Chapter 4: The Nature of Reality
Brahman as Existence or Being
Long ago, the Rigveda has proclaimed: “The One Being the wise diversely speak of.” All philosophy proceeds from this, all religion is based on this. We, moreover, hear such declarations as “Truth, Knowledge, Infinity is Brahman,” “Consciousness, Bliss, is Brahman,” “All this is, verily, Brahman,” “This Self is Brahman,” “Immortal, Fearless, is Brahman,” and the like. And we are further aware of assertions like “That from which these beings are born, That by which, after having been born, they live, That into which they re-enter and with which they become one—know That, the Brahman.” Omnipresence omniscience and omnipotence are said to be the characteristics of God. These serve the purpose of defining the twofold nature of Brahman, the Reality—its essential nature (svarupa-lakshana) and accidental attribute (tatastha-lakshana). The former is the independent and imperishable truth of Brahman, the latter is its superimposed dependent quality which is subject to change in the process of time.
Being is truth in the transcendent sense without reference to anything else. It does not pay heed to the difficulty of man that he cannot transcend the limitations of relativistic consciousness and so naturally takes the value and meaning of the relative order to be the truth. The highest value of truth is equated with pure being, for non-being can have no value.
“Existence (Being) alone was this in the beginning, one alone without a second.” —Chh. Up., VI. 2. 1.
Brahman is that which is permanent in things that change. It is without name and form, which two are the characteristic natures of the world of appearance, and is essentially existence-absolute. Existence can never change, never perish, though things in which also it is, perish. Hence existence is the nature of Reality and is different from the things of form and name. Existence is secondless and has no external relations or internal differentiations. It is unlimited by space, time and individuality. It is related to nothing, for there is nothing second to it. It has nothing similar to it, nothing dissimilar, for That alone is. The whole universe is a spiritual unity and is one with the essential Brahman. It has no difference within or without. Brahman is alike throughout its structure, and hence the knowledge of the essence of any part of it is the knowledge of the Whole. The knowledge of the Self is the knowledge of Brahman. Everything that is, is the one Brahman, the Real of real, satyasya satyam. By knowing it, everything becomes known. “Just as by the knowledge of a lump of earth, everything that is made of earth comes to be known, all this modification being merely a name, a play of speech, the ultimate substratum of it all being the earth, similarly, when Brahman is known, all is known.” “Where there is an apparent duality, there is subject-object-relation; but where the Atman alone is, how can there be any relation or interaction of anything with anything else?” “There is knowledge, and yet, there is no perception or cognition, for that knowledge is indestructible, it is unrelated consciousness-mass” (vide Brih. Up.). It is the eternal objectless Knower, and everything besides it is a naught, an appearance, a falsity.
Brahman is Existence which is infinite Consciousness of the nature of Bliss.
“Brahman is Existence, Consciousness, Infinitude.” —Taitt. Up., II. 1.
“Brahman is Consciousness, Bliss.” —Brih. Up., III. 9. 28.
“That which is Infinitude is Bliss and Immortality.” —Chh. Up., VII. 23, 24.
These sentences give the best definition of the highest Reality. Brahman is Consciousness—prajnanam brahma. It is the ultimate Knower. It is imperceptible, for no one can know the knower, no one can know That by which everything else is known. “There is no seer but That, no hearer but That, no thinker but That, no knower but That.” It is the eternal Subject of knowledge, no one knows it as the object of knowledge. This limitless Self-Consciousness is the only Reality. The content of this Consciousness is itself. This is the fullness of perfection and infinitude. “Brahman is Infinite, the universe is Infinite, from the Infinite proceeds the Infinite, and after deducting the Infinite from the Infinite, what remains is but the Infinite.” This sentence of the Upanishad seems to pile up infinities over infinities and arrive at the bewildering conclusion that after subtracting the Whole from the Whole, the Whole alone remains. The implied meaning here is the changeless and indivisible character of the Infinite Reality, in spite of forms appearing to be created within it. The Infinite is non-dual and there can be no dealings with it.
We read of Sanatkumara leading the thought of Narada from inadequate conceptions of Truth to more adequate conceptions, until at last he asserts the supremacy of the Bhuma, the “absolutely great”, the “unlimited”, beyond which there is nothing, which comprehends all, fills all space, and is identical with the Self in us. This Bhuma is the Essential Brahman where one sees nothing else, hears nothing else, understands nothing else. It is Bliss and Immortality, the plenum of felicity. This is the Complete Being.
Now, the conception of Reality as constituting being gives rise simultaneously to the idea of non-being. The Rigveda (X. 129. 1) says that in the beginning there was neither non-being nor being (na asad asit, no sad asit). Being was not, because there was no non-being. Non-being was not, for there was no being. Truth is a super-intellectual transcendence of the ideas of being and non-being, of whatever is concerned with the temporal relations of thought, for in what is Real there is no psychosis of any kind. According to the Rigveda, even “immortality and death are its shadows”. Whatever truly exists is the Real. It is
“the being and the beyond, the expressed and the unexpressed, the founded and the unfounded, consciousness and unconsciousness, reality and unreality, the real, and whatever that is.” —Taitt. Up., II. 6.
The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (II. 3. 1) says that Brahman has two forms, “the formed and the formless, the mortal and the immortal, the existent and the moving, the real and the beyond.” There is a contrast between Brahman and the name-and-form world, the former being the beyond, the inexpressible, the foundationless, the unconscious, the unreal in relation to the latter which is empirically experienced as the being, expressible, founded, conscious, real. Logically, attribute or quality itself becomes an unsound concept when it is extended to the Absolute. A thing has an attribute only in relation to another thing. There is no meaning in saying that a substance has an attribute when that substance alone is said to exist. The nature of a self-existent absolute principle is indeterminable. Every attribute limits it and creates a difference in non-difference. Brahman cannot be said to have any intelligible attribute, for Brahman is the entire existence and has nothing second to relate itself to. Sat (being) is an idea in relation to asat (non-being), chit (consciousness) in relation to jada (inertness), ananda (bliss) in relation to duhkha (pain), ananta (infinitude) in relation to alpa (limitedness), prakasha (light) in relation to tamas (darkness). Every qualitative concept involves relations, and every thought creates a duality. To think Brahman is to reduce Brahman to the world of experience. Thought is possible only in an individualised state, but Brahman is not an individual, and is unapproachable by an individual. Brahman cannot even be conceived of as light, for it has nothing to shine upon. Not even is it consciousness, for it is conscious of nothing. Consciousness or light in the absolute condition cannot be called as consciousness or light, for such conceptions are dualistic categories. Being as it is in itself is nothing to the individual. It is not an object of knowledge. Truth is independent, unrelated, self-existent; but there is no such thing as an independent, unrelated, self-existent quality. The only recourse to be taken is to admit the failure of the intellect in determining the nature of Reality and resort to negative propositions.
“The Atman is not this, not this.” —Brih Up., IV. 5. 15.
“The Atman is not that which is inwardly conscious, not outwardly conscious, not bothwise conscious, not a consciousness-mass, not conscious, not unconscious; it is unseen, unrelated, ungraspable, indefinable, unthinkable, indeterminable, the essence of the consciousness of the One Self, the negation of the universe, peaceful, blissful, non-dual.” —Mand. Up., 7.
“It is unknown to those who know it. It is known to those who do not know it.” —Kena Up., II. 3.
These references depict the absolutely transcendent nature of Reality. “It is not obtainable by many even to hear of, and even when heard of, it remains unknown to many. Wonderful is the declarer of it! Blessed is the obtainer of it!” The awe-inspiring Absolute is described as “soundless, touchless, formless, imperishable, tasteless, constant, odourless, beginningless, endless, higher than the high, eternal, by knowing which one is liberated from the mouth of death.” It exists in such a homogeneous and differenceless condition that “whatever is here, is there also; whatever is there, is here,” and hence the spatial nature of existence with its concomitant differentiations of time and individuality is overcome in the indivisible constitutive essence of Brahman. It, therefore, is and is-not.
But, if anything is at all to be said about the Ideal and Goal of life of an individual, we cannot get on with such a perplexing conception of Reality. To us Reality is what can be the highest in the strict logical sense. Though Reality transcends logic and reason, philosophy cannot do so, for nothing in this world is possible without the functioning of thought in some way or the other. We are thinking beings, and to us all that is real must be intelligible. If anything is unintelligible, we can have no relations with it. The Real is, therefore, Being, rather than non-being, Consciousness, rather than unconsciousness, Bliss, rather than pain. There is no sense in non-being, for non-being also must at least “be”. Consciousness itself is being, and unless even non-being and unconsciousness are objects of consciousness, there can be no meaning in them.
“How can being be produced from non-being?” —Chh. Up., VI. 2. 1.
“The sacred teaching is that It is Being of being.” —Brih Up., II. 1. 20.
