Epilogue: Brahmanandavalli

This article is part 20 of 20 in the series Puranas

Bramhavallī is also known as the Anandavallī. The austerities mentioned in the śīkāvallī are of the nature of sagua. The Omkara and vyāhrutis (the Seven Divine Worlds) are mentioned as Brahman. Because words are merely causal factors, they fall in the realm of the non-Brahman. Likewise, even the vision of the Brahman that resides in the cave of our heart is a qualified experience due to its locational aspect. The ultimate philosophical truth says that only unqualified knowledge of the Brahman leads a person to true Moksha. The Bramhavallī sets out to describe precisely this truth. Worldly life is the root cause of all miseries. In turn, Avidya is the seed of worldly life. It will be destroyed only through the unqualified knowledge of the Brahman. The cessation of Avidya means the freeing of itself from its relationship with the Atman. Then, the fruit of Avidya, which is worldly life will also cease to exist thereby putting an end to rebirth. The Atman which is in the Jiva will reveal His true nature. This is called Moksha, or the freedom from worldly bondage. Acharya Sankara calls this “svasvarūpāvasthānam mokṣaḥ.”   

The Upanishad describes the process of the creation of this universe in phrases such as “ātmana ākāśaḥ saṃbhūtaḥ.” Although this universe does not exist on the plane of the paramārtha (the ultimate philosophical reality), it is visible to our eyes as truth in the transactional world. Thus, although it is a transactional (or apparent) truth, the speciality of this Upanishad is how it uses the (reasoning, analogies, etc) techniques of the transactional world to arrive at this ultimate philosophical truth in a way that captivates our mind. In Islam and Christianity, there is no description of the creation process of the world. They simply mention that God created this world and wash away their hands after that. Because Space and other elements are manifestations of illusion, the Parabrahman must be understood as being indivisible.

Space took birth from Atman. After this, Elements like air and others respectively took birth. It is impossible for inert objects to generate anything because it lacks that capacity. If such an inert object births something, then it no longer remains inert. No object can be born from a stone-boulder. Thus, air was born from Space. That is to say, air was born from the Atman which took the form of Space. Likewise, fire was born from the Atman which took the form of air. This is the stand of Vedanta.

What does it mean when we say “Space took birth?” Space is visible to us as a void. However, it is impossible for us to even conceive of a scenario of how this world existed (or appeared) before Space was born. Acharya Sankara holds that avakāśapradatva and śabda are the qualities of Space. Even logicians hold that the quality called śabda is dependent on Space. However, the Cārvākas reject even the notion of Space.

The world famous scientist Albert Einstein said that Space is not a void but is actually an object. Even Quantum Physics opines that Space is not a void but is an object which contains extremely minute particles which are born and die on their own.

Quantum Physics has accepted space as plenum. It generates particles, it reabsorbs particles. It is something positive. It is not void. Einstein had a clearer understanding of Space, much clearer than Quantum Physics. (Maya in Physics, N.C. Panda, page 376)

Thus, science has accepted as truth what the Upanishads have said!

The Five Great Elements are Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. These are the fundamental elements of this world. Let us set aside for a moment that the Atman is the primary cause for these Elements. Although He is the very form of this world, he is not enmeshed with it. The fundamental ingredient responsible for the creation of this world is Space. The Upanishad says that the subtle particles in Space join together to birth air, after which Fire, Water, and Earth were respectively birthed. Sound, touch, form, liquid, and smell are manifested respectively within these. These are the attributes experienced by the Five Sense Organs. These are the five external attributes or sensations. The other attributes such as (sexual) desire, and anger are the attributes of the mind. Thus, we observe a certain scientific order in these Five Elements. It is left to scientists to uncover their material (i.e., related to matter) side.

Sri Sureshvarayacharya in the Ninth section of his commentary which begins with “yato vāco nivartante” has given us some invaluable insights. Consonant with it, we can offer some contributions.

Language retreats owing to its failure to describe the Brahman. Even the mind withdraws, unable to fathom it.

This is the broad meaning of the aforementioned “yato vāco nivartante.” When we say “language,” it means that if sound (i.e., speech) should describe something, that object should have an intrinsic attribute or quality familiar to us. This attribute can be one of the following: category (specimen, species, etc), trait, or action or behaviour. Or it can be a symbol or character assigned to a familiar person from ancient antiquity. These four are known as the causes for the intrinsic nature of a word (broadly, “sound,” or that which can be described by language). These are indeed causes or origins for how words are used in various contexts and meanings. Words have the power to inform us only of these. For example:

1.    Category: the attributes that help us to accurately identify a horse, cow, and human, signified by the suffix, tva. Thus, aśvatva, gotva, manuṣyatva, etc.

