Tuesday November 19, 2019

Upanishads unfold mystery of Brahman

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credit: www.bhavanajagat.files.wordpress.com

By Nithin Sridhar

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 11

credit: hridaya-yoga.com
credit: hridaya-yoga.com

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.

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:

yatOvAimAnibhUtAnijAyantE

yEnajATAnijIvanti

yatprayant-yabhi-sam-vishanti

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

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 10

Next Story

Fireworks Might Extinguish the Flame of Laxmi Puja

We can have various kind of festival enjoyments on Festivals but without ever causing problem to others and the environment

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Fireworks
There is no mention in any corners of the voluminous scriptures of Fireworks blasting during a PUJAS that “upset” the harmony of peace and tranquility of others. Pixabay

BY SALIL GEWALI

If one wants to connect Hindu culture with the senseless bursting of crackers and boisterous fun then he is absolutely wrong. There is no mention in any corners of the voluminous scriptures of Fireworks blasting during a PUJAS that “upset” the harmony of peace and tranquility of others. To disturb others’ tranquility falls under the heading of vices. Preserving the sanctity of the environment, and more importantly, inner purity of mind and heart is the “prime doctrine” of SANATAN DHARMA which is popularly known as Hinduism. This Hindu culture now seemingly run the risk of having been defined by other communities with what is not very pleasant to hear.

Fireworks
It should not be misunderstood ever that Hinduism disapproves of all kinds of fun and frolic. No, it is never so.  We can have various kind of festival enjoyments but without ever causing problem to others and the environment without Using Fireworks.

I’ve overheard many toxic comments against this blatant desecration of auspicious “puja celebrations”. During Holi festival, many people fear to move out of their homes, particularly in certain the plane areas in India. You might be blasted with a bucketful of dirty water by pranksters from the 5th floor of the building. Is this sadism the part of the puja and holi celebration? One is afraid, with each passing year, this festival of color of joy, though having strong spiritual significance, has only painted the very face of Hindu culture with vulgarity and depravity.

Fireworks
If one wants to connect Hindu culture with the senseless bursting of crackers, Fireworks and boisterous fun then he is absolutely wrong.

Matter of fact, peace in one’s life and his efforts to help bring peace in others’ lives is essentially the fundamental basis of Hindu culture and festivals. Practically speaking, there is no devotion to God without “peace”.  Therefore, “Shanti” (peace) is one of the most paramount peace mantras in Sanskrit, not “Ashanti” which, of late, is the hallmark of such Hindu puja celebrations. The profound objective behind this peace mantra, as propounded in Upanishads, inspired even one of the greatest poets of the 20th Century – TS Eliot who underlined it with the purpose of life which he brought out in his epic poem – The Waste Land. That poem finally ends with the same peace mantra — Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

Fireworks
TS Eliot who underlined it with the purpose of life which he brought out in his epic poem – The Waste Land.

It should not be misunderstood ever that Hinduism disapproves of all kinds of fun and frolic. No, it is never so.  We can have various kind of festival enjoyments but without ever causing problem to others and the environment. There are sufficient mentions of fun and frolic, merrymaking even in the spiritual activities — like Krishna LilaRam Lila…; and there exist endless nritya shashtras for healthy recreation. But they all are within the “purview of Dharma”. Ancient sages in their meditation conceived and authored a number of treatises in which we find the elaborate approaches and procedures to evolve oneself spiritually through fun-filled dances and music. There are “ragas and layas” (musical modes and rhythm), which are meant to “recharge” the mind for the meditative concentrationThe objective behind being to climb up the ladders of realization of oneness and universal uniformity.

Fireworks
There are sufficient mentions of fun and frolic, merrymaking even in the spiritual activities — like Krishna Lila, Ram Lila…; and there exist endless nritya shashtras for healthy recreation and not Fireworks. But they all are within the “purview of Dharma”.

However, there is absolutely no scope or prescription for deriving pleasure or fun by causing pain and anxieties to others? How come bursting high decibel fireworks at 2 AM or 3 AM or 4 AM is puja? In fact, it is called “adharma” or irreligion leading to self-degeneration.

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Therefore, it is DIYA, as per Vedas, which symbolizes the LIGHT to dispel the darkness of ignorance, the darkness of vices, and bring forth the light of knowledge to awake the “inherent” divinity. Goddess Laxmi is the “flame” of feminine ENERGY in the infinite cosmic creation. So, indulging in earsplitting fireworks and causing continuous problem to HER creatures, and HER environment, is totally against the fundamental principle of the devotion in Hinduism. Very sadly, with the blasting of the fireworks in the name of Goddess Laxmi we have invariably set off the tank of vices alone.

Salil Gewali is a well-Known Writer and Author of ‘Great Minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali