Saturday, September 27, 2008

Swami Tattwamayananda: The Concept of God in the Vedas

Two very well written articles by Swami Tattwamayananda, which seem to have been published in the journal Prabuddha Bharatha, in Part 1: May 2005 and Part 2: June-2005 are worth reading, and re-reading. The learned Swami has done wonderul research on the topic. Read the rest of this entry >>

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

On Manifest and Unmanifest in the Gita

[A version of this post appeared in advaitin yahoo group.]

This post is about the use of words avyakta (unmanifest) and its antonym vyakta (manifest), as they appear in the Gita, with my notes. Such an analysis is closely related to the questions that Arjuna asked at the beginning of chapter 12, our current Gita Satsangh topic. I also found out that just looking at the various uses of these words across Gita enhanced my understanding of Jiva, Atma, Ishvara, the world, and Brahman.

We begin with a textual listing of the different occurances of the words, [The translations of Gita verses are either Swami Gambhirananda's or Swami Chinmayananda's.]

  1. 2.25 avyakyo-ayam: This self is known to be unmanifest.

  2. 2.28: avyaktaadini-bhuutaani vyakta-madhyaani ... avyakta-nidhanaanyeva (avyakta twice and vyakta once): Beings are unmanifest in the beginning, manifest in the middle and unmanifest in their end.

  3. 7.24 avyaktaM vyaktimaapannaM ... (each once): The unintelligent, unaware of My supreme state which is immutable and unsurpassable, think of Me as the unmanifest that has become manifest.

  4. 8.18 avyaktaad.h vyaktaya ... avyakta ... (avyakta twice and vyakta once): At the coming of the (cosmic) day, the embodied beings emanate (stem forth) from the unmanifest. At the coming of the cosmic night, they dissolve truly into that alone, which is called unmanifest.

  5. 8.20 parastasmaattu .. avyakto avyaktaa tsanaatanaH (avyakta twice): Higher than the unmanifest, there lies another unmanifest which is Everlasting (Eternal) which is not destroyed when all beings are destroyed. The another unmanifest would be called as "Higher unmanifest".

  6. 8.21 avyakto-akshara (avyakta once): O Arjuna, these same multiple beings are born again and again. They are dissolved (into the unmanifest) helplessly at the coming of the night, and they come forth again at the coming of the day.

  7. 9.4 mayaa tatamidaM sarvam jagad-avyakta-muurthinaa (avyakta once). This whole world is pervaded by me in My Unmanifest form.

  8. 10.14 sarvametadR^itaM ... vyakti ... (vyakta once): Neither the Devas not the Daanavas know your manifestation.

  9. 12.1 evaM satatayuktaa ... avyaktaM ... (avyakta once): Those devotees who worship you and the devotees who worship the changeless unmanifest, which of them are better versed in the Yoga?

  10. 12.3 ye tvaksharamanirdeshyaM avyaktaM ... (avyakta once): Those who worship the Changeless, Indefinable, the Unmanifest, .... they also come to Me.

  11. 12.5 klesho.adhikatarasteshhaa.n avyaktaa ... avyaktaahi gatirduHkha.n (avyakta twice): Greater is their trouble whose minds are set on the Unmanifest; for the goal, the Unmanifest is very hard for the embodied to reach.

  12. 13.6 mahaabhuutaanyaha.nkaaro ... avyaktameva (avyakta once): The five elements, egoism, intellect and also the unmanifest (muula-prakriti) ... these are kshetra.

Here are my comments, reflecting my current understanding.

2.25 and 2.28: These two verses give the definitions, and set the tone for the two selves of the individual: the immutable Atman, that is unmanifest and never-decaying. and the mutable jiva. The jiva goes through the cycle of birth and death, until it stops identification with the part that takes birth and dies. This concept of two selves reaches its pinnacle in the final verses of chapter 15, where again the Lord makes a separation.

7.24 and 9.11: I think that verse 7.24 should be read along with 9.11, where the Lord again cautions against a similar misconception. In 9.11 He says, "Not knowing My supreme nature as the Lord of all beings, foolish people disregard Me who have taken a human body."

It is simple to think that either of 7.24 or 9.11 are referring to ajnaanis, the unwise, who are confused between the manifest and the unmanifest, with the verses themselves glorifying avataara-mahimaa (as in 4.6-4.9) or the vibhuutiis of the Lord (as in chapter 10) each of which are His divine glories.

