Truth or Reality

Truth Reality Bhavagam (God)

Bhrigu said, ‘Truth is Brahma; Truth is Penance; it is Truth that creates all creatures. It is by Truth that the whole universe is upheld; and it is with the aid of Truth that one goes to heaven. Untruth is only another form of Darkness. It is Darkness that leads downwards. Those who are afflicted by Darkness and covered by it fail to behold the lighted regions of heaven. It has been said that Heaven is light and that Hell is Darkness.

Mahabharata Santi Parva Section CXC


‘Reality’ is a metaphysical concept or notion (which thus combines reason and intuition. As a concept, it purports to refer to something which is actually existing and is not just verbal (that is, it exists outside its verbal expression).

Reality is ‘what is’ – the ‘totality of being in all its forms’, consequently including this/its own formulation, along with all systems of language and expression. A totality is a unity, because there is nothing outside of or extraneous to it. Totality does not mean uniformity, and, besides, it is not a closed system for it is inexhaustible – mind and language cannot encompass it being inadequate to it. Thus, there appears to be variety and complexity within that totality or unity, but Consciousness or Intelligence (chit) is the essential ‘part’, and the rest are appearances or phenomena within it. A better word than ‘unity’ is ‘oneness’ – ‘One without a second’, Atman-brahman.

Outside of metaphysics is empirical science where there are no final, conclusive truths – only provisional (or approximate) theories and hypotheses; usually cumulative and/or replaceable. These ‘truths’ can be seen as reflections of the one Truth (or Oneness), which is noumenon, as is the ‘Good’ in Plato. A metaphysical principle cannot be defined, while everything covered by it is defined in terms of that principle (e.g. the principle or principles of law, of justice, of medicine), even if these are inexact or approximate.


7 thoughts on “Truth or Reality

  1. From Bertrand Russell’s Autobiography –
    “At the age of eleven, I began Euclid, with my brother as my tutor. This was one of the great events of my life, as dazzling as first love. I had not imagined that there was anything so delicious in the world. After I had learned the fifth proposition, my brother told me that it was generally considered difficult, but I had found no difficulty whatever. This was the first time it had dawned upon me that I might have some intelligence. From that moment until Whitehead and I finished Principia Mathematica, when I was thirty-eight, mathematics was my chief interest, and my chief source of happiness. Like all happiness, however, it was not unalloyed. I had been told that Euclid proved things, and was much disappointed that he started with axioms. At first I refused to accept them unless my brother could offer me some reason for doing so, but he said: ‘If you don’t accept them we cannot go on’, and as I wished to go on, I reluctantly admitted them pro tem. The doubt as to the premisses of mathematics which I felt at that moment remained with me, and determined the course of my subsequent work.”

    Brahman is the central axiom, and the Brahmasutras say, among other things, the following – Chapter 2, Section 1, 4-7
    (Sutras 4-5) raises an objection that as Brahman and the world are not similar in nature and properties, one being sentient, etc., and the other insentient, etc., Brahman cannot be the cause of the universe.
    (Sutras 6-7) refutes the objection by stating that there are instances in the world of generation of the inanimate from the animate as, for instance, the production of hair from the living body, also of the animate from the inanimate as, for instance, the birth of scorpions and other insects from cow-dung. They prove that it is not necessary that the cause and the caused should be similar in all respects.
    Personally I do not find this satisfactory; like BR’s brother one could just say –
    ‘If you don’t accept it we cannot go on’,.
    Accept Brahman first and then we can go on….

  2. ‘… even in the case of Brahman and the world some qualities of the cause, Brahman, such as existence and intelligence, are to be found in its effect, the world. Everything in the world exists, and this quality it gets from Brahman, which is existence itself. Again the intelligence of Brahman lights the whole universe. ’ SBh 2.1.6

    That is what is fundamental (also, the effect is not other than the cause).

  3. Yes, yes, Martin, I have read a little about Brahman (including the 3 articles on this site) and at the end of it, is as clear to me as…..MUD. I conclude that we in a mystical realm and so….

    The four marks of the mystical experience, as William James said more than a hundred years ago…

    1. Ineffability – The handiest of the marks by which I classify a state of mind as mystical is negative. The subject of it immediately says that it defies expression, that no adequate report of its contents can be given in words.

    2. Noetic Quality – Although so similar to states of feeling, mystical states seem to those who experience them to be also states of knowledge. They are states of insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect. They are illuminations, revelations, full of significance and importance, all inarticulate though they remain; and as a rule they carry with them a curious sense of authority for aftertime.

