You might have sometimes wondered how it is determined what kind of life people will have. Will they be born in a rich or a poor family? Will they have good health or bad. Will they have a happy life or a not-so-happy one? The answer to all such puzzling questions is that it is the universal Law of Karma that determines this. I have already introduced it in my previous presentation on the Cosmic Consciousness. Let us do a quip recap of its basics before discussing it in detail.
As we know that the universe operates on the law of causation which states that for every effect there is a cause. All phenomena in nature are governed by this law. As an illustration, when we sow a seed in the soil, a plant grows out of it. The plant, which is the effect, will not grow, without sowing of the seed, which is the cause. When this law applies to the humans, it is called The Law of Karma. In simpler terms, the law implies that every action has a corresponding reaction. This means that a good deed will bring back something good to the doer, while a bad deed will entail something bad, either instantly or at a later time in this or in the forthcoming lives. For example, if we are kind and caring, we will get happiness in this and in subsequent lives. On the other hand, if we intimidate and bully others, we will suffer hardships. The universe functions according to this law and justice is administered to everyone. So, if bad things happen to us, it is a reaction of our own past bad actions done either in this life or in our previous lives. We reap what we sow. Why would Brham randomly give happiness and miseries to people?
Here you may ask, do we have more than one life? The answer, according to Vedas is yes. We have several lives. After we die, our soul moves to another body for its next life. This cycle of birth and death ends only when we are able to make sufficient progress and all our karmas are consumed. By the time that happens, we reach an evolved human state. We become a loving and caring person, a noble human being. Our consciousness expands to become at par with the Cosmic Consciousness. Then our soul gets liberated and merges with the Supreme Soul. How this happens will be discussed later in this, as well as in my forthcoming presentations.
As a formal definition, our action and its reaction or consequence together constitute what is known as Karma. These Karmas are witnessed by the part of Brahm that resides in our body as a witness and a record of these karmas is stored in our sub-conscious mind. So, whatever we do, stays with us and we cannot escape it. Don’t fall for the promotional gimmick of Las Vegas which says ‘What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’. It simply does not. So, don’t be fooled.
The kind of life we will have depends on the mix of our accumulated good and bad karmas that we have generated in the past lives. If good karmas outnumber bad karmas, then we will have a predominantly good life and if the opposite is true, then our life will be loaded with problems. Here one thing should be noted that each karma has a separate consequence. Good and bad karmas don’t cancel each other. Bhagavad Gita beautifully elaborates the Law of Karma. It declares that we cannot escape the consequences of our actions and so it is sensible to exercise caution before we act.
Now the question arises, what are good and bad karmas? The answer is simple. Good karmas are generated when actions are of a positive nature, performed by people following a path of integrity and virtue. They tend to be benevolent, loving and caring. Bad karmas are those that are typically performed by dishonest and selfish people, with no concern for others. Such actions are mean and evil.
Vedas state that among the good karmas are honesty, trustworthiness, non-stealing, truthfulness, helping others especially those in distress, giving charities, showing compassion, not taking anybody else’s money, never torturing anybody either physically or mentally, talking pleasantly, dependability, taking care of elders etc. Among the bad karmas are, deceitfulness, Lying, torturing others physically or mentally, talking hurtfully, dishonesty, stealing, taking other people’s money or belongings, not helping others, not giving charity, non-dependability, not helping the needy and elderly, etc.
In our journey for eventually getting out of the Karmic cycle, the first step is our effort to move from vice to virtue i.e., from Tamasic (baser and inertial qualities) to Rajasic (dynamic and passionate qualities, which are normal human qualities) and eventually to Sattvic (noble qualities), so that our karmas keep improving and become less punishing and more rewarding in the coming times, thus, reducing our pain, suffering and miseries; and ensuring a better, happier and more fulfilling life for ourselves. Good karmas not only ensure better future life for us, but also make us virtuous and a spiritually advanced person. It is a great step forward. However, even this is not the goal since even a good karma also generates a reaction and cannot help us in getting out of the Karmic Cycle, which is necessary for the liberation of the soul. We will see later how we can become Karma free.
Since life is a mix of good and bad karmas and so we are blessed in some respects and miserable in others. In a lifetime a person undergoes several cycles of good and bad times when we are predominantly happy and miserable respectively. In some cases, however, misery prevails longer, while in others happiness is dominant. It all depends on what kind of karmic mix we have got at the time of our birth.
Karmas are of three types. The first type is Accumulated Karmas of the remote past which are not used up, called Sanchit Karmas. Part of these karmas make subtle impressions on our mind, form our habits and are reflected in our character. Our personality depends on how our actions have been in the past. Our nature, mental composition, habits, inclinations, tendencies and behavior are determined by the subtle impressions or sanskaras generated by these Karmas
The second type involves those Karmas that determine our present life. These define, what we call our luck or destiny, also known as our Prarabdha Karmas or Bhagya. These karmas, too, are mostly from our past lives that are assigned to us to consume in the current life and we get a life in accordance with that.
To give you an analogy consider an archer, Sanchit or accumulated Karmas are like arrows left in the case that will be shot later, whereas Prarabdha Karmas are like arrows that have been shot. These Karmas are ready for reaping. Nobody can avoid them. These are consumed only when we experience the consequences that resulted from them. It is like paying a debt accumulated in the past.
