Posts Tagged ‘Truth’

Darshan (Philosophy) XXXIV

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Shad Darshan – Concluding comments:

Nota Bene II

We are asking so many questions about God, but can we ask just a few questions for ourselves? Do we really believe in God? If we really believe in Him, then we wouldn’t be doing what we are doing now. If He really comes in front of us, then we would not be treating Him as we are treating Him now when He is not present in front of us. If He really comes here and sees us doing what we are not supposed to be doing, then would He be proud of us after all His teaching and preaching?

Questions to ask for ourselves:

If we really believe in Him, then have we ever tried to achieve a few good qualities of Him? If we believe in humanity, then how come we, at times, become inhumane to others? We should not be asking for death of others, as in case of death sentence, for the death of our loved ones. God never preached an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth, rather He taught us for forgiveness. How can we ask for forgiveness from Him, if are not willing to forgive others? If He is merciful, then why we do not show mercy to others? Why we hurt others or kill them – doesn’t matter if they are animals or humans, friends or foes, rich or poor, good or bad, justified or unjustified, for good or for bad. If we believe Him as the judge of everyone then why are we judging others? If we believe He does justice to others, then how can we do injustice to others? If we believe He is the boss, then why we take His law in our hands and try to be bossy on others. If we know He has tolerated and suffered for others and is still doing so, then why we are not so tolerant to others. Why we bother whom, why, and how others worship to Him, if we are not sure for ourselves why, how, and whom we worship. If we cannot develop any of His good qualities in us, then how can we expect Him to enjoy our company in His abode? If we firmly believe in Him, then why do we have doubt in Him? If we believe in Him then why do we have double standards – one for us and one for others; or why do we have triple standards for our own self – for thinking something else, saying something else, and doing something else?

Lastly, a few words about the science:

Let’s ask a few questions about the science and religion. Has anyone heard any scientists saying, “I study and teach science, astronomy, or physics in college and university, but I do not believe in black hole,” or “I do not believe that black hole exists.” “Well, Gravity is Gravity, but, I believe in Newton’s Gravity and do not believe in Einstein’s Gravity.” “I teach solar system, but I do not believe that the sun is at the center.” “I do not believe that the earth is round. I personally believe that the earth is flat.” Well, this happens in case of religion and religious philosophy. One may hear, among religious philosophers, saying that, “I study and teach religious philosophy, but, I do not believe in God or in His existence.” “I teach religion but I do not believe in Western God. I believe in Eastern God.” “I preach about the religious practices and commands of God to others, but, I personally do not believe in strictly following them.” In science the measures used, for example, of time, length, volume, mass, etc., are standard: nationally and internationally, globally and universally, for the scientists and for laymen, for poor and rich, or for believers and for non-believers. Well, for religion, the measures or ethical and moral do’s and don’ts, such as, not to steal, not to deceive, not to adulterate, not to gain or use wealth in wrongful way, to do humanitarian or charitable work, etc. are all relative, never absolute or neutral. They change according to the person, time, circumstances, creed, greed, wealth, color, race, gender, sexual orientation, and individual preferences. We see double or triple standards for ourselves and for others, for believing, preaching, and practicing. We talk about the Truth but we try to hide the truth. The science proposes and publishes theories, but never impose upon others to believe them. Whichever theory is true would be survived in the harsh experimental testing and rigorous argumentative discourses and debates and then would be accepted widely until it is disproved by another theory that would be more truthful, veridical, and realistic. Science is open to accept the truth and is also open to reject the un-truth. In case of religion, it is not like that. God’s words are all revealed in the scriptures but we want, to believe and interpret them, subjectively, according to our own will, likings, preferences, or necessities. Not only that we want to promote and impose upon others what we believe is true, simply because of our deep faith and love in ourselves. In religion, we are not open to accept criticism, nor are we willing to accept other beliefs simply because we do not know the truth. Until then belief simply remain as a belief. These are the differences between trust in the science and faith in the religion. For the majority of people, in the current era of modernization, religion has remained the subject of belief and discussion only, whereas, science is becoming day by day the subject of trust. The root cause of the difference is in the application or practicing. Whatever the science says people apply and whatever religion says people are reluctant to put into practice.

Why the science and spirituality do not go together? Why religions shy away from the science and why many scientists do not believe in God? Spirituality is based on the faith while science is based on the facts. Spirituality has no limitations, science has limitations. Spirituality thinks farther and faster but philosophically, science thinks comparatively nearer and slower but firmly. We can say that spirituality is far-sighted, science is near-sighted. If we believe in God, then we should not have to worry even for science. Science can make us untrue but not the god. If we worry about the science, then in fact we are worried about ourselves, about the philosophies that we have created, about the understanding of the scriptures that we have interpreted, and about the explanations of God that we have enforced to or imparted upon others, that we might be disproved otherwise by the science. If we do worry, then believe that, God also worries with us. If God doesn’t worry then why should we worry at all? Shouldn’t we be that courageous or confident? Science is not our enemy. Science is our friend helping us to understand the truth, to correct us if we are doing anything mistakenly. Are not we supposed to be using the science to explore the Truth, to propagate the Truth, and to keep us alive and healthy for long to enjoy the bliss of the Truth? Science and spirituality go together and cannot be separated from our lives. As religious people, we might think that science is our enemy, but on the contrary, science is our rival in searching for the truth. So, let it race and go deeper and deeper. It will ultimately help us. Ultimately, a day will come when science will also be ineffable and say, “Truth is there, but we are incapable to describe it.” “Not this, not this,” as it is said for God in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, “Neti, Neti” meaning, “this is not the Truth, the Truth is still beyond – beyond our reach, beyond our description, and beyond our understanding.”  God is indescribable.