It is Being that gives existence even to non-being. Being covers non-being from both sides. In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (V. 5. 1), the word “satyam” is explained as constituting the three syllables ‘sa', ‘ti' and ‘yam', the first and the last syllables being truth and the middle one untruth, thus, truth covering untruth from both sides, and the unreal world acquires the semblance of truth by being within the Truth which is incorruptible Being. And, further, Truth alone is said to triumph, not untruth (Mund. Up., III 1. 6), thus giving a distinct reality to what “is” as contrasted from what “is not”. That which changes is untrue and that which is constant is true. Non-being vanishes into Being which comprehends in itself the highest possible values which are the aim of the general aspirations of all individuals. No one wants not-to-be, everyone wishes to exist in some form or the other. The truth of Being as the highest principle is ingrained in the consciousness that underlies all cogitating beings. The Maitrayani Upanishad says that Brahman is “One and limitless, limitless to the east, limitless to the south, limitless to the west, limitless to the north, and above and below, limitless in every direction; for it directions like east exist not, no across, no below, no above; this Paramatman is incomprehensible, infinite, unborn, not to be reasoned about” (VI. 17). Such a one cannot be a non-being. It is existence in its greatest completeness. Extreme and intense existence appears as non-existence. The extreme of positivity of the Real appears as a negation of everything. It is dark due to the excess of Light. It is imperceptible, for it alone is the perceiver. It is unknowable, for it alone is the knower. It appears to be nowhere, because it alone is everywhere. It appears to be nothing, for it alone is everything.
Brahman is established “on its own Greatness, or, rather, not on greatness at all” (Chh. Up., VII. 24). It is the divisionless, partless, mass of plenitude—on what can it establish itself? The Self-existent Brahman is supported by nothing, for everything is supported by it. It is childish to say that it has established fame, though its Name is “Great Fame” (Svet. Up., IV. 19). “Here, on earth, people call cows and horses, elephants and gold, servants and wives, fields and houses as constituting greatness”; but Brahman is not of the greatness of this type, because here greatness is dependent on an external object. The greatness of Brahman lies in its own Being, and not on anything second.
“Brahman alone, the Greatest, is this whole universe.” —Mund. Up., II. 2. 11.
“Verily, that Great, unborn Self, undecaying, undying, immortal, fearless, is Brahman.” The whole of Reality is not exhausted in this world-process. “Encompassing the whole universe He extends beyond it to infinity. Whatever is here is this Purusha alone, whatever was and whatever will be. He is the Lord of immortality. Such is His greatness yet the Purusha is greater still. All beings are one-fourth of Him, His three-fourths hail as the immortal beyond the dust of the earth” (Rigveda, X. 90). “Unmoving, it is swifter than the mind”, for the Real which is the Self is presupposed by all forms of thought. “The senses fall back in trying to reach it.” “Ahead of others running, it goes standing.” “It moves, and it moves not”; it is other than what is static and kinetic. “It is far, and it is near; it is within all this, and it is outside all this.” It is the Self, the being of all. “Sitting, it goes far. Lying, it moves everywhere.” “It is manifest and hidden.” Such metaphorical definitions of Reality point to the central meaning of its absoluteness of character. That which does everything does nothing in particular. All speculations about the nature of the Ultimate Principle finally lend themselves to the unanimous conclusion that it is eternal, infinite, unconditioned, non-dual, absolute, existence. “It is without an earlier and without a later, without an inside and without an outside, the Being of the Self of all, the Experiencer of everything.” Yajnavalkya describes the Supreme Being thus: “An Ocean, the One, the Seer, without duality it is. This is the State of Brahman. This is the supreme goal. This is the supreme prosperity. This is the supreme abode. This is the supreme bliss. On a part of this bliss other creatures are living.” “It does not become greater by good action, nor inferior by bad action.” In the words of the famous Nasadiya Sukta of the Rigveda, the original condition of existence was a total absence of the world, the sky and all manifestation. There was neither death nor immortality, for both of these are correlates which have no valid recognition in Reality. There was neither night nor day, but That One, the source of light existed without motion and change. It existed as identical with its Power, there was no difference between temporality and eternity. Other than it there was nothing. Even the gods cannot say how this creation was caused, for even they were born after creation. That Source from which the universe sprang, That alone can sustain it, none else. That One alone knows the truth of its creation, or else, who can know it? The Real alone knows the Real. None else can know it. To know the Real is to be the Real. We cannot stand apart from it and at the same time know it. The moment we undertake the task of seeking the Real, we simultaneously start digging the grave for our separate individual existence. The glorious consciousness of the supreme Truth is the complete transcendence of the niggardly clinging to forms which appear to be other than one's own Self, and to one's own apparently individual localised life. To live in the Absolute which is real is to die to the individual which is unreal.
“He becomes non-existent, who knows that Brahman is non-existent. Who knows that Brahman exists, is said to exist truly.” —Taitt. Up., II. 6.
Not to know the Whole is to be limited to the part-consciousness which is not truly existent, which is mortal, and hence, equal to non-being in the absolute sense. To truly live is to be conscious of the Real Existence which is without the disease of transformation and death. “All creatures have Existence as their root, Existence as their abode, Existence as their sole support.” All forms are shadows of Pure Existence which alone endures in past, present and future, while the shadows perish like bubbles in the ocean. In the Real, existence and content are identical. Hence, everything is mere existence, which alone is real. “As birds resort to a tree for a resting place, even so it is to this Supreme Being that all here resort for their existence.” “Not by speech, not by mind, not by sight can it be grasped. How can it be known except by admitting that it simply ‘is'?” (Katha Up., VI. 12). It is the hard Reality, “the great Terror, the raised-up Thunderbolt, through fear of which the fire burns, the sun gives heat, the wind blows, Indra showers, Death does its duty!” “The Brahmanas and the Kshatriyas serve as its meal, and death itself is its condiment.” “At the command of that Imperishable, the sun and the moon, the earth and the sky are held in their respective positions. At the command of that Imperishable, the moments, the instants, the days, the nights, the fortnights, the months, the seasons, the years, stand differentiated in their own places. At the command of that Imperishable, some rivers flow from the snowy mountains to the east, some to the west, in whatever direction each may flow. Whatever great actions one does in this world, even for thousands of years, without the knowledge of this Imperishable, is finite. Whoever dies without the knowledge of this Imperishable, is miserable” (Brih. Up.). “This Imperishable is satyam, True Being.” “Sat is the immortal and ti is the mortal. Yam is that which holds the two together” (Chh. Up., VIII. 3. 5). It rises above the mortal and the immortal, both of which are relative conceptions. The highest is ritam and brihat, real and great.
Thus, Being alone is the unavoidable basic experience, which is the fundamental concept in philosophy. We can think away everything, but we cannot think away that we are. Being is the very nature even of one who denies it. All constituents of our thinking, all forms of existence, all modes of knowledge, presuppose being. Being cannot lead us to non-being, for, the moment non-being is known, it becomes being itself. But being is not an object of our immediate empirical experience, for it is always a particular mode of being or, rather, becoming that is the object of our relative experience. To us, individuals, there can be no such thing as experience of existence-in-general. But eternal being is general or absolute existence which cannot be confused or identified with becoming which is a process. Brahman is not a process or a collection of many particulars, not a multitude of many finites. No amount of accumulation of relatives, however vast that may be, can make up the Absolute. An aggregate of finites can give us a huge mass of finites, but not the Infinite—spatial immensity or vastness is not infinitude. The Absolute transcends all finites, but includes everyone of them. It does not become. It is. Becoming is not completeness of existence, whereas perfect Being implies Fullness. The Absolute does not grow or evolve. It is not a process stretching beyond itself. If it were so, the Absolute would be involved in space, time and causation, and would cease to be the Absolute. The Absolute is perfect Oneness and not a system of plural beings co-existing as reals with action and reaction among themselves. It is not a complex mass of relations. If the Absolute is considered as a system, then its parts must be either identical with it or different from it. If they are identical, their individualities are lost; if different, the relation between them becomes unintelligible. The Absolute can only be Being free from all kinds of differences. It must be Partless, Eternal, Homogeneous Existence, “One only without a second.” Existence is the most universal concept which leaves nothing whatsoever outside it.
Existence is what is invariably present in all the processes of knowing. Everything is known to exist, though the existence of a thing may be qualified by the limiting factors which constitute the individuality of that thing. There can be no idea or knowledge, no action and no value, not even life itself, without existence. In the objective universe of names and forms there is the permanent principle of existence underlying all names and forms. Even if everything dies and is lost, the existence which supported that condition which is no more, cannot die or be lost. Since existence cannot change, there can be no death or birth for existence. Existence is eternal. The physical form of an external object is subject to transformation, and this transformation is called the process of birth and death. There is birth and death of forms, states, conditions, modes, but not of existence. Existence is what enables us to know that there is birth and death, that there is change and modification, etc. If existence itself is not, nothing can be. Everything is in some state or the other. Though everything is destroyed, the existence therein is not destroyed. Since existence is the general reality of everything, it must be infinite. Existence can have no limitations, boundaries or divisions either within itself or outside itself. Existence is indivisible and is its own explanation. Existence cannot be defined since it has no specific characteristics, and since it never becomes an object of knowledge. It is the reality of the object as well as of the subject. The body, the vital energy, the senses, the mind, the intellect and even the very condition of all these objective manifestations have as their reality this supreme Existence. The realm of the knower and the known, i.e., the entire universe in all its aspects and states, is ultimately found to be based on Existence which is imperishable. The universe is a condition, a mode of experience, and this mode can have meaning only when it is rooted in Existence which is at once eternal and infinite. Existence, pure and perfect, is the Absolute, the supreme Brahman proclaimed in the Upanishads.
