Part XXVII – The MInd of God
Brahman being pure consciousness there cannot be any true creation. Matter cannot be created or destroyed, nor can energy. Krishna states this in an absolute law of conservation: that which exists cannot cease to exist and that which is non-existent cannot come into existence (nAsato vidyate bhAvo nAbhAvo vidyate sataH).
If there is any creation it is only a transformation of one form into another. But Brahman, which is infinite, cannot transform either – this was stated before as ‘Brahman cannot create, since creation involves an action.’ This can be also be stated in terms of cause-effect relationships, which are only possible in the realm of time. Even the concept of time is the product of creation. That which is beyond time - that which is beyond any cause-effect relationships - cannot be the cause of any universe.
Hence Vedanta declares that creation is only apparent and not real. gauDapAda puts this neatly and says that what we call creation is the ‘svAbhAvika’ – natural state of Brahman, just as existence in varieties of name and form for gold is its very nature (or to put it more technically, gold is malleable and corrosion-resistant enough to be made into varieties of ornamental forms). If you know the essence of one ornament, you know the Gold. If you know gold, you know the truth of all gold-ornaments. Similarly if you know Brahman, you know the whole creation, the world of names and forms.
Hence when the student says to his teacher, “Sir, please teach me that, knowing which I know everything” – “kasmino bhaghavo vij~nAte sarvam idam vij~nAtam bhavati”, the teacher says it is not an objective science, but yet it is the science of every object in the whole universe and that it is Brahman, knowing which you have essentially known everything. I do not need to know this ring, that ring, this bangle, and that bangle etc. – that is all superficial knowledge (or knowledge of superimpositions on gold) – there are unlimited numbers of ornaments. However, once I know that all are nothing but gold and gold alone, which remains unchanged in all changes, then essentially I know all those ornaments in the past, all those in the present and all those that will be there in the future. Knowing that which is changeless in all changes is Brahman, the very material cause for the universe of names and forms, I have known the essence of all that was there in the past, all that is there now and all that will be there in future. As Einstein puts it “Once I have known the mind of God, the rest are all details”.
Thus, at the level of vyavahAra, the world appears to be real but from the absolute point of view there is no creation. The appearance of a multitude of forms with names is just the Glory of Ishvara as Krishna declares ‘ pashyam me yogamaishvaram’. Creation is just the names and forms without any substantive other than Brahman. Just as ring, bangle, necklace, etc are the name and form without any substantive other than gold. Therefore all that you see is nothing but Brahman in varieties of names and forms (sarvaM khalvidam brahma – all this is Brahman) and there is nothing other than Brahman (neha nAnAsti ki~nchana). From the point of negation, what I am negating at the seat of meditation as ‘I am not this, not this’ etc. are only the superficial names and forms that are superimposed on Brahman. In the process of negation, I have to see the substantive of all this; this and that are nothing but Brahman. Since Brahman is not an object to see, ‘seeing’ here means an understanding as in the statement ‘Yes, I see your point.’ From the analysis of the perceptual process also we have concluded that all objects are perceived only as thoughts in our minds and the mind is illumined by the consciousness that I am. Thus, thoughts and objects out there are like the perturbations of waves on the surface of the Deep Ocean of consciousness that I am. The whole analysis is self-consistent and logical too, yet points to the truth that is beyond logic or perceptual knowledge.
Let us summarize now the nature of Brahman from the Vedantic perspective. It defines Brahman as the material cause as well as the instrumental cause for the universe. We mentioned that this is the incidental qualification (taTastha lakShaNa) of Brahman. We have shown that creation is infinite and hence Brahman also has to be infinite. Next Vedanta provides svarUpa lakShaNa – Brahman is Consciousness. Consciousness also has to be infinite. But being infinite, Brahman is free from any modifications and therefore Brahman cannot be the cause for creation. The apparent contradictions are resolved by understanding the nature of the creation – it is only a transformationless transformation like gold becoming ornaments. Ornaments are at one order of reality which we can call ‘transactional reality’ or ‘vyavahAra satya’, like the existence of ring, bangle, necklace, etc. Gold is at a higher degree of reality. Ornaments change but gold is changeless. The truth of all ornaments is nothing but name and form of gold only, which is the material cause for the ornaments. Similarly Vedanta says Brahman is the substantive for both seer and seen, the subject and the object. They merge into one in the realization of the oneness of the world and I, the conscious entity. From the point of view of Brahman, there is no world of plurality, just as from the point of view of gold there is no world of ornaments. Yet there appears to be the inert world of plurality with varieties of objects, each with distinguishing features or attributes. All that constitutes the entire world is only a lower level of reality. From the absolute point of view or pAramArthika satyam, there is only Braham - existence-consciousness-limitless Brahman (satyam-j~nAnam-anantam brahma).
Using converse types of statement for definition, Vedanta declares categorically that existence-consciousness-limitless are its necessary and sufficient qualifications or the svarUpa lakShaNa-s for Brahman. Nay, they are not even qualifications of Brahman; they are only pointers which cannot be known. A finger pointing to the moon is not the moon; similarly Vedanta as pramANa or means of knowledge points to the truth that is beyond any pramANa (aprameya).
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