affirm that an object is. Here the mistake that we commit is that we combine in perception existence or the reality of the Atman and a special property which we term objectness, but we cannot see that we are making this mistake; and if only we could see it, we would not see the world as it is. We would then begin to see the luminous substratum of things, which cannot be called an object at all. In the perception of an object like a pot, the existence-aspect of Brahman is revealed, and it is this that makes us say that pot is there. It does not matter if the pot has no consciousness. It has existence, and this is enough to give it the character of reality. Reality is not merely consciousness without existence, but consciousness with existence, in such a manner that the one cannot be distinguished from the other. The appearance or the non appearance of Chidabhasa is the cause of our bringing in a distinction between the sentient and the non-sentient. As Chidabhasa is superimposed on the Atman, the objectness of the pot is also superimposed on it in a like manner. There is a universal background of things, on which appear the subject as well as the object, both of which are superimposed on it. The term ‘Self’ which we use to indicate the general feature in all things is different from the meanings of such terms as ‘this’ and ‘that’ etc., which are also, apparently, invariable concomitants of substantives. For the former is exclusive of all objective element in experience, while the latter merely indicate the exclusiveness of things or the difference of one thing from another, and do not signify ‘Selfhood’. The Self is not an adjective qualifying itself, and it does not demonstrate anything other than itself, not does it distinguish itself from itself, while such words as ‘this’, ‘that’, etc., do indicate such distinction. This and That, Self and non-Self, I and you, etc. are exclusive of each other, but the Atman is not exclusive, except in the sense that it stands opposed to all attempts at objectivising Reality.
The Self is set in opposition to the notion of all objectivity, because it is never objectified in experience. To it, everything objective is outside reality, as the feeling of ‘I’-ness in the individual regards all other things in the world as outside its reality. The sense of ‘I’-ness in the Jiva is falsely taken as a centre of consciousness, and all other things known by it are regarded as objects merely instrumental in bringing about experience in the former. Though ‘I’-ness assumes selfhood so far as its experiences are concerned and considers the world as an object to it, the ‘I’-ness itself is an object from the point of view of the Atman. The ‘I’-ness may falsely regard itself as a conscious principle, but from the standpoint of the Atman it is not consciousness-in-itself. The ego is objective to the Atman. ‘I’-ness and Self are different from each other, as silver and nacre are different in the analogy cited. This intrinsic superimposition, called Tadatmya-Adhyasa, between the Chidabhasa and Kutastha is responsible for the confused form of experience as conscious individuality. Avidya is the cause of all these, and when Vidya dawns Avidya is destroyed. However, the effect of Avidya may persist for sometime, though the cause is removed by Jnana. In the case of the Jnanin the Bhramaja-Adhyasa or the misconception consequent upon false identification of the Kutastha with Chidabhasa, and vice versa, is cut off, due to which he will not have any further birth. But the Sahaja-Adhyasa or the natural error of identifying the Chidabhasa with Ahamkara (ego), and vice versa, as also the Karmaja-Adhyasa or the identification of the ego with the body, and vice versa, will persist. The Sanchita-Karma or the result of actions done in the past, but not manifested in experience yet, and Agami-Karma or the result of actions performed during the present life, do not, in the case of a Jnanin, bring about any reaction in the form of rebirth, etc. But the Prarabdha-Karma, or that portion of the Sanchita-Karma which has been allotted for experience in a particular span of life, has to be undergone until its momentum is exhausted, whether the Jnanin feels the working of the Prarabdha or not. The Chhandogya Upanishad (Ch.VI.) testifies to the operation of Prarabdha in a Jnanin. It is reasonable, as it is possible, for a momentum to continue even while its cause has ceased to operate. This is also corroborated by the saints who have given expression to such experiences. (Verses 18-56)
Different Views of the Self
The varieties of non-perception of Truth have resulted in various doctrines of the nature of the Self. The Lokayatas or Charvakas, the Indian materialists, consider the visible as real. Inasmuch as the objects and the body alone are visible, nothing above these is regarded by them as real. They hold on mainly to perception as the main proof of knowledge, and consider the real to be that which is perceived by the senses. The object which is made up of five elements is held by them to be the true self, and they cannot envisage any other state of liberation than the death of the body. The famous Virochana of the Chhandogya Upanishad is supposed to be the initiator of this doctrine.
Another school of Charvakas began to feel that the body without sensations has no life, and hence the senses are the self. As we have a direct, personal awareness of the senses, they are we. The senses are more important than merely the physical elements. Those who have pondered over the activities of the Prana and noted that the senses are directed by it, consider the Prana to be superior, and infer that it functions even if the senses may vanish. The Prana operates even in the state of deep sleep. The supremacy of the Prana over the senses is heard of even in the scriptures. Hence, that Prana is the self is the doctrine of the Upasakas of Prana.
The mind considers the functions of even the Prana. The Prana does not enjoy or experience anything. It knows nothing even if it functions in the deep sleep of the Jiva. It is also heard that the mind alone is the cause of the bondage and liberation of the Jiva. The mind knows what the Prana does not. Hence one of the schools hold that mind should be regarded as the self.
