Universe is an Illusion
brahman is Real
Universe is brahman
— Adi SankarAcArya
In my earlier article, “On Gurus and Disciples,” I briefly discussed a model for the creation of the universe(s). In this article, I will take a deeper look at this model.
A Model for Creation
In this section, I will discuss my understanding of the Hindu model of creation.
According to Hinduism (originally known as sanAtana dharma or Eternal Way of Life), all the perceptible and imperceptible universes come from a single source that is, simultaneously, everything (infinite) and nothing (void) (it is known as a singularity in modern physics). It is called by several names parabrahman, brahman, Self, sadASiva, vishnu, the Absolute, Being, Supreme Being, Supreme or Cosmic Consciousness, Cosmic Mind, etc.
The words sadASiva or vishnu mean the “infinite indwelling Self.” The word brahman comes from the root brihat meaning “Big.” Of course, “Big” is relative; relative to what? This is so big that we cannot compare this to anything. So, we consider it to be absolutely big, infinite. This infinite cannot be captured by the limited human mind. Even word infinite cannot capture it.
This is pure potential or also called the observer or pure awareness. It is just aware, but does not act. Our language is so limited to describe these concepts. So, please do not hang on to literal meaning of the words. “Watching” does not mean that it has a humanoid form or has eyes. It is in a state of pure awareness. It just knows. This is our source. I will use the word brahman, Self or consciousness, from now on, to describe this source. I will refrain from using the words, Him, He, Her, She, Father, Mother, etc., since they conjure up images of humanoid forms sitting up there somewhere. I will not use the word “God,” since it means different things to different people. I will just use “It,” “That” and “This” when describing brahman.
From this source the whole of this and many universes emerge. This is called lIlA or play of brahman. It is also known as swapna or dream of the cosmic mind. So, you can consider the universes to have been manifested by the thought force of the cosmic mind. This is the reason for vishnu to have been depicted in yOga nidra or
cosmic sleep, or for Siva to have been depicted sitting in meditation. They stand as a constant reminder that the whole of the perceptible and imperceptible universes is a dream of the cosmic mind.
It so happens that there occurs a slight disturbance in this pure awareness. May be the first thought. What causes it? It is acausal. This occurs as the highest frequency vibration. It is called, Om, the first vibration. This vibration issues forth a force. This is Sakti the dynamic creative force. Sakti literally means Power or Force. As we know from Physics, power or force is dynamic in nature. This force is given a feminine interpretation from the human point of view–we see that man only helps the woman to create a new life. Woman carries the fetus in her womb, delivers and nurtures throughout the childs life–this is pure action. Because of this Sakti is given a feminine interpretation, since it gives birth to and sustains the universes and myriad life forms in it. Since Sakti is pure action, life that she brings in to this universe is only action. Even though I am using the expressions like, “issues forth” nothing is actually coming out of brahman, it is all happening within it.
Sakti is at a slightly lower vibratory frequency than the brahman (remember, brahman is infinite meaning it is at infinite frequency of vibration).
When I use the words from physics like frequency, energy, force, power, please do not think only in terms of the physical manifested world. This creation has extraordinary intelligence. Any words that we use to describe these are only for clarification of the concepts, but this creation and life cannot really be captured by our mind.
This Sakti, the vibratory force (or the dynamic energy) then slows down its own vibratory frequency to various levels to create all that we see and don’t see. The vibratory frequency slows down to such an extent that things appear to be solid in our world.
The vedic seers knew then that whole of this universe is purely vibration and things that seem to be solid are not solid at all. So, siddhar Thirumoolar in tirumandiram says, “Universe is created from sound and light (vibration) that are emanated from sadASiva.”
Since the whole of creation is a dream or a thought of brahman, we are living in a thought-sphere. Like antenna of a radio, we pick up thoughts that are floating around in this thought-sphere. Since the same consciousness or brahman is working through this body, as co-creators of the universe, we also produce thoughts (actually this consciousness produces these thoughts).
