Brahman the Immensity
Now will I speak of knowledge best to know -
That Truth which giveth man Amrit to drink,
The Truth of HIM, the Para-Brahman, the All,
The Uncreated; not Asat, nor Sat,
Not Form, nor the Unformed; yet both, and more; -
Krishna now teaches his friend Arjuna the Knowledge concerning Brahman (XIII.12). Be aware that the Sanskrit word Brahman is a metaphysical principle and not the personal Brahma, the deity. Brahman is the highest, the supreme (param) which has no beginning (anadimat). Brahman is neither that which exists (sat) nor that which does not exist (asat).
These seemingly contradictory statements are meant to lead our ordinary mind into a consciousness that is beyond duality. It is useful to meditate on such verses and leave all polarities behind. There is only the One. The polarities, dualities are the temporal illusory hologram and the Field. To transcend the sheaths (kancukas) that hold us bound to Maya’s creative play, we must learn to see through the layers of her webs. Contemplating the immeasurable immensity of Brahman opens us up to those frequencies for which there are no words.
Brahman is unreachable with the mind and cannot be known by words (Taittiriya Upanishad II.iv.1). Lao Tzu said something similar with ‘existence is beyond the power of words to define.’ There comes a time in your meditation when all words will fail.
Words are the attempt to bring what has been experienced by those who ‘See’ into comprehensible form. Nothing is accepted as Truth that has not been experienced in the deepest levels of higher consciousness in meditation.
All accepted systems of metaphysical knowledge in Hinduism must be rooted in and relate to the four Vedas. The Vedas are shruti, meaning revealed scripture that has been inspired by inner experience and heard directly. The Vedas were heard by the Rishis (Seers) or holy sages as sacred eternal sounds.
The Mahabharata is considered to be the Fifth Veda and therefore the Bhagavad Gita is shruti. The Upanishads, the Brahmanas, and the Sutras of the six great philosophical schools of India are usually considered to be shruti (Judith M.Tyberg).
The M.Monier-Williams Sanskrit Dictionary defines Brahman as literally growth, expansion, evolution, and development. Brahman is the Immensity, the seed and source of ‘the possibility of existence resulting from the union of opposites’ (A.Danielou). Thus Brahman is without qualities (nirguna) until it expands through the creative power of Maya to become that which has qualities (saguna brahman).
Brahman as Prakriti
The ancient system Samkhya equates the term Brahman with Prakriti. Prakriti is also considered to be the Unmanifest until the power (Shakti) of Maya causes her three qualities (the gunas) to become unbalanced and produce the temporal illusory hologram.
Both Brahman and Prakriti are the ‘source of the manifest world’ and both are the uncaused cause, beginningless, eternal, without parts ...’ (K.A. Jacobsen). However Brahman is said to be an immutable ultimate principle, while Prakriti is a mutable ultimate principle.
That immortal Brahman alone is before, that Brahman is behind, that Brahman is to the right and left. Brahman alone pervades everything above and below; this universe is that supreme Brahman alone.
- Mundaka Upanishad II.ii.11
Vyasa was both poet and seer, well versed in the sacred texts. Poetry can succeed where other means fail. Here Ganguli’s translation conveys the feeling and sense of Vyasa’s genius. This ‘stuff’ that is the unmanifest immensity is ubiquitous.
Whose hands are everywhere, and everywhere
Planted His feet, and everywhere His eyes
Beholding, and His ears in every place
Hearing, and all His faces everywhere
Enlightening and encompassing His worlds.
- Ganguli XIII.13
What I know from my own experience is that there is a vibrating pulsating golden light that lies just beneath the appearances of all forms - call it Brahman, Prakriti, Spanda or whatever. It is there.
Hiranyagarbha - The Golden-Embryo
The deity Brahma is said to have been born from the Golden-Embryo or Egg named Hiranyagarbha. This Egg formed out of the seed in the waters of the ‘causal’ ocean. Hiranyagarbha is the ‘principle of all vibration or movement’ and ‘expresses itself in the form of a vibrating energy - spanda-shakti-rupa (A.Danielou).
The Sanskrit word spanda is often used in Kashmir Saivism and is defined as ‘the spiritual throbbing of consciousness. Such a vibratory activity of consciousness which brings about the manifestation of its extroversion and introversion. That divine active nature of God which manifests externally His divine nature and results in the show of His five divine activities’ (Abhinavagupta’s Paramarthasara).
As the principle of all vibration (spanda), the Golden-Embryo ‘divides itself into the causal mass of potentialities (the causal waters - rayi) and the breath-of-life (prana) pictured as the wind that creates the waves in the causal ocean from which all forms develop’ (A.Danielou).
Brahman is that omniscient, omnipotent cause from which proceed the origin, sustenance, and dissolution of this world.
- Brahma-Sutras I.1.2
The resting-place of heaven, earth, etc. is Brahman on account of the word Self ... designating this resting-place.
- Brahma-Sutras I.3.1
The luminous Brahmin dwells in the cave of the heart and is known to move there. It is the great support of all; for in It is centered everything that moves, breathes, and blinks. O disciples, know that to be your Self --- that which is both gross and subtle, which is adorable, supreme, and beyond the understanding of all creatures.
