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Hindu philosophy


Samkhya · Yoga · Nyaya · Vaisheshika · Purva Mimamsa · Vedanta (Advaita · Vishishtadvaita · Dvaita · Achintya Bheda Abheda)



Gautama · Jaimini · Kanada · Kapila · Markandeya · Patañjali · Valmiki · Vyasa

Adi Shankara · Dnyaneshwar · Chaitanya · Kabir · Madhusudana · Madhva · Namdeva  · Nimbarka  · Ramanuja · Vedanta Desika · Tukaram · Tulsidas · Vallabha

Aurobindo · Coomaraswamy · Gandhi · Narayana Guru · Prabhupada Ramakrishna Paramahamsa · Radhakrishnan · Yogananda · Ramana Maharshi · Dayananda Saraswati · Sivananda · Swaminarayan · Vivekananda

Brahman (bráhman-, nominative bráhma ब्रह्म) is a concept of Hinduism. Brahman is the unchanging, infinite, immanent, and transcendent reality which is the Divine Ground of all matter, energy, time, space, being, and everything beyond in this Universe.[1] The nature of Brahman is described as transpersonal, personal and impersonal by different philosophical schools. In the Rig Veda, Brahman gives rise to the primordial being Hiranyagarbha that is equated with the creator God Brahmā. The trimurti can thus be considered a personification of Hiranyagarbha as the active principle behind the phenomena of the universe.

The word "Brahman" is derived from the verb brh (Sanskrit: to grow), and connotes greatness. The Mundaka Upanishad says:

Om- That supreme Brahman is infinite, and this conditioned Brahman is infinite. The infinite proceeds from infinite. Then through knowledge, realizing the infinitude of the infinite, it remains as infinite alone.

Note that "Brahman" is different from "Brahmin", the priests/holy men. In fact "Brahmin" is derived from "Brahman" in the sense that a 'Brahmin is the one who knows Brahman'. The confusion between the terms can be dated back to the translation of the Upanishads into modern English.


[edit] Conceptualization

Brahman is the Absolute Reality or universal substrate (not to be confused with the Creator god Brahmā) is said to be eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and ultimately indescribable in human language. The sage-seers of the Upanishads had fully realized Brahman as the reality behind their own being and of everything else in this universe. They were thus Brahmins in the true sense of the word. These rishis described Brahman as infinite Being, infinite Consciousness, and infinite Bliss (satcitananda). Brahman is regarded as the source and essence of the material universe. The Rig Veda says that by the desire of the Supreme Being (RV 10.129.4), the initial manifestation of the material universe came into being from Hiranyagarbha (literally "golden womb"), out of which all worlds, organisms and divine beings (devas) arise:

"Great indeed are the devas who have sprung out of Brahman." — Atharva Veda

Para Brahman corresponds to the concept of Godhead and Saguna Brahman to God as the Primordial Being.[2]

It is said that Brahman cannot be known by material means, that we cannot be made conscious of it, because Brahman is our very consciousness. Brahman is also not restricted to the usual dimensional perspectives of being, and thus enlightenment, moksha, yoga, samadhi, nirvana, etc. do not merely mean to know Brahman, but to realise one's "brahman-hood", to actually realise that one is and always was Brahman. Indeed, closely related to the Self concept of Brahman is the idea that it is synonymous with jiva-atma, or individual souls, our atman (or soul) being readily identifiable with the greater soul (paramatma) of Brahman.

Generally, Vedanta rejects the notion of an evolving Brahman since Brahman contains within it the potentiality and archetypes behind all possible manifest phenomenal forms. The Vedas, though they are in some respects historically conditioned are considered by Hindus to convey a knowledge[3] eternal, timeless and always contemporaneous with Brahman. This knowledge is considered to have been handed down by realised yogins to students many generations before the vedas were committed to writing. Written texts of the Vedas are a relatively recent phenomenon.

Connected with the ritual of pre-Vedantic Hinduism, Brahman signified the power to grow, the expansive and self-altering process of ritual and sacrifice, often visually realized in the sputtering of flames as they received the all important ghee (clarified butter) and rose in concert with the mantras of the Vedas. The term Brahmin in the Vedic period actually meant one who has realized Brahman. However, later on Brahmin came to be identified with the highest of the four castes, the Brahmins, who by virtue of their purity and priesthood held themselves as proprietors of rituals, though mostly without actual realization of Brahman, and void of Vedantic knowledge.