2.    Attribute: Whiteness, redness and therefrom, “pearl is white,” “rubies are red” etc.

3.    Action/Behaviour: Digestion, teaching. Thus, “he is a cook,” “he is a teacher,” etc.

4.    Symbol: He is Rama, He is Krishna, etc.

Apart from these four types of indicators (in the meaning of sound or language), there is no object-indicator in any language. In Brahman, there is none of these four types of indicators. Because Brahman is not already familiar, even symbolic terms like Brahma, Atma, etc., cannot inform us as to its nature. Descriptions of Devatas such as Shiva, Vishnu, etc., fall in the realm of qualified attributes. They are not descriptions of Unqualified Brahman. Given all this, which is the exact word or sound that can inform us of the nature of this Brahman? Even the mind cannot imagine the unfamiliar. Indeed, the mind perceives that which can be perceived by sound. Thus, how can such a mind perceive that which is the Ultimate Witness to the mind itself, that which is the Sound of sounds, viz, Brahman? Even the Upanishadic phrases such as satya jñāna ananta brahma cannot reveal to us the nature of this Brahman through the medium of language. It can merely indicate Brahman through implied meaning and then fall silent. The term Tattvamasi does indeed indicate to us the integrity between Jiva and Brahma. However, it retreats after failing to tell us the true nature of the self-resplendent Brahman!

Thus, the question arises: what is the real use of the Veda and the knowledge it embodies if it cannot tell us about this Brahman as a subject? However, there is indeed an intrinsic use. This use is its capacity to destroy Avidya! If we go to a person who is sleeping and shout, “hey, Devadatta, wake up!”, his sleep is destroyed and he wakes up. However, till the time he is asleep, he doesn’t understand the meaning of what we say. Yet, his sleep is destroyed. He wakes up. This is the real nature or power of language. Vedantic phrases such as satya jñāna ananta brahma, tattvamasi take away the human’s Avidya in this fashion. And the moment this Avidya goes away, the light of Brahman becomes self-resplendent. The ultimate benefit of Veda is this cessation of Avidya. This is the glory of language or sound. At any rate, absolute ignorance is weaker than even a minimal knowledge of language. The moment we say, “this is not a serpent but a rope,” the illusion that it is a serpent becomes dispelled immediately. The Tattvamasi phrase destroys Avidya and leads us to the realization of Aham Brahmasmi. However, with that realization, even Aham Brahmasmi dissolves with the cessation of Avidya. This is akin to how the medicine which cures the disease will also be destroyed along with the disease. In that exalted State, there is neither Aham (Me) nor Asmi (Being). Only the pure light of Brahman will lord over everything.

ānando brahmaṇo vidvān na bibheti kutaścana ||

When we say the Joy of Brahman, it means the Joy of being the very Brahman. When the person who has realized this Brahmananda himself becomes Brahman, he has absolutely no fear from anything. Fear emerges from the false knowledge that there is something called the “other.” However, if there is nothing called “other,” what is the source of fear of the one who has realized Brahman? But then, another object is “visible” precisely due to Avidya. When this Avidya, the cause of all fear is destroyed, it is but natural for the absence of fear.

The final intent behind the Upanishadic phrase, “yato vāco nivartante” is that Brahman is not the meaning of any word nor sentence. It is also not accessible to any mental imagination, as indicated by the words, “manasā saha.” The intent behind the verse of the Kaopaniśad, “nāyamātmā pravacanena labhyaḥ,” is the same. The same Upanishad further says, “yamevaiṣa vṛṇute tena labhyaḥ.” The essence of all this is basically the following: the real nature of Brahman is realized through personal experience. This is the “direct” Brahman. The restrictions of the Five Sheaths will merge or culminate in it. We can reconsider the same example of the rope and the serpent when we finally realize that the rope is indeed not a serpent.

oṃ pūrṇamadaḥ pūrṇamidaṃ pūrṇātpūrṇamudacyate ।
pūrṇasya pūrṇamādāya pūrṇamevāvaśiṣyate ॥
oṃ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ ॥

Concluded

Author(s)

About:

Mahamahopadhyaya Vidwan Ranganatha Sharma was a renowned Sanskrit scholar and an authority on Vyakarana or Grammar. He is noted for his translation of the entire Valmiki Ramayana into Kannada, which was published with a foreword by DVG. He has authored several books in Kannada and Sanskrit. He is a recipient of the national award for Sanskrit learning and has received the Rajyotsava Award.  

Translator(s)

About:

Sandeep Balakrishna is a writer, author, translator, and socio-political-cultural analyst. He is the author of "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore" and "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History." He translated Dr. S L Bhyrappa's magnum opus "Avarana" into English.

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