God & gods

                                                                           GOD & gods

 

(Interactive session on 14.11.2013)

Keynote address by Mr. Gautam Kanjilal

(Other participant speakers: Mr. Ashok Kumar Sengupta, Mr R. K. Gupta, Mr. N. N. Sarkar, Ms. Anindita N. Balslev, Mr. Asim K. Banerjee, Mr. Paritosh Bandopadhyay, Mr. P.C. Jha, Dr. Suhas Majumdar)

[Devotional song by Ms. Jayanti Das Gupta]

Anchor, Introduction & Conclusive Remarks: Asish K.Raha

 

INTRODUCTION

The concept of God is perhaps as old as human history. And no concept has been subjected to more questions, challenges, research, and debate than the concept of God. Our purview today is not whether God exists or otherwise. Our limited focus is on the concept of God vis-a-vis gods, according to various organized religions, philosophy and researches.

In the process it will be necessary to dwell upon some pertinent question relating to both the concepts of God and gods. Those questions are as follows:

  1. Whether God is one, all-inclusive or many.Whether God has a gender, form and attributes or God is neutral, formless and without attributes.
  2. Whether God has created universes and all creatures including humans, and, therefore, is distinct from all ITS creations or whether entire creation has emanated from God and will eventually subsume in God.
  3. Whether gods are distinctive from God.
  4. Whether gods are human, super-human, aliens from space or spiritual entities.

As to the varying concepts of God according to well-known traditions such as the Vedantic and the Abrahamic ones, we have dwelt upon the same at great length while discussing in a previous session on ‘God & anti-God’ on 24.8.2013. The Vedantic concept of Brahman can be explained briefly with reference to an anecdote from Chhandogya Upanishad relating to sage Uddalak and his son Shvetaketu (Cha. VIII. iii. 1-2) to bring out that Brahman is both the efficient and the material cause of this mortal universe. This was explained by way of a practical illustration. The father Uddalak asked his son Shvetaketu to mix a lump of salt in water in a container and bring that container to him. Instruction thus complied, the son was asked to drink the water from the top, the middle and the bottom portion and to report how it tasted. When Shvetaketu informed his father that the water tasted salty uniformly, Uddalak asked his son to produce the lump of salt. The son replied that it was impossible to produce the lump of salt as it had melted in water. Uddalak thereupon explained that the salt which was no longer visible in the water was the material as also the efficient cause of the salty water. Brahman which is super-consciousness is like the salt that pervades all individual consciousnesses like the water in this phenomenal world. “Shvetaketu, thou art That” (Tat Tvam Asi) is the cardinal message of the Vedanta that is applicable to the whole of the mankind irrespective of their faith or background.  The Abrahamic tradition as represented by Old Testament, New Testament and also Quran describe God as the One who is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. The Buddhist tradition as also the Samkhya philosophy of early Indian tradition is silent about the existence of God.

Before we address above five questions in depth, it will be worthwhile delving into various studies and researches on the above subject with particular emphasis on gods.

VARYING CONCEPTS OF GOD

Let us begin by saying that the ideas, beliefs or opinions pertaining to God as also gods that we are going to dwell upon or examine here have been expressed for last few centuries by several learned scholars, scientists and archaeologists. Some of these findings have substance and, therefore, the same merit serious consideration. We will dwell upon the concept of God first, and the gods later.

One may wonder how to define and describe God. And also at times one may also wonder how does an individual and God relate to each other. To be more precise, the question is whether the relationship between God and an individual is like one-way traffic, one being the creator and controller and the other being ever subservient and a servant. Is it the case that the human individual should be thinking of God, or is it that God, whosoever it may be, is also thinking of each individual at the same time? We grow up with ideas filled with reverence for God or the gods described in our respective religions, without actually experiencing the intimate touch, except for the spiritually advanced prophets like Jesus or saints like Sri Ramakrishna, who claimed deeper contact or interface with God the Almighty. Most religions also claim that their prophets or spiritual Masters were able to establish a direct and deep relationship with the Almighty or their personal God. Others are simply followers of such Masters or faith. While on the topic of GOD, we must accept that most of the dogmas and beliefs are mostly blind and primarily based on faith alone and not upon any concrete evidence or personal experience of the believers.

As with most of us, our perception/definition of God has been fully influenced `a priori by fellow believers, that GOD being a SUPERNATURAL ENTITY NOT HAVING A FORM (may be because we have not seen Him in physical form), is all-pervading, omnipresent, and most powerful entity and the most benevolent representing ALL GOOD. Some of us regrettably feel at times that God apparently uses the power to the advantage and disadvantage of selected human and other lives on Earth. The human mind is such that anything powerful though being very much revered is simultaneously also greatly feared and that is perhaps why we also fear God in some ways. It may be the fear of the unknown or the fear of punishment for wrong-doing.

It will be of interest to see what some of the organized religions which can be broadly classified as monotheists, polytheists and inclusivists say about God.

No uniform concept of GOD in Hinduism

Unlike in Abrahamic tradition, the concept of God is not uniform in Hindu tradition. As has been briefly mentioned in the Introduction, the philosophical content of Hinduism is represented by the non-theist Samkhya, and theist and inclusivist Vedanta which includes Upanishads, Brahma Sutra, the Gita etc., (known in short as Uttar Mimansha),  while its ritualistic content is represented by the early Vedas (known as the Purva Mimansha) and the Puranas, which are apparently polytheist.

Gods or Devas named in Rig Veda

One of the earliest statements in the history of mankind on the subject of our discussion today, ‘God and gods’, come from the Rig Veda (I.164.46):

 

Indram Mitram Varunam Agnim ahuratho Divyah sa suparna Garutman |

Ekam sad vipra bahudha vadanti Agnim Yamam Matarishyanmahuh ||

The mantra mentions the names of several Vedic gods – Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni, Garutmat, Yama, Matarishvan – but states  that (God or true existence) is One (Ekam Sad) but the sages perceive many attributes in That  (vipra bahudha vadanti).  This mantra is the Vedic version of the Upanishadic mahavakya ‘Ekamevadvitiam’ i.e., (God or true existence is) One and without a second. Thus it can be seen that the Vedas have made a distinction between God or Brahman and multiple gods called Devas as also their adversaries called Asuras who were born of the same father viz. sage Kashyapa, but different mothers, viz. Aditi and Diti. Since, sage Kashyapa was human, it would stand to reason to infer that both the Devas and the Asuras were also human. However, it is possible that the Devas and the Asuras were more advanced, scientifically as also spiritually than the contemporary humans.

The Vedas state that there are 33 main Gods in its pantheon.  The Puranic conception, which is also the prevalent idea among Hindus till now, that there are 330 million Gods, might have come from the double meaning of the Sanskrit word koti. According to the nineteenth century Sanskrit-English dictionary by Mueller & Mueller, which is perhaps still regarded as most authentic, koti  has a quantitative (10 million) as well as a qualitative (pitch, climax, excellence) meaning.  Perhaps the word koti was used initially to focus on the glory or excellence (mahima) of Gods, but later used in the quantitative sense to accommodate increasing number of Puranic Gods, which could be justified under the Vedic expression tritringshati koti (33 koti) gods.

In any case, the 33 godheads in the Vedic pantheon are 8 Vasus (ashta vasu), 11 Rudras (ekadasha Rudra), 12 Adityas (dvadasha Aditya), Prajapati (Brahma of Puranas) and Vishnu.  Some scholars would, however, replace Vishnu by Indra, as Vishnu is called Upendra in Veda and has a subordinate position to Indra. As stated above, those 33 godheads were born of human parents and, therefore, human beings. However, according to the traditional belief, they all drank nectar and became immortal while the Asuras, their step-brothers, were deprived of the same and continued to be mortals like all other beings.

Vedantic concept of non-dual God vis-a-vis Puranic gods

In view of the Vedantic non-dual (advaita) concept of God, men at all ages seem to be caught in a conflict on which of the multiple godheads to worship. The Vedic people often had this question – kashmai devaya habisha (To which god shall we offer our oblation)? In the process, the concept of Trinity comprising Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar came into being, thus reducing godheads from 33 to 3. And all the attributes of Brahman were super-imposed on each of the Trinity by their respective devotees. Each group claimed that their god was superior to the other two. The Puranas on each of the Trinity compiled stories to establish superiority of one over the others. Later-age religious texts like Mangalkavyas of Bengal are also full of stories of rivalry or quarrel among the gods and goddesses. The traditions of other countries like the Greek mythology are no exception to this phenomenon.  Many scholars feel that men have created the gods in their own image and thus our gods, despite their superhuman power and knowledge, have assumed human characters.

Abodes of gods

What are the abodes of these gods?   Epics like the Mahabharata as well as the spiritual experience of many saints and sages talk about a structured universe (brahmanda) in which there are many worlds (lokas), which are inhabited by divine beings, devatas.  Even the Upanishads, which are often regarded as a focused search for the realization of atman (atmanam viddhi is its main aspiration), also talks of a structured universe.  In the well-known debate between the sage Yajnavalkya and Gargi, daughter of Vacaknu, in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (3.6.1), in which Gargi is threatened loss of her head if she persists with further questions, Yajnavalkya identifies as many as twelve hierarchical worlds, one pervading the other, going upto brahma-loka, which seems to be the highest point of manifestation, beyond which the great sage was not prepared to entertain any mental query.  We also find in Sri Aurobindo’s epic poem Savitri, the journey of King Ashvapaty in search of the Divine Mother, whose abode he found in the Unmanifest, beyond many divine worlds, each inhabited by Godheads having consciousness of that loka..

To us, humans, all these great beings are gods as we are no match to their powers, knowledge and consciousness.  Even those beings who are often regarded in a negative sense, the raksha, pishacha or pramatha – the nether-gods or apa-devatas  get God-like obedience or worship from us as the dimensions of their perceived powers are immensely bigger than ours.

Sri Aurobindo’s concept of Supramental and the gods

There is one aspect of human existence which gives men the potential to transcend the gods eventually.  Sri Aurobindo wrote in a letter to a disciple that Gods are typal beings and do not evolve per se.  If they want to evolve and progress further, they have to take birth in a human body and acquire a psychic being like a man.  This is also the conception behind many of the Puranic stories of gods taking a human birth to do sadhana for further spiritual progress.

Sri Aurobindo has forseen an evolutionary future for mankind, when Supramental beings with a body of light, having infinite knowledge and power and bliss, would appear on earth, just like men evolved out of animals. Even at this stage, a great yogi like Sri Ramakrishna or Tailanga Swami could rise to the level of Satchidananda in their meditation, which may be a level higher than many of the Gods, as we perceive them.

This supreme mystery of human life, ignorant weaklings crawling on earth, yet having potential of scaling great heights of consciousness, have been magnificently portrayed by an unlikely novelist, Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyaya in his only novel on life after death, Devyan.  There we find a god takes the hero of the novel Jatin, now a dead person, to the Himalayas (in the Kailash-Mansarovar area) and points to the caves of the rishis who, still in their earthly bodies, have been engrossed in meditation. The god told him that although physically these rishis were ordinary earthlings, when they attained the state (sthiti) of Nirvikalpa Samadhi, they would rise much above the gods.

The ancient Hindu scriptures describe the creation/evolution of time, the cosmos, the universes, and all that is contained therein from the cosmic egg called Brahman and takes us through aeons, describing celestial worlds of spirit and phenomenal worlds of matter as parts of Brahman. Basically, Hindu philosophical texts such as Vedanta speak of the Brahman as the all-inclusive whole or Purna Which evolves and involves in continuous cycles. The state of evolution is called creation and the state of involution is called dissolution.

God in Abrahamic Tradition

In the Genesis of the Old Testament it is written as follows:

“1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”

“2:2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made.”

“2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

“ 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou latest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

“2:21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;  2:22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.”

“2:23 And Adam said this is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

The above extracts from the Genesis prima facie reveal that God, according to the Abrahamic tradition has a form, and that the first man Abraham and the first woman Eve were not created by God’s words like in the case of natural phenomena like light, the firmament, the earth and the water, as also all the creatures. Instead, He undertook an exercise/action to produce man from the dust and to produce breath of life to make him live. As regards Eve, God apparently did some genetic engineering/surgery with a rib of Adam to produce her. Besides, God has been described in Genesis as ‘He’.

The concept of Satan, though absent in Old Testament, surfaced in New Testament. Judaism, Christianity and Islam have on the whole dwelt upon the Devil, also called Satan, and/or Lucifer, as a rebellious fallen angel or demon that targeted humans with the sole intent to lead them astray. It is credited with bringing death into the world. Enoch describes the Devil as the Prince of Grigori who was driven out of Heaven for rebelling against God. The Devil or the Satan has also been identified in the Book of Revelation as the serpent which lured Eve to eat the forbidden fruit.

God in other religions

SIKHISM speaks of IK ON KAR, the ONE AND ONLY ONE, the ONE AND ONLY SUPREME ONE, their symbol or icon meaning ONE WITH EVERYTHING, one creator manifest everywhere. (Here, I may add that Nanak did not accept the Hindu scriptures because he felt that only the creator knows when creation took place and how; so descriptions in the Sanskrit texts did not find acceptance in Sikhism.)

ZOROASTRIANISM, though later they too had their prophet, Zoroaster, also refers to ONE GOD i.e. AHURA MAZDA, though the contra is manifest in the almost equally powerful evil spirit Angra Mainyu. .

OTHER RELIGIONS SUCH AS THE

ANCIENT GREEK and the MAYAN RELIGIONS for instance had multiple Gods: The common factor was that these religions did not subscribe to the concept of UNITY or the ONE SUPREME BEING-CREATOR-GOD as we see in the earlier described religions, but they conceived of a Leader of the gods in their pantheons. The Greeks had their Olympic pantheon lorded over by ZEUS, mixed with eastern deities like Isis and Cybele, while further north, Thor ruled the Norse arena with his thunderbolt.

The MAYANS revered many gods including Itzamna, Kukulcan, Bolon, Tzacab and Chac.

The Sumerians and the Egyptians too had multiple gods and so did some smaller sects.

Gods – a distinctive entity?

Let us now turn to the concept of gods as opposed to God. It is this part which interests many of us and in many ways leading to our interest in astronomy, UFOs and related topics, and gradually expanding our interest to encompass thoughts and posers such as:

  • Is God a creation of the human mind or real? If real, why did God create the universe and life and when ?
  • Did super mortals or super beings once walk the Earth? And whether they were visitors from outer space, possessing enormous power, capabilities and advanced scientific knowledge?
  • More specifically, were such alien visitors the ones referred to as gods in our religious texts ? If so, what are the proofs available? How do we explain to ourselves under what circumstances mankind has gone to the extent of not only describing gods in written graphics and texts but also drawing images of near human forms while attributing more than human-like features and superman-like qualities and went further by leaving behind legends and stories describing extra-ordinary feats of such divine beings? Great epics and legends have been attributed to ancient narrators and authors across all parts of the globe. This is a world-wide phenomenon, not restricted to any specific country, continent or religion.

The above questions have been the subject matter of extensive research and discussions world-wide, over a very long time. We may have reasons to subscribe to some of the hypotheses and opinions expressed.

Many scholars have felt that there is a certain gap in history which is unaccounted for. Not only that, history as we know, is not complete, or is even wrongly recorded in the minds of humans, sometimes wrongly interpreted. The very thought of such a gap existing is very unnerving when we consider a range of issues about humankind, their origin, how they originated and evolved over time.

Take the Vedas and the Puranic texts for instance. The creation of the universe, the matter of creation as such, the divine influences and evolution of good vs. evil forms, the dimensions of time, celestial and material space and consequent creations, the history of the myriad lesser gods, etc. are described in a highly intelligent and intellectual way, mostly in the manner and way far beyond the comprehension of ordinary mortals perhaps. Where did this high standard of jnan and original perception come from? To say that humans as we know ourselves, with our known characteristics, were capable of coming out with such highly intellectual writings in ancient time is debatable. What happened to the natural rate of progress ? Scientific concepts are embedded in the scriptures. It is perhaps inconceivable that ordinary humans or Indians of some prehistoric era would have practised what they were preached to through these great vaults of knowledge and yet did precious little to cling on to these morals over large periods of time. Surely, the concepts embodied in these ancient texts would not have emanated from the brain of ordinary mortals, then populating the earth. What is mystifying is perhaps some of the following references found in the Puranic and other associated texts:

 

The Puranic concept of time, age & space

Even Brahma’s age and the age of the solar system have been given a calculation. The sage VedaVyas explains in the Bhagavatam that 155.52 trillion years have passed since Brahma originally created this planetary system, and this is the present age of Brahma.

(The Bhagavatam says, “Brahma’s one day equals to 1,000 cycles of the four yugas (one cycle of four yugas is 4.32 million years). It is called one kalp. There are fourteen Manus in one kalp. For the same length of time there is the night of Brahma. This is called pralaya or kalp pralaya. At that time the earth planet and the sun along with three celestial abodes (bhu, bhuv and swah) enter into the transition period (and become uninhabited). During that period Brahma holds within Himself all the beings of the material and the celestial worlds in a suspended state and sleeps. (The next day he again produces them and re-forms them as they were before.) In this way Brahma lives for two parardh (twice of 50 years). After that, there is a complete dissolution of the brahmand (the planetary system and its celestial abodes). This is called prakrit pralaya of the brahmand.” (Bhag. 12/4/2 to 6). According to the above information, Brahma’s age which is also the absolute age of our sun and the earth planet is: 50 years of Brahma x 720 days and nights x (1,000 x 4.32 million years of the four yugas, which is one day of Brahma) + 1,972 million years* (the existing age of the earth planet) = 155.521972 trillion years.)

Therefore, many of the events described in the ancient text can theoretically be said to have occurred millions of years ago ??????

Many Divine acts and happenings are beyond material logic. The scriptures say that the gods, resident in celestial world, also walked the Earth. The concept of material space is described as being the solar systems while the celestial space comprises Brahm Lok and Vaikunth within the brahmand.

(Brahmand literally means the egg of Brahman or the cosmic egg in the parlance of science. The  Virata Purusha as also Prakriti are stated to have originated from Brahmand. The Virata Purusha is often identified with Brahma, the creator, by his devotees, and alternately as the Vishnu and the Shiva by their respective devotees. Material creation consists of an earth planet with a sun, moon and planetary system in the material space and similar creation in the celestial space.

It is believed by the devotees that the topmost celestial abode belongs to their respective gods viz. Brahma (called Brahmlok), Vishnu (called Vishnulok or Vaikunth) and Shiva (called Shivalok). What we see here is that the Earth has been separated from the celestial space from where the Gods came. So, the bottom line is that GODS CAME FROM SPACE. THAT IS THE REFRAIN.

Battles between good & evil

There are references to battles between the Devas and the Asuras or the Divine & the Devil in almost all ancient texts.

References to Giants exist in ancient literature and tales. Even the Greeks and Norse legends mention the existence of Giants on planet Earth. Interestingly, even before the advent of Christ, Giants find a mention in the GENESIS which is believed to have been written by Moses :

To quote :

“6:1 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, 6:2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.

6:3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.

6:4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown”.

 Indian scriptures describe incidents or happenings in the celestial abode, such as the stories of frequent conflicts between the Asuras (demons) and the Devas (gods).

Acquisition of wisdom & weapons from the gods

The story of Nachiketa of Kathopanishad illustrates how a small boy called Nachiketa landed on the celestial plane of the Yama (the god of death & piety) of his free will and acquired the ultimate knowledge of the soul (atman) from Yama as one of the three boons offered by Yama. Consequently, Nachiketa crossed the mayic realm of death and birth. (b) According to the epic Ramayana, King Dasharath sometimes visited god Indra and accepted his hospitality. (c)  The epic Mahabharata describes how Arjuna, during his exile period, travelled to the celestial abode of Devaraj (The king of the gods) Indra and obtained celestial weapons from Indra and other gods.

Mysterious & inexplicable earthly phenomena

Some of the earthly phenomena recorded by venerable sages known for their pursuit of Truth, are beyond phenomenal logic. For example: (a) Shukdev, son of VedaVyas remained for twelve years in the womb of his mother without giving her any discomfort. On the request of his father, VedaVyas, when he came out, he was of the age and the height of a twelve year old boy. Not only that, he was fully absorbed in the Bliss of nirakar brahm (formless God). He didn’t even look to anyone around him. He just walked straight into the forest. (b) As for another example, when the sage VedaVyas was beseeched by his mother Satyavati, the widow-queen of the Kuru dynasty to help the two widow princesses to beget sons to continue the dynastic succession, VedaVyas simply possessed the two queens from a distance without physical contact and they conceived. They gave birth to Pandu (the father of the Pandavas) and Dhritrashtra (the father of the Kauravas). (c) It is also stated in Mahabharata how from the fire of King Drupada’s Yagna emerged Draupadi as an adult princess and Dhristadumnya as an adult prince. Such happenings are beyond any logical explanation, but at the same time cannot be discarded as figment of imagination if one follows the style & manner of the narration, and that too by a sage like VedaVyas who was a stickler for truth. Besides, faith and belief also play a major role here.

Advanced knowledge of medical & other sciences in ancient time

There is ample proof of advanced knowledge in medicine, being prevalent in ancient India. Where and from whom did Sushruta (6th century B.C.) acquire his knowledge? Assuming that medical science was so advanced as to be able to include diagnosis of diabetes and cancer as also other forms of diseases, apart from undertaking complicated surgical procedures, how is it that advancement progressively did not happen and stopped suddenly? Even 4 to 5 centuries ago, medical science in most parts of the world was way behind medical achievements reflected during the period of Sushruta . It is interesting to note that the Hindu pantheon comprises a huge number of Divine entities and lesser gods, with vivid descriptions of almost all gods being akin to human beings. Moreover, each god was associated with some good or power, capability, or characteristic including death, wealth and sex.

Are gods distinctive species from outer space?

It is the view of many that while the existence of God as the SUPREME BEING is not being debated, it being a question of faith and because many mysteries have no logical answer, all our descriptions of the very large number of Gods have evolved following humanity’s interactions with super-beings who had long ago visited our world. It is natural to expect that early humans would have painted/drawn/sculpted and described verbally whatever they had actually seen. Some could be the result of human imagination. It must be accepted that if aliens did actually visit the earth in the past, they naturally would have been really a very advanced race, replete with such advanced scientific knowledge that our human ancestors would not have been able to digest or absorb easily and fully. Many scholars believe that humans had drawn  godly forms on the cave walls according to the various specific qualities possessed by each such god.

Dhanwantari, the physician of the Gods, finds a mention in the Vedas and the Puranas, in relation to the samudra manthan, and is credited with imparting medical knowledge which permeated to Sushruta. He is aptly described as holding in one hand the pot of Amrita and medicinal herbs in the other arm.

Vishwakarma is depicted as the architect for physical creation of the universe and earth.

While all deities have been placed in heaven, it is interesting to note that mixing amongst Gods and humans was a very common phenomenon, particularly in the ancient periods. Union of Gods and humans was described at many places in the Vedic literature. So, it is not unlikely that such unions did take place.

References to Vimanas and astras of highly devastating capabilities only tend to project a basis in support of this proposition too.

Now, who were these Gods if they were not aliens? What is mystifying is the disappearance of such God-like creatures from the planet Earth.