Among Hindu sects, Advaita Vedanta is the first instance of monism in organized religion and Hinduism is the only religion with this concept. To call this concept 'God' could be imprecise. The closest interpretation of the term can be found in the Taittariya Upanishad (II.1) where Brahman is described as satyam jnanam anantam brahman ("Brahman is of the nature of truth, knowledge and infinity"). Thus, Brahman is the origin and end of all things, material or otherwise. Brahman is the root source and Divine Ground of everything that exists, and is the only thing that exists according to Shankara. It is defined as unknowable and Satchitananda ("Truth-Consciousness-Bliss"). Since it is eternal and infinite, it comprises the only truth. The goal of Vedanta is to realize that the soul (Atman) is actually nothing but Brahman. The Hindu pantheon of gods is said, in the Vedas and Upanishads, to be only higher manifestations of Brahman. For this reason, "ekam sat" ("Truth is one"), and all is Brahman. This explains the Hindu view that "All paths lead to the one Truth, though many sages [and religions] call upon it by different names."

Several mahā-vākyas, or great sayings, indicate what the principle of Brahman is:

prajnānam brahma[4] "Brahman is knowledge"
ayam ātmā brahma[5] "The Self (or the Soul) is Brahman "
aham brahmāsmi[6] "I am Brahman"
tat tvam asi[7] "Thou are that"
sarvam khalv idam brahma[8] "All this that we see in the world is Brahman",
sachchidānanda brahma[9][10] "Brahman is existence, consciousness, and bliss".

[edit] Etymology

Sanskrit bráhman (an n-stem, nominative bráhmā) is from a root bṛh "to swell, grow, enlarge". brahmán is a masculine derivation of bráhman, denoting a person associated with bráhman. The further origin of bṛh is unclear. According to Pokorny's IE Etymological Lexicon IE root bhreu-, bhreu-d- denotes to swell, sprout (cf Slovenian brsteti - to sprout). (Also see Bragi). Some, including Georges Dumézil, have said that the Latin word flāmen "priest" may also be cognate.[citation needed]

[edit] Semantics and pronunciation

Here the underlined vowels carry the Vedic Sanskrit udātta short pitch accent. It is usual to use an acute accent symbol for this purpose.

In Vedic Sanskrit:-

  • Brahma (ब्रह्म) (nominative singular), brahman (ब्रह्मन्) (stem) (neuter[11] gender) means the Great Cosmic Spirit, from root brha (growth, development, expansion, swelling).
  • Brahmānda (ब्रह्माण्ड) (nominative singular), from stems brha (to expand) + anda (egg), means universe as an expansion of a cosmic egg (Hiranyagarbha), or the macrocosm. Brahmanda Purana discusses cosmogenesis. Srimad Bhagavatam also discusses cosmogony and fundamental principles of material nature in detail.[12]

In later Sanskrit usage:-

  • Brahma (ब्रह्म) (nominative singular), brahman (stem) (neuter[11] gender) means the concept of the transcendent and immanent ultimate reality of the One Godhead or Supreme Cosmic Spirit in Hinduism; the concept is central to Hindu philosophy, especially Vedanta; this is discussed below. Also note that the word Brahman in this sense is exceptionally treated as masculine (see the Merrill-Webster Sanskrit Dictionary). It is called "the Brahman" in English. Brahm is another variant of Brahman.
  • Brahmā (ब्रह्मा) (nominative singlular), Brahman (ब्रह्मन्) (stem) (masculine gender), means the deity or deva Prajāpati Brahmā. He is one of the members of the Hindu trinity and associated with creation, but does not have a cult in present day India. This is because Brahmā, the creator-god, is long-lived but not eternal i.e. Brahmā gets absorbed back into Purusha at the end of an aeon, and is born again at the beginning of a new kalpa.

