Nature of reality

That God or divinity is not confined to a mere name or an idol or a physical form has been spoken about by all religions and philosophies.

It has been stressed that the world around us in all its diverse forms and appearances is a manifestation of the supreme power, and the one who realises this truth is indeed an enlightened being.

This highest power transcends space and time and is beyond name, physical limitations, ideologies, caste and every other man made constraints. Adi Shankaracharya in his treatise Vivekachudamani explains the nature of this highest truth in detail and demonstrates how this reality is above everything else. Shankara commences by saying that this reality is like the sun, high up in the sky, the effulgence that lights up this universe, omnipresent.

Just as the rays of the sun illuminate the earth, the self or Atman or Brahman as it is called in Vedantic parlance enlivens the being and is the witness to all his actions, but remains a detached onlooker. He is the wise one who understands this fact that he is no different from this Atman. This is the doctrine of non-duality.

The world as it appears in its variegated forms has for its substratum this supreme power, just like all objects made of clay like a pot, a lamp, etc, are all basically clay, just like ornaments like a ring, a bracelet, a chain are all basically gold, differing only in name. It is not possible to have a pot without the clay or a ring without the gold. So too with the world. Brahman is the one abiding reality, eternal, beginningless, unchanging, beyond description.

Now, Shankara makes a statement that truly shows the universality and catholicity of ancient Indian philosophy, Sanatama Dharma as it is called, one that steers away from any taint of bigotry or sectarianism. He says that this Brahman is far away from caste, family and lineage. Brahman is beyond all distinctions of caste, race, family, as all these pertain only to the gross or physical body. But man is much more than his body.

He is a spark of that Brahman and is therefore above all these limitations. The Mundaka and the Chandogya Upanishads unequivocally declare this. Shankara says that this truth is what is to be meditated upon to rise above the six-fold afflictions that dog every man, namely hunger, thirst, grief, delusion, old age and death.

 Maybe, it might appear unattainable for ordinary mortals, but even attempts to realise this will yield untold benefits. Shankara says that this realisation is achieved through a process of negation, of slowly discarding all that appear to be permanent and moving towards truth.

As the Bhagavad Gita says, “There are two things in the world, the perishable and the imperishable. The perishable comprises all creatures; the imperishable is the immutable, supreme power.” “Understand this truth as clearly as water in the palm of your hand,” says Shankara.   

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