Part 18 of the commentary by Dr. VIshnu Bapat on Shankara’s Tattvabodha.This is a key work which introduces all of the key concepts of Advaita in a systematic manner.
The commentary is based upon those by several other authors, together with the audio lectures of Swami Paramarthananda. It includes word-by-word breakdown of the Sanskrit shloka-s so should be of interest to everyone, from complete beginners to advanced students.
Part 18 concludes the description of the ‘creation’ of the five basic elements and then moves on to the description of the evolution of the subtle sense organs of the jIva.
There is a hyperlinked Contents List, which is updated as each new part is published.
Up in the heavens, galaxies are interspersed by huge empty spaces. Matter constitutes less than one percent of the universe – about one atom in ten cubic meters of space. Within an atom too, there is more empty space than substance. If the atom is magnified to the size of a football stadium, matter (nucleus) in it will be no bigger than a golf ball, the remaining space being just emptiness. However, many ancient Indian scriptures hold that there is energy aplenty in space. Physicists unhesitatingly agree. Evidence for energy in empty space comes both from Cosmology that deals with the astronomical objects of huge proportions and Quantum Physics which studies atomic- and subatomic-sized particles.
[The latter part of the article requires a bit of mathematical (or at least arithmetic) orientation in the reader. If you know the addition, 1 + 1, that is enough. Otherwise, it could prove slightly boring!]
We shall tackle now the question of how we wake up to be what (we think) we were before we went to bed.
I said in my previous argument that our waking up to a new morning and into an awake state is comparable to another cycle of creation. So I suggest we examine how creation itself takes place.
From a scientific perspective, creation seems to be happening from ‘nothingness’ and dissolving back into nothing. Vedantins prefer to call nothingness as ‘Beingness’ simply because even ‘nothingness’ has to ‘Be.’
If we go by what Quantum Physics tells us, what we may refer to as ‘nothingness’ is not just emptiness. There is an enormous amount of energy in ‘Emptiness.’ Physicists have been able to measure this energy of empty space.
The energy within the empty space of the nucleus of an atom is the main reason for the weight of the nucleus (and hence of the matter we are all). The energy of the emptiness within the intergalactic space is the reason for the expanding universe causing the colossal and mighty galaxies to recede from one another at speeds exceeding the speed of light. This vast energy is the result of constant creation and annihilation of virtual particles smaller than sub-atomic particles. Thus creation-dissolution is an ongoing unstoppable roiling and boiling process from emptiness to emptiness within emptiness!
For most spiritual seekers ‘consciousness’ has a positive connotation; they want to extend, raise, deepen their consciousness, or simply become more conscious. But as with so many other terms – soul, spirituality, freedom, love, truth, bliss, energy – everybody understands something else by them.
In Advaita Vedanta every term is defined unambiguously. In our normal usage of words, depending on the context, one defines consciousness in diverse ways. Generally, however, a material viewpoint forms the basis of the Western view. We think that consciousness depends on the brain, for example that one can switch it off or can raise and extend it (temporarily) by certain drugs. Also we think that we can direct our consciousness, align it to something or withdraw it from something.
We consider ourselves as conscious if we remember whether we have switched off the iron and as unconscious if we forgot it. Also, we should always remain conscious of internal processes – we consider ourselves more conscious if we note that an emotion has arisen inside us at the time that is arises, than if we note this only afterwards or not at all. Continue reading →