Bráhman’s Salt and Thirst


–A Salt Mountain–

Why should we seek to become the bráhman, since the Veda states that we already are?

The revealed words, which later, after many centuries of oral tradition, became Scripture, seem to carry within them profound contradictions.

For example, the Veda affirms that, in brâhman, being and thinking are one, absolutely one.

How can there be then, on the one hand, very real and well hidden, the bráhman, absolutely one, being and thought, and on the other hand, in the world, men, who are also thinking, conscious beings, and who think of themselves as individual, finite, separate beings?

Let’s be logical.

Either men are not really bráhman or they arei.

If men are not really bráhman, then what are they, since everything is in bráhman, and everything is bráhman? Are they only an illusion, or even just nothing, a mere nothingness?

If they really are bráhman, then why do they think of themselves as individuals and as separate from it/her? Or even, why do they think of themselves as the only existing and thinking ones, the bráhman her- or itself being in their eyes only an illusion…

Shouldn’t their thought and being be ‘naturally’ united with the thought and being of the bráhman because it/she is absolutely one?

If being and thinking are part of the essence of the bráhman, how is it that thinking beings, conscious beings, can so easily doubt that they are already, in some way, bráhman?

For it is a common observation. The individual soul (jīva) feels a thousand miles away from being bráhman because she is overwhelmed by her obvious narrowness, by her limits. She is suffocated by the consciousness of the determinations (upādhi) that she undergoes, by her incarnation in a body.

If one adopts the path, particularly developed by Śaṅkaraii, of the identity of the self (of man) and of the Self (of bráhman), then one must conclude that these limits, these narrownesses, these determinations are only illusion, they are only « names and forms projected in it by nescience » (avidyāpratyupasthāpita nāma-rūpa).

Nescience is what best defines the human condition. Man, who is supposed to be bráhman, does not even suspect it, and his conscience is in full confusion. All planes (reality, illusion, names, forms) are superimposed. This superposition (adhyāsa) seems innate, natural, consubstantial.

Where does this metaphysical illusion, this confusion come from?

Could it have been deposited in man from the very beginning, by the Creator?

But then, why this deliberate deception, and to what end?

Another hypothesis: if the Creator is not at the origin of this illusion, this confusion, this ignorance, would they come from an even deeper source?

If the Creator is not responsible for them, it is because they are already there, came before Him, and are immanent, and present not only in creation, but also in Him.

What? How could bráhman be in such ignorance, such confusion, even partial? Isn’t It/He/She supposed to be omnipotent, omniscient?

It is however a path of reflection that must necessarily be considered if we want to exempt bráhman from having deliberately created confusion and ignorance in its/her/his Creation…

You have to face the alternative.

« Indeed, either the bráhman would be ‘affected’ by nescience, in the sense that the individual living being is affected, and it/she would then become a kind of super-jīva, the Great Ignorant, the Great Suffering and the Great Transmigrant. Or it/she would not be fooled by its/her own māyā, which it/she would use above all as an instrument to create, abuse and torment souls, which would then be like toys or puppets in its/her hands. »iii

This alternative led, from the 10th century onwards, to the creation of two schools of thought, the « school of Bhāmati » and the « school of Vivaraṇa ». Both are in the tradition of Śaṅkara and advocate respectively the idea that nescience is « rooted in the living individual » (jīvāśritā), or that the notion of nescience is « rooted in bráhman » (brahmāśritā).

Who is the bearer of nescience? Man or bráhman?

In fact we don’t know. Nobody decides. And speculation in this respect seems futile.

A famous formula sums up this vanity: sad-asad-anirvacanīyā, « impossible to determine (अनिर्वचनीय anirvacanīyā), either as existing (sad) or as non-existent (asad)« .

This idea that there is something inexplicable often comes up.

So is the illusion, māyā, real or not?

Answer: « It is neither real nor unreal. Since the world appears, māyā is not unreal. But since māyā is contradicted by the knowledge of the Self, it is not real either.

So what is she? As she cannot be both real and non-real, she is inexplicable, indeterminable, anirvacanīyā. iv

What is inexplicable, we must not stop there. It must be transcended. We must go higher.

If the body, the mind, the life itself are māyā, one must seek liberation (mokṣa), to reach the eternal nature of the Self.

 » ‘The Self (ātman), who is free from evil, free from old age, free from death, free from suffering, free from hunger and thirst, whose desires are reality, whose intentions are reality, – it is He whom one should seek, He whom one should desire to understand. He obtains all the worlds and all the desires, the one who discovers the Self and understands it’, thus spoke Prajāpati. »v

But how do you do it in practice?

