What is this Atman आत्मन्, which is neither the body nor the mind?

swamijiWhat is the force which manifests itself through the body? It is obvious to all of us, whatever that force be, that it is something which takes particles up as it were, and creates forms out of them-human bodies. None else comes here to manipulate bodies for you and me. I never saw anybody eat food for me. I have to assimilate it, manufacture blood and bones and everything out of that food. What is this mysterious force? Ideas about the future and about the past seem to be terrifying to many. To many they seem to be mere speculation. We will take the present as our theme. What is this force which is now working through us?

We know how in olden times, in all the ancient scriptures, this power, this manifestation of power, was thought to be a bright substance having the form of this body, which remained even after the body fell. Later on, however, we find a higher idea coming: that this bright body did not represent the force, whatsoever has form, it was discovered, must be the result of combinations of particles and requires something else behind it to move it. If this body requires something which is not the body to manipulate it, the bright body, by the same necessity, will also require something other than itself to manipulate it. That something was called the Soul – the Atman आत्मन् – in Sanskrit. It was the Atman which through the bright body, as it were, worked on the gross body outside. The bright body is considered as the receptacle of the mind, and the Atman is beyond that. It is not even the mind; it works the mind, and through the mind, the body. You have an Atman, I have another; each one of us has a separate Atman and a separate tine body, and through that we work on the gross external body. Questions were then asked about this Atman, about its nature. What is this Atman, this Soul of man, which is neither the body nor the mind? Great discussions followed. Speculations were made, various shades of philosophic inquiry came into existence. I shall try to place before you some of the conclusions that have been reached about this Atman.

The different philosophies seem to agree that this Atman, whatever it may be, has neither form nor shape; and that which has neither form nor shape must be omnipresent. Time begins with mind; space also is in the mind. Causation cannot stand without time-without the idea of succession there cannot be any idea of causation. Time, space, and causation, therefore, are in the mind; and as this Atman is beyond the mind and formless, it must be beyond time, beyond space, and beyond causation. Now, if it is beyond time, space, and causation, it must be infinite. Then comes the highest speculation in our philosophy. The infinite cannot be two. If the Soul be infinite, there can be only one Soul, and all ideas of various souls-of your having one soul, and I having another, and so forth-are not real. The Real Man therefore is one and infinite, the omnipresent Spirit. And the apparent man is only a limitation of that Real Man. In that sense the mythologies are true in saying that the apparent man, however great he may be, is only a dim reflection of the Real Man, who is beyond. The Real Man, the Spirit, being beyond cause and effect, not bound by time and space, must therefore be free. He was never bound and could not be bound. The apparent man, the reflection, is limited by time, space, and causation, and is therefore bound. Or in the language of some of our philosophers, he appears to be bound but really is not. This is the reality behind our souls, this omnipresence, this spiritual nature, this infinity. Every soul is infinite. Therefore, there no question of birth and death.

Swami Vivekananda
Excerpts from The Real Nature of Man, Jnana-Yoga


Reincarnation of the Soul: How rational?


Neither you nor I nor anyone present has come out of zero, nor will go back to zero. We have been existing eternally, and will exist, and there is no power under the sun, or above the sun, which can undo your or my existence or send us back to zero. Now, this idea of reincarnation is not only not a frightening idea, but most essential for the moral well-being of the human race. It is the only logical conclusion that thoughtful men can arrive at. If you are going to exist in eternity hereafter, it must be that you have existed through eternity in the past; it cannot be otherwise.

I will try to answer a few objections that are generally brought against the theory.

The first objection is: Why do we not remember our past? But do we remember all our past in this life? How many of you remember what you did when you were babies? None of you remember your babyhood; and it upon memory depends your existence, then this argument proves that you did not exist as babies, because you do not remember your babyhood. It is simply unmitigated nonsense to say that our existence depends on our remembering it. How can we remember our past life? That brain is gone, broken into pieces, and a new brain has been manufactured. What has come to this brain is the resultant, the sum total, of the impressions acquired in our past, with which the mind has come to inhabit the new body. I, as I stand here, am the effect, the result, of all the infinite past which is tacked on to me. Such is the power of superstition that many of those who deny the doctrine of reincarnation believe that we are descended from monkeys. But they do not have the courage to ask why we do not remember our monkey life! When a great ancient sage, a seer or a prophet of old who came face to face with Truth, says something, these modern men stand up and say, “Oh, he was a fool!” But just use another name – Huxley or Tyndall – then it must be true, and they take it for granted. In place of ancient superstitions they have erected modern superstitions; in place of the old popes of religion they have installed modern popes of science. So we see that this objection as to memory is not valid; and that is about the only serious objection raised against this theory.

Although we have seen that it is not necessary for the acceptance of this theory that there should be the memory of past lives, yet at the same time we are in a position to assert that there are instances which show that this memory does come, and that each one of us will get back this memory at the time of liberation, when we shall find that this world is but a dream. Then alone will you realize in the soul of your soul that you are but actors and the world is a stage; then alone will the idea of non-attachment come to you with the power of thunder; then all this thirst for enjoyment, this clinging to life and this world, will vanish forever; then the mind will see as clear as daylight how many times all these existed for you-how many millions of times you had fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, relatives and friends, wealth and power. They came and went. How many times you were on the very crest of the wave, and how many times you were down at the bottom of despair! When memory brings all these to you, then alone will you stand as a hero and smile when the world frowns upon you. Then alone will you stand up and say: “I care not even for thee, 0 Death! What terrors hast thou for me?” This will come to all.

Are there any arguments, any rational proofs, for the reincarnation of the soul? So far we have been giving the negative side, showing that the opposite arguments to disprove it are invalid. Are there any positive proofs? There are-and most valid ones, too. No other theory except that of reincarnation accounts for the wide divergence that we find between man and man in their power to acquire knowledge. First let us consider the process by means of which knowledge is acquired. Suppose I go into the street and see a dog. How do I know it is a dog? I refer it to my mind, and in my mind are groups of all my past experiences, arranged and pigeon-holed, as it were. As soon as a new impression comes, I take it up and refer it to some of the old pigeon-holes, and as soon as I find a group of the same impressions already existing, I place it in that group and I am satisfied. I know it is a dog because it coincides with impressions already there. And when I do not find the cognates of a new experience inside, I become dissatisfied. When, not finding the cognates of an impression, we become dissatisfied, this state of mind is called ignorance; but when, finding the cognates of an impression already existing, we become satisfied, this is called knowledge. When one apple fell, men became dissatisfied Then gradually they found out a series of the same impressions, forming, as it were, a chain. What was the chain they found? That all apples fell. They called this gravitation.

Now, we see that without a fund of already existing experiences any new experience would be impossible, for there would be nothing to which to refer the new impression. So if, as some of the European philosophers think, a child came into the world with what they call a tabula rasa, such a child would never attain to any degree of intellectual power, because he would have nothing to which to refer his new experiences. We see that the power of acquiring knowledge varies in each individual, and this shows that each one of us has come with his own fund of knowledge. Knowledge can only be got in one way, the way of experience; there is no other way to know. If we have not had the experience in this life, we must have had it in other lives.

How is it that the fear of death is everywhere? A little chicken is just out of the egg and an eagle comes, and the chicken dies in fear to its mother. There is an old explanation (I should hardly dignify it by such a name) it is called instinct. What makes that little chicken just out of the egg afraid to die? How is it that as soon as a duckling hatched by a hen comes near water it jumps into it and swims? It never swam before nor saw anything swim. People call it instinct. It is a big word, but it leaves us where we were before.

Let as study this phenomenon of instinct. A child begins to play on the piano. At first she must pay attention to every key she is fingering, and as she goes on and on for months and years, the playing becomes almost involuntary, instinctive. What was first done with conscious will does not require later on an effort of the will. This is not yet a complete proof. One half remains, and that is that almost all the actions which are now instinctive can be brought under the control of the will. Each muscle of the body can be brought under control. This is perfectly well known. So the proof is complete, by this double method, that what we now call instinct is the degeneration of voluntary actions. Therefore if the analogy applies to the whole of creation, if all nature is uniform, then what is instinct in lower animals, as well as in men, must be the degeneration of will.

From the study of the macrocosm we discovered that each evolution presupposes an involution, and each involution an evolution. How is instinct explained in the light of this knowledge? What we call instinct is the result of voluntary action. Instinct in men or animals must therefore have been created by their previous voluntary actions. When we Speak of voluntary actions, We admit previous experience. This previous experience thus creates instinct. The little chicken’s fear of death, the duckling’s taking to the water, and all the involuntary actions in the human being, which are the result of past experiences, have now become instinctive.

