Chapter 2: The Nature of the World
The Dissertation on Experience
The world is a presentation of outward variety and seeming contradiction in existence. It is a disintegrated appearance of the Absolute, a limited expression of Infinitude, a degeneration of the majesty of immortal Consciousness, a diffused form of the spiritual Completeness, a dissipated manifestation of changeless Eternity. Each of such separated entities of the world claims for itself an absolutely independent existence and regards all objective individuals as the not-Self. The not-Self is always considered to be in absolute contradiction to or at least absolutely distinguished from the self's own localised being. The exclusion of other limited objective bodies from one's own subjective self involves a relation between the two, and this relation is the force that keeps intact the network of diverse consciousness. Everything hangs on the other thing for its subsistence through contact. A lack of the character of self-sufficiency discloses the deceitful nature of the relative reality of things marked off within themselves. The obvious fact that every demarcated entity expresses within itself an urge to relate itself to other objective beings through internal psychoses and sense-operations points out the inability and impossibility of individualised centres of consciousness to maintain the apparent truth of their professed self-existence. The universe rolls on ceaselessly in the cycle of time, and reveals a newer characteristic of itself every moment. Things do not rest in themselves but ever pass away into something else. Everything in this universe is change. Change is the law of life. Nothing is without changing itself. An inadequacy felt in the attainments of the current state of existence is the forerunner of all enterprises in the life of the individual. Action is impossible unless the self feels in itself a deficiency which can be filled up by an active endeavour to possess the missing part that would contribute to the completion of its nature. A felt necessity for a fuller state of experience is the mother of all attractions and repulsions. The whole cosmos seems to be a restless field where dynamic powers are arrayed in battle as if to extirpate themselves for a nobler cause. Tranquillity can well be said to be non-existent in the history of the space-time world. Struggle is the meaning of phenomenal endurance. The Upanishads solve the riddle of relative strife through the intuitive perception of the Essence. The heroic leap of the individual into the unknown is the expression of the want of a superior joy. The dissatisfaction with limitedness in life directs the soul to catch the fullness of perfection in the truth of its Integrality, with which the individualised condition is not endowed. Hence, universal movement and individual effort, though differing in their altruism of nature, can be understood as a reflection of the tendency to Self-Perfection of Being. The pressure of the truth of the absoluteness of consciousness is the source of the force that compels individuals to transcend their finitude and find their eternal repose in it alone. This permanent Verity is the supreme object of quest through the cosmical endeavour in creation, wherein alone all further impulses for externalisation of forces are put an end to. The desire to become the All terminates in the experience of Infinitude. This aspiration to transcend states and things points to the unreal character of the universe.
"The one Being, the wise diversely speak of." —Rigveda, I. 164. 46.
"There is nothing diverse here." —Katha Up., IV. 11.
"Existence is One alone without a second." —Chh. Up., VI. 2.1.
The life of every individual bears connections with the lives of other individuals in varieties of ways, in accordance with the degree of its awareness of Reality. Every thought sets the surface of existence in vibration and touches the psychic life of other individuals with a creative force the capability of action of which is dependent on the intensity of the affirmation of the mind generating that thought. Objects entirely cut off from one another can have no relation among themselves. Sense-perception, cogitation and understanding are messengers of the fact that there exists a fundamental substratum of a uniform and enduring Consciousness. Cognition is impossible without a pre-existent link between the subject and the object. Thought cannot spring from emptiness, for emptiness is itself nothing. Activity is possible because there is creative imagination and imagination is a moving objectified shadow of Consciousness. The denial or assertion of something presupposes the awareness of the thinking subject and the subject cannot stand apart from self-awareness. Self-consciousness is, thus, unavoidable in being. It is an eternal fact. The perception of an object reveals the conscious relation that is between the subject and the object. This relation should be based on a fundamentally changeless being, without which even a relation is not possible. All contacts presuppose an immovable ground which supports all movements.
