AN INTRODUCTION TO SHREE CHAITANY’S PHILOSOPHY.
পরিণামবাদ ব্যাসসূত্রের সম্মত । অচিন্ত্যশক্ত্যে ঈশ্বর জগদ্রূপে পরিণত ।
(परिणामवाद व्याससूत्रेर सम्मत । अचिंत्यशक्त्ये ईश्वर जगद्रूपे परिणत ।)
(श्री चैतन्य चरितामृत – मध्य – 6-153)
Shree Chaitany Mahaprabhu’s teachings have been compiled in a set of books called Shree Chaitany Charitaamrhta (श्री चैतन्य चरितामृत). He is the last authoritative interpreter of the Brahma Sootram or Vedanta. To differentiate the views of Mahaaprabhu from among the maze of myriad interpretations of Vedanta, it is called the “Evolutionary concept” (परिणामवाद) or “Unimaginable Differentiation-Non-differentiation Concept (अचिन्त्यभेदाभेदवाद)”. The subject relating to Brahma is most complicated. Depending upon the level of understanding of different persons, the authorities have described the same subject differently. The Vedanta (ब्रह्मसूत्रम्) has generally been interpreted by Mahaprabhu from the perspective of devotion (भक्ति) for common people. Here is an Upanishad based interpretation of Mahaprabhu’s views for scrutiny by the learned.
“Evolution (परिणाम)” can be of two types. When the object is a conglomeration of different elements (अंशी) or has components (अंश - like everything in the Universe is composed of quarks and leptons), it can have material transformation (औपादानिक परिणाम). However, Consciousness, which is revealed through mind, is different. In all perceptions (ज्ञानम्), while the objects of perception (दृश्यम्) may change; its perception as “I know (जानाम्यहं) this (object)”, does not change. In such cases, the object of knowledge can only have spatiotemporal transformation (लाक्षणिक परिणाम) as one state is perceived after another at the next moment. Motion (गति) is such a spatiotemporal transformation. Mind is always mobile. When it slows down to go to the roots (बुधँ अव॒गम॑ने) to retain some information, it is called intelligence (बुद्धि). The “I” (अहम्) part in “I know” (जानाम्यहं) is the ego (अहङ्कार). The “know” part is a function of the knower (चित्त or ज्ञः).
While the Universe is full of differentiation (भेद – for laymen गोपी or calf - वछ्डे), their perception is non-differentiable (अभेद – for laymen कृष्ण). There are things beyond the limit of our knowledge (अचिन्त्य) of this mechanism (for laymen वंशीस्वन that unites the गोपी or वछ्डे with कृष्ण). Hence, without deeper analysis, surrender to Krishna totally as the source of everything. At one level, He is not knowable (अचिन्त्य), but at other levels, He alone becomes everything (एकं वा इदं वि वभूव सर्वम् - ऋग्वेद - 8-58-2 and तस्य कर्तारमपि मां विद्धि कर्तारम् अव्ययम् Gita 4-13).
“Unimaginable Differentiation-Non-differentiation Concept (अचिन्त्यभेदाभेदवाद)” also has three parts. It can be interpreted in various ways. Here the interpretation of 3rd Chapter of Gita is followed to explain these from the perspective of Saankhya Yoga (सांख्ययोग), Karma Yoga (कर्मयोग) and Buddhi Yoga (बुद्धियोग – or उपासना योग). But first what are these and how different are they from each other? Since Gita is the essence of all Upanishads, those will also be referred to.
Gita 3-3 refers to the first two Yogas equating Saankshya (सांख्य) with Knowledge (ज्ञानम्) and Karma with Action (कर्म) of the Yogi. Let us first understand the implication of Action (कर्म) and Knowledge (ज्ञानम्).
Gita 4-17 classifies Action into three categories:
1) कर्म - action following natural principles (like धर्मं चर – follow righteous conduct),
2) विकर्म - prohibited action against natural principles (like स्वाध्यायान्मा प्रमदः - do not neglect your studies) and
3) अकर्म - all other actions that neither conform to nor contradict natural principles (अ-विशिष्ट कर्म - like laughing or roaming aimlessly).
