Random Musings- Part 20- The Manifest and the Unmanifest

Nithin Sridhar

The Isha Upanishad speaks about Manifest and Unmanifest. It is very important as to what these terms are. Before explaining let me state that- “Nirguna Brahman” or “Paramartika Dasha/Turiya” of Advaita is not same as “Asambhuti/Unmanifest” of Isha Upanishad. They are different.

This Jagat/Existence/Cosmos has two aspects- The manifested Cosmos and Unmanifested source.

Manifested cosmos is called as “Sambhuti” in Isha consisiting of Gross and Subtle realms- Bhu, Bhuvah, Svah, Mahah. It is this manifested Cosmos that is called as “Sambhuti”. It has another name “Karya Brahman”. It corresponds to Vishwa and Taijasa of Maandukya Upanishad.

Unmanifested Seed also called as MulaPrakriti/Maya is the source of this Manifested cosmos. The whole manifested lies in Undifferentiated, Unmanifest state here. Hence, it is called as “Asambuti”. It is also called as “Karana Brahman”. It corresponds to Prajna of Maandukya Up.

So, when Isha Up says worship of either Manifest or Unmanifest alone leads to darkness, it is not contradictory to Advaita. In the Bhagavad Gita, the terms Karya Brahman and Karana Brahman are called as “Kshara and Akshara Brahman”. And Gita further speaks about a third higher reality called “Purushottama” who includes both Kshara and Akshara. Hence, Kshara and Akshara are two aspects of Purushottama.

It is this Purushottama which is called as “Para Brahman” in Advaita. He includes (and source of) both the “Manifest/Karya” and the “Unmanifest/Karana” in it and beyond both. It is this state called as “Turiya” in Maandukya Up. Para-Brahman in his state of Turiya is called as “Nirguna Brahman”. Same Brahman in his aspect of Manifestation as Karana and Karya is called as “Saguna Brahman”.
In other words, the Purushottama in his absolute state of Oneness is referred as “Nirguna Brahman” and is called as “Saguna Brahman” when it is being said Purushottama exists in two aspects- Karana and Karya. This division of One Brahman into two aspect being only due to maya.

People misunderstand Advaita by assuming Nirguna Brahman refers to this “Unmanifest/Karana”. But, in reality, Nirguna Brahman refers to Brahman being the Very Existence, the sum total of everything, the state of oneness which includes the both aspects of Karya and Karana. Now to the Q, why the name Nirguna? The answer is straight forward. When Brahman is spoken as being Manifest or Unmanifest , they are considered Saguna Brahman, because they have specific attributes. Saguna Brahman as Karana is the Cause and as Karya is the effect. Hence, Manifest and Unmanifest individually refer to a particular aspect. Hence, Saguna. But, Para-Brahman is the sum-total of all attributes. It is both the cause and the effect and beyond both. Even Mandukya says that Same Atman exist variously as Prajna, Taijasa and Vishwa. But, what does Beyond Both mean? Here, beyond both means, beyond this duality of cause and effect. I.e. Brahman in absolute state is “Oneness” without even the duality of Karya and Karana. Just as Gold is the Real nature of both a necklace and a ring, i.e. same gold existing in two forms and only difference being the external form but in essence being one. Similarly, Brahman in essence is One without any divisions and dualities.

Hence, for this reason Brahman is Advaitam and Nirguna- that is without any specific attributes but is the abode/source of all attributes. Similar to White Light that is abode of all color of lights. Even Kanchi Shankaracharya once said that- “Brahman is called Nirguna, because he is the abode of all Gunas”. The words Nirguna/Saguna may be confusing. Brahman is one, and he is Nirguna in his absolute state. But, when he manifests the Universe by his Maya, he is called as Saguna.

Now, Para-Brahman is described as Satyam, Jnanam and Anantham. He is the infinity itself. Hence, he is the source of all attributes. But, he cannot be said as being limited by any one particular attribute. To the Question how does Birthless Brahman undergoes Birth, How does Non-Dual Brahman becomes Dual, Gaudapada gives elaborate answers. He says it is only through Maya. Just as a magician conjures magic elephant. Similary Brahman manifests this Universe of names, forms and attributes. Another example is just as rope appears as snake due to mistake/clouded judgement, similarly Brahman by his own Maya appears as Universe. I.e. Nirguna Brahman appears by his Maya as Jagat. Just as rope is Material cause of imagined Snake yet it is devoid of attributes of snake similarly, Brahman who is without attributes is the cause of Universe of attributes.

Hence, Brahman is both Nirguna- without any specific attributes and yet abode of all attributes. And this Brahman who is “Nirguna”,”Shantam” and “Advaitam” i.e. without gunas, without mutation, without duality by his own Maya appears to be endowed with attributes, undergoing birth and being non-dual. This is the definite conclusion of Vedanta and Gaudapada.

Also read- “Notes on Para-Brahman”- https://nithinsridhar.wordpress.com/2013/09/26/random-musings-part-14-notes-on-para-brahman/


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