- Mundaka Upanishad II.ii.1
That which is radiant, subtler than the subtle, That by which all the worlds and their inhabitants are supported --- That, verily, is the indestructible Brahman; That is prana (life-breath), speech (vac), and the mind; That is the True and That is the Immortal.
Glorified in the senses He hath given,
Yet beyond sense He is; sustaining all,
Yet dwells He unattached: of forms and modes
Master, yet neither form nor mode hath He;
Brahman is ‘glorified in the sense He hath given’ - means that the principle which is the Source of existence shines through the organs of the five senses (sarvendriya) that respond to the ever-fluctuating gunas (rajas, sattva, & tamas). ‘Yet beyond sense He is’ - while Brahman supports the gunas and their senses, It is free of all these attributes both in the operations and their effects. Brahman as Purusha, the Knower of the Field, enjoys the products of the gunas and yet remains untouched by them (XIII.14).
He is within all beings - and without -
Motionless, yet still moving; not discerned
For subtlety of instant presence; close
To all, to each; yet measurelessly far!
Brahman is ‘within all beings - and without’ states that It is both outside (bahir) and inside (antah) all creatures (bhutanam). ‘Motionless, yet moving’ Brahman is both the unmoving inanimate (acaram) and the moving animate (caram). Brahman is the subtle (suksmatvat) and therefore remains incomprehensible (avijneyam). Brahman is far away and yet near (XIII.15), depending on the state of your consciousness.
It [Brahman] is farther away than the far off, and It is near at hand in the body. Among insentient beings It is perceived as seated in this very body, in the cavity of the heart.
- Mundaka Upanishad III.iii.7
Brahman is undivided (avibhaktam) as the Oneness and yet takes on the appearance of being divided (vibhaktam) in all beings (bhutesu). Brahman is that which supports all beings (bhuta-bhartr), absorbs them (grasisnu - devours) at the time of the Dissolution, and creates them again (prabhavisnu) at the time of the origination of the worlds (XIII.16). Thus we see that the metaphysical principle Brahman pervades the three principles: creation personified as the god Brahma, the principle that supports and sustains as Vishnu, and destruction as Shiva.
Not manifold, and yet subsisting still
In all which lives; for ever to be known
As the Sustainer, yet, at the End of Times,
He maketh all to end - and re-creates.
The Light of Lights He is, in the heart of the Dark
ज्ञानं ज्ञेयं ज्ञानगम्यं हृदि सर्वस्य विष्ठितम् .. १३- १८
jyotiṣām api taj jyotis tamasaḥ
jñānaṃ jñeyaṃ jñānagamyaṃ hṛdi sarvasya viṣṭhitam 13.18
Brahma is the Light of all lights (jyotis) and is said to be beyond any darkness (tamasah). This Light is the light of the Sun, the light of consciousness in Knowledge, the light that is external, and the non-reflected light within (XIII.17 or 18). Knowledge of Brahman is the goal of Knowledge (jnana-gamyam). It is seated in the Hearts of all - hrdi sarvasya visthitam.
Wisdom He is
And Wisdom's way, and Guide of all the wise,
Planted in every heart.
This immeasurable immensity Brahman, that is both far and near, and remains undivided while appearing to be divided, that which permeates all of creation, is to be found in our very own Heart (hrdi). We only need to Know this Truth and to listen to that which dwells within us all.
No diversity is the real truth ...
Do not be concerned or confused by these various terms - Brahman, Paramatman, Prakriti, Purusha, etc. There is only the One. These sacred Sanskrit words were created over the centuries to describe the various aspects of the One in all Its states of the unmanifest and the manifest. There are endless arguments among the ‘schoolmen’ as to the precise meaning of the terms. Study them, meditate on them, and use them to guide you into your own understanding.
Remember what Abhinavagupta says - ‘... all such theories are merely dialectical speculations useful in discussions and debates. None among such entities has a real existence, as all these are mere suppositions and imaginary concepts of thinkers’ (Paramarthasara.27). Why? Because – ‘No diversity is the real truth’ (ibid.29).
In his commentary on the Gita, Abhinavagupta points out that Krishna is here teaching ‘non-difference among all types of knowledge expressed in different philosophical systems’ (B.Marjanovic). The Knowledge of the One beyond the power of all words to define, raises our consciousness so that we may attain that state of similitude (sadharmya) with the God within us all (XIII.18).
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Judith M. Tyberg
East-West Cultural Center, 1970, LA CA.
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Alain Danielou, 1964
Inner Traditions International, 1985, NY
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Material principle, Religious Experience, Ethical Implications
Knut A. Jacobsen, 1999
Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 2002, Delhi
The Upanishads, Vol. One
Translated by Swami Nikhilananda, 1949
Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 2003, NY
The Taittiriya Upanishad
The Upanishads, Vol. Four
Translated by Swami Nikhilananda, 1959
Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1994, NY
Translated by Swami Vireswarananda
Published by Avaita Ashrama, 1982, Himalayas
Essence of the Exact Reality or Paramarthasara of Abhinavagupta
Translated by Dr. B.N. Pandit
Munishiram Manoharlal Publishers, 1991, Delhi