Darshan (Philosophy) XXXIII

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Shad Darshan – Concluding comments:

Nota Bene I

Philosophy is a vision or explanation of the Truth. In the modern times of materialism, industrialism, capitalism, greedism, and superficialism several questions do arise apart from the philosophical views discussed above. The most important and commonly asked question in present time is: Does God exist, or rather, still exist compared to older time of innocence and less materialism? Do we have proof of His existence? If He exists, then why something bad happens to someone who firmly believes in Him compared to the non-believer? If He exists then where does He truly reside? Does He have control over us or do we have gained control over Him, by scientific power, monitory power, political power, or may be by trick? If He has control over us then is He going to keep the control with Him forever even after the great advances of science, such as, cloning, stem-cell research, and creation of living cell in the laboratories? Should we worry about that or about Him? And lastly, do we really have earned that right to ask these questions, especially the last one?

Let’s try to answer these non-philosophical questions of reality about the Reality?

God’s reality

Whether God is real and true, there is one God or many rivals of Him or only someone’s God exists and else’s God doesn’t, all of these questions are truly up to Him to answer or look out. Let’s ask ourselves before asking such questions, are we really ready to take care of His issues? Isn’t He all-capable to respond by Himself? Isn’t it our greatest illusion that we are taking care of His business when we are not even fully capable of taking care of ourselves, our own business, when we are constantly asking for His help or others’ help in our day to day life. So, rather asking just for the sake of asking let us be real and true to ourselves which would be more fruitful and beneficial to us in the path of spirituality.

God’s existence

The true and faithful answer for God’s existence would be that “God exists and still exists.” For someone He may be in the form of the motivating force, vital force, or energy but He does exist. The cosmos is not bare or unattended without the presence of the Supreme Divine Authority. It is definitely controlled and intricate right from the biomolecular or microscopic level to the cosmic level. The highly intricate design of the cell at molecular level and of atom at subatomic level does require a designer and to operate that machinery for the definite purpose does require the intelligence. If anything happens in the universe we do have reason or material explanation to believe it on the name of the natural laws of science. But the universe itself is the phenomenal happening how can we explain its reason? Without the higher or supreme intelligence or authority (not just the force) the existence of everything would not have been possible.

A big question disturbing everybody, “Why something bad happens to me or only me?”

We all believe that, we are all comparatively good people, we may be more or less religious but are, for sure, spiritual or may be believers of God. Then, why something bad happens to us or only us? To understand that, let’s first understand the difference between the understanding of materialists and theists about the phenomenon of happening. Materialistic people understand that if anything happens to us, good or bad, is due to a chance. Spiritual or theist people understand that if anything happens to us, good or bad, is due to God’s will or destiny. God always wants to do good to us. God never does anything bad to anybody. It is never His intention. It means that, whatever bad happens to us must be because of some reason other than God. So, everything cannot be placed on God’s will only. There must be part of our role too. For that, Hinduism has proposed the role of Karma in deciding our own destiny – the importance of good actions and bad actions to make or create our own destiny or fate. Otherwise there wouldn’t be importance of good doings and bad doings. Yet, everything cannot be placed on Karma too? What about if someone is good, does good karma but put oneself in bad place at bad time or reaches at right place at right time? What about if someone is good and one’s intention is good too, but, does something bad unintentionally or unknowingly? So, other than actions (karma or kriyā), there must be some role of other factors too, such as, place (desh), time (kāl), company or association with (sang), command (mantra), bad books or bad media (shāstras), initiation or membership to organization or group (dikshā), and emulation or contemplation of the role model or the chief upon whom one trusts and ponder (dhyān). Now, the question arises that suppose if a good or Godly person, by mistake, knowingly or unknowingly, or circumstantially, has committed any bad action, should such action be pardonable or not? Even the President has an authority to pardon death sentence, then why not God be authorized to do so. For this reason, theists have again placed God’s will at the top. The Supreme Being is the final authority and not the karma or any other influencing factors.