The third category of karmas include those karmas that we are doing at present. These are called Kriyaman (Karmas being generated) or Agami Karmas (Karmas for the future). We will face their consequences in the future.
While effects of Prarabdha karmas are more or less inescapable, there are certain practices, like serving others through social service, appealing to Brahm for easing the pain through prayers or mantras, practicing techniques of yoga and meditation, etc. that can ease the rigors of some bad Karmas. The details of how it happens will be covered in later shows.
Here, however, we should keep two things in mind. First, these methods mostly take some time to produce results and so, a consistent use of these methods is recommended. Secondly, only certain type of Prarabdha karmas can be diminished, or erased, others cannot be mitigated and must be faced.
One thing more, the law of Karma is not to be confused with a Fatalistic view of life wherein people believe that whatever has to happen is predestined and they do not have any free will to act. That is not true. When Prarabdha influences our life adversely, we can always fight back and make efforts for improving things. We are not required to surrender to adversities and suffer passively. We can take the misfortune as a challenge and rise up to the occasion. Secondly, bad times do teach us important life lessons, which is a big plus. Next, we can take recourse to remedial actions discussed above. And lastly, realizing the adverse consequences of bad Karmas, we can make a conscious effort to take charge of the Agami or future karmas. For that we can make a genuine and conscious effort to reform our habits through care and discretion, so that we develop a tendency to perform good actions as far as possible which will ensure a good life for us in the future.
Lastly, let us see how we can become Karma-free. The reason why we have to face the consequences of our karmas is that there is an ownership of the Karma and an associated expectation of outcome. We must relinquish both, the ownership of karmas as well as the desire for a return. Then our Karma will become Nishkama Karma meaning desireless or selfless Karma which will not bind us. Then onwards we do not generate the binding karmas and once our accumulated karmas are consumed, we become free from the Karmic bondage.
Now the million-dollar question is that how we get rid of the ownership of Karma? The answer is, by considering our actions as our contribution to the smooth running of this great universe created and run by the Supreme Being. In the ultimate analysis, it is Brahm who is the doer of everything. We merely act in accordance with our nature which is determined by the mix of Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic Gunas or qualities that we have got and dictated by our circumstances in which we are placed by our past karmas. We are, thus, merely doing our bit in His grand design since we are part of that design and so why should we exp ect a return. Suppose there is an accident and we happen to be there. We should help the injured person as our duty without expecting any return favor. In reality, it was Brahm who helped the injured person. We were simply executing His wish and so why should we have an expectation for return? Even in our day-to-day work, we should adopt the same approach.
Practicing Nishkama Karma may seem challenging, but we should try to make it our eventual goal. Only then can we be free from the bondage of Karma, paving the way for our soul to be liberated eventually. Otherwise, we will keep moving in this unending cycle of life and death.
In this article I am going to talk about the Origin of the Universe and the Vedic Philosophy. I will first discuss the most accepted scientific theory about how the universe came into being and then show you how the philosophy of the Vedas provides answers to several questions left unanswered by the theory.
How the universe originated has been one of the most baffling questions faced by the human mind. Even after collecting the enormous data about the universe using the Hubble telescope and its more advanced successors, scientists have not been able to generate a foolproof model of the origin of the universe. What comes closest is the scientific theory called the Big Bang Theory. You should not confuse it with the famous TV comedy show.
According to the Big Bang Theory, since the universe is expanding continuously, working the process backwards, it may be postulated that there was an initial point of unlimited heat and seemingly infinite density from where the process of formation of the universe started. Scientists call this initial point the Singularity, which expanded, not exploded as the name suggests, to produce the entire universe.
The process initially produced a small space filled homogenously with unknown substance at high temperature and high density, along with an unknown form of energy. This was followed by a very rapid expansion, called inflation. The inflation seems to have been caused by an uneven distribution of energy resulting due to some kind of quantum noise that arose when the Universe was extremely small. After the event of inflation got over, elementary particles like electrons, protons etc. were formed out of initial unknown substance and they together created a huge cloud. As the temperature of this cloud came down gradually, gases, and other denser substances were formed and eventually the universe came into being after several billion years.
Scientists however, do not know what was there before the Big Bang took place? What was the singularity and where did it come from? What was the initial homogenous substance? What exactly was nature of the energy that appeared? What was this quantum sound that caused the event of inflation and where did it come from? Why did the inflation stop? And, above all, how the entire process was controlled?
Let us now bring in the Vedic knowledge and try to explain this strange scenario presented by the Big Bang model. In nutshell, Vedas maintain that the process of creation was caused and controlled by Brahm. Since He is everywhere and so, the singularity must lie within Brahm Himself. Now let us explain the entire process in detail.
Vedas tell us that before the creation of the universe, there was formless, motionless Brahm everywhere. He then desired to be many out of one since He loves variety, that means He decided to create the universe by manifesting Himself into innumerable forms that we find in the universe, with the help of His Infinite Power or Shakti. Vedas call this entire process of creation as his leisure activity, called Lila in Sanskrit.
