Shri Datta Swami

Posted on: 22 Mar 2021


Why Is Every Soul Not God? Part-1

Note: This article is meant for intellectuals only

Part-1     Part-2     Part-3     Part-4     Part-5     Part-6     Part-7     Part-8     Part-9

[Dr. J.S.R. Prasad is Professor of Sanskrit at the Central University of Hyderabad and he specializes in logic. Dr. J.S.R. Prasad asked: The logic presented by Advaita philosophers seems to be very powerful and in that case, how can we say that the soul (or individual soul) is not God?]

Part 1: Relatively-Real Awareness is not the Absolute God


Swami replied: O Learned and Devoted Servants of God! The logic presented in the Advaita philosophy came from Śaṅkara, who was an Incarnation of God Śiva. Naturally, the logic is as powerful as the fire from the third eye of God Śiva, which is the eye of knowledge. Śaṅkara was Śiva and Śiva is Īśvara, who is the Creator, Maintainer and Destroyer of this entire creation. This world was created by Him in a wonderful and unimaginable way called māyā. When Śaṅkara composed His commentary (bhāṣyam), that commentary was again composed in an unimaginable way. Hence, it is called māyābhāṣyam. The word māyā should not be taken in the wrong sense, here. In one sense, māyā means an illusion that misleads a person. But Śaṅkara’s commentary is not māyā in the sense that it misleads the right people, taking them to the wrong path. It is māyā in the sense that it is something that is wrong (illusion), but which appears to be right for the wrong people and which brings the wrong people to the right path. In short, it is an illusion meant to bring already-misled people, back to the right path. The other angle of Śaṅkara’s commentary is that it also simultaneously appears right to the people on the right path. This is the wonder of Śaṅkara’s commentary! Calling the commentary māyābhāṣyam is thus justified since the root meaning of the word ‘maya’ as that which is unimaginable and wonderful (maya vaicitrye) is fulfilled by the commentary.

The situation during Śaṅkara’s time

When Śaṅkara arrived in this world, the situation was that the majority around Him were atheists (Pūrva Mīmāṃsakas and Buddhists). His primary aim was to turn these people from the wrong path of atheism to the correct path of theism. An atheist does not agree to the existence of any God other than himself, at any cost. Hence, it becomes inevitable to begin the process of upliftment of the atheist with the false idea that the atheist himself is God. Śaṅkara chose to call the soul in the body as God because the soul is at least relatively-permanent with respect to highly temporary body. So, He said that the soul, due to its (relative) permanence, is real and that the body, due to its impermanence, is unreal. Of course, the soul, which is awareness, is not actually real and permanent. Awareness is only a specific work-form of inert energy. The inert energy gets converted into awareness in a specific system, which is the functioning nervous system of an animal or human being. This is similar to inert energy in the form of electricity getting converted into grinding work in a specific machine called a grinding machine. The same inert energy also gets converted into cutting work in another specific machine called a cutting machine.

Analyzing the process of knowing

I will prove that this awareness is not God. Awareness is only a relatively-real item like any other item of this world. The world too is imaginable to us and is only relatively-real. I promise you that in proving that awareness is not God, I will confine Myself only to the discussion of awareness and its related process of knowing. I will not touch the three aspects of creating, maintaining and destroying the world, which clearly differentiate God from the soul. The Brahma Sūtras have already differentiated God from the soul on the basis of these three unique characteristics of God. But to simply prove that awareness is not God, I need not bring in these three unique characteristics of God. It would be like using the divine Sudarśana Cakra to cut the head of a small rat! Staying within the boundaries of awareness and its property called knowledge, I will prove that awareness is not God. But note that by doing so, it does not mean that I am criticizing Śaṅkara. Śaṅkara wrote His commentary in accordance with the mentality of the atheists, whom He wanted to uplift. The approach taken by Śaṅkara was inevitable for anybody in His position. He had a specific aim of turning atheists into theists. For that purpose, saying that the soul itself is God served as the most powerful attraction. Without this powerful attraction, there is no way of converting such egoistic atheists who are as hard as rocks. But the present Advaita philosopher is to be condemned because without realizing this background, he is running after that attraction of becoming God! Chocolates are given to a kid to encourage it to go to the kindergarten class and that is perfectly justified. But if a postgraduate student also demands chocolates to go to the university, it is highly deplorable!