God’s residence

The question is where does He reside in the cosmos or on the earth apart from His abode? Rather someone would ask that where do we keep Him? Let us ask that to ourselves. Do we keep Him on our head, within our thoughts, on our tongue only, within our heart, within our conscience or just in our pocket or pocketbook? Truly speaking God resides in our heart, mind and soul. We are looking for God in the sky but we cannot see Him there. We are looking for God on the earth but we cannot believe Him in the human form. If He would come in non-human form or some alien form would we be ready to believe Him? No, we would be rather scared. So, how can we know Him? God is right in front of us but we are not ready to believe Him. God is in our heart, mind, and soul but we never try to look inside in ourselves. God is not far away from us. Even His abode is not far away from us. It is not up above in the sky nor is it down in the center of the earth. It is right within us, not even an atom’s distance away from us. We need those kinds of spiritual eyes or vision to see it.

Proof of His existence

If we have kept Him present forever and uninterrupted in our conscience then the solid proof of His existence is right there. Then probably the question of His existence wouldn’t even arise in our minds. Our actions will speak for our proof of God. We will get the answers to the above and all of the questions arising in our mind about God. God is right there, not outside but within, in our inner self – in our conscience. If He is not there, then where else He could be? He would just be in the books of philosophies in the libraries or in the classrooms for study.

God’s control

If God is the Supreme Being, then we do not have to wory for losing His control over to the science. If He is the Creator, then He, for sure, knows about the Destruction or Dissolution, and even for the Recreation of the worlds! He must have planned or, if not, then He must have the capability to do that. Otherwise He wouldn’t be at that Supreme position. He has smartly given finite lifespan or lifetime to every living and non-living things in His creation. He has made everything dependent upon Him. He must have kept that key with Him. Rather than God controlling us, we are taking control over ourselves, over our fellow brothers and sisters, over their wealth, their property, their land, and their freedom in the name of God and in the name of religion – some might have done in the past and some may doing now. And, if we do not stop this now, then somebody else will be doing in the future. Among these where is God’s control? Who is the real controller – God or us?

Darshan (Philosophy) XXXI

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Shad Darshan – Concluding comments:

Conclusion I

All of the above philosophies of Hinduism have one thing in common. They are all derived from and consistent with the triad of authentic Hindu scriptures known as Prasthan Trayi, namely, Upanishads, Bhagwad Gita, and Brahm Sutra. They include the essence of all the ancient Hindu scriptures, namely, Vedas, Upanishads, various sutras, various smrutis, all the Purans, Mahabharat, and Ramayan. Number wise Hindu scriptures are not just a few texts but they are hundreds in numbers, consisting of hundreds of thousands of verses (shloks) and short sentences (sutras), and all of them are in Sanskrit or other vernacular languages derived from Sanskrit. It is difficult to study single-handedly and understand them all individually. This explains why there are many interpretations, explanations, and commentaries just about one single Truth and the five fundamental eternal realities in Hinduism.

The beauty of Hinduism is that it allows complete religious freedom at the same time teaches to develop the utmost tolerance for others’ belief. This is exactly opposite of bullying. Smruti shastras allow devotees to worship their own deity as God or demigod (devata) and to follow their own choice of scriptures according to their own level of understanding and intelligence irrespective of the Ultimate Truth. Yet, at the same time it also teaches to keep in mind that one is allowed to compare anything or anybody with God but one can never compare God with anything else that is lower than the level of God in His whole creation, not even with the transcendental and penultimate reality Brahm – the abode of God. This was the understanding of Madhavacharya when he placed Lakshmi at the little subordinate or subservient level to that of Narayan (God). Hinduism tells the truth to the followers of any deity or any God other than the Supreme Being, Parabrahm Purushottam Narayan, cautioning them, that whosoever follows other than Purushottam Narayan will be led to that particular person’s or deity’s own destination depending on that person’s or deity’s own power and capability but not the final resting place or the ultimate destination of the most powerful Supreme Being. The ultimate destination or the final redemption can only be reached by following the Truth, the true Supreme Being, or by achieving the truly ultimate knowledge. Hinduism tells never to follow blindfolded. It says to use one’s own intelligence and judgment objectively and see the behavior, level, and achievement of the Guru (guidance counselor), his Guru or master, and his students or followers. It also advises to disregard the social or worldly etiquettes, manner, or any other external variables of the true Guru in learning the brahm-gnan. Hinduism helps also by providing all the necessary guidance and guidelines to understand, know, and follow the Truth and at the end leaves the responsibility of taking final decision on the individual. Hinduism never forces anybody in following the religion, it just tells about the Truth. Shad Darshan shows the science of how to know the Truth. No matter whom one follows, no matter which path one follows, and no matter which decision one takes, it always advises never to lose one’s spiritual joy – the bliss of brahmanized state (brahmpanu) or the eternal happiness one gets by having union or close association with Brahm or Brahmanized sant or satpurush.

The Satyam (the truth), Shivam (the greatness), and Sundaram (the beauty) of Hinduism is that leaving aside its religious and philosophical aspects, and keeping one’s own faith or belief in one’s own religion, religious practices, religious philosophy, and the choicest deity of worshiping, one can still study, understand, and practice the universal, natural, and humanitarian aspect of it to bring the mental peace, world peace, and the heaven, paradise, or swarg on the earth.