So far we have proceeded very clearly, and so far the latest science is with Us. The latest scientific men are coming back to the ancient sages, and as far as they have done so there is no difficulty. They admit that each man and each animal is born with a fund of experience, and that all the instincts in the mind are the result of past experience. “But what,” they ask, “is the use of saying that that experience belongs to the soul? Why not say it belongs to the body, and the body alone? Why not say it is hereditary transmission?” This is the last question. Why not say that all the experience with which I am born is the resultant of all the past experience of my ancestors? The sum total of the experiences from the little protoplasm up to the highest human being is in me, but it has come from body to body in the course of hereditary transmission. Where will the difficulty be?

This question is very nice, and we admit some part of this hereditary transmission. How far? As far as furnishing the material of the body. We, by our past actions, are born in a certain body, and the suitable material for that body comes from the parents who have made themselves fit to have our soul as their offspring. But the simple hereditary theory takes for granted, without any proof, the most astonishing proposition: that mental experience can be recorded in matter, that mental experience can be involved in matter.

When I look at you, in the lake of my mind there is a wave. That wave subsides, but it remains in fine form, as an impression. We understand a physical impression’s remaining in the body. But what proof is there for assuming that the mental impression can remain in the body, since the body goes to pieces? What carries it? Even granting that it is possible for each mental impression to remain in the body-that every impression, beginning from the first man down to my father, was in my father’s body-how could it be transmitted to me? Through the bioplasmic cell? How could that happen? The father’s body does not come to the child in toto. The same parents may have a number of children. Then, from this theory of hereditary transmission, where the impression and the impressed are one, because both are material, it rigorously follows that, by the birth of every child, the parents must lose a part of their own impressions, or, if the parents should transmit the whole of their impressions, then, after the birth of the first child, their minds would be a vacuum.

Again, if in the bioplasmic cell the infinite amount of impressions from all time have entered, where and how can they exist there? This is a most impossible position, and until these physiologists can prove how and where those impressions live in that cell, and what they mean by a mental impression’s sleeping in the physical cell, their position cannot be taken for granted.

So far it is clear, then, that these impressions are in the mind, that the mind comes to take birth after birth and uses the material most proper for it, and that the mind which has made itself fit for only a particular kind of body will have to wait until it gets that material. This we understand. The theory then comes to this: There is hereditary transmission so far as furnishing the material to the soul is concerned. But the soul migrates and manufactures body after body; and each thought we think and each deed we do is stored in it in due forms, ready to spring up again and take a new shape. When I look at you a wave rises in my mind. It goes down, as it were, and becomes finer and liner, but it does not die. It is ready to start up again as a wave in the shape of memory. So all these impressions are in my mind, and when I die the resultant force of them will be upon me. A ball is here, and each one of us takes a mallet in his hands and strikes the ball from all sides; the ball goes from point to point in the room, and when it reaches the door it flies out. What carries it out? The resultant of all these blows. That will give it its direction. So what directs the soul when the body dies? The resultant, the sum total, of all the works it has done, of all the thoughts it has thought. If the resultant is such that it has to manufacture a new body for further experience, it will go to those parents who are ready to supply it with suitable material for that body.

Thus from body to body it will go, sometimes to a heaven, and back again to earth, becoming a man or some lower animal. In this way it will go on until it has finished its experience and completed the circle. It then knows its own nature, knows what it is, and its ignorance vanishes. Its powers become manifest; it becomes perfect. No more is there any necessity for the soul to work through physical bodies, nor is there any necessity for it to work through fine or mental bodies. It shines in its own light and is free-no more to be born, no more to die.

Swami Vivekananda
Excerpts from: Vivekananda Yogas and Other Works

The maha-vakya of Kenopanisad: तदेव ब्रह्म त्वं विद्धि – tad eva brahma tvam viddhi, May you understand that alone to be Brahman.


यद्वाचानभ्युदितं येन वागभ्युधते !
तदेव ब्रह्म त्वं विद्धि नेदं यदिदमुपासते !!

May you know that alone to be Brahman, which is not revealed by speech (but) by which speech is revealed, and not this that people worship (as an object). (Kenopnisad 1.4)

The first line reveals primarily the pratyagatman, the inner self, that which is ear of the ear, etc., that which is neither known nor unknown, but the basis of both the known and the unknown. In the second line the inner self is pointed out as Brahman by saying tadeva brahma tvam viddhi, may you understand that is Brahman.

While Chandogya Upanisad says, “tat tvam asi” that (Brahman) you are,” here, the teacher Says “tad eva brahma tvam viddhi”, may you understand that alone to be Brahman.” That ‘you,’ is the eye of the eye, ear of the ear, etc, and which is neither the known nor the unknown. All these details make the meaning of tat very clear; it is you. Understand that consciousness alone to be Brahman which is you, in Whose presence you are aware of all these things. Brahman means limitless, the cause of everything-that from which everything has come, and unto which everything goes back. You are that Brahman.

Yada vaca anabhyuditam: That which is not revealed by the word. Anabhyuditam means na prakasitam, not objectified by a word. The vastu is not revealed as the direct meaning of any word. It is unlike the object ‘pot’ that is revealed by the word ‘pot’. However, the vastu is revealed by words through implication, after creating a context.

Yena vag abhyudyate: By whose presence a word comes to manifest. Here, we have to take into account all that is connected to a word-by whose presence alone a word is a word, a word is pronounced as a word, a word is heard, a word is understood. In the presence of the invariable pratyagatman alone a word is heard and its meaning understood. So too, it comes to manifest.

The word ‘vak’ can also be taken to mean the organ of speech. That caitanya, consciousness, which the organ of speech cannot objectify, but because of which it is able to function, is Brahman. This meaning is given here because a story is going to be narrated later, based upon this fact.

That vastu which is not revealed by a word, but because of which a word comes to manifest, is referred by the word, ‘tat’ which, in the context of the previous unfoldment, means ‘you’. The mantra exhorts you to understand tad vastu, that caitanya, to be Brahman.

The word Brahman is already arrived at in the language. It is derived from the root brh, in the sense of growth. Brhatvad brahma, that which is big or brhmanat brahma, that which is capable of growing into jagat. Both meanings are applicable here. The bigness here is aparicchinna, unrestricted. Hence, Brahman is ananta that Which is limitless-time-wise or space-wise.

An object is limited both in terms of space and time – previously it was not, now it is. Whereas, Brahman is unlike any object that exists in time and space. Space itself is paricchinna, limited. Even though space is relatively all-pervasive, it does not pervade Brahman. In fact, Brahman pervades space. That is why space is part of the jagat. Therefore, space also is mithya. It has kale-pariccheda, time-wise limitation, because it is collapsible, as we know from the experience of sleep. Brahman, being limitless, has no spatial or time-wise limitation – means it is not born, it is not gone, it does not grow, it does not decline.

Brahman is not a object, and so there is no vastu-pariccheda, object-wise limitation. Brahman sustains time and space, and .it sustains everything else that exists in time and space. No object enjoys an independent reality without the reality of Brahman. Therefore, every object is Brahman. This is the meaning of Brahman, that which is ekam eva advitiyam, one without a second.

Let us look at the word, advitiya, without a second. A second thing can cause three types of bheda, difference, to a given thing – sajdtiya, vijaatiya and svagata bheda. A coconut tree, for instance, is different from other trees within its own species. There are many coconut trees, and this is one of them. This is sajatiya-bheda, a limitation caused within one’s own species.

Then there is vijatiya-bheda. Vijati means something belonging to a different species. A tree, for instance, is different from the rocks, rivers, and so on. If the tee is a coconut tree, then there are varieties of trees like an areca nut tree, an oak tree, and so on that are different from the coconut tree. In the genus of coconut tree itself there is a dwarfed coconut tree, a hybrid coconut tree; there too, there are varieties. Things that come under botany, things that come under zoology, and [things that come under geology are all different. Within botany itself there are varieties of plants like a vine, a creeper, a small plant, a big tree and so on. A jati, species, keeps on dividing itself endlessly. But you can bring them all under one jati, one subject matter of botany, because they have certain commonness about them. The coconut tree is distinct from a dog that comes under zoology. This is called vijatiya-bheda, a limitation caused by things of different species.

Finally, there is svagata-bheda, difference within a given species. A given tree has varieties of differences within itself like the” leaves, the flower, the fruit, the trunk, and so on.

Taking one’s own body, one can see all these bhedas. It has sajatfya-bheda, because there are many human bodies. It has vijatiya-bheda, because it is different from the body of any other being, like a dog . and so on. Then, it has svagata-bheda, varieties within the body such as the head, shoulders, hands and so on, each one being different from the other.

