The manifested universe ‘becoming’ from the unmanifest?

“At the beginning of all things, there was neither being nor non-being, and what existed was an impenetrable darkness” – R.V. X 129.

“From the unmanifested (asat) the world of names and forms (sat) is said to arise.” – Taittiriya Up ll.7.1 (S. Radhakrishnan trans.)

(The manifested universe – the world of names and forms – is called sat, and its unmanifested condition asat. The possible or potential is prior to the actual… Asat, non-existent, does not mean absolute non-being. It is a state in which name and form were not manifested: avyakrta-nama-rupam – S. Radh.)

In the Chandogya Up there is this: “in the beginning this was non-being. That was being; it came into existence… “ – CU, lll.19, The Upanishads, trans. & ed. Valerie J. Roebuck (2003). (In Radhakrisnanan trans.: “In the beginning this (world) was non-existent. It became existent. It grew… “)

As Valerie J. Roebuck notes, this is in apparent disagreement with the following:

“In the beginning, good lad, this was being*, one alone without a second. Some say, ‘In the beginning this was not-being, one alone without a second. From that not-being, being was produced’. But, good lad, how could that be?, he said. How could being be produced from non-being? In the beginning, good lad, surely this was being, one alone without a second.

‘It thought, ‘Let me become many; let me be born’” (CU Vl. 2. 1-2)

*Under Note 36, V. J. Roebuck writes: “That was being: Or perhaps, ‘it became being, though the verb used is asit, not abhavat’.


Note. Any thoughts on the above, or is it clearly only an apparent contradiction? Secondly, what does ‘becoming’ mean in an ambience of non-duality, e.g. the unmanifest ‘becoming’ manifested?

What comes first, being or desire [becoming]?

“With being arising in consciousness, the ideas of what you are arise in your mind, as well as what you should be. This brings forth desire and action and the process of becoming begins. Becoming has, apparently, no beginning and no end, for it restarts every moment. With the cessation of imagination and desire, becoming ceases and the being this or that merges into pure being, which is not describable, only experienceable.
“The world appears to you so overwhelmingly real because you think of it all the time; cease thinking of it and it will dissolve into thin mist. You need not forget; when desire and fear end, bondage also ends. It is the emotional involvement, the pattern of likes and dislikes which we call character and temperament that create the bondage.”

– Nisargadatta Maharaj, I am That

“There is no becoming, no destruction, no one in bondage, no one having desire to be released, no one making effort (to attain liberation) and no one who has attained liberation. Know that this is the absolute truth”

– Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, quoting Mandukya Karika

Becoming and Progressive Paths


“Dogmas, doctrines and progressive paths which promise eventual enlightenment, or Nirvana, or the Kingdom of Heaven, through sacrifice, discipline, refinement and purification of the self, appeal tremendously to that within the seeker which feels unworthy. Hence, the power of classic religion and teachings of becoming. Traditional Advaita is just another one of these.”

Tony Parsons

Full article can be read here:

Being is Reality

All things exist. We cannot conceive of non-existence as different from existence, for even non-existence, in order that it may convey any sense, must become a content of consciousness. And consciousness must be.

Existence is the minimum to which things can be reduced, without which even thought is impossible. Everything relates to existence of some kind, and there is no thought of non-existence. To argue along the lines of Parmenides, existence is that which does not admit of any change. We cannot think what is not, for what is not cannot come into being, either from what is or from what is not.

If what is comes from what is, we would be stating something which we ourselves do not understand, for what is includes all things, and there is no such thing as the production of what is from what is. What is, again, cannot come from what is not, for what is not has no meaningful value. To posit the relation of what is to what is by way of causation involves a tautology, and to conceive of the coming into being of what is from what is not, is absurd.

There cannot be something other than what is, for what is, is the all. Even supposing that there is such a thing as the coming into being of one thing from another thing, we would have to admit that nothing other than what is can come into being, for we cannot add anything to what is, and anything added must itself be a part of what is.

There cannot be anything exceeding what is, and what is not, again, cannot come into being. That which is cannot increase, and cannot also decrease, for it is always. If something is to be removed from what is, so that the latter may be lessened, what is removed should be either what is or what is not. What is cannot be removed from what is, and what is not cannot, again, be removed from what is, for it means nothing at all.

The concept of dimension, again, is possible only when there is spatial separation of one thing from another. But even space is included in what is. So what is cannot be diminished in any way. And it cannot be increased, because we cannot add anything to it other than itself.

Existence is the whole reality. It does not admit of either addition or subtraction, production or change of any kind. In order that it may move or change, there should be space; but space is not outside it. True being has no origination, no change, and so no end. This being must be equally present everywhere, with no less or more of it anywhere. It is that which is.

As being is indivisible, it cannot conceive of a real distinction of things in it. All things are being. If there are things other than being, they must be non-being. Even becoming has meaning only when it has being. If being is to be divided, we may have to introduce some other distinguishable and distinguishing element in it, which would be nothing but non-being.

Being is reality.

from The Philosophy of Life by Swami Krishnananda, The Divine Life Society.

Astavakra and indifference to ‘becoming’

Janaka said:
In me, the boundless ocean, the ark of the universe moves hither and thither, impelled by this wind of its own inherent nature. I am not impatient [affected].
In me, the limitless ocean, let the wave of the world rise or vanish of itself. I neither increase not decrease thereby.
In me, the boundless ocean, is the imagination of the universe. I am quite tranquil and formless. In this alone do I abide.
The Self is not in the object, nor is the object in the Self which is infinite and stainless. Thus It is free from attachment and desire, and tranquil. I this alone do I abide.
Oh, I am really consciousness itself. The world is like a juggler’s show. So how and where can there be any thought of rejection and acceptance in me?

