Vedantic Wednesday: Atman and Brahman – Second Part

Last week, I had shared with you one of the examples that we stumble upon regularly in advaita philosophy as it attempts tolight explain non-duality. Many of you had also shared with me how simple and hence stunning this example is. Though the philosophy attempts to explain the highest principles, as great teachers, our vedantic masters understood they have to take the help of simplicity to explain the complex of complex principles.  Sharing below another example which more recent masters use to explain non-duality.

To understand the identical nature of Atman and Brahman one can observe the impact of electricity on various bulbs. When electricity (consciousness) passes through the 10 watt bulb, the illumination is that of 10 watts (microcosm). When the same electricity passes through a 1,000,000 watt bulb, the illumination is so many times bigger (macrocosm). The differences in the light produced by the two bulbs is because of the nature of the bulbs (upadhis) and has nothing to do with the electricity (consciousness principle). In a similar manner the microcosmic (jiva) and macrocosmic (Isvara) are due to their respective conditionings (upadhis) of the microcosm (three bodies) and the macrocosm (cosmos). But just like the constant electricity the underlying Sat-Cit-Ananda principle remains the same and unchanged.


Vedantic Wednesday: Why is applying Advaita unimaginable?

In today’s world intelligence is valued over intellect. The manifestation of this is the acknowledgement of somebody being more successful than the other as per the worldly yardstick. This thought when delved into deeper will explain the reason why selfishness is prevalent even in the most unselfish act. The moment we begin to compare or start fixing reference points in the external world or in other people, for measuring our success – we start unconsciously acknowledging ourselves as different from the other. This idea leads to people becoming more attached at the physical and emotional level.

In the last week’s post we spoke about a fundamental concept of advaita philosophy called SELF or ATMAN. Advaita means non-duality. The idea when believed that there are no two makes living life extremely simple and easy.  But believing in the concept and living it is seems unimaginable. It is very rare to find people who act selflessly for a higher cause. Even the so called renunciants of the world let go only of things that do not matter to them anymore.  The moment we start seeing US in others it becomes very difficult to act selfishly. While practice of overcoming selfishness, being more empathetic, giving charity, sharing with others thereby giving up things is not only difficult to sustain but almost unimaginable.  This is because running towards these qualities is the same as running away from them. It is just a shift in direction.

The only way to live peacefully and be most productive in life is by making the effort to develop one’s intellect so that the concept of advaita can be understood and internalized. It is only on internalizing this concept that it will become natural for one to start seeing the one BRAHMAN manifested as number of ATMAN. The moment we let go of relative comparisons amongst individuals enables the human being to focus on their purpose on earth; and thereby make their fullest contribution.

Vedantic Wednesday: Structuring of Vedas- Technical and Spiritual

In the greatest level of abstraction Vedanta means knowledge of the absolute reality.  Vedanta espouses that such knowledge is not gained by symbolic practices, consumption of voluminous scriptures but through direct experience. In the physical manifestation, Vedanta – represents the end portion of the Vedas – Veda-anta’.

Thought to have been composed over thousands of years, the Vedas are as per religious tradition considered to be created for the benefit of humanity by the supreme Being – ‘Brahman’. They contain within them the eternal truths and become manifest as per the need of the age.

Each of the Vedas is considered to be made of four distinct sections.

  • ‘Mantras’ – the collection of hymns and prayers through which one can seek almost everything that is conceivable in the physical world from the numerous gods and goddesses.
  • Brahmana’ – collection of rituals, rules and details for performance of various sacrifices and conduct of yagnas.  It interprets the word of Mantras and how they are to be understood in the conduct of sacrifices.
  • Aranyaka’ – is the beginning of the purely spiritual elements of the Vedas, where one moves from the performance of sacrifices to understand and inquire about their context and meaning.
  • Upanishads’ – following the Aranyakas represents the repository of spirituality.  It is in Upanishads that one finds the inquiry into ultimate reality, where oneness of Atman and Brahman and the universal implications are recorded as seen by sages. The journey from Mantras to Aranyakas through Brahmana prepares the mortal mind to grasp this truth.

Upanishads – as sacred texts are called Vedanta – the end portions of the veda. Situated physically at the end of each Veda, they hold within them the eternal truth that is found by powerful internal inquiry, with the power to liberate us from bondage.

Upanishads poised at the end of each of the vedas propound the oneness of Atman and Brahman. Aitareya Upanisad of the Rigveda states “Prajnanam Brahma“ (The Brahman means realising the jnana that is the highest ),  ” Aham Brahmasmi” (I am the Brahman) is stated in the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad of the Yajurveda., “Tat tvam asi” (The Paramatman and you are the one and the same)  is from the Chandogya Upanisad of the samaveda and “Ayam Atma Brahma” (This Self is the Brahman”), is from the Mandukya Upanisad of the Atharvaveda.

The structuring of these ageless scriptures, all based on the concerted note of oneness is  a strong indication of the singular view of the universal truth. 

While trying to grasp and experience what is contained in these texts is akin to emptying ocean with our cupped palms ; every dip one takes, however brief – has a cleansing effect that is undeniable!