All these bhedas are not there in Brahman. There is only one non-dual Brahman that is revealed by the sastra. All that is here is that Brahman. Since a second Brahman is not there, there is no sajatiya-bheda, limitation or difference caused by the same species. Further, as there is nothing other than Brahman, there is no vijatiya-bheda, limitation caused by a different species. Brahman is satya, and everything else is vikara, apparent modification, and hence mithya. Mithya cannot be counted along with satya. Brahman being non-dually one, and everything else being mithya, does not add to the one. In Brahman itself there are no parts and hence there is no svagata-bheda. Brahman is satyam jananam anantam. It is pure caitanya, consciousness, which is neither knower-known-knowledge but the truth of all the three.

Tad means pratyagatman, the inner self, consciousness. Tad is predicated here to Brahman. The subject matter pratyagatman has already been introduced, about which the teacher reveals something here. We do not really require a pramana to arrive at the existence of oneself. By drg-drsya-viveka, subject-object-analysis, we can come to know the subject, the self, is not subject to objectification. Recognizing this self-revealing consciousness is Brahman, is the result of veddnta-pramana.

Suppose I say, ‘tvam asi, you are,’ you do not get anything out of this sentence without knowing the predication. Tvam is the subject about which something is going to be revealed. Here, an akanksa, expectancy, is created to hear what the predication is; what is it that the speaker wants to convey about the subject? Suppose, I do not say anything after saying tvam asi, What does it mean? Each one, per his or her psychology, will read the silence. “You are,” creates, in the listener, an expectancy. The speaker fulfils the expectancy, communicating what he or she intends to convey, which is called vivaksa (the intention to say).

The subject, srotrasya srotram, is already introduced, but needs to be predicated. This is where pramana walks in to say, “tad eva brahma tvam viddhi –  you understand ‘that’ to be Brahman.” That ear of the ear which is not objectified by the organ of speech, and because of which the organ of speech functions, is advayam brahma, non-dual Brahman, and that Brahman you are. That means there is nothing other than you; the thought is not other than you, the knower is not other than you, the object of thought is not other than you. Any other knowledge implies a knower-known difference. Here, the knower is you, the knowledge is you, and the known is you. That is the revelation.

The teaching is, “May you understand that to be Brahman.” There are no two entities here – yourself and Brahman. You are Brahman. If you are ignorant, well, Brahman makes that ignorance exist and known. Like anything else, this ignorance also is mithya. What does not exist by itself, but draws its existence from something else is mithya. Ignorance draws its existence from the same consciousness alone. Hence, ignorance is also mithya; it goes away in the wake of knowledge. Therefore, tad eva brahma tvam viddhi. Let there be no ignorance with reference to the fact of the self being consciousness, satyam brahma. That is the whole intention of the teaching.

That vrtti, the cognitive thought that takes place in one’s buddhi as a result of teaching, is known as akhandakara-vrtti, a cognition in which the knower-known-knowledge are resolved into one awareness. That means all the three are you.

Generally, a vrtti is the connecting link between the object of knowledge and the knower. When you say, “This is a pot,” pot is the object and you are the knower of the pot. The pramana-phala, the result of operating a means of knowledge, goes to you, the knower. Between you and the pot, the connecting link is tadakara-vrtti, the thought having the form of a pot. Akara means a form. A given thought assumes the form of the object it objectifies through perception, inference, words, or recollection.

You, the knower, look at the thought and say, “This is a pot.” That pot thought is called idam vrtti. You are the knower all the time. Therefore, you say, “I am the knower, and the whole world of objects is different from me.” With this kind of division in thoughts, you move around knowing different things in the world.

Now, you are told by the sastra, tad eva brahma tvam viddhi, understand that Brahman you are. That consciousness is Brahman which is the mind of the mind, without which there is no thought, there is no object of thought, and there is no knower.

Further, on analysis, you recognize that Brahman as the intelligent and material cause of the jagat. That means the whole creation is non-separate from Brahman. Therefore, your body is Brahman, your senses are Brahman, your mind is Brahman, the knower is Brahman, the cognition is Brahman; everything is Brahman. In this vision you recognize the invariable consciousness cit, as satyam brahma.

In other words, cit is sat. Once you say Brahman is satya, everything the knower-known-knowledge is Brahman. That means it is the whole. That is why it is called ananda or annanta. Being the whole, it is not an object of any of these words, but rather known more by implication. You are not in any way, anywhere, circumscribed, limited.

“That consciousness is Brahman” is the maha-vakya, a sentence revealing the oneness of you and Brahman.

In this mantra, there is also a negation of what is not Brahman. Brahman is generally understood as God, the cause of the world. People worship Brahman as Visnu, as Siva. Is that not Brahman? It is Brahman if you include yourself. That which includes both the subject and the object is Brahman. Nedam yad idam upasate: Not this, which people meditate upon.

Upasana means ‘people worship’. The sastra does not criticize or condemn upasana; on the contrary upasana is included. However, one should not construe that the form alone is Brahman. When a topic is considered, due respect is given to the topic. The consideration is showing respect.

Upasana is fine, but the upasya, one whom you Worship, includes you the upasaka too. If the upasya and the upasaka are one, then the upasana-phala, the ultimate result of worship, is gained; the payoff is recognizing the fact that both the updsaka and the upasya are sustained by one consciousness, Brahman, which is srotrasya srotram; that is why it is satyam. Therefore, What people worship is also Brahman, but that alone is not Brahman. These are sentences revealing an equation and one must see the truth of these sentences. One has to inquire into them thoroughly, curbing the tendency to gloss over.

Swami Dayananda Saraswati

Excerpts from Kenopnishad

What is the cause of Creation?


सदेव सोम्य इदम् अग्रे आसीत!

छान्दोग्योपनिषत, Chnadyogyop Upnisad (6.2.1)  says, “This world was there before as ‘sat’ सत्.  Without any differentiation”. Pure knowledge alone was there before. The jagat जगत् (unverse) is now differentiated. For this differentiation to take place, knowledge has to manifest. The time has come now for the jagat to get out of the un-manifest condition. ‘The time has come’-  this is only an expression because time itself is yet to come. Getting out of the un-manifest condition is like waking up from sleep. You wake up because of the prarabdha प्रारब्ध  karma. But lsvara ईश्वर  does not have any karma to clamor for fructification. The karmas of the individuals in the un-manifest condition clamor to manifest, and we refer to that condition when we say, “The time has come”. What does lsvara do now?

From the un-manifest, the world manifests. This is cyclic. Here we are talking about a given cycle. Before the manifestation, there must be a certain motion, some commotion is involved. That is pointed out here. The Sankhyas say that before the creation there is some commotion in pradhana प्रधान, the cause, consisting of the three gunas – sattwa सत्व, rajas रजस, and tamas तमस. They are in equilibrium in the un-manifest condition. That equilibrium gets disturbed due to some vibration and the creation starts. Here we ask, “How did it get disturbed? Who disturbed it?” Purusa पुरुष, the conscious being, has nothing to do with pradhana. Other than purusa nobody else was there. If pradhana gets disturbed on its own, then it should always be disturbed. How come the disturbance did not take place so far? Another section of the Sankhyas, who accepts lsvara, says, “lsvara disturbs the equilibrium.” Then What is the occasion for lsvara to disturb it? Sankhyas have no logical answer. But every one of them has to point out that before the creation there must be a disturbance in the un-manifest, and there was a disturbance.

It is like the factor that wakes you up in the morning from sleep. Why do you wake up in the morning? What makes you get up? While you were sleeping you did not have any agenda to wake up. In sleep you do not recognize anything. A person who is sleeping should be sleeping all the time, sleep being a pleasant experience. No. There is a karmic pressure working. One more day you have to live. You have to undergo the experiences that are brought about by the karma on a day-to-day basis. This is one model of explanation, the karmic model. You can also give a physiological model. The body had enough rest, and, of course, it is hungry in the morning. A physiological stimulation in the body wakes you up. A psychological explanation also is possible. But it is all finally karma only. Day-to-day karma has got to be exhausted.

Similarly, something happens before the creation. Whenever we say ‘creation’ you must take it as one cycle. It has no end. This creation is like the previous creation. The previous creation was like its previous creation. Thus every creation was preceded by a creation. In between two creations Isvara brings about dissolution, which is called pralaya प्रलय. When one goes to sleep, one dissolves one’s own individuality and ceases to experience any object. This dissolution is called laya लय, sleep. When the creation goes to dissolution it is called pralaya. After dissolution and just before creation there must be another state, and that is said to be tapas in the sastra शास्त्र. The nimitta निमित, occasion, for the tapas is the karmas of all the beings that clamor to fructify.

