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Archive for the tag “Brahman”

Upanishads -Part 3

ImageLat year when I was visiting Bombay, I saw someone wearing a t-shirt which proclaimed, I was an atheist till I realised I was God.  It made me chuckle. It was a clever spin on the now well known Vedanta philosophy of non-dualism which states – That which is without is within. The same One pervades everything. The Self is God.

But is it really that simple and how did we come to this understanding? What does it really mean?

This brings us to the most fundamental discovery made by sages of the Upanishads.

You Are That –Tat Twam Asi

As the rishis delved into the depths of human consciousness peeling layer after layer of awareness they found that the mind is not consciousness, it is only an instrument of consciousness.

When the concentration is so profound that the mind-processes have come to a stand still and awareness has been consolidated even beyond the mind, little remains except for the awareness of “I”.   Space and Time vanish and you rest in meditation in what the Taittiriya Upanishad calls the “body of joy”, a silent, ethereal inner realm at the threshold of pure being.

In this silence, Shanti, you become aware of something vast, intimately your own but not the finite limited self you had been calling “I”.

No amount of will can erase this “I”, the thin veil of personal identification that seperates us from infinite consciousness. Yet, in deep meditation it suddenly vanishes.

This state the Upanishads call turiya – literally “the fourth” for it lies beyond waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep. Turiya, the Upanishads say, is waking up in dreamless sleep.

In later Hindu thought this awakening came to be know as samadhi, complete absorption or moksha, liberation, for it brings freedom from all conditioning and the limitations of mind and space.

The Upanishads tell us that when the  ‘I’ has dissolved and the observer and the observed become one, just chit remains. Pure undifferentiated consciousness. This is our real Self. And, it is identical with the undifferentiated unity which the sages called the Brahman.This is not a reasoned conclusion but something that is experienced at the very centre of one’s being.

The Self is Brahman – is the central discovery of the Upanishads which gave birth to Its most famous mahavkya, formulation : “Tat twam asi” – You are That.

“That” is the characteristic way in which the Upanishads point to a Reality that cannot be described; and “you’ is not the petty, finite personality but the pure consciousness that ‘makes the eye see and the mind think’ – the Self.

And thus we come to the basis of the non- dualistic Vedanta philosophy – The Atman is Brahman, the Self is God.

To understand Self then is to understand God.

So what is the nature of this Self? The Upanishads go to great lengths to show it to us and we will look at some of the explanations in the next post.

(extracted from The Upanishads by Eknath Easwaran.)

 

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Vishnu Sustains the Universe

Vishnu is the second of the Trimurti( Brahma, Vishnu,Shiva) and he sustains and protects the Universe. His role is a lot more complex than Brahma’s.

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“The world rests as the lotus in the palm of my hand, the cosmos revolves around my finger like a discus. I blow the music of life through my conch and wield my mace to protect all creatures.” – Krishna Upanishad

While Brahma creates the Universe, Vishnu is the source of all Creation.

Vishnu is the All-Pervading One. His name is derived from “vis’ in Sanskrit which means both ‘to spread’ and ‘to be present everywhere’.

Even when there was Nothing, there was Vishnu, present as a nameless, formless, dormant energy. In this un-manifested (nirguna) state, even Vishnu was not aware of his own being. He just was. Just because he was not perceived, does not mean he did not exist.

In this Nothingness, when the first ripple of awareness stirred , spontaneously and of its own will, the formless energy became Vishnu, the Supreme Being, Parabrahman.

As Parabrahma, Vishnu lies in a dream like state on the serpent Adisesha Ananta who is Time, without beginning or end. Ananta floats for all eternity on the waters of the Ksheer Sagar ( the ocean of Cosmic Consciousness).

When Brahma begins the process of Creation, it is Vishnu who expands into everything and becomes part of everything. Now he is Brahman, the Cosmic Consciousness.

As if he is seeing a dream, Vishnu watches Brahma create the Universe. By the act of watching his dream, Vishnu sustains the Universe. When Vishnu wakes from his dream one cycle of Creation ends.

Vishnu who dreams up the Universe must also now protect it. To maintain the order of Creation, Vishnu becomes The Protector. He takes the form of Ishwara or God.

This form of Vishnu looks very different from the one reclining on Ananta. He is standing,radiant as the sun and has four arms. In his hands he holds the Conch, The Discus, The Lotus and The Mace.

From the Nirguna Brahman( formless energy) Vishnu thus becomes Saguna Brahman, a God with forms and attributes. Vishnu is now the Supreme Lord, Parameshwar.

At times, when world descends into total chaos, Lord Vishnu comes to its rescue in the form of an Avatar, or incarnation.

The ten incarnations of Vishnu in the physical world are:

  1. Matsya (fish)
  2. Kurma (turtle)
  3. Varaha (boar)
  4. Narasimha (man-lion)
  5. Vamana (dwarf)
  6. Parashurama (warrior-priest)
  7. Rama ( man who was like God)
  8. Krishna (God who was born as man)
  9. Buddha (the enlightened one)
  10. Kalki (horseman, who has not yet appeared)

References to Vishnu are found even in the Rig Veda, the oldest of the scared texts.

Almost all Hindus worship Vishnu, either in his original form or as one of his Avatars. Chanting the Sahasranama, the thousand names of Vishnu, describing his thousand attributes, is an ancient way of worshiping him, and  is still used today. A way that has no doubt re-enforced the  greatness of the Supreme Lord on the Hindu psyche since the early ages.

 

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