By Acharya Sadanandaji
Recently in the Tai. Up. class, I used a phrase- finitization of the infinite- in explaining Brahman as the cause for creation (yatova imaani bhuutani jaayante ). Even if one considers the universe as infinite, any objectification involves finitization. Ms. Julie, a student of Vedanta, said after the class, that the word intrigued her, since it is not a word that could be found in English dictionary; although thinking about it, the word describes correctly the exact state of affairs in accounting Brahman as the cause for creation. Let us contemplate on it more to see if the missing word in the dictionary makes some sense.
Why finitization word is not there in the Dictionary? Finitization obviously involves an operation that makes some thing finite. Finite need not be finitized, since it is already finite. Infinite cannot be finitized, since it is infinite. No wonder, the word, finitization, is not found in the dictionary. To make finitization as a valid word, it involves an impossible task of making infinite into finite. If we can do that, we can also do the opposite that involves infinitization of the finite, which in a way is what is involved in self-realization. Both are not processes that can be defined. That which cannot be done but appears to have been done is, what we call in Vedanta as, maayaa aghaTita ghaTanaa paTiiyasii, maayaa- That which makes impossible possible is maayaa. In addition, maayaa itself is maayaa, since maayaa is yaa maa saa maayaa that which is not there but appears to be there, not as apparent but apparently real, is maayaa.
So both finitization and infinitization are due to maayaa only. The real truth is I am infinite all the time, nitya shuddha mukta swaruupoham, eternally liberated from all finitizations.
To understand this apparent process, let us first look at the two words: finite and infinite. We all think that we know what they mean. Right? Let us discuss what we know. We know finite is that, which is limited. We can also say that whatever we know is finite, not only in terms of total knowledge content that we know, but knowledge content of a given object too. Epistemologically, we can say that we can only know a thing that is finite. What is finite is formally defined as that which has desha, kaala, vastu-paricchinnam, that is, finite is that which is space-wise, time-wise and object-wise limited. Space-wise limitation involves having a boundary that defines the form for the object which can be perceived. Form or ruupa is used in a generic sense that covers all the attributes that the senses can perceive or measure. Hence, it includes all the five sense-inputs; shabda, sparsha, ruupa, rasa and gandha; sound, touch, form, taste and smell. Any
finite object must have one or all of the above qualities that the five senses can measure, for anyone to establish the existence of an object, and its knowability. The knowability of an object depends first on the capacity of the senses and the mind to translate attributes of the object to the thought, or vRitti, of the object in the mind. In the formation of vRitti of the object in the mind, the existence of the object out there is imaged as the existence of the thought of an object in the mind, with attributes of the objects mapped as the attribute-content of the vRitti. When the thought of the object rises in the mind, I say, I know the thought or I know the object. According to Vedanta ParibhaaSha, the knowability condition is fulfilled when the consciousness of the subject unites with the existence of the vRitti of the object. This happens when the all pervading consciousness gets reflected by the thought, making the thought known.
This is similar to the process that we are all familiar. Any object is known when light in the room falls on the object, gets reflected by the object, and therefore is seen. Reflected light of consciousness from the thought is the knowledge of the thought in the mind, that translates to the knowledge of the object out there, as perceived by the senses. By this unity of the consciousness of the subject and the existence of the object, one becomes conscious of, the existence of, the object via its ruupa or attributes of the object. The object thus known is assigned by a name, established by a convention via shabda (hearing from others), or by a naming or naamakaraNa ceremony. Thus every object that is perceived is reduced to a name for a form naming involves knowing or being conscious of the object and form involves limitations of the attributive existence. In essence every object is known via its attributes which are finite and thus
measurable by senses. If none of the five senses function, the existence of the object cannot be established. If there is no conscious entity, the existence of any inert entity is not established. There is a well known puzzle that asks if a tree falls in the forest that no one knows, can any one hear the sound of the falling tree. Problem with the puzzle is how to establish the existence of the tree and then its falling before we can discuss the sound that the falling tree generated. If there is a conscious entity that sees the existence of the tree and its falling, it will also be able to hear the sound of the fall, if the sense of hearing is functioning. The important point is a conscious entity has to be pre-existing before we can discuss the existence of an inert entity, nay even before we discuss anything in the world.