The world is made up of forms. The forms of things disclose their unreal nature when subjected to a careful examination of their composition and working. A thing is a member of the society of diverse phenomenal centres appearing to divide against itself a basic Noumenon. A thing is an object of thought, an internal form, and an external form is known through thought itself, which is consciousness objectified. A form is differentiated from existence as a whole by a particular mode characterising it. It cannot be said that a thing is defined by a mode or that it has a definite form unless it becomes an object of thought. Thought itself is conditioned by forms, and it is thought, again, that knows external forms and determines their nature. The laws governing the modes of thinking shall have sway over its objects also, for the rules that regulate the process of knowledge and restrict its operations determine all the contents thereof, which, therefore, cannot be known independent of and free from the conditions to which the knowing process is subject. All forms of objective knowledge are, thus, deceptive and give to the knower nothing of reality. The truth of the object of thought can be known only when it is freed from the modes of thought, and the truth of thought itself can be known only when it is not conditioned by the forms which it takes. Neither the mind nor its object, taken independently, can be said to truly exist. That the mind exists cannot be proved unless there is a modification of the modal consciousness, which is called a psychosis or a mental transformation, which, again, is not possible without the mind's taking the form of an object or an objective condition. That objects exist also cannot be proved unless there are minds to cognise and know them. Each is explained only by the other and not by itself. Nothing in this world, neither the subject nor the object, is independent and self-existent. The test of reality is non-dependence, completeness and imperishability. When things are judged from this standard of truth, the phenomenal subjectivity and objectivity in them are found to break down and reveal their ultimate unreality. The appearance of the subject-object-distinction has to be finally attributed to the creative activity of consciousness itself, though the relation of consciousness and change in the form of any activity is beyond understanding and explanation. As the idea of causality itself is an effect of the want of real knowledge, a question as to the cause of this want has no meaning. But the affirmation of consciousness has to objectify itself in the form in which it is desired to manifest itself, as all forms are contents of consciousness. Whatever an individual affirms must ultimately happen or be materialised into effect, because each centre of consciousness has infinity at its background. Misery or suffering and pleasure or happiness are experiences relative to the understanding of the individual, and are of such a character and degree as is the condition of the individual consciousness in relation to the Absolute Being. There is really one experience which is absolute, and it can be styled neither a misery nor a pleasure. That One Experience is diversely felt as variety, and is fictitiously termed as either this or that, and of this nature or of that. The form of the world is found to be a magical appearance when subjected to the test of severe discrimination. The world and the Atman or Brahman neither exclude nor include each other, but are non-related, for relation is possible only between two demarcated objects, and the possibility of duality or any relation is annulled in the being that is "one alone without a second". Pure Experience is attributeless, and all "existence" is "experience". Ethical virtues and immoral vices are the effects of the different mental modes reacting variegatedly to the one changeless consciousness in different ways, leading respectively to the experience of Unity-consciousness and diversity-delusion. All our experiences are relative, and neither the relative experiencer nor the experienced can stand the test of reality. They present an appearance, though the reality in them transcends them and exists as an indivisible unity. This one Reality appears as the knower as well as the known. It is one and the same thing that appears as the earth to certain states of consciousness, as heaven to some, as hell to certain other, as men and creatures to still some other, and as Eternal Consciousness to another that is integrated. The Substance is One and it is felt by different modes of mentation in their own fashion, as good, bad, sweet, bitter, beautiful, ugly and the like. The Substance by itself does not change; only the mode of perception changes. The truth therefore remains that Eternal Existence is without any evolution or involution within itself. From this it follows that the world of space and time is an appearance, a shadow of Reality. Even immortality and death are relative to the individual. In order to have the Experience of Reality we have to discard the forms as mere appearances.
The Critique of Duality
It is contended by some that the world is not such an utter negation of Reality, that the world of names and forms is in the being of Reality, that plurality cannot be a nothing, that diversity which is real is indwelt by the Supreme. It is also held that the individual is not the Absolute until it realises the Absolute, that the process of change and evolution is a perfect truth and not an appearance, and that the quality of the Absolute is not attributable to the individual at any time.
