Eka jIva VAda – I Am Alone: Part II:
The quintessential teaching of Advaita is well encapsulated in the famous half-verse long apopthegm comprising eight words:
jIvah brahmaiva na aparah
(Brahman alone is Real; the world is unreal; and the individual (jIva) is in actual fact non-different from Brahman).
Thus the jIva-brahmaikya vAda (the Doctrine of the Identity of the individual and Brahman) effectively sums up the message of Advaita.
All of us are jIvas. Obviously then, without doubt, we are Brahman.
However, we outdo Brahman, if I may say so, with two additional qualities. These are (i) a delimited size, shape etc. (finitude in dimensions) and (ii) an ID (individual name, lineage etc.).
These two additional qualities make each of us distinct and help us distinguish one from the other. Brahman lacks any such cognizable characteristics. So we cannot point a finger to It and say: ‘that’s what Brahman is like.’ But notice that we cannot miss identifying one character that is common to each and everything that we ever come across. All of the jIvas and also the things simply and undeniably “are” (the equivalent of “to be” in the third person, plural number, as per grammar). So “Beingness” is the common characteristic in all. Thus “Beingness” is universal. Hence “Universal Beingness” (satta sAmAnya) is itself Brahman.
The ensemble of all the jIvas together with all the other things which we identify with a specific name and form such as hills and valleys, space and time, houses and trees is our world (jagat).
I see the world out there situated external to me.
We uquestioningly take it for granted that the “knowing” capacity is vested in a ‘me’ here (within my body) and what is known to me lies outside me. In addition, what is under my control is regarded by me as ‘mine’ and what cannot be manipulated by me is considered as ‘not-mine.’ I create a sense of separation between ‘me’ who knows and what is known (the world). Thus I set myself apart from every other jIva as well as every other object in the world.
And here we come face to face with an inexplicable rub. If some things are not under my control, it would imply that I did not make them. Who then has created them?
There is no way for me to know. So I proceed with the assumption that there has to be an agent for this activity of creation, a creator. I give him the name of Isvara. I console myself that the jagat is the creation of Isvara and hence is beyond my control. Then I broaden it to say that anything and everything outside my control is Isvara sRshTi.
Subsequently, I upend this whole sequence of developments and say that I am a limited jIva born into the jagat which was created by Isvara.
So now I have three things to deal with: jIva – jagat – Isvara.
I am perplexed!
I begin to wonder about the process by which Isvara created the world. That becomes another intangible question for me. It looks like sheer magic. Yes, magic it is, I convince myself, for I cannot decipher any tangible reason.
The Sanskrit word for this is mAyA. Ah, the word itself sounds so captivating, so enthralling, I am lost in it. I surmise that it is mAyA which has given me and every other perceivable thing in the world the two extra traits – a name and a form, thus apparently changing the formless, attributteless, dimensionless Brahman that I truly am.
I conceive mAya to be a ‘magical force’ (shakti) of Isvara.
Being totally immersed in this imaginary story I weave around myself, I ascribe two powers to mAyA – I believe that it is because of its power that I forget who really I am. I give a name to this power. I call it ‘concealing’ power (AvaraNa shakti). All the things that I perceive to be outside me, I believe, are due to what I name as its ‘projecting’ power (vikshepa shakti). I play the ‘victim’ role. That gives me a window of escape from accepting responsibility. It is all mAyA’s projection that I see and it is mAyA that conceals the Truth from me.
I find both Isvara and his indescribable power, mAyA, are completely beyond my control. I feel very subordinate to them and much subjugated. So I begin to glorify them. I deify them. I believe I am born into a jagat already created by Isvara and I think I experience a world.
I take the world to be ‘real’, my reality being defined by me as that which is experienced by me through my senses and mind. The sensory signals perceived by me (= sensations) are given a meaning, a physicality and solidity by my mind thereby further consolidating my belief in a pre-existing world into which I am born.
This, in gist, is the sRshTi – dRshti vAda.
Ramesam: Yours is a clear and succinct description of the sishtri doctrine of creation, which, I think, could be arrived at, step by step, by a phenomenological analysis (comprising both the successive steps and the complete picture). A religionist, I think, would find this description somewhat aseptic, but your intention, evidently, is to give the outline of a creation myth or story, nothing else.
A believer or religious person would like to see, no doubt, the fundamental aspect of love (that of the way of bhakti, which includes pious renunciation) brought in.
Would you say that that doctrine is closer to the way of love than the doctrine of drishti-sishtri vada? Fear, and the escape from freedom and responsibility, are not a good basis for a spiritual and fulfilling life.
Thank you Martin for the kind words.
You have made a reference to love and devotion (bhakti) – both are very significant issues for any spiritual practitioner. But because of this very fact, these words have acquired a heavy load of baggage, each person ascribing to them a meaning in his/her own way. The Advaitic understanding of these terms vastly differs from what one means in common parlance.
Hence please permit me to respond to the points made by you in a subsequent Post of mine.