Back To Cosmic Roots
------ © Dr. Satya Prakash Choudhary
He who knows the inverted Peepal tree, with roots in the Primal Being, whose trunk is Brahma, and whose leaves are the Karmas, is a knower of the Real Meaning of the Vedas”
--- Bhagawad Gita , 1. 15
As a child, I often wondered what lies beyond the sky. At school when I came to know of the Solar system, I wondered what lies beyond the solar system and if there are other solar systems, what lies beyond them; if there are other universes beyond this one … It would go on forever. Every night whenever I was allowed to go up on to the terrace, I would lie on my back and watch the stars, wondering where this immense Universe came from. As children, some of us would have questioned the origins of existence.
There is nothing that does not have a mother. Everything in the world whether a living being, a form of Nature, or an idea has been generated from another being, form or idea. This generative process goes back indefinitely, prompting one to ask: who or what is the first mother? This search for a definite starting point is like peeling an Onion layer by layer, until one finally reaches the center where nothing is there except the same empty space that surrounds and maintains the entire onion.
The ultimate Reality – the mother of all that is, is beyond all form, words, thoughts and names. All notions of space and time, in fact the very mind dissolves into a primordial pool that is unfathomable. But man always tries to know the unknown through the known. We try to understand that which is beyond the mind through the mind. The sad-darsanas (6 systems of philosophy) explain the concept of creation/cosmogenesis from various viewpoints. Apart from these, the various schools of Saiva and Sakta Tantras also explain the concept of creation. In essence, all these schools of thought explain the same. At root all are similar, the external differences being only due to the various angles from which they approach.
The ultimate reality, the core of all things and all beings is beyond words, thoughts and description. The seers called it by various names – Param Shiva, Brahman, Pure Consciousness and Cosmic consciousness. Call it what you want to, but it is the eternal ocean in which the countless universes arise as waves; the boundless space within which everything is born, grows and dies; the source of all things, the substratum upon which all things appear, the one and only reality which is un-produced, indestructible, motionless, eternal, all-pervading and beyond time and space. It is a veritable zero of vibrationless equilibrium.
While the details differ, most of these schools of thought have something in common. Most Hindu schools are at root largely vedic. What do the Vedic seers say about the universe? For that I have to tell you a story…
I will tell you a story, the story of the universe – how it was born, how it evolved and how the various forms that we see today came to be. In the beginning, long back, in a far-off period, there was neither the sky nor atmosphere above, neither death nor immortality, there was neither the Sun nor Earth, nor day, nor night, nor light, nor darkness, neither naught nor aught. There existed only the One without a second. The whole universe existed in an invisible, subtle and unmanifested state. What we see today and call the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars and the sky was then, only formless matter in its most elemental and compressed form. That One alone, non-being, without a second, the ancient vedic seers called it, the “Hiranyagarbha” – the womb of light. This cosmic womb was all that existed.
The condition of what we call matter today, in the Hiranyagarbha, was in its most elemental form, as Infinite Space (Akasha). In this etheric state, there was an intense vibration, (spanda) which gave it so much dynamism, that it resulted in luminosity and expansion. Thus there arose light where there was formerly no light.
Now the scientist tells us that there was a time, nearly ten or twenty thousand billion years ago when the universe was infinitesimally small and infinitely dense. Then there was a “Big Bang” and ever since, the universe is expanding. At the big bang itself, the universe is thought to have had zero size, and so infinitely hot. But as the universe expanded, the temperature of the radiation decreased. As it cooled, atoms were formed which combined to form molecules. After many more events, at regions that were slightly denser than average, the expansion would have slowed down, caused them to start to re-collapse, spin fast, and eventually give birth to galaxies.
As time went on the atoms within the clouds of gases started colliding with one another increasing the temperature, eventually starting nuclear reactions. The heat given off would raise the pressure and thereby stop the clouds from contracting any further. They would remain stable in this state for a long time as Stars or Suns, burning Hydrogen into Helium and radiating the resulting energy as heat and light. The outer regions of the star may sometimes get blown off in a tremendous explosion called a Supernova. The debris or dust of such a stellar explosion forms many more second or third generation suns (stars). Our own Sun was formed some five thousand billion years ago out of a cloud of rotating gas containing the debris of earlier supernovas. Most of the gas in that cloud went to form the Sun or got blown away, but a small amount of the heavier elements collected together to form the bodies that now orbit the Sun as planets, like the Earth.
Initially the earth was very hot and without an atmosphere. In the course of time, it cooled and acquired an atmosphere from the omission of gases from the rocks. Gradually life evolved in the oceans some three million years back as macromolecules, then single celled organisms and slowly multi-cellular organisms. Then the first amphibian stepped on land, then the reptiles, birds and mammals, till eventually man came into being.
