Shri Datta Swami

Posted on: 23 Mar 2021


Why Is Every Soul Not God? Part-2

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

Part 2: Relatively-Real Awareness is not the Absolute God

The Advaita analysis is limited to the relative reality

All the logical feats of Advaita philosophers are tremendous and highly appreciable. But all these feats are limited only to the boundary of the relative reality (vyavahāra sattā). My point is only this much. I appreciate all your logical high jumps and long jumps. But I say that you have done all of them while only remaining on the ground. You could not reach the treasure hidden under the ground. This unattained treasure is the unimaginable absolute reality (paramārtha sattā), which is introduced by Śaṅkara Himself. In fact, it was Śaṅkara, who introduced the concept that the absolute God has an unimaginable nature. He said that the unimaginability of the absolute God could only be indicated through silence. He referred to that absolute unimaginable God as Parabrahman. Parabrahman is not the relatively-real awareness, which you call Brahman. Śaṅkara also clearly declared the concept that the absolute God is unimaginable in the Śivānanda Laharī by saying “O God! Neither You nor anything related to You is known to us (Viditaṃ kiṃ nāma Śambho tava?).” The word awareness stands for the relative awareness, which is an imaginable item of this imaginable world. Everybody understands what is inert and what is non-inert. That which is non-inert is awareness and it is found in living animals and humans. Silence means the absence of any word since every word must stand for some imaginable item of the world as its meaning.

You have crossed all the five sheaths (pañca koṣa) and all the four internal instruments (antaḥkaraṇams) with your beautiful logical analysis. It is highly appreciable that you have crossed even the most subtle internal instrument called ahaṅkāra, which is the basic ego or the I-thought. You have shown how it is also an object of the awareness. While giving you the highest certificate of appreciation for your sharp analysis, I just have one simple comment to make. All your logical feats were only performed in the auditorium on the stage of the relative reality. You could not touch the absolute unimaginable reality at all!

God differs from the soul from the standpoint of the object (prameya)

You caught one very simple commonality between God and the soul, which is that God is aware of something and the soul is also aware of something. But you missed that this ‘something’, which is the object (prameya) of knowledge also differs greatly in both cases. In the case of God, the object about which God possesses complete knowledge (pramā) is this whole universe. In the case of the soul, the object is only a tiny part of the universe and the soul’s knowledge about that tiny item is also very little. Thus, there is a vast difference in the result, which is the knowledge (pramā) possessed by God and the soul. Hence, God is said to be sarvajña (omniscient), which means that He is the possessor of the knowledge of all creation, whereas, the soul is said to be alpajña, which means that it is the possessor of very little knowledge.

God differs from the soul from the standpoint of the instruments (pramāṇam)

There is also a lot of difference between the instruments (pramāṇam) used by God and the soul, which supports the fact that God and the soul are different. You can cut a tree with an axe, but not with the edge of a lotus petal. The difference between the instruments of knowledge used by God and the soul is exactly like the difference between the two subjects. This is because there is a similarity of nature between the subject and its instrument of acquiring knowledge. A man can cut a tree with an axe, whereas, Indra could cut a hill with his divine diamond-weapon (Vajra). The imaginable awareness is not only relatively real, but it is also far weaker than the imaginable inert energy. A man can cut a tree using the inert energy present in his body in the form of muscle power (with an appropriate instrument like an axe). But he cannot not cut the tree using his mere awareness-energy. In other words, he cannot cut the tree with his mere thought, even if an axe is available nearby. Thus, even within the boundaries of the imaginable relative reality, awareness is far far weaker than inert energy. This inert energy might well be the king within the kingdom of the relative reality. But it is nothing compared to the unimaginable God and His unimaginable power.

The subject and its instrument of knowledge are of the same nature. In the case of God, He, the subject is unimaginable and His instrument of knowing, which is His unimaginable power is also unimaginable. In the case of the soul, both the subject and its instrument of knowing are awareness. Hence, there is an unimaginable difference between God and soul in all the four components of the process of knowing. (1) The subject (pramātā) in the case of God is unimaginable, while it is the imaginable awareness, in the case of the soul. (2) The internal instrument (pramāṇam) of God is unimaginable, while the internal instrument of the soul is the imaginable awareness. (3) The object (prameyam) which is known by God is the infinite universe, whereas, the object for a soul can only be a finite and small number of items in the universe. (4) The result of the process of knowing or the knowledge obtained (pramā), in the case of God is His omniscience, which is unimaginable to the soul. The knowledge obtained by the soul is only little knowledge.

Does God differ from the soul only due to the limitation of the body (upādhi)?

Opponent: The awareness of the soul is channelized through the limited body and hence, it is unable to become omniscient. It is a case of the superimposition of the limitations of the body on the already-limitless awareness. When this superimposition fades away completely, this limited awareness becomes the limitless omniscient awareness.

Swami: You are claiming that the properties of space control or limit awareness in the same way that they limit other worldly items. But this claim defeats your own basic assumption that space was created from awareness. The Veda actually says that God created space (Ātmanaḥ ākāśaḥ sambhūtaḥ). Here the word Ātman means the absolute unimaginable God (Paramātman or Parabrahman), who created space. But you have assumed that Ātman to be awareness and that space was created by awareness. So, according to your assumption, awareness must be beyond space. If that is the case, then awareness cannot be limited by any small or big body. Other items, which were created after the creation of space, are certainly limited by space, but awareness, which you say is the source of space, cannot be limited by space. If awareness could be limited by space, a big elephant must have more knowledge than a small human being! But the reality is quite the opposite! Moreover, scriptures say that God is smaller than an atom and bigger than the biggest item, at the same time (Aṇoranīyān mahato mahīyān…—Veda). It is also said that God does not get divided, even though the external media occupied by Him appear to be divided (Avibhaktaṃ vibhakteṣu vibhaktamiva ca sthitam—Gītā). Hence, your argument totally fails to explain this point.

