- Fundamental Human Problem Part 2
The second problem arises with the notion
that I am unhappy. This arises with the identification
with the mind (as ‘I am the mind’).
The mind is never happy with what it has and
therefore it always wants to make itself more
full by acquiring this or that. Life becomes
a rat race and twenty-four hours is not sufficient.
However much we accumulate, the inadequacy that
I feel (that ‘I am not full’) still
remains. Only way to solve this problem of inadequacy
is to be fully adequate. But that would mean
to have everything in the world, possessing limitless
entities. One can never reach the limitless by
adding limited things. Addition of finites cannot
accumulate to infinite. Hence, the problem of
inadequacy of the mind or unhappiness of the
mind remains as an unsolved problem.
The third problem is based on the identification
that ‘I am the intellect’, which
is always limited. We cannot stand this limitation
either. Hence, the longing or curiosity to know
remains. Unfortunately, the more we learn, the
more things we find that there is to learn; things
that we did not know even existed before. However
much we learn, we are left with an uncomfortable
feeling that what we know is very little compared
to what we do not know. Our ignorance grows exponentially
with our knowledge. Hence, even the ignorance
problem we cannot solve. Man becomes desperate.
In one of the Upanishads, the student goes to
a teacher and asks, "Sir, please teach me
that, knowing which I will know everything".
The Upanishads recognized that there is an intrinsic
desire to learn everything.
Vedanta says there is a fundamental problem
in our understanding about ourselves. Since I
am a self conscious entity, not knowing who I
am, I take my self to be what I am not - that
is ‘I am the limited body, limited mind
and limited intellect’. Equipments, body,
mind and intellect remain limited irrespective
of who I am. As a result of this identification,
I take myself to be mortal, unhappy and ignorant.
All struggles in life are to solve these fundamental
problems. The analysis shows that all our attempts
to solve these three fundamental limitations
fail miserably. For the majority of us these
struggles temporarily end one day – when
we die. This seems to be the autobiography of
everybody – the billions of people that
live on this planet earth; only the details of
how they failed in trying to solve these fundamental
Vedanta says that everybody fails only because
everyone is trying to solve a problem where there
is no problem to solve. Why should anyone try
to solve a problem when there is no problem to
solve? According to Vedanta, the problems are
not real but imaginary, since we started with
a wrong assumption about ourselves. Imaginary
problems can never be solved. Since we do not
know who we are, we take ourselves to be something
other than who we are. Intrinsically there is
a natural drive to be who we really are. Hence
the longing to be immortal, absolutely happy
and having infinite knowledge are inherent drives
to become what we are. Hence, according to Vedanta,
there is really no problem to solve but only
the need to recognize our true nature. We are
ignorant of our selves and the solution to this
problem is to know who we are.
Who are we then? According to Vedanta, we are
sat-chit-Ananda svarUpa; that is we are of the
nature of existence-knowledge and limitlessness
or happiness. Hence, Vedanta is considered to
be a mirror that shows us who we really are compared
to what we think we are. 'I think, therefore
I am' - was the statement of Descartes. Vedanta
says, I am - therefore I think. That is I am
an existent and conscious entity. Existence has
to be infinite. Finitude would make the existence
bounded. A question then will arise: what is
there beyond the boundaries of finiteness that
is different from existence? Difference from
existence is only non-existence; and we cannot
say non-existence exists on the other side of
the existence. That is a self-contradictory statement.
Therefore existence has to be infinite. I am
not only an existent entity but also a conscious
entity. Consciousness has to be existent, since
we cannot talk about non-existent consciousness.
Hence existence and consciousness are not two
separate entities but one and the same entity
viewed from two different perspectives. I cannot
qualify myself - since any qualification belongs
to an object, which is inert. Hence Vedanta says:
I am unqualified, absolute, infinite, existence-consciousness
- which the bible renders as ‘I am that
I am’, since I cannot add anything else
to ‘I am’ to qualify myself.
There are two things that are unqualifiable.
One is Brahman, since it is absolutely infinite.
The reason is simple. Only finite things can
be qualified since a qualification is that which
distinguishes the qualified object from the rest
of the objects in the world. The absolute infinite
has to be only one, since if they are two, each
limits the other and neither one will be Brahman.
Hence, there cannot be anything else besides
Brahman, in order for it to have qualifications
to distinguish it from anything else. Hence whatever
descriptive words that are used are only indicative
of Brahman (lakShyArtha) and not literal descriptions
(vAchyArtha), similar to the word infinite, to
indicate that anything finite cannot be Brahman.
The other thing that cannot be described is the
subject I, since I am a subject and not an object,
and objects alone have qualifications. Hence
when I state my qualifications using my bio-data,
I am only describing all 'this' that I identify
with, which are qualifications of 'this' and
Now we arrive at the famous equations that
Vedanta calls mahAvAkya-s (great aphorisms).
Since Brahman is one without a second, absolutely
infinite, existent and conscious entity and I
am also an unqualifiable existent-conscious entity,
we are left with no other possibility other than
the identity relation: I am = Brahman (aham brahmAsmi).
Our problems started with our presumed identity
equation ‘I am = this’ but Vedanta
says the correct equation is: I am = Brahman.
The first equation is invalid, since I am equating
a conscious entity with an unconscious entity.
On the other hand, in the second equation I am
equating two conscious entities, with the clear
understanding that there cannot be any divisions
in consciousness or in existence.
Proceed to the next