Darshan (Philosophy) XXIV

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Shad Darshan – Vedanta philosophies (contd.):

Swaminarayan philosophy – Parabrahm

Parabrahm, Purushottam, or Narayan: Part II

How God is described in Hinduism? According to Shri Swaminarayan in his own words, “There is a mass of divine light that is like countless millions of moons, suns and flames of fire. That mass of light appears to be like an ocean. The form of Purushottam Bhagwãn resides within that luminous, brahmarup abode of God, and He Himself assumes an avatãr from that form. “What is that God like? Well, He transcends both the perishable (Kshar) and the imperishable (Akshar); He is the cause of all causes; and countless millions of aksharrup muktas worship His holy feet. Out of compassion, that very same God is manifest and present before your eyes in an incarnated form for the purpose of granting ultimate liberation to jivas…” (Vachanāmrut: Gadhadā III-31)

How a person cultivates faith in God? The faith in God has always been cultivated through His manifestation on the earth. Shri Swaminarayan says that, “Please listen, I wish to speak to all of you about God. Whenever (jyāre) a jiva attains a human body in Bharat-khand, God’s avatãrs or God’s sãdhus will certainly also be present (vicharatā) on earth at that time. If that jiva can recognize (olkhān) them, then he becomes a devotee of God.” (Vachanāmrut: Vartāl 19)

This is the universal message of Hinduism to the human being in which Shri Swaminarayan does not specify any particular God (Bhagwan), sadhu, or person. God means the Supreme Being and Godly sadhu or person means the truly qualified sant or person per scriptures in whom God would like to stay fully, personally, and forever. The word, “whenever” means, not only in his time or in the present time but he is also talking about the past and the future. The word, “Bharat-khand” literary means “Bhārat or India.” But it may also mean the better place or pious land to live and worship God, where righteousness, truth, justice, and peace are prevailing. The word “God’s avatār” means manifestation of God in human form. The words, “God’s sādhu” means truly qualified Sant or Godly person who is having God forever in his heart, mind, and soul; who is brahmanized or God-realized; who is the guard and guide of universal humanitarian religion called the “Sanātan Bhagwat Ekantik Dharma”; who do not kill demons or bad people but accept them under their refuge and take out their evil power, their vicious, poisonous, or bad nature, their evil thoughts, evil actions, evil ways, and evil manners  from their hearts and mind to make them like sant, spiritual, or godly persons like themselves. The word “vicharatā” means travelling around on this earth to guide us in our life and to share the happiness, joy, or bliss of God with us. It also means that the earth is never barren without having the presence of God. The word “olkhān” means the one who knows that God or truly qualified Godly person or Sant and associates with him for the only motive of salvation or liberation.

Shri Swaminarayan describes, “Shri Purushottam Bhagwãn, whose form is forever divine, is seated in extremely luminous Akshardhãm. That same God assumes the avatãrs of Rãm, Krishna, etc., upon this earth for the sake of granting liberation to the jivas. Then, the jiva that develops firm faith in that God by profoundly associating with the Sant progresses spiritually day by day…” (Vachanāmrut: Vartāl-12)

How to know God according to the scriptures?

When God assumes an avatar on this earth; He possesses 39 characteristics or attributes as a king (the ruler) and 30 characteristics as a sadhu. These attributes of manifest form of God are described in the 1st canto (SB: 1.16.26-28) and 11th canto (SB: 11.11.29), respectively, the Shrimad Bhagwat Puran.

Shri Swaminarayan says that, “The 39 characteristics of God’s avatar in the form of king are listed in the first canto of the Shrimad Bhagwat (Puran). The 30 characteristics of God’s avatar in the form of sadhu are listed in 11th canto.” He says that, “The one who aspires for liberation should recognize God through these characteristics and seek refuge of that (avatar or manifestation of) God. One should have complete faith in Him. One should perform His bhakti (worship) while observing or following His injunctions.” (Vachanāmrut: Vartāl 10)

Darshan (Philosophy) XXIII

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Shad Darshan – Vedanta philosophies (contd.):

Swaminarayan philosophy – Parabrahm

Parabrahm, Purushottam, or Narayan: Part I

God in Hinduism is known as Parabrahm. Parabrahm means Param Brahm, that is transcendental to Brahm. After describing Brahm, Swaminarayan philosophy describes the fifth, final, and the topmost eternal reality called Parabrahm (God). Parabrahm is described to be the one and only one, unparalleled, all-transcendental, permanent (avināshi), all-powerful (mahāsamarth), and the Supreme Reality. Parabrahm Purushottam Narayan is transcendental to Brahm who is transcendental to everything else except Parabrahm. Parabrahm (God) is the final authority of all authorities, the final power of all powers. He is the soul of all the souls. He is the soul of Brahm also. Purushottam is the Final Cause (Kāran) of all causes. He is cause of even transcendental Brahm or Aksharbrahm – His divine abode. The whole creation is His effect (Kārya).