Brahman as Consciousness or Intelligence
What is, then, the nature of this Absolute Existence? The inmost being in us, our own existence itself, shall solve the problem. We find that we cannot make a distinction between our being and our consciousness. To think of being as the real, and yet as different from consciousness, seems to be impossible. Just as we cannot deny being, so also we cannot deny consciousness. We can deny the objects and states of consciousness, but we can never deny consciousness itself. In every one of our attempts to do so, it asserts its existence before we even begin to think properly. Consciousness is the most positive of facts, the datum of all experience. It transcends all limits of space, time and causality. Consciousness is never limited, for the very consciousness of the fact of limitation is proof of its transcendental unlimitedness.
This Universal Consciousness is not to be confused with the individual's ego-consciousness. Rather, it is Pure Awareness. Ego-consciousness necessitates a modification in a certain fashion, and hence it is only a mode of becoming and not being in its fullness. Consciousness in the sense of Reality does not imply that outside it something must exist as its object. It is only in empirical cognition that consciousness needs an object. In the highest condition, the existence and the content of consciousness are one and the same. The Absolute knows itself without any process of knowing. Consciousness is absolute Intelligence, unlimited Self-luminosity. Even in all the states of waking, dreaming, deep sleep, swooning, etc., the Self ever remains as the indispensable and indisputable immediacy of Consciousness, a witness of all states. Unaffected and unaltered, it remains in its purity, as the eternal principle in all states of experience. Ultimate Existence is identical with Infinite Consciousness and not individual consciousness. The Real is Impersonal, and the individual is personal.
“Brahman is Consciousness.” —Ait. Up., III. 3.
“This Purusha is Self-luminous.” —Brih. Up., IV. 3. 9, 14.
“The Self alone is its light.” —Brih. Up., IV. 3. 6.
“Through what can one be conscious of Him by whom alone one is conscious of this everything? Through what can one know the Knower?” —Brih. Up., II. 4. 14.
Knowledge is not the attribute but the very stuff of Reality. It is the Essence of Existence. Hence, this Reality is unknowable as an object of knowledge. It manifests itself as the first principle in all thought and action. “He who breathes in with your prana, is the Self of yours, which is in all things. He who breathes out with your apana, breathes about with your vyana, breathes up with your udana, is the Self of yours, which is in all things.” Yajnavalkya declares with the certainty of a seer of the Truth, “You cannot see the Seer of seeing. You cannot hear the Hearer of hearing. You cannot think the Thinker of thinking. You cannot understand the Understander of understanding. He is your Self, which is in all things.” The knowing subject is the essence of the being of the Self, and hence, it is not an object of knowledge. Consciousness cannot be conscious of Consciousness, even as one cannot climb on one's own shoulders. Eternal consciousness is Being itself.
“In truth, O Gargi, this Imperishable One alone sees, but is not seen; hears, but not heard; thinks, but is not thought; understands, but is not understood. There is no other Seer but That, no other Hearer but That, no other Thinker but That, no other Understander but That. In this Imperishable One, O Gargi, space is woven, warp and woof” (Brih. Up., III. 8. 11). It is further explained that as the ocean is the centre of all waters, the Atman as eye is the centre of all forms, as ear of all sounds, as nose of all smells, etc. The one central operation of this Self-consciousness is manifoldly termed in relation to the cognitive differences as eye, ear, etc. When the eye is directed on space, it is the Consciousness of the Real in the eye that shines, the eye is only a secondary insentient instrument. Similarly, it is so in the case of the other sense-functions. Even thinking and understanding are mere names for the reflection of the Truth-Consciousness in the insentient psychological organs. Speech and mind return baffled, unable to reach it. It is the Atman that shines through the mind and perceives these joys and delights therein. The intensity of the Consciousness is felt in proportion to the reflective capacity of the internal cognitive instruments. All knowledge is a reflection of the Self-existent Reality-Consciousness, a shadow of Brahman-Intelligence. Even a master-genius in all possible branches of learning and arts ever known can have only a semblance of the absolute Wisdom-Mass reflected through his intellect which is only a feeble apology for true knowledge. Even the best inspiration of the greatest poet is only a reflection of Brahman-Knowledge. There is no intelligence, either on earth or in heaven, which can be equal to the Intelligence of the Absolute, because all differentiated beings have only partial intelligence and can never experience Brahman-Consciousness as long as they remain as individuals separated from the Whole. The mind, the intellect and the senses are, therefore, not intelligent; it is Brahman that is Intelligence and Light of lights, jyotisham jyotih.
This knowing Subject is unseizable, indestructible, unattached, unbound, changeless, unaffected. It stands opposed to everything that is objective, as light is set against darkness. It eludes the grasp of him who is engaged in objective consciousness. The whole world is objectively busy, and therefore, Brahman is unknown to the world. We are always conscious of something other than the Self, both in the waking and the dreaming consciousness. It is only in deep sleep that we practically become one with the Absolute. But the presence of ignorance, the store of the potential objective forces existing in an unmanifested state, prevents us from having the experience of Brahman. The unmanifest inert condition is not Reality. Reality is dynamic Consciousness; yet, it is the highest tranquillity. It is the unimaginable fourth state, which includes and transcends the other three states. The Real sees not and knows not anything; It is seeing and knowing itself; “It, the Seer and the Knower, has no interruption of seeing and knowing, because it is Indestructible—there is nothing second to and distinct from it, for it to see and know.” “Even as a lump of salt has no distinguishable in or out, and consists through and through entirely of the essence of savour, so in truth this Self has no in and out, and consists through and through entirely of the mass of Consciousness” (Brih. Up., IV. 5. 13). “As a lump of salt thrown into water would dissolve in the water itself, and there would be nothing of it to be picked up, but wherever one may take it, it tastes salt alone, so indeed is this Great Being, Infinite, Endless, only a mass of Consciousness” (Brih. Up., II. 4. 12). That is the Ocean of Wisdom and Light in One. “There no sun shines, no moon, no stars, no lightning, no fire; from it, which alone shines, all else borrows light; the whole world is illumined at its splendid shining” (Katha Up., V. 15). He who has the Consciousness of this lives in eternal sunshine, it is always day for him. For him the sun does not set. The Atman is compared to a bridge that connects worlds together. “Upon crossing that bridge, if one is blind, he becomes no longer blind; if one is wounded, he becomes no longer wounded; if one is diseased, he becomes no longer diseased. Upon crossing that bridge, even night appears as the bright day, for the State of Brahman is eternally illumined” (Chh. Up., VIII. 4. 2).
In the Maitrayani Upanishad we have the statement that having pierced through darkness, one reaches That which effulges like a wheel of fire, the Brahman which is like the resplendent sun, almighty, That which shines in the sun and the moon, in fire and lightning, and by seeing it, one becomes Immortal (VI. 24). This Real is the absolute knowing Subject, and hence, “It cannot be an object of worship” (Kena Up., I. 4). The internal mechanism of knowledge, together with the senses, is itself an inert object lighted up by the subject which is Brahman-Consciousness. “Everything that this heart and mind are, consciousness, lordship, discrimination, intelligence, wisdom, perception, steadfastness, thought, control over thought, despondency, memory, will, determination, life, desire, attachment—all these are mere appellations of Pure Consciousness. All this is guided by Consciousness, is grounded in Consciousness; the world has Consciousness as its guide. Consciousness is the Basis. Consciousness is Brahman” (Ait. Up., III. 2., 3). “Whoever knows ‘I am the Absolute' becomes this All” (Brih. Up., I. 4. 10). It is the infinitude of the intensest knowledge. It knows itself as Self-Identical. “There is none who knows it. It is the Great Primeval Being” (Svet. Up., III. 19). It is supramental Awareness which constitutes the essence of Existence. It is Consciousness without thought. It is “param vijnanat,” “superior to relational knowledge”.
The Self is Pure Consciousness, as it is presupposed by all modes of consciousness, which function in the form of consciousness of external conditions or objects. Human consciousness is characterised by objectiveness. It is more a cognition or a perception than simple unadulterated consciousness. The cognitions and perceptions are the processes of knowing through the mind and the senses. In the waking state of ordinary consciousness, the different senses receive different forms of knowledge, and the function and the knowledge of one sense is quite different from and unconnected with that of another. For instance, the eye alone can perceive forms and the ear alone can hear sounds. Knowledges differ with regard to the different senses. But, even if these sense-knowledges are entirely cut off from one another, the person experiencing these sense-knowledges is one and the same. The person is the synthesiser of sense-perceptions which by themselves, do not have relations among themselves. The same person experiences forms, sounds, touches, tastes, smells, etc., and feels: “I am the seer, the hearer,” etc., but does not feel that the seer is different from the hearer. The ultimate knower must, therefore, be an absolutely indivisible whole of consciousness. Even if there be the slightest distinction within the constitutive essence of the knower, i.e., if the knower is made up of parts, complete synthesised knowledge would never have been possible. If there is a division within the knower, what is the relation between one part and another therein? If one part is different from the other, what is that which exists between one part and another? The question cannot be answered, as knowledge does not admit of space within itself, as knowledge is presupposed by the idea of space and the notion of time and causality. If the parts which are said to constitute the consciousness or the knower are not differentiated by anything other than the knower, then, the knower does not become a composite of parts, but exists as an undivided consciousness which is absolutely identical with itself. The nature of the knower must be knowledge itself. If not, what is the nature of the knower? The most fundamental experience is consciousness or awareness, pure and simple, free from the self-contradictory divisions and fluctuations of thought. None can experience anything greater than or equal to consciousness as the ultimate basis of all experiences in life.
