Brahman, kaivalya, nirvANa, Is'vara, God

By using a word like jIva we have alluded to a seemingly physical quantity that is "born."  By definition the physical universe itself has to be born in this theory and can dissolve itself with "death" like any other physical object.  We are a part of the physical universe and we can only speculate its origin, but we can deduce on the eventuality of its dissolution.  The question comes to speculate what could be there before the birth of the universe or what might remain after the dissolution.  As we have discussed in the previous articles, we have to call this state "incomprehensible" since no physical reasoning might be able to define it.  So we go a step further and declare that this "incomprehensible" state is the "unmanifest" nature of the cosmos and our universe is one of many possible manifestations of the "incomprehensible unmanifest".  Once we accept the latter the reasoning becomes easy, we can claim that this "unmanifest" is a part of the local universe and manifests itself as life, fruit, beauty or rains whenever a manifestation is "desired."  Since there is very limited control on these manifestations, we safely say that any manifestation is the "desire" of the "unmanifest"; this is the theory of Brahman.  The human rule doesn't work, and we say Brahman rules.   Brahman is unmanifest, but is there everywhere and manifests itself through its own desire.  When it manifests in us, we have the joy, Ananda, we spoke before.  We call Brahman is Ananda.


While dumping all happenings anywhere on Brahman is beautiful and wholesome, it reduces the accountability to our actions. If no action is ours, then why should we be accountable?  A highly intellectual interpretation of the functioning of the universe can reduce to laziness, inefficiency and misconduct.  A culture can degrade by interpreting that the result of any work can be enigmatic, hence no work is required.  The theory of Brahman has nothing to do with this convoluted and convenient interpretation.  It says that the result is a function of collective consciousness and the latter is fathomable.  Collective consciousness is an assembly of individual consciousness and the "result" of work is to gain Ananda and once one gets a taste of the latter, the steps in the world are straightforward.  Ananda is always infinite in concept; hence any experience can fill the whole universe with it.  Once somebody is in Ananda, he or she is always immersed in it.  This can be experienced. For such a person, nothing is an enemy, all are friends, death is meaningless, and there is no pain.


There could be another school of thought who can claim that Brahman theory is too speculative and extremely impractical. One could point to the physical happenings of pain and death in the world and categorically accept their reality.  Some brilliant thinkers have put forth a model where the claim can be made that all pains are self-inflicted.  We can model a life of assumed noble virtues and adherence to the virtues in life can be a road to no pain liberation.  Any deviation from the virtuous path can lead to accumulate a quantity called karma, the remission of which can take a long time to wash.  In this model, life can recycle from one form to the other as a result of the accumulated karma in the past life.  Though the measurement of good and bad karma is artificial and is arbitrary, the model can present a yardstick for people to lead a self-satisfying virtuous life and find happiness in living.  The prime virtue that is proposed in this model is termed ahimsA, which translates as "non-injury." By not hurting anyone through action, thought or intention, we can maintain a higher mental state.  Continuous practice can lead to a state called kaivalya, where one detaches one's self from his/her body.  The assumption is that a person's life is manifested as a soul and it's the soul that gets tainted with karma. Unlike the theory of Brahman, one doesn't need an origin and dissolution of the universe.  The universe is a transformation among an innumerable set of souls.  This has been the religion of Jaina, Jaina theorists are called tIrthankara, and it's believed that twenty four of them have existed through history.  Good records exist of the last tirthankara Mahavira, who lived around 600 BC.  While Vedanta did champion ahimsA as the noblest conduct, declaring ahimsA as the only path to liberation was due to Mahavira.  As we see in history, path of ahimsA is a winner.


A little after Mahavira's time, another brilliant Indian thinker also challenged the speculative nature of Vedanta as regards the search for the origin of the universe.  One can easily convince oneself that such search is futile and enormous amount of time and energy can be spent in preparing for a search than living the life as given.  His thought was that an individual should try his/her best to live in a noble manner at the present time than indulge in speculative visualizations.  He viewed that the nobler part of living is not to find a cause of a problem, but to display compassion to the victims.  The latter is direct and the former is round-about.  There is no escape from the world and the misery emanates from desire.  By declaring that the world is a result of human desire, he bypassed the cosmic "desire" of the Brahman theory.  Because he intuitively gained this knowledge through deep penance and meditation, he was called the Buddha.  Born as a prince with the name Siddhartha Gotama, he is known as the person of tranquility and compassion among all wise people who have lived on the earth.  Like karma in the Jaina theory, the desire can have its own time scale to dissipate, but he would call it a law of nature.  The human life is governed by a perpetually moving wheel of time, all events are transient and everything repeats itself in course of time.  The question does come as regards what happens to an individual where all desires are eliminated.  The Buddha defined a state called nirrvANa, where the "light of life" extinguishes itself and nothing is held back.  For the Buddha the unmanifest is the void, it does not produce anything but it is the destination of all life forms.  Buddhism has been very popular as a practice of life in the modern times.


SriKrishna as a historical person predates both Mahavira and Gotama Buddha.  He practiced and propagated a theory on the practicality of life which he called yoga.  In order to explain his theory among the people, he had to accept the diversity of quality of life as observed on the earth and preached that excellent in work and equanimity in conduct are the highest manifestations of a yogic life.  His thesis was eventually compiled together as the Srimadbhagavadgita which forms a part of the epic Mahabharata composed somewhere around 2nd or 3rd century BC.  Srimadbhagavadgita accepts a ruler of the universe and calls it Is'vara.  Though this ruler lives in everybody's heart and can be meditated upon, it also has the obligation of running the universe.  Through its ruling, it determines the right and wrong, ushers grace and compassion, and appears as an external ruler.   According to the Gita, the perception is "external" only because of our sense limitations and once we transcend the sensory perceptions, we merge in Is’vara through our own discovery.  The Gita empowers the individual suggesting that the individual is the ultimate master of one's destiny and no books or dogma really would matter.  Rationalizing the internal conscience all the time is the superior practice of life.


The concept of Is'vara is different than the concept of God that took root in the western tradition.  In the western view, God plants a "soul" in the human life form and monitors the soul as the life evolves.  God can assist an individual or a group if he likes and can punish a party if he so chooses.  God likes people who live a pious life and follow God's commandments as revealed in Biblical literature or as propounded through the Holy Quran.  There is no other absolute truth than "God exists" and God likes people who dedicate themselves to the faith.  All souls after death return to God in heaven and wait until Day of Judgment for their final destiny.  God's punishment can be cruel and human beings must avoid such punishment by all means.  Elimination of the unfaithful or converting human beings to one's chosen faith are justified as pious acts to please God. Practice of religious edicts is the path to salvation.


As the above discussion would suggest, the world view from the vantage point of the earth can be very different than the view from the top as the theory of Brahman would theorize.   Various philosophical schools gradually developed in India to understand and analyze the human view and find a bridge to the Brahman view.  The principal among these schools is called sAnkhya, a philosophy based on the numbers.  We will return to it in our next article.


Let Sai bless all.

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