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By Nithin Sridhar
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 11
In the last segment, the questions regarding God were taken up and the following three questions were listed:
- What is God?
- Where is God?
- How to perceive/reach/realize God?
But, only the second question: Where is God? was taken up for analysis. The scriptures were quoted to show how God was not some super human being sitting in heaven, but he was present everywhere and in all objects as their innermost Self. It was further added that God can be realized in one’s own Hrdaya (Heart or center of existence).
In this installment, let’s take up the first question regarding God: What is God? Before proceeding further, it must be clarified that the term “God” is basically an English terminology that is rooted in western philosophical conception of the Supreme reality.
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The Hindu scriptures refer to the supreme reality as Brahman and by various other names like Atman, Ishwara, Bhagavan etc. depending upon the context and meaning that is intended to be conveyed. The Upanishads in particular use the term Brahman when it intends to speak about the God in its entirety, as existence itself. Therefore let’s look into how Hindu scriptures define Brahman.
The Hindu scriptures over and over again stress on the fact that the Brahman is beyond description. The Brahman is beyond the senses and the mind. It cannot be perceived by the eyes, ears, nose or even the mind; yet it is Brahman that makes all these faculties of mind and the senses to function (Kena Upanishad: 1.5-9).
Kena Upanishad (2.3), in fact, says that if a person believes that he can know Brahman as an objective reality, then such a person has not realized Brahman. On the other hand, a person who realizes that Brahman is beyond objective perception and is beyond the grasp of words or thoughts is an enlightened person.
Consequently, no count of words or gauge of logical analysis can actually define the Brahman. They, at best, can act as pointers in the direction of the ultimate goal. It is in acting as “pointers” lie the utility of such verbal or logical definitions. For example, the North Star, even though it did not reveal the destination as such, guided the sailors in the olden days towards their destination.
Similarly, the Upanishads give various definitions of Brahman to help different seekers of ultimate Reality who are at different levels of spiritual and intellectual competence.
Mandukya Upanishad (Verse 7), which is the shortest among all Upanishads, describes Brahman from the standpoint of Brahman. Consequently from that absolute standpoint, it describes the Brahman as beyond empirical dealings, beyond the grasp, unthinkable, indescribable, wherein all phenomenon of world as separate entity ceases to exist and wherein non-duality alone exists.
These descriptions may not make sense to many because most people are still in the realm of the objective universe bound by the Avidya (ignorance) that prevents an individual from rising above duality.
From the standpoint of Brahman, this universe as a separate and independent entity does not exist. Brahman which is non-dual (without a second entity) alone exists. This does not mean that the objective universe has no meaning. It simply means that, from the standpoint of Brahman, whatever we perceive as world, objects, names and forms are all Brahman alone.
As people find it hard to understand this and harder to digest this, the Upanishads also offer other definitions that can be understood from the standpoint of the universe which is rooted in duality.
Taittiriya Upanishad (3.1) defines Brahman as:
tadvijigyasasva tad brahmeti ||
Translation: From which all the creatures are born, being born by which they sustain and into which they merge back, is known as Brahman.
The definition given in this mantra (hymn) of the Upanishad gives three points:
- Brahman is the source of the Universe.
- Brahman sustains the Universe.
- Brahman absorbs back the Universe into its Self.
This is significant. The Upanishad is invariably saying that Brahman is both the material as well as the instrumental cause of the Universe. Moreover, Brahman exists as the support or sub-stratum of the Universe. It is for this reason that the Brahman is called as Atman, the innermost Self. It exists in the Hrdaya, the center of individual existence, and It supports the individuality and multiplicity of the Universe.
Let us ponder over some more about the terms “material cause” and “instrumental cause”. For the manufacture of any object, both causes are necessary. For example, for creating a pot, there must be a potter who makes the pot (the instrumental cause) and the mud from which the pot is created (the material cause).
There are various philosophies within Hinduism that give different and sometimes opposing viewpoints regarding the status of Brahman with respect to the universe. But, the Upanishad itself is clear that Brahman is both the instrumental and the material cause.
