Part XIX – Brahman and the world
In proclaiming that ‘consciousness is Brahman’, as an aphoristic statement, Vedanta essentially provides a fundamental definition for Brahman. Brahman being infinite, it cannot be defined since whatever can be defined becomes an object, and thus limited by other objects. Object is different from the subject and that which is objectified can only be an inert entity, jadam. The definition provided by Vedanta is therefore not meant for objectification, since it is the very consciousness that cannot be objectified. Then what is the meaning of this so called aphoristic statement “consciousness is Brahman’, if one cannot objectify or even meditate on it?
Careful analysis indicates that it is a pointer to arrive at the knowledge of Brahman by negating all that which is inert as not Brahman. All that which can be objectified is ‘this’ - and ‘this’ is not Brahman. One cannot say ‘this is consciousness’ or ‘this is Brahman’, since the very statement makes it an inert entity, which is not Brahman. This is the reason why ‘science’ cannot objectively study consciousness, as some of scientists are attempting to do, since the very study makes it an object and thus different from ‘consciousness’.
We have discussed the fact that the existence of an inert object or even the world cannot be established without a conscious entity being aware of it. That is, inert should be within consciousness, for one to be conscious of the inert. The statement is similar to the one that an object should be flooded by light in order for one to see it. Hence, the inert has to be pervaded by consciousness or within consciousness, if one is to be conscious of the inert. If one is aware of the world, which is infinite, then the consciousness because of which one is aware of the world should be infinite too.
Q: I do not understand this concocted logic. You say the world is infinite on one hand and on the other hand, you say consciousness is infinite. In addition consciousness should pervade the inert, if one is to be conscious of the inert. How can you have two infinite entities diagonally opposite to each other and one pervading the other? In addition, you have also not explained how Brahman, who is of the nature of infinite consciousness, can be the cause of an inert universe. All you have established so far is that an inert entity cannot exist independent of consciousness. You have also mentioned that Brahman cannot be the creator either, since creation is an action and the infinite cannot act. At the same time Brahman is supposed to be the both the material and intelligent cause for the universe. What exactly is the relation between consciousness, Brahman, and the Universe which is inert?
A: OK. You caught me. Please follow me closely. Let us go step by step and everything should ultimately fit in. First, we will use a rational analysis and then the scriptural analysis.
Knowledge of an object
We now know that without consciousness, the existence of the world cannot be established. The world has two components – one is the finite objects and the other is the subtler one, space, which is infinite. There is also a third one that is part of the universe which arises with the interaction of Universe with the mind – the time concept. Understanding the Universe therefore involves not only understanding the objects, but also Space and time. Einstein showed that both space and time are relative or essentially related. Movement in space creates time and movement in time creates space. Space and time somehow are interlinked with the mind. Let us analyze these slowly.
Object – Does it really exist?
Existence of the object is intimately related to the knowledge of the object. I cannot talk about the existence of any object without knowledge of its existence, if not physically at least conceptually. Therefore ‘object is’ (is-ness is associated with its existence) means knowledge of the existence in terms of ‘the object is’. Let us illustrate this with an example. Let me ask you, ‘Can you bring the ‘gaa gaa buu bu’ that you have in your room?’ – ‘What the hell is this ‘gaa gaa buu bu’ that I have in my room? What is that weird stuff, gaa gaa buu bu, anyway, and what is it doing in my room?’ – ‘Well, I do not know what it is or what it does either, but I heard that you have it in your room. Can you bring it?’- ‘You are crazy, you are asking me to bring something neither you nor I know what it is.’ – This crazy conversation is just to point out that we cannot talk of the existence of an object, without the knowledge its existence. Hence ‘world is’ or ‘the world exists’ means I or some conscious entity has the knowledge of its existence. Thus, knowledge and existence of an object go together. They, in fact, are essentially the ‘chit’ and ‘sat’ aspects of Brahman.
What is knowledge?
Interestingly, ‘knowledge’ cannot be defined. All I can talk about is ‘knowledge of’- of this or that, which is nothing but knowledge of objects. For example, knowledge of Chemistry, knowledge of Physics, knowledge of Vedanta, and knowledge of the World. All that is informative knowledge. He is very knowledgeable means he has lot of information stored in his memory. Can I define knowledge devoid of any objects? Knowledge devoid of objects cannot be defined! Knowledge devoid of objects is nothing but the knowledge of the ‘subject’, I, which cannot be defined. Why can ‘I’ not be defined? Because, any definition is objectification, and ‘I am’ is the subject that cannot be objectified. At the most one can define ‘I’ only by means of a negative statement; ‘I’ is that, which is not subject to objectification’.
Q: Oh! This is all intellectual. I am interested only in Self-realization, not in this mind-boggling logic.
A: Existence of I and therefore knowledge of I is neither intellectual nor non-intellectual – it is factual knowledge. That I am a man is not intellectual understanding – it is a factual understanding. And it is not by accident that it is the same definition that we can give to Brahman. Therefore pure knowledge devoid of any object is the ‘consciousness’ that I am. I am conscious of all the objects that I know. I am also self-conscious, as we discussed before, which is not a ‘knowledge of’ but pure knowledge. In other words that is my very nature or svarUpa lakShaNa of myself – which Vedanta calls as ‘chit’ svarUpam. I am the nature of consciousness. This statement should not be a statement of thought at the intellect level but clear understanding that I am conscious entity because of which I am even conscious of this statement of thought.
Proceed to the next essay.