2. Parabrahm, Purushottam, Narayan, Paramatma, Parameshwar, the Supreme Being or God:

Parabrahm (God) is described to be the one and only one. There cannot be more than one supreme. No one even can be like God. Shri Swaminarayan says that, “Only God is like God. Many have attained qualities similar to His by worshipping Him, yet they certainly do not become like God. If they did become like God, this would suggest the existence of several Gods. As a result, the governance of the world would not remain orderly. One God would say, ‘I will create the world,’ while another God would say, ‘I will destroy the world.’ One God would say, ‘I will make it rain,’ while another would say, ‘I will not.’ One would say, ‘I will instill human instincts in animals,’ while another would say, ‘I will instill animal instincts in humans.’ A stable state would not be possible in this situation. But see how orderly everything functions in the world! There is not even the slightest irregularity. Thus, the governor of all activities and the lord of all is one God. Not only that, it seems that no one can ever challenge Him. Therefore, God is definitely one, and no one can become like Him.” (Vachanāmrut: Gadhadā III-39)

Parabrahm (God) is described to have four basic characteristics:

Sarvopari (Supreme Being or transcendental to all); Sarvakartāhartā (all-doer and all-un-doer), Antaryāmi (inner guide) Prerak (inspirer), and Niyantā (controller); Sadā Sākār (always having the divine form and never formless); and Sadā Pragat (meaning, forever present in this world (brahmand) in person, without even leaving His abode, for establishing the four basic elements of the religion, namely, Dharm (religious and social vows), Gnan (ultimate knowledge of the Truth), Vairagya (dispassion and detachments from the worldly objects), and Bhakti (utmost devotion) of Ekāntik Dharm (universal religion) in the heart of all Human beings. In Hinduism His presence being mentioned in two ways: 1. As a “chal” form (mobile as Satpurush or Sant) and 2. As an “achal” form (immobile as Murti or Vāni).

Darshan (Philosophy) XIX

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

Shad Darshan – Vedanta philosophies (contd.):

Swaminarayan philosophy – Brahm

Brahm, Akshar, or Aksharbrahm: Part I

After discussing the three distinct ontological elements, namely, jiv, ishwar, and maya, Swaminarayan philosophy discusses two more and the most important ontologically distinct entities or elements (tattvas), which are transcendental to all the three including maya (amāyik) and cannot be convinced, determined, or inferred just by guessing, arguing, or discussing; but only by experiencing personally by association with the Brahmanized Sant or by meditation (samādhi). These are: Brahm and Parabrahm.

1. Brahm, Akshar, or Aksharbrahm:

Brahm is, one and the only one (ekam and advitiyam), eternal (nitya), and penultimate reality. It is transcendental to all other realities, yet it is subordinate to the topmost, the Ultimate, and the Supreme Reality called Parabrahm. Brahm is the abode (dham) of Parabrahm Purushottam Narayan. Brahm is characterized as Sachchidanand (truth-, conscious or chaitanya-, and bliss- full) Brahm. As an abode it is also known as Brahm-mahol, Brahmdhām, or Akshardhām. As the topmost devotee (bhakta) and the humblest servant of God, as a role model for other devotees, or as a divine personified reality (tattva) the same abode of Purushottam (God) is known, in Vedas, Upanishads, and in Prasthantrayi, as Akshar, Brahm, or Aksharbrahm. It is known as param chaitanya (transcendental consciousness), satya-rup (true), gnan-rup (form of knowledge), anant (infinite), amāp (immeasurable) and adho-urdhva pramān-rahit (overall or all-around limitless). In Taittiriya Upanishad Brahm is described as, “Satyam (truth), Gnānam (knowledge), Anantam (infinite) Brahm.” (Taittiriya Upanishad: 2.1) It is shuddha (pure – without any impurities of maya), akhand (whole, undivided, and indivisible), avinashi (indestructible), vikār-rahit (without any deformity or changes) and without any characteristics (gunas) of maya. It is extremely cool and bright. This extremely cool (mahāshital), pleasant (sukhmaya), extremely bright (atishay tejomaya), infinite (anant), and limitless or beyond any limits (apār) luminescent light (tej) of Aksharbrahm is known as Chidākāsh. It is sarvādhār (all-supporter), sarva-vyāpak (all-penetrating), divine and characteristically most distinct (vilakshan) from other mayik elements. It is this abode of God, known as Akshardham, in which Purushottam (God) resides Himself forever, in His vyatirek (distinct from Brahm and other realities) and anvay (indistinct from Brahm and other realities as their essence or antaryāmi) forms.

