Tuesday, October 21, 2008
One of the causes for the emergence of the universe cited in Indian philosophy is ‘Avidya’ or cosmic ignorance. It seems some thinkers speculated or got the meditation-inspired insight that the cosmos is a mere ‘appearance’ which has its being in the deep ignorance which created the notion of multiplicity through the sense of ‘ego’ or individuated existence. Such a rupture in the ‘unified’ consciousness led to the emergence of an infinity of worlds with numerous beings inhabiting them, through a causal chain of karma. While it has been described in a variety of shades, karma can be seen as some kind of action in which consciousness is entwined through an ignorant identification with ‘individuated being’. Such an action is a link in an almost infinite causal chain which sustains the appearance of individuated existence. The idea is that the sense of being distinct from the world at large gives a plethora of experiences to the emergent ‘subject of experience’ but also constrains the said subject by creating a false yet binding barrier between it and existence at large. An analogy which the proponents of ‘pure non-dualism’ or nirguna advaita give to explain their assertion of the truth of unity beneath the perceived multiplicity is the dream experience. Just as in a dream, a man sees himself with, say, a beautiful princess, surrounded by numerous attendants and under a dark sky with countless stars, yet finds on waking up that he alone is real while the stars, princess and countless attendants were all projections of his own consciousness, similarly the universe with an infinity of beings is the projection of pure consciousness. Here, a subtle but crucial difference between the advaita view of pure consciousness and the dream analogy is that while the dreamer is a unified individual, the consciousness in which the cosmic dream appears is impersonal, though personality appears as the first begotten son. To clarify, the infinite is beyond the distinctions of subject and object. However, as the manifest cosmos appears from the unmanifest essence, the sovereign ruler of the manifest also simulataneously appears as the “Ishvara”. Here, Ishvara( literally, the ruler) is the cosmic personality or the divine transcendental Super-Self. While individual souls can pray to God and be recipient of His abundant bounty, they must necessary transcend God to be liberated beyond the trap of duality. Thus the Godhead is a stage of realization, not its consummation. The God that appears in ignorance is the God of ignorance and hence must be dissolved through the deepest triumph of meditation. And beyond ignorance, there is neither a God nor any devotee.