Archives for category: Transcendental Monism
The Syllable Om Credit: hinduterminal.org

The Syllable Om
Credit: hinduterminal.org

The somewhat incompatible outcome of the efforts of Upanishadic thinkers to reconcile the contradictions in the concept of Brahman through the dialectics of Realism had left disciples confused regarding the manner in which they were to conceive and meditate on the essence of Brahman. This was brilliantly resolved with the extraordinary intuitive discovery that the truth was not out there but right here within in the self.

Disciples were told that there was only one way the search for unity of Brahman could be successfully experienced – not by looking for it outside in the illusory world of diversity or through strenuous intellectual acrobatics by trying to fathom  and comprehend the qualities and nature of Brahman which was without qualities and incomprehensible. The only way was to look within, for the self was itself the unity they had long been searching for elsewhere.

The Chandogya Upanishad declared:

”As far verily as this world-space extends, so far extends the space within the heart… everything here is contained within it.” This going within to grasp the nature of unity occurs either in dreamless sleep or deepest meditation:

”When one is sound asleep, composed, serene and knows no dream – that is the self.” the unity with Brahman is a blissful state of consciousness in which individuality and all distinctions are overcome.

The short Mandukya Upanishad was the culmination of all Upanishadic thought – it explains in 12 verses the four aspects of the Self (Atman):

The first is the waking state – the individual moving and living in the phenomenal world. It enjoys and consumes gross matter.

The second is the ”Shining One inwardly cognitive” when in dream filled sleep. It enjoys subtle dream objects which arise from dream memories.

The third is the deep sleep state ”just a cognitive mass, consisting of bliss and feeds on bliss”. Here the self becomes undivided in dreamless sleep and is pure blissful consciousness. This indeed is the Lord of All ( Sarveshvar), the Omniscient ( Sarvagyana ), the indweller ( Antaryami), the source of all (Yoni – the great womb), this is the origin and the end of all beings ( an apt description of what we generally term as God ?).

The fourth which is beyond the realms even of deep sleep and beyond the beginning and the end of all beings is the real self to be realized ( through meditation) and is termed Turiya. The qualities of this final level of self is described thus:

”neither inward nor outward turned consciousness, nor both; not a dormant omniscience; neither knowing nor unknowing, invisible, ineffable, intangible, devoid of characteristics, inconceivable, undefinable ( all this because being the only subject there is no object and therefore no comparison to give it any shape,colour, form or attributes) – its sole essence being the assurance of its own Self, the cessation of all development ( differentiated existence), tranquil, peaceful-blissful, without a second (Advaitam) – this isAtman, the self which is to be realized.”

However, all four aspects together constitute the whole of Brahman/Atman.

Furthermore, according to the great Madukya Upanishad ( and specially intended for those who wish to meditate on the self) these aspects together can also be discerned in the sphere of sound ( Hindu creation myths begin with the resonance of sound rather than the unleashing of light) as the syllable Om ( A U M ), each of the states corresponding to one of the letters and the fourth to Silence – A is the waking state, U the dream state, M the deep sleep state and the fourth is silence within which the resonating sound of OM arises, vibrates and subsides. This is a manifestation of Brahman-Atman as a syllable. This resonating sound is the whole of this visible universe, past, present and future and the fourth, silence is what is beyond time. All stages of the sound are as important as the silence which precedes and follows its utterance as it is their totality that constitutes the universal essence of Brahman-Atman.

Practitioners of Yoga  are told that with this resounding sound they can begin to sense the unity of Brahman.

We see that thus was the final unity of Reality reached by the Upanishads, moving from Realism to Idealism.

The syllable Om symbolizing Brahman-Atman has today come to represent Hinduism as the Cross has Christianity, the Crescent Islam,  Yin Yang the Tao and the Menorah and Star of David, Judaism.

