Excerpts from the Q&A Session during Rishikesh Retreat Program (Dec 2015)
Q: How did the universe originate? From where did the atoms and fundamental particles that are the very constituents of all matter in this universe come from?
A: I will not present a scientific view with respect to this question. Rather, I shall present an intuitive view. What I am going to explain,you can intuit yourselves. I will present such a view that will be true in each of your experiences. Modern science does not have a clear-cut viewpoint yet,and hence has not been able to answer this question. That much is sure. Now,let us come to the question. All of this,everything we see around us,is an effect. All this is not the cause. So what is the cause? What is the origin? That is what we are interested in finding out.
Many of us want to create a house for ourselves. So where do we begin? We grow up in an environment in which people- parents,teachers, and others support us in our growth, and we study to get educated. With the education, we become eligible for a job. We work at our job, and earn money. And with that money earned, within a lot of constraints, we somehow purchase land. And in that land, we put in many resources together- construction engineers, men, machines and so on. And what do we have? We have our desire manifest before our very eyes! What started out as a desire, at the end of it, we have it manifest in front of us. Is this not true in each of our experiences? Even if you want to buy a car or a bungalow,you can apply this same intuitive logic. It is very straightforward. You bring forth something from the unmanifest to the manifest- from the mental reality to the physical reality. The desire in our mental plane gets fructified in the physical plane. However,you must know that not all desires get fructified,because there are constraints.
So this is how you proceed from the unmanifest to the manifest reality. You have an intelligent game plan, a creative visualization, an idea, or a desire and you put in different kinds of resources to help manifest that desire or idea. Isn’t this true in everything that you do? But,this process still has the limitation of your intelligence. Within your intelligence,and within certain other constraints, you are capable of bringing into physical manifestation,your idea or desire.
Now let us go one step further. Let us say you want to craft your life,and your destiny. Let us say you want to be placed in your dream company. This is also a manifestation. Maybe not so material,and “concrete” as a house, but still,it is also a manifestation,which happens through a similar process-desire to manifestation.This is a life manifestation. Within certain boundary constraints, certain parameters, you can manifest your desire.
Let us go another step further. As you build up capabilities, you will see that you can access subtler and subtler dimensions of existence. You can manifest in subtler and subtler dimensions, as you build up your capabilities,so much so that there are technical manuals to explain how to manifest a body! At the present, this might not be in your capability. But you can actually work on designing and manifesting a body. You can acquire that sort of a capability-it is a capability on a subtler dimension. Like this, you can proceed to manifesting a world, a mini-universe! You can be something like a mini-god! This is actually true. It is the same process- desire to manifestation,avyakta to vyakta. ‘Avyakta’ means ‘unmanifest-not visibly manifested’ and ‘vyakta’ means ‘manifested’. Even thought is considered a manifestation,at the subtler levels. But for our practical purposes, we may consider thought to be avyakta, unmanifest,and hence all actions in our present experience proceed from subtle(thought) to visible manifestation. This is how the process of creation happens, depending on our capabilities,and our intelligence. To whatever extent we can project and see, to that extent, we can and we have the power of manifesting.
It is about the throw. To whatever extent we can throw,to that extent lies our power to create. Now when we say throw,let us consider thoughts. Which direction can we throw them? Do thoughts have directions? No,directions are irrelevant with respect to thoughts.It is actually 360 degrees. Fundamentally consciousness proceeds in this way. You can actually throw the consciousness that you possess to whatever extent you can see. Once you throw and proceed there, you will see,you will have built the capability to throw even further. Generally we are restricted only by our inner qualities,or rather,lack of inner qualities. And hence,once you build the necessary inner qualities, you will see that you can throw further. You can throw much further. You will not be bound by the current conditions. And that, is the power of meditation. Meditation will give you a long throw, a really long throw. And that is great!
Q: So,if the universe is a manifestation of a desire,who had that desire?
A: The one who had that desire is the divinity we refer to as Brahma. It goes like this. Brahma meditated for 100 years-100 of his years (equal to 3.1104 x 10^14 human years!) Brahma simply kept on meditating, because he could not understand the Source from which he came. There was no end in sight, and hence he meditated, as he had nothing else to do. Vishnu answered his call.Now don’t get Vishnu and Shiva in the forms that you can imagine. These are inner realities. You can actually be in that plane. So Vishnu answered his call. Do you understand what this means? This means that we are actually going all the way back before the start of the universe. And that is the beginning. We all might have read about the Big Bang theory and thought, “I thought this was the beginning.” No, it did not begin there. And hence, nobody can figure out when it began. Even Brahma cannot figure out when it began. Because there exists no question of ‘When?’.
Now,when we look at the principle of Advaita, meaning ‘non-dualism’,or ‘The One,without a second’, you actually go beyond creation itself. What is created is bound to destroyed. What is born has to die. But there is the fundamental principle, that we refer to when we say,‘Aham Brahmasmi.’ This fundamental principle,referred to in the above mahavakya, is the One underlying substratum of the whole of creation,without which, none of this, and none of us can exist. And it is called ‘Brahman’ , derived from the root word ‘Brh’ meaning ‘vast,all-encompassing’. Brahman is different from creation, but That is the Source of all. And That has no identity. That is beyond atoms, beyond energy, beyond the individual soul. Matter,atoms and energy are subject to change,but Brahman is changeless. The soul, as long as it is bound to the body and mind,is individuated and hence,has a clear identity,whereas Brahman is boundless, infinite and without identity.
Actually you cannot talk about That. You can talk about Brahma,the divinity with an identity, you can talk about the universe, but you cannot talk about Brahman. Even if you talk,it is going to be limited, because it surpasses all understanding. But you can be That.In fact, you are That.’Aham Brahmasmi ’ means ‘I am That’. Knowing this, is realization of one’s true Self.
Q: What is Self-realization?
A: That means you know who you are. One might think,”What is the big deal in knowing who I am?”No, that in itself is a big deal! Who needs to tell you who you are? The new age term is ‘enlightenment’. However,rather than using the word,’enlightenment’, I would use the word, ‘Atma darshana’, or ‘Atma anubhuti’ .’Atma anubhuti’ means experience of yourself.’ Atma darshana’ means vision of yourself. I would rather use those terms because ‘enlightenment’ is used in so many different contexts that it has become like the word God. People don’t understand what that refers to.When people say ‘deva’, they know they are referring to a celestial being, like Surya(the sun). But when they talk of God, people are not clear what they are referring to. Atma darshana or Atma anubhuti are plainer terms and are technically precise. You get an experience of yourself which is not bound by change. You realize that you are changeless. So you need to ask, is this body bound by change? Yes, very much. Are mental states, thoughts and emotions bound by change? Yes, very much. Is the knowledge that you have accumulated bound by change? Yes, very much. So you must ask yourself, what is that, which is not bound by change? And this gives you darshana of yourself. When you know your true self, you will be able to perceive clearly what is. In Tamil,one can say, ullathu ullapadi theriyum. Otherwise, you will see yourself as a hodgepodge of the happenings in the mind and body. And everything is so mixed up, that life, which is in reality very simple, will seem extremely complex!