The existence of Brahm and Parabrahm, according to Hinduism, is undeniable. Until the clarification by Shri Swaminarayan, the words Brahm and Parabrahm had become synonymous or having similar meanings. But if one studies the scriptural sayings very minutely one would immediately know that Brahm and Parabrahm are not the same but two different entities. In the scriptures, Brahm is described as the overall cause of countless brahmands or multiverse. He does that according to God’s wish. Parabrahm is described as the cause, essence, or soul of Brahm, Dham, Brahmdham, or His abode. Parabrahm is described as the ultimate cause of His creation. He does it by means of His four other realities, namely, Brahm, maya, ishwar, and jiv. The scriptures have never described anywhere Brahm as the cause or source of Parabrahm. “Mama yonir mahad Brahm, tasmin garbham dadhāmyaham | Sambhavaha sarva bhutanam, tato bhavati Bharat ||” (Bhagwad Gita: 14.3) Meaning, “My major pathway or source of creation or origin is through Brahm, in which, I place (dadhāmi) the seed or germ of the cosmos from which all beings are created or born, O, son of Bharat.” Because of the transcendental, subtle, all-pervasive, and infinite nature and description of Brahm, it can be easily misunderstood that Brahm could possibly be Parabrahm, but in the scriptures Brahm is never ever described to be transcendental to Parabrahm or to be the essence and master of Parabrahm.

Darshan (Philosophy) XIV

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Shad Darshan – Vedanta philosophies (contd.):

Swaminarayan philosophy – in General II

In the scriptures Parabrahm, Parameshwar, Paramatma, Purushottam, Narayan, Hari, are all referred to one single entity – the Supreme Being – called “Bhagwan” (God). Brahm the abode of Parabrahm, which is holding and supporting multiple brahmands by its power, is the single penultimate truth of just lesser than equal level of Purushottam (God) and is transcendental to everything else except Parabrahm (God). Purushottam Narayan (God) is forever the Supreme Being – the Ultimate Truth. Sometimes the scriptures have used different words similarly or similar words differently according to the time, place, audience, and other factors. When one studies and understands all the scriptures together than the real meaning becomes apparent. Currently, Swaminarayan philosophy is gaining attentions and interests of many intellectual students of religious philosophy and other intellectual audience of different professions. Even though its’ contemporary origin of only a couple of hundred years compared to the other philosophies of many hundred to a couple of thousand years old, it is increasingly being accepted in the current curriculum of religious philosophies.

Swaminarayan philosophy holds that Jiv, Ishwar, Maya, Brahm, and Parabrahm are the five fundamental eternal realities quite distinct from each other. All of these five realities are described in the scriptures of Hinduism but their true or real meanings and their relationship with each other are explored and explained very first time by Shri Swaminarayan. Before the explanation by Swaminarayan Philosophy, some philosophers believed that both the jivs and ishwar where same or part and partial (amsh-amshi). According to some philosophers Ishwar, Brahm, and Parabrahm were considered as one and the same entity. According to some philosophers Brahm and Parabrahm were considered as the same reality. The five great Acharyas – the proponents of above mentioned philosophies of Hinduism, namely, Shri Shankaracharya, Shri Ramanujacharya, Shri Nimbarkacharya, Shri Madhavacharya, and Shri Vallabhacharya all conclusively inferred that Brahm is the cause of the cosmos, it should be the goal of life for everybody, and the knowledge and the union of soul with Brahm would lead to the Moksh or the final liberation. In Bhagwad Gita there are two separate chapters allocated to Aksharbrahm and Purushottam: Chapter 8 – the Aksharbrahm Yoga and Chapter 15 – the Purushottam yoga. They both describe Akshar Brahm as the abode of Purushottam, which can only be attained by the utmost devotion to Purushottam and by attaining it one never has to come back again in the cycle of births and deaths in this material world. Within Brahm the entire existence is situated and the entire existence is pervaded by it.  It should be the ultimate goal for everyone – every soul. In both the chapters, the topmost reality is described as Purushottam, the unparalleled, the one and only, Supreme Being generally known as God. God, who is the controller of other four subordinate realities, has created this Creation in such a way that once it is created He never have to intervene again in its day-to-day activities related to creation, sustenance, and destruction of many different lower levels, from birth, life, and death of a star to those a human being.

Darshan (Philosophy) XI

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Shad Darshan – Vedanta philosophies (contd.):

Achintya Bhedabheda philosophy (contd.)

Achintyabheda-bheda of Chaitanya (contd.):

Chaitanya tradition believes in Krishna as the source of all the incarnations of God. Krishna is worshiped as the Supreme Absolute Truth. The object of worship was still Krishna but as God Himself (Svayam Bhagwan) and not as one of the avatars. Krishna is also seen even as the source of Vishnu and not as his avatar – a different or newer than traditional type of understanding of that time. Similarly, Radha is viewed as the source of all other Shaktis, including Lakshmi and Sita. In other words, Lakshmi and Sita are viewed as avatars of Radha. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu himself was later on viewed as an avatar of Krishna and is worshiped as such.

 Krishna is worshiped as Svayam Bhagwan as per Shrimad Bhagwat Puran and Shri Bhagwad Gita. Ramanujacharya’s and Madhavacharya’s tradition view Krishna as an avatar of Vishnu. Radha and Sita are viewed as avatar of Lakshmi.