Tatah annam abhijayate: the un-manifest world is born from that Brahman ब्रह्मन्. Anna is food. Adyate iti annam, that which is eaten is called anna. Here it means, that which is going to be experienced by all the manifest jivas जीव later. The entire jagat that is devoured at the time of dissolution is anna. It refers to avyakta अव्यक्त, the un-manifest. Anything with distinct features, anything that is created, is vyakta  व्यक्त. That which is in a causal form, without distinct features, is avyakta. If you take a seed, the entire tree is there in it. The tree has a number of distinct features like trunk, branches, leaves, flowers, fruits and so on. But if you look into the seed, you do not see any of them. At the same time, you know that the tree has come from the seed alone. Given the time, place and atmosphere, all those features will manifest. The seed in vyakta, manifest form, is a tree. The tree in avyakta, un-manifest form, is a seed. Similarly, the causal form of this World called anna or avyakta is the upddhi of Brahman. It is also called maya. When the sruti says that anna is born, it means that Brahman identifies – with this upadhi, identifies with the knowledge of avyakta which is going to be manifested later as jagat, and thereby, it becomes the potential cause for the creation. The avyakta has to be differentiated for others’ perception, and this differentiation is called the creation or manifestation.

Swami Dayananda Saraswati

Excerpts from Mundakopanisad Vol. 1
Link to Swamiji’s Discourses


What is the nature of creation?

gurudev (2)

According to Vedanta, creation is nothing but projection. As the dream world is projected, so too is the waking world We have that projecting power in the dream also, so we are not unfamiliar with what is meant by creation or projection.

There is no real creation or transformation as such. It is just projection, in the same way as there is no real transformation of rope, just a projection of snake. Nothing whatever happens to rope, it is just made to appear as snake. One thing being made to appear different from what it is, is what we call ’creation’. Wherever creation takes place, it is only this.

Here an objection may arise, “What are you talking about Swamiji? I take this clay, and I make a pot out of it. It is a transformation of clay. We curdle milk so it becomes curd. That is also transformation. A lot of changes happen. This table is made. Formerly it was the trunk of a tree, and then we did so much to it! Do you mean to say this is projected?” Sometimes this may be very frustrating. We will look into it more later, but if you inquire into what the substance is, there is only one substance. As far as the Vedantin is concerned, that substance is ब्रह्मन brahman. There is no other really existing thing (vastu). Brahman is made to look like a table or a chair or a house. It is made to look like the whole world. That is why the text says विक्षेप-शक्ति viksepa-sakti, projecting power.

Similarly, there is a veiling of brahman, which is limitless, one, nondual, and a projection of the world of diversity. Then what is this world, this diverse creation? As we will see later on, when you inquire into the nature of diversity, it all resolves into just one, nondual vastu. That is why Chandogya Upanisad says:-

सदेव सोम्य इदमग्र आसीत् एकमेवाद्वितीयम्
sadeva somya idam agm asitt ekametvadvitiyam

“Hey, Somya (good-looking one)! This whole universe of diversity and divisions was only sat, existence, brahman, one without a second.” That is the substance upon which various projections are made, which we call creation. This viksepa-sakti of maya in fact creates the appearance of the entire universe.

Lingadi-brahmandantam jagat srjet, it projects, jagat, the world, linga-adi, beginning from the individual subtle body, brahma-anda-antam, culminating in the entire brahmanda, cosmos or universe. Thus, from the individual to the totality, the projecting power of maya creates or projects the whole universe. The same thing is clarified in verse (Drg Drsya Viveka 14):

सृष्टिनार्म  ब्रह्मरूपे सच्चिदानन्दवस्तुनि |
अब्धौ फेनदिवत्सर्वनामरूपप्रसरणा ||

Srstirnama brahmarupe saccinanandavastuni |
Abdhau phenadivastarvamarupaprasarna||

सुष्ट्री Srstih -the creation; नाम nama -known as; ब्रह्मरूपे brahma-rupe in that which is of the nature of brahman; सत-चित -आनंद -वस्तुनि sat-cit-ananda-vastuni in the vastu, which is sat (existence), Cit (awareness), and ananda (wholeness); अब्धाओ  abdhau in the ocean; फेन-आदि-वत्त phena-adi-vat like the foam etc.; नाम -रुप -प्रसारण nama-rupa-prasarna -expansion (i.e. manifestation) as names and forms

The manifestation of all names and forms in the vastu or reality, which is sat-cit-ananda and which is brahman is called the creation. It is like the creation of foam, etc, in the ocean.

Creation has sat-cit-ananda as its basis.

Srstirnama. It is nama, what is known as, srsti, creation. What we call srsti is nama-rupa-prasarna, the expansion or manifestation as names and forms. The basis upon what it manifests is sat-cit-ananda-vastu or brahma-rupa. That which is sat-cit-ananda as well as vastu is called sat-cit-ananda-vastu. The word vastu is used here to mean ’reality’. And the nature of the reality is sat-cit-ananda.

Sat-cit-ananda is satyam jnanam anantam brahma

This is the first time in the text that we come across the term सत-चित्त-आनंद sat-cit-ananda. Sat means existence, cit means awareness or intelligence, and ananda means wholeness or completeness. That is the only vastu. This reality is called brahman, whose nature is sat-cit-ananda. It is also called सत्यम ज्ञानम अनंतम satyam-jnanam-anantam brahma in Taittiriya Upanisad.

We do not find the expression sat-cit-ananda in any of the major Upanisads. What we find is satyam-jnanam- anantam brahma. Satyam is truth, ज्ञानम jnanam is knowledge, and anantam is infinite. So brahman is truth, knowledge, infinite. Do not think that truth, knowledge, and infinite are all different. What is satyam is also jnanam what is jnanam is also anantam, and what is anantam is also satyam.

The Upanisad need not have employed these three words; it did so for our sake only. Any one word is quite adequate to reveal the nature of the vastu. What happens is that each one of these words, satyam, jnanam, and anantam, is used commonly in our day-to-day parlance. Therefore we have some concepts or ideas in our mind about what they mean.

When I hear the Upanisad say brahman is satyam, truth, then I think, “Alright, I have some idea about what satyam is, what truth is”. Satyam means the material cause of the five elements, so therefore I would think, ”Okay, brahman is the material cause.” But the material cause undergoes transformation to become the effect, so I would think that brahman undergoes transformation to become effect. The material cause is also always inert, so I would think that brahman is inert.

But then comes the word jnanam, so it is not inert; it is conscious. Jnanam means knowledge, and knowledge always has its locus in a conscious being. So then I think, ”Brahman being conscious is alright, but knowledge is always limited, like ghata-jnana, knowledge of pot, and pata-jnana, knowledge of cloth.” The cognition of pot or cognition of cloth, cognition of anything that is ’this’, is always limited. So I may think that brahman is limited.

But then the Upanisad says, “No, it is anantam.” It is knowledge alright, but it is not what you understand as a given cognition. It is neither a cognition nor the knower. It is that which is the common basis of the knower, known, and knowledge. It is infinite.

That is how the three words enable us to understand brahman correctly: that it is truth, meaning it is changeless; it is jnanam, meaning it is consciousness; and it is anantam, meaning it is not consciousness of something, but is rather consciousness itself, which is limitless. This can be translated as sat-cit-ananda, where satyam is equated to sat, jnanam is equated to cit, and anantam is equated to ananda.

Happiness is only in the infinite

Ananda is where anantam is. Anantam means infinite. Vedanta says that ananda or happiness is there only in the infinite. There cannot be happiness in the finite. Chandogya Upanisad says:-

यो वै भूमा तत् सुखम नाल्पे सुखमस्तु
yo vai bhuma tat sukhan nalpe sukham asti.

The sage Sanatkumara says to sage Narada, yo vai  bhuma tat sukham, happiness is only in that which is bhuma, abundant or limitless. Na alpe sukham asti, there cannot be happiness in anything that is limited. Happiness is the nature of the limitless, it cannot be the nature of anything that is limited. Therefore, Chandogya Upanisad says that ananda or happiness has to be anantam.

Thus, anantam is ananda, jnanam is cit, and satyam is sat. Satyam jnanam anantam is sat-cit-ananda. Usually, the laksan-vakya, the term used to indicate brahma-svarupa is सत्यम ज्ञानम अनंतम satyam-jnanam-anantam brahma. But here, satyam jnanam anantam is the same as sat-cit-ananda. And the vastu, reality, is sat-cit-ananda.

What Vedanta says is that there is nothing but reality, that is all there is. It is not that there is reality and then there is something other than reality. Reality is nondual. What is meant by ’nondual’ is that reality is one without a second.

