Posts Tagged ‘Nature’

Darshan (Philosophy) XXXII

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Shad Darshan – Concluding comments:

Conclusion II

In conclusion, all of the above philosophies of Hinduism describe about the fundamental realities, from one, two, three, or five, and their relationships with each other. We can reduce all the realities, before the creation, to just one reality – God. But then we cannot explain all the realities that are in existence after the very first creation. The creation itself is a reality. We have to explain everything based on the minimum possible number of fundamental realities considering all the past, present, and future scenarios of existence. Even scientists have difficulty in reducing everything to just one particle and one force.

All philosophies agree that the Supreme Being is one, unique, incomparable, and unparalleled, who is conceived or understood as the perfect, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, creator, source, and controller of the universe, the cosmos, and everything. He is eternal, without beginning and end, forever stable, and unchanging. He is beyond time, space, deeds, and material world of maya. He is Soul of the souls and God of the gods. In Hinduism, He is known as Paramatma, Parabrahm, Purushottam, or Narayan. “Parabrahm” is so named because it is beyond or transcendental to Brahm (Param Brahm).

Brahm or the Abode of Parabrahm (God) is another reality which is penultimate to Parabrahm. Initially Brahm and Parabrahm were inferred as one reality, but later on it was clearly understood that Parabrahm and Brahm, God and His abode, cannot be just one reality. They are two different realities. Scriptures have described some of the characteristics exclusively for Parabrahm that cannot be applies to Brahm or any other realities. Parabrahm is the Supreme Being – the topmost creator, controller, and the essence of all. Parabrahm is described as the soul (shariri) of Brahm (sharir). Brahm is described as the body (sharir) of Parabrahm. Just as body (sharir) and soul (shariri) seems to be one, Brahm and Parabrahm were also understood to be one reality. But, they are not one and the same entity. Parabrahm can sustain without Brahm, but Brahm cannot sustain without Parabrahm.

In Hinduism, there is description of a super-soul or universal soul called Purush or Ishwar. In Hinduism, there is a crucial distinction between Purush and Purushottam (God). Ishwar or Purush is the super-soul of brahmand (whole universe). Hinduism describes about many brahmands. It is obvious that if there are many brahmands and each brahmand is governed by its own super-soul, then there are possibilities of existence of many super-souls. Existence of many Purushas is described in Sankhya scriptures and other scriptures like Mahabharat and Purans.

In Hinduism, individual soul is understood as ontologically distinct reality from God, Nature (Prakruti), and other realities. There are many individual souls or inner-self called atma or jiv limited to each mundane physical body. Each soul is separate, distinct, and different than its body. Therefore, bodily relations are simply bodily relations and are limited to the current birth only. The past, present, and future bodily relations have nothing to do with the souls. Once the soul is free from its three kinds of body it gets liberation or salvation. Soul has to be brahmanized (brahmrup) to get ultimate salvation called Atyantik Moksh. For that the living being has to take the shelter of God and completely and unconditionally surrender to Him, who resides forever in His abode and also, as His presence on this earth, in Satpurush (God-realized person or sant), in Satshāstra (Holy Scriptures), and in Satkriyā (pious and virtuous actions). No one has seen God as scientists see or observe tiniest particles or farthest galaxies and quasars. Everything what we know about God is from the holy scriptures. Scriptures have described every tiniest detail and the characteristics of God and His true and the choicest devotee or follower. Hinduism believes in worshiping the present form of God on the earth and that also in the form like us with which we can find some resemblance or similarity, develop intimacy, do some communication, and enjoy the same bliss on this earth and in this very life as we would enjoy in His abode. This also makes sure that what we are getting here, we will be getting there in His abode. Anyway, salvation ultimately is in His presence, in His service, and in His close association whether here or in His abode.

Darshan (Philosophy) XV

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Shad Darshan – Vedanta philosophies (contd.):

Swaminarayan philosophy – in General III

From the beginning of the Shad Darshan until the advent of Swaminarayan philosophy only three fundamental realities, namely, soul, nature or universe, and Ishwar (God), were mainly defined and discussed from the Prasthan Trayi and other Hindu scriptures. As our understanding of the Prasthantrayi was broadened two new categories were emerged that did go beyond the above three categories of Shad Darshan and Vedanta. The addition of two new categories covers the whole multiverse – the groups and strata of brahmands and their super-souls (ishwars or purushas). New categories were needed to clearly define and include Ishwar, Purush, Brahm, and Parabrahm, in our complete understanding of all the realities. Maya or Prakruti as matter or material of the universe and soul as the essence of the life are clearly described, defined, and understood from the scriptures.