The soul and its instruments

Now, let Me proceed to prove that this relative awareness is not the absolute God. Let us remember the basic structure of logic before we examine this issue of awareness and its process of knowing. You see a pot with your eyes and you come to know the pot, which means that you have got the knowledge of the pot. In this process of knowing, there are four components: (1) The first is you, the subject or the pramātā. This subject is the awareness that gets the final knowledge of the pot, (2) The second is the object called the prameya, which is the pot, (3) The third is the instrument or the means used to get the knowledge of the pot. It is called the pramāṇam. Logic says, “Pramākaraṇaṃ pramāṇam”, which means that the pramāṇam is the instrument or the means used for getting knowledge. The instrument, in this case, is the external eye, which is associated with awareness through the nerves. The mere physical eye, without the mind or awareness behind it, is a useless instrument. When the object is some internal idea, the mind alone becomes the instrument. Hence, the instrument is also a mode of awareness. (4) The fourth component is the result or the fruit of this process of knowing. It is called pramā, which is the knowledge of the pot. Logic says that the fruit is that for which the instrument is used. For instance, an axe is the instrument used to cut the tree. Hence, cutting the tree itself is the fruit (Cidākaraṇasya cideva phalam).

God differs from the soul from the standpoint of the subject (pramātā)

In the above logical structure, we find that both the subject and the instrument used are the awareness itself. The concentrated awareness like a lamp is the subject and the diluted awareness like the light spreading out from the lamp is the instrument. Therefore, the subject (lamp) and the instrument (light) are one and the same awareness. A lump of gold and the golden ornament are one and the same gold. The individual soul, which is known as the jīva, is a bundle of thoughts. So, it is awareness. It is like the lump of gold. The soul’s internal instruments, which are known as the antaḥkaraṇams are also made of awareness and are like golden ornaments. Thus, the soul and its instruments are only awareness. Whether you are observing an external item or an internal idea which appears to be materialized in a dream, the actual instruments used are only the antaḥkaranams. They are nothing but the same awareness, which is the individual soul. The external instruments like eyes need not be considered as instruments because, without the mind or awareness, any external instrument is a complete zero.

There are four internal instruments or antaḥkaraṇams. The fluctuating faculty which proposes one thought and disposes it in favor of another thought is called manas or the mind. The analytical and deciding faculty is called buddhi or the intellect. The self-identity or the I-thought is called ahaṅkāra and it is the basic ego of the person. In this context, the basic ego means that it is only the thought of self-identity. It does not mean pride, which is an inflated sense of self. The fourth internal instrument is cittam, which is memory. All these four internal instruments are made of awareness and are used to get the knowledge of different internal and external objects. The basic awareness is the actual subject and its fundamental characteristic is to know. Notice that basic ego or the I-thought is only treated to be an internal instrument. It is not treated to be the subject since it possible for the basic awareness to know the I-thought, in which case, the I-thought becomes an object. Thus, the conclusion arrived at so far is that the basic awareness, which is the subject is awareness and the four internal instruments are also made of awareness. The basic awareness is like the lump of gold, while the internal instruments are like golden ornaments.

At this point, the Advaita philosopher jumps out of his seat crying that he has found the basic awareness, which itself is God (Brahman). Unfortunately, it is not true! This basic awareness is only a relatively-real item of the imaginable creation and not God. I am not saying that the Advaita philosopher’s analysis up to this point is wrong. I am also not saying that the basic awareness that he found out is wrong. His analysis to find out the basic awareness is perfect and the result of identifying the basic awareness also is perfect. He has done a lot of hard work by digging a huge hill with heavy machines and cranes. Unfortunately, after all that hard work, he has only found a small rat! The real treasure to be discovered lies buried far deeper under the hill. The petty rat discovered so far is the basic awareness. This basic awareness is not the absolute reality. It is part of the imaginable creation and it depends on both matter and energy. Hence, this awareness found in a human being is only a relative awareness. The magnificent treasure still lying undiscovered is the unimaginable God. In this failure to discover God, where lies the error? If you analyze carefully, in the above picture, the subject is the relative awareness, which is like the basic lump of gold. The instrument is also the same relative awareness in a particular mode, which is like a golden ornament. Both the subject and the instrument are the relatively-real awareness alone. That awareness is an imaginable created item.