This in short, is the story of the Universe, how it came to be. But this is the story of the beginning of one cycle. Such cycles are endless. The Universe itself is without beginning or ending really. It has always been there and will always be. The Brhadaranyaka Upanisad (2.1,19) compares the Universe to a spider sitting at the center of its web, issuing and reabsorbing its threads in concentric circles, all held at one point. This image recurs in several vedic and tantric works and sums up the Indian world view- Unity in diversity. All existence is governed by a single principle, the point of origin of the Supreme Consciousness, from which everything issues and into which everything returns.
Thus all complexity came out of simplicity, heterogenity out of homogenity and variety out of uniformity. All this beauty and splendor with apparent paradoxes is the result of the sport of Nature, a Cosmic play, a continuous dance towards order and perfection.
Then who are we? Where have we come from? Whether the story is told by the ancient Vedic seer in terms of the “Hiranyagarbha” or by the modern scientist in terms of the “Crack in the cosmic Egg” (in fact Brahmanda can be translated as the ‘Cosmic Egg') or the “Big Bang”, the essence is the same. “The stuff of stars has come alive”. The living beings of earth are cosmic creatures, products of celestial events – atomic collisions, molecular unions and stellar explosions. We are the children of the universe, children of immortal bliss. Within our human bodies, we have within us a miniature universe within our consciousness, our inner radiant Self, that aspect of the all-pervading Cosmic consciousness. We are the center of the universe. Nay! We are not only the center of the universe, WE ARE THE UNIVERSE. We are its past and we are its future. Ultimately we are not an individual body with a soul, but a soul with a body. Rather with our own inner Self, that spark of the Divine, we are infinite, ever present and eternal. We are part of the whole, call it God, the Divine-Mother, Shiva-Shakti, Brahman or Primal Being. No doubt, we have come a long way from the Primal Being. The branches and leaves may be far from the roots, but it is to the roots that they owe their existence. We have come a long way from our Cosmic roots, nevertheless we are still deeply rooted in that Ever Blissful Infinite Being called God.
If that is so, why do we suffer? Though the Atman is identical to the Brahman who is ever-radiant and blissful, the Jiva (individual) suffers because he is entrapped by the limiting adjuncts (Upadhis) of body and mind. The infinite seems entrapped by the finite body and mind. Misery is not natural to the Jiva. It comes to experience a state of misery because of its association with a body.
So the cause of misery is a body
The body (birth) is due to karma (previous actions)
Karma arises from attachment and hate, by preference to certain objects and aversion to some.
Attachment and hate arise from Egoism (sense of ‘I' and ‘Mine')
This Egoism comes from indiscrimination.
Indiscrimination, from ignorance of your true nature, that you are one with the Brahman
Any of the reasons cited (in various contexts) as being the motivation for rebirth, are all covered under some stage of the above-explained process. For instance take the desire for something as a cause of birth. It is already covered in point C. “Karma arises from attachment and hate, by preference to certain objects and aversion to some”. So the desire to “enjoy more sex or more power” is nothing but an attachment, a preference for a particular object. So this results in Karma (Karma can be mental, verbal or actual deed (thought, word and deed). Karma results in birth. So in that sense your desire makes you take birth again.
Thus, the root cause of all suffering and Karma is ignorance. The only way to go beyond this, is to bring the light of knowledge. The first step in this direction is to change one's attitude, to retrace one's steps along the same path that we have come down. In other words, the only solution is to go back to our cosmic roots, to become one with the Cosmic Consciousness. That is liberation, moksha, salvation, whatever you call it. We are born so that we can exhaust our karmic debts, so that we may be free. This is the only answer, the only purpose of being born again and again, and thus the purpose of life too, in a general sense. Here the Yogic tradition offers a few paths to suit the varying temperaments. Thus the goal is to manifest the potential Divinity, to attain Oneness with the Whole, the Cosmic. Do it by Work (Karma), Worship (Bhakti/divine love), Meditation (Raja yoga) or Knowledge (Gnana). To say that any one path is the only way is nothing but ignorance. To each according to our temperaments. But in reality we all might need a little of each path with a predominant need for one.
A sincere study of Yoga-Vedanta reveals the eternal mysteries of the cosmos to us. It leads us to the unknown through the known. It guides us out through the intricate labyrinth that life is, with its myriad pairs of duality. It shows us the way and ultimately sets us free, by taking us back to our cosmic roots. But the process is quite complicated, since we live in a world of Duality. The One has become the many. We have come long way from Cosmic Consciousness, the Source or the Roots. And we are all born with an unconscious desire to attain unity with that Source, with the Cosmic (read my article on Sacred myth for extracts from Carl Jung's works that tell us that we are born with a desire to know God!). The individual soul seeks its lost (rather forgotten) identity with the Cosmic. SADHANA AWAKENS THAT MEMORY.