The Vijnanavadins go higher, and for them the Vijnana or intellect is the self. It has its primary source in the Alayavijnana, the reservoir of consciousness. This Vijnana is Kshanika or momentary, and is made up of bits of process, one different from the other, but having the semblance of continuity due to the Samskaras or impressions generated and left behind by every momentary phase. The Vijnana constitutes the sense of the ‘I’, while the Manas or the mind denotes the sense of ‘this’ in cognition. The Vijnana is the source of the ‘I’-consciousness, and is the origin of the mental Vrittis, which contact objects outside. There is no outward perception without a presupposition of the ‘I’, and this ‘I’ is the Vijnana. There is birth and death of Vijnana every moment, and its unity is similar to the continuity of the flame of a lamp. It is not one mass, but is made up of several parts, though it has the appearance of the whole. This Vijnana is the transmigrating Jiva.
As in the case of a pot illumined by sunlight, the light and the pot are indistinguishable to non discriminate persons, and yet the light and the pot are two different things; so, also, the procession of bits of intellectual impressions is different from the basic consciousness that is underlying it, though, to a nondiscriminating Jiva, the two appear to be the same. The intellect is, thus, not the Atman. The scripture refers to the intellect as the charioteer (Sarathi) and not the lord of the chariot (Rathi). Moreover, if the Atman were a momentary consciousness, as the Vijnanavadins hold, one would not remember even one’s having taken food a little before. The theory of Pratyabhijna or a series of understandings, one preceding the other, is untenable, as it would lead to an unending regression of consciousness behind consciousness. There cannot be a mere series without a substratum. The assumption that Samskaras or impressions of Vijnana can be identified with the Atman would lead to petitio principii (Atmasraya), since Samskaras would depend on Vijnana as their basis, and the latter again on the former for its existence. The Atman, therefore, is above all processes of understanding or intellectual becoming.
The Madhyamikas urge that Vijnana is momentary like the flash of a lightning or the rending of a cloud, or the winking of the eye. There is no permanency in the Vijnana, and consequently there is no substantiality in what is perceived. The whole universe is a series of phenomena appearing on void, and the world of contact between the seer and the seen is unreal due to the impermanency of the contact and the momentariness of all things. This doctrine of the Madhyamikas, however, is untenable, because one cannot imagine even delusion or phenomena unless there is an underlying basis. Moreover, even void cannot be known if there is no witness of it as a conscious observer. We cannot conceive of an unknown void. The existence of Atman, cannot therefore, be ever doubted.
The Naiyayikas and the Prabhakara-Mimamsakas consider that the Anandamaya-Atman is the real self, as it persists even in transmigration, and there is, in its experience, a sense of some existence, though indeterminate.
There is also difference of opinion regarding the size of the Atman. Some think that the Atman is atomic in size, because it is said to pervade even the minutest nerve-current (Nadi), and one of the Upanishads makes mention of the Jiva to be as subtle as the hundredth part of a hair divided hundredfold. There are also other references in the Upanishads to the effect that the Atman is subtle and minute, and incapable of perception. This makes some opine that the Atman is of the size of an atom.
The school of the Jainas, called Digambaras, feels that an atomic Atman cannot pervade the whole body, and so it is of the size of the body. It is seen that consciousness pervades the whole body and the Upanishads also mention this fact. The Digambaras conclude that the Atman is medium in size and it can pervade even the subtle Nadis, as we thrust our hands into the sleeves of a shirt. The Atman can assume a bigger size when it enters a big body and a smaller one when it enters a smaller body by an expansion and contraction of its parts. Now this doctrine is defective, because the Atman cannot be said to have parts, and there can be no contraction or expansion of it to suit the size of the body. That which has parts would be perishable like any other body in the world; and if the Atman is to be perishable, there would be no rule regarding virtue or vice, good or bad, and the world would be a chaos. The conclusive doctrine is that the Atman is universal and absolute, not atomic or medium in size. It is all pervading and partless, indivisible and eternal.
With regard to the essential nature of the Atman, there is, again, a difference of opinion. The Naiyayikas and Prabhakara-Mimamsakas think that the Atman is unconscious essentially, is a substance like ether, having the quality of consciousness inherent in it, as sound is the property of ether. They also assume that the Atman has other qualities like desire, hatred, effort, virtue, vice, pleasure, pain, and their impressions. Consciousness, and the other qualities, are, according to them, the result of the contact of the Atman with the mind, which is brought about by the operation of Adrishta or the invisible potency of previous action. When the potency subsides, there is unconsciousness, as in sleep; when the potency is activised, there is consciousness. The Atman is held to be an agent of actions and experiencer of pleasure and pain, which are caused by the effect of past deeds.
The Bhatta school of Mimamsa considers that the Atman is both conscious and unconscious, and the above-mentioned qualities inhere in it. It is unconscious because it has no experience in sleep. It is conscious because this is inferred after one’s awakening from sleep. They compare the Atman to a firefly which may flash light or withdraw it on different occasions. The Sankhya repudiates this doctrine and holds on to the theory of a universal conscious Purusha or Atman, and posits an opposite principle called Prakriti, which is unconscious in nature.