We, human beings, are now so caught up in constant uncontrolled thinking that we forgot our source and are identified with our thoughts and objects that these thoughts refer to (including the limited form), as being the “true us.” Therefore, we address ourselves as “I am an engineer,” “I am a father,” etc., identifying ourselves with the roles we play in our day-to-day life. This is called mAya. In the Bible, this concept of forgetting, who we truly are, is known as falling from grace.
Since everything appears in brahman everything is brahman and the essence of brahman is in everything, as the ever-shining Self, including our human form. Because of this veil or mAya of thought we are unable to realize brahman, like the bottom of the ocean cannot be seen clearly because of the incessant waves at the surface.
Since we are living in thought-sphere, as co-creators of this universe, we can manifest our thoughts. I believe that most inventions have been carried out this way, though the inventor may not know it. Thought is an energy vibration that when put out into the universe (read: brahman) it responds by creating opportunities for that thought to be manifested. Many books have been written on this topic. I will dedicate another blog article for this.
As Vedic culture deteriorated and dark age set into Hindu minds, more and more ritualistic tendencies set in. As this became more rampant, a revival of sorts happened which I describe here. I believe that this revival is still going on.
Ever-shining in-dwelling Self (the Narrow Sense of Self (NSS)) as it limits itself to the body, is sometimes known as the Atman, jIvAtman or soul.
Three philosophies were propounded to describe the relationship between Atman and brahman. I will describe them briefly. My brief descriptions won’t do any justice to those great philosophers, who propounded these philosophies. These are vast subjects. I will list them in the chronological order.
advaita or Non-dualism
Both brahman and Atman are identical. When this realization occurs Atman merges into the brahman. This was propounded by Adi SankarAcArya in 800 C.E. By that time, ritualistic tendencies became rampant and Sanakara came to revive the true spirit of Hinduism by propounding this philosophy. As always, SrI Sankara‘s disciples did not fully understand his simple philosophy and they erected dogmatic structures and rituals.
vishistAdvaita or Qualified Non-dualism
By the time of SrI rAmAnujAcArya (1017 – 1137 CE), advaita was being ignored and ritualistic behavior started becoming rampant again and people were starting to forget the true spirit of Hinduism.
This philosophy states, the Atman, though it is the essence of brahman can never merge into brahman. It knows it’s identity is brahman. It can only approach brahman, but never merge into it consciously.
I understand it in the following way. Infinite can never be experienced by the body limited Atman. It can only know it is brahman, but it cannot truly experience brahman and merge into it.
dvaita or Dualism
In a few years, mAdhvAcarya (1238-1317) came and proposed dualism. This philosophy stated that Atman even if it knows that it is brahman, it will still maintain its separate identity.
Let’s look at some ideas on evolution of life on this planet. The Hindu purANAs talk about vishnu incarnating on this planet from time to time to establish dharma. There are ten avatArAs or incarnations attributed to vishnu. They are, in order,
- matsya—fish or water dwelling animal
- kUrma—tortoise or amphibian
- varAha—wild boar or land dwelling animal
- narasimha—human with a lion face. Possibly, depicted early humans
- paraSurAma—A warrior
- rAma, krishna, buddha—which symbolized the perfection of humans
The one that is yet to come is,
- kalki—Eternity or time or destroyer. He is supposed to come on a white horse and destroy all foulness on the planet.
Creationism or Evolution
I believe that evolution is not just physical. When you understand the creation in light of brahman or consciousness, then the evolution is nothing but the evolution of consciousness itself as it manifests. I believe that kalki is not a single man (it could be), but may help raise the consciousness of our planet to transcend time (to touch eternity) and destroy the mAya that is giving an illusion of separation and realize brahman.
Is this creationism or evolution? In the light of consciousness, I believe it is both creationism and evolution happening simultaneously. What do you think?