Brahman alone is the Reality. He is known by several names such as Lord, Supreme Soul, Self, Supreme Spirit, God, etc. He has no shape and form. For the sake of convenience He is addressed as He. It would not be appropriate to call Him as It. Since Mother Nature is conceived as the feminine gender, the Brahman is addressed as the masculine gender. It is very important to understand that He is beyond shapes and forms and He is the only one, who is beyond modifications. He is the self-illuminating light and without this light, the whole universe will plunge into total darkness. He can be understood only by negations and affirmations, as He is beyond normal human comprehension.
To make it understandable, the Brahman can be explained as the supreme level of consciousness that is non-relational. He is beyond the study of subject and object. He is the ultimate, beyond which nothing exists. He is immanent in nature and a casual reality with all the apparent effects. He does not have a parentage. Therefore, He is considered as the root cause of everything that exists in this universe with the understanding that the present, past and future tense of the word existence is implied. The difference in the meaning of manifestation and visualization is to be clearly understood. Manifestation is the indication of existence or presence or nature of some person or thing, whereas visualization is a mental image that is similar to a visual perception or becoming aware of something through the mind. In manifestation, senses are involved and in visualization, mind is involved. The objects are perceived only through senses. For perceiving something, you need to have a prior experience of an object. In reality, the Brahman can only be visualised and cannot be manifested. This is based on the theory that the Brahman is formless.
For easier understanding, the Brahman is divided into two categories viz. the Brahman with attributes and without attributes. Brahman without attributes is also known as nirguṇa Brahman and the Brahman with attributes is known as saguṇa Brahman. The Brahman without attributes is logically concluded as the Supreme one. This form of the Brahman is not partaking in any of the actions of the universe. Assuming for a moment that He has the form of a human, then it can be said that He stands as a witness to all the happenings in the universe, mainly due to unfolding of karmas of various souls. A person getting aware of another person or an object, is a process called knowing. The process of knowing evolves out of unfolding of karmic accounts of souls. Karma manifests on the basis of Newton’s third law ‘for every action there is an equivalent and opposite reaction’. Over a period of time, the actions that constantly take place in this universe undergo gradual changes and this process is known as evolution. Therefore, spirituality does not override the scientific principle of evolution and in fact analyses the process of evolution more intensively and thoroughly, without any ambiguity. That is why spirituality always emphasizes that the knowledge of the highest order is an essential component of Self-realisation.
In the concept of knowing, the process needs a knower who acts through his mind to know an object. The object is called known. Both the knower and the known, undergo degenerative changes as they are subject to the factors of time and space. The act of knowing is an experience and when the knower and the known undergo changes, the experience of knowing also undergoes changes. The experience of knowing sometimes gives pleasure and sometimes gives pains.
Brahman is not only omnipresent but also omnipotent because He is the cause of every action without actually associating in the action itself. The effect of His action is being manifested in our physical body. Our minds fail to recognize the cause, the Brahman, due to the influence of māyā or illusion. Consciousness in operational stage is the cause of all energies, be it static or kinetic, the basic requirements of creation. The consciousness transmutes into the five basic elements of space or ether, air, fire water and earth. These in turn form various forms and shapes in combination with other factors.
The Consciousness is invisible in nature. It appears in the visible form due to the effects of māyā or illusion. This is the reason for considering māyā or illusion as part of the Brahman. Without the effects of māyā, the existence of objects cannot be recognized. The Brahman has two aspects. One is the cause (kāraṇa) and another is its effect (kārya). Cause is the origin and effect is the end. Any activity that takes place is juxtaposed between these two. In reality, the cause cannot be perceived as it is beyond perception. But the effect is always visible as if it is the reality. Though cause and effect originate from the same Brahman, effect alone is visible and therefore, there should be something else, possibly a different aspect of the Brahman. This aspect is called māyā or illusion. Māyā plays a vital role in our very existence. Transcending māyā is an arduous task. The realisation of the Self is possible only if the veil of māyā is abstracted.