The Sankhya holds that Purushas are many in number, each being infinite and intelligent. Prakriti is inert and is an eternal principle like Purusha. The function of Prakriti is to bring about conditions for the experience of Purusha, and create for it a training ground, towards its final liberation. Bondage is the non-discrimination on the part of Purusha as regards its true relation to Prakriti. Liberation is this discrimination. The Purusha, when it rests on it own essential nature, attains Moksha. The existence of Purusha and Prakriti is known from the Sruti. (Verses 57-101)
Isvara or the Universal God
The Yoga doctrine feels the necessity for an Isvara, inasmuch as Purusha and Prakriti, alone, cannot, by mutual contact and non-contact, explain the law and justice operating in the world, for there would be none to dispense the deserts of the Purusha if they are let free to themselves. There should be, therefore, an over-all, regulating law, above Purusha and Prakriti. This is the Isvara of the Yoga school.
The Sruti (Antaryami-Brahmana) is in support of the Yoga in advancing the doctrine of Isvara, but we have different schools of thought defining Isvara in various ways. The Yoga defines Isvara as a special kind of Purusha who is unaffected by anything, therefore untouched by afflictions, Karma, their fruits and their impressions. He is unattached consciousness. Though He is untouched, He is the ruler of the universe, because on the non-acceptance of such a ruler of all things, there would be confusion, and there would be no arrangement for the liberation of the Jivas from the state of bondage. The Upanishad refers to the existence of Isvara when it states that ‘due to His fear’ everything functions everywhere. Though the Jiva also is untouched and untainted consciousness, essentially, like Isvara, it gets into bondage by a mistaken notion of the identity of itself with Prakriti.
The Naiyayikas or the logical schoolmen feel that a completely detached Isvara cannot have rulership over the world. So they attribute to Him qualities like eternal knowledge, eternal effort, and eternal desire. “His desire is truth; His volition is truth,” says the Upanishad. Isvara is a special Purusha, on account of these attributes.
The worshippers of Hiranyagarbha think that if Isvara in His original state were to be the Creator, there would be perpetual creation due to His permanent contact with all things. Hence, it should be regarded that He is Creator only in a state of Hiranyagarbha with a Universal Subtle Body, and not otherwise. In the Udgitha Brahmana of the Upanishad the glory of Hiranyagarbha is sung abundantly. Though Hiranyagarbha has a subtle body, he is above Jivahood because of his universality, and so above Karma and its fruits. Some think that without a gross body there cannot be even an idea of the subtle body. Hence the Virat or the Cosmic Body spreading everywhere, alone, is to be considered as the real Creator and not Hiranyagarbha. The Rigveda and other scriptures corroborate this view when they say that the Purusha is thousand-headed, thousand-eyed, all-seeing, etc.
As it is difficult to conceive of Virat in His essential nature as Creator due to His being inside and outside, equally, Brahma, described in the Puranas, is to be considered as creator, in the opinion of the Upasakas of Brahma. The Vaishnavas regard Vishnu as supreme since even Brahma came out of his navel, according to the Puranas. The Saivas regard Siva as supreme, and quote the instance from the Puranas, where it is said that Vishnu and Brahma could not fathom the depths of Siva. The worshippers of Ganesa think that he is supreme, as even Siva worshipped him while engaged in the destruction of the Tripuras.
Thus, there are countless views of Isvara from the points of view of different Jivas in different levels of evolution, looking at Isvara from particular angles. Right from the Upanishad concept of Isvara, down to such deities as trees and stones, there are religious beliefs and worships, covering a wide range. The truth, however, is that Isvara is the Absolute Individual, including even space and time within himself, and operating both as the instrumental and material cause of creation, with His power called Maya. Maya is inseparable from the one who wields it. Everything is strung in the body of Isvara, as beads in a thread, and He exists supreme above all things like a magician who is untouched by the magic he displays. From this standpoint of Isvara, as the all inclusive whole, every special form of worship has a truth in it, and meaning, since Isvara is everywhere, and is everything.