One must not confuse these with:

  • A brāhmaņa (ब्राह्मण) (masculine, pronounced as /brα:h mə Ņə/ - the N being retroflex), (which literally means "pertaining to prayer") is a prose commentary on the Vedic mantras—an integral part of the Vedic literature.
  • A brāhmaņa (ब्राह्मण) (masculine, same pronunciation as above), means priest; in this usage the word is usually rendered in English as "Brahmin". This usage is also found in the Atharva Veda. In neuter plural form, Brahmāņi. See Vedic priest.
  • Ishvara, (lit., Supreme Lord), in Advaita, is identified as a partial worldly manifestation (with limited attributes) of the ultimate reality, the attributeless Brahman. In Visishtadvaita and Dvaita, however, Ishvara (the Supreme Controller) has infinite attributes and the source of the impersonal Brahman.
  • Devas, the celestial beings of Hinduism, which may be regarded as deities, demi-gods, spirits or angels. In Vedic Hinduism, there were 33 devas, which later became exaggerated to 330 million devas. In fact, devas are themselves regarded as more mundane manifestations of the One and the Supreme Brahman (See Para Brahman). The Sanskrit word for "ten million" also means group, and 330 million devas originally meant 33 types of divine manifestations.

[edit] Brahman and Atman

Some Upanishadic statements identify the Atman, the inner essence of the human being, with Brahman. While Advaita philosophy considers Brahman to be without form, qualities, or attributes, Visishtadvaita and Dvaita philosophies understand Brahman as one with infinite auspicious qualities. In Advaita, the ultimate reality is expressed as Nirguna Brahman. Nirguna means formless, attributeless, mega-soul, or spirit-only. Advaita considers all personal forms of God including Vishnu and Shiva as different aspects of God in personal form, Saguna Brahman i.e. God with attributes. In Visishtadvaita and Dvaita, God is Saguna Brahman with infinite attributes and is the source of the impersonal Nirguna Brahman, and God's energy is regarded as Devi, the Divine Mother.

The phrase that is seen to be the only possible (and still thoroughly inadequate) description of Brahman that humans, with limited minds and being, can entertain is the Sanskrit word Sacchidānanda, which is combined from sat-chit-ānanda, meaning "Being - Consciousness - Bliss".

The description of Brahman from Mandukya Upanishad:

सर्वं ह्येतद् ब्रह्मायमात्मा ब्रह्म सोयमात्मा चतुष्पात्
sarvam hyetad brahmāyamātmā brahma soyamātmā chatushpāt - Mandukya Upanishad, verse-2

  • Translation:-

sarvam (सर्वम्)- whole/all/everything; hi (हि)- really/surely/indeed; etad (एतद्)- this here/this; brahma (ब्रह्म)- Brahma/Brahman; ayam (अयम्)- this/here; ātmā(आत्मा)- atma/atman; sah(सः)- he; ayam (अयम्)- this/here; chatus(चतुस्)- four/quadruple; pāt(पात्)- step/foot/quarter

सर्वम् हि एतद् ब्रह्म अयम् आत्मा ब्रह्म सः अयम् आत्मा चतुस पात्
sarvam hi etad brahma ayam ātmā brahm sah ayam ātmā chatus paat

  • Simple meaning:-

All indeed is this Brahman; He is Atman; He has four steps/quarters.

Vishnu is derived from the root "Vish" which means to enter or pervade, and He is called Vishnu because He pervades the whole universe. Brahmanda Purana (1.4.25) says that He is called as Vishnu because He has entered into everything in the universe. The most important aspect is that the whole universe is covered by only three steps of Vishnu which is referred to several times in the Vedas (Rig Veda 1.22.17, 1.154. 3, 1.155.4, Atharva Veda 7.26.5, Yajur Veda 2.25). In His three steps rests the whole universe (Rig Veda 1.154.2, Yajur Veda 23.49). All indeed is Brahman, which can thus be identified with Vishnu, based on the Vedas.

[edit] Enlightenment and Brahman

While Brahman lies behind the sum total of the objective universe, some human minds boggle at any attempt to explain it with only the tools provided by reason. Brahman is beyond the senses, beyond the mind, beyond intelligence, beyond imagination. Indeed, the highest idea is that Brahman transcends and includes time, causation and space, and thus can never be known in the same material sense as one traditionally 'understands' a given concept or object.