Brahm uses two aspects of His Cosmic Power for this purpose. The first one is His illusory power, called Maya which projects the universe out of Himself while hiding His underlying presence in everything. The second type of power is called Prana or Pranik Energy, which is the Energy assigned by Him to run the universe. It represents the total universal force. Later in the creation this force manifests itself as four physical forces comprising of Gravitational force, electromagnetic force, weak nuclear force and strong nuclear force. It also manifests itself as the life-force which enables all living beings to be functional.
Now let us get back to the Vedic account of the origin of the universe. Vedas mention that first of all Brahm, who always stays still, starts manifesting Himself into His active form called Mahat with the help of Maya. This Mahat is nothing but Hiranyagarbha, the one fourth portion of Brahm in which He creates the Universes. Mahat, like Brahm, is also transcendental, the only difference is that now His energy is coupled with the superfine transcendental particles with the help of which he creates the various transcendental forms. So, whenever Brahm wants to assume a transcendental human form or create a transcendental kingdom, He does it at the level of Mahat, the active form of Brahm.
Now for creating the universe, a part of Mahat transforms Itself into two primal entities belonging to the physical universe, which are Prana or Pranik Energy, the energy for creating and running the universe, and Akash, the physical version of superfine transcendental particles of Mahat. Thus, the particles of Akash are the superfine particles of physical matter, the smallest building blocks of all universal matter. They permeate the whole universe, including the empty space between heavenly bodies, gases, liquids and solids. This is the same initial homogenous substance which later gets converted into the elementary particles in the Big Bang theory. This superfine matter appears to be the same substance what scientists have labelled as Black Matter or Black Energy, and which they have not been able to discover so far. These superfine particles seem to be something similar to the vibrating one-dimensional strings of the proposed String Theory of Quantum Physics, which are considered as the building blocks of the elementary particles! Soon we will be able to know the exact character of Akash once the ultra-fast technology of Quantum Computing becomes available to us.
Initially, particles of Akash densely cover the small created space at a high pressure. It causes darkness all around and everything appears standstill. Next, the force of Prana starts acting on the particles of Akash incessantly in the newly created space, generating tremendous heat. This is the region which the Big Bang theory calls the singularity. At this point the transcendental sound vibrations of OM start emanating from Brahm at His will. The frequencies of these sound vibrations carry the idea forms of all the various entities of the universe like galaxies, stars, planets, hills, rivers etc. These idea forms were stored in the Supreme Consciousness. These sound vibrations distort the energy distribution in the created space which causes the sudden rapid expansion of the universe, called inflation. This inflation stops after all the idea forms are released via the vibrations of OM. These ideas include information about all the inanimate and animate objects belonging to the universe.
Particles of Akash then start combining to form bigger particles which are the elementary particles, under the pressure exerted by the Pranic force. This produces a massive cloud of the elementary particles such as electrons, protons, neutrons, etc. As the cloud cools down, elementary particles start combining to form atoms and molecules. Gradually gases, liquids, solids etc. are formed. At this point, the idea forms of various entities combine with necessary material type and get converted into their actual physical forms by the perfect will of Brahm through His projecting power of Maya. All the galaxies, stars, planets, earth start forming, so do the hills, forests, oceans, rivers, animals and humans start appearing on earth when the time is right for each of them.
A major dilemma faced by the Big Bang theory is that after the formation of the universe, its expansion should now slow down since the force causing the expansion should be countered by the forces of gravitational pull exerted by the heavenly bodies on the expanding galaxies. The astronomical observations, however, don’t support this thesis. These observations show that the process of expansion, on the contrary, is accelerating.
The Vedic explanation for this dilemma is that the space is not a vacuum. It is permeated by the undetectable superfine substance of Akash which counters the gravitational pull on the expanding universe.
Vedas make one more assertion that there are several universes and they exist like bubbles lying side-by-side. This is supported by the ‘multiverse’ model proposed by the scientists, according to which, during the massive push of inflation different parts of the space and time grow at different rates resulting in several universes.
Let us now talk about the Nature and the individual consciousness or individual soul. Nature as we know, comprises of inanimate and animate entities. Inanimate entities include galaxies, stars and planets, hills, rivers and other physical objects, whereas animate entities include vegetation, micro-organisms, insects, birds, animals and humans. The difference between the two is that unlike inanimate entities, animate entities are born, they grow up and eventually die. The bodies of all living entities are inanimate, but as soon as a tiny part of the Supreme Consciousness or Supreme Soul, enters the body, it becomes alive. This tiny part is called the individual soul. It is the presence of the soul that imparts life and consciousness to the entity and makes it animate.
Vedas declare that all the inanimate physical objects in nature are made up of Five Basic Elements called Panch Maha Bhutas. These elements are not to be confused with the elements of the periodic table. These are actually different states of matter to which all the objects in nature belong. The first of these elements is known as Prithvi or Earth which is the symbolic name for anything solid. The second of these is Jal or Water, meaning anything liquid. The third is Vayu or Air, meaning anything gaseous. The fourth is Agni or Fire, meaning plasma like fine gaseous form emitting light and heat, and the last is Akash or empty space, which here means invisible superfine matter appearing like empty space.
Since bodies of the animate objects are also inanimate, we can trace the presence of these elements of nature in, say a human body. Earth or a solid substance in our body includes teeth, bones, etc. Water or liquid substance in the body comprises of blood, saliva, semen, etc. Vayu or air in our body includes our breath, stomach gas etc. Agni or fire in our body is the stomach acid which reacts on food and digests it. Akash or superfine element in our body permeates our whole body and fills the empty region in the neck region between the spinal cord and the voice box.