Chapter VII “Nature of self-realisation”, Astavakra Samhita, Swami Nityaswarupananda

Becoming – in Shankara and Plato

Some interesting contrast and parallels can be made between the non-duality of the Indian subcontinent and the philosophical thought of the greatest Western philosopher, Plato. The concept of Becoming is a case in point. This term has, for the latter, both epistemic and ontological connotations. Its primary meaning – as doxa – is opinion, in particular true opinion (epistemology), but it is also akin to the Shankhyan concept of prakrity – underlying matter, material cause, or matrix (ontology).

On the other hand, the Platonic Becoming resembles ‘mithya’ (not true, not false): a mistaken identification, mistaking resemblance (or appearance) for identity, that is, sensible appearance for true reality. Doxa or opinion usually refers, in the Greek philosopher, to a state of indiscriminate cognition, mixing the particular with the ideal or universal, the unreal with the real, reminiscent of the double notion of avidya-adhyasa or mutual superimposition of the unreal and the real of Shankara’s philosophy.

From the stand-point of advaita  Becoming is related to the vyavaharika view-point, where it has practical validity in the empirical realm. It is applicable to the disciplines of psychology, biology, and the process of knowledge/knowing, etc.

What about the notions of apparent transformation (Vivarta-vada) and real transformation (Parinama-vada), which appear to be related to Becoming one way or another? The latter, promoted by Shankhya philosophy, is refuted by Shankara and his followers as a metaphysical theory related to the cause of the world; this leaves aside the frequently quoted example of milk turning into curds of phenomenal reality, which is taken to be a real ransformation.

Concerning change and Becoming, which are practically equivalent metaphysical concepts, the final word lies with Shankara (and Gaudapada): “What is never ceases to be; what is not never comes into being”. At this level of understanding there is neither time, space nor causation.

Becoming, Being and the Brain

brain - nancyCan one day the brain science tell us “Who we truly are?”

And show the difference between ‘becoming’ and ‘Being’  in a brain scan?

Can a scan possibly differentiate a “Knower of Truth” vs an “Expert on Truth”?

Please watch this Talk (17:40 min) of Nancy Kanwisher, a Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at MIT. Nancy’s Talk is supported by excellent graphics.

The man who flowers is the man who is, who is not becoming.

“All our thinking and activity is based on becoming, is it not? I am using that word becoming very simply, not philosophically, but in the ordinary sense of wanting to become something either in this world or in the so-called spiritual world. If we can understand this process of wanting to become something, then I think we shall have understood what sorrow is, because it is the desire to become that gives to the mind the soil in which sorrow can grow . . . We have never a moment when there is no ‘becoming’ and only ‘being’ – that ‘being’ which is nothing. But that ‘being’ which is nothing cannot possibly be understood if we do not fully grasp the significance of ‘becoming'”

“Is there not a difference between the flowering mind and the becoming mind? The becoming mind is a mind that is always growing, becoming, enlarging, gathering experience as knowledge. We know that process full well in our daily life, with all its results, with all its conflicts, its miseries and strife, but we do not know the life of flowering. And is there not a difference between the two which we have to discover – not by trying to demarcate, to separate, but to discover – in the process of our living? When we discover this, we may perhaps be able to set aside this ambition, the way of choice, and discover a flowering, which is the way of life, which may be true action.”

-J Krishnamurti

Topic of the month – Becoming“Becoming” seems to be an ensnaring urge for human beings the world over. This drive to “become” better or different from ‘what Is’ is not merely confined to mundane matters; it pervades the spiritual scene as well. Accordingly most of the spiritual/religious approaches cater to or focus on this human need for betterment: improving this quality or eliminating that one, mastering siddhi-s, strengthening faith, deepening some trait or transcending another one etc. And all of this “becoming” is supposed to lead us to a preset goal – whatever this may be in the respective context.

Advaita is the only philosophy that goes beyond this ubiquitous orientation towards ‘becoming.’  Not that the acquisition of certain skills or the elimination of certain identifications would be devalued but advaita points out that becoming by itself will not lead anyone to the True Knowledge, the only goal of every pursuit – simply because that goal is never away in space or time from the seeker.

Advaita’s fundamental teaching that “You are That” means that everyone in essence is already the perfection, the sat – cit- Ananda, that he/she strives to attain. In fact the only missing thing is the recognition of that simple fact. Yes, in order to gain the understanding of who you truly are, usually you will have to invest some time and effort. But at least you need not struggle to become something different from what you already are. Advaita provides the signposts towards this understanding.

Please submit your quotes, short extracts or personal blogs on this topic.

Photo credits:

What is Brahman? (Part 4)

(Read Part 3)

Leo Hartong also uses the metaphor of clouds, as thoughts, in the blue sky of ‘I am’ awareness:

“Ramana Maharshi recommended that one investigates by asking the question ‘ Who am I?’ When asked who you are, there might be a hesitation as to what to answer; but when asked if you exist, there is no such doubt. The answer is a resounding, ‘ Yes, of course I exist.’ When the answer to the first question is as clear as the answer to the second question, there is understanding.

“The realization is that both questions have in fact the same answer. That which is sure of its existence –the innermost certainty of I Am- is what you essentially are. In other words: I Am this knowing that knows that I Am. The Hindus say Tat Tvam Asi (Thou Art That). In the Old Testament, God says, ‘ I Am that I Am.’ This undeniable ‘ I Am’ is not you in the personal sense, but the universal Self. Ramana Maharshi called the fundamental oneness of ‘ I Am’ and the universal Self ‘ I-I.’ Continue reading