[edit] Advaita Vedanta

The universe does not simply possess consciousness, it is consciousness, and this consciousness is Brahman. According to Adi Shankara, knowledge of brahman springs from inquiry into the words of the Upanishads, and the knowledge of brahman that shruti provides cannot be obtained in any other way.[13]

In Advaita Vedanta (absolute monism), Brahman is without attributes and strictly impersonal. It can be best described as infinite Being, infinite Consciousness, and infinite Bliss. It is pure knowledge itself, similar to a source of infinite radiance. Since the Advaitins regard Brahman to be the Ultimate Truth, so in comparison to Brahman, every other thing, including the material world, its distinctness, the individuality of the living creatures and even Ishvara (the Supreme Lord) itself are all untrue. Brahman is the effulgent cause of everything that exists and can possibly exist. Since it is beyond human comprehension, it is without any attributes, for assigning attributes to it would be distorting the true nature of Brahman. Advaitins believe in the existence of both Saguna Brahman and Nirguna Brahman, however they consider Nirguna Brahman to be the Absolute Truth.

When man tries to know the attributeless Brahman with his mind, under the influence of an illusionary power of Brahman called Maya, Brahman becomes God (Ishvara). God is the reflection of the Brahman in the environment of illusion (Maya). Just like reflection of moon, in a pool of water. The material world also appears as such due to Maya. God is Saguna Brahman, or Brahman with attributes. He is omniscient, omnipresent, incorporeal, independent, Creator of the world, its ruler and also destroyer. He is eternal and unchangeable. He is both immanent and transcedent, as well as full of love and justice. He may be even regarded to have a personality. He is the subject of worship. He is the basis of morality and giver of the fruits of one's Karma. He rules the world with his Maya. However, while God is the Lord of Maya and she (i.e. Maya) is always under his control, living beings (jīva, in the sense of humans) are the servants of Maya (in the form of ignorance). This ignorance is the cause of all material experiences in the mortal world. While God is Infinite Bliss, humans, under the influence of Maya consider themselves limited by the body and the material, observable world. This misperception of Brahman as the observed Universe results in human emotions such as happiness, sadness, anger and fear. The ultimate reality remains Brahman and nothing else. The Advaita equation is simple. It is due to Maya that the one single Atman (the individual soul) appears to the people as many Atmans, each in a single body. Once the curtain of maya is lifted, the Atman is exactly equal to Brahman. Thus, due to true knowledge, an individual loses the sense of ego (Ahamkara) and achieves liberation, or Moksha.

Relevant verses from Bhagavad-Gita which establish the Advaita position:

The indestructible, transcendental living entity is called Brahman, and its eternal nature is called adhyatma, the self. (Bhagavad Gita 8.3)

Similar to a person who is not attached to external pleasures but enjoys happiness in the Atman (soul), the person who perceives Brahman (all-pervading consciousness) in everybody feels everlasting joy. (Bhagavad Gita 5.21)

[edit] Visishtadvaita Vedanta

Brahman of Visishtadvaita is synonymous with Narayana, who is the transcendent and immanent reality. Brahman or Narayana is Saguna Brahman with infinite auspicious qualities, and not the Advaita concept of attributeless Nirguna Brahman. "Sarvam khalvidam brahma, tajjalaniti santa upasita": According to Ramanuja, considering the appearance of the word "tajjalan iti" (Roots: tat + ja = born + la = dissolved), this statement from the Chandogya Upanishad does not simply mean that the universe is Brahman, but that it is pervaded by, born from and dissolves into Brahman. An analogy: fish is born in water, lives in water, and is ultimately dissolved into water; yet the fish is not water.

The concept of Brahman in Visishtadvaita is explained as an inseparable triad of Ishwara-Chit-Achit. Ishvara, the Supreme Self (Paramatman) is the indwelling spirit (Antaryami) in all. Both the Chit (sentient) and Achit (insentient) entities are pervaded and permeated by Ishvara. Brahman is the material and efficient cause of the universe. The concept of Brahman in Visishtadvaita can be seen as a hybrid of Advaita and Dvaita positions. Like all other Vaishnava schools of thought, Visishtadvaita is also panentheistic unlike the pantheism of Advaita. It also proposes a qualified attributive monism approach as opposed to the absolute monism of Advaita.

