Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Brahman

(Excerpted from my book Bhagavad Gita Pure)


This is very important concept not only in Bhagavad Gītā but also in the entire Indian philosophy. Literally Brahman means, something that is spread everywhere, in all directions, or something which is sustaining everything. Lord Krushna first mentions this word directly in verse 2.72 when He explains about the condition of a person with stable mind. Before that, Lord Krushna indirectly mentions Brahman in verse 2.46 when He talks about the knower of Brahman. Lord Krushna mentions Brahman as the goal of all beings in many places of Gītā. Therefore, we must understand clear meaning of this word. In verse 8.01, Arjuna asks Lord Krushna what is the meaning of Brahman. In answer to this question of Arjuna, Lord says in verse 8.03 that Brahman is Aksharam, which means something that is Imperishable, Immutable, and Eternal, which cannot be destroyed by the time. In verse 8.20, 8.21, 8.22 Lord further says, “unmanifested, eternal and all-pervading Consciousness can only be attained through devotion.” In these verses, Lord uses words like Avyaktah (Unmanifested or Invisible), Aksharah (Imperishable), and all-pervading Purushah (Consciousness) to describe the Brahman. In verse 13.12 Lord describes Brahman as beyond the definitions of truth and false. In verse 13.13 Lord says that Brahman has hands, feet, eyes, mouths everywhere because it is all pervading. In verse 13.14 it is said that Brahman is the knower of all senses and operates through senses but senses cannot know it. Brahman itself is devoid of three qualities (satva, raja and tama) of nature but it experiences these qualities. In verse 13.16 Lord says that Brahman is the creator, sustainer and destroyer of all, though it is undivided but it seems divided in all beings. In verse 13.17 Lord says that Brahman dwells in the hearts of all beings and can be known only through awareness born out of devotion (in the words of Dnyāneśwara "svasamvedya" which means can be known only through Itself).

In Bhagavad Gītā, we get ample information about Brahman or God or Supreme Consciousness through Lord Krushna. However, to have clear definition of this term we should look into another reliable source that is Taittiriya Upanishad. This Upanishad has clearly defined Brahman as “SatyamDnyānamAnantamBrahma | yoveda nihītam guhāyām parame vyoman | so aśnute sarvān kāmānsah |brahmanā vipaschiteti ||”. (One who knows Brahman which is Existence, Consciousness and Infinity, hidden in the cave of supreme sky of the heart—he, becomes one with the omniscient Brahman, and fulfills all desires). There are three words used to give hint about Brahman or God. First word is “Satyam” it means Existence that is beyond limits of time. Second word is “Dnyānam”, means Consciousness/Awareness and third word is “Anantam” which means infinite. This, I think, is the most suitable definition of God. In reality, God or Brahman is beyond limits of language but ‘Satyam Dnyānam Anantam’ these three words define God in best possible way that man can describe.

First word in this definition is Satyam, which means Existence that is beyond the rule of time. This term resembles with the definition that Lord Krushna gives in verse 8.03, Aksharam. God cannot be limited in time; God cannot be born in some time because if God is born in time then time becomes greater to God and one day He will be destroyed by time. Then God would also be an ordinary soul like all of us. Moreover, before the time of birth, God would have been non-existent. In such a situation God can never be born because nothing can born from nothing but God exists beyond limits of time therefore He can sustain all beings inside Him. When all beings or entire manifestation ends then also it remains in seed form inside God. As waves rise and fall into ocean, similarly all manifestation arises and falls into God. But a question might arise why should we assume any presence of God beyond time? Why not we think that there is no God but only time. However existence of only time is not possible because time has to have some substratum on which it can rely upon, in our day to day life space is that substratum. The existence of space and world inside that space is sufficient to prove that something exists, and the nature of that something is the main question which has to be solved. At this point I only mention that the something which exists (something exists because we experience world, we canot say that nothing exists because that would be self contradictory statement which would unltimately negate even our own existence) is God.
Second word is Dnyānam, which means Consciousness or Pure Awareness. Brahman or God is pure Consciousness. Unconsciousness does not exist in Brahman, all unconsciousness that we experience in material nature is like clouds coming and going in the sky. As sky remains untouched by clouds, similarly God remains untouched by unconsciousness of material nature. Even if for the sake of the argument, we assume that God is not Consciousness then we cannot explain how Consciousness can emerge in world. It is not possible for inanimate matter to produce any kind of consciousness because it does not have any free will to give birth to phenomenal world but on the other hand, Consciousness can produce inanimate matter and play with it.

Third term in above definition is Anantam, which means infinite. God or Brahman is not and cannot be limited by space because if so then space will be the limit of God and anything limited by space is also limited by time. In such a situation again world cannot sustain and the cycle of manifestation and dissolution cannot take place. Since there is manifestation and dissolution happening all around us we have to accept that the reason behind it is infinite God or Brahman.

If we assume that God has limitations of space then we have to accept that something else also exists that is not God. Then question would be what is it? How is its nature? Something that is not God would be complete unconsciousness because God is pure Consciousness, as mentioned in the above discussion the nature of God or truth that exists beyond the limits of time is Consciousness, then something that is not conscious cannot be beyond the limits of time because it is not the ultimate truth. So once, it is destroyed by time then it cannot manifest itself again and it will be or it might have been already destroyed by the time therefore, now we can clearly see that only God or Brahman exists.