Therefore, at any cost, this relative awareness cannot be the unimaginable awareness of God, from any angle. You have simply caught the idea of both God and the soul being aware and based on it, you are trying to establish that they are one and the same. It is like trying to catch fish in a small puddle of urine! The entire causal background of how God and the soul are aware differs greatly. You cannot even establish a qualitative similarity between the relative awareness of the soul and the absolute awareness of God comparing them to a wave and the ocean. Both the wave and the ocean are imaginable items created after the creation of space and they are controlled by the dimensions of space. How can you take that to be an example to explain the relationship between the unimaginable God and the imaginable soul? God and the soul are not only quantitatively, but also qualitatively different.

The ‘why’ is more important than the ‘what’

The whole confusion of Advaita philosophers arises because, they only concentrate on what Śaṅkara wrote in His commentary. They never try to understand why Śaṅkara wrote His commentary in that manner. Unfortunately, the postgraduate student is only worried about the number of chocolates given to a kindergarten kid. He is not trying to understand why the chocolates are being given to the kindergarten kid and why no chocolates are being given to him. Since the vast majority of people around Śaṅkara were atheists, in His popular commentaries, He only concentrated on converting the atheists into theists. Theists around Him were very few in number and could be counted on the fingers. To those few theists, He practically demonstrated the difference between God and the soul. To suit the atheistic majority, He said that the soul is God (Śivo’ham). But even His few theistic disciples were influenced by this attractive idea that every soul including themselves, is God. So, one day Śaṅkara drank wine and said that He is God (Śivo’ham). Seeing that, even His disciples drank wine repeating that they are God. Next day, He drank molten lead asking them to also drink it, since they had claimed that they were God. Obviously, they could not do so and they fell at His feet. Then He preached them the truth that He alone was God, since He was a Human Incarnation of God (Śivaḥ kevalo’ham). All other souls are not God.

Finding middle ground

The truth is neither one extreme nor the other extreme. Every soul is not God. But it is also wrong to say that no soul is God. The truth lies between these two extremes, which are like a flood and a drought respectively. Whatever Śaṅkara wrote about the soul being already God, was entirely correct, word-by-word, in His own case. It is true in general, in the case of any Human Incarnation of God like Krishna, Rāma etc. The unimaginable God merges with a selected devoted soul to express Himself in human form to human devotees. God arriving in the form of a Human Incarnation gives the climax of satisfaction to real devotees. Simultaneously, through the Human Incarnation, God can also carry out the divine program of guiding and uplifting humanity in the world created by Him. In the case of the Human Incarnation, the soul and body of the medium becomes the unimaginable God. When the body of the Incarnation perishes, God withdraws from the body, but that soul remains God forever. This Advaita (monism) is attained by the will of God and not by the effort of the soul, through any path. God cannot be achieved by effort (Na hi sādhyaṃ Brahma svargādivat).

Therefore, we are not saying that Śaṅkara’s philosophy of monism, as written in the commentaries, is totally wrong. That monism is indeed true in the case of an Incarnation like Śaṅkara. We are only saying that it was diluted by Śaṅkara by saying that every soul is God. This dilution might appear to be unnecessary, but it was necessary for the sake of converting atheists into theists. By saying that every soul is God and that the soul exists, He could prove that God exists. Thus, He made atheists say with their own mouths that God exists.

Creation is relatively-real; not non-existent

The popularity of the Advaita philosophy is because it makes spiritual knowledge easily acceptable to all. Every human being experiences the relative reality of the world and especially the relative reality of the soul, which is one’s own self. We fully agree with Śaṅkara that this creation is basically unreal. If creation were absolutely real like God, God could not have created, controlled or destroyed the world. This is because, one absolute reality cannot meddle with another absolute reality in any of these three ways. Even while creation exists, God can perform miracles in it. If creation were absolutely real like God, He could not have performed miracles in creation.

This world is experienced by us. We can experience both unreal and real things. A real rope is experienced by us and the snake, which is the unreal appearance of the rope in dim light, is also experienced by us. We cannot say that the unreal snake experienced by us, is entirely unreal. This type of wrong conclusion was made in Buddhism, especially in the Śūnya Vāda philosophy of Nāgārjuna. According to Śūnya Vāda, everything is unreal. The followers of Buddha misunderstood the silence of Buddha about the existence of God as His total negation of the existence of God and the world. The snake can be negated, but not the rope, which is its cause. Śaṅkara questioned Śūnya Vāda by saying that if everything is unreal, there must be some real knower (pramātā) experiencing that unreality. Again, you should not jump to the conclusion that that knower experiencing the unreality is this relative awareness! The unreality that is to be experienced here is the unreality of the entire creation. The soul is not able to perceive the unreality of the entire creation because the soul is unable to even perceive the entire reality of creation. Hence, the reality or unreality of the entire creation discussed in this context is only from the perspective of the omniscient God.

People unnecessarily criticize Śaṅkara to be a Buddhist-in-disguise (pracchanna bauddha). Even though Śaṅkara agrees with Nāgarjuna to some extent on the concept of the unreality of the world, He does not say that everything is unreal. Śaṅkara does not even say that the world is totally unreal. The world appears to be real by borrowing that reality (existence) from the unimaginable God, who is its cause. Hence, it is neither totally real nor totally unreal. Śaṅkara called it a false appearance or mithyā (Sadasadvilakṣaṇā—Śaṅkara). Telling the truth is reality. Not telling the truth is non-reality. Telling a lie is a falsity or mithyā. A false thing appears to be true even though it is not true by itself. It is an illusion. It is experienced and it appears to be existent due to the reality of its causal substratum.


To be continued…