I recently happened to come across an excellent series of  five videos on U Tube on meditation which clearly were inspired by Upanishadic concepts though there is a liberal overlay of some New Age concepts also. However to get a vivid idea of the Self within and how accessing it can lead to enlightened states, through the medium of excellent and imaginatively created video footage, it may be worthwhile for those interested to go have a look:

As I said it is on U Tube and is titled – ” HOW TO ACCESS YOUR SUPERCONSCIOUSNESS’ ‘  – really worth a visit.

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credit: amandafroelich.com

The concept of the unity of Brahman was further examined and developed by Upanishadic seers. Brahman was both transcendental and immanent. Brahman was both physical and spiritual. Brahman was both phenomenal ( capable of being discerned through senses) and noumenal ( capable of being only intuited and not perceived by the senses). Brahman was therefore a conglomerate of the physical world and the non-physical or spiritual reality.

The Upanishads however make a distinction between the two, calling the physical as the lower aspect of Brahman and the spiritual the higher aspect. While the physical could be discerned through the senses, the noumenal was beyond descriptions or characteristics and the only attempt at defining it had produced the aphorism Neti, Neti or ”not this not that”.

Thus in  the Maitri Upanishad it is stated:

” There are assuredly two forms of Brahman: Time and the  Timeless. that which is prior to the Sun is the Timeless, without parts. But that which begins with the Sun is Time, which has parts.”

The two forms of Brahman envisaged were the formed and the unformed, the mortal and the immortal, the stationary and the moving, the actual and the Real.

The logic of Upanishadic Monism however encountered a serious problem in explaining the diversity of the manifold universe. How was this abundant diversity to be reconciled with the unshakable and uncompromising faith in an absolute unity, which was the fundamental characteristic of Brahman? Furthermore the idea of two aspects of Brahman also inclined towards a Dualism.

Thus as a corrective evolved the doctrine of Illusion or Maya, which then became a permanent feature of all Hindu thinking to the present times. The so called lower aspect of Brahman, the physical universe was declared to be a mirage, an illusion because the Upanishads had always held that ” there is only one Brahman, without a second.” The thought was then developed that Reality was indeed One and the diversity was an appearance arising from the ‘ignorance’ of the perceiver. Thus it is finally pronounced in the Maitri Upanishad:

”There are, assuredly, two aspects of Brahman; the formed and the formless. Now that which is the formed is unreal; that which is the formless is Real.”

Again in the Svetashvatar Upanishad the first word on the Maya doctrine is pronounced:

” This whole world, the illusion-maker projects….and in it by illusion the other is confined,

Now one should know that Nature is illusion and the Mighty Lord is the illusion-maker”

We then find that Brahman on the one hand, in its lower aspect becomes an illusion and in its higher aspect as unknowable  ( Neti, Neti)  The path to an appreciation of the concept of Brahman through realism had thus arrived at a frustrating impasse for seekers. those who had wished to immerse themselves in contemplating Brahman were left dissatisfied and confused in advancing any further on their metaphysical quest.

How the Upanishadic sages overcame this outcome and how the concept of Atman came to the rescue, putting the train back on the track,  we shall study in the next post.

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manasa

credit: saibharati.com

Parallel to the development of the concept of Brahman as Universal Essence was that of the Soul or Atman also as being the Universal essence. The Atman was in like manner  shown as being both ubiquitous and immanent. This thought derived its inspiration from the Rig-Vedic concept of the Cosmic Person from whose eye emerged the Sun, the Moon from his mind, fire from his mouth, the wind from his breath, the sky from his head, the earth from his feet etc. Thus the Cosmic Person was seen as projecting into the forces of nature and the world.

A further extension of this thought in the Upanishads was to create a correspondence not only to the world in general but to the individual as well. Thus fire now entered the mouth of a person and became speech, wind entered the nose and became breath, the Sun became sight in the eyes, the moon became his mind and so on. While on the one hand creation was shown as emerging from the Universal Essence, on the other the created forces were shown  as producing the faculties of man. Thus the microcosm and the macrocosm were connected.

