Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Ishwara and Brahman
Q Surely, once I realize that 'I am brahman', I realize that there is no jIva and I also realize that there is no Ishvara either. If I know that everything is brahman, I must also know that there is nothing other than brahman. Of course, the jIva cannot dismiss Ishvara as unreal because both are equally real from the vyAvahArika standpoint of the unenlightened. But surely, once there is enlightenment, it is known that both are equally *unreal*.
Let me try to clarify with an example.
I happen to accidentally some dhatura seeds. Very
shortly I find myself in a strange forest. There are
fires burning all around. Hundreds of goblins are
shrieking and I am filled with terror. I meet a
passerby who I find to be not as terrified. He tells
me to mutter "RaRa" continuously and that this would
protect me from these goblins. When asked about "RaRa"
he tells me that RaRa is the God of this world and if
I chant his name I will be saved. I proceed to do the
same and this seems to alleviate my anxiety
temporarily, and seems to give me some solace.
Shortly therafter, I find myself lying on my couch in
my home, smiling sheepishly at my hallucination,
finding it sublated by my appreciation of reality.
Now in that hallucination, the entire forest was
unreal, as were the goblins, as was the Lord RaRa.
The whole package was nothing but I alone projecting a
completely unreal world
This is how a lot of neo-vedantins and some so-called
traditional vedantins also view Ishwara.
That this is a fictitious character who is relevant
only as long as my duality delusion lasts, and upon
the end of the delusion i come this realization, and
The trouble with this sort of a approach is based on
the mistaken idea that this world is a illusion and
that enlightenment results in a grand sublative
disappearance of the illusory world.
This is neither true nor what vedantA conveys.
Let us examine this a bit further.
Thuis jagat that we cognize is not my mental
projection but Ishwara srshti. If it was my mental
projection it would be a dream or worse a
hallucination - and would disappear in a poof with
self-realization - what would be left would be
nothingness - now misguided interpreters of ajAtivAdA
will say - this is precisely what GaudapAda talks
about - that nothing IS, and again i am afraid this is
If this were correct, there would be no realized souls
amidst us, let alone would they have any ignorant
people to teach and guide.
The truth is that the world remains the same
regardless of whether a person attains
self-realization. The sun still rises in the east and
sets in the west, the starts still twinkle in the
moonlit skies. Then what?
The realization is this and this only, that there is
no separate subtantive thing called world. Everything
is the Self alone, everything is Ishwara alone, and
everything is I alone. That Ishwara i am - tat tvam
It is infinity alone that I as a conscious entity
cognize and categorize, assign names and forms, and
interact with. All these names and forms are in
essence I, or Ishwara. What about now? Now also it is
the same but because "i" the notional ahankAra am at
this point viewing this Infinity through the prism of
my own beginigless ignorance, i suffer from a sense of
separation from the Infinite, the Whole.
It is this notion alone that is discarded in the
process of self-enquiry or vichArA. When I come to the
realization that my true nature is of Knowing alone,
that in and through every cognition, the known, the
knowing and the knower are all Me alone, the very
consciousness principle, that, wonder of wonders, I
the true subject, the Saakshi, alone am the Support of
all there Is, that the Divinity that is immanent in
and through all of manifest Nature is really my only
true nature, then in that simple choiceless Awareness
alone is Divinity and abidance in that Divinity alone
in which my sense of limitation has permanently died
The culmination of vichArA can only result in an
absorption into the Total - and the Total is IshwarA!
Who got sublated? me, the phantom.
What remains? Truth, God, Consciousness.
When One realizes the truth about Himself he cannot
but discover it to be the Truth of the whole Jagat.
Then He is Divine - everything He as though cognizes
is nothing but the Divine. In the words of the Gita -
"Yo mam pashyati sarvatra sarvatra sarvam cha mayi
TasyAham na pranashyAmi sa cha me na pranashyati. "
"One who sees Me in everything, and sees all things in
Me-I do not lose out of his vision, and he also is not
lost to My vision."
"Samam pashyan hi sarvatra samavasthitam Ishwaram;
Na hinasty Atmana AtmAnam tato yAti parAm gatim."Since
by seeing equally God who is present alike everywhere
he does not injure the Self by the Self, therefore he
attains the supreme Goal.
And notice the similar lines in the Kaivalya Up.
"Sarva bhutastham AtmAnam sarva bhutAni ca Atmani
Sampasyan brahma paramam yanti, na anyena hetunA."
Seeing the Atman in all beings, and all beings in the
Atman, one attains the highest Brahman – not by any
It is only the ignorant who look at self-realization
and god-realization as two different entities - who
look at atma-vichAra as being superior and bhakti as
being inferior. In the words of Shankaracharya
"mokSha-kAraNa- sAmagryAM bhaktireva garIyasI*" - Among
the instruments of moksha, bhakti is the most
That is because what one seeks, what one is devoted
to, what one yearns for is one and the same thing -
the Infinite within, or the Infinite without - isnt it
obvious then that the one that seeks the without or
the within is the phantom - what is true is only the
If I say I found God but could not lose my identity,
my notion of separation from Him who is the All, in
that realization, then my devotion my bhakti is
incomplete. In this way Jnana completes devotion. If I
say I have found myself, but find it empty, bereft of
Divinity, of all-encompassing Love, then my
self-discovery is incomplete as well, and in this way
devotion alone will culminate in a true understanding
This is precisly what is meant when Neem Karoli Baba
said "I do nothing, God does everything" - there is no
mixing up of levels here at all!
What is the one thing that every realized Master has
discovered is, sublimate the Ego, and what remains is
only Truth, and that Truth is God. "I am the way and
the truth and the life"
And it is for the direct appreciation of this eternal
transcendental Truth that Vedanta provides an
It is precisely for this reason that a parAbhaktA and
a JnAni are one and the same - one cant be a
parAbhaktA without dying onto oneself. When as JnAni
one has died to onself what remains is an appreciation
of one's own inherent intrinsic Divinity.
That is why the spontaneous bhakti of a Jnani has no
comparison. If you see the numerous stotras that Adi
Shankara and many many other realized Masters have
composed, this fact becomes very clear. These were
certainly not outpourings of devotion to a fictitious
character named Ishwara meant for equally fictitious
beginners in the unreal field of self-knowledge to
serve as illusory tools to help train their
undeveloped minds by making them focus on a unreal
God. These represent spontaneous outpourings of a
realized intellect, that revels in its intrinsic
Divinity - "Shivoham Shivoham"
If one has ever had the fortune of witnessing a
jivanmukta in bhakti"bhAva" - be it Ramakrishna
Paramahamsa, or Ramana Maharshi or the Sage of Kanchi,
one will be able to relate to this simple fact - this
is a devotion that is spontaneously expressed from the
wellspring of Pure Being - and is nothing but
Ishwara is the totality, he is BOTH immanent and
transcendent. From the standpoint of the ego he is
Personal. From an absolute, He is Impersonal. Either
way He Alone is.
What then is jnAna?
When in Awareness
one "dis"-cover' s oneSelf,
then there is neither acceptance of Ishwara
rejection of Ishwara,
a simple, choiceless recognition of Ishwara
as one's own "Be"ing.