There is nothing more potent than the pure form of consciousness. Apart from this, there are two other factors that contribute to the Brahman with attributes. They are existence and bliss, the highest form of happiness. Because of these contributory factors, we experience and feel our existence. The Brahman, existence (sat) and consciousness (cit) are inseparable from each other but the ignorance makes us to realize that they are different. Ignorance is nothing but the impure form of consciousness. In other words, the lack of adequate knowledge about the Absolute is the reason for our failure to understand that everything that exists in this universe is only the reflection of the Brahman. This reflection is known as manifestation. The absence of any one of the three (Brahman, existence and consciousness) leads to a stage of catastrophe where none in this universe is realized. However, the most essential part is the Brahman, without which the other two are not possible. This is based on the fact that the Brahman is the first of entire creation and His origin is beyond normal human comprehension. Therefore, the universe and the Brahman are not two separate entities, but as a result of māyā, we are conceiving them as two discriminated entities.
The third aspect of the Brahman is bliss. Bliss is nothing but the supreme happiness derived from the highest level of experience. This is unique and stand alone aspect of the terrestrial experience. This can never be rejoiced, when the consciousness continues to dwell in the lower planes. When consciousness has to reach the higher planes, it has to necessarily associate with experience. Without experience, one cannot express with clarity, what is realised is pleasure or pain. The extract and essential nature of our experience, called existence, in combination with the highest level of consciousness is called bliss. Bliss can be attained only through the essence of our experience and not on the basis of gross form of experience. Sat-cit-ānanda (existence, consciousness and bliss) mean their combination in a highly condensed form. The condensed forms are arrived at, by experiencing through their gross forms over a period of time. This experiencing is called practice. Sat-cit- ānanda in their gross forms are called māyā or illusion. This goes to prove that the Brahman is not a myth, but a reality. It is a principle based on the theory of evolution, existence – consciousness – bliss, the three interdependent factors constantly undergoing changes, moving from lower levels to higher levels. It is important to note that the process of evolution unfolds only on the attributes of the Brahman, and not on the Brahman Himself. It is like gold remaining as gold, even though the gold undergoes changes in the form of various ornaments. The gold is the Brahman and the ornaments are sat-cit-ānanda. The former is pure Brahman and the latter is Brahman with attributes.
You should not be under the impression that Brahman is the embodiment of goodness only. The world consists of both good and bad, auspiciousness and inauspiciousness. If the Brahman is the embodiment of all positives only, then who controls the negativities? If someone else is going to control the negativities, then the authority of the Brahman is under challenge and He cannot be omnipresent. The reality is that the Brahman is the source of everything in the universe, which also includes negativities, inauspiciousness, and evils. Then only the Brahman can be omnipresent and omnipotent. The good and bad happen to a person according to his karmic imprints. Humanity is governed by the rule, ‘what you sow, so you reap’. Karmic imprints are embedded in an individual soul.
Individual soul is also known as puruṣa or ātman. Individual soul is the preternatural existence of the Brahman without attributes or the nirguṇa Brahman. The individual soul is nothing but the manifestation of the Brahman. This explains why we should look within. The Brahman is not elsewhere. He is within us. The pure Brahman or the Brahman without attributes cannot create on His own. There was a necessity for Him to divide Himself into two and His carved out portion exclusively for the purpose of creation and sustenance is the saguṇa Brahman. Whatever we discuss here is only about the saguṇa Brahman as the nirguṇa Brahman is beyond comprehension. It is like a man attempting to explore the sun by trying to enter the core of the sun. Generally the saguṇa Brahman alone is called God. Therefore, God becomes the creative aspect of the universe and not the pure Brahman or nirguṇa Brahman. He is the static energy from whom saguṇa Brahman has originated. Saguṇa Brahman begins to create through His projecting power or illusory power called māyā.
The individual soul becomes active only if it is covered by māyā. The soul gets embodiment only to undergo experience arising out of karmic account embedded in it. The individual soul as such is passive and does not partake in any of the activities of the physical body. It always remains as a witness. The soul does not undergo modifications. The journey of the soul is a tough one. It gets human embodiment only after undergoing several births and deaths in different shapes and forms. The soul can attain liberation only in a human birth, as realisation of the Self can happen only through mind. Though, soul is imperishable and beyond modification, it is subjected to change of field, from lower planes to higher planes. During this process, the soul as such does not undergo any changes, but the plane in which it operates alone changes. All this happens to the soul as it gets itself veiled by the influence of māyā. Due to this influence, it forgets its original nature. Though, it forgets its original nature, still it does not cause any actions in its embodiment, nor gets modified by the actions carried out by karmic influences in conjunction with the impressions in the subconscious mind.