While the first one results in happiness, the second leads to sorrow and the third leads to unknown but undesirable destinations (असूर्यलोक). Gita advises to understand their nature carefully, as it is not always easy to classify an action into any one of the three categories (गहना कर्मणो गतिः - Gita 4-17).
Similarly, Knowledge (ज्ञानम्) also has three divisions. The lowest is illusion (अज्ञानम् or प्रातिभासिकी दृष्टि) like the water of a mirage or in darkness, treating a rope as a snake. This is false both conceptually as well as physically (भ्रान्ति, मिथ्याज्ञान or विपर्यास) as here one concept is superimposed (अध्यास) on another without conforming to natural principles. In a more mundane level, consider one after the other waves in the sea rushing towards the shore. Sometimes a crest will meet a trough and both will neutralize each other. No one can identify the crest and the trough that existed a moment earlier. They are spread out in the sea – their source and constituent - in a superposition of states. After the novel Dracula, this has been sensationalized by an “undead” Schrodinger’s cat, which is smeared out everywhere in a state of half alive and half dead, waiting to come into either state permanently after some intriguing and still debated concept of measurement. Here comparison with the waves is not possible as the cat is different from its surroundings. This is one example of invalid knowledge (अविद्या) in quantum theory. Similarly, mind imagines many things as different concepts when it comes into contact with different objects (मनो भवति भूतात्मा तरङ्ग इव वारिधे).
Treating the universal characteristics of elements or objects as such, and noting their interactions, is called valid knowledge (विज्ञानम्). It is also called the operational concept (व्यावहारिकी दृष्टि), as we often use this knowledge to meet our requirements. Yet, it is of limited use. Essentially, all macro objects are made up of a few fundamental particles. Knowing about everything in the universe is absolute knowledge (ज्ञानम्) and the absolute concept (पारमार्थिकी दृष्टि). The revealed or known part of this knowledge (ज्ञानम्) is called proper education (विद्या) and the unknown part is called ignorance (अविद्या). Quantum superposition described above is ignorance (अविद्या) about the unrevealed present state of the particles. Ignorance (अविद्या) has another meaning, which will be discussed later and which also proves the quantum superposition of states a wrong concept.
The knowledge (ज्ञानम्) regarding everything in the universe is also called Brahma (ब्रह्म) because it covers everything (वृहत्त्वात्) and involves everything (वृंहणत्त्वात्). Brahma is generally not one, because, as a part of Self (आत्मा), it is many. Self (आत्मा) is a relative term (सापेक्ष - like son: whose son? Without reference to parents, there cannot be a meaningful interpretation of the word son). Everything is defined by its classification and nomenclature (नाम), physical characteristics (रूप) and interactive potential (कर्म). Hence, शतपथब्राह्मणम् 14-3-4-4 says: त्रयं वा इदं नाम रूप कर्म । तेषां नाम्ना वागिति । एतदेषामुक्थम् । अतो हि सर्वाणि नामान्युत्तिष्ठन्ति । एतदेषां साम । एतद्धि सर्वैर्नामभिः समम् । एतदेषां ब्रह्म । एतद्धि सर्वाणि नामानि बिभर्ति ।..... तदेतत् त्रयं सदेकमयमात्मा ।आत्मा उ एक सन्नेतत् त्रयम् । ....
In relation to all objects Self (आत्मा) is defined as that, which is:
i) the base for that object without which the object cannot exist (उक्थ – यतो उत्तिष्ठन्ति सर्वाणि भुतानि),
ii) which is Brahma (वृहत्त्वात् वृंहणत्त्वात् वा) for it, i.e., which pervades both in and out of it, and
iii) which is equally spread out everywhere in it from the hair in the body to the tips of nails (समं इति मेने – आलोमेभ्यः आनखाग्रेभ्योः).