The right way to understand these shlokas, as I think, is to bring in verse 13.2 (or 13.3 in some versions): kshetraj~na.n chaapi maa.n viddhi sarvakshetreshhu bhaarata where the Lord explains the difference between kshetra and kshetraj~na. The seer is the kshetraj~na and the seen object is the kshetra. The whole manifest universe, including our BMI complex, is the kshetra. The ones who know the difference between these two are the wise ones.

With the above understanding, the unwise ones of 7.24 and 9.11 could be interpreted are either of the following: (a) the ones that get confused between the manifest and the unmanifest as they think that beyond this manifest universe is the unmanifest universe, in potential form, that has to be worshipped. They do not know that the seed has the the same order of reality as the tree, as the seed itself comes from a tree! (b) the ones that do not know that the kshetra, the matter, can never be the Lord of all beings. The matter only has a material existence. Brahman, whose nature is both transcendent and immanent, can never be the matter, and has the only Lord of the universe, whatever form the universe may be.

In the former verse, Lord Krishna uses the word 'abuddhaya', while in the latter the word used is 'muuDhaa'. If there is a hierarchy between these two, I do not know. But, to the misconceptions themselves, the Lord Himself suggested a cure and the result.

The cure for the misconception of 7.24 and 9.11 has been explained in 10.10, while in verse 15.10 the result has been hinted at. In the former, the Lord uses a special term buddhiyogaM for the rescue of the sincere seekers. In the latter, while explaining the result, he clearly says: vimuuDhaa naanupashyanti pashyanti GYaanachakshushhaH: "the wise can see Me with eyes of knowledge". he interesting thing is, 15.19 mentions both the cure and the result! Instead of adding my comments, I just quote the divine wisdom:

yo maamevamasaMmuuDho jaanaatipurushhottamam.h .
sa sarvavidbhajati maaM sarvabhaavena bhaarata .. 15.19..

"O scion of the Bharata dynasty, he who, being free from delusion, knows Me the supreme Person thus, he is all-knowing and adores Me with his whole being."

8.18, 8.20, 8.21: In 8.18 and 8.21, the primary subject matter is prakriti and the jiva. The jivaas get created and destroyed. So does the world. The unmanifest-manifest-unmanifest cycle is similar to 2.28, but at a cosmological level. This world itself, could be in potential (unmanifest) form or in manifest form. Beyond even the potential form (or unmanifest form) of the world is the unmanifest consciousness, that is the witness. That witness is the kshetraj~na for the world including the BMI complex of the individual.

On manifest and unmanifest creation, we should not forget verse 2 of Shri Dakshinamurthy Stotram (biija-syaantarivaankuro jagadidam), where the creation theory is clearly explained by Adi Shankara, using the analogy of a seed. Shri Dakshinamurthy, is the unmanifest consciousness who is the Maha yogi who can conjure up this vyaavahaaric world, like a magician conjures up His magic.

On the manifest and unmanifest forms of the universe, we should also not forget names 397-399 in the Lalitha Sahasranamam, where the Divine Mother is called not only the muula-prakriti, and the avyakta, but also the nature that is manifest and unmanifest.

The tree is in the seed. Also, the seed is in the tree. But beyond the seed and the tree is the "is-ness", of either of them. That "is-ness" is common to both the tree and the seed and exists independent of either of them. That is what is to be worshipped (8.20), with worshipping being a means of identification. But if the seeker considers worshipping that to be difficult, he should do as the Lord says in the verses of chapter 12.

9.4 and 10.14: In 9.4, the Lord is affirming that He is the Lord of the Universe. In 10.14, Arjuna is echoing the Lord that he knows that the unmanifest has come teach Him, and affirming His qualification for further study. (Compare this with 7.24 and 9.11.)

12.1, 12.3, 12.5: Here Arjuna, being able to understand the crucial difference between manifest and unmanifest, is asking about the differences in the sense of upaasana (worship). The avyakta in these verses is the same unmanifest as the "higher unmanifest" of 8.20.

13.6: This is the same unmanifest as the first unmanifest of 8.18 or of 8.20, either of referring to muula prakriti.

Here is a short summary of the above notes: There is an unmanifest individual self, which is non-different from the unmanifested supreme Self. In "between" these two, come the notions of the world (in its manifested and unmanifested forms) and the Ishvara. The world in either of its forms, has does not have a higher order of reality than the individual Jiva. The Jiva concept itself, is a notion, which can be lost by losing the identification with its finiteness -- or more precisely, losing the mis-identification with its finiteness -- only by worshipping the supreme-self, with worship being a means of identification. This has been explained in the first part of chapter 12 by Lord Krishna.

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