Evidence in support of alien theory

While some of our logical conclusions can be derived from our scriptures, we may mention some highly probable evidence of gods’ landing on & residence in earth which would appear to suggest that ALIENS DID VISIT OUR EARTH .

First of all, it is natural to expect that any alien race visiting our planet would be scientifically very advanced in every way. Also, as we mentioned earlier, humans who witnessed such alien invasion were in awe and recorded their observations as they saw them. Events that impacted humans on Earth have been depicted in great detail within the limits of capabilities of the authors and artists.

The following works of scholars in recent times, providing reasonable proofs of visits of alien to Earth are briefly mentioned below:

1. In a series of books called the Earth Chronicles (1st book titled The 12th Planet), Zecharia Sitchin, a renowned archaeologist, refers to excavations in Sumeria (somewhere around Iraq) which threw up tablets of great informative value. The antiquity of the tablets is estimated at 6000 years. The Sumerian Tablets reveal the way Earth was formed through a collision between two celestial planets; and also that a planet called Nibiru in an elliptical orbit years comes into contact with our planet every 3600 years and that how its inhabitants, the Annunaki, who had advanced knowledge and technology, created the human race on Earth by splicing their genes with beings that already existed here. In fact, several religions, legends and myths tell tales of extra-terrestrial beings that somehow intervened in the evolution of life on Earth. According to the mythology, the Annunaki were advanced beings responsible for several monuments on Earth, the moon and Mars. Humans on Earth were genetically altered in order to be turned into slaves for the gods/Annunaki who would then have us mining for gold amongst many other precious minerals. This controversial theory is based on Sitchin’s interpretation of ancient Sumerian texts, with its origin in the Bible, in the book of Genesis. Many other religions and myths describe how atomic explosions and nuclear war had happened thousands of years ago and according to the vimana documents there were even advanced anti-gravitational flying machines in existence as far back as 20,000 years ago.

2. The Great Pyramid of Egypt consists of 2.5 million blocks of stone, some weighing more than 40 tons. Scientists till today have not been able to determine what tools and methods were used to move these huge blocks, with so much precision. It is an engineering enigma, all dimensions being mathematically accurate.

3. Gigantic sarcophagi found in huge vaults. Were they meant for giants?

4. The pyramid top and alignments of some group of pyramids point towards Orion.

5. Sumerian seals describe myriad mysterious figures. Were these a result of experiments?

6. Egyptian gods were half human half animal/birds. Horus had a falcon’s face.

7. Electric battery found in the Sumerian area.

8. Walls made of large blocks of stone fitted perfectly, neatly joined, found in Peru. No technology available today would be able to create that.

9. The Piri Reis Map on ice-free Antarctica strongly suggests that the map was drawn on the basis of aerial survey undertaken several millenniums, if not several lakhs of years ago when Antartica was free of ice and its rivers and grounds were clearly visible.

10. In Peru, spider like and mysterious lines are seen as drawn which are visible only from the sky.

CONCLUSION:

1.As to our first poser in the Introduction whether God is gender neutral, one, many or All-inclusive Whole, formless or with form, with or without attributes, our conclusion is that God as IT has been conceptualized in different religious and philosophical texts, is beyond our perception through the existing five senses. The sages, spiritual Masters, prophets and the Avatars who are believed to have perceived God within or outside of them have invariably awakened their higher senses, often described as the Third Eye.

Having said that, it would be necessary to understand the difference between the concept of monotheism and the concept of all-inclusive integral whole, verily described as ekamevadvitiyam (one without a second). In the former case, God is numerically described as one to the exclusion of all others, meaning thereby that you and me or others can never become God. To monotheists attribution of Godhood to any individual would amount to blasphemy. Since God is described as one which after all is a number, a form is automatically assigned to God, though it is not perceivable by our existing senses. Once God is assigned a number and a form, IT cannot be without attributes. Monotheists of Abrahamic tradition are also inclined to assign masculine gender to God (refer Genesis in Old Testament).

As has been stated above, the concept of Ekamevadvitiyam (one without a second) is clearly distinctive from monotheism in that in the former case, no other entity except God (Brahman) is believed to exist. In other words, the postulate for the subscribers of the all-inclusive God concept is that God alone exists. The rest is illusory. Vedantic concept of God (Brahman) falls in this category. To Vedantists, Brahman has no form, therefore, no gender, no attribute (Brahman is Nirguna), no beginning, no end and is all-inclusive or Purna. It is not One But Whole as entity or matter is outside Brahman.

Polytheism falls clearly outside the purview of God we are dwelling upon either as the Nirguna or as the Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Omniscient.

2. The question whether God is the creator or has been self-evolving and involving cyclically is a matter of perception. When we believe in personal God, we tend to subscribe to the theory of creation of this and other universes together with all living beings by God. When we subscribe to the holistic integral theory of Vedanta, we believe that God self-evolves into myriad forms which we call creation and all those external forms get involved in God what we call dissolution. Swami Vivekananda was of the view that a person’s understanding was directly relatable to his/her spiritual level.

3. As to the question whether gods are distinctive from God, our answer is – yes. On the basis of recent researches, there are reasons to infer, if not to conclude, that gods, so called, were both scientifically and spiritually far more advanced than our primitive ancestors.

4. As to the question whether gods were human, super-human, aliens from space or spiritual entities, a definite answer still eludes us. While the possibility of the gods being alien from outer space cannot be ruled out in view of the ongoing researches some of which have been mentioned above, we cannot also over-rule the likelihood of the gods being human, based on the ancient texts suggesting that they had human parentage, born of the sage Kashyapa and Aditi. It is, however, possible that they were scientifically and spiritually so much more advanced than their contemporary humans that godhood was assigned to them.

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MOKSHA AND NIRVAAN

                                                                        Moksha & Nirvaan

                                                                    (Liberation & Extinguished)

 

(Interactive session on 17.10.2013)

Keynote address by Ms. Manimala Das

(Other participant speakers: Mr. Gautam Kanjilal, Asim K. Banerjee, Mr. Sarada Ranjan Das, Ms. Sharmila Bhawal, Dr. B.B. Chakravarti, Mr. Amitava Tripathi, Dr. Santosh Ganguly, Mr. Paritosh Bandopadhyay, Mr. R. K. Gupta, Mr. A. K. Sengupta & Ms. Anuradha Banerjee Sarkar)

[Devotional song – chorus – By Ms Jayanti Dasgupta, Sikha Majumdar, Manimala Das, Mitali Ghosh, Sharmila Bhawal etc.]

Anchor, Introduction & Conclusive Remarks: Asish K.Raha

 

INTRODUCTION

Moksha is a Sanskrit term meaning ‘liberation’ – liberation from the cycle of birth and death which according to the Vedanta is possible only after realization of Brahman or God. Nirvaan is also a Sanskrit term meaning ‘extinguished’ as a lamp or fire, implying cessation of birth and death, and is central to Buddhist philosophy.

Apparently though both the terms look synonymous taking into account the end result, i.e. cessation of birth and death, the Vedantists and the Buddhists generally find the above two terms as conceptually distinctive on the question of existence of God and soul. Besides, there are other grey areas and lingering doubts relating to both the concepts, even among the followers and subscribers who are divided in interpretation and understanding of the above concepts. Some of the questions and doubts that need to be addressed are as follows:

1)    Whether Moksha implies merger of an individual soul with Brahman or God. Whether even after attaining Moksha individual soul continues as distinct identity.

2)    Whether Buddha denied the existence of God.

3)    Whether Buddha denied the existence of soul.

4)    Whether a person after attaining Moksha or Nirvaan can live on, and after death can be reborn.

5)    Considering that both the Vedantists and the Buddhists consider all human beings as potential God or Buddha, as the case may be, are we not visualizing a utopia consisting of humans turned into Gods/Buddhas?

6)    Holding this mortal world as the place of sufferings, doesn’t the theory of Moksha and Nirvaan smack of escapism resulting from a pessimistic view of worldly life? If the Brahman has evolved multifold so as to enjoy His creation, why should we strive to escape from it to thwart His enjoyment?

Before we address above questions, let us deal with the concepts of Moksha and Nirvaan in general.

CONCEPTS OF MOKSHA & NIRVAAN

Moksha (Liberation) and Nirvaan (extinguishing) are the supreme goals aimed at by the spiritual seekers in Hindu religion and Buddhism respectively. The above two concepts essentially belong to the domain of experience and not intellect, and hence can be best explained by those only who have experienced it. Nonetheless, one who has a glimpse of the gems and jewels of both the Vedanta and the Buddhist philosophy will share the thrills of John Keats of stepping into a new realm of indescribable beauty and grandeur which the poet described in his poem “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”, after he read the translation of Chapman’s Homer.

Both Moksha and Nirvaan ( often called Nibbana in Pali; Buddha chose to teach in the language of the common people of the time ) apparently seem to be similar as both are the states of infinite bliss, devoid of desires, delusions and sorrows; and can be experienced in one’s present life; but they appear also to have deep-rooted differences inasmuch as Shakyamuni Buddha’s understanding of life , Samsara and spirituality was an epoch making departure from the traditional Hinduism of the day. All through his life, Buddha taught how life should be lived.  He preached neither God, nor soul, nor heaven or hell; the focus was only on the individual, faced with himself or herself and responsible for his or her every act in life. In Buddha’s  teachings, as Edwin Arnold in The Light of Asia says, “there is this eternity of universal hope, the immortality of a boundless love, an indestructible element of faith in final good, and the proudest assertion ever made of human freedom.”

MOKSHA IN THE VEDAS & THE UPANISHADS

2. The Vedas, the ancient Hindu scriptures, talk about the concept of an External God.  God who is master of nature and governs the universe, who is formless, but All-Powerful, All-Merciful, Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent; worshipping Him only man’s sorrows and sufferings can be eliminated. Man’s age- old quest for freedom and happiness, which his desire-bound acquisition of wealth, power, fame and glory could not satiate; all his evolutions, revolutions, reformations and innovations to make life perfect and free, still left him with a sense of void and futility, at last found an answer in the Vedic conception of God. God who is beyond all darkness and delusion and knowing Him alone man could be free from the fetters of sorrows and sufferings. The Vedas, particularly the Upanishads also said that man is not the body and the mind alone; he is more than that. In the depth of his innermost being, there is this spirit, pure and perfect which is the human soul. This soul is immortal and unchanging, does not perish with the body and is part of that intangible energy which the Vedas have given the epithet of God.   To put it simply, the Upanishads and the Vedas taught that the macrocosmic universe is one with the microcosmic universe, i.e. the individual. In other words, The Brahman or God and the self or the human soul is one.

3.  The Vedic sages addressed men as the Children of Immortal Bliss/Amritasya Putra who is oblivious of his inmost purity i.e. the soul, owing to his mundane desires and impure actions.  The ancient sages said that Man can regain his purity and perfection through worship of God and His mercy. To worship God with a pure heart, one should struggle to become perfect, to become divine, to reach God and see God and in the process become one with God. Swami Vivekananda beautifully says, “Man is to become divine by realizing the divine. He will have to strive to realize the external divinity as well as the divinity in himself which is an undying spirit, perfect, pure and eternal. Shattering the bondage of matter and delusion around this pure spirit or soul which is within us is Moksha itself.” The scriptures say that the external worship, the material worship is the lowest stage; mental prayer is the next stage, but the highest stage is when God has been realized.” Again Swami Vivekananda’s poetic words drove the message home, “To him all the religions, from the lowest fetishism to the highest Absolutism means so many attempts of the human soul to grasp and realize the Infinite, each determined by the condition of his birth and associations and each of these mark a stage of progress; and every soul is a young eagle soaring higher and higher, gathering more and more strength, till it reaches the Glorious Sun.”

Seeking God or the truth in our hearts is most important. We will feel that God is within us, within the universe and in each one of us. And this philosophy is the essence of the Vedanta philosophy.

4. So then, Moksha, is to feel the All powerful, the Perfect and the Free in myself, in each and everybody else and in every gleam and spark of life in the universe.  It is the ultimate goal of a conscious and unconscious seeker. Having realized God, Man lives a life of bliss infinite. We have read that Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, the Guru of Swami Vivekananda lived a life of infinite bliss. In a plane of super consciousness, he saw and felt the presence Goddess Kali whom he called his beloved Mother, talked with Her and felt Her always within himself.  This realization of Sat-Chit- Ananda meaning Existence Absolute, Knowledge Absolute, Bliss Absolute is Moksha or liberation. If we feel God inside us , we become fearless, ; if we see God in everyone else, we feel one with him or her. This is a sublime state of life and mind that is never entangled by desires or base instincts and this is called Moksha. Hindu Scriptures say that devotion, and moral integrity and disinterest in worldly things is a must to attain Moksha and it may take many births before Moksha is achieved. The ultimate reward is release from Samsara or cycle of birth and death and a sense of being one with God.

SRI SANKARA’S MONISM

Sri Sankara in his Advaita philosophy, talked about Nirguna Brahma as well as Saguna Brahma. Jiva’s fundamental ignorance keeps him in delusion and he, with his body, mind and senses, thinks, acts and enjoys. In reality Jiva is not different from the Brahman or the Absolute. The Upanishads declare, “Tat Tvam Asi  (Thou Art That).”  As Jiva destroys ignorance through karma (action) and bhakti (devotion), he feels that he is of Sat-Chit-Ananda (eternal existence, eternal consciousness and eternal bliss) nature. The river of individual life joins the ocean of existence. This realization is Moksha.  Karma and Bhakti enable one to reach this self-realization or identity with Brahman. This concept is delineated in verse 30 of chapter 13 of Bhagavad Gita:

“Yada bhuta-prithak-bhavam ekastham anupashyati I

Tata eba cha vistaram Brahma sampadyate tadaa II”

[“When one realizes that the state of diversity is rooted in the ONE, and that their manifestation is also from THAT, then one gets identified with Brahman.”]

The very same concept has been poetically depicted in the following hymn by Sri Sankara in Nirvana Shatakam:

“Om Mano-budhi-ahangkara chittani naaham

Na cha Shrotra-Jhibe Na cha Ghraana-netre

Na Cha vyoma Bhuumir-na Tejo na Bayu

Chidananda Ruupah Shiboham Shiboham”

[“Neither am I the mind, nor intelligence or ego,

Neither am I the organs of hearing, nor that of tasting, smelling or seeing,

Neither am I the sky, nor the earth, neither the fire nor the air,

I am the ever pure Blissful Consciousness; I am Shiva, I am Shiva.”]

 

SRI RAMANUJA’S QUALIFIED MONISM

Sri Ramanuja’s Vishtadvaitabad or Qualified Monism describes the oneness of God with Visesha or attributes. God alone exists and all else that we see are His manifestations or attributes. These manifestations or various forms of existence are not Maya but a real part of Brahman’s nature. God is Vishishta, a complex organic whole. Ramanuja identifies God with Lord Narayana. For Ramanuja , Moksha means the soul’s passing away from the mundane into a kind of paradise ( Vaikuntha ) where it will remain forever in perfect bliss in the presence of Lord Narayana. The individual can attain Moksha through the Grace of Lord Narayana and the grace descends on those who are pure and struggle for it.

SAMKHYA PHILOSOPHY

Samkhya, one of the ancient Indian philosophies, denies the notion of God and regards the universe as consisting of two realities : the Purusha (consciousness) and the Prakriti ( phenomenal realm of Matter ). Jiva is the state in which the Purusha is bonded to the Prakriti through desire and the end of this bondage is Moksha.

There are four major paths through which one can attain this sublime state of life. These are called Yogas.

FOUR YOGAS

a) Karma Yoga: It is a path of action, of selfless service.  Karmayoga is a system of ethics and religion intended to attain freedom through unselfishness and by good works. To work without any motive and give up all the fruits of work, to be unattached to them is the way of the Karma Yogin.  Swami Vivekananda says that “in whole human history Buddha is the ideal Karma Yogin. He had the highest philosophy, yet had the deepest sympathy for the lowest of animals and never put forth any claims for himself. He was in the conduct of his life absolutely without any personal motives and what man worked more than he? He works best who works without any motive, neither for money, nor for fame, nor for anything else; when a man can do that he will be a Buddha and will have the power to transform the world.”

b)  Jnana Yoga is the Path of knowledge. Moksha is attained through the knowledge of Brahman, through realization of the identity of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul or Brahman or God….a direct realization of oneness or unity with the Supreme or God.  It can be achieved by intense meditation-Nididyasana.  Discrimination ( Viveka ), dispassion ( Vairagya ), the six fold virtues ( Shat Sampat )  and yearning for liberation ( Mumukhutva ). The six virtues practiced by the Jnanayogin  are: tranquility ( Shama ), restraint ( Dama ), satiety or renunciation ( Uparati ), endurance ( Titiksha ), faith( Shraddha) and concentration ( Samadhana ). After practicing deep meditation with these qualities, he becomes Jivanmukta or liberated. He attains Moksha.

c)   Raj yoga is the path that leads to union with God through self restraint and control of mind. It teaches how to control the senses and the mental faculties or Vrittis and how to develop concentration and thus commune with God. Yama, Niyama, Asana , Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi are the eight limbs of Raja Yoga. Yama and Niyama constitute the ethical discipline which purifies the heart. Yama consists of Ahimsa/non-injury, Satya/truthfulness, Brahmacharya/continence, Asteya/non stealing and  Aparigraha/non receiving of gifts conducive to luxury. Niyama is observance. It consists of Sauchya/external and internal purity, Santosha/contentment, Tapas/austerity, Sadhyaya/study of scriptures and repetition of mantras, and Ishvara Pranidhana/ self-surrender to God.

Asana is steady pose.  Pranayama is regulation of breath.  These lead to serenity and steadiness of mind and good health. Pratyahara is withdrawal of the senses from the objects so that one is able to look within.  Dharana is the concentration of the mind on Ishta Devata , internal chakra or tutelary deity. Then comes Dhyana/meditation, meaning deep concentration on one object /God. This leads to Samadhi when all tendencies, impressions, sense perceptions and subtle desires die down. The Yogi becomes one with God. He obtains liberation or Moksha. Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa attained Nirvikalpa Samadhi in which it is difficult to retain the body. Besides Nirvikalpa Samadhi , Sri Ramakrishna used to go into Samadhi whenever some external object or happening like Swami Vivekananda’s songs used to kindle fire of divine feelings in him.

d )    Realization of God or liberation or Moksha attained through immense love of God is called Bhakti Yoga. It is absolute self surrender to God. Loving God and not wanting anything in return. Desires for any sensual objects debar us from having love for God. He who loves God, loves all, has no sorrow or pain; he has surrendered to God unconditionally. He lives in bliss chanting the name and qualities of God and contemplating the Lilas or divine activities of God. Sri Chaitanya, Sri Ramakrishna, Mirabai attained Moksha through Bhakti path. They realized the Truth and experienced intense trances or Samadhi where they had no physical or worldly senses and could feel God in their hearts and thus attained Moksha.

So Moksha is very much a living experience when the seeker or Yogi tries to delve into the innermost region of his heart, after discarding all his desires and negativities and disciplining his mind through one of these Yogas.   The spiritual seekers yearn for Moksha because their ultimate goal is to be liberated from the cycle of birth and death. Whether liberation from the cycle of birth and death really happens is beyond senses and rational power of ordinary mortals.  Sri Ramakrshna said that in Kaliyuga man will be able to realise God and thus attain liberation or Moksha by chanting God’s name and contemplating on His qualities, activities and image sincerely and earnestly. It would ultimately make his mind pure and perfect.

NIRVAAN – SOCIO-HISTORIC BACKGROUND:

In the time Shakyamuni lived, the Hindu religion was dominated by the Brahmins or the priests along with the aristocracy. Brahministic religious teachings were mostly esoteric and were handed down from one believer to the next. The Hindu religion became ceremonial and ritual based. The Brahmans performed religious rituals and prayed to God for blessings in this world. The common people followed these rituals and placed offerings so that their lot could be improved in the present life as well as in the next one. They were made to believe that the human soul could reach God only after living many lives by accumulating good karma in which they climb up through the Varna or caste system. Shakyamuni’s stance was against such authoritarianism and ritualism and caste structure of the day.

NIRVAAN – MEANING

Before we discuss what Nirvaan means in Buddha’s teaching, a few things are necessary to know. Shakyamuni defined 3 main characteristics of existence: 1) Sufferings,   2) Impermanence and 3) The concept of no unique self.   Buddha renounced his princely life at the age of 29 to search for the causes of sufferings and how to end sufferings.  After years of austerities and meditation he was enlightened to the 4 Noble Truth:  sufferings, causes of sufferings, cessation of sufferings, and the path to cessation of sufferings.  According to Buddha, human being is not a permanent or fixed entity but part of an ongoing reality. We are a collection of body, feelings, perceptions, and mental formations and consciousness which are interconnected. It is in contrast to the concept of eternal Self in Hinduism, which is an unchanging identity and locked in some rigid fate.  To elaborate, a physical body is dependent on food and warmth and develops as time and age progress. Our feelings change as we grow in life and as a result of perceptions of what we see and hear around us. Our feelings and perceptions, lead us to make decisions and they in turn constitute our mental formations. From body, feelings, perceptions and mental formations originate consciousness. Self is the sum of body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness, dependent on everything that has gone before and constantly changing in accordance with an interconnecting and changing reality. In place of a separate and benevolent creator Buddha saw the interdependence of all life and the cause and effect of actions which create their own future. Buddha’s Dependent Origination is the Law of cause and effect and closely linked to the 4 Noble Truths, which says that desire causes suffering, one is dependent on the other. Following the Right Path causes desire to reduce and so causes suffering to reduce.  Buddha’s only concern was the people, their suffering and how this suffering can be eradicated. Buddha said, “One thing and only one thing do I teach, suffering and cessation of suffering.” He asked the people to do good and be good. And this would take one to freedom or whatever the truth is. One should abandon the extremes; cultivate virtue/sila, concentration/Samadhi, and wisdom/ prajna to reach Bodhi or self realization or Nibbana/ Nirvana. Shakyamuni Buddha said that anybody could attain enlightenment or Nibbana/Nirvaan in this present life if he followed the Noble 8 fold path: namely right knowledge, right thinking, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. These paths should lead men to understand that greed, selfishness and ignorance are the causes of all sufferings.

NIRVAAN – THERAVADA & MAHAYANA SCHOOLS

8.  After 100 years of passing away of Shakyamuni Buddha, and just before the reign of King Ashoka, Buddhism separated into two main schools. This separation is known as the ‘fundamental split’. The two main schools are : The Therevada tradition or the doctrine of the Elders, and the Mahayana school or the Greater Vehicle. In Therevada, the focus is on Nirvana and it relies closely on the word of Buddha as it appears in the Pali Cannon.  Theravada school also follows Tripitaka or the Three Baskets consisting of Vinay Pitaka, Sutta Pitaka and Abhidhamma Pitaka. Theravada Buddhists aspire for Nibbana for their own sake.

In his book, “Essence of the Heart Sutra,”Dalai Lama said that Nirvana is a state beyond sorrows.

Nibbana  or Nirvaan means blowing out or extinguishing  the fires of greed, hatred and delusion ( raagaggi, dosaggi, and mohaggi). When these fires are blown out, peace is attained and one becomes cooled (siitibhuuta). Nibbana is a state that can be attained here and now, in this very life. . Nirvana is freedom from whatever binds man from the burning passion of desire, jealousy and ignorance. Once these are totally overcome a state of perfect bliss is achieved. The way to Nirvaan involves a person showing love, sympathy and compassion for others and showing patience in everything. 5 main principles of no killing, stealing, ill language, sexual immorality and use of toxic substance should also be observed. When one successfully follows these principles, 3 roots of evil like greed, hatred and deceit can also be overcome.