This threefold structure only can become प्रजापति. This (यस्य यदुक्थं सत्-ब्रह्म सत्-साम स्यात् स तस्यात्मा) is the material interpretation of Self (आधिभौतिक भूतात्मा). Then there is the quantum or energy interpretation (अधिवैदिक देवात्मा or नैगमिक आत्मा – वाङ्मयप्राणाङीप्राणा समवाये यो अयम् अङीप्राणः स इतरेषां प्राणानां आत्मा) and Sentient interpretation (आध्यात्मिक ब्रह्मात्मा or औपनिषद आत्मा – अव्ययपुरुषालम्वनः क्षरपुरुषसाधकोअक्षरपुरुषः). Further, in relation to evolutionary states, there are अव्यक्तात्मा, महानात्मा, विज्ञानात्मा, प्रज्ञानात्मा, भूतात्मा etc. Thus, there are various types of Self (आत्मा). But at the ultimate level, when all coincide without differentiation (परेऽव्यये सर्व एकीभवन्ति – मुण्ड्क उपनिषद–3-2-7), It is beyond numbers (न एकोऽहं यत् द्वितीयं कुतः स्यात्) and is called Paraatpara Parambrahma (परात्पर परम्ब्रह्म). The mechanism of creation has been described in Rhk Veda 1-164-15/16.
The creation can be described in three different ways: 1) starting from the singularity, 2) starting from the Galactic clusters to Solar system and 3) staring from the Earth. The first is called स्वयम्भूमूला सृष्टि or सर्वभुतान्तरात्मा, which can only be postulated; hence called ज्ञानकाण्ड or ॐकारोपासना. Since it is not utilized in our daily requirements, but has its time evolution without mutation (without changing form) or being affected by other effects, it is called उदासीनभाव and अमृत. This is Nature (मूल प्रकृति) and all types of Self (आत्मा) belong to this category. The statement – न तस्य कार्यं करणं च विद्यते (श्वेताश्वेतर उपनिषद) is with reference to this state only.
The second is called सूर्यमूला or हिरण्यगर्भ सृष्टि, which can both be postulated, and the knowledge utilized to meet various energy requirements, hence called दैवात्मोपासना and the process is known as उपासनाकाण्ड or उद्गिथोपासना. Since it deals with the nuclear reaction only, it is called ब्रह्म and प्रकृतिभाव. It is the cause for the creation.
The third is called पृथिवीमूला or अश्वत्थ सृष्टि, which appears, disappears and reappears in different combination as a new product. Hence it is called भूतात्मोपासना or प्रणवोपासना and कर्मकाण्ड. Since it deals with all created objects, it is called विकृति and कार्य. Since it is morphed into various objects, it is called शुक्र. Though all these can be differentiated from each other, they come from the same non-differentiated source – hence तदेव शुक्र तद्ब्रह्म तदेवामृतमश्नुते. This leads to Unimaginable Differentiation-Non-differentiation Concept (अचिन्त्यभेदाभेदवाद)
According to Ishopanishad (ईशावास्योपनिषद -10), the Self (आत्मा) concept is different from both proper education (विद्या) and ignorance (अविद्या). This appears confusing, as proper education (विद्या) is a function of knowledge and knowledge is a function of Self (आत्मा). But the Vedas consider everything only at the universal level. Knowing is also an action (कर्म). Everything in the universe combines both knowledge and action as explained later.
Gita 3-9 advises constructive actions as per universal principles (यज्ञार्थात् कर्म) for executing action without attachment or inertia (मुक्तसङ्गः समाचर - गीता). For any action, there must be a need and knowledge about the mechanism to fulfill such need. This creates a desire (ज्ञानजन्य भवेत् इछा) that is put into practice through different agencies of action (इछाजन्य कृति भवेत्). This leads to execution of the work (कृतिजन्य भवेत् कार्य). The resultant effect is action (तदेतत् कृतमुच्यते). Thus, the role of mind in any action is important. By using the term मुक्तसंगः, the Lord has tried to play down the role of mind. As has been pointed out earlier, mind is highly mobile, but intelligence retains the information by slowing down mind. Mind is attached to sense organs, which receives impulses from the external world – thus increasing attachment. By slowing down mind, its link from the senses is weakened and it turns inward to intelligence. Thus the advice here is: do not give importance to your mind. Give importance to your intelligence in all actions. Then only you can discriminate between the comfortable (प्रेयस्) and the desirable (श्रेयस्). This only will lead to action conducive to liberation (अबन्धन).
