Posts Tagged ‘Prakruti’

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) XXVII

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Shad Darshan – Vedanta philosophies (contd.):

Swaminarayan philosophy – Parabrahm

Parabrahm, Purushottam, or Narayan: Part V

God is sarvagna (all-knower). He is Karma-fal-pradātā (the judge and the reward giver of the deeds or actions). He does not have any of the worldly attributes. He is also called Nirgun, because He is beyond any attributes of maya. He is sarva-vyāpak (omnipresent) by His antaryāmi (inner guiding, inspiring, and controlling) power yet forever remains present in His abode. This is like space or energy that is inherently present in an atom yet no one can see it. The same way, God is present in every atom or subatomic particle of His Creation, but we cannot see Him. The same figure of God that is present in His abode is also present in every brahmand. This omnipresence quality of God, known as His “yogakalā” is beyond our human imagination or common logic (atārkya). While remaining there in His abode, He manifests in many different forms in many different brahmands according to His will. Wherever He resides in whatever form becomes the center of His abode as there are no limits to His abode. Thus, He never leaves His abode. This how Shri Swaminarayan describes in his Vachanamrut, “… In the same way, Purushottam Bhagwan manifests in whatever form is required in whichever brahmand – while simultaneously dwelling in Akshardham. Actually, He Himself forever dwells in Akshardham. In fact, wherever that form of Purushottam resides, that is the very center of Akshardham.” (Vachanāmrut: Gadhadā II-42)

He resides in Atma (souls) and in Aksharbrahm penetratingly (Vyāpak), because souls are akshar-like and though both are ontologically different, they are characteristically same. Atma (soul) and Akshar (Brahm) are both under His authority (ādhin) and dependant and penetrable compared to Him. He is all-capable. Purushottam (God) creates and enters the various types of life forms as their cause and as their inner-guide (antaryami) or controller (niyanta) and inspires them to different degrees according to the hierarchy (taratamataha). “Sva-kruta-vichitra-yonishu vishann iva hetutayā | Taratamatashchakāssyanalavat svakrutānukrutiha ||” (Shrimad Bhagwat: 10.87.19) Purushottam is distinct from Brahm and is the cause, the supporter, and inspirer of even the transcendental Brahm. Purushottam is described as different, distinct, and transcendental from both – Kshar (perishable) and Akshar (imperishable) in Gita (Bhagwad Gita: 15.17). Purushottam is also described, in Gita, to be transcendental and supporter of lifeless (jad) or non-transcendental (aparā) and live (chaitanya) or transcendental (parā) both kinds of prakruti (Bhagwad Gita: 7.4, 5). Hierarchy should be understood as follows. Among living (chaitanya) things, as per the knowledge (gnan), power (shakti), capability and potential (sāmarthya) humans are higher than animals and animals are higher than plants; devas are higher than human beings; and ishwars (purushas) are higher than devas. Brahm is transcendental to purushas and everything else, whereas Parabrahm Purushottam Narayan Paramatma (God) is transcendental to even Brahm. There is absolutely nothing higher than Purushottam. Just as tremendous energy resides in an atom without even being noticed or seen by anybody, God resides within the souls, universal souls (ishwars), His whole creation (maya), and Brahm. He is present in every little thing, though not equally but hierarchically (tāratamya). In common people He is present as the judge or the rewards giver for their deeds (karma fal pradātā), in His devotees He is present as an eyewitness (sākshi), and in God-realized Sant or Satpurush He is present entirely, fully, completely, and wholly (sāngopāng).

Shri Swaminarayan says that, God resides in the heart of a person who understands that the infinite numbers of wonders or miracles that happen at every moment in the world and cosmos are only due to God that I have presently realized or attained and no one else is the cause of all these wonders; who also realizes that, infinite numbers of wonders that have happened in the past, are happening now, and are going to happen in the future are all due to God that I have presently attained; who (is very stable minded, sthitpragna,  and) feels indifference even if someone were to humiliate or honor him; who also possesses countless noble virtues of the sant described in the scriptures, such as atma-gnan, brahm-gnan, devotion, dispassion, etc.; who, despite of possessing number of powers and potential to empower and liberate number of people, tolerates insults as well as praises of common and insignificant people; and yet who is a great forgiver. In such a person God resides forever.