The knower of sense-perceptions cannot be the mind, too, though the mind is able to know without the help of the senses and is able to coordinate, arrange, and systematically synthesise sense-perceptions. Thoughts differ in different places, times and conditions. Hence, there must be some other synthesising agent of even mental cognitions. Otherwise a person cannot know that he is the same individual experiencing different kinds of thought. Even memory would be impossible but for a non-relative consciousness transcending thoughts. Mental cognitions and sensuous perceptions are heterogeneous in their nature. Therefore the possibility and experience of a unified completeness of self-identical, absolutely immediate and direct consciousness shows that the true Self is Pure Consciousness in its essence, which is not affected by the revolting activities of the mind and the senses. The essential nature of the Knower or the Self must be transcendental consciousness, because, in the state of deep sleep it is seen that when the body, the vital currents, the senses, the mind, the intellect, the ego, the subconscious and everything that goes to make the individual get suspended and denied their validity as existence, the person still exists, as is testified by the following experience which, with great certainty, identifies the person who has woken up with the person who slept previously. The existence of the essential person, the Self, in the condition of deep sleep, was one of awareness of nothing, an awareness together with nothingness, which means mere awareness, as nothingness has no value. Further, the existence of the experience of the Self is corroborated by the subsequent remembrance of the existence of oneself in deep sleep. As remembrance is not possible without previous experience, and as experience is never possible without consciousness, we have to conclude that the Self does exist in deep sleep as mere Consciousness. This Consciousness exists in the waking state as the unchanging basis of the changing mind and the senses. In the dreaming state it exists as the synthesiser of mental functions. The objects in the waking and the dreaming states differ from one another, but the consciousness of objects is one and the same; it does not differ in relation to objects. The only difference between the waking and the dreaming states is that in the former experience is the effect of the function of the mind taking the help of the senses, while in the latter experience is the effect of the function of the mind alone. But, nevertheless, the consciousness is the same, both in the waking and the dreaming states. As this Consciousness is proved to exist in the deep sleep state also, it is evident that this one Consciousness endures without even the least change in itself in all states of experience, without a past or a future for its existence. It does not differ from another consciousness, nor does it differ from itself now and then, here and there, in this or that state, as objects and mental states do. Consciousness is always one and is ever secondless. We cannot conceive of two consciousnesses, though mental states may be two or more. Consciousness is, therefore, eternal. Metaphysically, anything that is eternal must be infinite, without restrictions. Since limitation, too, is what is known by the Consciousness, Consciousness transcends limitation. The Self is Absolute Consciousness, Brahman or the Bhuma. The ignorance that is generally experienced in deep sleep cannot be a real existence, for, if it did really exist, it would be an eternal antagonist of consciousness, and consciousness would thereby be limited and become perishable. The illogicality and the impossibility of the existence of ignorance cancels its value and establishes the existence of the Absolute as Consciousness alone, which is not a bare, featureless transparency, but comprehensive of the whole universe of objects. Everyone experiences consciousness and not ignorance as his basic being or Self. The Self is therefore different from ignorance in the sense that consciousness is not ignorance, but it does not mean that the Self is a witness of an objective ignorance, which, too, is existence.
The Self neither dies, nor is born, nor has it any modification. If it has these changes, they have to be experienced by some other consciousness, which argument would lead to an infinite regress. The ultimate experiencing Consciousness is the Self. This Absolute Self is self-luminosity, non-duality, independence, Consciousness, the sole Being.
Brahman as Bliss or Happiness
Absolute Being is the highest perfection. Perfection is Bliss. The Self is the seat of Absolute Love, Love without an object outside it. It is Bliss without objectification, for Brahman-Bliss is not derived through contact of subject and object. Here, Love and Bliss are Existence itself. That which is, is Bliss of Consciousness which is Being. The highest aim of all endeavour is deliverance from the present condition of limited life and the reaching of “the Bhuma which is Bliss”. “The great Infinite alone is Bliss, there is no bliss in the small finite. Where there is neither seeing nor hearing nor knowing of anything else which is a second entity—that is the Infinite” (Chh. Up., VII. 23, 24). Absolute Existence which is Absolute Knowledge is also Absolute Bliss. The Consciousness of Bliss experienced is in proportion to the growth and expansion that we feel in the conscious being of ourselves. Sat-chit-ananda does not imply a threefold existence, but is Absolute Self-Identity. The world appears to be real, intelligent and blissful, because it projects itself on the background of something which is essentially Reality-Intelligence-Bliss. “That, verily, is the essence. Only on getting this essence, does one become blissful. Else, who would breathe and who would live—if there were no bliss in existence (space)! Truly, this essence is the source of bliss” (Taitt. Up., II. 7). This Essence is impartite bliss and is fearlessness, but, “if one would create even the least difference in this, there is fear for him”.
“This Being (of Brahman) is the supreme Bliss.” —Brih Up., IV. 3. 32.
The Mundaka Upanishad calls Reality as the “Blissful Immortal”. According to the Taittiriya Upanishad, it is the Reality “whose Self is Truth, which is the delight of life, the joy of mind, the fullness of peace, the immortal.” The repeated declarations of sage Yajnavalkya, “whatever is other than That, is wretched,” “he who departs hence without knowing this Imperishable is miserable,” suggest the absolute supremacy of the Bliss of Brahman, when compared to which even the highest heaven, even the abode of the creator, is just darkness and sorrow. The natural phenomena of hunger and thirst, pain and illusion, old age and death are said to be overstepped by That most Exalted Being which is beyond all evil and sin. Brahman is not “blissful” but “Bliss”, not “conscious” but “Consciousness”, not “existent” but “Existence”. It neither decreases nor increases; it is the Ocean of Plenitude, without an ebb or a flow, filled up to the brim of being, allowing in nothing, giving out nothing. That is the real nature of the Self in which one rises from the consciousness of something to the consciousness of being everything, where the knower and the known, the enjoyer and the enjoyed are one, in which one is lifted above all desires and sees nothing outside. It is said that the Self, when in fast embrace with the Being whose essence is Knowledge, knows nothing, either external or internal, for that is the True One in which all desires are quenched, in which the Self alone is the desire, in which all wants and sorrows are dissolved. This is the zenith of Bliss and Wisdom, by a small fraction of which the whole universe is sustained. “One who is conscious of the Bliss of Brahman fears not from anything.” “When one finds his rest in That which is invisible, incorporeal, inexpressible, unfathomable, then he has attained to Fearlessness.” For, this Atman is Silence and Peace, “shantoyamatma”.
The apparently triple nature of Reality is asserted to be one in Truth. “That which is Joy is the same as Being which is Life” (Chh. Up., IV. 10. 5). Non-existence is the existence of the absence of existence. Existence is the substratum of all positive and negative entities. Existence is a value which is always judged by a conscious being. Though existence in itself is not a value, it is so in its “perceived” objective phases. The absence of consciousness nullifies all value, including existence. Perception and the other ways of knowing are possible because of the Intelligence underlying the apparatus of ordinary consciousness. Intelligence or Consciousness is non-objective, and objectivity is a self-limitation of it through a mode. Hence Consciousness must be limitless or infinite. “The Infinite is Delight.” All beings are “delighted”, because they “know” that they “exist”.
The Being of Reality consists in Experience, uncontradicted by transcendence and untrammelled by modification. In this One Whole all appearances get fused, and they vanish into it. This Reality-Experience is one and attributeless, true to itself which is Alone, above thought, and above every partial aspect of being, but including all, none of which can be complete without getting itself merged in the fully real, which is the Absolute. This Being can only be One, because experience is always a Whole, and because dissatisfaction is the effect of a faith in all independent pluralities and external relations which endlessly contradict themselves. The Absolute is experienced as the same Illimitable Immensity, even if it is approached in millions of ways. The Absolute does not act, as action is impossible without ego-consciousness which will be a discrepancy in the perfection of the Absolute. Thought and speech are equally illogical conceptions in an absolute condition. There is no comparison, no illustration, no form of reasoning that can determine the nature of the Absolute. The Real is supra-rational. It is experienced and not understood. It is the most intensely positive Fact, nothing is truer than the Absolute. Everything other than That is a cipher. It is spaceless and timeless, indivisible and undecaying. It is, as it were, something in which the whole existence seems to be lost, but it is That in which everything is found in the hardest form of reality. If the Absolute can be called Life, everything else is but death. It is beyond even the highest of the intellect—God. It is not God, it is the essence of God, the highest of intuition. It is the General Impersonal beyond distinction. It is the Great Immobility whereby all is moved. “All things exist for the sake of this Infinite Self.” “If we do not regard them as such, they would vanish for us.” We love all things because we love the Infinite which we ourselves are. In every act of mental love, the Infinite is calling unto the Infinite, which is in and for itself. We do not love anything for its own sake; we love everything for the sake of the Self. This Self is not anything that we know. It is not even consciousness as we understand it, for consciousness in the ordinary sense is a fleeting phenomenon due to the entry of Reality in the elements which produce forms. All that exists is the divisionless Reality. “Such, indeed, is Immortality,” said Yajnavalkya.