Let us take the case of God. God is the absolute reality and is unimaginable, as per the Veda, the Gītā, and the Brahma Sūtras (Yasyāmataṃ tasya matam…Veda; Māṃ tu veda na kaścana—Gītā; Janmādyasya yataḥ—Brahma Sūtrams). All these scriptures only provide us incidental indications or associated characteristics (taṭastha lakṣaṇam) of God. They are unable to provide an essential indication or an inherent characteristic (svarūpa lakṣaṇam) of God.

The Veda tells us that God also is able to know and think (So’kāmayata). In fact, it says that God is omniscient (Sarvajña—Veda). Hence, God is also a subject. But is He also the same relative awareness (basic awareness), which we had earlier identified as the subject? No! God is not that relative awareness! The instruments used by God to get the knowledge of objects are also not the relative awareness. This is because in God, neither inert energy nor matter exists. Matter, in the form of the material nervous system and the inert energy in the body of the living being are essential prerequisites for the production of the relative awareness. But God existed and was able to think, even before the creation of energy and matter. He thought of creating the world. In that stage before creation, He did not have any internal instrument, which too, as per our analysis, should be made of the relative awareness. Then how could He have the awareness of the design of the world existing in Him?

Before creation, the relative awareness along with its causes, which are inert energy and matter, were absent. So, naturally, God, the subject and His instruments to get knowledge cannot be this relative awareness. When God, the subject, is unimaginable, His instruments of knowledge, being similar to the subject, must also be unimaginable. Hence, we shall say that the unimaginable God is aware with the help of His unimaginable power. In fact, I want to completely eliminate the word awareness in the context of God. This is because, this word ‘awareness’ always brings to the mind the idea of a created relative awareness. When I say that God is aware of this pot, here the word ‘aware’ simply means that He has knowledge of this pot. In such knowledge, there is no place for the word awareness. Using the word awareness would mean that the subject, who must be the relative awareness obtained the knowledge of the pot with the help of internal instruments, which too must be relative awareness.

God differs from the soul from the standpoint of the fruit (pramā)

Now, I am proceeding to prove that this relative awareness or the soul is not God with the help of the analysis of the final fruit, which is the knowledge obtained. You, the relative awareness as the subject, with the help of the four modes of relative awareness as the internal instruments can only get limited knowledge. This means that the relative awareness can only get limited knowledge with the help of the relative awareness itself acting as internal instruments. But if the knowledge to be obtained is the knowledge of this entire world, the relative awareness as the subject cannot hold such an enormous amount of knowledge. The brain of the person producing that relative awareness will just blow up and the person will go mad! But God, who is omniscient, holds the entire knowledge of the entire creation. How is this possible? It is because, in God’s case, neither the subject nor the internal instruments are the relative awareness. So, the limitations of the relative awareness do not constrain Him. God, the subject, is unimaginable and He obtains His omniscience (knowledge) using His unimaginable omnipotent power as the instrument. The omniscience of God, which is the knowledge of the entire creation is also unimaginable to us since we cannot even know the boundaries of the universe. So, do you find even an iota of similarity between the relatively-real soul and the absolutely-real unimaginable God?

You will agree that in proving that this relatively-real soul is not the absolutely-real God, I have not crossed the boundaries of awareness and the process of knowing. When the head of the petty rat can easily be cut with a small knife, is it necessary to use the divine Nandaka sword of God Viṣṇu for that purpose? The discussion about the three unimaginable powers of the unimaginable God, which are the powers to create, maintain and destroy this entire world is not necessary to prove that the soul is not God. The above analysis is more than sufficient and it does not require any external help.

There is another important difference between God and the soul. In the case of the soul, though the subject and the instrument are the same awareness, there is a slight difference between the subject and the instrument. The subject can be treated to be a concentrated spot of awareness, while the instruments of knowing are modes of diluted awareness. However, in the case of God, there is not even the slightest difference between subject and the instrument since both are unimaginable. One cannot say that there are two or more unimaginable entities. If one is able to distinguish between two unimaginable entities, they are not unimaginable at all! So, the unimaginable entity must always be one. Any number of unimaginable items finally become only one unimaginable item. As per worldly logic, if there is any item that is aware of itself or of another item, that item must be this relative awareness. But when the unimaginable God is aware of Himself or of the entire world, we cannot conclude that He too must be this relative awareness. This is because, we cannot apply worldly logic to God. The Veda clearly says that God is beyond worldly logic (Atarkyaḥ…, Na medhayā…, Yo buddheḥ parataḥ…—Veda).


To be continued…