The next stanza (Gita 3-10) says that having created the Universe in such an action (यज्ञार्थात् कर्म), the Creator blessed the created to prosper by following similar principles that led to their creation as it will yield them everything they want. The question is how? Actions as per universal principles (यज्ञार्थ कर्म) have two divisions: natural (प्राकृत) and practicable (विधेय). The first is what really happens in Nature. It has three divisions: Conscious related (sentience or cognitive - आध्यात्मिक), micro or quantum energy related that creates different elements (physics - आधिदैविक) and macro or mass interaction related that creates the objects of our desire by combining different elements (chemistry - आधिभौतिक). The practicable (विधेय) is the imitation of natural principles by people (मानुष यज्ञ) to get the desired result (देवाननुविधा वै मनुष्याः and यद्वै देवा अकुर्वंस्तत् करवाणि).
The word Yagnya (यज्ञ) has been interpreted as sacrifice, which does not convey its full meaning. The word has been derived from the root यज, which has three meanings: beyond quantum, quantum interaction and macro interaction (य॒जँ॑ देवपूजासङ्गतिकरणदा॒नेषु॑). The last is chemical interaction at macro level (स्थूलशरीर सम्बन्धी). Since everyone is a child of God, everyone has excellence in equal measure (ईशावास्यमिदम् सर्वम्). But it is unequally distributed. Some people excel in one area while others excel in other areas. There is no one who is totally useless (अयोग्यपुरुषः नास्ति), though the person who can put everyone and everything to its proper use is rare (योजक तस्य दुर्लभः). Each one of us is like a cup full to the brim. If we want more milk or sugar, we have to first give up (देवदान) some concoction to enjoy the extra milk or sugar (तेन त्यक्तेन भुंजिथा). Since this changes the ability of the physical body (भूतशरीर सम्वंन्धी) for interaction with others, it is called chemistry related (वाङ्मय or अन्नमयकोष).
The second is physical interaction at sub-atomic or quantum level (देवसंगमन) related to the subtle form of objects (सूक्ष्मशरीर सम्वन्धी) to get the desired object. This practice is invariably used in Tantra. The general principle is, Nature not only creates everything, but also provides substitutes for their sustenance. For example, we require appropriate food for sustenance. If we require stronger bones, we should eat bones, but since that is not desirable, nature provides alternate calcium rich food that serves the same purpose by breaking up at subatomic or quantum level to generate the required effect. If we require blood, we should take-in blood. For this also, Nature provides different food that increase blood. Similarly, we use the alternatives provided in Nature for recreating the Natural effect through quantum interaction. People who live near rivers infested with crocodiles used to apply turmeric on their body before crossing river, as its smell is a deterrent to crocodiles. Smell is a quantum property. Couples wanting a male child performed a ritual (पुंसवन कर्म), which ensured the birth of a male child. This is still practiced successfully in some places in India and Nepal. These are described in the Braahmana part of the Vedas. However, most of the commentaries do not interpret these correctly. Since quantum systems deal with energy exchange, these are called energy related (प्राणमयकोष).
Where the emphasis is on the mind, but material objects are used as supplements to imitate natural processes, it is called worship (देवपूजा). It is related to the causal body (मनसोत्पद्यते बिन्दुर्यथा क्षीरं घृतात्मकम् - योगकुन्डलिन्युपनिषद), as the mind is placed in the specific energy field and energy is modified by mind through recitation of mantras (शक्तिमध्ये मनः कृत्वा मनः शक्तेश्च मध्यगम् - ibid), i.e. connect one’s mind with the universal mind through energy (मनसा मन आलोक्य तत्त्यजेत्परमं पदम – ibid). It may be noted that all dates related to worship (like Diwali or Holi etc) follow the lunar calendar (चन्द्रमा मनसो जातः - पुरुषसूक्तम्). Since physical objects are not important here, it leads to the creation of another base (उक्थ or विंदु), which surrounds material offered to give rise to the desired object. Thus, it is called mind related (मनोमयकोष).