The nature of Maya, taken independently, is inscrutable. In the Tapaniya Upanishad it is described as Jada (inert) and Mohatmaka (delusive). Its existence is proved by the personal experience, in everyone, of having a sufficient knowledge in regard to it. The inertness of Maya is that which we see in things like an earthen pot; delusion is that wherein the intellect gets stultified and cannot understand anything. For the ordinary people of the world, Maya is a reality, because it projects this world which is clearly seen by them as a fact; but to the logical mind, or the philosophical intellect, it is a mystery, because it cannot be said to be either non-existent (due to its appearance) or existent (due to its ultimate negation in Brahman). It is real from the point of view of popular common sense, inscrutable from the point of view of logical philosophy, and unreal to the illumined sage. It is seen in three different ways from three levels of evolution. The dependence of Maya is seen from the fact of its being impossible where there is no consciousness. It has also a semblance of independence as it manages somehow to present a world to the untainted consciousness. It manifests a world to the unattached Kutastha, and brings about a distinction between Iswara and jiva by manifesting itself cosmically as well as individually. The wonder is that it does not affect the Kutastha, and yet appears to involve it in world- experience. The world appears to be ‘there’, but is yet inexplicable. The very meaning of Maya is that it can effect marvels and bring about events and occurrences which are usually impossible. The intellect of the Jiva gets divided here, and the only thing open to it is to conclude that mystery is perhaps the stuff of Maya, as liquidity is the nature of water, heat of fire, hardness of stone etc. It intrigues a person, who is involved in it. It is known to be unsubstantial when the light of Brahman reveals itself. No question in regard to Maya will bring a satisfactory answer, because the very nature of Maya is a question as to the origin of things. Maya is a query and a wonder, not a subject for logical scrutiny or empirical observation. The solution lies only in the cessation of the intellect, in the subsiding of all interrogation, and the effacement of individuality in the greatest wonder of Brahman. Sincere seekers, therefore, should not worry themselves as to the origin of Maya and its nature, but endeavour hard in finding ways and means of attaining freedom from it. The answer to the question of Maya lies only in the experience of Brahman. There are explanations and statements satisfying the intellect open to a certain limit, but there is a point reaching which the intellect turns back baffled, and where it finds itself confronted by a mighty wall of ignorance. How did life originate? How did consciousness enter the individual? How is a large tree contained in a small seed? These are questions which the intellect cannot answer. It is wrong on the part of anyone to enter into discussions and arguments in regard to transcendental mysteries, knowing well that such arguments reach their fulfilment and obtain their answer only in the utter surrender of one’s individuality in the Absolute. Logical definitions and affirmations are circumscribed by the empirical categories of space, time and causality, and these assertions can be faced with counter-statements in a world of relativity. The wonder of creation is so tremendous to the mind of man, that he cannot even approach it. The wisest position would be to recognise that the true insight lies in real humility before the marvel of Brahman, and a sincere effort to realise it in one’s own experience.
The seed of Maya is present in the Jiva as the Anandamaya experienced in sleep, from which rises the tree of dream and waking life. In the condition of sleep are hidden the impressions of all relativistic existence. The Universe is subtly submerged in the state of Isvara. The sumtotal of experiential impressions manifest through the intellects of the Jivas becomes the medium of the reflection of Consciousness as Isvara, like the indistinct appearance of the sky through the widespread clouds.
The existence of Isvara is to be inferred in the same manner as we infer a reflection of space through the clouds. The subtle impressions of the intellects (Buddhis) are embedded in the Cosmic Anandamaya or Isvara, as drops of water exist in the clouds. It is the Anandamaya that sprouts as the Buddhi, both cosmically and individually. Jiva and Isvara appear due to the twofold activity of Prakriti as Avidya and Maya, respectively. Maya is like clouds, the psychic impressions like the particles constituting them, Isvara like the ether reflected in them. Isvara is extolled in the Vedas and Vedantas as Mahesvara (Overlord), Antaryami (Inner Controller), Sarvajana (All-knower) and Jagad-Yoni (Seed of the World). Isvara is the Lord of all, by His being the Self of all, and He has control over them, not by the exercise of an external power, but by the regulation of the very substance of them all. His knowledge of all beings is not mediate knowledge (Paroksha Jnana), as it is in the case of the Jivas. His knowledge is immediate realisation (Aparoksha Anubhava) of the essence of all things, both in their generality and particularity. What Isvara creates by His Will, Jivas cannot change by their efforts. The activity of the Jiva is regulated by the Will of Isvara and the effort of the former is nothing but its personal notion of the manner in which Isvara’s Will works through it. The seeds of all Jivas exist in the body of Isvara, and so He is, naturally, the sole Creator of the universe, which is the universal psychic impressions objectified for the experiences of the Jivas that are in Him as parts of a whole. The Jiva has no omniscience, due to its knowledge being exteriorised (Paroksha), and so far as the Jiva is concerned, Isvara is a matter of inference and omniscience an article of faith. In the Antaryami Brahmana, Isvara is extolled as the Inner Ruler of all beings. He is called Antaryami or Inner Regulator and Controller, because He exists within all things as an invisible being and yet the indispensable existence. The Upanishad says that Isvara is seated in the Buddhi, and is within it. The Buddhi does not know Him. The Buddhi is His body. He controls the Buddhi from within, and He is the material substance of all things, right from the intellect to the physical sheath, as threads are the sole material of cloth. Isvara is, therefore, present everywhere. Internal to the cloth is the thread; internal to the thread is the fibre; and thus, if we go on continuing our analysis of the internal stuff of the substance, until its ultimate limit is reached, we would end in Isvara. We may be aware here of one or two layers that present themselves before our eyes, but His inmost being cannot be seen. This can be known only through the teaching of the scripture and in direct insight. As cloth may be said to be the body of the threads, the universe is the body of Isvara, for He exists as all things. As the contraction, expansion, motion, etc. of the threads would immediately bring about a corresponding change in the cloth, so is the world entirely determined by the Will of Isvara, and nothing is independent of Him. The materialsation of His Will is the Cosmos, and as He directs it, so shall it be. The Bhagavadgita refers to this control of Isvara over all the Jivas, in whom He is seated, and whom He revolves, as if mounted on a machine. Here the Jivas are to be understood in the sense of the Vijnanamaya elements or the principles of intellectual intelligence, which have their roots in the Anandamaya, of which the ultimate substance is Isvara, and any modification in His Will, ought naturally to determine the modifications in all the individual wills of the Jivas.
