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The Great Reality and its Nature

By Swami Sivananda

The Struggle for the Infinite

The empirical examination of experience shows that the individual is compelled to develop a relation with objective existence. This is clear proof of the insufficiency and the finitude and, consequently, the transient character of the individual. But the urge for perfection points to the existence of a supremely unlimited Being beyond which there can be nothing. The analysis of the Self discloses the existence of the conscious Self as distinct from unconscious matter and mind. But the eternal nature of the Self requires it to be secondless and, hence, the existence of unconscious matter becomes unwarranted. The practical moral urge and the purified reason are corroborated by intuition which proclaims the existence of an indivisible, secondless, conscious Being. This supreme conception of the Reality necessitates life to be lived according to strict righteousness and moral discipline. The better the conception of the Truth, the more quickly is it realised.

The First Observation

Human consciousness at once presupposes the authenticity of the existence of the personal being which is the root of this consciousness. The very meaning of human consciousness is objectivity which sets in opposition a subject or the self against the non-subject or the not-self. Individuality of the subject and the object is the necessary condition of all forms of perception or knowledge in the world. Individual consciousness and individual existence are inseparable. The very first factor that the individual is faced within experience is the awareness of the existence of something which it cannot consider as the self. This is the starting point of active thinking and action.

The individual is confronted with the urgent need of developing a relationship with the vast universe which stares at it as the not-self. This need marks the nature of the struggle of life as a whole, its purpose, method and goal. The need for external relation, however, is the outcome of a practical want in oneself, a want of thoroughness and genuineness in one's own being. This is the hypothesis upon which is constructed the edifice of philosophical speculation. Self-consciousness refuses to rest blind and idle. It stimulates mental and physical activity, a postulate which demands no reason. The value of life is determined by the characteristics of the effects of this activity. The sense of value is based on the extent, the depth and, consequently, the longevity of the experience of conscious satisfaction in the self. The worth and the righteous nature of all activity is, therefore, dependent on how far it nears the most supreme form of happiness which is the standard set by the results of the computation of perfection as determined by the irresistible urge for completeness of one's existence. The nature of this happiness, however, remains to be found out.

The acts of life show that the individual consciously and voluntarily acts because of the joys which are experienced by the self as a consequence of those acts. An action is a transformation from one condition to another, which, naturally, is the effect of the inability to rest eternally, in a particular condition. It is observed that all actions, mental as well as physical, have a special characteristic of being directed towards some or the other of the forms in which the not-self appears. The impossibility to withhold conscious action leads us to the conclusion that there must be an intimate and permanent connection between the subjective conscious being and the vast objective existence. The fact that the vaster this objective existence included in the self's relations and the nearer it is to the self the greater is the intensity of happiness experienced by the self points the way to the true nature of the ultimate Reality. Logically the highest bliss must be the result of a self-merging of the unlimited existence in Self- consciousness. This means the dissolution of the not-self in the Consiousness of the Self, the disappearance of the hallucination of objectivity in Self-identical, objectless, absolute, Awareness merely, which exists not only including but transcending the entire realm of objective existence in quality as well as quantity.

Analysis of the Self

On carefully scrutinising the waking, the dreaming and the deep sleep states, it is observed that the Self is different from the physical body, the psychological organs and ignorance which are respectively manifested in externality, internality and nihility of consciousness. Further, consciousness must necessarily be an essential constituent of the Self, for without consciousness existence itself is valueless. This at first leads us to conclude that the Self must be a conscious witness of the physical, the psychological and the ignorant conditions. But being a witness means existing as an unconcerned observer of certain phenomena which exist apart from oneself. This compels us to make the Self an individual perceiver with its rival, the percept.

Metaphysically, individuality is the opposite of eternity, for, eternity means changeless self-existence which is synonymous with completeness and infinitude. Nothing that is dependent is eternal and nothing that is finite or individualised is independent. The subject cannot hope to exist eternally and at the same time be a relative of some external existence. To be eternal, the subject must be absolute, which is the fusion of the totality of existence in the subject or the Self. In order that it should be Real, the subject must at the same time become all objects, the entire existence, in which case the subjectness of the subject is sacrificed to or rather swallowed by a larger infinity of being where the subject and the object are not separated even in the least. Hence, if the Self is eternal it cannot be something existing apart from the three empirical bodies which are objects of the witness-Self. And, the Self must be eternal, for, at no time is it possible to deny the existence of the conscious Self.