Ete cha amsha-kalāh pumshah Krishnas tu Bhagwan svayam indrāri-vyākulam lokam mridayanti yuge yuge ||” (Shrimad Bhagwat Puran: 1.3.28) Meaning, “Although all of the previously mentioned (in shlok 26, 27) innumerable incarnations and descendants (rishis, manus, demigods, descendants of manus, prajapatis, etc.) of Hari are either portions or sub-portions (amsha-kalāh) of Purush (Krishna), but, He Himself (Svayam Bhagwan), appears from time to time or periodically (yuge yuge) to destroy (mridayanti) the enemies of devas or good people (indrari – meaning, bad people or enemies of devas like Indra, also known as Asurs) causing trouble or agitation on this earth or mrityulok (lokam).”

Arjun uvācha, Param Brahm param dhām pavitram paramam bhavan purusham sāsvatam divyam ādi-devam ajam vibhum ahus tvam rishayah sarve devarshir nāradas tathā āsito devalo vyasah svayam chaiva bravishi me ||” (Bhagwad Gita: 10. 12,13) Meaning, “Arjun said, You are param brahm – the ultimate abode (dhām), the purest (pavitram), transcendental (paramam) divine resting place or lok (bhavan); eternal (sāsvatam) divine (divyam) purush; the original God (ādi-devam), the unborn (ajam) Lord or manifestation (vibhum); that is what all the rishis and the demigod of all rishis (devarshi) Narada, Asit, Deval, Vyas personally say about You. And now You are confirming me the same as it is.”

Chaitanya strongly believed in chanting or singing (kirtan) the holy name of God – Shri Krishna. He believed that the holy name of God is also an incarnation of God, but in sound form. He believed that since God is the absolute whole, there is no difference between His holy name and His transcendental form. By kirtan bhakti, chanting the holy name of God, one can directly associate with God through sound vibrations. He describes three stages of development: 1. Offensive stage, in which one may desire all kinds of material happiness. 2. Clearing stage, in which, one becomes clear of any material contaminations. 3. Transcendental stage, in which, one attains the most desired position of loving God, the highest position of perfection of human beings.

In Chaitanya’s Bheda-Abheda philosophy, God and His creation or cosmic manifestation (also known as maya, power, or “Shakti”) though look different, are one, meaning they have “Sun and Sunshine” relationship. The difference among God and His creation is that though both being the same God has the supreme control over His creation. Just as Sunshine cannot exist without the Sun, the creation cannot exist without God. In the similar way, according to this philosophy, jivas (living beings), as being considered as a part of the creation, are similar but different from the God in the extent, power, and potential. Though, different avatars are not considered different than God.

After Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the tattva-vada (philosophical aspect of Hinduism) was declined to the bhakti-vada (devotional aspect of Hinduism). Devotion to God was more stressed than going into the ontological detail of the philosophy, since, no scholars thought of possibilities of more ontological elements or realities. They also stopped at three ontological elements or realities (tattvas), namely, God, creation, and souls.

Darshan (Philosophy) IX

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Shad Darshan – Vedanta philosophies (contd.):

Dvaita philosophy (contd.)

Shuddha Dvait philosophy of Madhavacharya (contd.):

Madhavacharya categorizes unreleased or non-liberated souls into three more or less fixed categories (intrinsic or inherent gradation called “jiva-traividhya”) depending upon their knowledge, power, and bliss. They are: Mukti-yogya (qualified for liberation), Nitya-sansāri (not qualified for the liberation and forever remain in the cycle of rebirth), and Tamo-yogya (condemned to Hell and never get liberated). The idea was to explain plurality of souls and the co-existence of good and evil living entities in the world. Madhavacharya describes the same kinds of intrinsic differences among the liberated souls also, namely, devas (sarva-prakāsh), rishis (antah-prakāsh), and naras (bahir-prakāsh). This kind of ideology (swarup-tāratamya) was unique and not fully supported by the basic Vedic Hindu philosophy of Prasthan Trayi.

It was different than the special titles assigned to some souls by Ramanujacharya, and was not accepted by traditional Hindu philosophers. All souls deserve salvation or liberation limited to their knowledge, behavior, and efforts. Another understanding of Dvaita philosophy which did not get wide acceptance in the mainstream Hinduism was ill-defined or poorly understood “Tāratamya” or “devatā-tārātamya”, meaning, hierarchy among subordinate or minor gods (devatās). According to Madhavacharya’s philosophy, as it is in Ramanujacharya’s philosophy, Vishnu is considered as the Supreme God and Laxmi (the female deity) as His eternal consort. Vishnu is considered as the cause of all Avatars or incarnations of God. Thus, Vaishnavism is also continued in Madhavacharya’s philosophy. In Madhavacharya’s philosophy, Vishnu and Laxmi are placed at the higher level than the level of Brahmā, Shiv, and Vayu god but, with that, other demigods, such as, Surya, Chandra, Indra, Varun, etc. were also placed at different hierarchically lower levels. This was also less acceptable for the Hinduism of that period. According to Madhavacharya all souls, although ontologically identical, are different in potential. Demigods or devas are not of God category so they are of jiv category but according to devata-taratamya they are of different hierarchical levels – higher than ordinary souls of all living beings. One important concept introduced by Madhavacharya was, to maintain the supremacy of God and to maintain the hierarchy; Vishnu was paced at the highest level being completely divine having no worldly body. Vishnu as Shri Hari is considered as sarvottama (the Supreme Being). Laxmi was placed at just a little lower level categorizing her as akshar (imperishable) having indestructible (aprākrut) body as against the mundane (prākrut) bodies of other entities like Brahmā, demigods or devas, and jivas that are destructible or kshar (perishable). This was the indirect or unintentional beginning of separation of Akshar, the penultimate element from God, the ultimate element, but no one could realize it at that time.