In Milinda’s Questions, a sacred Buddhist text, Nagasena the Buddhist monk, explains to king Milinda that ‘one can avoid attachment to self and others by not becoming entrapped by the ego. The goal is to overcome the bonds of the “lesser or individual self” and create a magnanimous approach to life that is inclusive of self and others. Overcoming the lesser self creates a state of nothingness, or non-self, and when this state of mind is achieved, sorrow, grief and heartache are forgotten and one’s mind is at peace. This is an “immovable” state of mind in which all joys and sorrows can be observed objectively. This state of mind is referred to as Nirvaana.’

9. In Sutta pitaka, Buddha describes Nirvaana as the perfect peace of mind.   In Dhammapada the Buddha says that Nibbana is the highest happiness- mind becomes unconditioned, not obscured by volitional formations. This ultimate state is described by Buddha as Nibbana. It has four attributes. They are: Happiness, Moral perfection, Realization and Freedom. It is a pure, blissful, serene state, full of loving kindness/metta or maitree and compassion or Karuna. Buddha was the living embodiment of Karuna. Nirvaan is a radiant and infinite state of consciousness free of lowly habits and tendencies and desires. Everybody in his present life can attain Nirvaan. Nirvaan is the feeling of immense love and compassion for everybody. It is perfect wisdom and insight and seeing things in their true aspect and nature.  It is absolute freedom from all bonds. Actions are done with a free and joyful mind. Buddha was a human being who found his perfection in Nirvaan. He emerged perfectly moral, perfectly ethical and his suffering ended forever.

10.   People’s suffering induced Buddha to renounce his princely life which is known as The Great Renunciation and after he was enlightened, his whole life was dedicated to the well being and happiness of all. The poor and the ignorant got his most attention, so his teachings are in Pali, the vernacular of the then society. The Mahayana or the Greater Vehicle Buddhists focus not on Nirvaan but on enlightenment. They have taken the Bodhisattva vow of helping people ease their sorrows and sufferings. This school emphasizes compassion, wisdom and Bodhisattva ideal. Bodhisattva is a being whose Buddhahood is assured but who is deeply concerned with helping others achieve Nirvaana first.  Buddha told his first disciples to journey far and wide to spread his teachings among the people. Mahayana Buddhists remain in the world or Samsar to free others from their sufferings. This magnanimous and noble approach of making others happy underlies the activities and principles of Mahayana Buddhists.

AWAKENING INNER BUDDHA THROUGH CHANTING

The thirteenth century Japanese priest Nichiren Daishonin studied all Buddhist scriptures in detail and based his teachings on the Lotus Sutra preached by Shakyamuni Buddha during the last 8 yrs of his life. Here Buddha declared that every human being, high and low, rich and poor, male and female has the potential to attain Buddhahood. Buddha nature which symbolizes boundless wisdom, courage, and immense compassion is inherent in every being. Nichiren Daishonin declared that one can be reawakened to his or her Buddhahood by chanting the title of the Lotus Sutra which is Nam Myoho Renge Kyo( JP: Sad dharma Pundarika Sutra in Sanskrit ). Chanting this with devotion one is empowered to awaken his Buddhahood and thus achieve enlightenment. While Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is the ultimate law of the universe, the Gohonzon, Its graphic expression is the object of fundamental devotion in Nichiren Buddhism. The follower should not only awaken his or her Buddhahood, namely, immense wisdom, courage and boundless compassion but make others happy and ease their suffering by enabling them to realize their own inherent Buddhahood through chanting.  Daishonin said that reciting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo with deep faith, even if just once, has infinitely vast and immeasurable power to revitalize our lives.  Daisaku Ikeda the president of Soka Gakkai International and the Buddhist follower of Nichiren Daishonin says, “ Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is the ultimate Law of the Universe, the fundamental rhythm of life itself. Through the practice of chanting , we can bring forth our inner Buddhahood and increase the splendor and power of our lives.” Being able to chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo , the source of unsurpassed joy, is in itself the greatest good fortune. The goal of a follower of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism is to strive for the flowering of the highest human potential and achieving it with a view to the well being and happiness of others as well as his own. This ideal of making others happy as well as one’s own self is defined as Enlightenment in Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism.

NIRVAAN – A LIVING EXPERIENCE

Just before Mahaparinirvaana (extinguishing of the great light), Buddha told Ananda, his closest disciple, who asked in tears ‘what shall we do when you are no more?’, “Be lamp unto you.”  On our journey through life, we would take suffering in our stride and triumphant we would emerge because our innate divinity or Buddha nature will resurface as we dispel our own fundamental ignorance. This lamp of divinity or Buddhahood will create value for all by showing everyone the way to achieve his or her inner Buddha nature.

Nirvaan is very much a living experience, defined by total absence of sorrow, remaining and taking action in the glowing warmth of truth and happiness. One does not have to die for it. One can have a glimpse of that sublime state that shines forth through small things in our everyday life: As Kahlil Gibran. The Lebanese American writer says, “Yes, there is a Nirvaana: it is leading your sheep to a green pasture, and putting your child to sleep and in writing the last line to your poem”.

CONCLUSION:

In conclusion, we will address the six posers raised in the introduction, as these are considered quite pertinent.

1)      Whether Moksha implies merger with Brahman/God:

According to the Advaitavad or monist school of thought, led by Sri Sankara, the universe as we see in naked eyes is illusory and unreal. The only reality is Brahman. All beings are only evolved and impermanent form of Brahman. When we realize this truth we get merged in Brahman. According to this school of thought, Moksha implies complete merger with God. Even after attaining moksha the liberated souls may continue to live in this world to fulfill their mission, mostly for well-being of the people. In ancient time such persons were called Brahmarshi (God-realized sage). To name a few among them, Vashistha, Vishwamitra and Yagnavalkya were Brahmarshi. As for re-incarnation after merger with Brahman, obviously with no distinctive identity, a Brahmarshi is not re-born.

According to Dvaitvad or dualist school of thought led by Sri Madhavacharya and Sri Chaitanya, even after Moksha or God-realization cum liberation, one does not get merged with God but continues with distinct identity and can be born at will.

According to Vishistadvaitavad or qualified monist school of thought led by Sri Ramanuja, Moksha depending upon the path of Truth pursued by the Yogi, may lead to complete merger with Brahman or continuation with separate identity. It goes without saying in so many words; liberated yogis with distinct identity can be re-incarnated at will.

2)      Whether Buddha denied the existence of God:

It is believed that Buddha had denied the existence of God, which in reality he never did. When he was asked this question by the uninitiated, he became evasive, because his questioners perhaps did not have the frame of mind to perceive God Which was beyond their perception. It has also to be borne in mind that Buddha preached his Dhamma to the savant and the savage alike. His preaching to the savant could not obviously be the same as his preaching to the laity. It is claimed by the Lamas of Tibet (refer ‘The Book of the Dead’) that Buddha’s esoteric teachings were reserved for the Lamas and have been kept secret from the outside world. Thus, from his evasive, rather mystical replies regarding existence of God, it is not permissible to infer that he denied the existence of God.

3)      Whether Buddha denied the existence of soul:

Scholars, who subscribe to the view that Buddha denied the existence of soul, refer to a passage in the Brahmajal Sutta (Digha Nikay) which mentions sixty two erroneous beliefs, one of which is the fallacy that the soul and the world are eternal. The final sentence in the said Sutta is as follows: “Mendicants, that which binds the teacher to existence is cut off; but his body shall remain, he will be seen by gods and men; but after the termination of life, upon the dissolution of the body, neither gods nor men will see him.” Based on this sentence, scholars like Rhys Davids has concluded that Buddha has denied existence of soul (refer The Spirit of Buddhism by H.S Gour). However, same scholars find a contradiction in Buddha’s creed of transmigration which does not integrate with no-soul theory. If there is no soul, how can there be re-incarnation?

The fact of the matter is Buddha never denied the existence of soul. What he meant was that nothing was permanent in this world, including the soul. The soul is comparable to the garment of a child. Just as the child needs a larger garment when he outgrows his clothes, man’s soul enlarges with his spiritual growth. With Nirvaan his/her soul cannot be framed in a mortal body. In other words, the soul has outgrown the receptacle in which it can dwell in this mortal world. From this point of view Nirvaan is nothing but higher state of existence.

4)      Whether after Moksha and Nirvaan man can live on, and can be re-born after death:

 In response to poser no. 1, we have already mentioned that as per Vedantic philosophy, a liberated Yogi, not merged with Brahman, can be re-born at will. If merged with Brahman, the Yogi ceases to exist and hence the question of his re-incarnation does not arise.

Let us now address the above question from Buddhist point of view.

When king Pasenadi of Koushal confronted Khema, a female disciple of Buddha, with the question whether Buddha would exist after death, she replied that the Exalted One had not declared that he would or would not exist after death. Her subsequent explanation of the phenomenon of existence of the Perfect One in corporeal form was mystical. She explained it thus: “If the existence of the Perfect One be measured by the predicates of the corporeal form, these predicates are abolished in the Perfect One, their root is severed, they are hewn away like a palm tree, and laid aside, so that they cannot grow again in the future. The Perfect One is deep, immeasurable, and unfathomable like the great ocean.” It is said that king Pasenadi confronted Buddha with the same question and received similar answer.

The encounter of Buddha with Vacha, a wondering monk, on the question of re-birth of an emancipated soul is more direct and focussed and hence is recounted here.

Vacha: When a man is emancipated, where is he re-born?

Buddha: The word ‘re-born’ does not fit the case.

Vacha: Then Gautam, he is not re-born?

Buddha: To say he is not re-born does not fit the case. Nor is it any better to say that he is both re-born and not re-born or that he is neither re-born nor not re-born”.

Vacha: I am completely be-wildered and my faith in you is completely gone.

Buddha: Never mind your be-wilderment. This doctrine is profound and difficult. Suppose there was a fire in front of you, you would see it burning and know that its burning depended on fuel. And if it went out you would know that it had gone out. But if someone were to ask you to which quarter has it gone, east, west, north or south, what would you say?

Vacha: The expression does not fit the case, Gautam. For the fire depended on fuel and when the fuel is gone, the fire is gone.

Buddha: In just the same way, all forms by which one could predicate the existence of the saint are abandoned and uprooted like a palm tree, so that it will never grow up in future. The saint who is released from what is styled form, is deep, immeasurable, hard to fathom, like the great ocean. It does not fit the case to say either that he is re-born, or not re-born (Ref: The Spirit of Buddhism by H.S Gour).

Buddha’s evasive reply to the direct question as to whether he would be re-born after Nirvaan is somewhat similar to the Vedantic concept of re-incarnation at will by an emancipated soul.

5)    Whether we are visualizing Utopia of humans cum Gods/Buddhas:

As to the poser whether we are visualizing utopia of humans turned into God/Buddhas, the simple answer from the point of view of Advaita (Monistic) Vedanta is that the Truth is we all are Gods in evolved form sans our awareness. From Dvaita and Vishistadvaita points of view, God-realized Yogis may continue with distinct identity. Only a handful of them may merge with God. One essential pre-requisite of God-realization is the uprooting of one’s ego which is deeply embedded in mind. Therefore, unless the mind is annihilated, it is not possible to realize God. Since it is extremely difficult for the mortals to annihilate mind, thereby uprooting the ego to turn into God or Buddha as the case may be, the utopia may not ever come into being in this mortal world. However, Sri Aurobindo has foreseen the world of overmen and thereafter the world of supermen which may look like utopia at this point of time, but cannot be ruled out in distant future.

6)     Whether Moksha and Nirvaan are concepts of escapism:

It is often alleged that the whole purpose of struggling for Moksha and/or Nirvaan is to escape from worldly sufferings. This was precisely the reason why Tathagata renounced the world to seek emancipation or Nirvaan so as to eliminate re-birth.

The above perception is convoluted and distorted. True it is that the sufferings in this mortal world had driven young Siddhartha to renounce the world in search of a panacea for the humanity. And the panacea that he found was the renunciation of all desires and the ego. When a person renounces his ego and consequently all desires, he is surely not running away from sufferings but transcends it by not identifying self with the sufferings. In other words, he/she detaches self from the body that suffers. This is a practical way to get rid of sufferings and to prepare self for Nirvaan. As a matter of fact, Nirvaan that Buddha taught his disciples was not extinction but the completion of being, as Max Mueller has put it.

The Vedanta, however, confers a divine shield on the humans to either absorb or reject whatever is inflicted by Prakriti or nature and to remain untouched like the lotus leaf (refer verse 5, chapter 10, Gita). Sri Sankara and Swami Vivekananda have described the Maya as the glass sheet between Brahman and the mortal world that has the effect of distorting our vision. Unless the glass sheet is broken, our vision of the Truth or Brahman would not be possible. The Vedanta, earlier than Buddha, has spoken of uprooting the palm tree so that our ego does not sprout again from its root which in this illustration stands for mind. Once the mind, the root of ego, is gone the self/soul is gone. This state is attained in Nirvikalpa Samadhi.  From Buddhist point of view as well, once the root of ego is severed, the soul is gone. In such event, sufferings become inconsequential.

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FAITH & REASON

                                                                        

 

(Interactive session on 21.9.2013)

Keynote address by Mr. Ranjan Chatterjee

(Other participant speakers: Mr. R. K. Gupta, Dr. Kalyan Kumar Chakravarthy, Ms. Valsa Abraham, Mr. Asim K. Banerjee, Ms. Manimala Das, Dr. Suhas Majumdar, Mr. A. K. Sengupta, Mr. Paritosh Bandopadhyay, Mr. Somnath Sarkar, Mr. Debashis Bhattacharya & Ms. Sumana Bhattacharya)

[Opening song by Ms. Sikha Majumdar]

Anchor, Introduction & Conclusion: Asish K. Raha

 

INTRODUCTION

Is faith always blind? If not, and if it is driven, moderated or regulated by reason, can it be called faith? Is faith conditional? Suppose that a person has faith in God in the belief that God will always protect him from all adversities, and his belief is belied and, therefore, his faith in God disappears. The above example can be extended to one’s faith in an institution, system, one’s spiritual master and/or individuals, which may become non-est for reason of adverse experiences. Can such variable and conditional faith be called faith? Is blind faith desirable? Is reason antithetical to faith? Should faith be preceded and accompanied by reason? Since reasons are also variable and never infallible, should it be allowed to predominate faith?   Just as reason can be prejudiced, convoluted, motivated, fallacious and illogical, faith also may be destructive, hate-mongering, superstitious, unscientific and anti-growth. The question is how do we reconcile faith to reason and vice versa. These are the questions that often torment the mind of a seeker of the Truth.

So far as faith is concerned, there are following two popular dictums of universal application. First, God is attained through blind faith only. Second, before you repose your absolute and unconditional faith in a spiritual master, put him to test. From the first dictum, it follows that God is beyond the precinct of reason and cannot, therefore, be put to test. The second dictum, oft-quoted by no less a person than Sri Ramakrishna in approval, suggests that a person appearing to be a spiritual master may be deceptive and, therefore, ought to be tested by the one who seeks to repose faith in him for spiritual advancement. What if a person is fundamentally an atheist or an agnostic? Is the word ‘faith’ a taboo for such person? Is the questioning mind antithetical to spiritual quest?

Before we seek answer to above posers, we need to look into the dialectic history and genesis of the concepts of faith and reason. 

Historic perspective:

Since time immemorial, there is an ongoing issue regarding Faith and Reason.  Faith and reason are interrelated concepts as far as theology is concerned. The systematic and reason based study of religion also suggests that there is co-relation between the two.  In theology, there are proven facts that are further backed by faith and reason.  Reason is the power that is a condition precedent for thoughts.  Reason is a faculty of human mind that has characteristics to study, analyze and explore the things and ideas and its dimension is the perspective of right and wrong.  Reason, therefore, gets transformed into the prejudice but only for the ignorant.  These prejudices could easily be seen in the conflict between the church and Galileo Galilei.  Reason is thus the catalyst to stay away from prejudice.

The key aspect is that “Reason” depicts the use of logic and logical principles to current and available facts and information.

From the days of Greek Philosophers, the relationship between faith and reason has been hotly debated.  Plato argued that knowledge is simply memory of the eternal.  Aristotle set down rules by which knowledge could be discovered by reason.

Rationalists point out that many people hold irrational beliefs, for many reasons. There may be evolutionary causes for irrational beliefs.  For instance, faith may promise infinitive reward, while the rewards of reason are seen by many as finite. One more reason for irrational beliefs can be explained by conditioning.  For instance, road accidents are very often caused by the rich and young.  There is faith in the father’s ability to bear them and consequently there is less faith in the rule of law.

Believers in faith often believe that salvation is through faith alone. And that every one holds beliefs arrived at by faith, not reason. The belief that the universe is a sensible place and that our minds allow us to arrive at correct conclusions about it, is a belief we hold through faith. Rationalists contend that this is arrived at because they have observed the world being consistent and sensible, not because they have faith that it is so.

Beliefs held “by faith” may be seen existing in a number of relationships to rationality:

  • Faith as underlying rationality: Here, knowledge and reason is seen as dependent on faith: faith in our senses, faith in our reason, faith in our memories, and faith in the accounts of events we receive from others. Accordingly, faith is seen as essential to and inseparable from rationality. According to René Descartes, rationality is built first upon the realization of the absolute truth “I think therefore I am”, which requires no faith. All other rationalizations are built outward from this realization.
  • Faith as addressing issues beyond the scope of rationality: Here, faith is seen as covering issues that science and rationality are inherently incapable of addressing, but that are nevertheless entirely real. Accordingly, faith is seen as complementing rationality, by providing answers to questions that would be otherwise unanswerable.
  • Faith as contradicting rationality: Here, faith is seen as those views that one holds despite evidence and reason to the contrary. Accordingly, faith is seen as pernicious with respect to rationality, as it interferes with our ability to think, and inversely rationality is seen as the enemy of faith by interfering in the minds.
  • Faith and reason as essential together: This is the papal view that faith without reason leads to superstition, while reason without faith leads to nihilism and relativism.

Marriage of faith & reason is the overall object of faith & act of faith which means all things believed.  The ultimate object of faith is God Himself. The act of faith is more than a mere act of belief.  Some theologists believe in a hierarchy of faith that is:

i)              Emotional faith includes trust and hope;

ii)             Intellectual faith is belief.  This is stronger than emotional faith in that it is more stable and unchanging, like an anchor.  My mind can believe while my feelings are shaken.  This belief, however, is held tight, unlike a mere opinion.  The old definition of intellectual faith was “the acct of the intellect, prompted by the will, by which we believe everything God has revealed on the grounds of the authority of the One who revealed it.”  It is this aspect of faith that is formulated in propositions and summarized in creeds;

iii)            Volitional faith is an act of the will, a commitment to obey God’s will. This faith is faithfulness, or fidelity.  It manifests itself in behaviour, that is, in good works.  Just as a hope deeper than a wish is central to emotional faith, and a belief deeper than an opinion is central to intellectual faith, so a love deeper than a feeling is central to volitional faith.  For the root of volitional faith is the faculty or power of the soul that is closest to the pre-functional root and centre called the “ Heart.”

iv)   Faith in Heart is actually the sole of scriptures as per Christianity.

Protestants & Catholics differ in matter of faith.  The object of reason is all that reason can know. According to Aristotle, it includes three kinds of things, corresponding to the “three acts of the mind” in classical Aristotelian logic.  It means all the truths that can be (a) understood by reason (That is, by human reason alone without faith in divine revelation), (b) discovered by human reason to be true and (c) proved logically without any premises assumed by faith in divine revelation.  

Vedanta & Bhagavad Gita 

Unlike Abrahamic tradition, the Vedanta does not believe in sin or evil/Satan. The essence of Vedantic philosophy which has been summed up in Bhagavad Gita, is that God resides in every living being and we can be one with God by following one of the various paths of Yoga as have been delineated in Bhagavad Gita. Only a self-realized Yogi can pronounce to the world – Sohoham (I am He) and Tat Tvam Asi (Thou art That). In other words he exclaims: I find God not only in me but in you as well.

In Chapter 17, verse 1, of the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna asks Lord Krishna, “What is the state of those who, endowed with faith, adores you by ignoring the injunctions of the scripture?” The Lord replies in following verses that the faith of such person born of his own nature could be either Sattvic, Rajasic or Tamasic (verse 2, ibid). He is verily what his faith is (verse 3, ibid). Thus the acts done with faith in Sattva lead to supreme blessedness, with faith in Rajas lead to material prosperity and with faith in Tamas lead to delusion.

The word Sat is used in the sense of ultimate reality and also of goodness. The opposite of Sat is Asat which implies impermanence and delusion.

Buddhism

In Buddhist philosophy there is no mention of God. Therefore, faith in God is a misnomer in Buddhism. What is emphasized instead by Lord Buddha is to follow Dhamma (path of Truth). For the householders he has prescribed middle path while for the monks it was austerity aiming at Nirvana (blown out or liberation). The essence of Buddhist philosophy is that we all are potential Buddhas as the Buddha lies within us. The faith in Buddhism at the highest level is this faith in our innate Buddha nature which is enveloped by the fire of ignorance and desire which need to be extinguished (through Nirvana) to attain Buddhahood.

Christianity

As per Christianity, faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth – in a word, to know himself – so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.  Both faith and reason are tools that God has given us to find Truth – to find him.  “Reason and faith cannot be separated without diminishing the capacity of men and women to know themselves, the world and God in an appropriate way.” There is no conflict between faith and reason.

 

Sufism

In the Sufi sect, just as in the Hindu and Islamic traditions, the disciple reposes absolute and blind faith in his spiritual master and the spiritual bonding between the master and his disciple is one of love. The essence of Sufism in a single word is love for God as also for all living beings and the Sufis have abiding faith in that essence of their spiritual pursuit.

Thomas Carlyle, 1795-1881

Thomas Carlyle was born in Scotlant, 1795 and taught mathematics in university in 1819 where he had a crisis of faith, losing his Christian faith but not his Calvinist values.  His powerful and satirical writing was appealing in Victorian era England and his work was influential in New England transcendentalism. Following are the famous quotes of Thomas Carlyle :

i)              A man cannot make a pair of shoes rightly unless he does it in a devout manner;

ii)             A man lives by believing something; not by debating and arguing about many things;

iii)            A man with a half volition goes backward and forward, and makes no way on the smoothest road; a man with a whole volition advances on the roughest, and will reach his purpose, if there be even a little worthiness in it;

iv)           A mystic bond of brotherhood makes all men one.

v)            A person usually has two reasons for doing something: a good reason and the real reason;

vi)           All greatness is unconscious, or it is little and naught; and

vii)          All work, even cotton spinning, is noble; work alone is noble….A life of ease is not for any man, nor for any god.

Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda was more on the side of rationality and less on blind faith.  He who dogmatically believes in his own religion or faith, is inclined to reject or dismiss other’s religion or faith as untrue or false and thus take the path of conflict. Such approach fetters reason and entirely blinds our perceptions of anything outside our own particular faith, which in fact is no faith at all, but a temporary belief, the delusion we labour under, at some particular time of life.   As per Swami Paramasukhananda, a monk from Ramakrishna Math, Ulsoor, Bangalore, faith, trust, belief and devotion are all taken to be synonymous terms.  In Sanskrit it is called Shraddha.  The entire natural world rests on faith and trust, though man often betrays it in every relation.  Faith is the creative power in man which, in ordinary life, he exercises unconsciously, sometimes producing extraordinary phenomena which are regarded as “miraculous”.  “There is a weird and formidable potency in human will and imagination, whether exercised consciously or unconsciously.  Faith is a quality endowed with most potent creative power”. Adepts exercise the power consciously and intelligently with a premeditated end in view, while we unconsciously and blindly, mistakenly attribute results, if extraordinary, to some god or saint in whom we may have faith.  Faith in itself cannot save us unless it is founded on the right knowledge of what is true and real.  Faith is blind when something is believed in without knowledge and accepted on the authority of an individual.  Both these kinds of faith produce physical, mental and moral results of far-reaching consequences widely different from each other – one tending to darkness and retrogression and the other to enlightenment and true progress.  Organized religions have over centuries, mostly become crystallized into sets of beliefs and dogmas, resting on dead-letter interpretation, enforced by priestly authority, and blindly accepted and followed by the masses.  The idea of God, for instance, has fallen from the grand philosophical conception of ubiquitous Absolute Deity and Law into anthropomorphic god of the churches and temples, who is to be feared and propitiated for obtaining personal favours or salvation or to save one from misfortunes.  Belief in such a personal god is repugnant to logic and the moral effect of belief in such an outside god, according to the Swami, kills self-reliance in the believer, accentuates his selfishness and makes him morally irresponsible. In his words,

“The old religions said that he was an atheist who did not believe in God. The new religion says that he is the atheist who does not believe in himself.”(‘Practical Vedanta’, Part I – vol. 2 of the Complete Works).

Abdu’l- Bahà

As per Abdu’l-Bahà, man is distinguished among all creatures because of his reasoning power and his intelligence. The man uses these faculties even in the study of religion.  Thus the balance of reason and science weigh carefully and presented as religion.  If it passes the test (reason and science) it is worth accepting as the truth.  If, however, it does not conform, it is worth rejecting it as ignorance.  The independent investigation of truth is the cornerstone of the Bahà’ i faith. So many of the problems in the world come from the blind adoption of the patterns of thought and practice of our society or community.  These lead to prejudices which are accepted because someone else, such as a parent, a spouse, a friend they trust, believes in them.  It is only when we investigate reality for ourselves, when we reflect, that we are able to find truth for ourselves.

In the early years, many people see religion through the lens of faith, and at that time, faith is separated from the rational mind.  Even if they did not have answers to the questions they may have, they closed their eyes and trusted in love and power.  Abdu i Baha, the son of Baha u llah and the interpreter of his words, said “if religion were contrary to logical reason then it would cease to be a religion and be merely a tradition.”  Thus if religion must not contradict reason then faith constitutes conscious knowledge and practice of good deeds.  Faith, therefore, first becomes conscious knowledge. The mind and the heart do not have to be separated but be embraced. Faith is something that compels us to act, to play our part in making this world beautiful.  It is the practice of good deeds. In the words of Abdul Baha:

“All religions teach that we must do good, that we must be generous, sincere, truthful, law-abiding and faithful; and this is reasonable, and logically the only way in which humanity can progress”

Pramahansa Yogananda

Sri Paramahansa Yogananda asks for experimentation in religion.  He says” “Why should we merely read and hear discussions about god, and know nothing from personal experience?  It is possible to put religion into practice, to use it scientifically.  Without practical application, religion is of little value”.  The first experiment with religion ought to begin with silence.  This is the first step towards meditation.  As Yogananda says” “If you make a supreme effort in the silence of the night or early in the morning, then after a little while you will see a glimmer of god’s light or feel a ripple of his joy coming to your consciousness.”  Experimentation with religion is very different as the results take place right inside you.  Truthfulness is another spiritual principle recommended for experimentation. Yogananda says that truth is always wholesome. Giving happiness to others is vital to one’s own happiness.  The world outside is an extension of the world inside.  So we ought to practise self-control, forgiveness, and communion with god in our day to day life.  Prayer is surrendering oneself to God completely.  It does not demand intelligence or eloquence.  Swami Sivananda says that one should pray for god’s grace, not for earthy goods or for heavenly pleasures.  Selfless faith and prayer and patience can work wonders.

Bertrand Russell

Russell, who was a staunch atheist and a rationalist, brought up the issue which comes first – faith or philosopher’s prod? He pointed out the fallacy of declaring God as omnipotent while at the same time envisaging a Satan who constantly opposed and defied God. According to Russell’s logic, if God is omnipotent, nothing can happen against His will. Yet Satan or Devil is supposed to be the one which always acts against the will of God. Obviously, therefore, God cannot be omnipotent. Hence, according to him, faith in God is entirely misplaced inasmuch as there is no existence of God. His conclusion, however, appears to be sweeping, though his premises are apparently logical. 

Faith in question

Faith in what we term as Gospel Truth has come under critical scrutiny of rationalists from all walks of life, and in all religions. Let us first take up the case of Adam and Eve in Genesis from the Old Testament that describes the first ever sin committed by the above two humans created by God in His image. The sin they committed was by eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Wisdom that God had forbidden them to eat as the same would make them distinguish good from the evil and would make them mortal. It is stated that upon eating the fruit at the instance of the Serpent (Satan), both became conscious of their nudity and hid themselves from the sight of God. The rationalists have questioned the validity of the statement that Adam and Eve committed a sin by eating the forbidden fruit which had made them conscious good and evil and also of their nudity and eventually led them to apply their mind and intelligence. If getting dressed was sinful in Old Testament, becoming nude became sinful in New Testament. Thus the rationalists among the Christians admit that even the concept of sin has undergone change in course of time, as we progress, and so has the Gospel Truth.

In the Rig Veda it is stated that from the Brahman (God) came out the Virata Purusha (the cosmic being). The Brahmin, the Kshatriya, the Vaishya and the Shudra emerged from his head, the arms, the thighs and the feet respectively. The above narration in the Rig Veda was interpreted by some Brahmin scholars during later Vedic period to give pre-eminence to Brahmins as a class as they originated from the the cosmic being’s head. The claim for predominance was founded on the ground that since the head directs the body, so should the Brahmins direct the society. The Kshatriyas representing the arms, the most active limb, occupied the second rung, and the thighs the next. The Shudras representing the feet occupied the lowest rung in the society. Thus an irrational interpretation of the Vedic text which had nothing more than a symbolic connotation, marked the beginning of a rigid caste system that led to exploitation of the Shudras.

The blind adherence to faith has led to several conflicts, battles, wars, massive destruction of historic monuments and innocent lives.

CONCLUSION

Let us, in the light of the foregoing discussion, revert to the original posers made in the Introduction.

The question that has been addressed in particular by a number of participants during interaction is whether faith is blind. The consensus is in the affirmative and to the extent that if not blind, it is no faith. In other words, if a person subjects his/her faith to constant scrutiny, his belief at best may qualify to be termed as hypothesis and not faith. As for example, a scientist or a researcher may begin his/her research with a hypothesis, subjecting the same to necessary scrutiny till he/she comes to a positive finding. When such finding is of the nature of unimpeachable truth, such as the speed of light, Newton’s Third Law of Motion, or Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, we call it postulate and have unshakeable faith in it. In the spiritual domain as well, we take the existence of God as one such postulate. However, when we take a fragmental and sectarian view of God, and call it a postulate, we commit an error. The error is in delimiting God Which is without limit. The proposition that my God is real God and your God is not and, therefore, my faith is divinely ordained while your faith is satanic is ex facie fallacious. As long as my God is the same as all others’ God, and we all are connected as children of God, my faith would pass the scrutiny of spiritual inquest.

The finding of the Quantum Scientists and ‘M’ Theorists is converging on the postulate that not only we, the human beings, but also the photons, electrons, molecules etc. that constitute our bodies, are connected, despite distances that may range from few millimetres to several light years. All these are ultimately connected to their source which in scientific term is described as the cosmic egg of microscopic dimension that exploded 13.7 billion years ago into trillions of universes. The spiritual dictum also postulates our inter-connectivity and connectivity to God, and that God resides not only in every living being but also in the minutest particle. Thus there is apparently no contradiction in having faith in God and rendering self open to scientific researches as to the creation of the universes, life and consciousness.

Faith, as has been posited by the Bhagavad Gita, is threefold, viz. Sattvik, Rajasik and Tamasik (refer verses 2 & 3, chapter 17), depending on one’s state of mind. We may grade it into three different levels of our spiritual status. At the lowest level, our faith deludes us into observing irrational rituals causing harm to self and other beings. At the middle level, we observe austere rituals to satisfy our ego and to achieve material gains and domination over others. At the highest level, we treat all fellow beings with utmost respect as embodiment of the Divinity and feel a sense of identity, empathy and inseparable bonding with them.

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GOD & ANTI-GOD

                                                          GOD & Anti-GOD

 

(Interactive session on 24.8.2013)

Keynote address by Mr. Ashok Sengupta

(Other participant speakers: Mr. Asim K. Banerjee, Ms. Sharmila Bhawal, Dr. B.B. Chakravarti, Mr. Amitava Tripathi, Dr.Kalyan Chakravarthy, Dr. Santosh Ganguly, Mr. Paritosh Bandopadhyay, Mr. Ramesh Chanda, Dr. Suhas Majumdar)

[Devotional song, composed by Mr. Amitava Tripathi, set to tune & rendered by Mr. Ashim Banerjee(Jr.)]

Anchor, Introduction & Conclusive Remarks: Asish K.Raha

 

INTRODUCTION

It is puerile to attempt a definition of God as definition means limitation and God is above all limitation. Nevertheless, to borrow from Voltaire, God has created us in God’s own image and we the humans have ‘returned the compliment’ (by creating God in our image). In the process, we have assigned the following three attributes to God – Omni-potency, Omni-presence and Omni-science. That God has above three attributes is universally accepted by all religions. The term Omni-potent implies that against the will of God nothing happens and that everything is under complete control of God. Yet, we have conceived an Anti-God called by various names such as the Devil, the Satan, the Mara, the Asura etc., who is not under God’s control and is constantly at work to thwart whatever God design or desire. The term Omni-present suggests that God is present everywhere, in the heart of every being. But we maintain that there is no trace of divinity in the Devil’s heart. The term Omni-scient means that God is all-knowing, the past, the present and the future. Yet God is believed to be uncertain about the Devil’s next move and cautions man time and again not to be enticed by the Devil. In this way, we have created an Anti-God, as powerful as God, whom even God is unable to destroy. Now the question is whether the concept of Anti-God is compatible with God, given the above three unqualified attributes.

Duality is an essential feature of a procreative universe where we have matter and anti-matter, male and female, positives and negatives, Purusha (soul) and Prakriti (nature), Shiva and Shakti etc., etc. Since we are conscious, and our consciousness must have a source as it cannot logically emanate from a vacuum, we source our consciousness to God called Pure or Super-Consciousness via Prakriti (nature) and Purusha (soul), thereby suggesting that both the Prakriti and the Purusha are conscious or sentient. The concept of Anti-God confronts us with the dilemma whether duality exists at the highest level as well, the ultimate source of creativity and positive virtue, called God and the ultimate source of negative qualities and vices, called the Anti-God, or the entire concept of Anti-God is a misnomer and illusory.

Traditional belief

A belief in the existence of both God and anti-God and their inherent antagonism, has been the common feature of all religions since time immemorial.  Almost all civilizations and traditions foster the belief that supra-physical beings are divided into two camps, one sustaining the good and other promoting the evil.   Devas and Asuras, God and Devil or Shaitan, Buddha and Mara, Christ and anti-Christ, Ahura Mazda (or Ohrmazd) and Angra Mainyu (or Ahriman).  The list of names of antagonistic supra-beings can be longer if we care to look into other religions and traditions, both past and present.

The Devas and the Asuras in Hindu tradition

It is, however, a fact that the Asuras of Hindu tradition are not comparable with the Devil or Satan of Jewish and Christian traditions, put in short as Abrahamic tradition or for that matter, Mara of Buddhist tradition. While Devil or Satan or Mara is the evil personified and ever-antagonistic to God, Asuras of Hindu tradition are not so. The Asuras are stated to have common parentage as their rival Devas (wrongly translated as gods), with sage Kashyapa as their father, and Diti and Aditi as their respective mothers. Some of the Asuras like Bali and Prahlada were extremely pious, righteous and devoted to Lord Vishnu, one of the Hindu Trinities, having undertaken rigorous austerity and long penances, while some of the Devas were stated to have fallen from the path of the Truth thereby incurring wrath of the Almighty. Obviously, therefore, it would not be correct to depict Asuras as all evil, and the Devas as all virtue. However, since vast majority of the Asuras were arrogant, egoistic, lustful and repressive and the vast majority of the Devas were virtuous, righteous, protector of the weak and God-fearing, the former have been generally identified as evil while the latter as virtuous.

Anti-God in Abrahamic traditions

It is pertinent to note that Judaism as represented by the Old Testament does not mention Devil or Satan. The Hebrew word ‘ha-satan’ that was translated as ‘Satan’ actually meant ‘adversary’. Ha-satan in the Book of Job is mentioned as a member of the Divine Council of God playing the role of “the prosecutor”. Job was a good human, God-fearing and obedient. When the Divine Council met, God praised Job to ha-satan. Thereupon, ha-satan pointed out with humility that Job’s loyalty to God was owing to the lavish endowment and bestowal of whatever could be possibly desired by a human. The real test of loyalty of Job would be when everything that was given to him was taken away by God. God thereupon entrusted ha-satan the responsibility to test Job. Ha-satan, however, applied dubious method and means to entice Job away from God for which ha-satan was expelled from the Heaven. Ever since, ha-satan became inimical to the humans. What follows from the above anecdote was that ha-satan was under God’s control, being subordinate to Him.

Medieval Judaism, however, was more rational in its approach to the concept of Satan or Devil having personified it in three different roles, viz. an accuser, a seducer, and a persecutor, who was among the sons of God. It clearly viewed evil as abstract, and rejected the belief in rebel or fallen angels. The concept of ha-satan as adversary to God was taken as a metaphor. The Kabbalah in Hasidic Judaism in later period presented Satan as an agent of God who was assigned the task to lure humans into sin and then accuse the sinner. Still later in 18th century, the Jews of Chasidic tradition regarded ha-satan as Baal Davar.

Jesus, however, has been cited as referring to the Satan by some New Testament writers in 1st century literature outside the Bible. The Satan has been variously described by the Christian scholars such as the ‘The Prince of this world’ (refer ‘The Book of John’), ‘the Prince of the power of the air’, ‘the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience’, and ‘the God of this world’ (refer Corinthians). It may be mentioned in this regard that Judaism, Christianity and Islam have on the whole dwelt upon the Devil, also called Satan, and/or Lucifer, as a rebellious fallen angel or demon that targeted humans with the sole intent to lead them astray. It is credited with bringing death into the world. Enoch describes the Devil as the Prince of Grigori who was driven out of Heaven for rebelling against God. The Devil or the Satan has also been identified in the Book of Revelation as the serpent which lured Eve to eat the forbidden fruit.

The word Devil originated from the Greek word diabolos, the Latin word diabolus, the Old English word deofol, and the Middle English word devel. According to the Christian tradition, God and the Devil fight over the souls of humans, the latter along with its army of evil spirits striving constantly to lure humans away from God into the Hell.

Islam refers to the Devil as Iblis or Shaytan. The Quran says that God created Iblis along with other Jinn out of smokeless fire. Except the power to do evil, Iblis has no other power. According to the Islamic tradition, Iblis was expelled by God as he refused to pay homage to Adam, even though ordered by God  to do so, claiming that he was superior to Adam, the human, as because humans were made of earth unlike him, and, therefore, was not obliged to pay homage to him. Other angels in compliance with God’s directive paid homage to Adam and escaped the wrath of God. Thus expelled, Iblis became the Devil and its mission till the Qiyamah (Resurrection) is to deceive humans. After the Qiyamah, Iblis will be consigned to thefire of Hell with all the persons it has deceived.

It will thus be seen that though defiant to God, the Satan in both Christian and Islamic traditions is depicted as a fallen angel and subordinate to God.

Anti-God In Buddhist tradition

The term Anti-God is a misnomer for Buddhism which does not refer to or dwell upon God. However, the Buddha referred to Mara, not as Anti-God, but as anti-enlightenment or anti-Nirvana, cast almost in the same mould as the Devil/Satan who enticed Jesus with all material prosperity and comfort if only he deviated from his spiritual path. From that limited perspective, Mara in Buddhism can be likened to the Devil in Abrahamic tradition.

We find in Buddhist texts how Mara had made unsuccessful attempts to entice young Siddhartha away from the path of Truth. The plain version of the story is as follows. When Siddhartha who was about to be Buddha was in deep meditation, Mara brought his three beautiful daughters known as Tanha (Craving), Arati (Boredom), and Raga (Passion). When they failed to distract Siddhartha, Mara called his monstrous soldiers to destroy Siddhartha, claiming that he was the rightful occupant of the seat of enlightenment while Siddhartha was an imposter, and his soldiers cried out in confirmation as his witnesses. Siddhartha then touched the earth with his right hand and the earth spoke out “I am your witness”. Mara thereafter disappeared. With the ascent of the morning star, Siddhartha was enlightened and became the Buddha.

As to the poser whether Mara was the Devil of the Christian tradition, Buddhist scholars find significant differences. Although both represent evil, the concept of evil in Buddhism widely differs from that in Abrahamic tradition and religions. In the latter tradition, the evil is external while in Buddhism evil is fundamentally internal. The Buddha indicated that the Mara operated in the five senses and the mind. To him, therefore, Mara symbolized unenlightened humanity or the whole of mundane existence. From the above point of view the lower self of every human being including the Buddha is Mara till the enlightenment dawns upon us. Only in Nirvana, one gets rid of Mara. In Hinayana Buddhism, Mara has been described to be of the following four types: Klesa-mara, or Mara as the embodiment of all painful emotions, Mrtyu-mara, or Mara as the ceaseless cycle of birth and death, Skandha-mara, or Mara as metaphor for the entirety of mortal existence and  Devaputra-mara, or Mara as the son of a deva (god), i,e. Mara as a realistic entity, rather than a metaphor.

                                                            Anti-God in Puranic tradition

In one of the Puranas, the origin of the Devas and the Asuras has been depicted as follows. The sage Kashyapa had two wives, Aditi and Diti.  Aditi’s children were the Devas and Diti’s the Asuras, the latter being the first-born.   According to Shatapatha Brahmana, the Devas and the Asuras both came from Prajapati, but while the Devas chose pursuit of truth, the Asuras chose the path of falsehood. Aitrareya Brahmana relates that the Devas hold power by day and the Asuras hold equal power by night.   There would be similar stories about the origin of these supra-beings in other traditions and religions. Let us narrate one story from a long-lost civilization that is supposed to have pre-dated the Vedas as well as all the civilizations that came up in the Mesopotamia – Egypt – Greece region – the Chaldean, Egypt of Pharaohs, Greece in the age of Orphic and Eleusinian mysteries or the Cabala of the Jews.

The Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram on God & Anti-God

This story was told by the Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry to the Ashramite children, mostly pre-teen and early-teen ones.  The story told by the Mother, originated from a ‘very old Tradition’, and sounded like a children’s tale. But its symbolism was profound.

Once it so happened that the unmanifest ‘God’ decided to manifest Himself ‘in order to know Himself in detail.’  To that end He first manifested His consciousness, which is the Universal or Divine Mother, and urged her to create a universe. The Universal Mother emanated four beings, representing four essential powers or attributes of God: Truth, Consciousness or Light, Life and Bliss.  But since the manifestation is based on absolute freedom, each of those high and essentially godlike beings deemed themselves to be the very Godhead himself, which of course is an absurdity, for the Divine is One. This means that, in a manner of speaking, they distanced themselves from their origin, thereby turning into its opposites.  Truth became Falsehood. Consciousness or Light became the black Inconscient, Life became Death, Bliss became Suffering.  The anti-God came into God’s creation!

Dis-satisfied, the Great Mother turned to God for help.  God said to her: ‘Start again, but this time try to do it in such a way that the beings are less independent.  And it was thus that the gods were created.  ‘But as the first four had come before them, at every step the gods ran into them, and so it was that the world changed into a battlefield, between the gods and the demons, the good and the evil, as all the great Traditions tell.  Time and again, the gods have to do battle with the first four Asuras and their emanations – for the Asuras had the power to multiply into cascades of millions of lesser beings who resembled them and assisted them in their work.

If the world had to continue like this, it would never turn godlike, it would never revive its divine origin again.  But when she created the gods, the Supreme Creatrix poured her divine Love into the dark Inconscient.  It is this Love which is the driving force of the development of the world, of its evolution on the way back, or up, to its divinization.  And as all forces are beings and all beings are forces, this love is a Divine phenomenon, ever present at the core of manifestation.  It is personification of this love which we call incarnation of the Avatars, the series of direct divine interventions in the unfolding of the evolution.

The above story from ‘a very old tradition’ has elements that will be found in every religion on this fundamental question of co-existence of God and anti-God.  In our tradition, the story of creation described in the Nasadiya Sukto of Rig Veda, has lot of similarity with the above story, our Puranas mention that the Asuras came before the devas, and the Upanishadic theory of evolution (vivartana) being preceded by involution (nivartana) is on the same line of what the above story says about Divine Love descending  (involuting) into Inconscient, the very root of all existence, and then evolving up to its origin.

Good-evil dualism in Hindu scriptures

Dwelling more on Indian tradition, let us see how our scriptures on religious /spiritual issues, dealt with this fundamental dualism that we are discussing today.  Vedas have many stories of battle between the Devas and the Asuras – Indra destroying Vritrasura with his thunderbolt (Vajra), Panis steeling the cows (divine light) of Indra and hiding them in dark caves, Shmbhala battling the gods from his mountain hideout, to name only a few.

The Upanishads are called the Vedanta as they are the final part of the Vedas, as also because they espouse the secret meaning of the Vedic mantras.  Although Keno-upanishad starts with a story of battle between the Devas and the Asuras, in which the Devas win, the Deva – Asura dualism is replaced in Upanishad with that of a more philosophical dualism of Vidya (wisdom) and Avidya (ignorance of the existence of Divinity).  Ishopanishad advocates the seeker of spiritual path, to take both Vidya and Avidya in his stride, warning that an exclusive focus on Vidya would plunge one to greater darkness.  The same type of holistic approach is found in the Vedas also, where the Rishi prays to Aditi, the mother of the Devas as well as to Diti, the mother of the Asuras in the same mantra.  In the Gita, the nomenclature changes to Para and Apara, but a similar holistic approach can be noticed in the treatment of this fundamental dualism. Unlike the Upanishads, the Gita deals with Deva-Asura dualism in a more comprehensive way.  Chapter 17 (Saptadasha Adhyaya) of Gita talks about Daivi Sampada and Asuri Sampada.  This is, however, a psychological way to deal with the inherent tendencies in a man.