Ishwar, Brahm, and Parabrahm are described and discussed, in the scriptures, as the realities but were not categorized separately. Sometimes they were described synonymously, but, at other times they were described distinctly. So the scholars defined them according to their preferences. We can see from the other Vedanta philosophies that the confusion was still prevailing among the scholars. Shri Swaminarayan characterized them into three distinct ontological categories to clear the confusion. He clarified that Ishwar, Brahm, and Parabrahm are three totally different ontological elements or Tattvas and not just one reality or element with three names. Some of the characteristics unique only to Parabrahm (God) cannot be attributed or applied to Brahm and the characteristics of Brahm or Parabrahm cannot be applied to Ishwar. He placed Purushas into the Ishwar category.

In the scriptures, brahmands are described in multiplicities. So, their essences or super-souls, called Ishwars or Purushas, are also described in multiplicity, but Purushottam (the Supreme Being) is described as the topmost – one and only entity. Purushas or Ishwars cannot be fitted into the category of Purushottam or Parameshwar, nor can they be fitted into the category of souls because of their universal potential. Brahm (also known as Akshar or Aksharbrahm) is the abode of Parabrahm. It is described different than Parabrahm. Within this abode, Aksharbrahm, countless brahmands float like mere atoms. Parabrahm cannot be fitted into the category of Brahm. Parabrahm is the controller and the topmost cosmic authority and cannot be the permanent resting place to harbor millions and millions of brahmands and the non-liberated and liberated souls inside it. Parabrahm is the essence or soul of Brahm. In the scriptures Brahm is described as the body of Parabrahm in which He resides forever. The scriptures have described body and soul (sharir-shariri or kshetra-kshetragna) relationship with Brahm and Parabrahm, respectively. Parameshwar, Parabrahm, Purushottam, Narayan are different names of the single, most transcendental entity (tattva), known as the Supreme Being. Thus, we have to have minimum five eternal (shaswat) fundamental realities to explain everything that is discussed in the scriptures and also exists in this phenomenal creation of God.

Darshan (Philosophy) XII

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

Shad Darshan – Vedanta philosophies (contd.):

Shuddhadvaita philosophy

Shuddhadvait philosophy of Vallabhacharya:

Pure non-dualism or Suddha Advait (Shuddhadvait) philosophy is given by the 15th century scholar of Hinduism Shri Vallabhacharya (1479-1531). As one may think, the pure non-dualism may mean Advaita or Monism, but it is not. Advaita philosophy of Shankaracharya and Monism of the Western world are different than pure non-dualism. About the relationship between two realities, namely, the world and God, Vallabhacharya believes that God (Brahm) is pure and non-dualistic, but at the same time, unlike Shankaracharya, he strongly believes that the souls and Nature (universe) are not illusion but real. His philosophy is known as Shuddhadvait Brahmvād. This is opposite of Kevala Advait philosophy of Shankaracharya, in which, the world and souls are all considered as one with Brahm. The difference between Advait philosophy of Shankaracharya and the Advait philosophy of Vallabhacharya is that, in Shankaracharya’s philosophy the soul, Nature (universe) and everything else is Brahm but look different because of the illusion created by the ignorance (avidyā) and veil of maya. In Vallabhacharya’s philosophy the soul, Nature (universe) and everything else is real but appears distinct from Brahm until one is totally engrossed in the bhakti of Krishna (God), at that time everything is realized as God, just as Gopis used to see and realized everything as Krishna and nothing but Krishna. Foe example, when they were selling butter they used to see Krishna instead of butter.

Surprisingly, in the non-dualistic philosophy the general belief that God is unparalleled, the one and only is still maintained. Vallabhacharya strongly believed that Brahm means personal God – the Supreme Being and he could not accept the nirgun and nirakar nature of Brahm. He firmly believed that God is in the personal form only so as to accept his devotion and services (seva bhakti). The difference in Vallabhacharya’s tradition and other Vaishnav Acharya’s traditions is in the style of worship or devotion and in the use of specific terminologies. In Vallabhacharya’s tradition, also known as Pushti marg, the initiation to the tradition means “brahmsambandh.” The word “pushti” literary means “the grace of God” and “brahmsambandh,” literary, means the relationship (sambandh) or union of the soul with Brahm (the supreme entity or God). Brahmsambandh is needed to transform the ordinary jiv (soul) to Pushti jiv (pure or graced soul). “Pushti marg” means the path of spiritual nourishment and of the grace of God. The one who is admitted to the Pushti marg gets the kind of purity of one’s soul, which is needed to be eligible to pursue bhakti (meaning, the daily worshiping or services called sevā of the murti (as if it is living deity) which is known as Pushti Swaroop) and relationship with God (Brahm). The pure love for God (Shri Krishna in His child manifestation) is shown through seva (services to God) and smaran (remembering God). In Pushti marg the exclusive rights to grant brahmsambandh are only given to the descendants of Shri Vallabhacharya. In Pushti marg, the enjoyment of God’s bliss and God’s grace are considered as the primary goals of the devotee, seeking the liberation is secondary to it. Achieving the knowledge (gnan) – brahmgnan or atmagnan is not considered as important as the personal services (seva) to God for the liberation.