Now we are led to a twofold quandary. The Self cannot be called a differentiated witness of the three bodies, for objective consciousness and individuality vitiate self- existence and eternity. At the same time, the three bodies cannot be included in the Self itself, because they disclose their character of being devoid of consciousness and also being absent at some period of time. Reality is that which exists without break in time and space. This test rejects the three objective conditions of waking, dreaming and deep sleep from inclusion in the Self.

This philosophical difficulty has resulted in the different realistic doctrines which posit the existence of a cosmic eternal Prakriti, a Sakti or Power of Consciousness, a world of material creation, a body of God, a Maya! But the problem ever remains unsolved. A Purusha or an Isvara who is different from Prakriti, a Paramatman who is the possessor of an objectified Sakti, a Creator who projects out an external world, a God who transforms himself into a universe, a Brahman who gives rise to a real Maya of objective unconscious existence, are all simply the magnified conceptions of the same Self which is cut off as a separated being from the three bodies and states. All these theories unconsciously make their conscious reality a transient being by distinguishing it from some external existence. Either philosophy has to admit its failure in its attempt to determine the nature of Truth or close its eyes to the stern appearance of the unconscious body and the world and boldly assert the sole existence of an infinite objectless Consciousness. The word 'Maya' does not suggest the existence of some eternal material being, but only indicates the inexplicability of the relation of Reality to appearance.

Application to Life

Reality as understood by the practical reason, however, seems to be a greater solace in man's life than the bewildering conclusions of pure speculation. Strictly speaking, appearance and Reality cannot be said to be either identical or different. If identical, transitory phenomena and unconscious states have to be included in Reality. If different, Reality gets limited and individualised, somehow; life cannot be lived with notions which fail to be reliable guides in the onward march to perfection. The intellect which is the seat of logical conclusions has got its defects, since it functions on the wrong basis of the assumption that the results achieved by the process of the distinction of the knower, the knowledge and the known are supremely trustworthy. There is no logic without this difference; with difference there is no eternal truth. The complete synthesis of knowledge would be a union where reason is abolished altogether, where the intellect is transcended and differences are cancelled. This is not possible as long as the seeker rests in the human consciousness. But the practical moral urge points to the existence of perfection which is unlimited in every way.

This urge is corroborated by direct intuitive experience. It is heard from such sources that the supreme Reality is free from the functions of thinking, the notion of individuality and the perception of external existence. It is all unlimited, spaceless, timeless, non-dual, pure Consciousness. It is called Super-Consciousness, for it is greater than the ordinary consciousness experienced in life. This does not contradict the pure reason and since reason has nothing better to say, it has to accept the trustworthy character of what is heard from those who have reached the kernel of existence. Logic may scrutinise, reason may verify the validity of these declarations. And since they are found to be agreeable to logic and reason and as they also ratify the practical moral urge, they have to be taken as the torch in the quest after the Truth. The rightly guided reason and revelation both require in life a special discipline based on the conception of True Being. This is also the sanction of the moral sense which persists to manifest itself in spite of repeated oppositions from the animal nature. True Being is that which knows no bounds, neither physical nor intellectual, but is unbounded spiritual Being. The method of approach must befit the nature of the object approached, the pathway can be known only when the destination is known. The indivisible, absolute and conscious nature of the Reality signifies that life on earth should be lived according to the rigid laws of dispassion towards external existence and active awareness of the Self as the unlimited being. It also shows that all forms of physical and even intellectual indulgence are deviations from the eternal truth and that every desire for objectivation of consciousness is suicidal in the real sense. The good life which is in conformity with the nature of Truth should be, therefore, free from the oppressions of hatred, lust, greed and falsehood in all their forms of manifestation. The Upanishadic intuitive declaration lays down that the righteous life should be lived with mental peace, self-restraint, absence of agitative activity, fortitude, faith in Truth and concentration of mental consiousness. Acting against this rule means refusing to abide by the essential nature of the Ultimate Reality. Discrimination born of the purified reason coupled with an intense longing to experience the Eternal Truth is the greatest requisite in the path to Perfection. The important point to be remembered is that the better and the more intelligent the conception of the Truth, the more valuable is the life lived, the easier is the process and the more quickly is the Reality realised.


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