That the Self is of the nature of absolute Bliss is proved from the fact of its being the eternal Consciousness which is self-luminous in nature. There can be no imperfection in Consciousness. It is clear that it is free from all wants, because it is absolute and includes everything in itself. Pain is the effect of not having what is wanted or having what is not wanted. Both these cannot be the case with the Absolute Consciousness, as it is secondless. Therefore, pain is impossible in the Absolute. As there can be neither heat, cold, hunger, thirst, grief, delusion, ignorance, passion, disease, decay nor death in the Absolute, no pain can be conceived of in it. The absence of relations with objective existence, the characters of asangata and kevalata, show that the Absolute is completely free from pain and grief. The psychological, the physical and the heavenly troubles cannot find a place in the Absolute because of the want of differentiation, external or internal. Pain is the condition of a particular experience of an object or a state by an individual under certain given circumstances. The Absolute, however, is neither one among the conditions, nor one among many planes, nor any individual. The Absolute does not experience circumstances or environments. Its Experience is non-relational. There is no such thing as a non-relational pain, as pain is an objective experience and hence relational. Contact is the mother of pain. The Absolute can have no contacts, and therefore no pain.
Further, common experience shows that happiness is a fact of life. It is the supreme value of life. There can be no other meaning in life's activities than the attempt at the acquisition of happiness in some way or the other, whatever be the quantity or the quality of the happiness derived. In fact, happiness has no differences, and, if at all any degree is felt in its experience, it is because of the degrees and differences present in the means made use of for the purpose of obtaining it, and not due to differences existent in happiness itself. The light and heat of fire differ due to the differences among the media through which it burns. Happiness is generally, though not always, experienced in this world as the result of the contact of the mind or the senses with certain pleasant objects or states. No object or state can, in fact, be pleasant in itself. If so, the same thing should rouse the same kind of love in every being. This, however, is not a fact. The same thing can stimulate love or hatred in different beings. A man may be a friend of one person and at the same time the enemy of another. Worms are seen to revel even in pungent and poisonous fruits. The same object can appear as having different natures even to the same person in different conditions. The view that anything is pleasant by itself is incorrect. Then what is happiness, where is happiness?
If happiness is commonly experienced through the contact of the subject with the object, and, if happiness cannot be the nature of the object in itself, it must be the nature of either the subject or the process of contact. The process of contact is not self-existent, but is a mode of thought expressed by the subject of knowledge itself. Hence, happiness must belong to the subject alone. But, then, why is contact necessary for rousing the happiness present in the subject? The truth is that when a subject imagines or is looking at an object of love and comes in contact with it, it is really imagining, looking at or experiencing the form taken by the expression of its own want or desire which has pervaded that object of cognition or perception. It is the desire of the subject that shines and is attractive in the object. Beauty is in the beholder. When the subject contacts the desirable object, it only rejoices over its own desires, identifies itself with these desires, and consequently, for a while, the desires cease to function, they being in union with the subject due to the feeling of satisfaction on account of the notion that the desired object has been possessed. As there is consciousness already in the subject, it has then a temporary consciousness of the absence of desires, of the identity of the objective process of thought knowing the object, with itself. When thought rests in the subjective consciousness, the subject is simply conscious of itself, to the exclusion of everything, even the desires. But this is a very quick process, a momentary experience of an extremely short duration, because, here, the desires are not destroyed but only withheld. When an object of desire is enjoyed, there is a lightning-like feeling of independence or freedom from externals, since the pain of the feeling of dependence on the object desired for is removed through obtaining it. When a person looks at any object, he does not really look at the object, but at the conception or the notion which he has of that object. As far as a person is concerned, an object is not truly an object, but a mode which the cognising consciousness has taken in its indivisible nature; and because this mode is inseparable from the consciousness of the subject, it is best loved, loved as the Self, when the form of the object stands to it as a correct correlative fulfilling its wants, or hated when its form is the opposite. This is why certain objects appear very dear. Like a dog that barks at its own reflection seen in a mirror, a person develops a particular attitude towards something in accordance with the idea which he has of that thing. One cannot think of anything except in terms of his wishes and notions. If there is no desire for something, there can be no happiness derived from that thing. When desires are withdrawn, objects stand as they are. But as long as one has even a single desire, it is not possible for him to know what an object is really in itself. The mind with a desire is like a coloured glass through which we can look at an object as having only that colour and nothing else. The happiness experienced by us is, therefore, the experience of the cessation of desire, though it may be temporary. But contacts with objects only increase pain, as, thereby, the foolish belief that objects bring pleasure is again strengthened, and as each contact creates a further desire to repeat the effort for more such contacts. Happiness is the nature of the Self without desires, and every desire increases pain by a degree of intensity equal to, if not more than, that of itself.
Moreover, the love of the Self is the basis of all other loves. One loves another, because one loves the Self the most. The ultimate purpose of all loves is to rest in the satisfaction of one's own Self. Perception and contact act as agencies in lifting up the veil of subjective desire covering the external objects. Hence, the motive behind conceptual and perceptual contacts is not so much to obtain anything from the object as such, as to make it an instrument in lifting up the veil in the mind, a purely selfish process which the individual subject tries to get effected thereby. Conception or perception is, in a way, an effort to exhaust a desire, though, because of the glaring error therein, it may give rise to another desire. Contact is, therefore, not a method of acquiring happiness, but a means of getting freed from the pain of desiring, and thus making the Self experience itself indirectly. But even this temporary experience of happiness due to contact should not be mistaken for even a jot of true Self-Bliss, for in contact the desires are not destroyed, and this happiness experienced through contact is only a reflection of Self-Bliss through the material quality of sattva. Contact is only a stimulus to sattva-guna, which alone can reflect happiness. Sense-contact is a crude method of fulfilling desire born of deluded perception, and it can never bring to the experiencer the real bliss which he is hankering after.
None really loves anything for its own sake, for nothing in the universe has a true objective value that is valid for all times. All values proceed from the Self, and subsist in the Self. The Self alone is the ultimate and infinite value in all things. Careful analysis will reveal that all contacts have their meaning in Self-satisfaction. Self-satisfaction in its individual signification is only an apparent pleasure and is a delusion caused by the functions of the modes of thought. Even mental satisfaction brought about through the avenues of the senses is not the end aimed at through the mind and the senses. No one is permanently satisfied through an objective process. The self of man hungers for eternal satisfaction but it gets a cup of poison which it finds in darkness and then drinks, being deprived of the proper vision with which to behold the true nature of things. No one would consciously drink poison even when one is hungry. It is not the intention of the Self to be satisfied with deceitful mirages, but it suffers on account of lack of knowledge. It is easily misled by the tantalising appearances of life. In fact the self loves only the highest Essential Existence, which it wants to realise as one with itself, but it cannot discover this Existence amidst the clamour of the senses, the caprices of the mind, and the colour and the noise of objects of the world. The love of the Self is unsurpassed. Even suicide that is committed only goes to prove the supreme love that is evinced in regard to the Self, for it is due to disgust for some conditions of life, and not on account of hatred for the Self, that such an act is perpetrated. Suicide is the effect of some tormenting type of objective contact, a corroding attachment to a certain phenomenon, an unfulfilled objective, or an unattained relative end. Even disgust for one's life is only a dissatisfaction with a particular state of life, an unpleasant experience in life, and not with life itself. None feels from his heart that he should absolutely cease to exist. Everyone wishes to enjoy an eternal life of perennial bliss. A painful life is detested and a pleasant one is coveted. The love of the immortal bliss to be experienced as identical with the Self is unconditioned. It can have no match.
Even when no objects exist, this Self-love does not suffer any diminution. In deep sleep, when no objects are experienced, the happiness of the Self remains the same. One would reject even the dearest object for the sake of the happiness of deep sleep. Even a vast kingdom is nothing when sleep supervenes. The happiness of deep sleep where there is no contact is greater than the pleasure derived through sense-contact. There are occasions when one feels that one is fed up with everything, and gets disgusted even with the dearest of possessions. The freedom and joy experienced at that time is greater than the semblance of satisfaction felt during attachment to and love for objects. All this suggests that the centre of happiness is, in the end, the Absolute Self. What joy one obtains in ordinary life is only a distorted reflection of Self-Bliss through the mind, and hence it is inconstant and never satisfying. No doubt, the happiness of deep sleep is not reflected through any psychosis allowing intelligence therein, but it is because of the absence of consciousness in deep sleep that its value is not realised. The mind, in its unmanifested condition, exists in deep sleep and obstructs the manifestation of bliss illumined by consciousness. The annihilation of the stuff of the thinking process, both in its developed and undeveloped stages, is what is necessary for the realisation of Eternal Bliss. This Bliss is experienced in the Self itself, and not anywhere else. As the Self is absolute in its nature, the Bliss of the Self, also, is absolute. Bliss is not an attribute but the very essence of the Self. The Self is Brahman, and Self-Bliss is Brahman-Bliss.