    3. Transiency – Mystical states cannot be sustained for long.

    4. Passivity – Although the oncoming of mystical states may be facilitated by preliminary voluntary operations, as by fixing the attention, or going through certain bodily performances, or in other ways which manuals of mysticism prescribe; yet when the characteristic sort of consciousness once has set in, the mystic feels as if his own will were in abeyance, and indeed sometimes as if he were grasped and held by a superior power.
    This is so far above my pay grade that I have to leave it strictly alone…if you have the patience/time please read through the link below…

  4. William James was, at least, sympathetic to mysticism, though I believe he kept a neutral, objective, sort of witness stance towards it; iow he was not a mystic (am I wrong?). In any case, Advaita Vedanta is not mysticism per se, even though, as well as the Upanishads on which it is based, it has that aspect, but not exclusively so. I prefer the expression ‘experience-knowledge’ in relation to the above (adopted it from Prof. Puligandla), knowing full-well that Dennis will raise an eyebrow on reading this.

    In the same way, metaphysics is neither rational nor mystical, but ‘spiritual’, partaking of both realms. One example is ‘love’ (or ananda). It cannot be defined, even from metaphysics – less so from psychology or empirical science, other than by reduction of its purported content. Is love, or is it not, a reality, now meaning by it ‘a fact’, an existing entity all by itself? Of course, empiricists and ‘realists’ will deny that there is such thing as ‘love’ in the abstract, in the same way that they ‘deny’ metaphysics.

    I append hereunder a few quotations which, to me, encapsulate something deeply meaningful and indefinable (yes, ineffable!). Only paradox can express such things – experiences (intuitions or ‘visions’ if one likes):

    ‘People forget the reality of the illusory world.’ (Huang Po).

    ‘Never say “nothing is real”. This world by itself is illusion.
    God, as the world, is Real.’ — Robert Adams

    ‘Vedanta plays the role of the dream lion in this world. Vedantic knowledge itself is part of the illusory world. But then it dissolves the entire illusion of this world, revealing reality as it is.’ Sw. Parthsarathy.

    ‘You don’t know that you’re Brahman until you know that you’re Brahman. Before that moment of realization, Advaita is just another belief.’ Ibid.

  5. Now Martin, Nirvanashatkam (below) – what is one to make of this? Personally I prefer to think of it as profoundly mystical and leave it at that…

    Advaita Vedanta in six verses…

    Neither am I mind, nor intelligence,
    Nor ego, nor thought,
    Nor am I ears or the tongue or the nose or the eyes,
    Nor am I earth or sky or air or the light,
    But I am Shiva the all pervading happiness,
    Yes,I am definitely Shiva.

    Neither am I the movement due to life,
    Nor am I the five airs, nor am I the seven elements,
    Nor am I the five internal organs,
    Nor am I voice or hands or feet or other organs,
    But I am Shiva the all pervading happiness,
    Yes, I am definitely Shiva

    I never do have enmity or friendship,
    Neither do I have vigour nor feeling of competition,
    Neither do I have assets, or money or passion or salvation,
    But I am Shiva the all pervading happiness,
    Yes,I am definitely Shiva

    Never do I have good deeds or sins or pleasure or sorrow,
    Neither do I have holy chants or holy water or holy books or fire sacrifice,
    I am neither food or the consumer who consumes food,
    As I am Shiva the all pervading happiness,
    Yes,I am definitely Shiva

    I do not have death or doubts or distinction of caste,
    I do not have either father or mother or even birth,
    And I do not have relations or friends or teacher or students,
    As I am Shiva the all pervading happiness,
    Yes,I am definitely Shiva

    I am one without doubts, I am without form,
    Due to knowledge I do not have any relation with my organs,
    And I am always redeemed,
    And I am Shiva the all pervading happiness,
    Yes,I am definitely Shiva.

  6. Yes! neti neti followed by an affirmation, ‘I am Shiva’.

    Shiva is another name for reality (so is OM).

    Pervading happiness – ananda, is indefinable, ungraspable by the mind – a heightened state of being/feeling.

    The name or symbol ‘Shiva’ is mythopoetic, and, as all myths and everything else – sarvam kathiran brahman – , is, in essence, reality itself. I.E. true not as name and form but as content apprehended in unitary contemplation.

  7. Yes, Martin, there is no other “philosophy” (it is not a philosophy I know, heh, heh) as forgiving as Advaita – you can say anything you want and find some school or other that agrees, or you can go from absolute to relative, or claim the guru was speaking at the “level” of the disciple, or, etc, etc, etc.

    But what is undeniable, and also confirmed by science, is that slowing down the pace of thinking does lead to the peace that passeth understanding.

    And slowing down the mind and transcending the individual self, IMHO, is the ONLY useful thing about this business…without any implications whatsoever, Aldous Huxley had the right idea, drugs can do it much faster (!)…Again, IMVHO (in my very humble opinion) what is called “enlightenment”, “nirvana”, or whatever, is a SIDDHI, a “supernatural” phenomenon as seen by the brain based mind. (what else would you call the description in NirvanaShatkam?)

    As the great Ogden Nash once wrote –

    Candy is dandy
    But Liquor is quicker.

    Or in the words of the inestimable Patanjali –

    janma – ousadhi – mantra –
    tapah -samadhi – jah siddhayah

    That ousadhi is the most promising route, Alan Watts would have agreed.

    And this state is most certainly ONLY in one’s head because as Einstein said – the moon is there even when no one is looking.

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