Q: I’m aware that I’m on (very) shaky ground when I talk/think about brahman. But there’s something that’s been bugging me for a long time now about the ‘definitions’ of brahman I’ve read.
Brahman is always described as changeless and eternal.
Let’s start with ‘changeless’. When I think (conceptualize, make images) about a changeless ‘force’ (for want of a better non-object word), I envision something static and dead, without animus, without vitality. Absolute zero, utter lack of motion/vibration, fixed-ness. But I can’t put this static-ness together with brahman, the ‘mother of all existence and vitality’. How could utter stillness give rise to such a vibrant universe?
Onto ‘eternal’. Why does brahman have to be eternal? Why couldn’t it have arisen with the Source Event (Big Bang, etc.) and evolved into its ‘current’ fullness? Likewise, why couldn’t it end with the collapse of the universe back to a zero-dimensional point?
So changeless and eternal elude/confuse me. But I suspect that’s because I’m trying to image-ine them, which is an oxymoron: conceptualizing the non-conceptual.
This wording works MUCH better for me:
Brahman is not of change, and not of time … both of which are human concepts.
Is this translation accurate? Does changeless not mean un-changing (which is built on the concept of change), rather: beyond change? Does eternal not mean never-ending (which is built on the concept of time), rather: beyond time? Instead of thinking changeless and eternal, can I more accurately think: the concepts of change and time do not apply to brahman?
A: You are essentially correct. Brahman is ‘beyond’ time and space in the sense that every thing/concept exists ‘within’ brahman and is ultimately mithyA. Thus brahman is changeless because change requires time – a ‘state’ at one moment in time and a different state at some later time. ‘Eternal’ is not really a good word because it presupposes existence in time; it means ‘lasting forever’, i.e. for all time. Time and space come into existence with creation, as you suggest with the big bang; and cease to exist with the end of the universe (pralaya). The scriptures say that the entire duration of creation is but a day in the life of Brahma, And then there is another… and another…
You should not think of changeless as dead or static. Think of the axle at the center of a wheel. Everything moves around it while it remains still. As T. S. Eliot says (Four Quartets, Burnt Norton):
“At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is, But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity, Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards, Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.”