Concept of GOD in Sanatana Dharma

Author: Shivashankar Rao

Date: Jan 8th, 2018

Bangaloor, India


Some of the modern debates on advaitha philosophy reminds of many blind men describing an elephant!!

Vedas emphatically assert that there is one god who is described by the wise men in different ways.

All that shankara did was to remove the ignorance of the followers of sanathana dharma who were fighting as to which form of god is supreme.

Even now some people think that vishnu or shiva is supreme and this is wrong to say the least. There is one god only.

If there is only one student in a class, who is the best and who is the worst?

Does it take a great brain to say that two persons are two different entities?

To see what holds each one and what is the essence of each one and to establish the commonality among all creations is a great task which can save this world from internal dissensions,infighting and mutual destruction.

Indian philosophical systems have developed not only as a result of intellectual speculation but also of mystical intuition.

The topics commonly discussed are four. – The nature of physical world, nature of man, existence of god the goal of human life.

The Vedanta darshana accepts a judicious combination of reasoning and acceptance of the authority of the Vedas as also the unbroken tradition.

The prasthana traya- Upanishads, Brahma sutras and the Bhagavad-Gita- are the basis of the Vedanta darshana. Advaitha Vedanta darshana owes its systematization as a formidable doctrine to Goudapada who interpreted the Mandookya Upanishad. Shankaracharya’s commentaries on the prasthanatraya as also a few independent treatises for the bedrock on which the later advaithis built their edifices.

Advaitha means “one without a second”. It recognises Brahman, the absolute as the only reality and denies permanent reality to the world as also the individual souls. This is based on the upanishadic statement “sadeva soumya idamagra asieet, ekamevadvitheeyam”. (Chandogya 6.2.1). However the world of multiplicity is a matter of day-to-day experience. Hence one has to explain as to how Brahman appears as this world as multiple names and forms. Anirvachaneeyakhyathi, theory of erroneous cognition, which defies logic, explains this. Perceiving silver in nacre in sunlight or a snake in rope in insufficient light are examples. Here, there is an erroneous perception of silver and snake from an earlier idea of the same, now superimposed upon nacre and rope under conditions favourable for the mistake. This superimposition is called adhyasa or adhyaropa.

These perceptions are not real or unreal. So, it is called sad asad vilakshana. – Different from both real and unreal. it anirvachaneeya or incapable of any description. The basic cause of the erroneous perception is called agnyana or avidya. It is endowed with avaranashakthi and vikshepashakthi. It veils the true nature of the nacre and rope, but apparently transforms them to silver and snake. The transformed object is called vivarta of the original.

Let us now see how this world of duality has evolved out of the non-dual reality called Brahman. The world of duality can be divided into the seer and the seen (drk and drishya). Both these are divided in to the innumerable living beings and objects. It is avidya that causes the one atman as so many jeevas and it is Maya that causes the world of phenomena.

Shankara accepts three degrees of reality-prathibhasika sathya, the apparent truth (illusory appearance), vyavaharika sathya (day to day existence) and the paramarthika sathya (only truth that really exists). It is Brahman, which is nirguna, hence incapable of being described. Brahman associated with Maya is saguna Brahman or ishvara. It is this aspect that is responsible for creation, preservation and destruction of the world.

Shankara holds that the world process is only a vivarta (illusory appearance) due to adhyasa (superimposition) on Brahman. Brahman or Atman which is sat-chit- ananda has inexplicably got itself involved in the body-mind complex due avidya. This avidya is anadi. The involved atman is jeeva. This has 5 koshas or sheaths, 3 shareeras or bodies. It performs motivated by desires, experiences pleasure and pain due to karma and undergoes transmigration until liberation. Shankara declares that this jeeva when liberated from its upadhis (limiting adjuncts) like body and mind, is identical with Brahman since its essential nature is sat chit ananda.

In order for the jeeva to overcome the false identification with body and mind desuperimposition becomes necessary. For this sadhana chatushtaya is the first step. – Discrimination between eternal and non-eternal, dispassion, cultivation of the six virtues like self-control and desire for liberation. One has to approach a guru (preceptor) and learn from him through hearing, reflection and contemplation. (Sravana, manana and nidhidhyasana).

The realization can be had even while one is living in the body (jeevanmukthi). He will attain videhamukthi after the body falls off. Liberation is not gaining of a new state but recognizing the already existing original sate.