One thing which is noteworthy here is that the sequence of basic elements given above shows the progression from the gross matter to the fine matter. Solid (Earth) is the grossest, followed in the order of diminishing grossness by Liquid (Jal), Air (Vayu), Fire (Agni), the finest being the superfine matter (Akash).
Apart from the above five elements, the Nature, both animate and inanimate, is endowed with three Qualities or Gunas. These are Sattva (Purity), Rajas (Action) and Tamas (Inertia). A person or an object can have a combination of Sattvic, Rajasic or Tamasic quality in a varying degree. Sattva or purer form of nature represents purity, brightness, nobility and goodness. Rajas or active passionate nature stands for action, passion, bravery, egoism and self-centeredness. Tamas or darker form of nature represents darkness, viciousness, cruelty, dishonesty and inertia.
Vedas declare that all the objects in nature are composed of either one or more of the five basic elements and are endowed with one or more of the three qualities of nature. While the elements of nature impart physical appearance to a human or an object, three qualities impart specific character and behavioral pattern to them. For example, Sattva predominates in a noble human being having an intellectual bent of mind and sober nature, with social good at heart, representing purity. At the object level, pure drinking water or fresh air has Sattva. Rajas is dominant in a very dynamic and passionate person, a little selfish but good at heart. At the object level, a ray of sun has predominance of Rajas since it moves from the sun to reach you and gives you the warmth. Tamas dominates in a shady character like a thief, leading a vicious, dark and sedentary life. At the object level, a stone at the roadside has inertia and can hurt you if you stumble on it. So, it is predominantly Tamasic.
Let us now talk about the characteristics of an individual soul. Although it is a part of Brahm or Universal Soul, the individual soul does not have Brahm like qualities or power since it loses these due to of its association with the body. On account of the influence of Maya it gets covered in the layer of ignorance, forgets its true character and starts feeling oneness with the body. It resides in the mid- region of the brain but due to its transcendental nature it cannot be seen by human eyes.
Along with the soul of the living body, a part of Brahm with His full potency also resides in a living body in the upper side of the brain or crown of the head. Like the living being’s soul, It, too, cannot be seen with human eyes due to its transcendental nature. It, however, retains Its original character since It is in no way associated with the body. It resides in the body only as a witness to the actions of the person and stores the record of the actions and the consequences of those actions, i.e., Karma in the consciousness of the individual. That is how the karma stays with the person.
Here the question arises, when Brahm is indivisible, how can He get divided into parts? The answer to the question according to Vedas is that Brahm in reality does not get divided into parts. Due to His illusory power Maya, although He is one, He appears as many, seated within everybody in His pure form as well as in the form of individual’s soul. Even the inanimate nature is not separate from Him but appears so due to the delusional influence of Maya. Thus, Brahm actually remains one but appears divided and diverse as the universe due to Maya. It also shows that, in the ultimate analysis, mind and matter are not different form each other. They are just different manifestation of the same entity, I.e., Brahm. Mind is at the finest level while, at the matter is at the grossest level.
Vedas declare that there is only one Ultimate Reality or Supreme Truth which exists eternally, and which is unchanging. It is in the form of a Super Consciousness of cosmic proportions which creates the universe and runs it, while staying on a different plane than that of the universe. Its existence is, therefore, transcendental. It is also referred to as the Universal or the Cosmic Consciousness. Vedas call It the Supreme or Cosmic Soul.
Adjectives ‘Universal’ or ‘Cosmic’, used to describe the Supreme Soul or Supreme Consciousness are in fact only partially correct since Vedas mention that there are countless universes besides ours, and all of them are controlled by this Supreme Consciousness. These adjectives are thus, only symbolic.
Vedas further declare that this Cosmic Consciousness is infinite, all-pervading, all-knowing and is endowed with infinite energy, through which it functions. This Supreme Entity is called Brahman (Pronounced as Brahm). We will depart from the tradition and simply spell It as Brahm to maintain the correctness of the pronunciation. The correct sound of this great Sanskrit word should not be lost in translation of the western scholars.
Let us examine the above Vedic assertion about Brahm using the principles of Science.
Science tells us that the plane in which ours and other universes exist, is bound by time and space, and governed by the law of causation. From the point in time when the universe is created, to the point when it is dissolved, it follows a timeline. Apart from time, the second crucial feature of our universe is space. It is the expanse within which all the universes exist. All the heavenly bodies, whether it is planets, stars or galaxies, are enveloped by it. Any object or event in the universe is located at a given point in space and at a given time. Thus, both time and space together determine its location.
Next let us talk about the Law of causation. It states that behind an effect there is always a cause and that the cause always precedes the effect. In other words, For example, if we shoot an arrow from a bow, it will hit the target. So, shooting of the arrow, or the cause, will happen first on the timeline followed by the arrow hitting the target, which is the effect. The incident of the arrow hitting the target cannot happen before we shoot it. The logic is based on these premises.