It is enough to be perplexed, enough to get lost…

« From this Self we can only say ‘neither… nor…’. It is elusive because it cannot be grasped. »vi

« This Self is neither this nor that. »vii

« Neither… nor…  » neti neti, नेति .

We don’t know what this Self is, but we know that this Self, – we are it.

« This is the Self, This you are. »viii

Famous formula, – one of the « great words », with « I am bráhman » ix.

You are the Self. You are That.

In its context: « It is what is the fine essence (aṇiman), the whole has it as its essence (etad-ātmaka), it is reality, it is the Self (ātman). You are that (tat tvam asi), Ṡvetaku. » x

You are That, and nothing else.

« But if someone worships another deity, thinking, ‘He is one, I am another,’ he doesn’t know. Like cattle, he is for the gods. » xi

This Vedic formula is reminiscent of that of the Psalmist: « Man in his luxury does not understand, he is like dumb cattle. »xii

But the nuance is a bit different. In the psalm, the mutity (of man) stems from his lack of understanding. In the Upaniṣad, the lack of knowledge (of man) leads to mutity (of the gods).

The logic of the absolute identity of the self and the Self leads us to ask the question again, in crude terms: What does the idea of the nescience of bráhman imply?

Could it be that its/her omniscience is fundamentally limited, for example to what has been, and to what is, leaving the space of possibilities wide open?

Could it be that Creation, still in the process of unfolding, has an essential role in the emergence of a future knowledge, not yet happened, not yet known?

Could it be that the great narrative of Cosmogenesis can only be understood by putting it in parallel with the development of a Psychogenesis (of the world)?

From another angle :

Does the Supreme Lord (parameśvara) use māyā as an instrument to unfold the universe, while remaining hidden, in His own order, in His own kingdom?

Or would He be the (sacrificial) « victim » of His own māyā?

Or, yet another hypothesis, would He be the « architect » of a māyā that would cover at the same time man, the world and Himself?

Would He have deliberately planned, as an essential condition of the great cosmo-theandric psychodrama, His own letting go?

In this case, would the determinations, names and forms (upādhi and nāma-rūpa) that are imposed on men and living beings have similar forms for bráhman?

For example, would His ‘clemency’, His ‘rigor’, His ‘intelligence’, His ‘wisdom’, which are all ‘names’ or ‘attributes’ of the supreme divinity (I am quoting here names and attributes which are found in Judaism) be the nāma-rūpa of bráhman?

Names and forms (nāma-rūpa) are supposed to be contained in bráhman like a block of clay that contains the infinity of shapes that the potter can draw from it.

There would therefore be names and forms in the latent state, and names and forms in the manifest state.

But why this radical difference?

In other words, what animates the ‘potter’? Why does he model this particular vase and not another one?

Does he make his choices freely, and just by chance?

And by the way, who is this potter? The bráhman? Or only one of its/her forms (rūpa)?

No. The bráhman created ‘in Herself’, – in Hebrew it sounds like: אַךְ בָּך, akh bakhxiii , the possibility of a Potter, and the power of Clay. Why is this? Because She does not yet know who She will be, nor what She would like to become?

Being « everything », She is infinitely powerful, but in order for acts to emerge from this infinite Power, a seed, a will is still needed. Where would this seed, this will come from?

Every will comes from a desire, which reveals a lack, Schopenhauer taught us.xiv

The bráhman is everything, so what is It/She missing?

The only logical possibility that is left : the bráhman is missing « missing ».

It/She lacks desire.

In fact, one of Its/Her names is akāma, « without desire ».

« In It/Her », there is therefore this lack, this absence of desire, because It/She is fullness, because It/She is already Everything.

But if the bráhman were only akāma, « without desire », then there would be nothing, no act, no will, no world, no man, nothing.

Indeed, we need to understand akāma in another way.

If It/She is a-kāma, « without desire », It/She is also « a- » , « without » (the privative a- in Sanskrit).

If It/She is « a- » or « without », it is because in It/Her there is a lack. A metaphysical lack.

It/She lacks Its/Her own lack.

Lacking of a lack, It/She desires to desire, It/She wishes to desire.

In It/She comes the desire, the will, wherever It/She is a-, wherever It/She is « without », wherever It/She is « not »-this or « not »-that, neti neti.

The bráhman, confronted with the immanent presence, « in It/Her », of that « lack », of that « a- » , is then confronted with the apparent separation of Its/Her being (sat) and Its/Her thought (cit).

In philosophical terms, « thought » finds in front of itself « being », a « being » in its raw state.