The machine (Yantra) that is referred to in this verse of the Bhagavadgita, is the body on which the Jiva is mounted by means of the Ahamkara or ego. The term, ‘revolving,’ mentioned in this verse, refers to the involvement of the Jivas in good and bad deeds, through the ego. It is Isvara who ultimately directs the course of the actions of the Jivas, and makes them proceed along particular lines, though by a false consciousness of agency in action, the latter get bound to Samsara. The self-development in the constitution of the body of Isvara, due to His own Power, compels the Jivas to change accordingly, and this is what is meant by ‘revolving’ them by their individual egoities. This is also the control that Isvara exercises on everything in creation.
People are not wanting in this world, who feel that they know what is right, but cannot do it, and know what is wrong, but cannot desist from it. There is a force above the Jivas, over which they have no control. This does not mean that there is no such thing as free-will in the case of the Jivas, because Isvara Himself appears as free-will, the only difference being that the Jivas do not know that it is Isvara alone who is working from within. Thus free-will does not detract from Isvara’s omnipotence. And by this knowledge the supremacy of Isvara and the unattached nature of the Atman in the Jiva are established, and when this truth is deeply felt by the Jiva, within, its liberation is assured. This is strongly advocated in the Srutis and Smritis, which are the Divine Words of God conveyed through the intuition and inspiration of seers and saints.
The Upanishad refers to the overlordship of Isvara when it declares that by fear of Him everything moves and works. He is, thus, the regulating law from without (Sarvesvara) and the controlling power from within (Antaryami).
In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, sage Yajnavalkya says that by the command of this Imperishable Being the sun and the moon stand apart, and so on. The Upanishad also mentions that this Being is the Supreme immanent Ruler of everyone. Isvara is the source of all creation, as everything originates from Him and returns to Him. The origin of things is nothing but their unfoldment or manifestation, and their return is the involution by the Will of Isvara. The pattern of creation in any particular cycle depends upon the nature of the collective totality of the Karmas of the Jivas to be manifested in that cycle, though the motive force of this creation is Isvara Himself. When there is complete fructification of the Karmas meant for experience in a particular cycle, there is dissolution, and the involvement of the Jivas in the body of Isvara. Creation and dissolution may be compared to day and night, waking and sleeping, opening and closing of eye-lids, thinking and being silent, and the like.
In the creation of the world by Isvara, the questions of Arambhavada or creation of a new effect from a different cause, or Parinamavada or transformation of the constitution of the cause into the effect, do not arise. The world is not a new effect that is produced out of a cause different from it, nor is it transformation of the cause with a change undergone in its being. The non-dual and partless nature of Brahman repudiates these possibilities. Creation is an appearance (Vivarta), as silver appears in mother-of-pearl, or a snake appears in a rope in indistinct light. The conscious (Jiva) and unconscious (material) evolutes in creation are on account of the predominance of the Chidabhasa or Prakriti in certain things. Isvara is commonly present in all, though in certain beings, one or two Gunas of Prakriti alone, are revealed, or all are revealed. It is sometimes held that Brahman is the origin of this world, directly, as when the Sruti says that Brahman which is truth, knowledge and infinity, is the source of Akasa, Vayu, Agni, etc. There is a mutual superimposition of attributes when Brahman and Isvara are thus regarded as non-distinct and consequently Brahman is considered to be the Creator of this world. However, on a careful investigation, we understand that Brahman, in its pristine purity, is utterly unattached, and Isvara, endowed with the power of Maya is the direct cause of creation. There is, in fact, no necessity to engage oneself in any argumentation in regard to the relation subsisting between Isvara and Brahman, since from the standpoint of Brahman, there is neither creation nor the world, and the explanation of the process of creation is afforded only to the Jivas who consider the world as real and creation as a fact. The creation-theory is a help to the Jiva in understanding the all-pervading nature of Reality, and the necessity to realise its identity with it. Brahman and Isvara are one, as the pure canvas is one with that stiffened with starch.
Referring to the creation theory, the Upanishad tells us that Isvara, in the beginning of things, willed to be many, and this primary Will of Isvara took the form of a subtle manifestation of the cosmos as Hiranyagarbha, as the condition of sleep may give rise to the perception of dream. From one point of view, creation is simultaneous (Yugapat-Srishti), inasmuch as there is a sudden illumination of things by primeval ideation of Isvara, and the Jivas all begin to feel their own individulaised conditions as they were at the time of the conclusion of the previous cycle (Kalpa). There is, then, subsequently evolution of things systematically from the lower to the higher in different levels, and hence, from another point of view, creation is a gradual and successive process of one following another (Krama-Srishti). The scripture supports both these views. Our dreams corroborate this reasoning.