Since according to Vedas, Brahm exists on a plane different from that of the universe and so, He is apparently not bound either by the time or space or the law of causation. Since time does not exist in His plane, He is timeless. He has no beginning and no end, i.e., He is living eternally or in other words He is Immortal. As the space also does not exist in His plane, He has no limiting borders and so, is Infinite.
Another thing to be noted here is that since He cannot be located due to the absence of space and time, He is everywhere. That means He is Omnipresent, and exists as a single entity, implying that He is Indivisible. And finally, by virtue of existing in His own non-physical plane, He is Transcendental for humans who live in this universe. Moreover, since the function of logic and enquiry lies only within the realm of time, space and law of causation, and He is beyond that realm, it is difficult for us to understand Him fully only through logic. Vedas declare that He can only be understood by us when our consciousness transcends to His plane from ours through spiritual advancement and we are able to transcend the limits of logic and reasoning.
This provides the scientific approval for all the above Vedic assertion about Brahm or Cosmic Consciousness.
Vedas further declare that Brahm creates the universe out of Himself which means out of the Supreme Consciousness, with the help of His Supreme Power or Shakti. How this is done will be discussed in the next episode on the origin of the universe. The Supreme Consciousness thus, permeates the entire universe including both, the animate and inanimate objects. This has been endorsed by Quantum Mechanics which has shown that even inanimate objects have consciousness at the micro level in the subatomic particles which are the smallest constituents of matter. These elementary particles don’t follow the laws of classical physics, behave randomly and display Quantum Entanglement, which means that the two particles created in a pair seem connected, even when separated from each other. This shows that the consciousness of these tiny particles is interconnected. That is why Vedas declare that Brahm is Omnipresent, which means He is all-pervasive. Since our mind is also permeated by Cosmic Consciousness, Brahm even knows what is going on in our minds and so He is Omniscient, which means knower of everything. And since He is the Bearer of the Supreme Power, He is All-Powerful or Omnipotent.
Brahm runs the universe based on the law of causation. For every effect there is a cause. All phenomena in nature are governed by this law. For example, when we sow a seed in the soil, a plant grows out of it. The plant will not grow, without sowing of the seed. When this law applies to the humans, it is called The Law of Karma. This law implies that a good deed results in a reward and a bad deed entails punishment, either instantly or at a later time in life. For example, if we help a person in need, later in our difficult time suddenly someone may come up unexpectedly to our help. The universe functions according to this law and justice is administered to everyone. So, if bad things happen to us, it is a reaction of our own past bad actions. We reap what we sow. Why would Brham randomly give happiness and miseries to people?
In Vedas Brahm is also called Purush or Cosmic Male and His Shakti is also referred to as Mula Prakriti or Nature in subtle energy form, the Cosmic Female. Purush or Brahm and Prakriti or Shakti, are symbolically considered as husband and wife, as Supreme Consciousness and Supreme Creative Energy paired together. That is why when they together create the universe, He is called the Comic Father of the universe who gives His part to create it, then sustains and runs it like a father, and She is the Cosmic Mother who creates it, figuratively, gives birth to it, supports it and nurtures it by manifesting as the Physical Nature and providing air to breath, water and food to survive. That is why the Physical Nature is also referred as the mother nature.
Here please keep in mind that Brahm and His Shakti are formless entities and have no gender. They are not even separate, which means that they together represent the same transcendental entity. It is only for the sake of making Brahm more comprehensible to human beings that Vedas have visualized It as two separate Entities and humanized Them as male and female, since that is how humans are classified. For the same reason they are portrayed as husband and wife, who together produce the universe and thus, become the father and mother of the universe.
Vedas also mention that Brahm eventually destroys the entire creation with the help of His Shakti when the universe becomes dysfunctional. Everything dissolves and goes back into Him. He then recreates the universe and the cycle of creation thus, goes on incessantly.
Vedas inform us that Brahm uses only one fourth of His existence for creating the universe or the multiverses. This part of Him is called the Golden Egg or Hiranyagarbha. In the remaining three fourth parts He exists unchanged as an infinite ocean of bright light since His actual form of Supreme Consciousness is invisible. He is self-illuminated by His infinite energy. He also produces the transcendental sound vibrations of OM with the help of His energy.
The Supreme Consciousness exists basically as a Living, super-intelligent energy configuration of infinite knowledge, awareness, thoughts and ideas. It is uniform everywhere and infinite in extent. Brahm is bestowed with the Supreme Will Power to translate His thoughts into action with the help of His infinite energy. Apart from his infinite power, He is also endowed with all the unimaginable opulence and grandeur, in subtle energy form.
Here one thing is worth mentioning. Vedas declare that the light of Brahm is not static like normal light of the physical universe. Those advanced spiritual practitioners who had visions of His Bright Illumination, inform that It appears Dazzling, Dynamic, Vibrant, Mystical and Transcendental in nature.