Space, Time and Causation
The Imperishable Being is declared as That in which space is woven breadthwise and lengthwise, in which is everything that is above the heaven, beneath the earth, between the heaven and the earth, that which is past, present and future, as woven within and throughout through space. “This Brahman has neither front nor behind, neither inner nor outer.” It is the spaceless infinitude “which is beneath and above, to the west and the east, to the south and the north; it alone is this whole existence” (Chh. Up., VII. 25). “It is infinite on all sides.” Spatiality is the admission of difference which is detrimental to the rigorous non-duality of Brahman. Space is a lapse from pure perfection, for it allows in temporality in existence. “This Self is smaller than a grain of rice; this Self is greater than the whole universe” (Chh. Up., III. 14. 3). “This Self is a part of the hundredth part of the point of a hair subdivided again a hundredfold; and this rises to Infinitude” (Svet. Up., V. 9). Indivisibility implies independence over space, for all that is in space is divisible. Omnipresence is spacelessness. Brahman is there, and that which is there is here (vide Katha Up., II. 1. 10). “As a Unity alone is this to be known, this immeasurable eternal being;” “he goes to death after death who perceives duality here” (Brih. Up., IV. 4. 20, 19). Thus, space is transcended in Brahman.
Time, too, is denied in Brahman. “That which is past, present and future, and that which transcends this threefold distinction of time, is the indestructible Om, the All, which is Brahman” (Mand. Up., 1, 2). Brahman is anadi and ananta, i.e., of infinite duration, which is timelessness. “Over that bridge (which is the Atman), neither day, nor night, nor old age, nor death can cross” (Chh. Up., VIII. 4. 1). The instantaneous duration of the flash of consciousness, its absolute immediacy of experience, its independence over limit, its non-objective nature, marks out its timeless being.
Causation is motion, and that which is perfectly real cannot be said to move. Movement is transitoriness of nature, but Brahman is eternal. There is no world-process in the essential Reality, for all process is change. Changelessness is causationlessness. The Imperishable, the akshara, is without even the least tinge of action. In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (IV. 4. 20) the Absolute is described as “the Great Oneness, unborn, unchanging, eternal, immeasurable, unblemished, exalted above space.” Uddalaka says that all modification is only a name, a mere matter of words, not true. It is depicted as different from coming into being and different from not coming into being, beyond death and deathlessness. It is the One which the wise speak of diversely, and hence it excludes all plurality, and therefore all relations in space, succession in time, becoming cause of an effect or effect of a cause, and all opposition of subject and object.
The objective world of space, time and cause represents merely a condition of experience. Space, time and causation are interdependent and none of them seems to have the character of reality. Without the one the other cannot be explained, and the argument leads to a vicious circle. Since reason itself is bound by these concepts, they cannot be reasoned about. They constitute the way of thinking itself, the very stuff of all methods of knowing, and therefore human knowledge is only another name for the conscious manifestation of these relations. Objectively nothing is known except these relations. Space, time and causality represent, ultimately, only ideas and nothing more. These are the self-projections of the process of thought, in the form of an external world, in order to make possible and give value to the act of thinking. The law of Nature is always in relation to an individual or a group of individuals, and never an eternally existent fact, except, of course, in the sense of the eternally changeless indivisible Nature of Brahman. Space, time and cause are certain manners of the perception of external conditions or objects, and thus form relations and not anything truly existent. The perceiving mind always wishes to work in terms of system and order, and not in a chaotic manner. For this purpose these universally accepted relations called space, time and cause are formulated by the perceiving consciousness which is individualised and externalised. The whole universe is summed up in the three ideas of spatiality, temporality and causality. These are the very condition of all knowledge and experience in an individual, and hence these concepts refuse to become objects of knowledge in any way. Either we know everything in terms of space, time and cause or we know nothing at all. Individuality is subject to these categories of relative experience, and so all knowledge in the universe is relative, phenomenal, a make-shift, and not ultimately valid. As space, time and cause are the ideal necessary constructions of all empirical experience, all the objects of experience, too, are mere conditions, becomings, relative to the reality of the experiencers, and do not have independent existence. The object of perception lasts only as long as the particular mental states of the individuals cognising the object last. There is no permanent reality of the form of an object independent of the psychoses of the perceivers. Objects in their isolated nature have no reality, though the essence of the world and the individuals is absolutely real—for this essential existence belongs to what is incorruptible and unlimited. The world of objects in its presented state is false, being dependent on relative perceptions; its form is unreal because form is an imaginary construction of the objectified centres of consciousness in the universe driven by potent desire-impulses. The Cosmic Mind acts as the ultimate subject whose consciousness is the creator of all norms, in all the degrees of manifestation. The worldness in what is manifested, or, in other words, the very act or process of manifestation itself, is to be construed in the sense of what is illusory, though the world-essence or the ultimate substance of the world is eternal. It is the form and not the essence that is unreal. The nature of every object is said to be fivefold—existence, consciousness, joy, name, form. Of these, existence-consciousness-joy constitutes the self-identical immediate reality of everything, and hence it can never cease to be. This ceaseless Self-Perfection is the Absolute. The name and the form of the world, together with its contents, are only an apparition in the Real. If the Absolute is the sole Reality, space, time and causation can only be meaningless terms.
“All this is what this Self is.” —Brih. Up., II. 4. 6.
“This is the Self, this is the Immortal, this is the Absolute, this is all Existence.” —Brih. Up., II. 5. 1.
The failure of all arguments in determining the exact nature of Reality and its relation to appearance points to the unknowable character of Reality. Hence it is defined as “not this, not this.” But in the admission of our limited knowledge and our inability to know Reality is implied our claim to know it. It is known through relative means, but it is realised in immediate experience which is above relative knowledge.
Brahman as God or Ishvara
The indeterminable Brahman is only a subject of speculation for the individual which is bound by the limitations of the intellect caught up in the process of space, time and causation, which are the hard undeniable facts of life. To the man who is confined to the world, the Essential Reality will appear to be outside the ken of knowledge. His highest is only the highest of his thinking. The human mind cannot be said to comprehend Reality from its own standpoint. We cannot see through the Real and say, “thus is the Real,” for the Real as Real is known only in self-identical, non-objective experience. The Absolute Truth cannot be expressed, or even thought; else, thereby, it would lose its Truth-hood and become untruth. Our Absolute is the conceptual Absolute, and this highest conceptual is “God” or “Ishvara”, the determinate Real, the object of pious meditation and of the highest form of devotion, para-bhakti, while Brahman is the eternal subject of pure indeterminate knowledge. The relative intellect seeks to find a solution for the difficulties that are presented by the notion of the independence of the world and the individual's experiences therein. The causal argument leads it to find support in a conceptual reality which would explain the world without abandoning the idea of causality. The intellect, being inextricably bound by the causal chain, cannot comprehend that Reality which is beyond causation and its concomitants. The pure Indivisible Being cannot be the object of the understanding working through the phenomenal categories. The general tendency among human beings is to feel the necessity for a Supreme Ruler who would dispense justice and apportion the fruits of their thoughts and actions. The feeling demands a merciful and loving God who will respond to its expressions and liberate it from sorrow. The religious mind protests that the world requires a God who cannot be dispensed with as a mere logical error. It pays little heed to the laws of reason and subjects the same to the laws of the feelings of man. To it, knowledge which knows itself alone and not anything else cannot satisfy the aspirations of the individual. The constitution within is extended to the universe, and the result is the natural feeling that if manyness and oneness, death and immortality, are both shadows of Reality and form its complementary conceptual aspects, such a Reality shall ever remain unmanageable and unknowable to the individual existing in the universe of experience. To take a whole view of the Real is to attempt what is beyond the finite intellect, and to take a partial view is to accept a defeat in knowing the Real. This is how the limited human mind fares in solving the deepest problems of life and beyond.
The relative individual can read only relative facts even in the highest Truth, however magnified and grand its conceptions be. For the individual man, God is a magnified Man, the Cosmic Person who has all knowledge and all power. He is the Creator, the Preserver and the Destroyer of the universe, who, in His unexcellable majesty, lords over the earth and the heaven, who fashions the sun, the moon and the stars, who extends far beyond the limitless space. He is the highest perfection and magnitude of the complete opposite of what the limited individual is. God is unlimited in every sense. He is the Supreme Purusha, the Father of the entire creation. He excludes none, all are within His superhuman body. He is the Virat, the universal King, the absolute unifying form in which all beings are strung together like beads in a thread; He is Hiranyagarbha, the inner animating life-principle of everything; He is Ishvara, the universal consciousness that sustains all manifestation. There is none besides Him. He triumphs and glories in His own Greatness. He is the ocean of all that is best at any place or time. He is the immediate presupposition and presence of whatever can ever be. He is the Antaryamin, the Inner Controller; the Avyakrita, the Unmanifest, beyond sense-perception; the Sutratma or the Thread-Soul that connects all selfs; the Mahaprana, the Cosmic Vital Energy. He hails as the supreme object of all adoration and worship.
Ishvara is the manifested Form of Reality. He is the Saguna-Brahman, the Absolute endowed with all glorious attributes. This qualified Reality, though the highest open to any of us, is not the highest in itself. But, as long as the Real in itself is of no practical utility in our processes of thought, life and action, it is immaterial, so far as life is concerned, whether the highest Reality is qualified or not. As long as we live within the boundaries of the rational intellect, the Highest in itself cannot be taken as a part of life's considerations, and we are bound to be satisfied with what is highest from our own standpoint.