All structures are formed when the positive charge of the nucleus (अग्निः) is confined by the negative charge or the electron orbit (सोम) limiting or separating it from others (चंद्रार्कमध्यमा शक्तिर्यत्रस्था तत्र बन्धनम् - योगकुन्डलिन्युपनिषद). Thus, in our sacrifices, we pour ghee, which is soma, to fire, by reciting specific mantras and using specific ingredients (समीधा) that determine the nature of quantum interaction. The nucleus (अग्निः) carries positive charge that always moves out from the center to the periphery (गति). The electron orbit (सोम) limits this motion to specific energy levels by pushing it back towards the center (आगति). Where each outgoing ray reaches equilibrium with the incoming force (स्थिति), that point is called the position of the electron (चंद्रः). Hence in quantum mechanics, it is said that the electron has no fixed position – it is only a probability wave. These three – the nucleus, the intra-nucleic field and the electron orbit – are called आत्मा, प्राण and पशुः respectively for that object. The term आत्मा has been described earlier. Since the intra-nucleic field is the interplay of energy, it is प्राण. The radiation coming out of the electron orbits interacts with our eyes to make the object perceptible. Hence it is called पशुः (यत् अपश्यत् तत् पशवः). These constitute the macro world.
There is constant exchange of energy between the nucleus (आध्यात्मिक प्राण) and the intra-nucleic field (आधिदैविक प्राण). Both go into each other. This has been described by ऐतरेय आरण्यकम् as: “I am the first derivative of the non-perishable bosonic (energy) field. Though I am its derivative, I eat into it for sustenance though I do not have any teeth (it only absorbs and releases). In return, it also eats into me” (अहमस्मि प्रथमजा ऋतस्य पुर्वे देवेभ्योऽअमृतस्य नाम. यो मा ददाति स इ देवमावत अहमन्नमन्नमदन्तमद्मि). This is the so-called vacuum energy of modern cosmology. In the Vedas, it is called प्रहितां संयोग. It is a continuous process. In the Nature, it requires continuous action. For this reason, Gita 3-9 used the term “यज्ञार्थात् कर्म”. Atoms could combine with each other to produce everything in the universe only because of this “eating” (उच्छिष्ठात् जज्ञिरे सर्वम् – अथर्ववेद - 11-9-11). We enjoy the objects that are its “left over” - प्रवर्ग्य. For this reason, the Isha Upanishad says: ईशावास्यमिदम् सर्वम्. Since this is the universal perpetual inertia, anyone following this principle will not be trapped into the differential inertia that is cause for attachment (कुर्वन्नपि न लिप्यते). Hence this is called अबन्धन कर्म. But it has another important implication.
The Upanishads talk about two more divisions: विज्ञानमय कोष and आनन्दमय कोष. All five belong to the Imperishable Self (अव्यय) in its आध्यात्मिक manifestation, where there is total non-differentiation. Hence Mundaka Upanishad 3-2-7 says, everything including the knowledge and actions become one here (गताः कलाः पंचदश प्रतिष्ठा देवाश्च सर्वे प्रतिदेवतासु. कर्माणि विज्ञानमयश्च आत्मा परेऽव्यये सर्व एकीभवन्ति). Because of the “यज्ञार्थात कर्म”, the मनोमयकोष moves continually to विज्ञानमय कोष. This creates two triplets:
1) आनन्दमयकोष, विज्ञानमयकोष, मनोमयकोष and
2) मनोमयकोष, प्राणमयकोष, अन्नमयकोष.
