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13.4: LOGIC OF ADVAITA : Pt.4
The base of activity of mAyA cannot be brahman because the latter is Absolute Luminosity and there can be no place in it for ignorance or darkness. Nor can the jIva be the base of operations of mAyA. For jIva itself cannot come into existence until mAyA has operated. There seems to be an unresolvable logical difficulty here. But the difficulty will vanish once we realise that we are making an implicit assumption which is not valid. We are actually assuming the prior reality of time and space before the appearance of mAyA. Otherwise we could not have asked the question: Where does mAyA operate? When does it come into existence? These questions are valid only if you have a frame of reference in time and space independent of mAyA. But time and space, points out Shankara, are themselves creations of mAyA! (cf: mAyA-kalpita-desha-kAla-kalanA vaicitriya chitrIkRRitaM … Shloka 2 of Dakshinamurti Ashtakam). Before the universe was made manifest, it was undifferentiated in its cause, brahman, like the sprout in the seed. mAyA as grounded in Isvara (=saguNa brahman), as an adjunct, posits (= takes as given) conditions such as space and time and produces the variegated world with beings bearing specific names and forms. The question whether mAyA as an adjunct of saguNa brahman contradicts the principle of non-duality does not arise, for mAyA as well as the created world, are mithyA, not real. Only if it were a reality besides Isvara there would be duality. The causality of the world which appears in Isvara is structured by the beginningless indeterminable mAyA and so the causality is also mithyA.
In fact this is also the answer to the physicist’s question: When did time originate? Time did not originate in a timeless frame because we would then be begging the question. The very fact that we are conscious of the passage of time is a consequence of mAyA. So questions such as, Where does mAyA operate? And When did it start operating? are not properly posed. Time and space cannot claim prior existence. It is therefore wrong to ask whether mAyA is prior to jIva or later than jIva. Ultimate Reality is beyond space and time. In the words of Swami Vivekananda, time, space and causation are like the glass through which the Absolute is seen, but in the Absolute itself, there is neither time, nor space nor causation. As in the field of modern physics, so in the field of Vedanta, time and space are modes incidental to sense perception and should not be applied to what is trans-empirical. JIva and mAyA are both given apriori in our experience and we have to take them as such. They are anAdi (beginningless). mAyA is different from both the real and the unreal. It is in this sense that we say that the world of perception, the common world of experience, cannot be rejected out of hand as totally false, like the hare’s horn or the lotus in the sky; nor can it be taken to be totally real, because it suffers contradiction at a higher level of experience. It is real
only in the empirical sense and unreal in the absolute sense.
There is no religion worth talking about without miracles interwoven in its tradition. Miracles are the only phenomena that ‘prove’ to humanity at large that there is a supreme Power beyond the apparently unquestionable powers of Nature. The very existence of this supreme power though it may be intellectually accepted as a hypothesis never appeals to the heart with the force of a belief through a purely intellectual exercise. On the other hand when you see impossible things happen which simply cannot be explained on any known basis, only then are questions raised in your mind for which the answer has to come from the heart and the mind; for it is the heart by which we mean the emotional part of the mind that then accepts it as a concrete visible proof of divinity, and this results in a firm faith. The life of a Krishna, a Jesus, a Mohammed and a Ramakrishna are full of such impossibilities, which man calls miracles and which cannot be wished out of history. More often than not, only when one discovers some power in a personality which others do not possess, does one start respecting his spirituality. ‘Except ye see signs and wonders’ says Jesus, ‘ye will not believe’. Meet any one who is a close follower of a great saintly leader. You will surely hear them talk enthusiastically about what they consider to be superhuman in their guru, the divine mentor.
A scientist cannot afford to be dogmatic. Miracle is something which goes against any of the known scientific laws. Until the scientist sees the miracle with his own eyes and has tested it under several possible circumstances he would not believe that it happened. Fair enough. But let him not be unscientific enough to say that miracles can never happen. I have known some doctors say in the case of certain unusual emergency cases, ‘We have done all that is possible. Let us wait and see. If the patient wakes up well it will certainly be a miracle’. There is no universal law saying ‘Everything in the world has to happen only according to scientific laws’. Miracles, for all we know may be the visiting cards of God’s presence. The wisdom that one learns from life’s experience is sometimes beyond science. Also, ‘miracles’ rarely repeat themselves or at least do not seem to be repeatable ‘at call’. Just because there are frauds in the religious world (the proportion does not seem to be larger than that in the secular world!) let not the scientist be arrogant enough to assume that he should be able to explain everything. A scientific ‘Theory of Everything’ is still in the future. When the scientist sees a miracle ‘happen’ right before his eyes, the most scientific statement that he can truly make is ‘It is difficult to believe it. I do not understand it’. That would be the right scientific temper.
A philosopher or an intellectual may reason that there could be an unchanging Atman which is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient. He can rise to this level of understanding by successive steps of logical reasoning. A true devotee also understands there is a Supreme Power, Ishvara, controller of everything and who is therefore the Supreme Director of Nature. But the vast majority of people are neither philosophers nor intellectuals, nor are they true devotees. They can never comprehend by any amount of logic or intuition that there is a parAshakti from which even Nature derives its powers. They believe in God only when that God expresses Himself through things like miracle-healing or other equally miraculous happenings. In fact it is a moot point whether Jesus or Krishna would be held in as much esteem as they are today if their stories were totally devoid of miracles!
All examples of miracles and spiritual wonders – there are hundreds of them in our history, biography, hagiology and literature – only show that when Divinity wills it, there is nothing in this world of science and matter to prevent it from happening the way Divinity wants it. Divine will (Ishvara-sankalpa) is sufficient to make things happen, law or no law. It is this sankalpa which led to the manifestation of the world from its unmanifested state; in other words, God willed: Let there be creation and there was the primeval creation. We shall leave it to the physicists and other scientists to sort out whether or not He only ‘created’ the fundamental laws of physics including the quantum laws and allowed the universe including space-time to evolve according to these laws. But Hindu Vedanta is very clear on this point: mAyA Shakti the mysterious power of that Supreme Reality, expresses itself when it is divinely so willed!
Belief in the efficacy of mantra power is the most common Hindu trait, common to all the votaries of the religion, spread through its multifarious sects and schools. The mantras themselves may differ from sect to sect and school to school. A mantra is a vedic hymn, sacrificial formula, a mystical verse or an incantation. In general, it connotes any sacred chant or formula having the power to secure the blessings of God, when lovingly and reverently repeated. One warning has however to be mentioned. One has to respect the rule that no mantra would be efficacious unless it is learnt orally from a guru, who has himself that mantra-siddhi. By mantra-siddhi, one means that the mantra has sufficiently been meditated upon and repeated by the person concerned that the deity of the mantra has been realised by the person. The number of times required for this mantra-siddhi varies from mantra to mantra. Very often it goes into several hundreds of thousands. The word mantra in Sanskrit means 'that which protects by being meditated upon'. (mananAt trAyate iti mantrah). This protection by the deity of the mantra does not devolve on you until you have sufficiently identified yourself with the mantra, heart and soul. Only such a person can be a guru for that mantra. The mantra itself is considered as the embodiment in sound of some specific deity or supernatural power. So taking the mantra by oneself without a guru is disrespect to the mantra itself and therefore doubly, a disrespect to the mantra-devatA (= the deity of the mantra). Yes, in that sense, the Hindu mantras are exclusive, no doubt. But that very fact connotes the sacredness of these mantras. The familiar Gayatri mantra is the most sacred of all these.