It is not difficult to note that indwelling is possible only when the Indweller is different from the indwelled, that is, when there is a second entity. To assert that God pervades the diverse beings and that God impels all actions is a trick played by the cunning individuals flowing with the current of instinct to get a license of objective indulgence. The self-expression called the world is not a deliberate objective act of the Absolute, for we cannot say that the Absolute acts. It is an undivided appearance without any ultimate logical reason for its existence or disappearance. Hence we often come to the conclusion that appearance, subsistence, disappearance, bondage, life and liberation are eternal! An undivided change is no change. Eternal transformation is changelessness, and it cannot be considered as any motion at all. Thus, appearance would become eternal like Reality, and two eternals contradict the Absolute. This proves the invalidity of the existence of appearance.
To assert diversity is to deny absoluteness. It does not, however, mean that the Absolute excludes the diverse finitudes, but the finite is eternally dissolved in or is identical with the Absolute, and therefore, it does not claim for itself an individual reality. It is argued that to ignore differences is to reduce the Absolute to a non-entity. The Absolute does not depend upon the reality of egoistic differences. By cancelling the relative we may not affect the Absolute, but we, so long as we are unconscious of the fundamental Being, improve thereby our present state of consciousness. Individuality is in every speck of space and these egos must be so very undivided that diversity becomes an impossible conception and homogeneity persists in every form of true reasoning in our effort to come to a conclusion in regard to the nature of the Absolute. We may blindly assert difference, but it is not possible to establish it through any acceptable reasoning.
To say that we are not yet the Reality, and we have yet to "become" it, may be true with partiality to empirical consciousness, but it is not the highest truth. Perfection or Absoluteness is not something to be got or acquired from somewhere, but is only a "realisation" of what actually and eternally "is", a mere "knowledge" of the fact that "exists". The individuals are in essence the Absolute itself, which is beyond all contradiction. This truth is not to be grasped through dull metaphysics or idle intellectual quibbling, but through realisation and experience. The form of the world can never have a substantial existence as it is not independent of the Absolute. The reality of the forms of the world is based on the working of the ego-sense or the idea of separateness in the individual. Realisation is not an actual "becoming", but an unfolding of consciousness, an experience of Truth, Truth that already is, Truth that is eternal. The essential existence can never change. We cannot become what we actually are not at present. We have no right to claim what we do not really possess. The Self is not really bound by space and time. Compromising philosophers make a false distinction between the individual and the Absolute, between becoming and being, between the finite self and the ultimate Brahman. The words "ultimate" and "relative" have no basis outside simple misapprehension of what is really unchanging and eternal. The Upanishads do not simply mean that duality is not final, but that it has no basis at all in the region of Reality. The Absolute of the Upanishads is the only Reality, and all forms must, therefore, be non-existent from the point of view of its exact nature.
"Truth alone triumphs; not falsehood." —Mund. Up., III. 1. 6.
A faithfulness to diversity must necessarily end in a failure in the practical walk of life. The discord of the material universe is kept up by the belief in actual separateness in life, which has deluded the consciousness of the whole race of beings. Truth is the undivided Absolute. Truth cannot be twofold. It is a perversion of the natural intelligence that is the cause of the devotion of individuals to a truth of diversity. The Absolute and the relative are not two different entities standing like father and son. The two are the presentation by the human intellect of what is in fact Non-Dual. The Absolute does necessarily and obviously cancel the validity of the existence of the fictitious relative and the finite. The form of the world is not simply less real than the Absolute but a distortion of the characteristic nature of the Absolute. Progress and downfall in life are not an actual process but an appearance of the states of the one Consciousness. The form of the process of the world seems to be rigidly determined when looked from the point of view of the corresponding subjective intellects or the individuals in the same grade of reality, but it appears otherwise when we are open to the fact that the perceiving subjects are not made of the same processes of the psychological stuff, that all are not in the same grade of reality, and that cognising subjects are also infinite in number. The form of the world has no authoritative existence and does not bear the test of reason. There is no reasonable evidence for the existence of an eternal plan and purpose underlying the evolutionary scheme of the world-process, except the fact that it serves as the required objective field of training and self-transcendence for individuals whose constitution is in consonance with the constitution of the world in which they find themselves.