Thus, an object is limited by the boundaries of the object that is, object is there within the boundaries and not present outside the boundaries. This is termed as spatial limitation. Time-wise limitation arises due to its perception within some time span. An object is technically defined by Nyaaya as that which is praagaabhaava pratiyoginii that which is counter to its previous non-existence. All it means is – now it is there, but there was a time when it was not there. We can also define as counter to its posterior absence, uttaraabhaava pratiyogini. Taking an example of a pot pot is an object which was not there before it became a pot and will not be there in future when the pot breaks into pieces. Thus every object is a creation and every created object has a beginning and whatever that has a beginning must have end, says Krishna (jaatasya hi dhRivo mRityuH). The birth and death have to be noted by a conscious entity, otherwise it is
mere speculation. Therefore every object is time-wise limited. Finally, every object is object-wise limited. Taking the example of a pot, pot is limited by its pot-ness, which is different from jug-ness that jug has; similarly different from every other object that is not a pot. Thus every object is finite, since its attributes as measured by senses are finite. Sensitivity of the sense-measurement can be enhanced by karaNaas or instruments that include microscopes or telescopes and all other scopes, which augment the capacity of the senses. All objects that are perceived or perceivable are inert. Even in the living beings what we perceive is only inert entities or bhoutika shariira or external body only. We cannot perceive even the subtle entities like subtle bodies, etc., although we can deduce that they have minds of their own. By this discussion, we establish few aspects: 1. Every object is finite and 2. Objects are perceived via their
attributive content by a conscious entity, the subject, and 3. Without the conscious entity the subject, the existence of the object cannot be independently established. Ultimately every object is reduced to naama and ruupa or name and form, name brings in the conscious subject and form brings in the attributive content. Note that in the name and form there is no substantive. Substance part is not there because what we perceive is only a form for which a name is given. There is an assumption involved that there is a substance with attributes, form, sound, etc., but substance of that object itself is not perceived by the senses. Several philosophers wrongly assume that senses gather substantive too along with attributive content by arguing that attributes can not be separated from their substantive. The truth is perceptual process is exactly like the image formation by the mirror. Mind is like a mirror. When we stand in front of the mirror in a
lighted room, our image can be seen. Now, is there any substantive for the image in the mirror? In forming the image, no substance is transferred from the original to the image in the mirror. Let us thank God for that, since we will soon be reduced to nothing by standing in front of mirrors. What is seen in the image is only attributive content of the original but not the substantive content of the original. Hence every object perceived is only based on its attributive content, that too as measured by the senses of the perceiver. This is the reason why errors in perception about the objects perceived can also occur since no substantive of the object is perceived. Thus when I mistake rope as a snake, it is because of partial or incomplete attributes perceived, without the substantive of the rope along with those attributes.
World is nothing but objects that we see. If we do not see the world, as in deep-sleep state, then the existence of the world becomes indeterminate. Objects exist in space but space itself exists independent of the objects. Space cannot be perceived, but is inferred by the mind. Distance between any two objects or more correctly distance between any two non-collinear points establishes space. The presence of two eyes, or two ears, or the sense of touch that are spatially separated form the basis for the stereo perception. Time is also an inference in the mind. Movement in space is the origin of time, movement being observed by a mind supported by a consciousness. It is a gap between two sequential events observed by an independent entity which does not change with the events. Even the biological or chronological time as observed by the changes in biology or events outside the body, requires an observer to recognize the changes and thus time. Thus
existence of space, time and world of objects, which are all inert, cannot be established independent of the observer, or a conscious entity. On the other hand the existence of consciousness is independent of the inert entity. One is dependent and the other is independent entity. One is inert, the other is conscious entity. Consciousness is not only self existent but self-conscious too, while inert has to be illumined by the consciousness for it to be revealed. This is what was discussed above as the knowability condition, where consciousness of the subject and the existence of the object in the form of vRitti or thought in the mind have to unite for a conscious entity to be conscious of the existence of the object. On the other hand, one is always conscious of ones presence. Even in deep-sleep, although the mind is folded, the presence of a quite mind is experienced by the one who is awake (saakshii) during the deep-sleep too. Only after the mind is
awake, a person says, I slept very well, that is when the mind becomes available to express that experience.