Brahman is, Antaryami, the real self of all beings. Everything other than Brahman form the Sarira (body) of Brahman. The inseparable relation between the body and the soul is similar to that of substance and attribute which are inseparable. So Brahman is the prakari and the universe is the prakara, mode of Brahman. Hence anything that describes a sentient or insentient being has its connotation only with Brahman, the real and ultimate self. The relationship between Ishvara-Chit-Achit can be further understood as follows:

1. The Sarira-Sariri Concept

The key concept of Visishtadvaita is the Sarira-Sariri Bhaava, the body-soul relationship between the universe and Ishvara. There are three realities, namely, Ishvara (the Lord), Jiva (individual souls), and Jagat (insentient matter). They are not separate entities but together they form an organic whole. This is similar to the concept of body-soul relationship, but on a cosmic scale. Thus, Ishvara has the Chit (sentient) and Achit (insentient) entities for His body and being the Supreme Self, exercises complete control over it.

2. Substance-Attribute Concept

In Visishtadvaita, Ishvara is the original substance, of which Jiva and Prakriti are attributes. An attribute cannot have an existence independent of an underlying substance. The substance-attribute concept establishes an uninterrupted, non-reciprocal relationship between Ishvara and the two modes.

Followers of Visishtadvaita refute Advaita thought that if it is indeed true that the one undivided Brahman, whose very nature is pure spirit, is the foundation of Maya and also embodies the liberating force of knowledge, then it is illogical to say that the very same Brahman falls under the influence of the illusory power of Maya and gets covered by ignorance. Thus establishing that Jiva and Ishvara are indeed separate entities. Since both their identities and capabilities are different, the Jiva and the Lord are essentially distinct. In other words, if Brahman is indivisible, changeless, and supreme, then a force of Maya cannot appear within Brahman, modify it, and put it into ignorance.

Bhakti Yoga is the sole means of liberation in Visishtadvaita. Through Bhakti (devotion), a Jiva ascends to the realm of the Lord to become one with Him. Karma Yoga and Jnana Yoga are natural outcomes of Bhakti, total surrender, as the devotee acquires the knowledge that the Lord is the inner self. A devotee realizes his own state as dependent on, and supported by, and being led by the Lord, who is the Master. One is to lead a life as an instrument of the Lord, offering all his thought, word, and deed to the feet of the Lord. One is to see the Lord in everything and everything in Him. This is the unity in diversity achieved through devotion.

In Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna is Ishvara and denotes Saguna Brahman, and the term Brahman means Nirguna Brahman:

I (Ishvara) am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is immortal, imperishable and eternal and is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness. (Bhagavad Gita 14.27)

I (Ishvara) am transcendental, beyond both kshara (the fallible, perishable world) and akshara (the infallible). (Bhagavad Gita 15.18)

[edit] Dvaita Vedanta

Brahman of Dvaita (substantial monism) is synonymous with Hari or Vishnu, who is the most exalted Para Brahman (Supreme Brahman), superior to liberated souls and even the impersonal Brahman. Dvaita holds that the individual soul is dependent (paratantra) on God, since it is unable to exist without the energizing support of the universal spirit, just as a tree cannot survive without its sap.

Dvaita schools argue against the Advaita concept that upon liberation one realizes Brahman as a formless God is erroneous, quoting from Vedanta Sutra:

The form of Brahman is unmanifest, but even the form of Brahman becomes directly visible to one who worships devoutly (tat avyaktam aha, api samradhane pratyaksa anumanabhyam)[citation needed].[14] (Vedanta Sutra 3.2.23)

Within His divine realm, devotees see other divine manifestations which appear even as physical objects in a city (antara bhuta gramavat svatmanah). (Vedanta Sutra 3.3.36)

Dvaita propounds Tattvavada which means understanding differences between Tattvas (significant properties) of entities within the universal substrate as follows:

1. Jîva-Îshvara-bheda - difference between the soul and Vishnu

2. Jada-Îshvara-bheda - difference between the insentient and Vishnu

3. Mitha-jîva-bheda - difference between any two souls

4. Jada-jîva-bheda - difference between insentient and the soul

5. Mitha-jada-bheda - difference between any two insentients

The Acintya Bheda Abheda philosophy is similar to Dvaitadvaita (differential monism). All Vaishnava schools are panentheistic and perceive the Advaita concept of identification of Atman with the impersonal Brahman as an intermediate step of self-realization, but not Mukti, or final liberation of complete God-realization through Bhakti Yoga.