Truth being one, it cannot be classed as absolute and relative, except for the sake of human convenience and with reference to subjective changes. It is a sanction of the inability to apprehend Truth, and is not valid with stricter and saner perception. If the one is true, the other must be false. If we cannot experience the Absolute, we have to admit our defeat and ignorance, but we cannot thereby take advantage of our limited consciousness and try to prove that what we experience at present also is real independently. If Brahman has expressed itself as the world, then, the world cannot exist outside Brahman. How can it express itself when there is no space for it to express or expand? Even space is Brahman. Expression or change becomes impossible. When space and time, the subtlest aspects of physical manifestation, are nothing but the being of the Brahman itself, it becomes difficult to imagine the expression of Brahman into a world of diversities. There can be no diversity without space. Change demands a spatial emptiness where changing subject is not. It cannot be said that space at present is not Brahman but afterwards it will become Brahman. What is real, now at present, can never be changed subsequently. If we are not Brahman at present, we can never be That at any time in future. A not-Brahman cannot be turned into Brahman. Stone does not become milk or honey. Becoming Brahman is only a consciousness of the state of mere "Be"-ness. And that Consciousness is never absent. When existence is undivided there cannot be a separation of things by space. Creation, manifestation, expression, thought, are all in relation to the ego which has been tied fast to the feeling of separateness. Absolute-Existence does not admit of differentiation of any kind. Name, form, action, change, are cast off as apparitions. Nothing can be said about the Absolute, except that it "is".
Brahman which is the cause and the world which is the effect are basically identical, and hence change and causation lose their meaning. The phenomenal world is caught up in space, time and causation, which scatter themselves without a past or a future. One thing is in relation to the other, and the world-process seems to be eternal. An eternal multiplicity is an impossibility, and an individual cannot be an enduring being. The world, thus, proves itself to be a naught and gives way to the being that is one and that does not change. Since samsara as a whole has neither a beginning nor an end, except with reference to the individuals, the ideas of a real creation and destruction fall to the ground. Absolutism satisfactorily solves all the problems of life.
The form of the world is the projection of the objective force of the Universal Consciousness or the World-Mind. Everything in the world is a network of unintelligible relations. Things are not perceived by all in the same fashion. The perceptions of a chair by many individuals are not of the same category of consciousness. They differ in the contents of their ideas which are the effects of the particular modes of the tendency to objectification potentially existent in the individuals. The forces of distraction which constitute the individual consciousness are not of the same quality in everyone. There is a difference among individuals in their perception and thinking. It is impossible to have a knowledge of anything that does not become a content of one's own consciousness. Everyone is inside the prison of his own experience and knows nothing outside his consciousness. The world is rooted in the belief in its existence. The form of the world changes when the consciousness reaches the different relative planes of the various degrees of reality. When consciousness expands into the truth of Pure Being, the world discloses its eternal nature of Pure Consciousness alone.
It is argued that the artistic poet-souls of the Upanishads lived in the world of diversity and did not fly out of it. This does not mean that the sages were tied to the plurality-consciousness of the temporal world. They transcended earthly consciousness and realised that the earth is Brahman itself illumining. But in such a realisation there is no concession given to the reality of diverse appearances in any case. The conception that the world is God's revelation of Himself does not fare better. Revelation again presupposes the operation of the play of space, time and causation, the final validity of which is already repudiated. A God who changes Himself is not a permanent being. God's self-revelation requires a change in the total existence itself, which process is logically inadmissible. Divine revelation is in relation to the consciousness of the individual and is not an eternal fact of existence. Existence is itself full and perfect and dissipation within it is not admitted by reason. The denial of multitudinousness does not, as it is sometimes supposed, reduce the rich life of the world to a dream-shadow. It is not known how variety in existence adds to the richness of the Absolute. The richness of the part is not equal to the magnificence of the Whole. The grandeur of the relative world is dependent on the imagination of the individual. To a person who has opened his eye of true consciousness the world does not appear as such. We cannot see any cogency in the argument that it is possible to have worldly enjoyment together with the knowledge of the Absolute.