And lastly, Shri Swaminarayan says that, “Everyone wants to worship God, but the difference is in the understanding.” (Vachanāmrut: Gadhadā I-27)

Darshan (Philosophy) XVIII

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Shad Darshan – Vedanta philosophies (contd.):

Swaminarayan philosophy – Maya

Maya or Prakruti

Maya means matter, in modern terms. It is the material cause of the creation. Maya is described to be trigunātmikā. Just as particles have three inherent properties of mass, charge, and spin; maya also has three inherent qualities called gunas, namely, Satva, Raja, and Tama. These gunas or properties are described in the Moksha-dharma section of Shanti ParvaBook 12 of Mahabharat. Maya is full of darkness and ignorance. It causes illusion. It does not have intelligence. It is lifeless (achetan), insentient, and dead. Scriptures called it jad-chidātmak (analogous to matter and energy or particle and wave form). It is also called the Shakti or power of Purushottam (God). It is the root cause of ignorance (avidya) and attachment of the soul with its body and bodily relatives. It creates the feeling of aham (I-ness) for the body and mamatva (My-ness) for the bodily objects and bodily relatives. It causes attractions for the two objects. It causes bondage or attachment of the soul with the world and worldly things.

Maya in its primordial form is also known as Prakruti. The primordial form of universe is called Pradhān and the primordial form of multiverse or multiple brahmands is called Mahāmāyā or Mul-Prakruti.

3. Pradhan and Purush

Pradhān is a kind of Prakruti. Sometimes, it is also known as Pradhan-Prakruti to differentiate it from the Mul-Prakruti. Pradhan-Prakrutis are infinite in numbers. They are all evolved from Mul-Prakruti. Pradhan is described in the scriptures as the material cause of brahmand. Its essence is known as Purush, called Pradhan-Purush to differentiate him from Mul-Purush. From Pradhan, Mahattattva – the primordial form of brahmand (universe) is evolved. From Mahattattva, three types of Ahamkar are evolved and from them 24 kinds of elements (tattvas) are evolved. From these 24 elements all of the non-living and living beings of the universe are evolved. Pradhan-Purush or Ishwar is the essence of Pradhan and the efficient cause of universe. Virāt form of brahmand, also known as Virat-Purush, is evolved from Pradhan-Purush. All avatars manifest from Virat-Purush. Vāsudev Narayan enters into and resides in avatars through Purush. His presence qualifies the avatar. It is not possible for an avatar to manifest through Virat-Purush without the presence of Vāsudev Narayan (God).

4. Mul-Prakruti and Mul-Purush

Mul-Prakruti (also known as Mahamaya) is mentioned in the scriptures as the root cause or the basic material cause of infinite numbers of universes (ananta koti brahmands). (Mahabharat: Book 12: Shanti Parva, Part 2-3: Mokshdharma Parva: Section: CCCLII) Scriptures describe that from a pair of Mul-Prakruti (also known as Mahamaya) and Mul-Purush (also known as Prakruti-Purush or Mahāpurush) infinite number of pairs of Pradhan and Purush are evolved. From each pair of Pradhan and Purush, each brahmand is evolved. Mul-Prakruti or Mahamaya is the final material cause of countless brahmands or multiverse. Prakruti-Purush or Mahapurush is the final efficient cause of countless brahmands or multiverse.

Mahamaya, Maya in general, is originated from a tiny portion of the luminescence (tej) of Brahm, which sustains in it all of the brahmands. “Vishtabhya aham idam kritsnam ekāmshena sthito jagat” (Bhagwad Gita: 10.42). Meaning, “I support (vishtabhya) this entire (kritsnam) cosmos (jagat) that is being existed (sthito) in a tiny portion or fraction (ekāmshena) of me (my body).” In the scriptures, Aksharbrahm is considered as the sharir (body) of Purushottam (Parabrahm) and Purushottam is considered Aksharbrahm’s shariri (essence or controller). “Yasyāksharam shariram…” (Subāla Upanishad: Khand-7) Meaning, “He, Narayan (God), whose body (sharir) is Akshar.”

