Understanding Philosophies – Part 11
Advaita is the easiest of all the philosophies to understand, as different scholarly interpretations are available today. But, interpretation is different from experience. Textually anything can be said, as it is easier to preach than to follow. This is the case with Advaita philosophy today. Advaita says that there is no duality in the universe and all that exists and seen by our biological eyes are nothing but the manifestations of Brahman. This means that there is no difference between subject and object. But this statement appears to be practically not acceptable due to the difference between textual interpretations and direct experience. Texts merely provide the requisite knowledge to understand Advaita. One need not have any expertise in philosophy to understand Brahman. Basic knowledge and earnest practice are the two essential factors to move forward in spiritual path. Study of Advaita through this series is not going to be merely explanatory in nature. It is will be more on the practical side in order to understand this philosophy better. The study will be more towards the practical or application side rather than the theoretical side. Theoretical side has already been dealt with through a series of articles on VEDANTA comprising 36 articles.
We say that Brahman is omnipresent and eternal. But, how do we believe this statement? For belief, one needs to have evidence. How do we know that Brahman is eternal as our own life span itself is very much limited, may be 100 years? Then how do we say Brahman is eternal? In order to clear these doubt, “faith” is incorporated in philosophical terminology. Faith is the basic concept of any philosophy, as it deals with the subject that is incomprehensible to normal human mind. What is beyond normal human contemplation is called as “faith”. For example nobody knows the origin of Brahman. Scriptures says that He exists from eternity. This is faith, as no one knows about His origin, nature, qualities, power, etc. Though Scriptures say that these are His qualities, we have to only believe the statements of Scriptures, as nothing contrary to these statements have been proved. Entire spiritual life is based only on faith and experience. What we see with our eyes is experience and what we cannot see is faith. Seeing an apple is experience and believing that the apple will be tasty is faith. Experience is limited with relation to five rudimentary subtle elements such as sound, touch, vision, taste and smell. There is no experience beyond these five sensations and only these sensations cause experience.
Experience is of two types – proximate and ultimate. Proximate experience is about something that we experience daily and about which we have prior knowledge. For example taste of food, smell of flowers, melody of music, beauty of nature and touch of a baby. When we touch the fire, we know that the fire will surely hurt. We know that melody of music is soothing to our ears. Every experience can be categorized under these five rudimentary principles. Thus our experience is purely based on the effects of these rudimentary principles. For every effect, there has to be a cause. The effect of sowing is crop, where sowing is the cause and crop is the effect. The effect of touching a fire is burns, where fire is the cause for the burns. Fire is the cause and the effect is the burns. The effect of pleasant fragrance is flowers. There are multitude of examples.
Gross is the matter and subtle is the energy. Unless gross and subtle unite, there can be no activity. A motor car cannot run without out fuel. Matter has an end to its existence, as it is subjected to constant and continuous expansion. When there is continuous expansion, the expansion has to stop at a certain point of time. A balloon explodes, if air is pumped in beyond the capacity of the balloon. The seed that is sown grows into a huge tree and perishes after a few years. As expansion happens only in matter, matter alone is perishable and not the energy. Energy is the cause for any matter to exist and operates the matter by remaining within. When the energy escapes the matter ceases to exist, causing death. Now, let us analyze this from the point of view of human existence. This energy is known as Soul and all the energies that are available to us have originated from that Soul and perform certain acts as determined by the Soul, also known as Brahman. Every matter that exists on this universe has soul within and it is the causative factor for the matter to come into existence first and later causes activity.
Soul is the passive energy that causes dynamism. In other words, the soul by merely remaining passive is able to cause actions in human body. Soul is the source of all energies that prevail in the universe. Since Soul prevails all over, which is explained as omnipresence, it is able to cause action everywhere. Soul is not many, as often interpreted and different objects that we see are only the reflections of the Soul. This is the uniqueness of the Soul. It is present everywhere, all at once, causing multitude of actions. It is the cause of the universe. Since it is the subtlest of all, it could permeate every part of the universe. During conjugation, soul enters the fetus through spermatozoa that get deposited in human egg causing the formation the fetus. The fetus grows and expands and ultimately delivered to the material world to begin its life. The quality of his or her life is determined according to karmic imprints.
During the life time of a human being, he performs many actions, both good and bad. All these actions are recorded. Even walking, sleeping, eating etc are recorded. It is like the black box of an aircraft. It is black box for an aircraft, and karmic account for human beings. At the time of death, the karmic account gets embedded in one’s subconscious mind. When the soul leaves the body causing death, the subconscious mind is also pushed out of the body and begins to float in the atmosphere. It cannot float without soul and hence subconscious mind become mobile with the help of the soul. According to the quality of the karmic imprints, the subconscious mind is made to enter a particular fetus. The movement of the subconscious mind into the fetus is caused only by the soul. As seen earlier, soul though all pervasive, is only passive in nature. The karmic imprints embedded in the subconscious mind begin to unfold through the mind of the person concerned. Subconscious mind cannot act on its own and has to depend upon only the mind. When karmic impressions percolate into the mind, it acts by passing on commands to organs of action to cause an action and the cycle thus continues endlessly.
When the cause becomes effect, it is creation and when the effect realizes the cause, it is realization. Understanding the source or cause of our existence is realization. There are various stages by which this realization is achieved. If creation is a slower process than destruction, realization is still more a slow process than creation itself. All this will be discussed in the next part of this series.