Souls are only the differential manifestations of the Brahman. Typically speaking, a soul is nothing but a tiny spark of the Self-illuminating Brahman. A human is not aware that soul is the cause of his existence. His ignorance about the soul is due to his inherent ego. The ego is inherent in human life as ego alone provides individual identity. Ego induces him to think that he, as a physical body is responsible for all his actions. Though, soul is also not directly responsible for his actions, actions unfold because of the soul within. There may be several bulbs. But electricity is needed to make them burn. In the same way, there are trillions of beings and for their active lives souls need to be present in them. The ultimate realisation of the Brahman happens only in a human mind and the individual soul aids the process of mental evolution though by itself, it does make this happen.
The Supreme Self and the individual souls can be compared to the reflection of sun in water kept in different vessels. Same sun gets reflected in different vessels with water, making one to believe that the reflected sun is different from the real sun in the sky. This belief arises out of ignorance, which is also known māyā. Ultimately, just like water bubbles becoming one with the waters of ocean, the individual souls become one with the Brahman. The soul’s journey from the lowest level of consciousness to the Supreme Consciousness is an incomprehensible process of evolution. It is incomprehensible because, the ‘evolution’ of the soul is beyond the reach of human perception, including the great sages and saints.
PRAKRTI OR NATURE
Understanding the difference between the soul and prakṛti or nature leads to liberation. Prakṛti is unconscious primordial matter, also known as nature. The universe has evolved only from prakṛti. The soul, the reflective image of the Brahman and the source of energy for individual existence is passive in nature. Prakṛti is devoid of ego, as it is insentient in nature and the first objective manifestation. Just before the creation, all the three attributes or guṇa-s lie in equilibrium. When a soul interacts with prakṛti, the perfect equilibrium is disturbed and the creation happens. Without associating itself with a soul, prakṛti remains inert. Prakṛti becomes active only if it interacts with the soul also known as puruṣa. A soul attains liberation only if it is released from the hold of prakṛti. When prakṛti continues to hold a soul, the soul is bound by ego and associated pleasures or pains according to the embedded karmic account in it. The role of a soul ends immediately after stirring creation in the form of an embryo. This can be compared to the conjugal relationship between a man and woman. The man is merely the cause for the formation of the fetus in a woman. It is only the woman, who nurtures the fetus and gives birth. You must always remember that everything is the creation of the Brahman only, including soul and prakṛti. These are the tools used by the Brahman to cause creation and the effect of such cause is the universe.
The moment a soul interacts with prakṛti, the soul’s transmigration begins. Induced by prakṛti, the soul is bound by ignorance and illusion and forgets its original nature. This confusion arises because the soul is endowed with ego. Bound by the seductive embrace of prakṛti, the real nature of the soul is concealed and the materialistic world is projected as the reality. During the course of several transmigrations, the soul gradually tries to realise its true identity and makes efforts to move away from the material world, to which it was bound by prakṛti. The relationship between soul and prakṛti is that of a subject and an object. The soul, in the beginning gets itself entangled in the materialistic world. Suddenly it remembers its true nature and withdraws its materialistic association and begins to look within. When the consciousness of the soul is completely turned inwards, the soul becomes ready for liberation and the process of leaving prakṛti begins for the soul. The inherent nature of the soul is pure consciousness. But the soul gets lost in the seductive embrace of the prakṛti and when the soul is tired of remaining with prakṛti for long, it gradually begins to realise its true nature. Prakṛti helps a soul both for its manifestation and liberation. This is the reason for worshipping Mother Nature.
A soul always remains inactive after getting associated with prakṛti. When a soul joins with prakṛti, energy is generated. The union of soul and prakṛti creates the necessary energy for evolution. This energy is withdrawn during death. Both metaphysical and physical evolution happens by converting the generated energy into matter. At the beginning of the evolution, i.e. immediately after the union of a soul with prakṛti, the equilibrium of attributes or guṇa-s is affected and the individual evolution begins.
(to be continued)