It is further contended that even if the Atman is the sole reality, the existence of plurality cannot be denied. If the Atman is the sole reality, it is to be accepted that it is without internal or external differentiations. If there is thus no plurality in the Atman, and also if nothing exists but the Atman, there is no meaning in holding that existence is inclusive of plurality. If the Atman or Brahman is non-dual, there can be no plurality, because other than Brahman anything is not. The view that, because it is said that with the knowledge of Brahman "all" is known, Brahman-realisation does not destroy plurality but merely renders the person immune from objective attraction, and that "all" implies the existence of plurality, is a misunderstanding of this sentence. The word "all" does not refer to the reality of the plurality of things. It is only a symbolical expression of the Upanishads used for want of words to express unlimitedness. When we say "all" is known, and "all" is Brahman, we do not mean that the trees and the mountains, the sky and the ocean are Brahman differently. If they are all one, and if Brahman has no heterogeneous qualities, the assertion, "all" is known, does not imply plurality in the natural essence of Brahman. Space and time are swallowed up in the being of the Reality and plurality cannot exist unless there is something second to Brahman, which persists eternally. Eternal duality or plurality is impossible, as can be seen from an examination of the nature of Consciousness, and we are compelled to admit the homogeneous character of Brahman's essence. If being and becoming are identical, the cause of the appearance of the world must be attributed to some mysterious and inscrutable ignorance and cannot itself be given a place in existence. Duality cannot survive and individuality cannot exist in the Truth of Brahman.
"Where there is duality, as it
were, there one sees the other,—
But where everything is one's own Self,
then, whom would one see?" —Brih. Up., II. 4. 14.
"Where one sees nothing else,
hears nothing else, understands
nothing else, that is the Infinite." —Chh. Up., VII. 24.
The Upanishads deny the reality of the form of the world of plurality and duality. According to them, except the non-dual Brahman, nothing is. The universe is explained by them as the imagination of the Absolute-Individual. We can only understand that this absolute-imagination is merely figurative and it can have meaning only with reference to individuals in the world, and not in itself. The infinite Bhuma alone hails supreme. It is established on its own Greatness. It is not dependent on anything else, for anything else is not. There cannot be imagination in the Absolute. Imagination may differ in degree or intensity, but even these degrees are but imagination. Even the acceptance of such a difference is ultimately invalid. The experience of external objects depends on the strong belief that they exist. This belief may be individual or universal. But the moment that belief is withdrawn, their reality is negatived. Mere belief or ideation does not make a thing really existent. All that glitters is not gold. All that appears to exist need not really exist as such. The Goal of human aspiration is the establishment of the self in the eternal Consciousness. It is sometimes believed that we penetrate the "Real" "through" this world, and therefore the world is real. But empirical experiences should not be taken as standards for judging the Real. The modification effected in a thought-process in knowing Reality is identical with what is experienced after the act, i.e., the attainment of Reality. Hence the means becomes identical with the end in the case of knowledge of Reality. The experience of the Eternal is not independent of the effort exercised to attain it. All actions to reach the Real require a self-transformation which is the same as what they aim at through that. Cause and effect are intrinsically non-different. The exercise of the effort towards experiencing the Real, becomes itself the experience of the Real. Without knowing the Real we cannot move towards the Real, and knowing it is being it. Reaching the Real is not an action. All actions modify the subject of the act. Action is impossible without the differentiation of the subject by a non-being of the subject. It cannot be said that the subject, the Self, is absent at any place. If it is everywhere, no action is possible. If it is not everywhere, it is perishable. Our actions lead us to a vicious circle. We seem to be doing many things, though, actually, we do nothing. The experience of the Eternal and the destruction of the ego are simultaneous events. The diverse world cannot, therefore, be said to be a necessary "means" in the individual's struggle for Self-realisation. If the world is a means, the world is also the end, and we "reach" nothing "through" the world. A perishable means cannot lead to an eternal end. Knowledge, which is not of the world, is eternal, and it is this that is the means, and the end, too.