Vedas further tell us that three words define Brahm completely. The first of these words is Sata or the Absolute Truth. Since He is without a beginning or an end, He is the only entity which always exists, rest everything in this world has only temporary existence. He, therefore, is the only real truth. The second word is Chitta meaning the Consciousness, which is His real character, since He is essentially Consciousness which is perfect in all respects and infinite in extent. The third word is Ananda or the perfect Bliss. Let us try to figure out why Brahm is bliss. Remember that the concept of worry, pain, suffering, fear, etc., belong to the universal plane where things are constantly changing for better or worse, the law of causation is working, delivering good and bad results of previous good or bad actions. Brahm, however, resides in a different plane where these things are totally absent. That is why He is endowed with perfect and permanent bliss. This bliss is infused with everlasting peace since there is nothing to disturb Him in His plane. Secondly, since He exists in the ultimate desirable state, which is the final destination of every soul, He is pure, meaning without any flaws. So, His bliss has purity. Thirdly, since everyone is created by Him, He loves everybody and has kindness for all. Therefore, unconditioned love and kindness are other attributes of His Bliss.
In simple language, it is the most desirable, out of this world bliss which lasts forever and is infused with purity, peace, love and kindness. It is this bliss which people experience when their consciousness eventually reaches the level of the Supreme Consciousness through the spiritual progress.
Vedas combine these words Sata, Chitta and Ananda, which results in a new word Sachchidananda, which is another of Brahm’s many names.
You might be wondering as to how can Brahm, a formless entity, do things that require physical organs? How can He see without eyes, listen without ears, talk without mouth, work without hands and walk without legs?
For understanding this you need to keep in mind that all the sensory signals that we receive are recognized by us only when they reach our consciousness through the sensory organs of eyes, ears and nose. To illustrate it consider a scenario in which a man is unconscious, and so, his sensory organs are disconnected from his consciousness. In this situation he cannot hear or smell anything, even though the ears and the nose are open, since the incoming signals are not reaching his consciousness. Similarly, the mechanism of conveying his thoughts to the outside world through the speech from his mouth is not working due to this disconnection.
Thus, whatever we do is actually done by our consciousness. We, however, need sensory organs to receive and send the incoming and outgoing signals, since our consciousness is attached to our physical body. The Consciousness of Brahm is free from any bondage and so He can receive and send any signal directly from his Consciousness without needing any intervening instrument. For sending a signal, however, He converts his thoughts into action with the help of His immense will power.
Suppose He wants to say something to you, He will convert His thoughts into words of whatever language you speak, into whatever voice He chooses, through His will power. All the worldly knowledge is stored in His Consciousness with the help of which He creates this entire universe, so speaking whatever language you speak is not a problem for Him. As regards to the work which requires the use of hands, say lifting a water bottle, He does by executing the thought through His immense Will Power and water bottle gets lifted through the invisible force behind His thought. Now for the work which requires the use of feet, like moving from one place to another, He has no difficulty, since He is everywhere.
Thus, Brahm or the Cosmic Consciousness can do anything without having a physical body.
Here another thing is worth noticing. Since He is infinitely resourceful and so is capable of doing whatever He wants. If He decides to appear in a physical body, He can do that by acquiring a human body through His Will Power, wearing whatever He decides. He can then disappear at will whenever He wants.
He might create a huge kingdom in His realm and be the King there along with a supporting hierarchy of transcendental beings! For Him literally nothing is impossible.
I believe it makes more sense to present you with the credentials of the Ancient Indian Civilization before discussing its rare treasure of Vedic knowledge.
Let me begin by telling you about the various eras through which human race has passed starting from the early stone age to the present times.
There have been four major eras so far.
The first one is the Ancient era which ranges from 7500 B.C. till 650 A.D. It is considered a great era since it marked the progress from hunting and tribal culture to great civilizations and eventually to great empires. Various branches of knowledge like language, literature art, music, science, statecraft, architecture religion and philosophy came into being and prospered. That is why it is also called the Classical Era.
Next came the Medieval or Barbaric Era from 650 A.D. till about 1500 A.D. This era was marked by the social and political decline due to the collapse of the classical empires, especially since the collapse was mostly caused by the barbaric rulers. Only empires at that time were Islamic Empires in the middle east. Brutality can be seen as engrained in the behavior and culture of this period. Religious injunctions ran the state and controlled the society. Art, music, literature and architecture were infused with religion. It was more an era of faith than an era of reason.
The Modern Era followed the Medieval era. It started around 1500 A.D. and lasted till 1970 A.D. It was mostly centered around Europe and was marked by several major developments, like the advent of Renaissance which marked the revival of the literature, art and architecture, a tradition started by the Classical Era, but lost during the Medieval Era. The second development was the advent of the age of Science and scientific discoveries which led to the rise of the industrialized society. The ideology of the modern era was marked by the criticism of the religion and growing interest in the secular side of life. Barbaric brutality of the Medieval Era was rejected and discarded. Civilized behavior was held in high esteem. Liberal democracy was the preferred form of Government. The Era emphasized the primacy of reason and logic which caused a major shift Religion got relegated to the background, while science, logic, material culture, humanism and liberal democracy were celebrated.
The Postmodern Era or the Contemporary Modern Era, in which we are presently living followed the Modern Era by the end of the Twentieth Century. This era is marked by the realization that logic and reason are not enough to explain life completely. The basic assumptions of the traditional Science, viz., the accuracy of measurements and exact reproducibility of those measurements, are no longer valid with the advent of the Quantum Physics describing the unpredictable behavior of subatomic elementary particles. There is an acceptance of ambiguity where things cannot be explained. Philosophical speculations are being made for making sense of situations where science is helpless, like origin of the universe, weird behavior of Elementary Particles, and so on. So, in keeping with the spirit of the times, it may not be out of place to take the help of the ancient philosophy of the Vedas for explaining the puzzling situations that we are unable to decipher.