Vallabhacharya was a contemporary of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Just as Chaitanya’s tradition is known by the Kirtan Bhakti of adult Krishna, Vallabhacharya’s tradition is known by the Seva Bhakti of child Krishna (Lālji). Philosophy wise both traditions – the tradition of Vallabhacharya and the tradition of Chaitanya are almost similar except some minor differences in worshiping. Vallabhacharya’s tradition is known as the path of grace of God or “Pushti Marg.”

According to Vallabhacharya’s philosophy, as with other Vaishnav philosophy, there are also three basic realities: soul, universe, and God. Soul is characteristically not much different than God. However, God or the Supreme Being is believed to be the whole (purna), whereas, individual soul is a part (ansh) of it. Soul, itself, is Brahm with one attribute bliss or happiness (Ānand). It is considered both doer (kartr) and enjoyer (bhoktr). Maya is not regarded as unreal but as real and the power of Ishwar. Ishwar is both the creator and the creation (which includes universe and souls) itself. Brahm desired to become many so He became individual souls and the universe. It is the pure Brahm that is the effect (kārya) and cause (kāran) of this world. According to this philosophy, though the knowledge (gnan) of God is needed, it is the devotion to God or bhakti which is considered as the means of liberation. The philosophy stresses utmost love, devotion (bhakti), activities related to personified God and complete servitude to God rather than aiming the goal for the liberation called “Mukti”. Liberation automatically follows the total surrenderance and devotion. Vallabhacharya’s philosophy considers Brahm as Purushottam (God). Everything that was created from brahm that ultimately ends in the Brahm after dissolution by the time. Souls or living objects are considered as part of Brahm and non-living objects are considered as modifications of Brahm. After death and destruction or dissolution, Soul (jiv) and universe, both mixes with the Brahm. The object of worshiping in this philosophy is Krishna who is considered as Narayan or God himself (Svayam Bhagavan). Krishna is considered as the cause of all avatars including Vishnu. His “Satchitanand” (also called Sachchidananda) form is considered as the Absolute Brahm. His abode is called “Golok” (Goloka) which is consider beyond Vaikunth or Vaikuntha (the abode of Vishnu), Satyalok or Satyaloka (the abode of Brahmā the Creator), and Kailash or Kailas (the abode of Shiv). Thus, God and His abode are considered two separate things. The reason for the creation is considered, according to this philosophy, as no other than the sport (leelā) of Shri Krishna, and is unlike illusion (maya) of Vedanta. The liberation of jiv occurs by God’s grace only, as a result or reward of giving-up of oneself solely with the heart, mind, and body called “Atma-nivedana” and nine kinds of worship called “Navadhā or Nava Vidha Bhakti.”

Darshan (Philosophy) V

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Shad Darshan – Vedanta philosophies (contd.):

Vishishtadvaita philosophy

Vishishtadvaita philosophy and almost all of the “Vaishnav” philosophies of Hinduism are based on Panchratra scriptures – one of the four kinds of Vaishnav Agams (Vaishnava Agamas). Agamas are a separate class of authoritative Hindu scriptures than Nigams (Nigamas) or Vedas. Panchratra scriptures are divided into seven groups, namely, Brahma, Shaiva, Kaumara, Vashishtha, Kapila, Gautamiya, and Naradiya. The Naradiya Panchratra is in the Shanti Parva section of the Mahabharat and is considered as the earliest source of Panchratra philosophy. The followers of the Vaishnav tradition regard Panchratra scriptures, especially of Naradiya origin, as the most authoritative, in which Vishnu is mentioned as the Supreme Lord.