Coming to the Puranas, which are, in a way, the basis of the outer form of Hinduism, Deva – Asura antagonism is portrayed there in its crudest but colourful form. The Asuras are also seen there performing great austerities (tapasya) to gain powers and win a boon from Lord Shiva (One of the Hindu Trinities, the other two being the Lord Vishnu and the Lord Brahma) to defeat the Devas.

God and anti-God antagonism is also the basic focus of those dealing with occultism, both in the western form of witchcraft or oriental (Indian) form of  Tantric practices.  The practitioner is advised to be very careful in his use of symbols and mantras since an incorrect use may have the unintended but dangerous consequence of strengthening the evil instead of the divine.

Sri Aurobindo on historic personae branded as evil

Were there historical personalities branded as asuric?  Some say, the great conqueror of ancient times, Chengiz Khan was a typical example of an asura.  Another example in modern period is that of Hitler whose destructive military campaigns during the 2nd world war, was said to be guided by a great asura.  Sri Aurobindo and the Mother said this Asura was the Lord of Falsehood, who assumed the role of the Lord of the Nations and possessed Hitler to cause catastrophic damage to the human civilization.  Sri Aurobindo, who was then trying to manifest the highest supramental consciousness on earth to take mankind to the next phase of evolution, had to focus on the destruction of Hitler and his Axis forces, before resuming his efforts for a supramental descent.

There are other historical personalities who got the label of the devil, asura or anti-Christ.  This was more pronounced during the religious wars in Europe during the middle ages.

The anti-God is supposed to hinder any move of men towards God.  But a difference can be noticed in degree of opposition depending on what the sadhaka aims in his sadhana.  The asura is said to be controlling this world from the beginning of creation.  Even when they allow, with some resistance, a solitary soul to escape the cycle of karma and rebirth, into moksha or nirvana or to the delight of Vaikunthaloka  or Shivaloka, their opposition is many times more severe when some kind of a divine order is sought to be established on this earth.  That is why the Vedas, which had a holistic outlook towards life and sought to set up a divine order on it, was more concerned with the Asura than later-day philosophies like Buddhism which concentrated on nirvana, or an escape of the human soul from this earthly bondage of ignorance and suffering.  That is why, the religions, anywhere in the world, which sought to impose some kind of divine order in human society or even to aim for a kingdom of heaven on earth, have dealt with God/anti-God dualism in a substantial way in the scriptures.

Sri Aurobindo’s mission to divinize the world

Among the philosophers and spiritualists of modern era, Sri Aurobindo is the one who aimed at establishing a divine life an earth.  This threatens the kingdom of the Asura here and one, therefore, notices direct confrontation with the Asura in his life as well as in the life of the Mother, his collaboratrix.  There are interesting stories from the life of the Mother, about her encounter with the Asuras of Death, of Suffering and of Falsehood under many circumstances.  Same was the case with Sri Aurobindo, who had to deal with the opposition from the Asuras time and again in his life.

Surprisingly, the Asura in his fearsome robes, is hardly seen in any of the writings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother (except of course when the Mother told stories of her own life or narrated those in her personal diaries). In his magnum opus, The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo has dealt with very comprehensively the issue of divine and undivine, much in the same way Ishopanishad dealt with Vidya and Avidya.   But this is Brahmavidya for one wanting to divinize his life.  This is totally different from the way God – anti-God dualism is visualized in Western occultism, witchcraft or in some of the religions.

In his writings on Yoga, Sri Aurobindo has, however, frequently talked about the ‘adverse forces’, that misguide the sadhak and create hindrances on his path.  But Sri Aurobindo says, the adverse forces serve a divine purpose, it is to test the sadhak on his way to perfection.

To these adverse forces have been applied all types of demonic and ‘dark’ names in the scriptures of all religions, as if the sole mission of those negative forces was to damn the God-seeker and to cause them all kinds of troubles and obstacles. The reality is somewhat different, for where is the devil if not in God?  If he is not in God, then there is little left in God, because this world is evil enough (and quite a few others, too), and little remains that is pure, except perhaps a dimensionless and spotless mathematical point.  But as experiences show us, these disruptive forces have their place in the universal economy, and they are disruptive only on the scale of our little consciousness of the moment — even then, their disruption has a specific purpose.  First, they always catch us at the chink in our armour; if we were solid and of a single piece, they could not shake us even for a second.  Moreover, if, instead of whining and blaming the devil or the wickedness of the world, we look into ourselves, we find that each of these attacks has exposed one of our innumerable righteous self-deceptions, or as Mother puts it, has pulled off one of the little cloaks we throw over things so as not to see.  The little cloaks, as well as the big ones, not only cover our own sores, they are everywhere in the world, over its little deceits and its huge conceit.  If the disruptive forces pull off the cloaks a bit violently at times, it is not just randomly or with wanton malice, but to open our eyes and compel us to a perfection we were balking at; because as soon as we have got hold of a grain of truth or a wisp of an ideal, we have the unfortunate tendency to put it under lock and key in an airtight and infallible construction, and not budge from there.  In other words, for the individual as for the world, these rather ungracious forces are instruments of progress.  ‘That by which you fall is that by which you rise,’ says the Kularnava Tantra in its wisdom.

On philosophical plane

God’s negations are as useful to us as his affirmations, says Sri Aurobindo.  The Adversary will disappear only when he is no longer needed in the world, observed the Mother.  And we very well know that he is needed, as the touchstone is for gold, to make sure we are true.

The anti-God, the devil, the asura or the adverse forces, therefore, serve a divine purpose, they help us to become perfect.  The anti-God exists, because God has willed so, and the seeker has to take its attacks in the right spirit.

Is there something particular in us, which may help to deal with the anti-God?  We would like to deal with this question in terms of the Vedic symbolism. The Vedas are said to be dominated by male gods, except the towering Aditi, the supreme creatrix.  But we find the name of five other goddesses – Bharati, Ila, Saraswati, Sarama and Daksha – who help the performer of yajna.  Sri Aurobindo says, they are the higher faculties of Vastness of Light, Revelation, Inspiration, Intuition and Discrimination.  We are referring to the last-mentioned goddess, Daksha or Dakshina, who gives us the power of immediate discrimination or discernment, corresponding  to the mental faculty of logical discrimination.  In a mystic verse in the Rig Veda about the discovery of Truth, Vishwamitra says, Daksha helped the fathers, to discover ‘Truth, the sun lying in the darkness’ and chants, ‘He having Dakshina with him held in his right hand the secret thing that is placed in the secret cave concealed in the waters.  May he, knowing perfectly, separate the light from the darknes, jyotir vrinita tamasa vijanan, may we be far from the presence of evil.

Daksha gives us the power to separate light from darkness, truth from falsehood, good from evil.  The logical power of discrimination is inherent in all of us.  The higher faculties of immediate discernment which the mysterious Vedic goddess Daksha represents would also flower as the seeker proceeds in his path.  As Rishi Vishwamitra chanted, this is the surest way of keeping us far from the presence of evil, from the anti-God.

CONCLUSION

Reverting to our original posers in the Introduction as to whether the concept of Anti-God is compatible with God and whether duality prevails at the highest level where God may co-exist with Anti-God, we are in agreement that the concept of Devil is not compatible with the concept of God being the ultimate and only source of creation of the sentient Nature and the beings. In that sense, all the creations of God, including the Devil are necessarily subsumed in God. This is the sum and substance of the Vedantic philosophy, as has been eloquently spelt out in the Bhagavat Gita by Sri Krishna, and lucidly explained by Swami Vivekananda.

The Vedanta reconciles actual to the ideal so that earthly life coincides with life eternal. “You must always remember”, said Vivekananda in his talk on ‘Practical Vedanta’  “that the one central idea of Vedanta is this oneness. There is no two in anything, no two lives, nor even two different kinds of life for the two worlds…. There is but one life, one world, one existence. Everything is that One; the difference is in degree and not in kind.” That One in Vedanta is called Brahman, Which being all-inclusive cannot be numerically described. It is in conformity with this concept of Oneness that the Vedanta denies the existence of heaven and hell, the devil/Satan or the sin and any second outside the One (Ekamevadvitiyam). The Brahman is also described as Purna or the Whole that comprises all the matters and non-matters, as also all the qualities or the Gunas, namely the sattva, the Rajas and the Tamas. This being the case, in the ultimate state of realization, the pursuer of the Truth finds the Brahman in all entities, including the Devil/Satan so-called, and exclaims in pleasant surprise: ‘Thou art That’ (Tat Tvam Asi).

Having regard to this cardinal Vedantic message to the posterity, Vivekananda observed that one who worshipped God as all good worshipped only one legged God. God was all good as also all bad as all the qualities, good or evil, emanated from God and would be eventually subsumed in God.

The concept of Devil appears to be a reality to a pursuer of the Truth when he confronts various obstacles and temptations on his way to liberation/realization. When the Truth is realized, all the obstructers melt away as non est.

The above Vedantic concept conforms with the Big Bang theory that explains how from a microscopic point described as cosmic egg, multiple universes numbering 10 to the power of 500 evolved in almost no time, and how those evolved universes like bubbles are likely to shrink and disappear into its original source in distant future by way of involution. The only difference in a physicist’s outlook is that it describes above phenomena of creation and possible dissolution, evolution and possible involution as essentially deterministic and not the choice of the Super-Consciousness or the Supramental. This explains why Stephen Hawking in ‘The Grand Design’ has stated: “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going”. Be that as it may, we find it logical to accept the existence of a sentient source for our consciousness. The grand design of myriad universes is attributable, in our considered opinion, to the choice of a Super Mind rather than to the random interplay of particles in a chaotic Nature.

Our conclusion, therefore, is that God is ONE or the WHOLE and the entire creation, apparent or real, human or non-human, the Anti-God or the angel, is integral part of that ONE or the WHOLE.

 

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Sri Chaitanya and Divine Love

          

(Interactive session on 20.7.2013)

Keynote address by Mr. S. R. Das

(Other participant speakers: Mr. Asim Banerjee, Mr. Ramesh Chanda, Mr.A. K. Sengupta, Ms. Kalyani Chakraborty, Dr. Santosh Ganguly, Dr.Kalyan Chakravarthy, Ms. Mitali Ghosh,  Ms.Sharmila Bhawal, – Devotional song by Ms. Manimala Das)

Anchor & conclusive remarks: Asish K.Raha

 

INTRODUCTION

The word ‘Chaitanya’, means consciousness of the existence of God or Pure Consciousness, described in the Vedanta as Param Bramhan, or Sat-chit-ananda (eternal existence, eternal consciousness and eternal bliss), having no form. God when conceived in form is referred to as the Virat Purusha, or the Supreme Entity in whom all individual souls reside and Who resides in all. Complementary to Virat Purusha as the source of creativity is called Prakriti (nature) or Shakti (energy). Together, the Purusha and the Prakriti are the creators of this phenomenal world comprising multiple universes of matters and souls, manifest and unmanifest. The embodied souls, called Jivaatma, sourced to the Purusha, are bonded to the prakriti, by the glue of desire and attachment, called Maya (illusion).

The longing for the Supreme by the Jivaatma is called the Divine Love. In this state, Jivatma effaces his/her ego and yearns for nothing less than the Supreme only in the form he/she perceives the beloved Lord.

In Srimad Bhagwat Gita, it is stated:

“That which has been mentioned as the Unmanifest, the Immutable, they call Him the supreme Goal. That is the supreme abode of Mine, reaching which they do not return. That supreme Being in whom are included all the beings and by whom all this is pervaded, is indeed reached through unalloyed devotion” (Ch 8, verses 21- 22). 

Divine Love and its various forms

Divine love for Swami Vivekananda meant real spiritual pursuit.  We are no longer beggars, because we give up everything for the love of God. We are no longer in fear, because we feel God as our own, our closest one.  To Vivekananda, the divine love of God is its own end – the salvation and perfection. We would love God because that is our highest aim and goal of life. How to Worship God? Swami Vivekananda answered, “Worship him dearer than all your possessions, than all your relatives and all your children. Nothing must stand between me and God except love. God is only love and nothing else. Love first, love in the middle, love at the end. God is infinite love. At last, love, lover and the beloved become one. That is the goal. Our separation from God in this phenomenal world became necessary, according to Swamiji, beause God wanted to enjoy the bliss of love.

Swami Vivekananda in his Bhakti Yoga has explained the various forms of divine love. When a man gets absorbed in his/her devotion to God, it is known as the Shanta Bhav or quiet state of love. The next type is Dasya when the devotee with the untainted loyalty of a servant worships/serves God. Sakhya or friendship with God is the next type where the devotee opens his/her heart to God considering Him to be his true Friend or Playmate. Here the devotee loves God as his Friend and on equal footing.

Then there is the Vatsalya bhav, or loving God is as our child. Here we try to give our best forgetting self and do not look up to Him in awe. This relationship, like that of a mother and a child, takes us quite close to God.

Madhura Bhav in Divine Love is considered as the strongest and most intimate relation with God aiming at ultimate union with God. This Bhav results in complete self-effacement of the devotee who longs for the pleasure of complete union with God. For the worshipper God becomes the only and central focus. Intense love does not see any obstruction, barrier, customs, rules or regulation. In his intense yearning for God, the devotee is in the state of both agony and ecstasy. It can be described as the madness of the devotee for God whom he/she sees as lover. In Vrindavan, behaviour of the Gopis demonstrated how the Divine in the human form of Krishna was madly loved. On hearing the sound of His voice or his flute, the ever-blessed Gopis rushed out of their abodes to meet their beloved, forgetting the whole world, i.e. the worldly rituals and taboos, the do’s and don’ts. Gopies told Uddhava, a friend of Sri Krishna, that their minds were no longer their own as every bit of it had been given to Krishna. Their body, mind and soul were longing for Krishna.  Gopies were immersed in Krishna and no traces of self consciousness were left in them. We find a similar expression in the following couplet of Kabir.

प्रेम गली अति संकरी, तामें दाऊ न समाई |

जब में था तब हरी नहीं, अब हरी है में नाहीं ||

(The Path of love is so narrow that the lover and the beloved cannot tread together. When I was there, my beloved (God) was not. Now that my beloved (God) is here, I am not.) 

Divine Love of Radha (Gopis)

Sri Radha’s intense yearning for Sri Krishna epitomizes divine love in Madhur Bhava.  The intensity of Radha’s love toward Sri Krishna is beautifully depicted by Jayadev in Geet Govinda. Radha beheld Krishna in everything she sets her love-lit eyes upon. She was totally immersed in Krishna and effaced her own identity.  Her sole existence was for fulfilment of the wishes of her beloved Krishna. She was completely lost in the thoughts of Krishna. Hence, she is also called Krishnamoyi (absorbed in Krishna).

After the Braj leela, Krishna moved away from Vrindavan to Mathura, and never returned to his beloved. Instead, He sent Uddhava, to console the Gopis. Seeing them crying inconsolably, Uddhava was moved. They complained that they could not close their eyelids, for Krishna had invaded their eyes, body, senses, speech and thoughts. They pleaded with Uddhava for a mantra to forget Krishna, so that they could once again attend to their daily chores. Uddhava advised them to meditate on Krishna instead, and at this, the gopis sobbed,

“Uddhava, man na bhaye das bees, ek huto so gayo Shyam sung, ko aaradhe ees?”

(We do not have 10 or 20 minds; there was but one mind which Krishna stole. With what should we meditate?”)

Mind gives rise to ego, but in true love, there is no ego left. 

A Life Sketch of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu

In Gita, Sri Krishna said: Whenever there is a decline of virtue and increase of vice I manifest Myself” (Chapter 4, verse 7).

Sri Chaitanya came to revive spirituality demonstrating the power of Krishna Naam Sankirtan (chanting of the name of Krishna). It is the yearning for God and not the ritualistic worship which takes you onto the path to the Divine.

It is said that Sri Chaitanya is an incarnation of Sri Krishna, manifesting Self to demonstrate to the world the depth and intensity of Divine Love.  He was the combined form of Krishna and Krishna’s consort, Srimati Radharani. He came also to experience the love Radha had for Him, and to show by example how to fully surrender to the beloved Lord. He exhibited symptoms of Divine Love to the highest degree, and emphasized that the chanting of the holy names of Krishna was the best means to unite in love with God.

Sri Chaitanya was born in 1486, in Nabadvipa, now in West Bengal. Nabadvipa was at that time famous as a centre of learning and culture. At that time, Bengal under Islamic rule was suffering from spiritual degeneration, stagnation of growth, and exploitation of lower castes by caste-conscious Brahmins and other higher castes.  The hallmark of learning was the capability of one to defeat others in open debate over interpretation of ancient philosophical texts, where logic got primacy over spiritual and mystic experiences. Socially, morally, spiritually, politically, and intellectually, contemporary India needed a change.

On the full moon night of the Bengali month of Phalguna, when there was a lunar eclipse, and amidst people’s chanting and bathing in Holy Ganga, Sri Chaitanya was born in a Brahmin family. Astrologers predicted that He would manifest super-human qualities and deliver the world. So his parents, Jagannatha Mishra and Sachi Devi, gave Him the name Vishvambhara, meaning “support of the universe.” As he was born under a Neem tree, he was given the nickname Nimai.

During his childhood he displayed mysterious powers by outwitting thieves, playing with a poisonous snake, and speaking philosophically to His mother. As He grew, his handsome look and intelligence began to attract neighbours and friends. He was a brilliant student who quickly mastered poetics, Sanskrit grammar, and the current fad, navya nyaya, a form of logic. He would often playfully defeat his fellow students in debate. While still in his teens, he opened his own school and began teaching grammar and logic.

Vishvambhara journeyed to Gaya, with a group of students in order to perform sacred rites on the anniversary of his father’s death. There, after receiving Vaishnava initiation from Ishvara Puri, he became transformed. He lost all interest in logic and argument and absorbed himself in chanting Krishna’s names in devotional ecstasy.

Back in Nabadvipa, Vishvambhara with other Vaishnavas like Advaita Acarya, Srivasa Pandit, and Haridas Thakur started the sankirtana movement by chanting the name of Lord Krishna. First, the movement was confined to the faithful. After a year, however, Vishvambhara started to spread the ecstasy of Divine Love to all the people of Nabadvipa.

Vishvambhara’s movement was not influenced by caste consideration. Nor was it meant for the ascetics or the yogis in penance or meditation for liberation from the material world. As he deviated from the conventional path in his spiritual pursuit, Vishvambhara met with stiff opposition from some sections of the local Brahmin community and from the Muslim ruler as well. But when he mobilized thousands of people in a Sankirtana procession to the Muslim magistrate’s house, he succeeded in convincing the magistrate to permit the movement.

Seeing the need to spread Krishna consciousness more widely, Vishvambhara decided to take sannyasa, at the age of twenty-four. He took the name Krishna Chaitanya from Keshava Bharati. He also became known as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. To console his mother he promised to stay in Puri, not far off from Nabadvipa.

He travelled to various parts of South India for four years and to Prayag, Vrindavana, and Varanasi for one year. 

Last 12 years in Puri in total devotion and ecstasy

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu spent his last 12 years in Puri, an old and renowned Pilgrimage Centre, the seat of Lord Jagannath. He often got into trance in the temple as also outside, experiencing spiritual ecstasy while completely immersed in love with the Lord. In that state he felt the glory and divine grace of the place. Every morning he made it a point to visit the temple. Standing at a distance, he silently gazed at the Lord Jagannath and was completely lost. He was a living example of Para Bhakti, the supreme devotion.

As mentioned in the Bhagwatam, when Radha felt the agony of separation from Krishna, she used to experience ten kinds of bodily transformations like: anxiety, sleeplessness, mental agony, feebleness, un-cleanliness, incoherent utterances, affliction, frenzy, obsession and motionlessness. It is said that similar ecstatic conditions overwhelmed Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

He spent several nights in wakefulness chanting Hare Krishna. He was also listening from Srimad Bhagavatam, about Lord Krishna’s glories and actions. Many a times, he would get dead-silent or was seen crying for Krishna and at times dancing in joy.  Sometimes he was not to be found in his room and after a search, his followers would find him lying outside unconscious.

Only after hearing Krishna’s name he would gain consciousness. Sometimes he would run towards the Sea as its blue water reminded him of the Yamuna in Vrindavan, or towards a sand dune thinking it to be Giri Govardhan that was lifted by Sri Krishna. All these proved deterrent to his physical health but he was indifferent to his worldly needs. 

Shiksa ashtak: embodiment of  Divine love

Sri Chaitanya Dev’s spiritual personality, wisdom, knowledge and interpretation of ancient philosophical texts such as the Vedas and the Vedanta were a living source of inspiration to many prominent followers who have composed many verses, kirtans etc. based on his life and teaching. However, the singular composition that he left for posterity is known as Shiksha Aashtak in Sanskrit, which is a unique composition elucidating Divine Love, spirituality, glorification of Krishna and various ways of worshipping. This also speaks of the state of divinity he was in. 

  1. 1.    Divine power in  Krishna Sankirtana:  Sri Krishna Sankirtana cleanses mind of worldliness, spreads humanity among the people. It increases transcendental bliss and it enables us to fully taste the nectar in every step of life. 
  1. 2.    One God different names:Taking various names of Lord Krishna alone, which are full of transcendental energies, can render all benedictions to living beings. There are no hard and fast rules for chanting these names. One needs only to get attracted to these names. 
  1. 3.    Way of Chanting: One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble tolerant state of mind, devoid of all sense of false prestige and be respectful to others. 
  1. 4.     Devotion: O, Lord, Prayer to you is not for wealth nor to desire beautiful women, nor for praise from people. Let there be desire-less devotion birth after birth. 
  1. 5.    Dashya Bhab: Since life is plunged in the terrible ocean of the material world, pray to be in His service and stay like a dust particle in His lotus feet. 
  1. 6.    Prem Bhakti: Urge for a state when by uttering His name tears would flow down the eyes; voice would be choked with emotion and mind would be delighted. 
  1. 7.    Anxiety: In separation from Him, every moment would be like a decade, tears would flow from eyes and world would appear meaningless and void. 
  1. 8.    Gopi Prem: Krishna is the only Lord and He shall remain so even if He embraces me or makes me broken hearted by not being present before me. He is completely free to do anything and everything, for He is always unconditionally the worshipful Lord.

His Last words

Sri Chaitanya said, “Listen Swaroopa and Ramananda Rai! The chanting of Krishna’s Name is the chief means of attaining Krishna’s feet in the Kali Yuga. Sankirtan of the Name is the supreme healer in the Iron Age. Sankirtan tantamounts to Vedic sacrifice. Sankirtan destroys sins and purifies the heart and creates Bhakti. Chant the name while sitting, standing, walking, eating, in bed and everywhere. The Name is omnipotent. You can repeat the Name at any place, at any time.

Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was last seen on the 14th June, 1533. His passing away is still a Mystery.

CONCLUSION

Divine Love, the spark of which was seen in Radha, more as the yearning of an individual soul for union with the Divine, became a mass movement in the hands of Sri Chaitanya. And this movement was not confined to Nabadvip, the place of his birth, or for that matter to the places he camped in for a number of years, like Puri, but went far beyond in an era when movement on road or river was painfully slow and time-consuming. Even in 21st century, this movement is still alive, spreading beyond the frontier of India and Sri Chaitanya continues to be the inspirational pioneer for the posterity.