Hiranyagarbha, who is an appearance of Isvara, has the feeling of ‘I-ness’ in regard to all the individual subtle bodies, with whom He is one. He is therefore the cosmic subtle body, with omniscience and omnipotence. In Him the universe appears indistinctly, as if in twilight, or in dusk, and in Him slight outlines of the future creation become visible, as we can have a faint idea of the picture to be painted from the outlines drawn on the canvas treated with starch. Hiranyagarbha is the sprout of the world, germinating from the seed of Isvara. In Virat, however, creation becomes complete and shines clear and distinct, as the world seen in bright day-light, as a picture beheld when the work of painting is completed, as a plant that has grown into a tree. The Vedas speak of the grandeur and greatness of the Virat Purusha, in the Purusha-Sukta, and in the chapter on Visvarupa.
All things, beginning with the creator down to the inanimate matter, constitute the limbs in the body of this Great Being. It is thus possible to visualise and worship Isvara in any thing, for He is everything:- Isvara, Hiranyagarbha, Virat, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, Indra, Agni, Ganesa, Bhairava, Devi, Yaksha, Rakshasa, Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaisya, Sudra, cow, horse, beast, bird, the pipal, banyan and mango trees, barley, rice, grass, water, stone, earth, wood, chisel, spade:- all these are names and forms of the One God of creation, and any of these shall bring about the desired result when envisaged and adored in true spirit.
The whole universe being, thus, divine in nature, all forms of worship have meaning and validity, provided, of course, the worship is done with the sole unselfish motive of realising Brahman. Different worshippers attain different results due to differences in their motives and endowments, not because there is difference in Isvara, for He is everywhere, and in every shape, at all times. As is the worship, so is the end realised. What one intensely feels, that one definitely obtains, Isvara being the source and consummation of everything. (Verses 102-209 )
The liberation of the Jiva is possible only in the realisation of Brahman, not even when the least difference is felt, such as that between Jiva and Isvara. As dream does not end until waking, Samsara does not end until Brahman is realised. Dream and waking are similar in so far as there is in both a mistaking of the Absolute for the relative and the particular. From the point of view of Brahman, the whole universe is a dream, inclusive of the differences between Isvara and Jiva, the sentient and non-sentient, etc. Isvara and Jiva, being included within the realm of Maya, become the cause of the twofold creation as described in the Upanishads. From the beginning of the original ideation of Isvara to become the many, up to His entry into the manifold as the enlivening force in all individuals, it is Isvara-Srishti (metaphysical existence). From the time when individuals begin to feel the usual waking consciousness involved in externality of perception, and consequently desire, dream, sleep, etc., up to the freedom of the individual from the Samsara, it is Jiva-Srishti (psychological reaction). Not knowing that Brahman is One, and there is no second to it, people unnecessarily enter into argumentation in regard to the nature of Isvara, Jiva and Jagat. Everyone, right from those who worship with faith trees, plants, stones, etc., up to the worshippers of Isvara according to Patanjali’s school, has a confusion in regard to the nature of Reality, and everyone, from the materialist Charvaka onwards, up to the Sankhya, is confused about the nature of the Self. There may be difference in the degree of truth revealed in these various systems of thought, but it is definite that there is some error in each of them, even as a person is, after all, in a state of dream, whether he is dreaming that he is a king or beggar. Therefore one should not argue too much on the nature of creation, Isvara and Jiva, but concentrate one’s mind on Brahman alone, that is non-dual. It may be true that one should study well the nature of experience and its relativity by an understanding of the nature of Isvara, Jiva and Jagat, but the study should not end there, and the investigation not concluded with such knowledge. The finale of philosophy is Brahma-Jnana, not merely a study of the categories of phenomenal experience.
The Sankhya thinks that the Atman is manifold and universal, the world is real, and the Yoga feels that Isvara is distinct from both. Though this difference may be tentatively accepted in the course of our observations and studies, we should not regard it as an ultimate fact. It is to make this point clear that we have introduced the analogy of Ghatakasa, Mahakasa, Jalakasa and Meghakasa. The reflection of ether through water or the clouds is not an independent reality, for its basis is the reflecting medium, and the original ether alone is real. So is Brahman ultimately real, and not the reflections as Jiva and Isvara. The Vedanta accepts the element of truth in every system of thought, even the Charvaka or the materialist, as a necessary stage of development, but steps above every such stage as an inadequacy in the higher reaches of reality.