Prakruti-Purush, Mahapurush, or Mul-Purush, as he is known by these names, is basically an aksharpurush or akshar-mukta, one of many akshar-like or akshar-rup purushas. This aksharpurush or Prakruti-Purush is desireless (niranna), already liberated (mukta), brahmanized, brahm-like, or has become one with Brahm (brahmrup), and is the cause or source of maya. He is fully contented, happy, and fulfilled (paripurna) with the bliss and happiness of Brahm, who is free from any desire to indulge in worldly or mayik pleasures. Even though he stays within maya he ever remains unaffected by maya. There are many such akshar-like, brahmrup Purushas who worship Purushottam Vāsudev Narayan (God). Mahapurush is born or arise (upajayate) from Aksharbrahm at the wish or will of Purushottam. Mahapurush is the cause of Mahamaya. Mahamaya, as such, is anādi (unborn) or eternal (without birth and death). But at the final dissolution (Ātyantik pralay) it becomes dormant, shrinks or dissolves in a tiny portion of Aksharbrahm, and remains embedded there until the next creation. It is the same Mahamaya that is reactivated or born from the tej or luminescence of Aksharbrahm by Mahapurush. Through Mahamaya, Mahapurush causes the rest of the creation of multiple brahmands. Thus, finally it is Purushottam Vāsudev who, in the form of Brahm, is both – the material as well as efficient cause of creation, sustenance, and dissolution of countless or infinite numbers of brahmands. Taittiriya Upanishad says, “Vignānam cha avignānam abhavat |” (Taittiriya Upanishad: Brahmānanda Valli, Anuvāka: 6) Meaning, “Brahm became the intelligence (sentient being) as well as the non-intelligence (insentient being) of the universe.”

Just as there is a difference between the jiv (an individual soul) and Purush (Virat-Purush or a universal soul and Prakruti-Purush or a multiversal soul), who is an ishwar, there is difference between ishwar and Brahm.

Aksharbrahm, the abode of Purushottam,  is the penultimate reality – the one and only. Purushottam is the Ultimate Reality. Aksharbrahm is the most sought for reality, for the yogis and the devotees of God who seek for the final resting place or the final liberation. The scriptures say that when the whole creation undergoes dissolution, there remains or exists nothing but God, His abode, and the liberated souls. This is the reason why it is called final liberation (Atyantik Kalyan or Moksh).

Darshan (Philosophy) XVII

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Shad Darshan – Vedanta philosophies (contd.):

Swaminarayan philosophy – Ishwar

Ishwar and Brahmand

2. Ishwar is the essence of brahmand. He is the universal soul – the creator, controller, and the efficient cause of whole universe (brahmand). Brahmand is his body. Brahmand is Ishwar’s field (kshetra) of action. Ishwar is the fielder (kshetragna) of brahmand. Each brahmand is evolved from a pair of Pradhān and Purush. Pradhan is a kind of Prakruti limited to a brahmand and is considered as the insentient or material cause of it and Purush (Pradhan-Purush) is the essence of Pradhan and is considered as the sentient, essential, or efficient cause of a brahmand. Pradhan is the primordial form of Mahattattva. Mahattattva (also mentioned as Hiranyagarbha or fire ball in the scriptures) is the primordial form of brahmand (universe). Purush is its essence.

Virat is an existing or sustaining form of a brahmand (universe). Because Purush is the essence of Virat, he is also known as “Virat-Purush.” In the scriptures, Purush or Virat-Purush is known as Ishwar.  Brahmand is described as Purushavatar.  Just as the soul has three kinds of body, Ishwar or Virat-Purush also has three kinds of body (sharir): Virāt, Sutrātmā, and Avyākrut – equivalent to gross, subtle, and causal bodies, respectively. Similar to the birth, life, and death of a star, Utpatti (birth or creation), Sthiti (life or sustenance), and Pralay (death or dissolution) of brahmand (universe) are the three states (avastha) of Virat-Purush or brahmand.Like jiva, Virat-Purush is also bound to his body called brahmand. Brahmand also undergo a life-cycle of birth, life, and death. Virat-Purush remains bound to his body until he finishes his lifespan. The lifespan of Virat-Purush is two parardhs (each parardh is approximately equal to 155.52 trillion years).  The death of a part of brahmand, called triloki (10 out of 14 loks which include swarg lok, mrutyu lok, and pātāl lok), is known as “nimitta-pralay.” It occurs at the end of everyday of brahmand during its lifetime. When the general dissolution or death of whole brahmand occurs it is called “prakruti-pralay.” When this occurs, the whole brahmand dissolves into Pradhān – its material cause, which in turn dissolves into Mahāmāyā or Mul-Prakruti. Purush gets in direct contact with Mahapurush or Mul-Purush, who is “akshar-purush” or “akshar-mukta.”