Basically, except some minor differences, Madhavacharya accepts the basic understanding of Vaishnava philosophy of Ramanujacharya and also stresses more on Bhakti (devotion) or worshiping. The followers of Ramanujacharya worship Vishnu as Narayan, Sriman Narayan, or Shri Lakshmi-Narayan (it is a one word used for Narayan Himself only, with Lakshmi residing in His heart), whereas the followers of Madhavacharya worship Vishnu as Krishna, Bāla-Gopāla (young Krishna), Bāl-Gopāl-Krishna, Venugopala Krishna or Radha-Krishna (it is also a one word used for Krishna Himself only, with Radha residing in His heart). Until Madhavacharya’s period God was worshiped alone. Shiv, Vishnu, Pārvati (Devi), and Lakshmi were worshiped by themselves alone. Madhavacharya started worshiping Krishna alone and later on worshiping Krishna with his choicest bhakta Arjun was started. Initially, during the Madhavacharya’s period conjugal love (premlakshanā bhakti) in worshiping Krishna with Radha was not fully developed, it was added later on and by the time of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu it had reached to a higher level. Thus, Vishnu’s worship as a young innocent Krishna was turned into fully Krishna’s worship with Radha by a devotee showing an utmost love that only spouse can show towards her partner by Chaitanya’s period.

In Madhavacharya’s period Karmis (those who believe more in Karmas), Gnānis (those who just believe more in tattva-gnan or just philosophy), and Māyāvādis (those who believed in impersonal God) were all freely respected along with truly devotees who as well believe in utmost devotion (bhakti). In Hinduism, devotion (bhakti) is always placed higher than the philosophical knowledge only. Knowing philosophy only without having the devotion attached to it has no value. Also merely blind devotion without knowing whom one worships is also of no value. Hinduism believes in both, the philosophical knowledge of the Truth and the utmost devotion (bhakti) to the Supreme God. Madhavacharya’s period also marks the beginning of worshiping Krishna (the latest and greatest form or incarnation of Purushottam – God) as the principal object of worship from worshiping Vishnu (Narayan) as the principal object of worship in Ramanujacharya’s period.

Madhavacharya maintains that Brahm referred to God (Vishnu) by saying “Brahmashabdashcha vaishnaveva”, thus identifying Brahm with God. That period was unifying Brahm with God or unifying Shaivism with Vaishnavism or rather tending towards replacing Brahm with God. One can see that in the story of Lord “Ananteshwara.” Lord Vishnu, during the period of incarnation as Parashurāma, stayed and enshrined in the Shivalinga and being known as Ananteshwara. The place is known as Shivarupya or Shivalli (Udupi). Although Madhavacharya’s philosophy (Dvaita) was strongly against or exactly opposite of Shankaracharya’s philosophy (Advaita), he himself worshiped Shivalinga as Vishnu in the form of Ananteshwara. Also he respected or rather highly regarded Brāhmins irrespective of their worship to Lord Shiva or Lord Vishnu. At the same time, Madhavacharya goes one step further in separating Vishnu from other deities, establishing further the monotheistic nature of Hinduism. According to him Vishnu is the Supreme God and the primary object of worship, whereas, other deities are subordinate to him. Thus, he translates Hinduism from polytheism to monotheism and adds one more distinction between deities (Devas) or so-called demigods and God proper reestablishing or revitalizing the supremacy of God. The important contribution of Dvaita philosophy of Madhavacharya to Hinduism is that Atma and Brahm (also known as Vishnu or God) are eternally and ontologically two different realities, one is subordinate to the supreme other, respectively – a big and daring separation, at that time, from the Advaita philosophy of Shankaracharya and still maintain unity between Shaivism and Vaishnavism. This is the beauty of Hinduism. Brahm and Parabrahm (God) were still considered a one and the same reality in that period. Brahm was tried to be concealed away by promoting Parabrahm (God). In essence, according to Dvaita philosophy of Madhavacharya, there exist three clear-cut fundamental eternal realities, soul, Nature (universe), and God quite distinct from each other and not the part and parcel (ansh-anshi) of each other. The distinction between God and Brahm was still left-off for the future. Both were used synonymously.

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.