From the Cosmic Person analogy also arose the thought that the Universal Essence was a Great Soul of which the individual soul was an aspect (Ansha). Thus in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad it is stated:

”Atman is the person in the earth and the person in the body… in fire and in speech; in wind and in breath; in the Sun and in the eye… in truth and truthfulness; in humanity and in the human; in the Self and in the self.”

The idea of the  immanence of Brahman had a cosmic magnificence while that of the extension of the Universal Soul at the core of beings as individual souls, was even more extraordinary with profound spiritual implications. It was philosophically and ethically elevating and deeply significant for the future course of Indian thought and spirituality. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad clearly defines the emerging insight:

”That same thing, namely, this self, is the trace of this All; for by it one knows this All. Just as  ( if it were)a footprint” 

Again in the Svetashvatara Upanishad the same theme is reiterated:

” with the nature of this self, as with a lamp, a practitioner of Yoga beholds here the nature of Brahman”

The cosmic Brahman as an idea and the subtle Atman concept then began to be connected as we see in the Chandokya Upanishad : ”Who is our Atman? What is Brahman? Finally the two concepts merged and Brahman and Atman became synonymous. Thus the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad cleary states:

‘Verily, that great unborn soul, undecaying, undying, immortal, fearless is Brahman.’

And again in the Svetasvatara Upanishad it is affirmed:

‘The Soul which pervades all things…this is Brahman.’

This grand union of two complimentary concepts implied that the unitary cosmic realism of the first was now one with the innermost spiritual essence of the self and the not-self, the great spirit of a supersoul. Furthermore the linkage between the individual self and the Great Self was the ultimate step to an authentic Monism as in the resounding declaration of the Chandokya Upanishad”

‘Tat tvam asi’ – ‘That thou art’

credit:lightworkers.org

credit:lightworkers.org

 

  

Higgs Bottom - God Particle Credit : clanghigh.blogspot.com

Higgs Bottom – God Particle
Credit : clanghigh.blogspot.com

Hindu metaphysics is defined by western scholars as Transcendental Monism, a philosophical term which simply means the Oneness of everything, its indivisibility and grand unity. This is not Monotheism or the belief in a one and exclusive God without a second but indeed the oneness of both creator and creation. In other words, God is omnipresent and ubiquitous and the divine essence infiltrates every atom and particle of creation

. This divinity is present not merely at the spiritual plane but equally on the material and physical levels. Matter and Spirit are integrally conjoined and inseperable. The divine is thus universally present both as matter and spirit. Matter and Spirit, two facets of the Universal Essence or God, are not only inseperable and united but also exhibit attraction for one another by being in a state of perpetual interaction. While the material aspect is manifest, finite and perishable and recycled from creation to creation, the spiritual aspect is infinite, imperishable, constant and eternal.

Matter is passionately attracted to the presence of spirit and spirit never leaves matter alone either, probing, infiltrating and combining with it.

The Oneness of the pristine Universal Essence becomes disturbed when an introspective, self consciousness stirs within it, as if it asked ‘who am I’ or again it asserted ‘I am’. This ‘I am’ sounds like Aum the Hindu symbol of the sacred, the first primal sound resounding across the universe. This moment of acute self consciousness translates into what one may call the Big Bang of creation. At that moment the ‘Unity’ becomes splintered like our physical identity does in a dream. At that moment a tidal wave arises in the great Spirit’s oceanic Oneness and with the wave, uncountable millions of drops are thrown up in a cosmic splash seperating and rising up as sprays. The drops in the air are still parts of the ocean though apparently seperated by the creative force of the tidal wave of the self conscious assertion of ‘I Am’ and destined to fall back before long, back into the ocean, to resume their unity with it.

The figurative analogy of the ocean and the drops is employed repeatedly in Hindu thought to illustrate the complex metaphysical reality of the Universal Essence and its relationship to the  soul incarnate.. The seperated drops poised in the air momentarily, before they fall back into the ocean of the Universal Essence are the freshly generated souls. Thus we understand the origin of the soul.

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