Panchratra scriptures:

As against Vedanta understanding of Brahm, there is a major philosophy of Parabrahm Narayan (God) described in the “Panchrātra” shastras (scriptures). Vaishnav Panchratra shastras glorify God as Vishnu. According to Panchratra Shastras, there is one Supreme God (suggesting the monotheistic nature of Hinduism) known as Purushottam Narayan who assumes or reveals Himself in five different ways: 1. Para – the original form in His abode, 2. VyuhChatur Vyuh (four nirgun forms) in brahmand for the worship, 3. Vibhuti Avatar – an incarnation on the earth, 4. Antaryāmi – inner controller or indweller, and 5. Archā (murti or pratimā) – an image or object for the worship. He manifests or emanates in brahmand as four forms (chatur vyuh) of Vāsudev, Sankarshan, Aniruddha, and Pradyumna. Sankarshan, Aniruddha, and Pradyumna forms of Vāsudev are the major controlling forms during the destructive, sustaining, and the creative phases of brahmand (universe), respectively. It is he who assumes, manifests, or reveals himself as an avatar on this earth. Murtis are described of eight kinds. The ninth kind is chal murti generally known a Brahmanized or God-realized Sant in whom God resides fully. According to Panchratra, one, who offers nine kinds of devotion (bhakti) to him, attains the liberation (mukti or moksha).

Vishishta Advait philosophy of Ramanujacharya:

As against Shankaracharya’s Advait philosophy or non-dualism of Nature (Prakruti) and Brahm or the soul and the Brahm, there is also another major philosophy called Vishishta Advait or qualified non-dualism of Ramanujacharya (c. 1017-1137). It is based on the spiritual and physical experience and realization of God by offering utmost devotion (bhakti) to God, instead of just knowing the nature of self and God (brahmgnan). The same illusory world of Maya of Advait philosophy of Shankaracharya is used for offering the devotion or bhakti towards personified (sakar) God. According to this philosophy, the soul and God are both qualitatively or characteristically similar but ontologically quite distinct entities and not the one and same or part and parcel. This dual or paradoxical understanding of both the realities makes it special or “Vishishta” and separates it from the Shankaracharya’s Advait philosophy. Secondly, it clarifies the distinction between the Creation (Prakruti or Nature) and the Creator (Ishwar or God). Ishwar is transcendental to both jiv (soul) and jagat (Nature). The philosophy still falls short of clarifying the ontological distinction between the jiv (soul) and jagat (Nature) even though characteristically both are opposite of each other.  One is chit, chaitanya, essence, sentient, indestructible, indivisible, unchangeable, and non-decayable while the other is achit, achetan, jad, insentient, destructible, divisible, changeable, and decayable. It considers jiv (soul) and jagat (nature) are two modes of one reality called Brahm. According to this philosophy, the soul is “Chit-Brahm” meaning chaitanya or sentient being and the jagat (Prakruti or Nature) is “Achit-Brahm” meaning achetan, jad or insentient being. According to this philosophy, soul and nature, both as Brahm, are the body (sharir) of God (Parabrahm). In this way Brahm (sharir) and Parabrahm (shariri) make the two, respectively, penultimate and the ultimate, dependent and independent, transcendental eternal realities. Thus, according to this philosophy, there are mainly three fundamental realities, called “Tattva”, namely, Chit or Jiv (soul), Achit or Jagat (universe), and Ishwar (God). The triad of jiv, jagat, and jagadishwar (jagat + ishwar = jagadishwar, meaning, ishwar or lord of the jagat) is generally known as Brahm – the one and only. Thus, it does not differ much from the Advait philosophy of Shankaracharya. The apparently minute or subtle (sukshma) but the philosophically major difference between the two philosophies is that, Ishwar is considered different than Brahm in the Vishishtadvaita philosophy, whereas, there is no difference between Ishwar (God) and Brahm in Advait philosophy. Vishishtadvaita philosophy considers Ishwar as an essence or substantive part of Brahm, whereas, jiv and jagat are considered the two modes of Brahm. Ishwar is transcendental to both jiv and jagat. Ishwar (God) has dual characteristics: he resides or is present as a principle, universal spirit, and as an inner controller inside all beings, at the same time, all beings reside within him. Vishishtadvaita philosophy is generally known as the Path of devotion or bhakti (Bhakti Mārg) because it stresses more on devotion to God rather than to Brahmgnan or mere knowledge of Brahm. The devotion to God exceeds simple union of the individual soul with Brahm without any devotion to God. Shankaracharya’s “Gnan Marg” does not involve much of the devotion or worship of God instead it stresses more on the knowledge and the union of the soul with the Brahm – the Supreme authority. Just as the Advaita philosophy of Shankaracharya has become synonymous with Vedanta, the Vishishtadvaita philosophy of Ramanujacharya has become synonymous with Vaishnavism (Vaishnav theology). The word “Vaishnav” has come from worshiping Vishnu as God or the Supreme Being.

If one tries to understand God only by studying Panchratra shastras (scriptures), God is realized as purely human being like us, simply because common people or non-devotees cannot see or find any divinity in His worldly routine activities. Secondly the personal form of God gets all the limitations and becomes localized in one place at one time and not as the forever universal inner controller (sarva-antaryami) form and all-perfect (paripurna) form.