Let us for a moment revisit the Classical or Ancient Era, the golden age of humanity, to which the Vedas belong. This era saw the rise of Indian, Mesopotamian and Chinese Civilizations in Asia; Greek and Roman Civilizations in Europe, and Incas and Mayan Civilizations in Latin America. During this period, Hinduism in India, Buddhism in east Asia, and Christianity in Europe flourished, along with some other religions like Judaism, etc.
With a recent archaeological discovery of the ruins of a very ancient city of Dwarka in India, belonging to the 7,500 B.C., it now becomes clearly established that the Indian Civilization preceded the hitherto believed most ancient Mesopotamian Civilization, which existed in 3500 B.C., by 4000 years! This mean that the honor of being called the cradle of civilization clearly goes to the Ancient Indian Civilization and the title of Mother of all knowledge goes to its ancient wisdom contained in the Vedas, from which Hinduism, the oldest religion known to mankind has emerged.
The discovery of Dwarka Civilization, which forms a part of the Aryan culture, also gives a conclusive proof that Aryans were Indians and falsifies the hypothesis that Aryans had migrated to India from Eastern Europe and Central Asia, since there was no sign of any advanced civilization anywhere in the world in 7,500 BC! It is time that the world historians took note of this epoch-making archaeological discovery and rewrote the world history.
You may wonder that if such an enormous body of knowledge in the form of the Vedas existed, how come the world hardly knows about it? The answer is that with the fall of ancient Indian empires and with the subsequent rule of Islamic plunderers from the Middle East and later of British monarchy in India, this knowledge relegated to the background. When Britishers discovered it, they were amazed by its shear grandeur. Unfortunately, their pride did not permit them to accept that their colony had such a glorious social and cultural heritage. So, they underplayed its greatness and on top of that propounded the false theory that Aryans had come to India from Europe and central Asia, and the great Indian civilization was not actually Indian!
However, things have changed now. Eventually, India’s incredible cultural and philosophical heritage is getting world recognition. That way, even without knowing about Vedas, the world has already embraced wholeheartedly the life enhancing techniques of Yoga and Meditation which have their roots in Vedas.
With this introduction of the Ancient Indian Civilization, let me now tell you about the Vedas.
Vedic Knowledge is referred to as the revealed knowledge since it is said to have been revealed by the Cosmic Consciousness to the saints of ancient India, called Rishis, when their consciousness was connected to the Cosmic Consciousness in deep meditation. It is, therefore, not created by any human being. This knowledge was passed on from generation to generation through recitation and later in around 5000 B.C. they were organized and written in the form books known as Vedas.
There are four books of Vedas known as Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda. Historians have dated the Vedic books, but we should remember that the Vedic knowledge itself has existed for a very long time prior to this dating. And from that point of view it can rightfully be given the credit of being the oldest knowledge, available to mankind.
Vedas contain a huge body of knowledge pertaining to almost every essential aspect of human life. That includes the first fully developed language known to the mankind, called Sanskrit, literature, poetry, music, culture, society, religious rituals, a detailed account of a healthy lifestyle, an herbal system of medicine known as Ayurveda, agricultural practices, trade and commerce, cities, lifestyles of kings, description of kingdoms and their politics, art of warfare and weaponry, archaeology, astronomy, mathematics and science, etc.
Apart from the knowledge pertaining to the Physical aspect of the human existence described above, Vedas also offer the knowledge about the non-physical or transcendental aspect of life, for which they are mainly known. They contain a huge body of robust philosophy about the transcendental or spiritual realm. The philosophical and spiritual part of Vedic knowledge is contained in the last chapters of each Veda which are called Upanishads.
Apart from Vedas and Upanishads, there are a few more important works which constitute the part of the ancient Indian philosophy. The most profound among them is known as the Bhagavad Gita, which summarizes all the Vedic and Upanishadic knowledge and puts it in perspective. All these texts together constitute what is known as the Vedic literature which encompasses the core of Vedic Philosophy.
There are seven concepts central to the Vedic Philosophy. These concepts are: Cosmic Consciousness, Individual Consciousness, Mother Nature, Our Visible and Invisible Bodies, Law of Karma, our Chakras, which are the energy centers in our Invisible Energy Body, and finally, the Yoga and Meditation, which is the methodology for expanding the individual consciousness till it reaches the level of the Cosmic Consciousness. I will take these up one by one in my future presentations.
Many of you might have felt that life is very complex, surrounded by so many mysteries, although in our day-to-day life, we don’t have time to think about them. Yet, there are moments, when we suddenly start wondering, how this universe came into being. Was there anything before the universe originated? If yes, then what was that? We also sometimes wonder why we die one day. What happens to us after we die?
Another category of questions that may sometimes baffle us include, what is the real purpose of life? What is our ultimate goal? What kind of journey can take us towards that goal?
There may be a long list of such questions. The dilemma, however, is that even though we are living in the Post-modern Era, there are no conclusive answers to these questions yet! Social thinkers admit that they are dissatisfied with the inadequacy of logic and reason, in explaining life in totality. Scientists have also been facing a similar frustrating situation ever since the discovery of the subatomic particles which are also called as the Elementary Particles. The best example of these Elementary Particles are Electrons in an atom. These smallest units of matter do not follow the established Laws of Physics. The core principles of science, which are the accuracy of measurement and the exact reproducibility of those measurements, no longer hold good in case of these elementary particles whose behavior defies logic.