This raw being, which is not « thought », which is « unthought » (a-cit), having no or no more internal unity, fragments, dissolves, incarnates itself in an unlimited diversity of bodies.

These fragments of the being of the bráhman are like pieces of a hologram. Each one of them is the Whole, but less well defined, more blurred. But also, coming from the unlimited bráhman, each of them has its own unlimited power.

Thought does not divide, it augments, it multiplies itself, it generates.

Thoughts are alive. They are not like the inert pieces of a broken pot, but like the begotten children of living beings.

On the same question, Śaṅkara proposes yet another idea, that of gambling.

As happens in the life of an idle King, the Supreme Lord was able to create His Creation by play (līlā).

But this metaphor still brings us back to lack. The bráhman is the only reality, but this reality possesses an emptiness, an idleness, – hence some room to play.

It is necessary to reinterpret the essential unity of the bráhman and the living man (jīva), the unity of the Supreme Self and the Incarnate Self. It is the unity resulting from fullness and lack.

The incarnate self acts and suffers. The supreme Self is beyond « evil » and beyond « the other », – beyond any Other, therefore, but It is not beyond its own lack of lack.

The Self is creator, omniscient, omnipotent, in relation to all that was, and all that is, in act. But He is not omnipotent in relation to what is in potency, to all that will be or might be, and to all that will exist only because it is already and will continue to be part of His own lack, and of the desire that this lack will create. This lack, this desire, yet to come, will be like a means for the bráhman to surpass itself/herself, to surpass its/her own infinity.

The bráhman is like « a block of salt is, without interior or exterior, it is only a whole block of flavor (eka rasa). So is this Self (ātman), without interior or exterior, it is only a whole block of knowledge ».xv

It is a new confirmation. The bráhman is here three times « without ». Without interior. Without exterior. Without any taste other than the taste of salt alone.

It is a sad and dry infinity, frankly, deep down, that of an infinite block of salt.

In addition, the infinite thirst that such an infinite block of salt may generate, is obviously still missing here.

_______________

iThere may be other assumptions as well. After considering the impossibility of deciding on this first alternative, a third way will have to be considered, the one that man is the potential bráhman but not the actual bráhman. Conversely, the bráhman is also in potency, and in this potency he is man.

iiŚaṅkara. The Thousand Teachings. Transl. by Anasuya from the edition by A.J. Alston. Ed. Arfuyen. 2013

iiiMichel Hulin. Śaṅkara and non-duality. Ed. Bayard. Paris, 2001, p.92

ivŚaṅkara. The Thousand Teachings.Transl. by Anasuya from the edition by A.J. Alston. Ed. Arfuyen. 2013, p.30

vChāndogya-upaniṣad 8.7.1. Translation in French by Alyette Degrâces (adapted and modified by myself in English) . Ed. Fayard. 2014, p. 199

viBṛhadāraṇyaka-upaniṣad 3.9.26 and 4.5.15. Transl. by Alyette Degrâces. Ed. Fayard. 2014, p. 275 and p. 298.

viiBṛhadāraṇyaka-upaniṣad 3.9.26 cited by Śaṅkara. The Thousand Teachings. Trad. Anasuya from the edition by A.J. Alston. Ed. Arfuyen. 2013, p. 39.

viiiChāndogya-upaniṣad 6.8.7 cited by Śaṅkara. The Thousand Teachings. Trad. Anasuya from the edition by A.J. Alston. Ed. Arfuyen. 2013, p. 47.

ixBṛhadāraṇyaka-upaniṣad 1.4.10

xChāndogya-upaniṣad 8.6.7. Translation by Alyette Degrâces. Ed. Fayard. 2014, p. 176

xiBṛhadāraṇyaka-upaniṣad 1.4.10. Transl. by Alyette Degrâces. Ed. Fayard. 2014, p.233

xiiPs 49:13

xiiiSee the article « Only with you אַךְ בָּך, akh bakh » on Metaxu, Philippe Quéau’s Blog.

xivCf. A. Schopenhauer. The world as will and representation.

xvBṛhadāraṇyaka-upaniṣad 4.5.13. Transl. by Alyette Degrâces. Ed. Fayard. 2014, p.298

The Divine Wager


— Carl Gustav Jung —

Some Upaniṣad explain that the ultimate goal of the Veda, of its hymns, songs and formulas, is metaphysical knowledge.

What does this knowledge consist of?

Some wise men have said that such knowledge may fit in just one sentence.

Others indicate that it touches on the nature of the world and the nature of the Self.

