by Swami Krishnananda
Jagato yadu pādānaṁ māyā mādāya tāmasīm, nimittaṁ śuddha sasattvāṁ tāmucyate brahma tadgirā (44). This is the introduction to a system of analysis known as jahad ajaha lakshana. When we make statements, sometimes they are involved in certain associations which are not part of the conclusion that we have to arrive at. In Sanskrit, this method of elimination of unnecessary factors in a sentence and only taking the essentials is called jahad ajaha lakshana. Lakshana is a definition of a sentence, or a proposition that is made, where the literal connotation is abandoned or the spirit of the sentence, the jahad ajaha lakshana, is employed. The literal meaning is abandoned, and that is called jahad; jahad means ‘abandoned’. Ajaha means‘not abandoned’, or ‘taken’. We take the spirit of the statement made, and not only the letter.
The general illustration in Vedanta philosophy is: Suppose there is a person called Devadatta, and he has a friend called Yajnadatta. Devadatta is living in Bombay, and Yajnadatta saw him in Bombay. After some years, Yajnadatta sees Devadatta in another place. The place has changed; the time has also changed. Firstly, instead of being in Bombay, he is now seen in Rishikesh. And instead of having seen him ten years back, he sees him now, after ten years. When Yajnadatta sees Devadatta in an audience, he makes a statement, "This is that Devadatta whom I saw in Bombay ten years back."
Now, two places cannot be identical, and two times also cannot be identical. Bombay is not Rishikesh; and ten years back is not now, after ten years. The identity of the person is what is connotated here. The aspect of space and time are abandoned. The distance of space between Bombay and Rishikesh is ignored, and also the distance of duration, a gap of ten years, is abandoned. Therefore, the epithets that are used in the sentence, "This is the same Devadatta whom I saw ten years back" are unnecessary because ‘ten years back’ is unnecessary to define a person, and ‘this’ and ‘that’ are also unnecessary. It is the same person that is before us whether he was there in some other place, or whether he is here, and whether he was at that time, or whether it is this time.
In a similar manner, the doctrine says that we have to eliminate certain unnecessary descriptive factors associated with God as Creator and the individual as the isolated part. How can an isolated part become one with the Universal Being? It will be possible only in the same sense as a person seen in some other place is the same as the person seen in this place, if only we eliminate unnecessary factors. Now, what are these factors that condition God and make us feel that He is totally different from the individual? These factors are described here in the verses following.
Ishvara is the name of the creative principle. God is not only the instrumental cause of the world, but also the material cause. We must know the difference between an instrumental cause – or efficient cause, as it is called – and a material cause. The carpenter is the instrumental cause, or the efficient cause, of a piece of furniture because he causes the furniture to manifest by his effort. In a similar manner, God causes the world to manifest by the force of His will, as the carpenter by the force of his will creates a shape or a structure of the furniture. But there is a difference between the carpenter and God in the sense that the wood that is the material of the furniture does not come from the body of the carpenter. He is not the material cause of the product – namely, the furniture. He is only the efficient cause, and not the material cause. Here in the case of a carpenter and the table, the material comes from somewhere else, outside the location or the personality of the carpenter. But in the case of God, there is no external material. There is no furniture, wood, steel, brick and cement, etc. that God can have outside Himself. He cannot have an exterior or totally outside material for the creation of the world. He is also the substance out of which the world is made. The Mundakopanishad gives the illustration of a spider spinning its web: The web is made out of the very substance that comes out of its own being.
Therefore, God is not only the instrumental cause, He is also the material cause. He becomes the material of the universe when He associates Himself as consciousness with the tamasic aspect of prakriti which becomes the five tanmatras – sabda, sparsa, rupa, rasa, gandha – and by the process of quintuplication, becomes the five gross elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether.
God is the creator of the material of the universe in the form of the five tanmatras and the five gross elements, by associating Himself with tamasic prakriti. By associating Himself with the sattvic prakriti, which is the sattva guna manifest in a universal way, He becomes the instrumental cause. That is, the intelligence of Brahman is reflected through the universal sattva of prakriti, and that universally manifest intelligence is the causative factor, the instrumental or efficient cause, the intelligent cause of the universe. But the material is the very same Brahman associating itself with the tamasic prakriti. This is the meaning of this particular verse: Jagato yadu pādānaṁ māyā mādāya tāmasīm, nimittaṁ śuddha sasattvāṁ tāmucyate brahma tadgirā. He becomes the upadana or material cause by associating Himself with tamasic prakriti. But He becomes nimitta, or the instrumental cause, by associating with shuddha sattva pradhan prakriti.
So the manner of the reflection of Brahman in the properties of prakriti (sattva and tamas differently) becomes the cause of God Himself appearing as the instrumental cause and the material cause together. Therefore, God is called abhina nimitta upadana karana. Abhina means non-differentiated. Nimitta is instrumental. Upadana is material. Karana is cause. God is the undifferentiated material and instrumental cause of the universe. This is how God appears as the creative principle of the cosmos; but He may appear as an individual also, by associating Himself with another thing.