The Advaita concept of a Jivanmukta is mocked as an absurd oxymoron because a person who has surmounted the realm of perception and realized the Absolute (as Advaita holds) should not continue to exist within and interact with the realm of perception that one has realized as being not real. The suggestion that such bondage to the world of perception continues for a while after the occurrence of God-realization, because of past attachments, is not tenable. Such attachments themselves are artifacts of the perceived world that has supposedly been sublated, and should not continue to besiege the consciousness of the self-realized. A Jivanmukta, or liberated person, should not even be physically present in the material universe. A person who is living in the world cannot be said to be free of sorrow born of material contact, and also cannot be said to experience the joy of liberation. The very act of being in a gross material body is not accepted in as a Jivanmukta i.e. a person liberated from the cycle of birth and death. The soul upon liberation does not lose its identity, which remains different from God, nor does one become equal to God in any respect. A mukta indeed becomes free from all suffering, but one's enjoyment is not of the same caliber as His, nor does a mukta become independent of Him. The permanent differential aspect of Atman (soul) from the Lord is established from:

Never was there a time when I (Ishvara) did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be. (Bhagavad Gita 2.12)

In Dvaita, liberation (Moksha) is achieved by flawless devotion and correct understanding. Devotion to a personal form of God, Saguna Brahman, indicated here is the transcendental form of Krishna or Vishnu (see Vaishnavism). This conclusion is corroborated by the Bhagavata Purana, written by Vyasa as his commentary on Vedanta Sutra.

O my Lord, Krishna, son of Vasudeva, O all-pervading Lord, I offer my respectful obeisances unto You, the Absolute Truth and the primeval cause of all causes of the creation, sustenance and destruction of the manifested universes (om namo bhagavate vasudevaya janmady asya yatah 'nvayad itaratas cartheshv abhijnah svarat). (Bhagavatam 1.1.1)

Vyasa employs the words "janma-adi -- creation, sustenance and destruction; asya -- of the manifested universes; yatah -- from whom;", in the first verse of the Bhagavata Purana to establish that Krishna is the Absolute Truth. This is clear testimony of the author's own conclusion that the ultimate goal of all Vedic knowledge is Krishna.

[edit] Sri Aurobindo's Evolutionary View

A central tenet of Sri Aurobindo's philosophy is that the Truth of existence is an omnipresent Reality that both transcends the manifested universe and is inherent in it. This Reality, referred to as Brahman, is an Absolute: it is not limited by any mental conception or duality, whether personal or impersonal, existent or nonexistent, formless or manifested in form, timeless or extended in time, spaceless or extended in space. It is simultaneously all of these but is bound by none of them. It is at once the universe, each individual being and thing in the universe, and the Transcendent beyond the universe. In its highest manifested poise, its nature may be described as Sachchidananda—infinite existence, infinite consciousness, and infinite delight or bliss—a triune principle in which the three are united in a single Reality. In other words, it is a fully conscious and blissful infinite existence. The importance of this concept for humanity lies in its implication that Brahman is our deepest and secret Reality, it is our true Self, and it is possible to recover this Reality of our being by removing the veil of ignorance that hides it from us and imprisons us in a false identification with an apparently divided and limited egoistic movement on the surface of our being. This is the metaphysical basis for Sri Aurobindo's yoga, the discipline given to consciously unite our phenomenal existence and life with our essential Reality.

How has the absolute Brahman, Sachchidananda, become what we see here around us—this world of inconscient matter, struggling life, ignorance, limitation, conflict, suffering, death, and evil? In answering this question, Sri Aurobindo explains that the Absolute is not bound—not bound to its infinite existence, not bound to its infinite consciousness and the force inherent in that consciousness, not bound to its infinite bliss. Second, he explains that by definition Brahman is capable of manifesting within its absolute existence innumerable, limited, even distorted and contrary forms of its being. We may further deduce that an infinitely extended, infinitely diverse manifestation, replete with objects and beings ranging from the most unconscious, the most vile, to the most conscious, the most beautiful, the most divine, would be perfectly consistent with an existence that was Absolute.