Second, the Divine Love movement of Sri Chaitanya broke all barriers, i.e. the barrier of caste, religion, social, financial, intellectual, etc. Initially though women were not included in Samkirtan, subsequently they also joined the ecstatic group, singing and dancing publicly, chanting the name of Sri Krishna.

Third, Divine Love as a concept was unique in the sense that neither the Vedas, nor the Upanishads or the Vedanta advocated it. The stress all along in those philosophical and spiritual texts was on wisdom, self-realization, self-effacement or annihilation of ego, pursuit of Truth or realization of the ultimate Truth viz. Brahman That is within oneself as also without or all over. This realization of Brahman can be attained by various Yogas, namely, Bhakti or devotion, Gyana or wisdom, Dhyana or meditation, Karma or self-less work, Sannyas or renunciation of the fruits of work, Kriya or various rituals/exercises etc. None of those paths were akin to the path of Divine Love that would place the lover and the beloved (God) on the same pedestal all through.

While on the concept of Divine Love as a means to attain God as the beloved, the question that would come to mind is whether it is possible for a mortal with five senses like us to love God Who is formless, deathless and beyond all senses. In other words, the yearning for God as a lover pre-supposes the reducing of infinite God into human form as the beloved. Is such reduction valid, practical, realistic and effective? Let us address this question in the light of the prominent religions in general that recognise God.

That God is omni-potent, omni-present and omni-scient is more or less accepted as a postulate by all prominent religions, except Buddhism that avoids any reference to God. The very concept of an omni-present God would imply that God exists in the minutest particle in this phenomenal world. Some of the religions have even referred to the conversation of their Messiahs and prophets with God and the messages received by them from God. In the process, human qualities have been attributed to God. As to the question of form, it is more or less accepted that God with His infiniteness, cannot be bound within a specific form. That, however, would not prevent God from assuming any form at His will, given that He is the ultimate source of all matters, energy, souls and consciousness. The Gita talks about worshipping God in form or without. The form could be symbolic like the stone image of a deity. The form could also be one of a living being who by attaining God-consciousness is believed to have been one with God. In the cases of Radha and Sri Chaitanya, the Divine was conceived in form of Sri Krishna. Their love, therefore, had the pang of separation as also ecstasy of union, the emotions that are easily perceivable by human instinct.

As to the question whether Divine Love is realistic, or a mere fantasy, it would not be reasonable to answer such question in general terms. To Radha, Krishna being a man of flesh and blood was as real as she herself was, although she may have regarded him as the God incarnate owing to his miraculous powers. The same would not apply to Sri Chaitanya, or to Mira Bai inasmuch as in their time Sri Krishna was not in existence, but believed to have frequented them in vision. As to the question whether their visions of Sri Krishna were genuine or fantasy, such matters cannot obviously be subjected to scrutiny by any known human standard. Love, after all is not chemistry but it belongs to the domain of conscious mind which is known as our sixth sense. The love for the Divine is believed to open the door of a still higher sense by the grace of the Divine, helping the lover to have vision of the beloved Who happens to be the subtlest of the subtle and the grossest of the gross. Sri Ramakrishna looked upon the Divine as Mother Kali and often did he taste the sweets and fruits before offering the same to the Goddess. Sri Bama Khyapa of Tara Peeth considered himself as the little child of Ma Tara, the Divine Mother, and once did he urinate on the deity as if a baby on his mother’s lap. He was mercilessly beaten by the priests but later they understood their mistake and apologized when the Deity of the Divine Mother is believed to have shown her anger by turning Her face away. Narendra Nath (Swami Vivekananda), initially an agnostic, was in extreme financial hardship when, seeing his miserable state, Sri Ramakrishna advised him to pray for food and clothes from the Divine Mother at the temple of Dakshineswar. As he entered the sanctum sanctorum, he saw the idol of the Divine Mother come alive and was unable to ask for such trifle. Instead he prayed for wisdom and liberation. Sri Aurobindo, while in Alipore jail facing trial for treason against the British Raj, had a sudden vision of Sri Krishna in every living being, including the jailor, the prisoners, the guards and the judge. In our above four examples of vision of the Divine, the first two were of the advanced Yogis cum great spiritual Masters, while the latter instances were of two leading intellectuals of contemporary India at the material time, both of whom later turned into spiritual Masters cum teachers of international fame. Obviously, it would be naive to denounce their visions as mere hallucination.

Admittedly though loving God is easier said than done, we have no hesitation to conclude that the world will be a much better place to live in if we learn to love fellow beings as embodiment of the Divine in myriad forms.

        

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MAYA

MAYA

(Interactive session on 15.6.2013)

Keynote address by Mr. R. K. Gupta

(Other participant speakers: Mr. Sujit Chatterjee, Mr.Gautam Kanjilal, Mr. Ranjan Chatterjee, Ms. Manimala Das, Mr. Paritosh Bandopadhyay, Mr. A. K. Sengupta, Dr.Kalyan Chakravarthy, Dr.Suhas Majumdar,  Ms.Kalyani Chakrabarti, Dr. Santosh Ganguly, Ms. Ratna Chatterjee & Mr. Jogendra Singh – Devotional songs by Ms. Jayanti Dasgupta)

Anchor & conclusive remarks: Asish K.Raha

Introduction

‘Maya’ is a Sanskrit term used in the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Srimad Bhagavat Gita, to denote by popular understanding, though incorrectly, illusion or delusion. The earliest use of the term can be found in the Rig Veda where it was used in the sense of delusion: “Through his Maya, Indra assumed various forms.” In the Upanishads (popularly known as the Vedanta), the term came to be identified with Prakriti through which Brahman (Pure Consciousness or God) evolved Itself into or created the mortal universes. Reference in this regard is made to verses 9 and 10 of Chapter 4 of the Svetasvatara Upanishad which state as follows:

Ashman mayee srijate Vishvametam

Ashminschanyo mayaya sanniruddhav II – 9

Mayam tu prakritim vidyanmayinam cha Maheshvaram I

Tasyabayabbhutaistu vyaptam sarvamidam jagat II  – 10

[“By Its Maya, Brahman creates this universe of mortals and by the same mechanism (Maya) all the souls get entrapped in this universe. Prakriti is the substance by which this world of mortals is created. Know this Prakriti as Maya and know the Maheshvar (read Brahman) as the Mayin (Creator of the Maya)”]

It can be seen that in the above verse of Svetasvatara Upanishad Brahman is described as the creator of the Maya through which this mortal universe is created. On the otherhand, in Brhadaranyaka Upanishad (Br.II.V.19) it is stated that Brahman on account of his Maya is perceived manifold. Again in Chhandogya Upanishad (Cha. VIII. iii. 1-2) it is proclaimed that all that can be desired is covered by falsehood. The Vedantic proclamation made by sage Uddalak to his son Shvetaketu – Tat Tvam Asi (Thou art That) made in Chhandogya Upanishad (Cha.  VI. Xiii.3) reveals that Brahman as either the creator or the core sentient element, as the case may be, is both the efficient and the material cause of this mortal universe. This was explained by sage Uddalak to his son cum disciple Shvetaketu by way of a practical illustration. The father asked his son to mix a lump of salt in water in a container and bring that container to him next morning. Instruction thus complied, the son was asked to drink the water from the top, the middle and the bottom portion and to report how it tasted. Shvetaketu informed his father that the water tasted salty uniformly. Uddalak explained that the salt which was no longer visible in the water was the material as also the efficient cause of the salty water. Brahman like the salt was the subtlest soul of this universe, not seen but yet present in minutest part of the universe including all living beings. “Shvetaketu, thou art That” is the cardinal message of the Upanishad that is applicable to the whole of the mankind.

The question as to whether the Creator and the creation (read Maya) can be identical has been addressed differently by various schools of Vedantic thought. As for the Advaita (Monist) school represented by Shankaracharya, the Creator Brahman is the only reality while the entire creation or Maya is nothing but illusion/delusion and unreal. It is like mistaking rope for a snake. The Dvaita (Dualist) school represented by Madhavacharya and Sri Chaitanya on the contrary holds that the Creator cannot be the same as the creation and the former is the efficient cause of the latter, but not the material cause. To this school, the creation is as much real as the Creator. The Vishistadvaita (Qualified Monist) school represented by Sri Ramanuja strikes a synthesis between the above two schools of apparently conflicting thoughts holding out in Sri Bhasya of Brahma Sutra (Interpretation of Brahma Sutra of Vedavyas by Sri Ramanuja) that the Brahman as the Creator is both efficient and material cause of the creation. It is already explained above that the concept of Tat Tvam Asi is a corollary of the above line of thinking, once the veil of Maya is lifted.

Now the question is how the veil of Maya can be lifted.

In Chapter VII, verse 14, of the Gita, Sri Krishna tells Arjuna:

“Daivi hi esa gunamayee mama maya duratyaya I

Mameba ye prapadyante mayametam taranti te II – 14”

[Since my divine Maya constituted by the Gunas or qualities (Sattva, Rajas and Tama) is hard to cross over, there is no other way but to take refuge in Me to cross over this Maya.]

In verses 5 onward, chapter 14, Krishna explains that the three Gunas (qualities) born of nature (Prakriti) bind the immutable soul to the body through numerous attachments. As to the question of Arjuna how this Maya can be transcended, Krishna answers in verses 24 to 26 of chapter 14 that the one to whom happiness and sorrow, censure and praise, honour and dishonour, friend and foe are alike, the one who is established in his own Self, the one to whom a lump of earth, iron and gold are the same and the one who serves Him as God through the unswerving Yoga of devotion, can transcend the three Gunas or the Maya.

The modern school of thoughts represented by Swami Vivekananda, however, is of the view that the Maya of the Vedanta is “neither Idealism, nor Realism, nor is it a theory. It is a simple statement of facts – what we are and what we see around us.” Explaining the concept of Maya further, he states that the world around us has no absolute existence. “We see this world with the five senses but if we had another sense, we would see in it something more. If we had yet another sense, it would appear as something still different. It has, therefore, no real existence; it has no unchangeable, immovable and infinite existence. Nor can it be called non-existence, seeing that it exists, and we have to work in and through it. It is a mixture of existence and non-existence.” (Refer his lecture on ‘Maya and Illusion’ in London in 1896).

 Mystery of Maya

The mystery surrounding the Creator and the creation evokes great interest amongst all, including the scientists, philosophers and the saints and spiritual masters. The concept of the God as the Creator is not accepted by scientists. They believe in the theory of evolution. According to them life on earth was not created; it evolved, as did every living creature. It is not God who created man, but it is man who created God. The question that is asked is if God created life, then who created Him? It may appeal on a cursory reading but on a serious note, the same question needs to be addressed in the context of Darwinian Theory of evolution of life. Did the life evolve out of nothing? It is true even for an agnostic that nothing could be created from nothing. That being so, life would have emerged from something and that something would have come from something else and so on. Going back sequentially, one would have to stop at some point beyond which there is no answer as to how that thing (if it could be called a thing) came into existence. That something, which is the first, from which everything else has originated, philosophically speaking, could rightly be called the core element which is also the source of our collective consciousness. In short we may call that core element as the Supramental or Super-consciousness.  As the creation pre-supposes a conscious decision and our proposition is that the core element is supra-mental, it would stand to logic to infer that the Supra-mental is the Creator of the universes and living beings.

The above inference may give an impression as if the Creator and the creation are two different entities. But then it would be important to mention here that unlike some Semitic religions, which believe in a personified God, who feels jealous and punishes or rewards people according to His pleasure, and place the God in juxtaposition to man, the Vedantic philosophy talks of a wholesome God, reflected in this Sutra (verse) of the Ishavasya Upanishad:

Om Poorna Madah Poorna Midam Poornaat Poornamudachyate;

           Poornasya Poornamaadaaya Poornamevavashishyate II

[“What we see is Whole. What we don’t see is also Whole. What springs forth from the Whole is Whole. From the Whole if we remove Whole, the remainder is also Whole.”]

This Sutra mentions both the Creator and the creation as “Poorna” or the whole. In other words, it suggests that the Brahman or God described as the Whole is all-encompassing and nothing that exists falls outside the Whole or Brahman.

Apart from all-pervasiveness, this Sutra speaks of the principle of Conservation of the Wholeness. Scientists also believe in the principle of Conservation of Energy, which is one of the key principles of physics. According to science no matter or energy can ever be destroyed; matter can change form and convert into energy and similarly energy can convert into matter but the sum-total would remain the same. If the entire thing could be measured in some single unit, the measurement would remain the same. For example if a Kg. of wood is burnt, it would convert into coal, smoke, ash and different forms of energy such as heat, light and sound and if there be some measurement of all this to be measured it would measure equivalent to a Kg. of wood.

This would mean that the material creation, i.e. the universe which we see also has the same attributes and characteristics as the Brahman, i.e. it could neither be created nor destroyed but there could only be a change in the form. It could be called by different names such as manifestation of the Brahman or the evolution and involution of the Brahman. By whatever name it may be called, the essential principle which is hinted at is the One, i.e. the Creator appearing as many in the form of the manifested creation, because that One remains the One, even when it manifests as many.

A question may arise: Can God be numerically described as One? In the verse referred to above, God is described as the Poorna or the Whole and not as the One. However, when the Upanishads describe God as Ekam eva advitiyam (One and no Second) it describes God as all-inclusive, meaning thereby that nothing else exists other than God. Thus there is hardly any contradiction in the concept of God as the Whole and God as the One and no Second.

Srimadbhagvat-Mahapuran

In this context, reference may be made to the Srimadbhagvat-Mahapuran, which in Tratiya Skandh (third Section), Adhyay 5 (Chapter S) Shloka 23 (Verse 23) mentions that ‘before the creation, there was only the God, the Soul of all souls. Neither there was anything to be seen, nor any seer. He Himself was the manifold existence that is seen in the created world, as He desired to be alone’. It was the state of Absolute Truth, with no manifestation of any sort and is described as the state of Supreme Darkness of Absolute Non-beingness­. No one has any knowledge if there was any creation that existed before. Everything having dissolved in its essence, rested in a state of total concealment in the Essence of all essences i.e. the God-the Truth, who was in the state of absolute peace, perfect harmony and supreme bliss. All His qualities and attributes were resting in Him in a dormant state.  In this state, there was no Prakriti (Nature or Maya) and Kaal (Time) in existence, nothing except the One – the Almighty God.

Since there was no existence of time in this state of Supreme Darkness, no one knows for how long did this state last. This was the state which is totally Indescribable, Unimaginable and beyond any perceptions. It was the state of the Absolute Truth all by Itself. No time, no relativity, no creation whatsoever. It was not the state of nothingness but the state of Completeness, of Totality and of Fullness. The scriptures describe such a state as the state of absolute bliss, as this was the state of perfection, harmony and equilibrium.

Overwhelming with bliss, the Almighty God thought of revealing Itself in the form of manifold existence in order that the manifold existence may also enjoy the same state of bliss. The world was thus created by the mere thought of the Almighty God. Thought is the most powerful thing, which creates and also dissolves the world. It is a common experience for all of us that all our activities are first born at the level of thought. The thought is the seed of all human actions and achievements. The thought of God to manifest in form of multiple existences in order that the manifold existence may also enjoy the same state of bliss was thus the root cause of the entire creation. The sages and seers consider this world to have been created in accordance with the principle ‘Ekoaham-Mosyaam’ meaning thereby – ‘I am One, I should become many’. The Islamic tradition supports this in the famous Hadith; ‘I was a hidden treasure. I desired to be known and hence I created the world so that I should be known.’

The desire of God to manifest

The human mind cannot give any explanation for this desire of the God, the cause of all causes. Desires arise from imperfection, if something is wanting, for fulfilling the deficiency. But the God is Perfect; He is complete in Himself and does not depend upon anything. Why then this desire? This is what, which could be termed as His ‘Leela’.

This desire of God to manifest Itself as manifold existence to enjoy the same state of bliss acted as the Primordial Determination, the Cosmic Intelligence that reflects itself at all levels, in all the creatures, and is the root cause of the desire for all living beings to multiply and to constantly endeavor to seek happiness. Every creature in the universe desires to be happy and to multiply. Look at the trees. They flower and produce seeds. Seeds in turn produce trees and thus keep on multiplying. The same is true of all other creatures. They all long for procreation and happiness; no one wants to be unhappy or to undergo any sufferings.

A lot of philosophical discussion has taken place on the issue that since God was alone in the beginning of creation and since everything has originated from Him, therefore, everything that exists is also a form of God. The other viewpoint is that although everything has originated from God, but everything is not God; rather everything exists because of God. These viewpoints called by different names such as Advaidvad, Dvaivad, Vishishth Advaitvad and ‘Hamo-Ast’ o ‘Hamo-Aj-Ast’ by various Acharyas and Sufis are the creation of human mind and have given rise to various speculations. They appear to be different viewpoints initially on a cursory look but are, in fact, not different if one has realised the truth thereof. For example the sea is made of trillions and trillions of droplets of water, which exist together in the form of the sea. Seen from the viewpoint of the sea, every droplet in itself is the sea, but from the viewpoint of the droplet, its individual existence is that of a drop of water and not that of the sea. The reality, however, does not change whatever way one looks at it. The sea remains the sea whether one sees it as a conglomeration of droplets or the droplet as the part of the sea. The sea exists because the droplet exists and the droplet exists because the sea exists; the only difference is that while the sea is not dependant on the droplet, the droplet is dependent on the sea. It is the question of realisation. Separated from the sea the droplet acquires its separate entity as a droplet. When merged in the sea, it loses its separate identity and becomes one with the sea. Endowed with consciousness, if the droplet realises itself as the sea it is the sea, otherwise it is a droplet.

The desire of God to reveal Itself in the form of manifold existence in order that the manifold existence may also enjoy the same state of bliss constituted a two-dimensional plane. The two dimensions were constituted by the two aspects of God’s desire, the first aspect being to multiply i.e. to manifest in the form of manifold existence and the second aspect related to the state of bliss enjoyed by God to be enjoyed by the manifold existence. These two aspects were not unidirectional. The aspect of manifold existence required the One to manifest as many. Hitherto it was God alone; all by Itself, but the desire to manifest in the form of manifold existence involved the One to appear as many. This caused the manifold existence to have a feeling of separate identity, an existence of their own-self. The One became many and the manifold existence lost the feeling of oneness, wholeness, completeness and fullness. At the same time the other aspect of the desire of God was that the manifold existence should also enjoy the same state of bliss, which required that the manifold existence should realise its oneness, wholeness, completeness and fullness, as anything separated from its origin would always long for the unity and can become full of bliss only on removal of this feeling of separation. A piece of stone thrown in the sky rests at peace only on getting back to the earth to which it belongs. Similarly, a stream of water constantly endeavours to rush and reunite with the ocean, from where it originated. This is the universal law that one rests at peace only on regaining its original state, i.e. by reuniting with its origin.

This desire of the Divine, therefore, consisted of two opposing ends that of separation from the source and uniting back with the origin. This desire of the Divine was the Primordial Determination that reflects in and echoes in all the living beings. The entire creation, therefore, emulates this dual perception that arises from two opposing or mutually opposite complementarities. It is like a circle, which begins and ends at the same point. The point of beginning is the end of ending and the point of ending is the start of beginning. The two extremities thus originate from the same source but result in an expression of outward flow, which encompass within them the entire creation.

This two-dimensional desire of God constituted the first plane to receive the irradiations from the Absolute Truth in the form of a Marvellous Brilliance-the Supreme Consciousness that appeared instantly with the God’s desire to reveal Itself wherein was cast Its luminous image (known as the Sat Purush, the Adi Purush or Saguna Brahman) shining all around, which is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient and has all the qualities and attributes of God. The scriptures mention that being the Supreme Consciousness and the treasure house of all knowledge, God creates the world by Its mere thought, which reflects in the form of Cosmic Intelligence and sets in the process of creation. The Srimadbhagwat-Mahapuran in the Pratham Skandh (1st Section) Adhyay 3 (Chapter3) in Shloka 1 Verse 1) states that ‘in the beginning of the creation, God desired to create the universe and at once It revealed Itself in the form of the Adi Purush accompanied with ‘Mahtatva’ (‘Chitta’ or the faculty of thought) etc. at Its command.’

Similarly, it is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an: ‘God is the creator of all. It is He, who produced fire for you by rubbing the green trees (like the bamboo tree) and now you (the man) produce fire by rubbing its branches. Verily, the One, who created the skies and the earth, does not He command the power to bring them to life (the dead persons)? Why not! He is the creator of all and He is the Knower. Verily, when He intends a thing, His command is: Be! And it is. He is the Lord of all and everything will return to Him’-Qur’an, 36:79-83.  The Holy Bible also mentions similarly in the chapter Genesis.

The concept of Time in Hindu Mythology

The Hindu mythology strongly believes in the periodical creation and dissolution of the world. They believe that the universe is created and dissolved periodically by the action of Kaal (time). According to the Hindu scriptures, Brahma, the lord of creation, has a life span of one hundred divine years. One day of lord Brahma, known as a ‘Kalpa’, is equivalent to 4,32,00,00,000 years* of our earth time. Similarly the duration of the night of Brahma is also one Kalpa. Lord Brahma creates the universe in the beginning of every new Kalpa, which exists during the day and remains dissolved during the night of lord Brahma (Pralay). In that dissolved state it rests in Lord Brahma. During the periodical dissolution of the universe, however, the Prakriti (the Nature or Maya) and Kaal are not dissolved. Only at the time of Mahapralay i.e. at the end of the life span of lord Brahma, everything including the Prakriti and Kaal are dissolved in the Essence of all essences-the God, and the process of creation starts afresh, as a result of the desire of the God, as mentioned above.

(*Aryabhatta, a famous Indian philosopher and mathematician, has stated that in 10,80,000 years the planets make an integral number of revolution round the earth in the celestial sphere, which brings them all together in the same original position. This period corresponds to a Yuga. Four Yugas make one Chaturyuga equal to 43,20,000 years and one thousand Chaturyuga make up one Kalpa equal to 4,32,00,00,000 earth-years. Source-‘What Awaits Man in 2000 AD’ by Prof. M.K.Dave).

Concept of Brahman

In the context of creation, it would be interesting to note the meaning of the world “Brahman”. “Bruha” in the Sanskrit language means expanding and “Manan” means contemplation. Brahman thus means growing with thinking.     

In the context of the relationship of the Creator and the creation, i.e. the One manifesting as many, it would be apt to give an example of the Sun and its rays. The sunrays have all the attributes and characteristics of the sun. They have the warmth and the light but are dependent on the sun and exist with the sun. Further, the sunrays are invisible, they are seen on getting associated with the dust particles or when they fall on an object. The “Jeevatmas” (individual souls) are like sunrays, which are seen when they associate with a physical body.

It has been mentioned earlier that the universe has been created as God desired to create it. This desire of God, however, is the first illusion, the first veil, referred to as Adi-Maya in the Hindu scriptures. As mentioned earlier, the Srimadbhagwat-Mahapuran states that before the creation, there was only the God, the Soul of all souls. Neither there was anything to be seen, nor any seer. With Its desire to manifest in the form of manifold creation, It started to look around, but It did not see anything else, as It alone was shining all around and there was nothing else. This very faculty of differentiating the Seer from the seen was the first manifestation of the ‘Karya-Kaaranrupi Maya’ (the Adi-Maya in the form of cause and effect), with the help of which God created the world. In scientific terms this differentiation between the seer and the seen is called “relativity”. In other words the philosophical Maya is comparable to the relativity in modern science.