Yadā malina sattvāṁ tāṁ kāma karmādi dūṣitām, ādatte tatparaṁ brahma tvaṁ padena tadocyate (45). Here is the description of the statement of the Upanishad, tat twam asi. Tat is that Brahman Himself appearing as Ishvara creating the universe, both as an instrumental cause and a material cause. The word tat in that statement of the Upanishad refers to Brahman appearing as Ishvara, causing the universe to appear as an instrument as well as material.
Tvam means ‘you’. It refers to an individual. The individual is constituted of the very same Brahman consciousness reflected through malina sattva. Shuddha sattva is pure, universal sattva. Because of the purity of that sattva in the original cosmic prakriti, it is universal and it is not limited to any particular place. So the reflection of Brahman through that is also universal. Thus, Brahman manifesting in that way – becoming Ishvara – is omniscient, and knows all things.
But here, in the case of the individual, the sattva guna is contaminated by the overpowering influence of rajas and tamas. We individuals are more rajasic and tamasic than sattvic and, therefore, the universal character of sattva does not manifest in us. Only the discriminative, segregating, individualising character of rajas manifests. This is why we always feel that we are separate persons with no connection to the universality of existence. There is no connection between you and me, or anything whatsoever. That apparent dissociation and disconnectedness of one thing from another, one person from another person, etc., is a very faulty consciousness that has entered into us on account of Brahman consciousness working through rajas.
It is like sunlight, which is an indivisible whole, manifesting itself in split parts of water so that it looks like little, little pieces. Such is the case with this reflection of Brahman in the distracted rajas guna of prakriti which conditions the individual jiva, and so we do not feel that we are universal. We feel that we are particulars only. Brahman knows that He is universal because He reflects Himself in cosmic universal sattva, whereas He feels that He is individual because He now reflects Himself through rajas, which is distracting, separating one thing from the other. And this rajas and tamas in the jiva is infected with desire and impulse for action, etc. Avidya, which is the obliteration of the universality of consciousness – causing distraction and individuality consciousness – is also the cause of desire and action.
So we can imagine what are the troubles befalling us. Avidya, kama and karma are the terms used to indicate our present predicament: firstly, avidya – the total ignorance of the universality of our nature; secondly, kama – desire for things external; and karma – the intense effort that we put forth to fulfil our desires in the direction of objects. This is the fate of individual jivas; yet, we are vitalised by Brahman consciousness only – unfortunately through rajas and tamas, and not through sattva. Ādatte tatparaṁ brahma tvaṁ padena tadocyate: This kind of individuality is the second manifestation of Brahman as any one of us. Now, what has to be done?
Tritayī mapi tāṁ muktvā paras paraviro dhinīm, akhaṇḍaṁ saccidā nandaṁ mahā vākyena lakṣyate (46). Three kinds of factors are mentioned here. One is that God becomes the material cause of the universe by association with the five tanmatras and five gross elements. That is the first statement. The other statement is that He becomes the instrumental cause by associating Himself with sattva that is cosmic in nature. He becomes the individual also, by associating Himself with the rajas and tamas properties.
Now, ignore these association factors. Don't consider this tamasic pradhan, vishuddha sattva pradhan, or malina sattva pradhan prakriti. Don't consider the reflection aspect at all. Take Brahman as unreflected – not reflected in these three ways as mentioned. Tritayī mapi tāṁ muktvā: All the three factors may be abandoned for the sake of the direct knowledge of what Brahman is by itself. Paras paraviro dhi: This is because tamas and rajas and sattva cannot have any association, one with the other. They are totally different. The function of the one is different from the function of the other. Therefore, the self-contradictory factors of prakriti, namely sattva, rajas and tamas, should be abandoned while we are considering the nature of Brahman supreme. And when we eliminate the association aspect of Brahman in terms of sattva, rajas, tamas, we will find Brahman is akhanda, eka rasa, sat-chit-ananda – it is undivided. Therefore, it is called akhanda, not khanda. Khanda means divided. Akhanda is undivided. Sat-chit-ananda – pure Existence-Consciousness-Bliss is Brahman.
This is what is taught to us by the great statement tat tvam asi – Thou art That. ‘Thou art That’ means this individual which has taken the shape of a particular ‘I’ located in some place due to the rajas aspect of prakriti preponderating, is the same as that cosmic Brahman manifesting through, reflected through, sattva guna prakriti and tamas guna prakriti. If we dissociate rajas from the individual, and free Brahman's reflection from sattva and tamas, we will find the essence of the jiva is identical with the essence of the supreme Absolute.
If we break a pot, the space inside the pot merges into the universal ether. Otherwise, the space inside the pot looks very little. In a little tumbler, there is a small space inside. This is something like the jiva of the individual. And there is wider space outside there. Now do we say that the individual space inside the pot is the same as the universal space, or different? We can say it is different because that space outside is so wide, and this space contained in the pot or tumbler is so small. This smallness is an appearance caused by the pot. If we break the pot, we will find there is the same Brahman universal space that appears as this little pot space.
So our consciousness, which is the Atman, is like the pot space. We seem to be small individuals because our consciousness is tied up within the walls of this body, just as space may look very little when it is inside the pot. We remove this association obtained through physical, vital, mental, intellectual and causal pots. These are the fivefold pots into which we have cast the consciousness of Brahman, as if in a mould.