The World as Cosmic Thought
We are led to conclude that the ideas of space and time, form and name are the contents of the cosmic creative Consciousness. There is objectively nothing but luminous Consciousness which appears to be split up into the diversity of a world due to the fluctuations in the knowing process. The process of objective knowledge has the ability to divest the Absolute, as it were, of the revelation of its essential nature, and give a presentation of a multitudinous variety, even as a prism has the property of diffusing the one mass of light into heterogeneous rays. We cannot say whether there is any objective world independent of the knowledge of which it is the object. It cannot even be said whether any world exists when duality is transcended in knowledge. What is the proof for the existence of the world when it is not known? How can we say that there is any world at all beyond the activity of cosmic thought? We cannot see and sense the world and its contents in the same form when the organs of sense and the mind are differently constituted. The world exists because the mind functions on a dualistic basis. There is sound because there is the ear and there is colour because there is the eye. The individual exists as such because it thinks. The one universal vibration is received by the senses in the different forms in which alone they are capable of receiving it on account of their specific constitutions. Substance, quality and relation; name, form and action, endlessly dissipate themselves. All forms are hanging on one another without any basic intelligibility in their relations. No form is self-existent. One form cannot be distinguished from the other except in an artificial and unintelligible way. The connections of causes and effects and forms of existence are based on a temporary faith and not on true understanding. Transcendence of thinking annihilates the individual, which, then, rests as the Absolute, and together with it the vast world is exalted to Pure Being. When water is disturbed, the sun seems to shake; when the consciousness that is objectified fluctuates, the One appears as the many. The dance of ideas is the world of experience. These ideas are the phases of the cosmic creative force. Space is a special mode of particularisation and is within the constructive consciousness. The whole phenomenal world is a particularisation by the apparently active and perceiving universal consciousness.
Since the subject is the correlate of the object, and vice versa, neither of them can be said to be more real than the other. And, as they are divided, they are not the Reality which is by nature differenceless. The validity of the double existence of the subject and the object, thus, automatically gets cancelled in being qua being. This does not lead to nihilism. Though no thing exists, it is not true that nothing exists, for consciousness exists. Consciousness cannot cease to be. Even the denial of everything allows the consciousness of existence of the one that denies. Consciousness of existence persists even if we think we are dead. This existence is the unlimited Absolute.
"Modification is merely a name, a distinction of speech." —Chh. Up., VI. 1. 4.
It is asserted that the underlying substance alone is real and various methods are employed to prove the invalidness of the form of the world of diversity (Chh. Up., VI. 1. 4-6). Being alone exists (Ibid., VI. 2. 1). A thoroughgoing non-dualism is propounded by Uddalaka, Sanatkumara and Yajnavalkya. The Supreme Brahman is matchless and secondless. Aught else than the Absolute is a mere tinsel show.
"Everything, except That the Atman), is wretched." —Brih. Up., III. 4. 2.
"There is nothing second to it." —Brih. Up., IV. 3. 23.
"When one creates a difference, there is fear for him." —Taitt. Up., II. 7.
There is no duality. All modification is illusory. Differentiation cannot be established. Where there is no duality there is no death. That which did not exist in the beginning (Ait. Up., I. 1.) and does not exist in the end (Brih. Up., II. 4. 14., Chh. Up., VII. 24), cannot exist in the present (Katha Up., IV. 11). Since Brahman does not create a world second to it, the world loses its reality. The central tone of the Upanishads reveals everywhere a disbelief in the world of forms ever since the Rigveda declared that the sages give many names to that which is essentially One (Rigveda, I. 164. 46). This leads further to the conception that plurality is only an idea and that Unity alone is real.
"The One, other than which there is none." —Rigveda, X. 129. 2.
"The Immortal is concealed by (empirical) reality." —Brih Up., I. 6. 3.
"As it were he moves," "as it were another exists," "he goes to death after death who perceives here plurality as it were." —Brih. Up., IV. 3. 7; IV. 3. 31; IV. 4. 19.
"With the knowledge of the Atman everything becomes known." —Brih Up., II. 4. 5.
"One should know that prakriti is illusion." —Svet. Up., IV. 10.
"The Atman is where the world is effaced out." —Mand. Up., 7.
It follows that there can never be a reality outside the Eternal Self. This seems to be the end of philosophical thinking, beyond which there can be no further progress. The Upanishads assert as their main declaration of truth that the Atman or the Brahman is the sole reality, that with its knowledge all becomes known, and that there is no plurality whatsoever. The form of the world of plurality is an illusion, though the ultimate essence of the world is real. Even transmigration is a dream of consciousness. The world is not a creation of or an emanation from Brahman, nor is it pervaded by Brahman as by something which is not itself, but here and now, everything is Brahman.