They state, for example, that « the world is a triad consisting of name, form and action »i, and they add, without contradiction, that it is also « one », and that this One is the Self. Who is the Self, then? It is like the world, in appearance, but above all it possesses immortality. « The Self is one and it is this triad. And it is the Immortal, hidden by reality. In truth the Immortal is breath ; reality is name and form. This breath is here hidden by both of them. » ii

Why do we read ‘both of them’ here, if the world is a ‘triad’?

In the triad of the world, what ‘hides’ is above all the ‘name’ and the ‘form’. Action can hide, in the world, but it can also reveal.

Thus the One ‘acts’, as the sun acts. The divine breath also acts, without word or form. The weight of words differs according to the context…

We will ask again: why this opposition between, on the one hand, ‘name, form, action’, and on the other hand ‘breath’? Why reality on the one hand, and the Immortal on the other? Why this cut, if everything is one? Why is the reality of the world so unreal, so obviously fleeting, so little immortal, and so separated from the One?

Perhaps reality participates in some way in the One, in a way that is difficult to conceive, and therefore participates in the Immortal.

Reality is apparently separated from the One, but it is also said to ‘hide’ It, to ‘cover’ It with the veil of its ‘reality’ and ‘appearance’. It is separated from It, but in another way, it is in contact with It, as a hiding place contains what it hides, as a garment covers a nakedness, as an illusion covers an ignorance, as existence veils the essence.

Hence another question. Why is it all arranged this way? Why these grandiose entities, the Self, the World, Man? And why these separations between the Self, the World and Man, metaphysically disjointed, separated? What rhymes the World and Man, in an adventure that goes beyond them entirely?

What is the purpose of this metaphysical arrangement?

A possible lead opens up with C.G. Jung, who identifies the Self, the Unconscious, – and God.

« As far as the Self is concerned, I could say that it is an equivalent of God ».iiiiv

The crucial idea is that God needs man’s conscience. This is the reason for man’s creation. Jung postulates « the existence of a [supreme] being who is essentially unconscious. Such a model would explain why God created a man with consciousness and why He seeks His purpose in him. On this point the Old Testament, the New Testament and Buddhism agree. Master Eckhart says that ‘God is not happy in His divinity. So He gives birth to Himself in man. This is what happened with Job: the creator sees himself through the eyes of human consciousnessv

What does it (metaphysically) imply that the Self does not have a full awareness of itself, and even that It is much more unconscious than conscious? How can this be explained? The Self is so infinite that It can absolutely not have a full, absolute consciousness of Itself. Consciousness is an attention to oneself, a focus on oneself. It would be contrary to the very idea of consciousness to be ‘conscious’ of infinitely everything, of everything at once, for all the infinitely future times and the infinitely past times.

An integral omniscience, an omni-conscience, is in intrinsic contradiction with the concept of infinity. For if the Self is infinite, it is infinite in act and potency. And yet consciousness is in act. It is the unconscious that is in potency. The conscious Self can realize the infinite in act, at any moment, and everywhere in the World, or in the heart of each man, but It cannot also put into act what unrealized potency still lies in the infinity of possibilities. It cannot be ‘in act’, for example, today, in hearts and minds of the countless generations yet to come, who are still ‘in potency’ to come into existence.

The idea that there is a very important part of the unconscious in the Self, and even a part of the infinite unconscious, is not heretical. Quite the contrary.

The Self does not have a total, absolute, consciousness of Itself, but only a consciousness of what in It is in act. It ‘needs’ to realize its part of the unconscious, which is in potency in It, and which is also in potency in the world, and in Man…

This is the role of reality, the role of the world and its triad ‘name, form, action’. Only ‘reality’ can ‘realize’ that the Self resides in it, and what the Self expects of it. It is this ‘realisation’ that contributes to the emergence of the part of the unconscious, the part of potency, that the Self contains, in germ; in Its infinite unconscious.

The Self has been walking on Its own, from all eternity, and for eternities to come (although this expression may seem odd, and apparently contradictory). In this unfinished ‘adventure’, the Self needs to get out of Its ‘present’, out of Its own ‘presence’ to Itself. It needs to ‘dream’. In short, the Self ‘dreams’ creation, the world and Man, in order to continue to make what is still in potency happen in act.

This is how the Self knows Itself, through the existence of that which is not the Self, but which participates in It. The Self thus learns more about Itself than if It remained alone, mortally alone. Its immortality and infinity come from there, from Its power of renewal, from an absolute renewal since it comes from what is not absolutely the Self, but from what is other to It (for instance the heart of Man).

The world and Man, all this is the dream of the God, that God whom the Veda calls Man, Puruṣa, or the Lord of creatures, Prajāpati, and whom Upaniṣads calls the Self, ātman.