I did above discussion just to make my point clear that God or Brahman exist beyond the limits of time and space and that is why we are here. Now one more and important question arises, what is its nature? Is it personal or impersonal? First, I clarify about these terms for readers to understand clearly. Impersonal means something that does not have any emotions. In reality, only inert matter does not have any emotions, all living beings have emotions. As we concluded in above discussion that Brahman is not inert but it is pure Consciousness then how can it be impersonal in this sense? It is a person or individual but it is impartial, as Lord Krushna mentions, He only favors His devotees, people who depend on Him, otherwise God does not interfere in the matters of nature and its forces. Material nature, once stimulated by God, operates itself as earth rotates the sun without any need of efforts on the part of the sun, or as our body can function on its own without any need for us to interfere in its day-to-day functioning, however it cannot function if we are not in it. Therefore, in the sense that God is pure Consciousness we have to accept that He is the Universal Person and all personalities belong to Him only.

There is another meaning of words personal and impersonal. Personal means someone having a particular personality, for example personality of Lord Krushna. Impersonal means someone who does not have any particular personality. If we investigate about God according to this meaning of personal and impersonal then we have to conclude that God or Brahman is impersonal. God does not have any particular personality because He is not bound in limits of space. To have any personality there has to be a form that is limited by space and if we assume that God has a form then He will be confined by space and time both, which will cause complete destruction of this world. Another problem arises if we assume God is having a particular personality, what about other personalities, if they do not belong to God then whom do they belong to? In such a situation, we will have to accept immeasurable quantity of individual souls who have personalities that exist beyond the limits of time. They will have to exist beyond time because if they exist under the influence of time then they will be destroyed by time,and then there is no need of liberation because one day we all will be destroyed by time. Another problem that occurs if we assume personalities under the influence of time is, time itself is not independent, time depends upon God who exists beyond the limits of time, time comes into being when God starts manifestation, and time exists only inside manifestation. So if the personalities are under the influence of time then automatically they will be under the rule of God who is the ruler of time. Because they are born in time then indirectly they are born from God who is the originator of time. In such a situation they all will belong to God, in other words God becomes impersonal. Therefore, if we accept that God is personal or a person then we have to accept that there are other personalities, apart from God, which exist beyond the limits of time.

However, wait, we have concluded above that something that exists beyond time also exists beyond space. As we saw before that only one God could exists beyond space because beyond space there is no boundary that can separate one person from another. Therefore, if we assume that many personalities exist, other than God, then we are caught in an unsolvable puzzle. If there are many personalities then all of them have to exist beyond the limits of time, and if they exists beyond the limits of time then inevitably they have to exist beyond the limits of space also, but beyond the limits of space there can only one personality and not many.

Therefore, we HAVE to conclude that God does not have any particular personality; Lord Krushna also mentions this truth in 10th chapter when He describes many of His manifestations. By this logic we understand that God is impersonal, however, all apparent personalities also belong to Him only, all personalities including all of us are not beyond the limits of time, and we all are under the rule of time, but the original personality (God) remains intact even after our destruction.

When Brahman is active, it becomes a person (in the sense of having emotions) and when it is inactive, it becomes impersonal. Even after becoming inactive or impersonal yet it can again become active or person (owing to the power of Māyā). Moreover, even after becoming active or personal, it can again become inactive or impersonal. To understand about this in detail we shall now look at three states of Brahman or Consciousness, and then we will be able to understand the activity and inactivity of God. This topic is not discussed in Bhagavad Gītā but it is important to have clear understanding about Brahman therefore I am mentioning it here. This topic is mainly discussed in Māndukya Upanishad where Brahman is referred as AUM and three states of AUM are described. Though this AUM passes through these states, there is no effect or taint of any of these three on AUM so it is also referred as Turīya or Fourth, Turīya is not an independent state like other three. People, who do not realize this, refer Turīya as a completely different fourth state, which is not right. In fact Turīya is the stateless state. Below I am giving information about the three states of Brahman or AUM. In first two states, Waking and Dreaming, the Brahman is active and manifests through its energies in the world of duality or Māyā, or it can be said that when Consciousness is active it is in the state of waking and/or dreaming, while in Deep Sleep Brahman inactively resides in its own bliss. These three states are applicable on both individual and universal level.

1. Waking State (JāgrutaAvasthā): - This state is also called as VyāvahārikaSattā, Empirical, or Transactional Reality. In this state, our body and mind both are active and full of energy. We experience the world collectively in this state. This state creates the multiplicity in one homogenous Brahman. In this state, there is awareness of space and time. This state is real relative to dream and temporal relative to Brahman that is why it is also called as mithyā, means passing or momentary. Brahman exists as an active Person or God and as multiple souls (Jivas) in this state.