Hence, unlike the western religions and philosophies that define God as being separate from His creation, Brahman is not separate from the universe. The universe instead is considered as an extension or the body of Brahman and hence inseparable from Brahman. In fact at highest level it is realized that the universe is non-different from Brahman.
Without going into the details, it is suffice to say that, from the standpoint of the universe, the universe is the effect and the Brahman is the cause (both material and instrumental). And in order to realize the Brahman/God, one must dive deep into one’s own Self- into the Hrdaya- and travel from the effect to the cause and from duality to non-duality.
More in this segment:
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 1
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 2
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 3
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 4
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 5
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 6
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 7
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 8
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 9
By- Digital Hub
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The prestigious British-based, Booker Prize, is one of the most prestigious and acclaimed awards given annually to the best work of fiction. This award is given to a work of fiction which is primarily written in English language and published in the United Kingdom or Ireland by the writers of any nationality.
This year, six authors were nominated for their work of fiction, and the winner will be announced on the 3rd of November.
The books which were shortlisted for the prestigious Booker Prize 2021 are:
1. The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed
British-Somali writer, Nadifa Mohamed's novel, 'The Fortune Men', is a chilling reimagining of Mahmood Mattan's story. Mattan, who is the main character in the book, was a Somali seaman who was wrongfully imprisoned and executed for a murder in Wales.
2. Bewilderment by Richard Powers
Pulitzer-winner, Richard Powers' book is a story of a young astrobiologist, who is in search of finding life on other planets, and his troubled son, Robin. The book is a mixture of sci-fi and family romance. Interestingly, this is Powers' first book after winning the Pulitzer Prize in the year 2019.
3. Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
This book is about the lives of pilot Marian Graves and Hadley Baxter, who was a troubled Hollywood actress. In the 1950s, Marian embarked on a journey to travel the world but then disappeared without a trace. Fifty years later, Hadley is drawn to play Marian's character, which indirectly leads her to probe the mysteries of the latter's life.
4. No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockdwood
This is the first book by the American poet and memoirist. " 'No One Is Talking About This' is like a love letter to the endless scroll and a profound, modern meditation on love, language, and human connection from a singular voice in American literature," reads the book's blurb. This book was also one of the finalists for this year's Women's Prize for Fiction.
5. A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam
The Sri Lankan author's book tells the story of a young man who travels to Sri Lanka's war-torn North. The story deals with the themes of loss, longing, the legacy of war, and how it affects everyone. The author had earlier won the DSC Prize for his debut book "The Story of a Brief Marriage".
6. The Promise by Damon Galgut
Damon Galgut is a South African author. In this book, the author pens down the story about a white South African family living around in Pretoria, and the crisis they face during the last few years because of apartheid.
Today, 17 September,marks the 133rd birth anniversary of Michiyo Tsujimura, who was a Japanese scientist, and worked extensively on decoding the nutritional value of green tea.
Tsujimura spent her early career as a science teacher. And, in 1920, she chased her dream of becoming a scientific researcher at the Hokkaido Imperial University, where she began to analyse the nutritional properties of Japanese silkworms, in which she was very much interested.
After a few years, Tsujimura transferred to the Tokyo Imperial University, and began researching the biochemistry of green tea alongside Dr. Umetaro Suzuki, who is well known for his discovery of vitamin B1.
In their joint research in this area, it was revealed that green tea contained significant amount of vitamin C, which is the first of many, yet unknown molecular compounds in green tea.
Later on, in 1929, Tsujimura isolated catechin, which is bitter ingredient of tea. Then, the next year, she isolated tannin, which is an even more bitter compound. All these findings formed the foundation for her doctoral thesis– "On the Chemical Components of Green Tea", and through all this hard work, she graduated as Japan's first woman doctor of agriculture in the year 1932.
Moreover, Tsujimura also made history as an educator when she became the first ever Dean of the Faculty of Home Economics at the Tokyo Women's Higher Normal School in the year 1950.
Even today, a stone memorial in honor of Dr. Michiyo Tsujimura’s achievements can be found in her birthplace of Okegawa City.