The Cosmic Person, though not an independent existence from the standpoint of the Brahman of intuition, is much more real than the universe and its individual contents. Though below Brahman, God is above the world, and controls the world as its perfect master. So long as our personality is real, God also is real, and, if the personal God is to be rejected as unreal, we ourselves have no right to live as individuals. The personal Ishvara is not opposed to the impersonal Brahman, but is Brahman only as we understand it. But we, as individuals, are relative, and our relative views are bound to be sublated and transcended in a higher experience. The precision of the discriminative faculty is compelled to adopt an extreme of spiritual unworldliness, whether or not it is pleasing to our weaker human side. Our inability to embrace the strictest Truth makes us demand a God who is relative to the empirical world. Saner perception, however, does not condescend to accept the permanent reality of a cosmic objective God, as the form of objective existence is not independent of the processes of the subjective consciousness. If all appearances are unintelligible, Ishvara who can only be an appearance of the Real, is equally unintelligible. It is not Brahman that changes itself into God and the world, but the knowing subject that takes Brahman as such. When thought is no more, the individual is annulled, and together with it Ishvara and the world sink into Pure Being. It is not possible to rest contented that a personal God is the ultimate Reality, however displeasing this may be to those who do not want to dispense with thinking in terms of the categories of the world. The philosopher-aspirant who is possessed of a flaming passion for integrating himself in Existence does not have the dull patience to linger on with the slow process of progressive self-transcendence through the channels of the different degrees of reality. The highest scientific mind always tries to cling to the Whole, and not to even the biggest part, for, according to it, partiteness in existence is illogical and an ignorant conception. Truth, dependent on its own Self, transcends even the ideas of omniscience and omnipotence, for these involve relations which are a limitation on the Absolute. And, yet, we find the Vedas and the Upanishads giving intimations of a Personal Purusha, the Purushottama, the Source, Being and End of the universe, which gives us an idea of the impartial attitude which the ancient seers had towards the different conceptions of Reality, and of that magnificent vision of the One in the many which they possessed and articulated in sublime states of the Consciousness of the totality of creation.
The first visualisation of the Cosmic Purusha is expressed in the celebrated hymn of the Rigveda, called the Purusha-Sukta.
“Thousand-headed was the Purusha, thousand-eyed and thousand-legged. He, covering the earth on all sides, stretched Himself beyond it by ten fingers' length. All this is the Purusha alone, whatever was and whatever shall be.... One-fourth of Him all beings are, (but) three-fourths of Him is immortal in the (highest) heaven.” —Rigveda, X. 90.
Here the word “thousand” is to be taken to mean “numberless” or “infinite” and not to denote any fixed number. The description is to give an idea of the all-encompassing nature of the supreme Purusha. He does not completely manifest Himself in the form of the universe; only a small aspect of Him is expressed as relativity—the larger aspect of Him exists unmanifested and remains as the shining Immutable. This does not suggest that God can be divided into aspects or cut into parts, but only means figuratively that God is not in any way limited but is above manifestation, though He is also the Self of all that is manifested. God is both immanent and transcendent, for He is present in every speck of the universe, and yet transcends it to an inconceivable extent. Truth is neither a pantheism nor a deism which consider God as either wholly exhausted in the world or existing wholly beyond the world. The universe is one organic unity sustained by the single being of God, of whom everything is a part, and who is the inner and outer reality of everything. Absolutism is the highest point, the culmination of all true philosophy, according to which the Absolute Spirit or the Absolute God is the only Reality.
The accidental attributes, the tatastha-lakshanas of the Absolute, make it appear as Ishvara, whose existence is in relation to the manifested universe. “The sun rises in Him and sets again in Him.” “The shining region of the heavens is His head, the sun and the moon are His eyes, the quarters of space are His ears, the Vedas full of knowledge are His speech, the air is His vital energy, the universe is His heart, the earth is His feet—This is the inmost Self of all beings” (Mund. Up., II. 1. 4). All reality known to us is limited to this Self. We love and possess things, we speak, act and think, because we are the Self of that which is loved, possessed, spoken, done and thought. The world subsists in our Consciousness which is the Great Self of all. Aught else than our Self is nothing; the Self is the “Vaishvanara”, God of all, and all are, because He is. Our Self and His Self are one; whatever is outside us, is also inside us:
“In reality, great as this external space is, so great is this space within the heart; in it are contained both the heaven and the earth, both fire and air, both sun and moon, lightning and stars, whatever is here, and whatever is not here—everything thereof is contained within it.” —Chh. Up., VIII. 1. 3.
A declaration is made in this, which strikes terror into the man of the world; the individual and the cosmos, the soul and God are one! “That thou art, O Svetaketu!” This may not be easy to accept, but only this can be the truth. This alone removes all contradictions in life, this truth alone stands unsublated. “The Purusha is what is and what is not.” “He who dwells in all beings, and is other than all beings, whom all beings do not know, whose body are all beings, who controls all beings from within—This is thy Self, the Inner Ruler, the Immortal” (Brih. Up., III. 7. 15). “In the space within the heart lies the Ruler of all, the Lord of all, the King Of all... He is the Overlord of all beings, the King of all beings, the Protector of all beings” (Brih. Up., IV. 4. 22). “Etad vai tat—This, verily, is That.”
The Supreme Lord is the Power of powers. “Agni cannot burn even a piece of straw; Vayu cannot blow even a piece of straw, apart from the Will of the Supreme” (Kena Up., III). All beings, even the gods, even the greatest powers, execute their functions properly due to their dread for this Supreme. The Great Lord can do or undo or otherwise do the whole universe in the quick flash of a fraction of a single moment! He is also the boundless ocean of Knowledge. Even the gods cannot see Him. He cannot be known even through penance and sacrifice. This Atman is not to be comprehended through mere discourse, intellectuality or extensive hearing; He is obtained only by him (to) whom He chooses (to reveal His Nature)” (Katha Up., I. 2. 23). This does not mean that God is an autocratic despot acting as He likes, regardless of the feelings and grievances of others. This would be a very poor interpretation of the sentence. God chooses all and excludes none who looks up to Him; He helps even those who do not know Him! Even a villain and an outcaste reaches Him through His grace. God is the ocean of compassion. He is the justest Ruler, the most beloved Parent of all. The condition “whom He chooses” exalts the supreme factor of self-sacrifice and self-abnegation and a flowing of oneself with the Divine Force, as against the egoistic undertakings of the individual, viz., scholarship, etc., which lead to self-conceit and inordinate pride. The passage also means that it is to be obtained only by that which one seeks to obtain, i.e., the Seeker is himself the Supreme Object which is the Sought. The subject and the object are one in Truth. No separate independence should be asserted with good as its effect. We are also cautioned to have the consciousness of the sole existence of the One Purusha, even when we offer sacrifices to different deities. The multiple gods of the Vedas are not the childish imaginations of undeveloped panegyrists who knew but to flatter superhuman powers, but they are the seers' visions, in the overflow of their ecstatic joy, of the Great Purusha who excels in the blissful revelation of Himself in His universal form. To the Vedic seers the world appeared as the beatific flooding of the abundance of the richness of God. This Supreme One is the Object of spiritual love. All beings have an innate longing, a love to attain it. “It is called Great Longing—Love—it is to be adored as such, and him who knows this, all beings love and long for” (Kena Up., IV. 6). At the mere transcendental wish of this Great Being, the whole universe is issued forth systematically, protected justly and destroyed root and branch. Ishvara is the Absolute Brahman working through the universe.
This is the Nature of Reality as appearing to put on all names, all forms and all actions, though these three aspects are the one being, the Self (Brih. Up., I. 6). The Upanishads do not make much practical difference between Ishvara and Brahman, and hold that “Brahman is both the Formed and the Formless” (Brih. Up., II. 3. 1). They voice both the phenomenal and the absolute points of view.
The proofs for the existence of Ishvara really turn to be proofs for the existence of Brahman. In fact there cannot be any strictly logical proof for the existence of an Ishvara who is different from Brahman. The moment we admit something which distinguishes Ishvara from Brahman, we bring forward a reality which is neither Ishvara nor Brahman. The Absolute which is ever consistent with itself does not allow in any extraneous principle which would limit Pure Existence. Ishvara is Brahman defined by the creative will. Brahman appears as the supreme Person (Purusha-vidha), and in becoming this it would appear to cease to be what it is, at least temporarily. Such a conception of Brahman would go against the very grain of the reality of Brahman. That Brahman becomes Ishvara in any way is not a fact, and if it is a fact, the whole of philosophy which posits the existence of the Absolute Reality would become a self-contradiction and absurdity. To make Brahman pass into another form is to deny Brahman. The theory, which holds that Ishvara's creation of individuals which are responsible for the nature of the world manifested is determined by the potentialities of the previous world-cycle, makes Ishvara a creature of time, divests him of omnipotence and freedom and creates an eternal duality of Ishvara and the material stuff called potentiality of creation in addition to a real multiplicity of individuals. Such an artificial view of Ishvara shows how it is valid only as a practical device for the explanation of the difficulties of the individual, and how it is not possible to conceive of an Ishvara real in himself. This view of creation is a regrettable echo of the Sankhya which so audaciously asserts a plurality of realities that it is blind to all the difficulties presented by such an assertion. An eternal plurality or duality contradicts the absoluteness of Reality, which is equal to denying Reality altogether. If it is said that Ishvara is not directly connected with creation but only helps in the manifestation of the world which is necessitated by the dormant potencies of the unliberated individuals, the question arises, ‘Who created the individuals?' It is said that the individuals are only the forms which Ishvara has imagined himself to be. If Ishvara is omnipotent, he can at any time cease from imagining thus. If he is to cause creation every time, after every world-cycle, and work like a clock, Ishvara can only be a machine and does not seem to have freedom of thought and action. Moreover, he seems to be working in strict consonance with the rules which he himself has framed! If the state of dissolution of the universe at the end of a cycle is forced upon Ishvara's experience, he is no more an Ishvara, a Lord. If, on the other hand, he does it voluntarily, there is no reason why he should go on creating, cycle after cycle, as though it is his bounden duty. Freedom and the sense of duty are opposites. If Ishvara has nothing to do with creation and only the individuals are somehow causing their bondage and liberation through some kind of relation which they have with the Absolute, there is no need for positing an Ishvara who is different from Brahman.