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

Excerpts from Drg, Drsya, Viveka

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What is the cause of the creation? Ignorance!

gurudev (2)

दिर्घस्वप्ने स्फुरन्त्येते स्वगमोक्षादिविभ्रमा

 Atmajnanamhahanidrajrmbhite sminjaganmaye
Drghasvapne sphurantyete svargamoksadivibheamah

 एते = these, स्वर्ग-मोक्ष-आदि विभ्रमाः = delusions like heaven, liberation etc, अस्मिन् = in this, आत्मा-अज्ञान-महानिद्रा-जृम्भिते = projected out of the great sleep (called) ignorance of the self;  जगन्मये = of the nature of (this) universe; दीर्घ-स्वप्ने  = in the long dream; स्फुरन्ति;  = spring forth.

In this long dream of the nature of this universe projected out of the great sleep, called ignorance of the self, do all these delusions like heaven, liberation etc., spring forth. (Advaita Makaranda, 18)

दीर्घ-स्वप्ने  Dirghasvapne means in this long dream. How long is the dream? It is going on since time-without-beginning. What are we told about it? स्वर्ग-मोक्ष-आदि विभ्रमा Svarga-moksa aadi-vibhramah, that the delusions of heaven, liberation etc., appear in this long dream. स्फुरन्ति Sphuranti, and in this long dream do all these things shine. What is this sleep or this dream? आत्मा-अज्ञान-महानिद्रा Atma-agana-mahanidra, this long sleep is of the nature of the ignorance of आत्मा aatma or one’s true nature, and the long dream is the world, which arises out of this sleep. Ignorance is compared to sleep here.

Here sleep is not just deep sleep; it is sleep characterized by dream. In deep sleep, there is no संसार samsar, since the I-notion is absent. It is the dream in which projection takes place. Therefore, the Bhagavad Gita (2.69) says:

या निशा सर्वभूतानां तस्यां जागर्ति संयमी |
यस्यां जाग्रति भूतानि सा निशा पश्यतो मुने: ||

ya nisa sarva-bhutanam tasyam jagarti samyami
yasyam jagrati bhutani sa nisa pasyato muneh !!

ya–what; nisa–is  night; sarva–all; bhutanam–of living entities; tasyam–in  that; jagarti–wakeful; samyami–the self-controlled; yasyam–in which; jagrati–awake; bhutani–all beings; sa–that is; nisa–night; pasyatah–for the introspective; muneh–sage.

In the reality to which all the creatures are sleeping, the wise person is awake. That which is night to the wise, there, the ignorant creatures keep awake.

Ignorance is often compared to the state of sleep or the darkness of the night; both deprive us of the perception of what truly is. In the case of sleep, there is often also a projection of the dream, comparable to the projection of a snake on rope. This projection is प्रातिभासिक सत्ता pratibhasika-satta or a subjective . projection, being the projection of the individual mind. Then there is the creation in the waking state, which is an objective reality, a projection of माया maya or the cosmic mind, the creative power of ईश्वर Isvara.

The individual projection, such as the dream, is called जीव श्रुष्टि jiva-srasti, and Isvara’s projection, viz., this objective world of names and forms, is called ईश्वर श्रुस्ष्टि Isvara-srsti. Being projections, both are मिथ्या mithya, and, very often, the individual projection is cited as an example to explain the reality of the creation, which is called a long dream, dirgha-svapna.

In the verse of the Bhagavad Gita quoted above, Lord Krishna says that the ignorant are asleep to the reality, meaning that they are unaware of the reality to which the wise are awake. That reality is the self, the consciousness or ब्रह्मन् brahman, the very substratum of the universe of names and forms. The universe exists and shines because of brahman, just as a projected snake exists and shines upon the rope, its substratum. The wise know brahman as the self that is self-shining and give no reality to the world of duality.

When it is said that the wise person is asleep to the world, what is meant is that he does not give reality to the world; he knows it to be mithya. On the other hand, the ignorant person gives reality to the world of names and forms, to the duality, which is a projection and is compared to a dream. In the dream state, a person is asleep to the reality of the waking world and awake to the dream world projected by his own mind. Similarly, the ignorant person is both sleeping and awake at the same time; he is asleep to the absolute reality that is brahman and awake to the objective reality or projection, in taking it to be real. The ignorant are all asleep to the reality of the self, but awake to this world, which they look upon as real.

What is the cause of the creation? Vedanta states that maya or ignorance gives rise to the creation. We call mithya the projecting power, while the scientists call it energy. There are two aspects to ignorance -its power to veil and its power to project. In the rope-snake example, there is delusion of there being a snake where there is only a rope; here the snake is a projection and the rope is veiled. In the same manner, the true nature of self is veiled by self-ignorance, while all kinds of false notions are projected upon it. The false notions about oneself are the reason for creation. If I knew myself correctly, there would be no need to create anything.

What is the purpose of the creation? The creation exists so that our desires may be fulfilled. What is the desire? It is that we should be free, limitless. How can there be a desire to be limitless, when one is already limitless? It is because we are not only unaware of this truth, but also take ourselves to be limited; hence, we are constantly striving to fulfill our desire to become limitless, to become free. The universe must necessarily be there to enable us to fulfill our desire to be limitless, which is indeed the desire behind all desires.

Desires are of two kinds: one is the desire for स्वर्ग svarga – heaven or material prosperity, and the other is the desire for moksa मोक्ष, liberation or spiritual prosperity. To some, moksa becomes very important, and, to some others, svarga. The desire for moksa indeed amounts to the limitless seeking limitlessness. The one who is of the very nature of आनन्द ananda searches in vain for happiness; this absurdly ridiculous situation in our lives is created by ignorance. Desire is thus the product of the ignorance of one’s true self.

Why do we say that the universe exists so that we may fulfill our desires? It is, because, to fulfill even a simple desire, such as for a cup of tea, you need the Whole universe to cooperate. For instance, you need tea, you need sugar, you need water, and perhaps milk, and then you need a stove on which to heat the water. Yet, come to think of it, you would also need gas to run the stove, and the gas comes from petroleum wells, and the sugar is extracted from sugarcane, which needs water, sunlight etc. to grow, which, in turn, will require the contribution of all the elements of the universe.

Indeed, therefore, to fulfill the simple desire for a cup of tea, you will find that there is an entire chain of requirements that depend on the help or contribution of the whole universe. It means that this entire universe is a product of countless desires, which have arisen from the primary desire to be free, which, in turn, is a product of ignorance.

Ignorance both exists and shines in consciousness. Therefore, consciousness or brahman is indirectly the reason for ignorance. The corollary is that consciousness is also the indirect cause of the creation and not the direct cause. Vedanta explains that the primary cause of creation is अविद्या avidya, ignorance or माया maya. However, maya is enlivened only in the presence of consciousness, and, therefore, in an indirect way, consciousness or brahman is also looked upon as the cause of the creation. God is called the creator, sustainer, and dissolver in an indirect sense; the universe is primarily created, sustained, and dissolved by maya. This is why the text describes universe as a long dream projected by the great sleep of ignorance.

The ignorance of the self is the great sleep because it is beginning-less. And it is called sleep because it veils the true nature of the self and projects the dream of the universe. In this long dream of the universe given reality by the ignorant do the delusions of heaven, liberation etc. shine. The dream world is real for one who is dreaming, and, similarly, the world of duality is real for the ignorant. He takes himself to be a limited being and entertains a desire to be free. Because of a lack of maturity, he looks upon svarga, the heaven or any other worldly or otherworldly achievement, as representing freedom and aspires to gain it. Another one, who has gained emotional maturity, understands the transient nature of all worldly and otherworldly achievements and desires; instead, he aspires to gain moksa or the permanent.

Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

Excerpts from: Advaita Makaranda of Sri Laksmidhara Kavi

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What is brhaman – ब्रह्मन् ?


Brahman – ब्रह्मन् –  is the provider of existence to everything, including ignorance. When you say that a flower ‘is’, that ‘is-ness’ always is. That never goes. That is why you cannot destroy it. If you destroy the flower, the flower is gone, but the petal ‘is’. If that is also destroyed, the destroyed petal ‘is’. Suppose everything disappears and you do not see any form. Then the absence of form ‘is’. The ‘is-ness’ is never negated. That ‘is-ness’ is Brahman. That is the reality of everything. Therefore, knowing that Brahman as oneself without any attribute, everything is as well known.

When the sruti says everything is ब्रह्मन् – Brahman, it is not pantheism. In pantheism the cause has undergone change to become the world. It is not so here. Brahman is विवर्त्त  उपादान vivartta-upadana and also निमित्त कारण nimitta-karna, therefore there is no pantheism here. If at all there is change, it is attributed to maya, which has no reality apart from Brahman. So, maya being there in between Brahman and everything else, it does not become pantheism. When satya and mithya are not understood, it all ends up in confusion.