2. Dreaming State (SvapnaAvasthā): - This state is also called as PrātibhāsikaSattā, Subjective Reality. In this state only mind is active. We do not experience anything from outer world and each other, but only experience our own mind subjectively. There is not correct sense of space and time; both space and time in this state are distorted completely than the waking state. Therefore, this state does not have its own existence in comparison with waking state. Experiences in this state depend upon the waking state. Therefore, this is not a completely independent state. However, in this state some people can see the future of waking state. In this state, individuality of waking state remains and Brahman or Consciousness behaves as a person.

3. Deep Sleep (SushuptiAvasthā): - This state is also called as PāramārthikaSattā, the Absolute Reality. This is the state when body and mind both are inactive. There is no sense of space and time. In this state the Brahman, that appears as divided in many in other two states, again shines in its own eternal and homogenous nature. In this state there is no sense of “I” and “You”, in other words there is not any sense of duality and we all merge into complete Advaita, non-duality. The condition of Brahman or Consciousness in this state is supreme truth beyond time and space that is why it is called as ParamaArtha, Supreme Essence. After death, when body dies and if for any reason no suitable body is available then Consciousness can rest in this state for long time but that resting Consciousness does not have any sense of time so whenever it comes back to another body and in another time, it continues its journey without any delay on its side. Though this state is PāramārthikaSattā, yet we are not enlightened about our own self in this state because of ignorance or unconsciousness (Avidyā) covering the reality.

As I mentioned above that the Brahman or AUM is always present in all three states of Consciousness that is why it is called as Turīya, the Fourth. All states are strung on Brahman. However, in Waking and Dreaming state we get entangle with our body and mind which creates the delusion of multiplicity. God as a person exist only in waking state. When Brahman manifests as individual person limited in space and time then the other infinite part of Brahman which looks like infinite space and eternal time, becomes God. Dreaming state is derivative of waking that is why it does not have much importance and in Deep Sleep or Sushupti, we become one with God himself who is beyond time and space. In deep sleep, when the Brahman that became a person, leaves its form and becomes one with remaining space and time, God also becomes impersonal. Though, we become one with Brahman in deep sleep still there is a curtain of ignorance, born out of our desires, that keeps our individuality intact. We again come back to waking state from deep sleep because we have desires. When a person becomes free of all desires, he does not come back from sushupti, and then this same state is called as Samādhi.

At this stage, an important question arises. When we become desireless, we become completely calm because that is our real nature. If we look at the nature of desire then we understand that desire arises in us when we see something attractive or feel that something else or someone else can give us happiness. To have this kind of experience there has to be duality when something else exist which attracts us towards it. However, if the nature of Brahman is calmness and homogenous presence then how and when the first desire was born in Brahman when there was nothing else to desire?
Various kinds of efforts have been made to answer this basic question. Some people say that there has never been any beginning; we all have desires from beginningless past. Some other say that desires are there because of the ignorance of our real nature then immediately next question arises why there is ignorance of our own nature. Some others says that we, the souls, are always turned away from God and therefore there is ignorance and sorrow. A question arises here also that though we the children of God have turned around from God, why God himself does not come in front of us and save us from sorrow, if He loves us then He should at least try to save us.

All answers, given above to the problem that why desire is there; answer only half of reality that there are desires because of ignorance. Same question extends that how can ignorance emerge in pure Consciousness like Brahman. In addition, what is the nature of this ignorance?

Real answer has been given in BhruguValli of Taittiriya Upanishad. We are not born out of any desire but we appear as born out of bliss. We are born out of infinite energy that is there in the existence. Another Upanishad is helpful in understanding it better. That Upanishad is Aitareya Upanishad where the process of creation is described in detail. Aitareya Upanishad says that in the beginning God was alone so He decided to create worlds so that He can experience His own grandeur. According to these two Upanishads, it is not bad to live in this world and enjoy it because God who is father of all of us has created this world for us to enjoy. However, problem occurs when we get lost in desires and are caught in bondage of results of our actions. We forget that we have come here to express our own energy and bliss and not out of any need. We do not need to ask for any result of our actions, our action should be just for play and when we manifested our intention was only to be active and not to seek results of our activities, that action itself is our intention in manifesting. We keep asking for the results of our actions and are caught in bonds on our own; here Bhagavad Gītā comes to our help when Lord Krushna gives us the Karma Yoga the method of renouncing fruits of actions as a remedy to our illness of sorrow which is born out of the bondage of karma.

So far, we have seen that we are born out of bliss but because of ignorance, we get lost in desires. This ignorance is of two kinds, one is the ignorance of our real nature as Consciousness, and another is ignorance of the transient nature of each and everything that surrounds us. First type of ignorance is born out of this second type of ignorance, if we understand the transient nature of everything that surrounds us then slowly first type of ignorance also goes away. When ignorance of both these types is removed, we again become one with God or Brahman. To remove this ignorance we have to surrender to God.

In the end, we also have to understand that though God or Brahman is a person yet He does not have any particular form because He pervades everything that exists, nothing exists without God, He is the totality of existence, in this sense God or Brahman is impersonal. Therefore, we can worship Him as our choice because Lord Krushna himself has provided many names and forms of His manifestations for us to worship, we can become devotee of anyone of that form including Lord Krushna himself and attain peace and happiness.

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