Every object is finite, the world is sum total of all objects. The sum total of all finite objects is still finite. All objects, in principle, are perceptible through their attributes by a conscious entity when the perceptuality conditions are met. Space is also an object (hence inert), yet it is not perceptible, since the five senses cannot perceive its attributes. In addition, space is infinite; if it is finite then a question arises – what is there on the other side of the space. If some thing is there on the other side, that something must be in space. Being infinite, space is formless; hence eyes cannot see. Similarly it has no other attributes that can be measured by our senses. Since all objective knowledge is attributive knowledge, one cannot perceive the space. Hence mind has to infer the infinite space. The conditioned space, as the space in the house or in the pot etc., which is conditioned by walls of the house or pot, as though can
be conceived by the mind. When there is no mind as in deep sleep, there is no space or time, since both are inferences at mental level. World includes the objects, space and time, some are perceptible and others are inferred; but all are inert. Being inert cannot exist independent of a conscious entity since their very existence can only be established by the conscious entity, either by perception or by inference.
Hence we arrive at a very fundamental law of Vedanta that existence of inert depends on the existence of the conscious entity, while converse is not true. Scripture says the relation between consciousness and the world is like the relation between gold and golden ornaments. Existence of gold as such is independent of the existence of the ornaments while the existence of ornaments depends on the existence of the gold. If I remove the gold out of ornaments, they cannot exist separately. All ornaments are names and forms or naama and ruupa of gold. The gold and its ornaments are related by material cause-its effect or kaaraNa-kaarya sambandha. It was stated before that naming involves knowing and form involves attributive content. Similarly the world that includes space and time are dependent on the conscious entity for their existence. Hence the scripture says: world is the product of consciousness with kaaraNa-kaarya sambandha that is cause-effect
Scripture declares that consciousness is Brahman, prajnaanam brahma. Brahman means infiniteness. Hence by this declaration, scripture establishes the following: consciousness is infinite. There is nothing other than consciousness, since there is nothing other than Brahman as it is one without a second, ekem eva advitiiyam. Now we need to reconcile these two diagonally opposite entities. Consciousness that is one without a second, and the other is the inert world, which is an assemblage of finite objects made of matter. As mentioned before all objects are finite, the substantive of any objects cannot be known through perception, and all objective knowledge is attributive knowledge involving some kind of inference that what I see is what is there; the proverb seeing is believing is not without a basis. It is indeed a belief that there is a substantive object out there based on what I see through the perceptual process. Now, we can formally define the word
finitization. It is the process by which infinite consciousness appear to be a multitude of finite objects, which are inert, with each object having different attributive content that helps to distinguish one from the other. The impossibility of infinite becomes a finite and consciousness appearing as inert are achieved by the power of maayaa. Just as we define a force, which cannot be perceived otherwise, as that which causes an object to accelerate or change its direction, maayaa is that force which cannot be perceived but can be defined as that which causes the infinite to appear as finite and consciousness appear as unconscious entities. Just as the proof for the existence of an imperceptible force is the perceptible movement of an object, the proof for the existence of the imperceptible force of maayaa is the existence of perceptible world of objects whose existence can only be known through the attributive knowledge through the senses by a
kshetrajna or knower of the field. No wonder we cannot find this word, finitization, in the English dictionary. Hence the scripture defines Brahman as the material cause (upaadana kaaraNa) of this material world, where it being pure consciousness and has no material of its own. The clear understanding of the impossibility of finitization of the infinite requires scriptures as pramANa with shravanam, mananam and nidhidhyaasanam on the scriptural teaching, since we cannot find even this word finitization in the English dictionaries. Infinitization of the apparently finite subject also requires discriminative understanding that in the perception of the finite object, the consciousness which is infinite and part-less appear as the subject and the object united into one. The play of maayaa becomes clear in this understanding.