The words, ‘cause’ and ‘effect’ are only from a point of View. You say that this is the effect and that is the cause. In fact, the effect itself is the cause, being non-separate from the cause. Then again, which is cause and which is effect? When the pot is broken, it becomes clay. That means clay came from pot! This concept of cause and effect is purely a point of View. Our understanding that the cause came first and the effect came later is only a point of View. From the standpoint of Brahman, there is nothing that comes later, because Brahman itself is the effect. If at all the concept of ‘cause’ and ‘effect’ is talked about, it is from the standpoint of the un-manifest and manifest conditions.

The un-manifest becomes manifests-that is called creation. Creation itself is not a proper word for us, because the word ‘creation’ is relevant only when something did not exist before, and later came into being. But it is not like that. That Which is in an un-manifest, undifferentiated form, comes to be differentiated. One is in a subtle form, the other in a gross form. In a differentiated form it is called creation. In an undifferentiated form it is called dissolution. This creation is cyclic. The creation becomes un-manifest because it was manifest before. Unless it was manifest before, it cannot become un-manifest. We cannot talk about any sequence here.

In the Daksinamurti Stotram we have this sentence: “Like the sprout is there within the seed in an un-manifest form, so too, this world is in an un-manifest form before creation”. The un-manifest tree in the seed manifests under conducive situations. What is already there alone comes to manifest. The tree is there in the subtle form, in a programmed form in the seed. That is why only the mango tree comes from the mango seed; no other tree comes. Just as the whole tree is un-manifest in the seed, so also, this entire jagat (universe) is un-manifest before creation. Again it becomes manifest ‘as it was before’. The phrase ‘as it was before’ points to the previous manifest state that was there before the un-manifest condition. So from this it is clear, it is cyclic.

The world has not come into being from total non-existence. If it is already existent it need not come. So, from nonexistence the jagat cannot come, and from existence also, the jagat cannot and need not come because it is already existent. The nonexistent pot can never come into being, and an existent pot does not require coming into being. We cannot say that the pot is both non-existent and existent. There is a self-contradiction in that statement. A thing cannot be both none, existent and existent at the same time. So, it is only the un-manifest pot that manifests, because of the intervention of the pot-maker in the form of his plan, skill and effort. Pot is potentially there in the clay and that is brought into manifestation now. The intervening factor is called the intelligent cause accompanied by secondary or aiding causes like the wheel, the water, the sun, and so on. This jagat was there before in an un-manifest form. From the un-manifest, it is manifest now. So, it need not be called creation.

We do not accept आरंभ वाद arambha-vada – an argument that the jagat comes into being. The Vaisesikas and the theologians are arambha-vadis, those who say the creation begins. All the theologies are similar to the Vaisesikas philosophy dating back to BC. The theologian is definitely talking about God creating a world that was previously non-existent, and bringing it into being out of nothing, or out of infinite power.

Vedanta does not propose a creation. It does not, therefore, have the question: Why this creation? If creation is accepted, then we have to say that God created the world. If God created this world, definitely you can ask him, “Why did you create the world?” This so-called created world itself being God, he does not require to answer such a question. You can ask a little more, “Is this the nature of the Lord?” Then we can discuss the reality of everything and discover what is satya and what is mithya. The word ‘creation’ is, therefore, only a provisional word.

In the beginning was the word, the word was with God, the word was God – such sensible statements are available in the sacred books which are the basis for certain theologies. It is a clean set of statements. In the beginning was the ‘word’. It is singular, not that there were words. There was ‘word’, not ‘a word’. That is also important. A sound is a word when the meaning which the sound or sounds refer to, is the same, not only for you but also for everyone. When I say ‘Water’ you understand, I understand and everybody understands that it is H2O. Then it is ‘word’. Word implies knowledge. There is no word without knowledge. ‘In the beginning’ means before the creation. What was there before creation was word, pure knowledge. Name and form were there in the form of knowledge, but that knowledge had not come out in a visible form, in a differentiated form. In the beginning only knowledge was there. Knowledge can exist only in a conscious being, nowhere else. Therefore, knowledge exists in the all-knowing conscious being, whom people call God. Here we have to add that it exists in the maya-upadhi. When they say, “Word was with God” it is not something like ‘the car was with the man’. The next statement is, “The word was God”. The knowledge was not separate from that God Without that knowledge there is no God, and therefore the knowledge itself is God. That knowledge alone comes to manifestation as the jagat.

The seed-tree example has something special to convey this regard about this jagat. In the clay-pot example, there just a change of form, but in the seed-tree example there is real, intelligent programming involved. The roots, the taproot, secondary roots, trunk and so on must be there in the program. If it is a banyan tree that grows horizontally, it must have the programming for the adventitious roots to come down from the branches. Otherwise, banyan trees cannot afford to have such branches, they will break. To protect the trunk, the bark is necessary. The bark helps to retain, the water. The core trunk is also important. The tree does not need unnecessary water, and also, it has to become stronger and stronger. So, the core does not have water at all. It is like a bonal structure. There must be a programming for that core also. So too, there should be programming for the branches, for the seeds, for the flowers, for the type of flowers, for the type of fruits and so on. For the whole life of the tree there is a programming. This programming is a very intelligent one, enjoying a certain order. So much knowledge is involved even in the programming for a tree. For the entire jagat, for the sentient and insentient forms, the whole programming must be available in the un-manifest as knowledge, which is not separate from Brahman.

Swami Dayananda Saraswati

Excerpts from Mundakopanisad, Vol: 1

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What is God? Where is God? If he is in heaven, where was God before God created heaven? A vedantic View.


“Dad, tell me, who made all this?” asks a seven year old.

Dad can only say what he himself was told when he was young and never questioned afterwards. He was told that God made all this, and nobody questions that further. His granddad also confirmed what his father said. But the boy is not satisfied. He persists with questions:

“Where is that God? Have you seen him?”

The father says, “I have not seen him; I hope to see him. He is in heaven.”

“Dad, who created heaven?”

“God created heaven.”

“Where was God before God created heaven?”

And the child has to come up with the only answer possible: hell. God in hell created heaven. Hell was so hot, he couldn’t really sit there. To air condition all of hell is a hell of a job, and therefore, God went to heaven and kept hell for certain people. Still the questioning continues:

“Who created hell?”

Now dad has to say that God created hell.

“Where was God before he created this hell?”

The only answer Dad has left is: “Shut up. You ask too many questions.”

But that nascent, growing mind, with a freshness of its own, cannot easily give up the questioning. For a long time the child persists before giving up. Then he shuts his mouth and mind about that fundamental topic, that inevitable question. Later, he may conclude that God cannot be known, saying, “I am an agnostic. I don’t say God is; I don’t say that God is not.” He relegates the topic to the background, behind more important questions like how much he has on his credit card. When it comes to whether God exists, his mind is wide open and can go in any direction, like a freeway. But at least he doesn’t just say, “I know where God is—he is in heaven.” That person has stopped thinking and just believes what he was told. The question, however, is never given up. We are a rational person because viveka, discrimination, is our basic endowment. And it is arguably our greatest endowment. It makes the difference between a questioning person and a non-questioning person.

Unless this question is answered, you will feel insecure and uncertain about yourself. Everyone is born helpless, and to compensate, everyone is born with a capacity to trust totally. Whichever pair of hands picked the baby up—that pair of hands was trusted totally by the child, thank God. A baby does not have distrust or mistrust—it has total trust. It has to, because it is helpless. If you are helpless, you have to seek help. That is intelligent living. And when somebody offers help, you need to be able to trust that person. If somebody offers help but you don’t trust him at all, then what would be the result? A baby is born helpless and therefore, it needs to trust. It trusts totally, but slowly it loses the trust. That is because for the growing child, dad and mom are infallible, almighty—until there is a cockroach. Then the child runs to mother, thinking mother is infallible and that she will take care of it. In fact, only after running to mother would the child even look at the insect. When the child is with its with mother, there is no problem—it looks at the roach. That means the child trusts mother. Then the mother calls dad. “Don’t worry, I’ll call Dad.” This is how the erosion of trust begins. So, mom is fallible. But then, dad must be infallible. And dad—a big guy, comes and says, “Oh, that’s only a cockroach—don’t worry.” He phones the fire department! I am just given an exaggerated example. But this is how the child loses trust. You lose trust, and afterwards, all your life, you are searching for the infallible.

In fact, your whole life is a search for the infallible, and unless you discover the infallible, you are insecure. But the concepts of God, that we hear about from various religious pulpits are only fallible; they exhibit traits which even humans are exhorted to overcome. I have been told that I cannot afford to be judgmental. But God himself is presented as judgmental. On judgment day, he will judge you. When we present this God as judgmental, where is the infallibility? How a person can be judgmental and still be infallible? And what is the basis of his judgment?