The Sankhya, Yoga and Vedanta will come together when the Sankhya and the Yoga abandon their notions that the Atman is manifold, the world is real and Isvara is a distinct personality separate from both. The mere understanding that the Atman is unattached will not be enough for the purpose of the liberation of the soul. The realisation of its Absoluteness is essential. But so long as Isvara is there, controlling all from above, and the world is there outside, limiting all in every way, the Atman cannot be free. Isvara and Jiva would circumscribe Brahman. It is only on the transcendence of these differences that the Atman is experienced as Brahman. It is not necessary that, for the purpose of philosophical explanations, we should accept a plurality of Atmans, or the reality of the world. They may have an empirical utility, but they are transcendentally unreal. The scripture affirms that from the standpoint of Brahman there is neither creation nor destruction, neither bondage nor liberation, neither a seeker after liberation nor the liberated. This is the ultimate truth, though in practical, worldly experience, these processes are seen and accepted. They come under Vyavaharika-satta or relative reality. The Paramarthika-satta or Absolute Reality is Akhanda or indivisible existence.
The distinction between Isvara, Jiva and Jagat being relative, it is conclusively proved that Kutastha and Brahman are one, and Brahman exists as non-dual in the three periods of time, whether there is creation or not. In the bondage and liberation of the Jiva, Brahman remains the same, as unaffected Being. The experiences of the Jiva have nothing to do with Brahman’s undividedness. Even those who have an insight into the spiritual nature of things feel the reality of the world, but they are not bound by it as they were before the rise of such knowledge. Bondage is not in the perception of the world, but in the nature of the reaction that is set up from within the mind. There may be, on the other hand, no external perception, but there may be feelings of internal attachment and aversion. The difference between the bound and the liberated soul is that the former considers all its experiences in the present and the future worlds as real in themselves; but the latter knows with certainty that the world-experience is relative, and not ultimate. The realisation of non-duality is not merely a negative state of the abolition of an existent duality. It is the original, real state, of existence prior even to the manifestation of duality. The world of duality is relative because here one thing is observed to hang on the other for its subsistence, and nothing can rest independently in itself. The world is a relative mass of interconnected forces where everything determines everything else, and nothing by itself can be considered as real. Let this be known, and the mind be fixed on Brahman alone, as that which remains after everything is set aside as “not it”. If, in meditation, the feeling of duality persists due to force of past mental impressions, self-analysis is to be carried on again, and the notion of duality avoided. Meditation should be continued until the goal is realised, without any anxiety or impatience on one’s part. Forces like hunger, and thirst will attempt to hamper the progress in one’s meditations, but let it be remembered, again and again, that these are forces of Prakriti impinging on its own manifestations in the body of the Jiva, and the real Witness behind all these varieties is unaffected. The feelings of pleasure and pain and body-consciousness will appear persistently, and the only way of overcoming them is in dwelling constantly on the absolute nature of Brahman in which pleasures and pains cannot abide, and there cannot be confinement of consciousness to any particular body. The innermost consciousness of the Jiva is Brahman, which is the unattached witness of all duality, such as the objective and subjective worlds, and it is never involved in them. This truth is to be instilled into the mind for a protracted period with intense vigilance and tenacity. The success achieved in meditation is in proportion to the extent of the honest feeling within ourselves that Brahman is the only reality, and is the one aim of life. The world, being of a presented character, and so necessarily relativistic and transient, its negation in spiritual experience involves also the transcendence of personality and individuality.
Consciousness precedes the rise of dualistic perception, because consciousness is necessary even to think that there is duality. The fact that duality cannot be imagined in consciousness, proves that consciousness is indivisible, and the fact that it cannot be known as an object outside oneself shows that it is known in immediate realisation and not in sensory or mental perception. There are people who are capable of understanding things by their rational powers but cannot arrive at truth, because of their attachment to reasoning process alone, which works on the basis of duality, and not resting their arguments on scriptures and intuition. It is necessary that all the desires of the heart should be liberated once and for all, if the highest insight is to be obtained.
It is stated in the Upanishads that the mortal becomes immortal when all the desires of the heart are cast off, and the knots of the heart are rent asunder. Verily, it is the desires that are referred to here as the knots to be broken. Avidya, Kama and Karma are the knots of the heart. The feeling, ‘let me have this, and that,’ is the essence of desire, which arises on account of one’s confusing between the Atman and Ahamkara, mistaking the ego for the Atman. If the primary misconception of the identity of the Atman with the ego is gone for good, there would be nothing left to bind the soul to rebirth, though the natural desires common to a human being and consciousness of the body may persist in such a person for some time, due to operation of Prarabdha. However, one who has attained such a wisdom will be unconcerned with what the Prarabdha Karma does, with passing wishes or diseases, as, for example, one is unconcerned with things unconnected with oneself, such as cutting of a tree in a forest.
The breaking of the knots of the heart is nothing but awareness that one is Atman essentially and hence desires convey no meaning to it. Not knowing this is confinement to the body and personality and the objects related to it. In regard to the outward activities of the body, senses and mind, the Jivanmukta and an ordinary man are similar, but the difference lies in their attitudes towards them. Whether pains come and pleasures go, or otherwise, the Jivanmukta is unaffected, and is indifferent in the highest spiritual sense of the term. The indifference of the liberated one is not to be equated with Tamas or lethargy, for it is the absence of craving for things, though he has the ability to possess and enjoy anything, if he so wills.