Further, the view that the freed souls should wait in the state of Ishvara until the dissolution of Ishvara himself after the universal cycle, would only show that Ishvara himself is controlled by the process of the creation, preservation and destruction of the universe, and that he has no freedom to stop it though it is his own will. If the world-process is only a sport of Ishvara, it cannot become a rigid routine, as a rule of duty cannot be a sport. We cannot say that Ishvara should abide by the process of the system of world-manifestation, etc., since manifestation and all that is connected with it is in time, and Ishvara is regarded as being the condition of even time. The theory that the creation of Ishvara is independent of that of the individuals, where the latter is the cause of bondage, a superimposition of relative values on universally existent attributeless independent objects, is not convincing. This theory seems to hold that the mind can think or know something even when it is purged of all desires and their impressions. Thinking is an active process, which is the same as the movement of a wish or will, the absence of which alone can be the state of pure equilibrium and harmony which is beyond the movements of the cognitive process. Every form of knowledge in an individual is a process, and pure equilibrium cannot be a process, it being free from all movements which alone can give process a value. What is called the creation of the individual is only external relationship. It is not possible for the individual to exist or know anything external, the moment it puts an end to its creation, viz., external relationship through the mind. The individual is nothing but what it does through its functional organs, and when it does not do anything, i.e., its creation ceases, it itself is no more, for the individual is only a mass of relativities or unintelligible relations even as everything that is created also is. The functional organs, too, cannot be said to be independent of their functions themselves, the relations in which they are inextricably involved, and when these functions cease, the instruments also cease. The individual is not an independently existing something. It is only a name given to a bundle of relationships. When the relationships are withdrawn, the individual is dissolved in pure Being. Ishvara's creation cannot be explained in terms of the different individuals of the universe, as the existence of the individuals, itself, cannot be proved logically. Ishvara is what he is because of the universe and its contents, and if the latter are not proved, Ishvara, too, is not proved, unless a purely untenable arbitrary argument is brought forward that Ishvara can conceive of pure objectivity or nothingness and imagine that he exists as an absolute individual even if no object second to him is known by him. It is a wonder how Ishvara can be omnipresent and at the same time be different from Brahman. If a differentiating principle exists in Brahman, neither Brahman nor Ishvara can be omnipresent. If there is nothing to separate the one from the other, there is only Brahman and not another Person like Ishvara. Ishvara is an appellation for Brahman viewed from the standpoint of the relative universe.
It is also said that Ishvara divided himself and became the many jivas. How did Ishvara do this without losing his innate characteristics? How did Ishvara conceive of the many individuals without knowing that one individual is different from the other? How can there be awareness of multiplicity without distinguishing one from the other? If Ishvara has no idea of distinctions, how does it follow that he created the multifarious world? If the idea of distinction belongs only to the relative individual and not to Ishvara, and if creation is not possible without the idea of distinction, it means that Ishvara has not created anything, and that therefore there is no creation at all.
These difficulties in proving the existence of Ishvara, as a reality somehow different from Brahman, appear, because the individual tries to shift its own values to the universal truth of things. As long as the individual exists, an Ishvara has to be postulated as its necessary counterpart. There can be no meaning in holding that individuals exist or the world exists, but Ishvara does not exist. If there is an effect, there must be a cause, also. The cause can be denied only when the effect is denied. Ishvara is the necessary objective presentation of the implications of the experiences of the individuals. In the admission of the world and the individuals the existence of a Supreme Creator is implied. If there is no God, there can be no world, too. The limited intelligence of the individual cannot comprehend the meaning of the universe except on the basis of an Ishvara governing it. Ishvara and the jiva are the two sides of the same coin. The two have a reciprocal relationship. When the one is denied, the other, too, is automatically denied. When the one is affirmed, the other, too, is affirmed. Ishvara is the cosmic side of the individual's acceptance of the reality of its own experiences. The transcendence of individuality, temporality or relativity is at once the transcendence of the state of Ishvara, also. Both the jiva and Ishvara are negated in the supremacy of Brahman. As long as the world is experienced as a reality, the reality of Ishvara is not abrogated. The degrees of reality and experience, which are facts of the individual's life, cannot be accounted for except by admitting an Ishvara as the Cause of the world. The distinction in quality between waking and dreaming can have meaning only when the existence of Ishvara is accepted as a fact. Truth and falsehood are known to be different from each other because there is a universe outside human fancy. Ishvara, therefore, has a relative reality. He is, in this sense, more an explanation of the universe of experience than true existence. And, wherever Ishvara is identified with the Supreme Self, we have to understand that it is the Essential Reality of Ishvara and not his relative form that is thus identified.
The Power of Brahman
If Brahman appears as Ishvara, this act of appearance is caused by its Power of appearance. We must, indeed, very much hesitate to say anything about “Power” in the Absolute, for thereby we betray the forgetfulness of our bold conclusions regarding the Indivisible, Non-dual nature of Brahman. If Brahman is considered to appear as Ishvara, and as a corollary, the world, we have to answer the question, ‘How does the One become the two and the many?' We cannot say that Brahman creates Ishvara and the world out of a substance which is other than itself, for it is secondless. Then, we have to take that it creates them out of itself, in which case its changeless, eternal nature is marred and it becomes a phenomenal being. Moreover, there cannot be space, time and causality in Brahman, which are necessary for creation. Hence, creation becomes a self-contradiction. The Brahmanhood of Brahman, i.e., its essential perfection, vanishes, the moment we take it to be the Creator, the Preserver and the Destroyer. Further if there is actual creation, how do the Upanishads reconcile this with their position that on the realisation of the Absolute there is disappearance of objectivity? A real thing can never be negated its existence. Only a false notion can be removed by knowledge. The creative act cannot be called even an Idea or a Thought of the Absolute, for in it thought and reality are one. If creation is different from the Absolute, it cannot exist. If it is identical with it, the Absolute alone is, and not anything produced. Hence, from the highest standpoint, creation must be false, a mere myth. This mysterious juggle, which, though not real, appears to screen the Absolute Consciousness and project an objective consciousness, is the so-called Power of Brahman, and its appearance is suggested in the Upanishads. Indra is said to appear in many forms through his juggling powers (Brih. Up., II. 5.19). The Svetasvatara Upanishad says that the Supreme Being is the juggler and the universe of creation is His jugglery (IV. 10).
This Power is only an objectifying force, as it were, which prevents Self-Experience through veiling and pulling the Consciousness away from itself by making it, for all appearance, self-deluded. But this Power is identical with Brahman even as heat and fire are one; then, how can Brahman delude itself, and where comes the existence of Power in Divisionless Being? And, further, how can there be objective force in the Infinite Mass of Consciousness? This is the inexplicable magic, which somehow must be, and somehow cannot be, which somehow deludes that which is eternally undeluded. Inexplicability is not an excuse if philosophy is to justify its purpose. No speculation has ever been able to give out the meaning of an undivided creation which is from eternity to eternity, and which is, therefore, no creation at all. We cannot say how and why we seem to be caught up in ignorance. This secret is super-logical. Our greatest intelligence lies in admitting that we cannot understand anything, finally. Anirvachaniyatva or inscrutability is our last resort; and this, after all, is the result which the proud philosophical reason has achieved after countless years of thinking. But, some bolder geniuses had the marvellous courage to mercilessly disregard all facts of relative experience without paying any heed to their contradictions and staring hard realities, all which are valid only to the realm of the individual, and to resolutely assert with wisdom that there is nothing but the One Brahman, the Absolute. Dispassionately judging, they alone seem to be the greatest heroes in human history. Nothing can be a better course than what they took. The Upanishad declares:
“Sarvam khalu idam brahma—All this, indeed, is Brahman.” —Chh. Up., III. 14. 1.
Ultimately, there can be no illusion, unreality, maya, error or any objective concept or knowable principle but only Consciousness-Absolute. Nothing else than Consciousness can ever be. This is the Truth. Since even degrees in Reality would mean objectivity and duality therein, they would reduce it to a phenomenal appearance. Reality, as it is in itself, can only be the Absolute free from all dividing elements, including the so-called degrees. The Absolute is ever Itself, never an object, never a subject, and so eternally indivisible.