These concepts of God that are floating around are really damaging to a human being’s psychological well being. God is presented as all good things, and all the opposite qualities are said to belong to the devil, Satan. Thus you have a vertical division right in your psyche. The person, the personality, is divided. And due to that split, you feel you can’t afford to have jealousy because if you feel jealous, then the devil has entered into you. But still, you do have jealousy due to some psychological reasons—perhaps due to circumstances when you were growing up. When somebody gets something that you don’t, then you feel jealous. You may say, “I am not.” Then what are you? “I only feed sad.” Why do you feel sad? “Because I don’t get what others get.” What does that mean? All right, you feel sad—do you enjoy the other person’s happiness, at least? “No, I can’t enjoy the other person being happy. I get angry.” That is called jealousy—the affliction arising on seeing another’s excellence is jealousy. This sorrow, that occurs when you see another person being happy is defined as jealousy. At least, you think he is happy. In your jealousy, you cannot but think he is happy, yet that may not be true. If you were to ask that person, he might tell you otherwise. We can get rid of that jealousy, but not by bracketing jealousy as Satan’s doing. Satan is not sitting somewhere, pushing jealousy into your head, deciding, “Let this fellow have jealousy today. Let him have some hatred today.” There is no such vertical division. If there were a Satan, even he could not be separate from God. By definition, such a Satan could not exist.

The Vedic vision of God is a whole vision, without such a split. And although it is a fact, not simply an option that one may choose, there is a necessity to qualify it as ‘Vedic’, for the unfortunate reason that there are dualistic versions of God. And the truth is that there cannot be many versions of God. Like the fact that one plus one equals two, the truth about the nature of God is not open for accommodation. You cannot choose to have one plus one equal three. That is not a cultural option. It is not like choosing a style of music. For instance, both Indian music and Western music have their own beauty. One is not greater than the other, and if you think that one is greater than the other, it just means that you don’t understand the other. Things are different and we have to take them as they are; we try to understand them. When that is the case, each style is valid. Music is open to your choice, but the sum of one plus one is not. It is two. You can’t say, “In my country, one plus one equals three”, or “In my culture, one plus one is four.”

So, too, there is no such option about the truth of God. If God is a reality, then definitely I have to discover that. The Veda tells me, “All this, whatever moves in the world, is to be [understood as] pervaded by Ishvara,” “All that is here is Ishvara” is the opening sentence of the Ishavasyam Upnishad,.

All that is here is Isvara. Therefore, look at it as such.” For your own sanity, look at all that is here as Iswara. There is nothing other than Isvara. Look at that. The Veda is not saying that there is one God; it says there is only God. If you do not see that, you have to prove that it is not true. It is not a matter of belief.

When I look at this given body/mind/sense complex, I definitely find that what I thought was hardware is nothing but software. This is an amazing thing. When I go to the level of quantum physics, I understand that there is only software—the whole thing is knowledge. When I examine the cell, it just opens up new areas for me to know. This cell is governed by the laws of biology—in fact, the cell is biology, and as such, it has properties in common with all other cells. For instance, there is not a separate, isolated pack of cells for Swami Dayananda. And it is not that the swami’s cells are different, holy cells while the cells of people who are not swamis are unholy cells. There is no such difference. The cells are the same. There is nothing special or holy about the cells that make up Swami Dayananda. All cells are governed by the same biological laws. There is no such thing as holy as opposed to unholy. In fact, either everything is holy, or there is no such thing as holy.

Not only is there a commonality, but all the structures I see are intelligently arranged. If I just look at the physical body, I see it consists of parts that are put together intelligently. If I look at a plant or this tent in which we are all sitting, I find they are intelligently put together. If the tent were unintelligently put together, it would collapse. Similarly, a car is a car because its parts are intelligently put together. So, too, my physical body is intelligently put together. No one can simply create a pair of eyes if mine need replacement. While organs cannot be created, some, such as the kidneys, can be replaced through transplantation. Transplantation is a possibility in the scheme of things. This is all intelligently put together, with the possibility of transplantation. Where something is intelligently put together, we don’t take it for granted. Even though you don’t see the person who has the intelligence which put it all together, you cannot but recognize that there is such a being. For instance, suppose you ask me, “Who put this tent together?” and I tell you, “Oh, yesterday, it just sprang up. We thought it would be nice to have a tent, so we thought of a tent and it sprang up.” Perhaps some people may believe that, because anything can pass as truth in this world. However, in this campus, at Arsha Vidya Gurukulum, we don’t let it pass. We question. In studying Arsha Vidya—the knowledge of the Rishis, or seers, we learn to question in order to see the essential truth.

Since we see that the universe, including my body/mind/sense complex, is intelligently arranged, we cannot but appreciate that there is an intelligent being, regardless of whether we think he is here, there, or elsewhere. The physical body is a marvel. It is not meant to give you complexes. It is meant to serve you, but it has become a locus of complexes. That I am black; that I am not blond, may give rise to complexes in certain cultures. Or that I am blonde may be a problem in other cultures. People do have complexes, all because of ignorance. There is a self-judgment because of a certain basic ignorance, which implies the ignorance of God, as well. In fact, the basic ignorance is ignorance of God. This physical body, with the mind and senses organs, with all its faculties, is a marvelous piece of creation. ‘Creation’ only means that it is intelligently put together. It does not mean that God dropped it down from somewhere else. The fact that it is intelligently arranged implies an intelligent being, a conscious being. That conscious being must have the knowledge of what is going to be created because creation presupposes knowledge. Knowledge has to rest in a conscious being. When we talk about the total creation, then that conscious being must have the knowledge of all; he must be, all knowing, the one who knows everything (in detail) is omniscient. The Veda tells us that God is all-knowing in terms of all details.

Then we may ask where God found the material to make this world. He could not have borrowed from anybody, because there was nobody else to borrow it from—everybody had yet to be created. He has to find the material only in himself. Therefore, in keeping with the nature of the reality of the world, there must be a material cause. We call that material cause prakÎti, and it is not separate from the being, purusha. The Lord has to have that power. As to the question of where God abides, there is no ‘where’ for God. The question of ‘where’ doesn’t come into the picture, because space and time have not yet been created. The fact that the Lord is the one who is the maker as well as the material cause opens up a new vision for me. Anything created from a material is not going to be independent of that material, like the shirt that you wear. If your shirt is made of cotton fabric, you cannot remove the cotton fabric and still be wearing a shirt. Your clothes are made of the fabric. If you remove the fabric, where are the clothes? Only emperor’s clothes may be there. The shirt is fabric, and there is no shirt apart from fabric, much less is there fabric without yarn. There is no yarn without fibers, and there are no fibers without molecules, nor are there molecules without atoms. You can go on and on, but anything created is not separate from the material of which it is made. In the model that is presented by the Veda, the five elements: akasa, space, which includes time; vayu, air; agni, fire; apah, water; and prtivi, earth, subtle and gross, manifested from Isvara and constitute this universe. And this universe includes your body/mind/sense complex. The first of these elements, which manifested from Isvara, the cause, is space. “From that [Brahman] which is this self arose the space, That’s why space is worshipped. Time, kala, is also worshipped in India. Thus, all the five elements, which include space and time, are the universe, and the universe is not other than the Lord.

The Veda does not say there is one God. It says there is only God.

Swami Dayananda Saraswati

Excepts from  Arsha Vidya Gurukulam 15th Anniversary Souvenir, 2001

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What is advaita, non-dualism?

gurudev (2)

Vedanta says that the seeker is himself the sought. Like the search of the tenth man for himself, in the story of The Tenth Man, moksa – मोक्ष – or liberation is the nature of the very Self. Even though we are in search of happiness, we already are of the nature of unsurpassable happiness. This is non-dualism – advaita अद्वैत.

A limited one cannot achieve limitless happiness. Vedanta tells us that we are limitless. All limitation is in terms of time, space, and object. That we are limitless implies that we are not limited in time, space, or qualities. It means that we include all time, the entire space, and ‘every object or quality. Therefore, whatever exists is the Self. This is non-dualism – advaita अद्वैत.

How do we account for the duality that we see? I see that you are different from me. If you and I are different from each other, it means that I am limited and you are also limited. For me to be limitless you should also be limitless; everything should be limitless. There should only be limitlessness and no differences whatsoever. So what do we make of the differences that we see? It means that these differences cannot be real. None of the differences or duality in this creation is real. It is mithya – मिथ्या – appearance, a projection. Thus, starting with the idea that we are limitless, we can arrive at this conclusion. That is why we require Vedanta as a pramana – प्रमाण –  or means of knowledge. Vedanta alone can tell us that we are limitless because there is no other way for us to discover this fact by ourselves. While we have taken for granted that we are limited, Vedanta says we are limitless, implying that our sense of limitation and differences must be false. This is non-dualism – advaita अद्वैत.