But how does the Brahman do this? Through what Sri Aurobindo describes as the principle of exclusive concentration. This principle is best explained through the example of our own ability to narrow our conscious awareness on a particular idea or perception, putting behind in the background of our focused awareness the rest of our conscious existence. When an author concentrates in writing her story—developing the characters, the scene, the action—her own personal identity becomes for the moment lost to her conscious awareness. Her consciousness enters into the story and identifies with it. She does not cease to be what she is or lose her knowledge of her identity, but practically her awareness is narrowed and identified at a point. This ability to focus awareness and put into the background all else is inherent in consciousness. It is through a similar process that the One and Infinite Being becomes the many, apparently separate, individual beings and things we see manifested in the universe. The separation is in appearance only, for in truth all individuals are constituted by the One, are That in their Reality, for there is nothing outside the Absolute. They are forms and appearances of its Being, expressions of its Consciousness, movements of its Delight.

According to Sri Aurobindo, for our world in particular—there are other worlds that follow a different process—there is taking place a gradual awakening of consciousness over time, an evolution of consciousness. Through its principle of exclusive concentration, the One became matter, losing all conscious awareness in the form of inanimate matter. From this base it is progressively awakening through the life of the plant, the beginnings of mind in the animal, the full emergence of mind in humanity, and is now stirring to awaken fully through the emergence of a greater consciousness than mind, the Supermind, in which the fullness of the undivided consciousness and infinite delight of the One will be manifest in individualities embodied here on earth. This evolution of consciousness, from the worm to the god, is the central process, aim, and significance of our existence.

There is the further question of why the Absolute would manifest in this way, and in particular, why pain, suffering, evil would be allowed to exist. For there is no shifting of responsibility possible here, there is nothing or no one outside the Absolute. It is a complex problem and there are various sides to the answer that Sri Aurobindo provides; here it is possible only to suggest the outlines of the solution. One point that Sri Aurobindo emphasizes is that it is the Brahman who thus suffers, it is not imposed on someone or something outside the Brahman. A second point he makes is that limitation and ignorance are inherent consequences of the plunge of the Absolute consciousness into the inconscience and its slow evolutionary awakening—pain, suffering, and evil developed as consequences or corollaries of limitation and ignorance. A third point is that while pain, suffering, and evil are abhorrent to our limited ethical sensibilities, they also may serve a purpose in the larger scheme of the evolutionary process. That is, they may be the spurs needed to drive a dense and ignorant emerging consciousness towards its own fullness and ultimate release into the infinite and eternal, into the truth and delight of the divine existence. Furthermore, the end of the process, hidden from our narrow view, of a divine existence on earth, may carry within it the justification for the hard conditions of its gradual manifestation in time.

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes and references

  1. ^ Brodd, Jefferey (2003). World Religions. Winona, MN: Saint Mary's Press. ISBN 978-0-88489-725-5. 
  2. ^ Krishna. The Supreme Personality of Godhead
  3. ^ Veda means 'knowledge' and not merely epistemic knowledge but knowledge of the eternal truth that one's ultimate nature is pure consciousness and independent of material form (cf. Gnosis
  4. ^ Aitareya Upanishad 3.3
  5. ^ Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.5,
  6. ^ Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10,
  7. ^ Chhāndogya Upanishad 6.8.7 et seq.
  8. ^ Chhāndogya Upanishad 3.14.1
  9. ^ Nrisimhauttaratāpini, cited in Swami Nikhilananda, The Upanishads: A new Translation Vol. I.
  10. ^ In the Bhagavad Gītā, Krishna also describes the nature of Brahman. For example, he says "And I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is immortal, imperishable and eternal and is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness" (brahmano hi pratishthaham...) B-Gita (As-it-Is) 14.27 Translation by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
  11. ^ a b Not Masculine or Feminine (see Grammatical gender).
  12. ^ Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Śrīmad Bhāgavatam
  13. ^ Anantanand Rambachan, The limits of scripture: Vivekananda's reinterpretation of the Vedas. University of Hawaii Press, 1994, pages 125, 124: [1].
  14. ^ api - but, samradhane - intense worship, pratyaksa - as directly visible, anumanabhyam - as inferred from scripture

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