"Verily, all this is Brahman."——Chh. Up., III. 14. 1.
The above statements of fact are a declaration of the reality of things as pure existence, irrespective of what mortal man in his helplessness has to say in regard to it. The relative individual does not have such a love for Self-Integration as to dismiss the world of plurality and forms at once as an illusion. A tentative consolation is demanded by the empirical scientific view that the world is a necessary step in the progressive evolution towards Eternal Life. Support is sought from some passages of the Upanishads which declare that the world is a revelation of Brahman, even if a higher vision may repudiate this view.
"All this is indwelt by the Divine Controller." —Isha. Up., 1.
Appearance is indwelt by Reality. Truth persists even in the extreme of untruth. Untruth is a lesser truth and evil is a lesser degree of goodness. The whole universe is a progressive concealing of Reality by degrees.
"The Inner Soul of all things, the One Controller, makes his one form manifold." —Katha Up., V.12.
"Whoever worships one or another of these, knows not (the Truth); for he is incomplete with one or another of these,.... the self is the footprint (trace) of this All, for by it one knows this All." —Brih. Up., I. 4. 7.
The relative intellect tries to find here a support for the concept that the world is a self-limitation of Brahman and that the world is the way to Reality. The individual is the footprint of the Absolute, and it is explained that just as one might find cattle through a footprint, so one finds this All, the Brahman, by its footprint or trace, the limited self. The individual is a copy or miniature of the cosmic. The Svetasvatara Upanishad (IV. 2-4) says that the Real has become all diverse things. The Sandilya-Vidya of the Chhandogya Upanishad (III. 14) declares that Truth is inclusive of everything in the world. The conception of the universe as a stage in the progressive evolution of the individual towards the Absolute seems to be a preparation for the more severe insight that the form in which we perceive the world is an illusion. The highest religion consists in a repudiation of manifoldness. The empirical reality of the world, however, demands a sanction of the view that progress is from a lesser truth to a higher truth, and not from error to truth, though the prayer is to lead us
"from the unreal to the Real." —Brih. Up., 1. 3. 28.
The ultimately illusory nature of the multiple world is what is declared through illumination and insight, and the conception of the progressive evolution of the world towards the Infinite is a scientific necessity. Rationality is based on categories, and integral experience which is relationless cannot be explained by rationality. The world can be explained rationally without detriment to Reality, for insight or intuition is not irrational. But rationality has always a love for justifying the empirical consciousness by making it a necessary appearance of the Absolute, for rationality itself is empirical. It is in the position of the tailless fox advising its friends to have their tails also cut. It argues that the multiplicity of objects is not an illusion but their individual independence is unreal. It is found difficult to account for ethical necessity and self-effort towards Perfection if the entire world is an illusion. Absolutistic metaphysics seems to make life itself difficult, and we are compelled to take recourse to a relative reality of the world and the individual. The scientist follows the method of the intellect.