According to the scriptures, from the navel of Virat-Purush Brahmā was born. Brahmā, Vishnu, and Mahesh are the three sagun forms of Vāsudev Narayan (Vāsudevnarayan) for the control, operation, and execution of the creation, sustenance, and destruction of the brahmand (universe). When jiv worships these three sagun forms of Vāsudev Narayan, he achieves the three purushārths, namely, dharma, arth, and kām. When jiv worships nirgun forms or the avatars of Vāsudev Narayan he attains moksh. There exist countless universes (brahmands) with their own Brahmā, Vishnu, and Mahesh. Purushottam Narayan known as Vāsudev Narayan, in the form of Purush, enters into and inspires Virāt-Purush to perform his activities of creation, sustenance, and dissolution of Brahmand. Virat-Purush worships Sankarshan, Aniruddha, and Pradyumna (the three sagun forms of Vāsudev Narayan) during the state of dissolution, sustenance, and creation of Brahmand, respectively. As long as Virat-Purush worships sagun forms of Vāsudev Narayan, his association with maya remains intact and when he worships the nirgun form of Vāsudev Narayan he forsakes maya and becomes one with Brahm or brahmrup. Ishwar is the source of all incarnations in brahmand. The scriptures describe that all the avatars in a brahmand are manifestations of Vāsudev Narayan. When Vāsudev Narayan enters and resides in Virat-Purush in the form of Purush he is said to be an avatar. Because of this Virat-Purush is also known as Vairaj-Narayan. Thus, avatars are worshiped in Hinduism because of the presence of Vāsudev Narayan only.

The difference between ishwar and jiv is that ishwar is “sarvagna” (omniscient), whereas, jiv is “alpagna” (little-knowing). Ishwar is limited to brahmand or universe, which is its field (kshetra), whereas, jiv is finite and limited to its body (sharir) only. Another difference is that, Virat-Purush – the ishwar, at the time of dissolution leaves the universe – his body, forsakes maya, and goes directly to the abode of God because he is inherently free from maya but only for the purpose of creation he indulges into maya, whereas, jiv, at the time of death, leaves its body and merges into maya for entering the cycle of births and death, unless and until it becomes free from its bondage with maya.

Brahmands are countless or infinite in numbers (anant koti), each with fourteen realms (loks or lokas) located within it and the eight layers or shields (ashtavaran) covering from the outside of it, as is described in detail in the scriptures. In the whole creation there are groups or strata of brahmands. They are all of their original sizes and dimensions but because of the vastness of the creation they all look merely like atoms wondering around. As there are many brahmands, there are many pairs of Pradhan (kshetra) and Purush (kshetragna). Thus, Kapil rishi in the Sankhya scriptures acknowledges the plurality of Purushas. Mahabharat: Book 12: Shanti Parva, Part 2-3: Mokshadharma Parva: Section: CCCLI-II also mentions the same.

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) 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.

Darshan (Philosophy) IV

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Shad Darshan – Vedanta philosophies:

Advaita philosophy

Kevala Advaita philosophy of Adi Shankaracharya

Many sub-philosophies have been developed under the heading of Vedanta (Uttara Mimamsa) philosophy – the philosophies based on Prasthan Trayi, since the beginning of the Common Era. Out of them one is the Advait Vedanta philosophy of Shankaracharya.

Advait philosophy of Shankaracharya:

Advait philosophy is given by Adi Shankaracharya (788 CE-821 CE?). “Advait” means “not two” or “non dual”. The word “Advait” doesn’t mean “one”. It is different than Monism, because Monism is defined little differently. As against Sankhya philosophy, the Advaita philosophy believes that Purush (soul) and Prakruti (nature) are one and same as Brahm. It is because of Maya, avidyā, or agnān (ignorance or illusion) that they look different. According to this philosophy, there exists only one reality called Brahm. “Sarvam khalv idam brahm” (Chhāndogya Upanishad: 3.14.1) Meaning, “All that we see in the world is Brahm.” Everything, what we see, feel, observe, and experience is revelation of attributeless “nirgun,” formless “nirakar” Brahm. The real meaning of nirgun, nirakar is “without any worldly trigunatmak form”. This material world is merely an illusion or untrue, meaning, it is destructible, changeable but not the permanent truth. The root cause of all the ignorance, called “Avidyā” or “Maya”, is the belief that this material world is real or the truth. The ultimate liberation comes when one establishes unity of one’s individual soul with the universal soul or Brahm by solidifying one’s knowledge (gyan) that, “Aham Brahmāsmi” (Brahadaranyaka Upanishad: 1.4.10) meaning, “I am Brahm” and “Tat tvam asi” (Chhandogya Upanishad: 6.8.7) meaning, “You are that (Brahm).” It is true that one can identify one’s soul with Brahm, because both are described to be having similar characteristics in the scriptures. When Shankaracharya said everything is Brahm, he meant it. He had a vision to see everything as Brahm or filled with Brahm, just as a scientist sees everything as well organized structures made just of atoms or quarks. Just as everything in the nature is quarks or atoms in the eyes of scientists, everything was Brahm in the eyes of Shankaracharya. If we see this object is mine and that is yours, this object is prettier and that object is ugly, if we have partiality for some and impartiality for others then we haven’t reach that stage. According to the Advait philosophy of Shankaracharya, soul is Brahm, the Nature or Prakruti (the Creation) is Brahm, and the Creator of the Creation is also Brahm. In that way Advait philosophy is a kind of Monism. Advaitists believe that the whole universe is evolved from Brahm or God. For some these changes in Brahm are real, while, for others these changes or differentiations in Brahm are only apparent or superficial and not real. Advaitists believe that individual souls are created by Maya, in reality they are one with the Brahm. The removal of the veil of ignorance (Maya) makes this truth clear – the state being known as “Jivanmukti” (the living freedom). Shankaracharya’s path is generally known as the Path of Knowledge or “Gyān or Gnān Mārg.” In Vedanta philosophy there was no worshiping of Brahm, but still worshiping of God was there. God was considered Brahm. In Shankaracharya’s period, most of his followers were Brahmins and Brahmins were “shaivites” or “shaivas” meaning they worshiped Shiv (Shankar or Mahesh) as the Supreme Being or God. Shankaracharya himself was the devotee and firm believer of Shiv. So he continued that practice. In Rigved, the word Rudra is used for Shiva. Rudra is described as the last son of Brahmā. (Kurma Puran: 1.10.21,22; Linga Puran: 1.41,42,43; Shiva Puran: 7.1.12. 31, 32; Bhagwat Puran: 3.12.6-10; Skanda Puran: 5.1.2. 24-26; Mahabharat: 1.60.1-4) The same Rudra is described to be born of Prajāpati in the previous kalpa (eon or age of universe). Currently, Vedanta and Shankaracharya’s philosophy has mostly become synonymous.

There is also somewhat different philosophy than the Vedanta philosophy of Shankaracharya, which is known as “Shushka (sushka) Vedanta.”  Shushka means dry, baseless, or bijless (nirbij, bij means seed or the essence). The followers of Shushka Vedanta or modern Vedantis, unlike followers of Vedanta philosophy of Shankaracharya, do not believe in or worship (bhakti) any God at all nor do they believe in many of His divine forms, and His abode, thinking that after becoming one with the Brahm, one need not worship or bow down to any God. They become so arrogant that they no longer have fear committing any seen. They do not even believe in any scripture-described moral or do’s and don’ts called “Vidhinishedh”. They only believe in nirakar nirgun Brahm, which itself has assumed the form of all mobile and immobile objects. Shushka Vedantis forget the controversy created by their own belief that along with jiv and all mobile and immobile objects of the universe Brahm also has to undergo births and deaths. Their own liberation thus is refuted by their own beliefs. Shushka Vedantis are those who think themselves as Brahm having still harboring lust, anger, greed, infatuation, jealousy, ego, etc and without even having attained the highest status of Brahm. They forget that Shankaracharya had truly attained the highest brahmanized state, he himself had become one with the Brahm, and he was surely and meaningfully seeing the whole creation as one, before saying the same to the others. So, Shankaracharya’s Advait Vedanta theory is widely accepted but the kind of understanding that is seen in Sushka Vedanta is largely condemned by the main stream Hinduism. Just by saying, “I am Brahm” or believing to be Brahm one cannot be like Brahm, by completely knowing about Brahm from the scriptures also one cannot be like Brahm, but by achieving or cultivating all the qualities of Brahm one can be like Brahm. Shankaracharya had truly become one with the Brahm.

If one tries to understand the form of God through Advaita Vedanta philosophy only, then God is realized as formless or abstract (nirākār) because of His description as nirgun (without any worldly mayik qualities or attributes), sarva-vyāpak (all-pervading), and sarva-kāran (cause of all). But not as having the “eternally forever divine form” (sadā divya sākār) as opposed to the any worldly form with which God’s form cannot be compared. Secondly we cannot realize that divine form of God that listens to us, talks to us, watch us, answers to our prayers, forgives us, gives us pleasure and joy, and accepts our services and devotion (navadhā bhakti). How God can talk and listen to us person-to-person, if He is not in person and we are in person and if He is formless and we are having form? If He can take any form in Nature, He sure can take the human form.