Sensory activities or mental functions mean nothing of consequence to the Jivanmukta, though, occasionally, even certain wishes may arise within him due to the remnant of a kind of Prarabdha. He is not concerned because he has a deep conviction of having attained everything that he wished to have. Contact is the cause of bondage, and hence the wise always refrain from it. Their aloofness from society as in the case of Jadabharata or enjoyment as with Janaka or Saubhari, mean the same thing to their unaffected being.
This achievement is possible for one who is equipped with the necessary means, viz., Vairagya (renunciation), Bodha (enlightenment), and Uparati (withdrawal from world-consciousness). These three great virtues rarely coexist as in sages like Suka and Vamadeva, but mostly one or two of these alone are seen to be present in the aspiring souls. Vairagya is the dispassion which arises on account of the perception of the defects inherent in things, such perception being its cause. The nature of Vairagya is a feeling of ‘enough’ with all things, and a discontent with the satisfaction that is derived from the world. The result of Vairagya is non-dependence on objects and states as previously, and a feeling of higher independence within. The cause of Bodha or knowledge is study and hearing (Sravana), reflection (Manana), and meditation (Nidhidhyasana) on the truths into which one is initiated by the Guru. The nature of knowledge is the ability to distinguish between, the true and the false, and the resting of oneself in the Supreme Reality. The not rising again of any desire is the result of knowledge. The practice of Yoga such as through its eight limbs, Yama, Niyama, and the rest, is the cause of one’s Uparati or cessation from worldly activity. Control of the mind in all its five modifications (Vrittis) is the nature of Uparati. The total absence of practical concern with the world of duality is the consequence or result. These three divine qualities adorn a Jivanmukta. In him all these exist together, though in some, one or two may be absent due to obstructions of various kinds.
Among these qualifications described, Bodha is primary and the most important of all. Vairagya and Uparati, are, as a matter of fact, auxiliaries to it, accelerating its function. If, at any time, all these three virtues are found in one and the same person, it should be considered as the result of great penance performed prior to their rise. Mostly one or two of them alone will be found in a person due to some impediment or the other, which prevents the manifestation of all the qualities. If a person has attained to full knowledge, but has body-consciousness some times, due to the absence of firm establishment in Vairagya and Uparati, there will be the perception of the world and also the feelings of pain and pleasure on such occasions, though, of course, he will have no rebirth on account of his knowledge. This, however, is meaningful not in the sense that spiritual realisation needs any other additional qualification to complete itself, but that the Jivanmukta will have Prarabdha-Bhoga, or the natural concomitance of space-time-body perception. But if he is a person endowed with Vairagya and Uparati, while not with Knowledge, he will not attain Moksha, but will be reborn either in a noble and rich family, where he will have all facilities to continue his Sadhana, or in the family of a Yogi, wherein he will attain quick success in his spiritual pursuits. The height of Vairagya is regarded as that state where one feels distaste even for the joys of Brahmaloka. The height of Bodha is that where one feels that one is Brahman itself, as intensely as one ordinarily would feel the body. The height of Uparati is that condition of mind where the presence of sense-objects is completely forgotten and wiped out from memory, as in sleep. Though these are the highest states, there are stages to their attainment.
The first stage of Vairagya is called Yatamana-samjna, or the effort towards freeing oneself from attachment to things. The second stage is Vyatireka-samjna, or the isolation of the thing to be avoided from among the many things in the world. The third stage is Ekendriya-samjna, where one discovers that it is after all the mind from which freedom is to be attained, the one sense which is the cause of all trouble, and not from the world as such. The fourth stage is called Vasikara-samjna, or the complete mastery over all things, by a total absence of desire for everything, whether seen or only heard of. Vairagya reaches its climax when one has no desire even to exist as a personality or individual, and abandons even the primordial properties of Prakriti.
The first stage of knowledge is Sattvapatti, or attainment of pure Sattva; the second is Asamasakti or non-attachment to all things; the third is Padarthabhavana or non-perception of materiality and perception of spirituality in things; and the fourth is Turiya, where one rests in one’s own Self. Uparati reaches its summit when one realises that the whole universe is a single family, and there is the total absence of selfishness by a gradual rising from concern with one’s own body to other bodies outside, by extending this feeling to the community, the nation, and the world, till it embraces the whole universe as an undivided unit. Due to the difference in Prarabdha, sages behave in various ways and their actions differ. Sri Krishna, Vasishtha, Vyasa, Suka, Janaka, Jaigishavya, Saubhari, Jadabharata are examples of this strange variety in behaviour of divine personalities. But their knowledge is the same, and their attainment is also one. It is to be concluded, therefore, that this painted picture of the cosmos appears on the screen of Brahman-Consciousness, and wisdom lies in considering oneself as this background of Consciousness, and not the appearance of the picture. Such wise ones do not get deluded even when they see this picturesque representation called the universe. (Verses 210-290)