The philosophical saying of “Brahman satyam, Jagat mythyam” (God is Truth, the world is untruth) has to be understood from the relativity point of view. The “Jagat” (mortal world) is not myth. Truth cannot create anything which is untruth. In fact if this mortal world is untrue, there would have been no importance of “Karma” (action). The correct position is that everything is relative. By the time we finish this discussion, we would have travelled millions of miles in the space, since the earth, the solar system and the galaxy of which we are a part, all are moving at a tremendous speed in the space. Where we were a moment before in the space, we are not there the next moment.  Yet relatively with reference to our own surroundings, we are at the same place. The houses, towns, cities, rivers, oceans and mountains, all of them stand at the same place with reference to each other, although in absolute terms all this would not be at the same place in the space. A person located in space would see us moving, but we ourselves do not see so. This is what the relativity is.

Everything is changing every moment but in a short span of time, the change is not noticed. In fact the time and relativity are inter-connected. It is well known that atom and the sub-atomic particles all revolve around their own axis. The fundamental particle (i.e. the smallest sub-atomic particle) also revolves around its axis. The time taken by it in making one revolution around its axis is the fundamental unit of time. Every particle and even the celestial bodies have their own time. We are well aware of the moon-day, which is much smaller than a day on the earth. This revolution of the particle around its axis sets up the relativity. Since the particle revolves, for the viewer a change keeps on occurring continuously. It is the relationship between the seer (one who sees) and the seen, which sets in the field of relativity. This duality between the seer and the seen is the root-cause of relativity.

Maya is relativity

Thus what is philosophically called ‘Maya’ or the illusion, in fact is this relativity. Things are as they are, but different viewers see them differently depending upon their own relative position i.e. according to their individual perceptions. Maya does not mean falsehood or non-existence but anything and everything which is constantly changing and, therefore, causing an illusion. Since things keep on changing, they do not have permanence and hence they are called illusionary. The same things put differently or in different circumstances appear differently. The example of a fabric is apt to illustrate the nature of things. A piece of fabric is an arrangement of yarn. Yarn in turn is a combination of fibres and fibres are made of molecules and so on. At different stages they all look differently but their reality remains unchanged. It is the manifestation of the same fundamental existence in different forms that gives it different names and character and the viewer sees them differently.

At the level of consciousness, the field of relativity is set because of I-ness i.e. because of the feeling of ‘I’ and ‘you’; me and mine, you and yours. This duality of ‘I’ and ‘you’ is the most subtle level of relativity. Every person sees the whole world with his own perspective. He keeps himself at the centre of the whole world around him and relates everything to himself. All creatures thus see the entire existence from their own perspective and gain different impressions of the same event or happening. What is good for one becomes bad for the other and vice-versa, which gives rise to agony and suffering. But when this feeling of duality ceases to exist, one sees the same self acting in all living beings, which makes him realize the truth, i.e. confers on him the eligibility to penetrate the veil of relativity. It then makes him content and peaceful.

Here, two more things may be mentioned. One, the most prominent part of the human body, which establishes the individual identity, is his face. It is, however, not possible for anyone to see his own face. What he sees in a mirror is only a reflection of his face. He can see faces of all others but not his own. This is Maya. The second point is about the acceptance of Maya in the philosophical context. Here we wish to say that while living in the world, one cannot wish away Maya. It is Maya, which provides the means of living; even the saints and mahatmas cannot live without taking shelter of Maya. If, however, one takes refuge in Maya as a child, Maya being the mother introduces him to his father, the Creator. If, however, one wants to rule the Maya, as a husband rules his consort, he must possess the Aishwarya of God, otherwise the Maya would topple him down on his head.

Maya is both Avidya & Vidya

The Poorna or Wholeness of Brahman postulates that all three qualities, viz. Sattva, rajas & Tamas have emanated from Brahman. As a matter of fact there is nothing that cannot be sourced to Brahman. Since Brahman is both efficient and material cause of all that is created, It is immanent as much in Vidya as in Avidya, as much in light as in darkness, as much in Sattva as in Tamas. This being the absolute Truth, Vedanta does not recognize any sin or devil once both positive and negative forces are sourced to Brahman. This explains why Swami Vivekananda observed that the one who worshipped God as all good, worshipped one legged God. According to the Vedantic monk, God was all good and also all bad. This concept is best explained by the following mystical verse in Isha Upanishad:

Andham tamav prabishanti yehavidyamupasate I

Tato bhuya iba te tamo ya wu vidyayam rataav II – 9

[Those who pursue Avidya (materialistic pursuit dubbed as ignorance) plunge into darkness. But those who pursue only Vidya (spiritual pursuit) plunge into even greater darkness].

Even though the Isha Upanishad does not explain why a person pursuing only Vidya will plunge into greater darkness compared to the one who pursues Avidya, subsequent verses appear to suggest that Brahman being immanent in both Vidya and Avidya, unilateral pursuit of Vidya for realizing Brahman would expose the person to the risk of being thrown into greater darkness to realize the absolute Truth that Brahman is also in darkness.

 Veil of Maya can be lifted by the grace of a liberated Master

In Chapter VII, verse 14, Sri Krishna urges Arjuna to take refuge in Him so as to transcend Maya (refer Introduction above for citation). In Chapter XVIII, verse 66, Sri Krishna urges Arjuna once again to renounce all forms of rituals and to take refuge in Him alone, whereupon He will free him from all bondage (Sarva dharman parityajyam mamekam sharanam Braja).

In Mahabharata it is said that Shuk Deva by merely reading out Srimad Bhagvat Mahapuran to king Parikshit liberated his soul from the bondage of Maya. As the story goes, Shuk Deva was the only person apart from Sri Krishna, who was free from the shackles of Maya from the time of his birth as he was born on the condition that Maya would withdraw her spell at the moment of his birth.

Swami Vivekananda, while still a student and known as Narendra Nath, was agnostic and argumentative. On one of his visits to Dakshineswar, Calcutta, he in the company of a friend Hazra was mocking Sri Ramakrishna by describing the tea, the cup, the rasagolla (juicy sweet ball), him and Hazra as Brahman and laughing loudly when Sri Ramakrishna entered the room and just touched Narendra momentarily. That single momentary touch lifted the veil of Maya from the vision of young Narendra enabling him to see and feel that all the substances, including his own body, the tea, the cup, the consumables and the iron railings of a park in the neigbourhood were made of the same elements with no difference whatsoever. The said vision lasted with him for several days so as to make him realize the Upanishadic Truth hard way by the grace of his Master.

Baba Loknath Brahmachari, a well known saint of 19th century, when asked by a disciple how to get rid of Maya, explained that like a butterfly flew out of a caterpillar when the time was apt, a yearning soul could be liberated from its shell of bondage only when he was fit for such liberation.

Even great spiritual Masters may come under the spell of Maya momentarily, but a simple flicker of wisdom may render their souls ablaze to set them free from Maya. From the Lalita Vistara (Biography of Buddha) we know that though born as the saviour of mankind, Buddha forgot himself in the cushy, comfortable and luxurious life of the palace. Some angels roused him with a beautiful song conveying that we were floating down the river of life which was continually changing, ceaselessly and restlessly. Likewise, our lives were also flowing on without rest. What should we do?

Shankaracharya, the great Advaita Master, also came under the spell of Maya for a short while when he trans-migrated his soul to the body of a dead king to acquire the knowledge of Kusumastra-sastram (art of love between the sexes). This was necessitated by the challenge of Ubhay-Bharati, the enlightened wife of Mandana Mishra, in a debate on that subject, unknown to a monk like him. Mandana had earlier lost to Shankara in a debate on the Vedas and consequently was required to renounce the house-hold life. As a wife was considered to be ardhangini (half of the husband’s self), Ubhay-Bharati insisted that Shankara ought to debate and defeat her as well before enforcing his terms on Mandana, more so when renunciation of house-hold life by her husband was going to directly affect her. Shankara asked for a month’s time to acquire proficiency in that branch of knowledge. He transmigrated his soul from the body by Yoga and entered the body of a king, just dead. When a month had lapsed and Shankara did not return to his former body, his disciples travelled to the court of the resurrected king and sang from Moha-mudgar (Liberation from delusion), the famous composition of Shankara himself, to awaken him to his real self.

Maya & Science

Stephen Hawking, the noted physicist in his The Grand Design has concluded that “it is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.” The reason for drawing that inference is that “there is a law like gravity” which helps the universe create itself from nothing, i.e. from a plank size, a billion-trillion-trillionth of a centimetre to an astronomical size, as if a coin 1 centimetre in diameter suddenly blew up to ten million times the width of the Milky Way.

The Vedantic concept of creation of the universe from Brahman in form of a subtle, sentient, core element to vast universes almost in no time, driven by Its desire of being manifold, is factually not distinctive from above-said finding of the physicists, except for the element of choice. But the above finding of science has a striking similarity with the Vedantic postulate that Brahman is without action. In other words, Brahman does not interfere in worldly affairs, either in outer cosmos of physical forces or in inner cosmos of consciousness, and both the areas are left entirely to Prakriti (nature) or Maya.

The inner cosmos clearly falls outside the ambit of physicists. Nevertheless, interestingly Hawking finds it impossible to conclude whether human beings have a choice in their action or all their actions are programmed by equations and interactions of about a thousand trillion trillion particles. Science as of now is unable to solve exactly the equation for three or more particles interacting with each other.

The other interesting finding of the physicists is that the expanding universes are like the surface of bubbles of steam in boiling water. Many tiny bubbles appear and collapse. A few of little bubbles, however, grow large enough, continuing to expand at an ever increasing rate, corresponding to universes, till they finally collapse. In other words, none of the universes or particles for that matter is permanent. Their comparison with bubbles is strikingly similar to the concept of Maya according to which this phenomenal world is transient, very much like bubbles that expand and collapse time and again.

CONCLUSION

In relation to Maya, the following pertinent questions have been addressed by the participants:

  1. Does Maya in Vedantic philosophy stand for illusion, or real, or neither real nor unreal but a fact of life limited to our understanding with our five senses?
  2. Is Brahman, the Mayin, the efficient cause, or the material cause, or both, in relation to all Its creation?
  3. Is Maya an evil or an unavoidable necessity to live with?
  4. How can one liberate self from the bondage of Maya?

As for the first question, given the fact that the Maya pervades outer cosmos of our mortal world as well as inner cosmos of our mental world (including mind, intellect and ego), it would not be correct to reject Maya as unreal and illusory. More so when Karma (action) in this mortal world is given so much importance for our prarabdh (destiny) or liberation, as the case may be. It is, however, true that our mortal existence cannot be taken as absolute truth given the fact that our body cannot be mistaken for soul, and that the departing of our soul from the body cannot be taken for our death as the soul never dies. Hence, our mortality is a misnomer. From this point of view, our transient existence in this mortal world cannot be taken as real given that we are ignorant of our real self, or SOHAHAM (I AM He). Be that as it may, as a butterfly cannot say that the caterpillar is unreal, a self-realized soul cannot also brush aside his mortal existence as unreal. So long as realization does not dawn on him that he is not his mortal self, his mortal existence is real for him. As soon as he is able to unite with Brahman, the veil of Maya is lifted, and his mortal self becomes unreal.

As for the second question, we have reasonably concluded, following the Vedanta, that Brahman is both efficient cause as also the material cause of ITS entire creation in view of the Vedantic postulate that in the beginning there was nothing except Brahman and the entire creation was by way of evolution of Brahman as IT desired so. This desire to become manifold makes Brahman the efficient cause. As the creation was evolved out of Brahman, IT became the material cause in the sense that in every particle/soul Brahman is immanent. The concept of Tat Tvam Asi (Thou art That), expounded in Chhandogya Upanishad by sage Uddalak to his son Shvetaketu would validate above proposition.

As to the third question, Maya is often denounced and denigrated as an obstacle on the path of our spiritual progress. This is because Maya, as opposed to Yoga, draws a person toward materialistic world. The pursuit of Yoga on the other hand takes one away from the spell of Maya toward Brahman or Pure Consciousness. However, the fact remains that Maya or Prakriti is created by Brahman or Pure Consciousness, and it would be repugnant to logic to even suggest that Impure can come out of Pure Consciousness. Obviously, therefore, our conclusion is that Maya, though not an absolute Truth, should be accepted as relative truth in our spiritual quest and should not be denounced or denigrated as impure or evil.

As for the fourth and last question, the Vedanta/Gita prescribes complete equanimity as the key to liberation from the bondage of Maya. Just as all creation and motion come to standstill in the state of dissolution when all three Gunas, viz. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas come to perfect equilibrium, the above principle very much applies to an individual soul as well in its state of liberation. The soul gets liberated from the cycle of birth and death when its all three Gunas come to perfect equilibrium. This is possible only when the soul has equipoise toward all material comforts and sufferings, happiness and sorrow, success and failure, victory and defeat, insult and accolade, friends and foes, riches and poverty, sin and piety, good and evil etc. Such equipoise pre-supposes conquest of ego. Automatically, in that event the binding knots of the three Gunas loosen, setting the soul free from the bondage of Maya.

The grace of a spiritual Master or the Divine is the only other means by which a soul is able to transcend the Maya.

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Destiny and Karma

(Interactive session on 18.5.2013)
Keynote address by Ms. Suryakanthi Tripathi
(Other participant speakers: Ms.Valsa Abraham, Dr. Kalyan Kr. Chakravarty, Mr. S.R. Das, P.C. Jha, Asim Banerjee, R.K. Gupta, Paritosh Bandopadhyay, A. K.Segupta, Dr. Santosh Ganguly & Dr. Suhas Majumdar.
Anchor & conclusive remarks: Asish K. Raha)
Introduction:

The term ‘Destiny’ going by its plain dictionary meaning implies fate that is pre-ordained, while the term ‘Karma’ (Sanskrit word) means ‘action’. The question is whether our action is partly, largely or wholly pre-destined or the other way round, i.e. that our Karma determines our destiny, and hence our karma is not pre-destined. Before we examine the above apparently conflicting propositions, let us understand what Karma is and what we mean by Destiny.

Doctrine of Karma:

The doctrine of Karma explains life in terms of the past, present and the future. Now the question is – does Karma deny freedom of will? Does it deny self-determination? Before we search for an answer to those questions, we must address the other core question whether the causes of action can be found within the narrow limits of a single life. The Karma doctrine postulates Samsara or the continued existence of the self in a succession of lives. Hence, transmigration of souls (with subtle or astral bodies) becomes a corollary to the doctrine of Karma.
Karma may be moral, immoral or amoral. The principle of causality governs every action as well as its result or effect. In other words, every action has some potency to ordain for a person joy or sorrow or neutral effect, according to the quality, intent and circumstances of the action, and adds to his or her bondage to mortal existence or destiny.
As our Karma or actions determine our destiny, can we be called the creators of our destiny, even while being subject to the destiny that we have created? To address this question, we have to appreciate the symbiotic interface between our Destiny and Karma. This is theorized as Prarabdh Karma in Sanskrit, meaning ‘earned by our past Karma’. There are two components of Prarabdh Karma – fixed and variable. The fixed component includes family, environment, body etc. of the transmigrated soul in his new mortal life, while the variable component is latent in the child in form of habits, qualities, aptitude, tendencies, abilities etc. called Samskara in Sanskrit, which can be positive or negative. The variable components can be further cultivated, nourished or overcome by free will. The Samskara is the baggage or residual impressions of past lives that largely determine/influence the character of the individual. It is a revolving chain.

Destiny written on forehead – the locus of Third Eye:

There is a widespread belief in India that at the moment of birth or on the 6th night after the birth, Lord Brahma (not Brahman), one of the Hindu Trinity, comes to write the destiny of the new-born on its forehead, on a bone chip in-between the eyebrows, where the Third Eye is believed to be located. This writing on the forehead, which is unchangeable, is called Phalalikhita in Sanskrit. It is also believed that the tiny, flat bone chip (called Asthi) on which the destiny is written/programmed on the new-born’s forehead remains un-scathed by fire while the whole body (except the navel) gets reduced into ashes after cremation. As per the prevailing custom among the Hindus, Asthi and navel are immersed in the holy river after the body is cremated. It is only when the Third Eye gets opened through deep meditation that the subject can access all the information stored therein, which includes his past lives, present circumstances and future events.

Analysis of Karma:

Karma or Action has two components, a physical component and a mental component. Similarly action can be voluntary and non-voluntary. Certain actions are involuntary such as breathing, which is a need associated with all the living creatures. On the other hand a mental action is associated with all voluntary actions, which is known as the intention. In other words while mental actions involve mind alone, voluntary physical actions involve both the mind and the body. Physical actions being good or bad depends upon the fact whether they benefit others or hurt them. Good or bad intention depends upon the fact whether the intention is to help others or it is one’s self interest. Actions can, thus, be divided into four categories and the doers accordingly are known as angels, human beings, ignorant and devils respectively:
Where the intention and the action both are good,
Where the intention is good but the action is bad,
Where the intention is bad but the action is good, and
Where the intention and the action both are bad.
An example of good intention but bad action is forcing others to follow a particular religion and even killing in the name of religion. An example of bad intention but good deed is to do charity with ulterior motive.
Ego is often inseparable from action. Desires which arise from imperfection co-exist with ego. The bondage resulting from one’s actions prompted by desire can be broken only by shunning desire. The Srimadbhagwat Gita in chapter 3 states that one who outwardly restrains the organs of senses and action but dwells mentally on them is a pretender. On the other hand, one who exercises control over the organs of action and senses by the mind and engages oneself in the performance of duties without attachment is a superior being. Going a step further, the Gita clarifies that a self-contented person has no desire and, therefore, his/her action does not lead to bondage of soul.
Every human being has three layers of consciousness, namely, the gross or the physical whereby the being indentifies self by a name, surroundings and qualification, the subtle or the mental which is deathless and nameless and the causal which is supra-consciousness or God (refer chapter 15 of Gita). At the first level of consciousness, action is governed and prompted by ego, while at the second level, mind is able to discriminate good from evil, truth from untruth, and rises above self-interest. At the third and final level, the individual consciousness gets merged in Supra-consciousness or God.
The man alone has been given freedom of action; other creatures do not enjoy this freedom. They, rather, bear the reward or punishment of action. Even the higher creatures like angels do not have the freedom of action. Although they may enjoy the pleasures of the heaven, they cannot make further spiritual progress and have to take birth again as human beings after their Punya Karmas (the reward for good deeds) are exhausted. The man alone has the capability, through his actions, to acquire divinity or degrade to the level of beasts and other lower creatures. After going through the reward or punishment for the actions, it is open for the man to make effort again for liberation and attain the supreme goal of self-realization.
Every person has an aura around him and the impression of action is stored in the aura to be borne at an appropriate time. In fact it is the sum total of actions, desires and thoughts that is stored in the aura. The colours present in the aura around every person keep on changing constantly depending upon their actions. With the Satvik (pure) actions, the aura turns very bright and golden. Rajoguni actions (indulgence in fulfilling desires) turn it to red and with Tamoguni (deluded) actions the aura becomes black. The shades present in one’s aura keep on changing with different intensities of thoughts and desires. The colours present in the aura as a result of one’s deeds do not disappear till one bears the fruit of his action. After bearing the brunt of one’s deeds, one becomes purified and acquires capability of making spiritual progress, provided one does not indulge again in evil deeds. The aura not only indicates the fall or rise of the one to whom it belongs, but also influences others associated with him. The peace one experiences in the company of great persons and saints is mainly because of the influence of their aura that cleanses the mind of the visitors. The aura around saints is very bright and golden in colour, with that around head being more intense than the other parts of the body. With the spiritual progress, first the aura becomes light and as the ego and desires vanish, the aura intensifies, and gradually a bright light alone is left. Similarly, vicious people also have their influence on others.

Destiny or Prarabdh:

Outcome of actions is divided into three categories, i.e. the Sanchit Karma (accumulated deeds), Prarabdh (destiny) and Kriyaman (current actions). The Sanchit Karmas are the impressions of good or bad deeds, which are accompanying the soul from time immemorial. Prarabdh is that part of Sanchit Karmas which is to be borne in the present life. One has no control over Prarabdh and has necessarily to undergo the same, except that the realized saints or Spiritual Masters through their grace may lighten/reduce if not eliminate the effects of Prarabdh. Kriyaman Karmas are the current actions, performed in the present life; the fruit of some of which may be borne in this life itself and the balance are accumulated as Sanchit Karma to be borne in future at the appropriate time.
Apparent contradiction between Destiny and Karma:
There seems to be an apparent contradiction in the theory of action, as on the one hand it has been said that the man has freedom of action and on the other hand he is said to be bound by his past deeds or Prarabdh. This apparent contradiction, however, can be explained through an example of a running car. The running car acquires the momentum, which to some extent guides its direction and speed. The driver, however, has control over the accelerator, steering wheel and the brake. He can change the direction and speed of the car in a gradual manner, but if he applies the brakes or changes the direction suddenly, there are chances of accident and damage.
In the above example the momentum of the car is the Prarabdh, and the controls at the command of the driver are the current actions over which he enjoys freedom through his intellect and wisdom. By his current actions, therefore, one can gradually change the direction and the speed. Subject to this limitation, it is in his hands to choose his path. At times we come across examples of fast moving cars changing their direction by 180 degrees (i.e. complete reversal) on applying sudden brakes. These are the examples of people like Balmiki and Angulimal, who turned into great saints from an earlier life of heinous crimes, as a result of sudden realisation of the gravity of their misdeeds and taking a vow to be on the right path with firm determination.

Comparison with computer:

The human body can be compared to a computer, where the physical body is the hardware, the mind is the CPU and the ‘Indriyas’ (sense organs) is the operating system. Sanchit Karma and Prarabdh are the data stored in Asthi, or the computer chip, popularly known as the Third Eye, located in-between the eyebrows on the forehead. The password to access the data relating to the past, present and the future is stored in the depth of consciousness of every individual and the same can be retrieved through deep meditation only. Interestingly, this password is not unique but common to all individuals as it is believed that a person, who has retrieved this password, can read the destiny and the past of all others through his Third Eye. The actions are like new programs written by using the same operating system that get stored in the same chip, viz. the Third Eye.

Philosophical texts on Karma & Destiny:

Upanishads make a clear distinction between Vidya (spiritual knowledge) and Avidya (non- spiritual knowledge), Sat or Ultimate Truth meaning God/Brahman and Asat or Maya meaning illusory/transitory existence. When one attains realization of the Ultimate Truth or God/Brahman then Karma (action) and Prarabdh (destiny) disappear and the person becomes liberated from the cycle of birth and death.
Awareness of bondage is necessary to inspire one to make quest for freedom. Karma provides necessary means for instilling this awareness. When Arjun asked Sri Krishna whether a deluded person fallen from spiritual path would not get ruined for ever like a scattered cloud (ref. verse 38 of chapter 6 of the Gita), Sri Krishna replied that far from being ruined, such person would be re-born in the house of either a pious or a wealthy person, endowed with the wisdom of his previous life so that he could strive more than before for attaining liberation (refer verses 40 to 43 ibid). In chapter 9 of the Gita, while dwelling upon the Raja Yoga, Sri Krishna mentioned how a pleasure-seeking pious soul after enjoying the fruits of its Karma in celestial world returned to earth and thus went through the cycle of life and death (refer verse 21 of chapter 9).
The Buddhists while analyzing the effects of good (kusala) and evil (akusala) held that the former were more powerful than the latter (refer Milinda panha 3.7.7). The said text further states that the evil karma has limited potentiality and, therefore, it matures quickly and dies quickly. Consequently whereas good deeds may fructify in subsequent lives of an individual, evil deeds may fructify in this life itself (refer Milinda panha 4.8.24-29).