The former is imperishable (अमृत) and the later is mutable (मृत or मर्त्य). The middle - मनोमयकोष – belongs to both groups (अमृतं मृतं च). As the Universal Mind (श्ववस्यस् मनः), it is one and indivisible (एक, अखंड). As emotional mind (हृदयाख्य मनः), it is many. Energy (प्राण), by nature, is indivisible – moving mass. But when confined, it behaves differently (खंडाखंड). Matter (अन्नम् or वाक्) is always divisible and many (सखंड).
While the last three (मन, प्राण, अन्न or वाक्) are constituent causes (उपादान कारण) of the universe, the first three (आनन्द, विज्ञान, मन) are catalytic causes (सहकारी कारण) only. But for liberation, they behave in the reverse order. The triplet of आनन्द, विज्ञान, मन become the primary cause, while the other three (मन, प्राण, अन्न or वाक्) become only catalytic cause.
According to Kanaada: कार्य नाशयति कर्म – effect freezes the action, meaning: after the action stops or after it is measured over a time, the resultant fixed state is called effect. He further states that thought is the inertia of mind, which is superseded by another stronger cause like intense pain (कष्ट) or if the cause that led to the inertia is stopped. In the latter category, he lists two reasons: getting the object of desire (प्राप्ति) or getting to know about it (ज्ञानम्). Thus, knowledge destroys the inertia of thought – hence leads to inaction, as action starts with desire, which is a function of the mind. Since the first three are immutable (अमृत) and are associated with knowledge (ज्ञानम्) - hence proper education (विद्या) - they are contrary to ignorance (अविद्या) that leads to action (कर्म). Thus, proper education (विद्या) is equated with knowledge (ज्ञान) and ignorance (अविद्या) is equated with action (कर्म). Gita uses these terms in this sense.
Between the 3rd and the 8th Stanzas of the 3rd Chapter, Gita gives seven different reasons to show that one can never exist without any action and one should perform necessary action for his sustenance, as described below:
1. The so-called freewill is really not free, but is our response to a given situation based on our past experience, which makes it deterministic. Such actions generate differential inertia that disturbs the universal flow dragging us with it (like a person drowning in the sea), which is perceived as sorrow. Mere knowledge of the problem cannot give us relief. So we must do something to come out of it (Gita 3-4).
2. If we are drowning, we must try to swim. Giving up action is no solution to our problems. If we sit idle, we only will suffer (Gita 3-4).
3. There are many bodily functions that continue unabated regardless of whether we are conscious about it or not (breathing, different circulatory and other perpetual functions, etc). Even when we are not making any movement, we are “sitting” or “sleeping”, which are also actions. We cannot remain even for a moment without any action (Gita 3-5).
4. Many of our responses or feelings are caused due to natural principles. We feel hungry or thirsty or sleepy due to natural reasons (Gita 3-5).
5. Even when we try to control our senses and sit in meditation, often our mind goes to other subjects propelled by our senses. It is necessary to control the senses by the mind. (Gita 3-7).
6. If we do not take any action, our problems will continue and propel us with it. It is necessary and desirable to initiate appropriate steps to remedy our problems (Gita 3-8).
7. Simply tonsuring the hair and wearing saffron clothes will not make one a monk. One must give up worldly comfort, desire for name, fame and power, and pursue the Godhead relentlessly for liberation and guide others through one’s conduct. If the lion does not hunt, the deer will not come to its mouth. Hence it is desirable to give up work that generates differential inertia and pursue work that leads to universal inertia (Gita 3-8).
For this reason, Gita emphasizes performance of actions that do not lead to differential inertia (अवन्धन). Such actions are divided into four categories. The first is the constructive actions as per universal principles (यज्ञार्थ कर्म). The second is the essential performances necessary for living (लोकस्थितिनिर्वाहक कर्म). The third is non-attachment to the result of one’s actions (उपेक्षाबुद्धिकृत कर्म). The last is natural functions like food, rest, etc (स्वभावसिद्ध सहजकर्म). Of these the first needs explanation. The others are easy to understand.
To be continued….
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