August 2015 \ News \ Special Column
Defining God A Vedic Interpretation

By Gauri Shankar Gupta

Universal Consciousness

There exists nothing but Brahman - one single reality encompassing the entire universe, also called as bodiless universal consciousness. Brahman is unbroken and irreducible pure consciousness giving rise to all diversity in the same way as millions of waves arise out of the ocean, innumerable thoughts arise out of mind and millions of sparks arise from the blazing fire. This irreducible pure consciousness with infinite potentiality is also known as Shiva. It is this irreducible pure consciousness that gives arise to mind and matter due to movement in the same way as thoughts arise due to movement in the mind and waves due to movement in the ocean.

Mind and matter on the other hand limit consciousness to a finite experience. For example human body limits individual consciousness to the boundary of that body. However once the body dies the consciousness becomes part of infinite consciousness in the same way as the space in a pot merges into infinite space once the pot is broken into pieces. In terms of degree, individual consciousness has been divided into four broad categories – mineral regime, plant regime, animal regime and human regime. Where there is no mind or matter there is no such variation. The power of movement leading to plurality is called Shakti. Thus plurality is a mere manifestation of this singular reality in the same way as millions of forms with different shapes and sizes could be made out of clay and millions of different ornaments could be made out of gold. In essence they are nothing but clay and gold.

Source of all Existence/Singularity

Brahman is the source of all that exists. The five great elements (space/ether, air, fire, water and earth) and mind, intellect and ego arise out of Brahman’s external energy (apara Shakti) while what keeps living species alive arises out of His more powerful inner energy (para shakti). Vedic writings divide life into 8.4 million species living in water, on the Earth and those in space. Consciousness that exists in the form of soul in these living species is called jeevatma in Sanskrit. Everything that exists in any form anywhere is made-up of a combination of these two. On dissolution they all return back to the Brahman. Modern science also agrees that nothing can be created nor destroyed. What happens is, mere transformation. In this sense the entire Universe originates from one single source and dissolves back to the same source. While the physical universe keeps on transforming, the eternal universal consciousness remains static supporting the ceaseless change; as the ocean supporting the ever changing waves. Thus the Universe is one single unified entity with multiple manifestations.

Sans Attributes/Most Subtle

Brahman has no attributes and form but at the same time He is the only source of all attributes and forms. Attributes limit functionality. For example the attribute of hearing of our ears limit their functions to hearing alone. They cannot see, smell or taste. Similarly the attributes of sunlight, water, sugar, salt, wood or iron limit their functionality to those defined attributes. Therefore anything that has attributes can never be infinite, all pervasive and source of all.

Moreover, since Brahman is sans attributes, naturally He cannot be perceived through our sense organs. Sense organs are designed to perceive attributes like sound, form, colour, smell and taste. Since Brahman has no such attributes, How can He be perceived through our senses. On the contrary, the sense organs and the mind function because of His energy. He is the only power behind all sense perception. Once this energy (soul or consciousness) leaves the body all these faculties are rendered ineffective. Even the body starts decomposing instantly. Therefore any attempt to perceive Him through sense organs is futile.

Source of Knowledge and Bliss

Brahman alone had been described as the source and culmination of all knowledge and infinite bliss (ananda in Sanskrit). We as humans also inherit these characteristics as part of our primeval nature for they are embedded in human soul. Precisely for this reason we have inherent curiosity to know and eternal desire for happiness. Can we find anyone who wishes to remain ignorant and is looking for distress? It is not possible because this is against the very nature of our Self. Matter and mind reduces these infinite attributes to finite and transcient pushing us into the cycle of pain and pleasure experienced in the material world.