Conflicting views on re-incarnation, soul & God:

While Sri Krishna claimed to remember all his past lives (refer verse 5 of chapter 4 of the Gita), Gautam Buddha claimed to remember his 500 previous births. Jesus Christ mentioned that John the Baptist in his previous birth was St. Elijah who was initiated by Jesus in his previous incarnation. He further claimed that he was in existence even before Abraham. The Christians, however, do not subscribe to the theory of re-incarnation as they are not able to reconcile re-incarnation with the rising of all the dead souls with their respective bodies on the ‘Day of Judgment’ for determination by God whether they would be destined to heaven or hell perpetually. Only the concept of one-soul-one-body and not the same soul with multiple bodies fits into the postulate certainty of the Judgment Day.
Socrates and Plato believed in re-incarnation according to one’s Karma.
The Hindus and the Buddhists look upon life as an opportunity for attaining emancipation (Moksha or Nirvana) from the bondage of material longing or attachments. Even though Hindu concept of soul (referred to as Atman) may not be accepted by the Buddhists on the ground that Buddha himself did not mention anything to suggest its existence, the fact remains that the Buddhists accept the phenomenon of re-incarnation. The Charvaka School of materialistic thought among the Hindus, however, was the protagonists of ‘no soul, no re-birth, no God and one single life’. Hence the prescription of sage Charvaka was: “Jabojjibet sukham jibet, Rhinam kritva Ghritam Pibet” (Merrily live as long as you can; borrow money, if need be, to taste butter).
The weakness of the single life theory is that it does not distinguish physical from the mental, the body from the consciousness, simply holding that the mind dies with the body, and there is no existence of consciousness outside the body. The overwhelming evidence of Samskara with which a person is born is wholly overlooked or ignored. Spiritual experiences of the Yogis and the recorded versions of spiritual masters are also rejected by the Charvaka school for lack of direct evidence. Purely from a practical point of view, believer of a ‘single life & no soul’ would tend to be aggressively selfish, egoistic and corrupt, their motto in life being self-gratification at all costs. On the contrary, the theory of Prarabdh creates a sense of accountability in a person from the belief that for his or her wrong deeds he or she is bound to suffer, if not in this life, in the next life or in more than one life depending on the gravity of the action or the harm caused to others. Even those who do not believe in re-incarnation but believe in accountability of the soul to God on the Judgment Day creates a sense of moral compulsion on the individual to act ethically so as not to suffer incarceration in hell after death. Once we accept that one does not die with one’s physical death and that one reaps the fruit of one’s action, the single life theory fails to explain why a man without any past Karma or Prarabdha is born in a beggar’s family while another in a royal family. In other words, if we discard the theory of Prarabdha we have no reasonable explanation for apparent discrimination made by God in sending one to a royal/affluent/saintly parents and another to a poor/criminal/lecherous parents.

Theory of Everything:

The physicists like Stephen Hawking do not consider it necessary to look for a God to explain the mystery of the universe that includes Big Bang Theory, ‘M’ Theory, God Particles that have been largely explained as also other unresolved mysteries. Though it is true that the scientists at present are unable to explain all the phenomena, as they are still exploring the truth, they are confident that one day they would find out the Theory of Everything to unravel the entire mystery of creation not only of the numberless universes but also of the living beings. As of now, the ‘M’ theorists claim to have seen the shadow of the Lion, if the Lion is taken for ‘The Theory of Everything’.
According to Spiritual Masters like Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo, the Theory of Everything is embodied by God/Brahman. God has been likened by Swami Vivekananda to the core element in chemical science, after knowing which, nothing else is left to be known. Sri Aurobindo, on the other hand has described God as the Supramental or Super-mind. Once you know the Supramental, you have known everything. The approach of science is essentially inductive, as they proceed on the basis of experiments and empirical experiences from particular to general truth, while the approach of the spiritual seekers is deductive, as they strive to know God first and thereafter entire mystery of creativity unfolds itself to them. The Spiritual Masters of all religions, except Lord Buddha who did not dwell upon God, have depicted God/Brahman as the Supreme Consciousness (a combination of Sat, Chit & Anand called Sachchidanand). If the Theory of Everything as postulated by science is a source of our collective consciousness, there is no difficulty in taking it as synonymous with God/Brahman, and the theories of Karma & Destiny would fall in place as a logical corollary of a conscious, orderly and harmonious system.
According to oriental mystics, the key to all the mysteries of the universes and end to end information from the Creation to the Dissolution lies in the Third Eye. Does it contain the elusive inputs of the ‘Theory of Everyting’ that the scientists have been searching for?

Can the Destiny be changed?

There are instances suggesting that Spiritual Masters can change the destiny of individuals either by absorbing a part of their Prarabdh or by reducing the effects thereof to render the same bearable.
The other way to change the destiny is by absolute/total surrender to God in whatever form one conceives IT. In that event, the desire, ego and the self melt away and the Karma becomes selfless. The rope of desire & ego that binds a person slackens and the Prarabdh attached to such person slowly disentangles, setting him/her free. The path of total surrender, however, is an extremely difficult terrain and very rarely we hear of such persons who have completely conquered ego.

Is Karma pre-destined?

Nani Palkhivala, an eminent jurist of India, has narrated an anecdote (refer ‘Are we masters of our fate?’ by Nani Palkhivala, vide Rediff Special) that strengthened his belief in pre-destination. The anecdote was as follows:
After the Allahabad High Court decided to set aside the election of Indira Gandhi to parliament in June 1975, Palkhivala argued her appeal and application for interim relief in Supreme Court on 23rd June, 1975 and secured an interim order next day from Justice Krishna Iyer whereby she could continue to sit in the Lok Sabha and also continue to be the Prime Minister till the final disposal of her appeal. Same evening Palkhivala boarded Bombay flight when the passenger sitting next enquired how the arguments went in the court. When he briefly told him how it went, the said passenger cited an astrologer in Bangalore to tell him that Madam would lose the case and thereafter she would become the most powerful woman in the world. That power would last till March, 1977, and thereafter Madam would land in jail. All those predictions, incredible as it seemed at that time, eventually came to be true. With the declaration of Emergency on June 26, 1975, Indira Gandhi became the most powerful woman in the world, and her power lasted till March, 1977, and she was also imprisoned thereafter, as predicted by the astrologer. Incidentally, though Palkhivala argued the case of Ms. Gandhi in Allahabad High Court and Supreme Court, he opposed Emergency tooth and nail.
From the above anecdote, the question that arises for determination is whether the declaration of Emergency by Ms. Gandhi was pre-destined or it was her Karma for which she was accountable.
The following inferences drawn by Nani Palkhivala from his personal experiences including the above anecdote are pertinent in the above context:
“First, I believe that the basic pattern of an individual’s or a nation’s life is pre-determined.
Secondly, very few individuals have the gift of clairvoyance to foresee what is predetermined.
Thirdly, guidance is sometimes vouch-safed to receptive human beings by means for which there is no scientific explanation.
Fourthly, I do believe in the existence of free will but that again is within pre-ordained parameters. To my mind, the simplest analogy to the case we are talking about is that of a dog on a long leash — the dog has the freedom to move about as far as the leash permits, but not beyond.”
Going by the example of dog and its movement to the extent the leash permits, one may be led to conclude that Ms. Gandhi’s Declaration of Emergency on June 26, 1975 was pre-determined by Destiny with very little scope for flexibility or discretion. Therefore, her decision to declare Emergency was forced upon her by Destiny.
We find it difficult to accept the above proposition, even while accepting the anecdote as factually correct. If we accept the dog and leash analogy, it leaves very little discretion with an individual to do his/her Karma in any given circumstances, and, therefore, the liability incurred in terms of Prarabdh for one’s Karma itself becomes questionable in all conceivable situations. In the given anecdote, while we accept that Ms. Gandhi’s situation and circumstances were programmed by Destiny, the Declaration of Emergency was certainly not. It was surely her own decision and her Karma for which she was accountable.

CONCLUDING REMARKS:

Srimadbhagwat Gita happens to address the following two core questions most logically:
1) Whether one has the discretion or right to Karma in any given situation or whether the Karma itself is pre-destined.
2) What are the causes of action?
As for the first question, the Gita answers:
“Karmanye adhikaraste ma faleshu kadachana” (verse 47, chapter2), meaning that you have the right for action alone, and not the result. By implication, the result of our action comes in form of destiny, which is a continuing process, resulting from our past and present Karma. In other words, destiny is not in our hands. Thus despite lots of efforts and endeavour, one may fail, while another person by a sheer stroke of luck may succeed. This apparently inexplicable phenomenon is often explained away by luck factor. The Upanishads and the Gita on the contrary explain that as Prarabdh (the fruit of past actions).
The ‘Adhikar’ used in relation to Karma in the above verse makes it amply clear that every individual has a right of action and a clear choice for it. His action is not pre-determined or pre-destined.
As for the second poser, the answer of the Gita is contained in verse 14 of chapter 18 wherein it is stated that for every action there may be following five causes: 1) the body (without which no action is possible), 2) the ego (which enthrones itself in the body), 3) the five sense organs and their powers (eyes for sight, ears for hearing, nose for smell, tongue for taste and skin for touch) together with 5 instruments of action viz. power of speech, hands, feet, rectal and genital organs with mind and intelligence as the guide , 4) various activities performed by individuals, and 5) Destiny which is self-created. Thus it will be seen that Destiny’s role as just one of the five causes of action or Karma is mathematically one-fifth. However, the result of action or Karma is entirely determined by Destiny or Prarabdh.

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Miracles & Science

Miracles and Science
(interactive session on 12.4.2013)
Keynote address by Ms. Sharmila Bhawal
(Other participant speakers: Smt.Sikha Majumdar, Smt.Kalyani Chakrabarti, S/Shri P.C.Jha, R.K.Gupta,Ranjan Chatterjee, Ramesh Chanda,Paritosh Bandopadhyay, Ashok Sengupta & Dr. Suhas Majumdar.
Anchor & conclusive remarks: Asish K.Raha)

Miracles and Science, one would think, are ideally antithetical or mutually exclusive in
scientific parlance as by definition—

• Miracles are: extraordinary and welcome events inexplicable by natural and scientific laws, generally attributed to divine intervention

AND

• Science is an intellectual and practical activity involving the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation, hypotheses and experiment…which is to say that the twain shall never meet! But the key note speaker’s contention was that though the two seemed to be strange bed fellows, in reality they were quite inseparable. When we saw them as disparate it was more to do with our perspective and perhaps blinkered vision rather than the absence of a liaison between the two.

2. The speaker gave an example of her first encounter with miracle through an Enid Blyton book—The Mountain of Aventure where an anthropologist used the phenomenon of eclipse to ensure the release of his family, kidnapped by a faction of the Aymaran tribe of Mt. Andes on the west coast of South America. The scientist exploited the ritualistic worship of Inti, the Sun God, by the primitive Aymaran tribe to pass the solar eclipse & its subsequent emergence in its resplendent glory for a miracle, so as to set his family free from the scared tribe. While the tribesmen cheered at the miraculous reappearance of the Sun, the anthropologist thanked his almanac which had listed the solar eclipse! What was miracle to one was a mere scientific phenomenon to another…

3. The speaker further related a newspaper article about a Hathayogi Baba who could perform miracles including return from apparent death!. A study was planned to check the veracity of his claims that his BMR, pulse and heart rate, etc. were minimal by his will due to his meditative powers. The yogi was wired to machines to monitor his vital parameters before, while and after the experiment, as he was sealed in a casket and buried in soil. His vital parameters fell enough to declare him clinically dead for practically the whole day and towards dusk the rates improved till he came to the state of deep sleep. When the hathyogi was let out of the casket he explained that Hathayoga believed that one had a limited number of breaths and the slower one breathed, the longer he would live…So a hathayogi is trained to breathe so slowly that his BMR drops, so does the consumption of oxygen to a minimal level so that the available air in the casket lasts much longer than one would expect it to! Was it a miracle or a scientific feat?

4. Miracles associated with highly revered souls such as Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Kabir, Shirdi Sai Baba, Guru Nanak and Jesus, were discussed where a look, a touch & a word from these enlightened souls was enough to heal the long suffering individuals… REIKI, Sanjeevani, Shambhavi healing etc. source the Universal Life Force Energy and channelise it to the ailing organs and tissues OR activate the life force energy within the individual. Science and sceptics accord these forms of healing grudging respect and dub them as alternate healing…Science has been unable to disprove the visible healing effect but has not been able to furnish explanations as to how!

5. References to Ram Thakur, Shirdi Sai Baba and Guru Nanak who transcended the barriers of this three dimensional world, were seen at two different places simultaneously. Guru Nanak is believed to have given ‘darshan’ to his distant devotees while remaining seated elsewhere among his disciples. Such transmigration of souls is also seen in reincarnation, during planchette sessions through ‘mediums’ or in séances where souls are believed to come from the other world to answer queries. These are phenomena which are evident to senses and yet defy scientific explanations.

6. The moot questions that were thrown open to the house were—do we refuse the existence of miracles whenever science offers no plausible explanation? Is the lack of scientific justification a proof of the limitations of Science or that one needs to expand one’s mind beyond the physical plane? Can the gulf between miracles and Science be bridged?

7. In response, many participants exchanged personal experiences or anecdotes of miracles that defied scientific explanations such as: a son declared dead came back to life in corroboration of his 17 year-old mother’s statement that Allah had assured her so; a chance glance of a stray advertisement on cancer worked as a reminder to visit a friend in the last throes of cancer; a disciple initiated into meditation by his Guru (Master) in a cave experienced his past life vision which on verification was found to be true; a distant healer able to see the condition and nature of illness of an unknown patient; a backache being cured by the healing white light; three cholera victims lying dead but one of them having a vision of her Guru asking her to enter the body as she had works to finish…(that individual is now 85 and still alive); an accident patient lives on after the clots from his feet travelled to his lungs but not to his heart or brain, only to meet with a second accident when his head hit a window screen to shatter it without any haemorrhage to his brain; a mother while lying in ICCU in a hospital at Calcutta visits a close person in Madras etc., etc.

8. Miracles were also related to occult science prevalent all over the world, and known to all known religions, be it Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Sikhism, Jaina etc. Many a time, such occult power has been castigated as black magic or witchcraft. In India, however, occult power has been recognized as a science and has been sourced to Atharva Veda and has been variously described as Tantra, Samudrik Vidya, Hatha Yoga, Aghor Vidya, Kriya Yoga etc. Those adept in that science are able to perform feats that are not normally attributable to human power, such as transmigration of soul, entering into another person’s body, connecting and communicating with dead souls as also other species, seeing the future, curing an otherwise incurable patient, reviving a dead person and casting spell or spelling doom of a person(s) etc.

9. According to many thinkers like Sri Aurobindo, a miracle is an event when a force from another level of consciousness impacts the physical world. Since the laws of the vital or mental or various levels of the spiritual world are different from that of the physical world, unusual or miraculous events take place. We get example of such miracles in the stories connected with séance, ghosts (spirits), telepathy, clairvoyance (prakamya or vyapti) which have been discussed by Swami Vivekananda in his book ‘Power of Mind’. ‘Surya Vigyan’ (Solar Science) and ‘Gyan Ganj’ (Abode of Wisdom) authored by Gopinath Kabiraj and the Autobiography of a Yogi authored by Swami Yogananda dwell upon the science of miracles to a large extent. While in Surya Vigyan the science of conversion of a substance from one form into another has been elaborately discussed, Swami Yogananda has explained the science of transmigration of soul when an awakened soul can drive the atoms & sub-atoms of his/her mortal body in the speed higher than that of light to configure and manifest at a place of his/her choice. Like-wise, God or the Super Mind can bring about a genetic engineering in a human to survive under water like a fish.

10. According to M-theory protagonists like Stephen Hawking, there may be as many as 10 to the power of 500 universes, each with its own laws. But it is not necessary to invoke God to set the universe going (ref. Grand Design – Stephen Hawking). What constitutes the true miracle, according to Hawking, is that abstract logic leads to a unique theory that predicts and describes a vast universe full of the amazing variety that we see. The phenomena like ‘Big Bang’ that exploded the cosmic egg and created as many as 10 to the power of 500 universes from a super-dense point mass, the speed of expansion of the universes at the time and temperature of radiation at 10 to the power of 32 degrees, attribution of creation of matter and gravity to vibration in the string that pervades through 12 dimensional universes conceived by the M-theorists, appear no less than a miracle. Although there may be an explanation as to how it all happened, we have no answer as yet as to why it did happen. That surely brings us to the possible existence of a super-conscious force/entity behind the Grand Design of creativity, who may be called a ‘Grand Designer’. This explains why Kepler in 16th century was convinced that God had created the universe according to some perfect mathematical principle; and Newton showed that the laws that applied in the heavens applied on earth; and Einstein posed to his assistant Ernst Straus “Did God have any choice when he created the universe?”

Conclusion:

Although there has been considerable research in material, particle and genetic sciences, there has not been enough objective research in science of mind/consciousness. The latter has been largely left to the domain of sages, yogis and saints on one hand and psychologists and psychiatrists on the other. Conceptually, there is a major difference between scientific research and spiritual quest in that the former does not dwell upon the possibility of existence of ‘Universal Consciousness’ or ‘Super mind’ as a factor behind the creation or evolution of the universe while the latter finds it as the ultimate cause. Ex nihilo nihil fit, meaning ‘nothing comes out of nothing’ is a well-accepted scientific postulate. In light of the above postulate, physicists need to extend their research to the domain of consciousness to find the ultimate source of individual consciousness, including their own. In the process, they might discover an altogether new dimension of consciousness that may turn out to be the ultimate cause of our entire creation/evolution. Till then, the ‘Theory of Everything’ that eluded Einstein but claimed to have been somewhat traced in M-theory by Hawking can continue to be researched into to find an acceptable scientific explanation for all the miracles that remain till date in the domain of mind and consciousness.

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Rituals and Superstitions

[This is a documentation of the interactive session on Rituals and Superstitions held on 29.03.13 in New Delhi.]

We had an interesting interaction session on 29th March at our C.R. Park residence in Delhi on a contentious topic: ‘Rituals & superstition’. Our monthly interaction sessions on subjects/topics that are entirely apolitical, and predominantly spiritual (not religious), commenced in October, 2008 with only 12 participants to begin with. In the last session, the number of participants was 31.

Smt. Subhra Banerjee initiated the talk with several instances from the life of Ma Sarada, the consort of Sri Ramakrishna, to drive home the point that mind should be free from caste prejudices and all kinds of superstitions that tended to discriminate and humiliate fellow beings. Smt. Sikha Majumdar endorsed the above view, pointing out that we perpetrated several rituals blindly without applying our mind. Sradh ceremony came up for scrutiny in this connection. Smt. Mitali Ghosh particularly referred to Kumbh bath by several millions of devotees, she being one of them, posing a query whether Kumbh bath was a meaningful ritual or a superstition based on blind faith. Answering the query with reference to various philosophical texts including Vedas, Upanishads and Buddhist texts, Dr. Kalyan Chakravarty explained that certain rituals such as Kumbh bath or Sradh ceremony could not be dismissed as superstitious just because lay people did not find any satisfactory explanation for such rituals. Spiritual and metaphysical phenomena had to be understood at a different level of perception and logic. Smt Kabita Chanda was in favour of rational approach rather than blind observance of mundane rituals in our daily chores while Smt Kalyani Chakrabarti was also against blindly following any ritual that did not appeal to one’s conscience.

Shri P. C Jha emphasized that blind faith in God or any rituals such as Kumbh bath made one irrational and superstitious. Citing Stephen Hawking he pointed out that it was not necessary for us to accept a God to explain a scientific phenomenon. As for millions of people gathering to take a dip in Ganga during the Kumbh ceremony Sh. Jha was of the view that the administration ought to restrict the number of devotees just as it was done during the Haj pilgrimage at Mecca. He opined that most of the rituals had originated from unfounded belief or irrational faith in God. Dr. Suhas Majumdar, elaborately dwelling upon latest researches of physicists including the one on God particle that alone had mass, stressed that there were certain phenomena such as the implosion after the Big Bang that had eventually led to the creation of 10 to the power of 500 universes in the trillionth and trillionth and trillionth of a second that could not be explained by any perceptible logic. This is where the existence of God came into focus and made a scientist like Einstein believe in the existence of a super power or God. A scientist himself, Dr. Majumdar admitted to be a believer in God.

Sh. Asim Banerjee offered rational explanations for various rituals inter alia including Kumbh bath and stressed upon the effect of faith on human mind. Dr. Santosh Ganguly and Sh. Sujit Chatterjee covered some interesting facets of superstition prevailing in various countries, while Sh. Paritosh Banerjee highlighted the gap between the ideal and the real with reference to a poem of Tagore that depicted how a poor Brahmin learnt the lesson of renunciation from Sanatan, a Vaishnavite, to whom touchstone and ordinary pebbles had no difference.

Sh. Ashok Sengupta explained the import and implication of the mantras which needed to be correctly and appropriately pronounced and applied. Any wrong application may have disastrous consequence. This he explained with reference to a historic anecdote in the time of Akbar (16th century AD) when a junior priest in Visweshwar temple in Benaras committed the folly of chanting a wrong verse that amounted to praying to the LORD for residing in the temple for hundred years and not hundreds of years. It was predicted at that time itself by the head priest that because of this faulty prayer the Lord would desert His devotees after 100 years. Exactly after 100 years the temple was demolished by Aurangzeb. Sh. Sengupta also dwelt upon caste prejudices and superstitions and how qualitative caste system of yesteryears degenerated into hereditary caste system. Smt. Anjoo Chowdhury narrated a personal incident with a poser whether her belief in the super natural could be dubbed as superstitious.

I did the summing up. Citing from Bhagavad Gita it was pointed out that it was but natural that common people would follow the leader’s way of life, sermons and prescriptions which eventually became rituals. Thus faith in the rituals may indicate faith in the leaders who gave birth to those rituals. But Gita did not encourage blind faith. In fact Krishna answered all the doubts and questions of Arjun and never tried to shut him or browbeat his questioning mind. Therefore, taking a cue from the lessons of Gita, one should question oneself about the validity of a ritual instead of blindly accepting the same going against one’s conscience or rational mind. This would ensure one’s spiritual growth. Simultaneously, all of us needed to appreciate the loaded observation of Einstein: “Unless something is proved to be impossible, it is possible.” Thus the burden of proof would clearly be on a scientist or a scientific mind and not on a commoner. Obviously, therefore, there was no warrant to dismiss a ritual as superstitious just because we did not find any rational explanation for it. The above two views, apparently though contradictory, were not irreconcilable and with that consensus the session ended (Dr. Kalyan K. Chakravarty was congratulated by all on his recent appointment as the Chairman of the Lalit Kala Academy).

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