Another strange thing is that these particles suddenly start behaving like an energy wave in certain circumstances. Similarly, an energy wave, in some situations, starts to behave like a stream of particles similar in size to the elementary particles. Each particle in a wave is actually a small bundle of energy, called a quantum of energy or Photon, which behaves like a particle of matter, like an Electron. It is something very unusual for scientists since in Classical Physics, matter and wave are two distinct entities!
A new branch of Physics, called the Quantum Physics, had to be formulated to describe the weird behavior of these elementary particles. Scientists have proposed several theories to explain this strange behavior of the elementary particles, but none has been experimentally tested so far. Physics has, thus, temporarily become metaphysics!
Both social thinkers and scientists have no choice but to accept the ambiguity, which means that they are either okay with accepting no explanation or more than one explanation of a puzzling situation.
Apart from the dilemma posed by this wave-particle duality of Quantum Physics, another major puzzling situation facing the scientists is the lack of a satisfactory explanation for the creation of the universe. The proposed Big Bang Theory, which I will cover in detail in my later episode, has not been able to provide the suitable answers to several puzzling questions.
While the search for the right answers is still on, I want to draw your attention to an ancient knowledge which seems to solve these puzzles. It is the wisdom contained in the Ancient Indian Texts called the Vedas. They are the huge reservoir of complete knowledge. By complete knowledge I mean that it comprises both, the knowledge pertaining to the physical world as well as the philosophy of the non-physical or transcendental reality. All ambiguities start disappearing when we make use of this Vedic philosophy and try to combine it with the scientific knowledge.
Vedas declare that there exists a Consciousness of Cosmic proportions which creates and controls the universe, while it stays on a different plane than our universal plane.
However, before talking about the Cosmic Consciousness, let us try to understand what consciousness is. Have you ever seen an unconscious person? If yes, then you would have noticed that they are totally dysfunctional and are simply unaware of whatever is happening around them. This means that it is our consciousness which makes us aware of ourselves, our surroundings and enables us to be functional.
On the same analogy it can be argued that there is a Cosmic Consciousness behind the universe being functional, but here you can argue that most of the universe is not a living entity, so how can you talk about the Cosmic Consciousness? You may be surprised to know that the answer to this puzzling question is provided by the strange behavior of the elementary particles.
The behavior of these particles cannot be predicted. For example, the decay of an elementary particle cannot be foreseen. It may decay instantly or choose to decay after an unspecified time! This shows that the elementary particles do not behave as lifeless matter. They rather seem to possess consciousness which makes them to decide their own course of action! What is more surprising is that their consciousness is found to be interconnected. When a pair of elementary particles is created in an event, each particle in the pair seems to be linked to the other, even though they may be far apart with no connection between them. Actions performed on one of them invariably affect the other. This quantum phenomenon indicates that even the lifeless matter in the universe has an underlying interconnected consciousness which, however, is visible only at the micro level. This information seems to validate the Vedic concept of Cosmic Consciousness which should be the sum total of the consciousness of all the living beings as well as the consciousness of all the non-living matter.
Vedas further tell us that the human consciousness exists at several levels. It differs from person to person. As we move from lower to higher levels of consciousness, we switch from a self-centered outlook to a broad mindset where we start caring for our community, our nation and even for the entire humanity. Our narrow local worldview transforms into a wider universal worldview. Our mental horizons expand, transporting us to higher levels.
Vedas also tell us that life is a journey where we travel through different states of our consciousness until eventually our consciousness expands to become one with the Cosmic Consciousness. This journey of self-improvement is what I call a Subtle Journey, or an indiscernible journey, since this journey is our progression towards higher levels of human existence which cannot be perceived by others.
This journey is best undertaken through the technique of Meditation, along with its two vital parts of Yoga and Pranayama. Pranayama can be practiced by anyone with little effort. Yoga, however, involves physical postures that require some effort and discipline. These postures are very beneficial for our body. However, if your body somehow does not permit the practice of Yoga postures, you need not worry. Try to keep your body fit through other means of physical fitness. Yoga and Pranayama prepare the body for the journey which, however, is eventually undertaken mainly through the technique of Meditation. So, it is Meditation that is primary.
Meditation is normally practiced sitting on the ground on a slightly cushioned rug, preferably woolen. However, if you have difficulty sitting on the ground, you may practice it sitting on a chair or even on a bed.
As we begin this Subtle Journey by learning the philosophy of Meditation and by practicing the technique, the process starts taking us to the higher levels of awareness of ourselves and the universe. The inner mechanism behind this is that the Meditation technique causes the activation and balancing of our Chakras, which are the energy centers in our inner *energy body. I will be talking about them later. All our Chakras, starting with our initial Chakra at the root of our spinal cord, to our highest Crown Chakra at the head, where the Consciousness resides, start getting activated. We start moving from bad Karma to good Karma, from our narrow mental horizon to a broader one. We eventually realize our full potential when our consciousness expands to become one with the Cosmic Consciousness.