Then how do We explain the creation? What is this creation? The creation is nothing but a superimposition. For you to be limitless, you must be one and non-dual. Therefore, the truth must be one and non-dual. For the truth to be non-dual it must be both the material and the efficient cause of this creation. In other words, it must be both the creator and the creation. That is why God is both the material as well as the efficient cause of this creation. He is the creator as well as the creation. This is non-dualism – advaita अद्वैत.

All traditions accept God as the creator of the world. Most traditions, however, View God as different from the creation. He is seen to have created this world and is said to be in the heavens or in some place away from the creation. For creation you require knowledge and, therefore, the creator must be all knowing or omniscient. For creation you also require the power or the skill to create, so the creator must be all-powerful or omnipotent. Therefore, God, the creator of the universe, is omniscient and omnipotent. Obviously, I cannot be that! I know that I am limited in power, limited in knowledge, and limited in every other way. God has to be different from me.” When God is looked upon as merely the efficient cause or creator of the universe, which is how most traditions or theologians understand Him, He has to be different from us. Then, if you are a devotee of Lord Krishna, gaining Goloka and being in the presence of Lord Krishna is – मोक्ष  -moksa, liberation. That is  – द्वैत  dvaita, duality.

God is not only the efficient cause but the material cause as well. But some traditions View the universe as the body of God. You are a part of the creation and, therefore, you are also a part of God: You are a part and God is the whole. This is qualified non-dualism – visishtha-advaita विषिष्ठ अद्वैत.

In truth, however, the creation is, not real, meaning that God is not the creator or the cause in the primary sense. He transcends the very idea of cause and effect: When you recognize that God transcends both the efficient and material causality, you will see Him as your own Self. Then there is non-duality. This is advaita अद्वैत.

Swami Vivekanandaji used to say that the philosophies of dualism – द्वैत  dvaita, qualified-non-dualism –  visista-advaita विषिष्ठ अद्वैत  and non-dualism  – advaita अद्वैत – are a progression from one truth to another truth, meaning that there is a progression from a lower truth to a higher truth. There is a statement that is attributed to Hanuman when he says to Lord Rama:

देह्बुध्या तु दासोस्मी जीवबुध्या त्वदन्शकः
आत्मबुद्ध्या त्वमेवाहं इति निश्चिता मतिः

When I am identified with my body, I am your servant. When I look upon myself as a firm, I am part of you Yet when I see myself as atma, I am you. This is my firm conviction.

When we are identified with the body, the Lord is our master and we are his servant. We are separate from him. When we look upon ourselves as the jiva, a limited conscious being, we are a part of the Lord. He is the totality of consciousness, and we are but a spark of that consciousness. However, when we look upon ourselves as am, the Self, we are no different from the Lord. This is the experience of non-dualism – advaita अद्वैत.

As long as there is a strong identification with the body, God is separate from us. A strong identification with the body creates a strong sense of limitation and an acceptance of the experiential duality.

The Vedantins also worship God, not to perpetuate duality, but to gradually eliminate the reality given to the apparent duality. In our prayers to the Lord, we pray for the removal of the duality that we feel.

Swami Viditatmanand Saraswati

Excerpts from Satsang with Swami Viditatmanand, Vol: 1

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Who created this world? How?


Who created this world? I certainly have not done so. Who created the sun and the stars? I certainly have not done so. Who made the clouds? Who formulated the laws by which all this functions. Who set the cycle of the tides and the seasons? Who provided for the needs of every creature? The world is a furnished house meant to be enjoyed by all; its kitchen serves food to every creature, be it a bee, a bird, or a man. All beings are equipped for survival; human beings come with nostrils to draw oxygen from air, a fish with gills to draw it from water. I find that nothing here is redundant. Everything is well-designed, including the human machine which is capable of lasting a hundred years. Who authored this intelligent, meaningful creation?

This desire to know the cause of something is natural to humankind. If I say, “There is a fire”; you will ask for the evidence. I answer, “I see smoke, and therefore there is a fire”. For any inference or presumption the human intellect demands that there be a cause. Without this “cause- hunting”; behavior a human being would be like an animal, led only by the senses; there would be no inference, in presumption, no final knowledge.

The Cause of the Objective Creation

An objective creation is one that is available for perception by all observers; the object exists, and therefore you and I and others see it. This is in contrast to a subjective creation, a creation that is only perceived by its author. In a dream you see a mountain. The mountain is not an objective creation; no one but you can see it. You see it in. your mind and therefore it exists.

How can one account for this objective creation? Who authored this world? For any creation there must be a creator who knows exactly what he or she is going to create and has in mind the purpose and the means of creating it. That person is called निमित्त कारण nimitta karna, the efficient cause, an intelligent being who has the knowledge and skill to create something particular. A potter knows what a pot is and how to make it. He knows what to use as material, how to shape it, what tools are needed — in short, the potter is one who has the knowledge and skill to make pots. A bird has the knowledge and skill to make a nest, a bee to make a honeycomb. For this world, there must be a creator who has both the knowledge of the entire creation and the power to create it.

Belief or Knowledge

If I hold a watch before you and ask you “Do you believe that there is a maker of this watch?” your reply has to be, “Yes”. You did not see anyone make the watch, but you still say that the watchmaker exists. Your conclusion is based on the same type of cause-hunting that makes it unnecessary to question and verify the existence of your great-great-grandfather though you have never seen even a picture of him; the fact that you are here is the proof that he was here before you. You are an effect that must have a cause. Though you do not know the maker of the watch, you know that there must be a maker, for any effect presupposes a cause.

Let us analyze what belief is. A belief is a judgement prior to gaining knowledge and is subject to verification by inquiry. Suppose you say, “John is a good man”; even though you have never met him. You really do not know that John is good, but only believe so because someone said to you that he is good. There is every possibility that this belief can be belied. If you meet John and he does or does not turn out to be good, what you then have is not belief any longer, but knowledge about John.

Belief is not based on knowledge, and so it can always be shaken. Belief that cannot be shaken is not belief; it is knowledge. Even if a million people say that fire is cold, you will not accept it, because the fact that fire is hot is knowledge which cannot be shaken by anyone. Now remember the Watch and the watchmaker. If I say that I believe in the existence of the watchmaker, his or her existence is subject to negation. Is there any possibility that the watch can be without a creator? No. Therefore, what you have is knowledge of the existence of a watchmaker, not belief.

Similarly, it is not right to say that you believe in God, the creator of this world. You see the creation which is intelligent and purposeful. Therefore, you do not simply believe – you know that there must be a creator for it. That creator should be omniscient and omnipotent, for as the potter must have the knowledge of the pot and the skill to make it, the creator of all must have all knowledge and all skill. You do not find such a being here on earth, so you imagine that He or She resides in a place, say heaven, unknown to you. You say that God in heaven created this world.

This simplistic statement will not satisfy your intellect for long. The problem now is, who created the heaven, where did God sit when He created this world? And if God created- that heaven, where was God seated before the creation of heaven? This endless chain of questions arises because we fail to recognize another equally important cause of creation.

The Material Cause

For anything that is created, not only is there a creator, the intelligent cause, who has the intelligence to make it, but also there is the material with which to create. Without clay a potter cannot make pots. The material of which a thing is made is called उपादान कारण updana karna, the material cause. The creator of the world must have needed material to create it. If that material was different from God, one could ask, who made the material? If the answer is that someone else made it, it can be argued that this someone must be considered the real creator of the world, and the question remains: from where did this new God get the material to make the world? If He made it with some other material, from where did that material come? To avoid landing in the logical absurdity of infinite regress, we must say that God Himself is the material cause of creation. God finds the material in Himself, and from it creates the world. In Mundakopanisad, it is said, Just as a spider spreads out and draws in (the thread that it spins)…

The spider is both उपादान कारण upadana karna and निमित्त कारण nimitta karna, the material of the web and the one who weaves it. Similarly, when you dream, you are the author of the dream creation, and you are also the material of it. The ocean, the mountain, the sun and moon that are so vivid in your dream are created by you out of yourself. You are both उपादान कारण upadana karana and निमित्त कारण nimitta karna of the dream.

This world is authored by someone who must be both its efficient and material cause. If God is the material cause, he does not stand apart from the creation. When you pick up a pot, you also pick up the material of the pot, clay; when you hold a gold chain, you hold gold. Wherever an object goes, its material cause accompanies it. The object is sustained by the material of which it is made; an effect is never separate from its material cause. If the Lord is the material and efficient cause of creation, what is the distance between the Lord and creation? There can be no distance. The Lord is the creation.

Swami Dayananda Saraswati

Excerpts from The Teaching of Bhagvad Gita

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