The intellectual view of the world and Truth is always coloured by relative concepts. According to it, the world is a stage in the progressive and gradual ascending of the self to higher states of consciousness. Man begins from the physical body and ends in the imperishable Soul. He is born in Nature which is his dear and faithful friend and not an opposing enemy whose forces he must combat with. Man exists on this earth not that he may kick it aside as a dreadful ghost which tries to devour him but that he may climb up to the higher states of consciousness through the ladder of earthly consciousness and experience. Birth and death are the processes of the changing of the states of individual consciousness in order to reach superior states. The soul, through many such repeated experiences, exhausts the processes of change in consciousness caused by the momentum of past desires, and reaches the state of Perfection, where is no more change and evolution. The entities of the world are not lures to sin and are not meant to be considered an evil, but are a remedy of Nature provided to man to mould him and help him in desisting from objective attraction and centring himself in the Truth of Infinity, and thus form steps in the ladder of development. Objective contact is meant to effect an escape out of faith in pluralistic independence. The body has to be kept well as long as the individual is in the process of spiritual evolution. If the body which is meant to effect a particular process of evolution in a particular stage of life is destroyed before the fulfilment of its duty, Nature will take a revenge against that individual and will compel the same to hang on in a condition necessary for the manifestation of another suitable body demanded by the need for continuing the previous work left unfulfilled. The systematic Nature does not have discord within itself, and, hence, is not filled with conflicting forces. The forces of life are the different urges for a unification of the self with the all-inclusive Reality. The universe with its inhabitants is transforming itself every moment with an inconceivably tremendous speed in order to exist as the absolutely conscious and harmonious Being. Hence, the forces that work inside man and outside in the world are always harmonious and brotherly, and never inimical. The senses work and demand their respective objects, the mind thinks of objective existence, life persists with its unceasing breaths, there is love and affection, hatred and battle, all because the Eternal Being is expressing itself in its Indivisible Multiplicity of Nature. Life is a dramatic struggle for Self-realisation and Truth-experience. Every event that occurs is for that purpose. Even apparent contradictions are a sporting of the Absolute within itself. Life is not a mistake of the soul or a delirium of spirit. Samsara is not a curse but the process of the expansion of the self into Absoluteness. Every act of existence is a turning for the better until the Absolute is realised. The state of Perfection is neither an Indivisibility nor a Multiplicity but an Indivisible Multiplicity. Diverse experiences in life are not contradictions but the multiple form of the one Nature felt diversely by different ego-centres due to their attachment to particular forms of experience. The moment they begin to embrace the entirety of Nature, diversity will be experienced as a Self-revelation of the Absolute. The world is not an illusion but a form of the Absolute. The lower forms are steps to reach higher forms of experience and are not to be rejected as apparitions. All forms, speeches and actions are the expressions of the Infinite Plenum in itself. One has only to "realise" the meaning of its workings which appear to be conflicting in the unconscious plane but are in fact a harmonious and happy play of the Absolute. Even materialism is a step in the path to Perfection. Diverse experiences stimulate activity to achieve Truth-realisation. Death is the beginning of a better life. Evil is the starting point of a state leading to good. Nothing is independent by itself. All are interrelated and are knit together to form the Eternal Whole. Everything is only a part of the Infinite Completeness.
This is what will appear to the individual situated in a world of relativity, for the relative individual cannot help conceiving the Absolute in relative terms. We cannot know anything except in terms of what we are. Because everything changes, change itself is classed as a separate category of Reality. It is true that, strictly speaking, there can be no such thing as a complete wrong or error, falsehood or evil, or any kind of pure negative of truth, but only a lesser truth or a higher truth, that the negative is not "existence" and so is not, that all is one positive indivisible Truth, though it may appear to have degrees when it is objectively experienced. But, nevertheless, it has to be remembered that to hold that Truth really undergoes a change can have no meaning. Evolution is not an absolute category but an experiential interpretation.
The decision of the intellect that Reality is a process is the effect of its trying to compromise with what fundamentally presents itself as a self-contradiction. However reasonable this view may be from the standpoint of man, it cannot be held that the intuitional Upanishads declare as their essential proposition that the Infinite Whole is a constantly changing process attempting to reach itself, a doctrine which contradicts reason itself. To them the form of the world is in the main an appearance and there is nothing but Brahman. We have already dismissed the possibility of evolution in Eternal Existence as self-contradictory. Evolution is change, and change is becoming, which would mark the transient nature of Existence itself. But Existence is eternal. Nothing that is perfectly real can be said to change or evolve. Brahman, therefore, does not change. If it is something else than Brahman that changes, we have to create a second to the secondless Brahman. In any case, change and evolution are impossible as ultimate truths. Empirical facts have their place in one's life, but they have to be brushed aside as finally untrue, if one wishes to have a perfect realisation of the essential nature of Being or Brahman. It is easy to trot out the shibboleth that a teaching on the unreality of all phenomena may itself be unreal. True. But the consciousness of its being unreal cannot itself be unreal. After all negation, and the negation of even this negation, consciousness remains, still, the Absolute, not as a bare featureless transparency, but the wondrous Abode of Divine Perfection.