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Friday, November 25, 2016

Demystifying the strange mantra

Recall the original strange mantra we started with.
“That is complete. This (too) is complete. (This) complete has come from (that) complete. When complete is removed from complete, what remains is also complete”

If we equate ‘that’ to the original ‘That’ which alone existed in the beginning (recall the Chändogya Upanishad creation story) and ‘this’ to our perceptible world we see around, including us, the meaning of this apparently strange mantra becomes almost clear. 

This world came from ‘That’. And as per the Upanishad, even after this world came out, ‘That’ remained as it was. ‘That’ did not get transformed into ‘this’. It took more forms and coexists with all those forms.

There is no doubt about the fact that the original ‘That’ was limitless or ‘complete’. But each of the forms taken by ‘That’ is definitely not limitless and complete.  Each has its own shortcomings.

If that is the case, how does the above mantra say that ‘this’ is also complete?

We probably have to see each of the entities in ‘this’ sans the name and form it has taken. What do we see there? ‘this’ is same as ‘That’. This is what exactly, many Upanishads say – when all names and forms are dropped, ‘this’ becomes indistinguishable from ‘that’ or in some way ‘this’ merges with ‘That’ in the same way “the rivers merge with the sea when they finally lose their individual names and forms”. Before merging, each river had a name and its own characteristics such as speed, breadth, length, force and so on. But once they merge with the sea, there is no river but just the sea.

This is also the momentary experience one gets in advanced stages of meditation or samädhi. When the identity with the body is overcome, the limited ‘I’ becomes universal ‘I” which is limitless. 

So, ‘this’ is also ‘complete’ in reality.

PS: I am aware of possible objections some staunch Dvaita adherents may have to my explanation. I am only trying to unify diversity in views and see sense in various Upanishadic verses, and great philosophies of these masters whom I hold in high esteem. After all, in the domain of ‘infinity’ our ‘limited’ algebra does not work as we saw earlier.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Multiplicity in the universe is only apparent

Recall again the Chändogya Upanishad description of the creation of the world that we discussed in an earlier post. Originally there was a single entity. But that single entity (simultaneously) took different names and forms and ‘became’ many.

No matter what forms and names the original ‘That’ took, the fact remains that each of those forms are all ‘That’ in the essence. The names and forms may be different. It is a case of simultaneous coexistence of the same entity in many forms. In our space/time limited world view, such a thing is difficult to comprehend. But let me give a simple example to illustrate this point (this is only for illustration, please don’t stretch it beyond limits)

Assume that there are multiple movie theaters adjacent to each other, each running different movie with the same actor playing the lead role.  In each movie, the actor plays a different role – in one he may be a drunkard, in another he may be a wicked man, in yet another he may be a saint and so on. The role is dictated by the story line of each movie and the actor plays exactly as per the script – the name and form he has taken.

At the same time the real actor sitting somewhere, may neither be a drunkard, nor wicked, nor a saint. He is in no way bound by the story line of the movies he has enacted. For a viewer, the same actor appears differently. But behind all those diversity of roles, it is the single actor who is playing the roles. The differences are imposed by the story lines of each movie.

So if we ignore the space/time limitation of our perceptible world, it is not too difficult to understand that behind all this seeming diversity, there is a single entity that appears differently. 

This is exactly (well, almost), the Advaita philosophy of Šankara – “Brahma (the name used for ‘That’) alone exists, the diversity is just apparent (Mithya) “

Let us move back a step and see the original strange mantra with which we started and see how all these things mesh well. That will be the next post.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Multiplicity in the universe is real

Recall the Chändogya Upanishad description of the creation of the world that we discussed in an earlier post. Originally there was a single entity. But that single entity took different names and forms and ‘became’ many.
Once it became many, each form has its own limitations and properties. In that respect no two forms are identical. An apple is not same as orange – each has a different shape, color, looks, taste and so on. So also, any two individuals – you are not identical to me. We are different in our own ways. Are we at least same as that ‘original’ thing from which we all came from? Definitely not. The original ‘That’ had neither form, nor any limitations.

This is the Dvaita philosophy of Madhva. He said – “no two inert (‘Jada’) things are identical, nor are they same as any living being (‘Jiva’). Neither are they comparable with ‘That’ (‘Paramätma’). Similarly, no two living beings are identical, nor any of them are comparable with ‘That’”. 

In essence, there are five kinds of differences between three categories of entities namely ‘That’, soul and inert things. i.e.

  1. difference between inert things,
  2. difference between inert and living beings,
  3. difference between inert things and ‘That’,
  4. difference between living beings ,
  5. difference between living beings and ‘That’ 

This is the so called ‘Bheda väda’ (philosophy of differences) or commonly called Dvaita philosophy of Madhva. Since the original ‘That’ was real, each of the other two categories of entities is also real. So, not only the world but also the diversity in the world is real. 

Does this mean that the other philosophy, namely that of Šankara is wrong? Let us see that in the next post. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Our space-time limited world

We live in a space/time limited world. Here, no entity can exist in more than one place ‘simultaneously’. Similarly, no two things can occupy the same space at the same time.
The consequence of this limitation, that we take for granted, is that an entity cannot have more than one form at the same time. Also, the form dictates the capabilities of the entity. For example, water can either be liquid – as water, or solid – as ice, or gaseous – as steam, at different times but not at the same time. And when it is liquid it has different properties and uses as compared to when it is in solid form. So these names and forms make them different, though the contents can be one and the same.

What if we remove this space/time restriction?

In such a situation, a single entity can be liquid, gaseous, or solid at the same time: probably, many more things. Though they appear to be many different things, they all are indeed the same thing.

With this relaxed restriction on existence, let us trace back our discussion to previous posts.