Man is the dream of the God who dreams of what He does not yet know what He will be. This is not ignorance. It is only the open infinite of a future yet to happen.

He also gave His name: « I shall be who I shall be ». vi אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה, ehyeh acher ehyeh. If the God who revealed Himself to Moses in this way with a verb in an « imperfective aspect » ‘, it is because the Hebrew language allows one side of the veil to be lifted. God is not yet « perfective », as is the verb that names Him.

Pascal developed the idea of a ‘bet’ that man should make, to win infinity. I would like to suggest that another ‘bet’, this time divine, accompanies the human bet. It is the wager that God made in creating His creation, accepting that non-self coexists with Him, in the time of His dream.

What is the nature of the divine wager? It is the bet that Man, by names, by forms, and by actions, will come to help the divinity to accomplish the realization of the Self, yet to do, yet to create, the Self always in potency.

God dreams that Man will deliver Him from His absence (to Himself).

For this potency, which still sleeps, in a dreamless sleep, in the infinite darkness of His unconscious, is what the God dreams about.

In His own light, He knows no other night than His own.

iB.U. 1.6.1

iiB.U. 1.6.1

iiiC.G. Jung. Letter to Prof. Gebhard Frei.1 3 January 1948. The Divine in Man. Albin Michel.1999. p.191

ivC.G. Jung. Letter to Aniela Jaffé. September 3, 1943. The Divine in Man. Albin Michel.1999. p.185-186

vC.G. Jung. Letter to Rev. Morton Kelsey. .3 May 1958. The Divine in Man. Albin Michel.1999. p.133

viEx 3.14

Surviving Self


How to survive our Self?

Are we essentially alone in the face of the porous mysteries of the unconscious? Are we always alone in front of what could suddenly be discovered or revealed there, after long and slow maturation? Are we alone in front of the flagrant repression of what will remain buried there forever?

Many wander in sorrow in the deserts of their own minds, they wander lonely in the ergs of understanding. Fleeing the austerity of the silent void, they flee to the hubbub.

Others think alone, against the norm, against opinion, against the crowd. « I cross the philosophical space in absolute solitude. As a result, it no longer has any limits, no walls, it doesn’t hold me back. This is my only chance.”i

But if it is difficult to think alone, it is even more difficult to think with others.

The common brings us closer and warms us up. It doesn’t encourage people to try to reach cold peaks. The community compensates for isolation, and offers fusion in the mass. But something resists. It is the haunting, extreme, demanding feeling that the ‘self’ is not the ‘us’. The ideological, collective, social ‘us’ does not intersect with the inner, personal, singular ‘self’…

Cultures, religions and civilizations are ‘us’, fleeting in essence.

They fictitiously envelop billions of solitary ‘selves’, in essence. All these ‘us’ become lifeless shells, skinless drums, after a few millennia.

The mystery is that only the ‘self’ will survive them.

A deeper mystery yet: how to survive our Self?

______

iCatherine Malabou, Changer de différence, – cit. in Frédéric Neyrat , Atopies.

The Absolute Constant of the Mystery


The famous 17th century Hindu thinker, Śaṃkara, proposed four essential concepts, sat, cit, ātman, and brahman.

They may be tentatively translated into English by the words being, thought, self, and absolute.

But it is worth digging a little beneath the surface.

For Śaṃkara, sat is « what is here and now ». Sat seems closer to being than to existence, or essence. Sat is, so to speak, the true form of being. But then what can be said of what is not here or now, of what was or will be, or even of what could or should be? One can say sat, too, to designate these sort of beings, but we oblige ourselves to an effort of abstraction, by thinking of these other modalities of being as “beings”.

Cit means thought, but also and above all consciousness. The objective idea is grasped by thought, the subjective feeling requires consciousness. Cit brings the two meanings together, but it is consciousness that leads the game.

As for ātman, this word is originally linked to life, life force, energy, wind, air, breath. It is only later that it comes to designate the person. In the Upaniṣad, the meaning of the word varies: body, person, self, or Self. This ambiguity complicates interpretation. Is the Self without a body? Is the Self a person? Difficulties related to language.

Finally, brahman may be translated as ‘absolute‘, but it has many other possible meanings. It is referred to in the Upaniṣad as breath, speech, mind, reality, immortality, eternity and also as the aim, “that which is to be pierced »i. It may mean ‘sacred word’, but it evolves to mean ‘absolute silence’. « Leave the words: here is the bridge of immortality.”ii

In the end, brahman comes to designate the absolute, the absolute of speech, or the absolute without speech, the absolute silence.

This analogy has been proposed: ātman represents the essence of the person, brahman identifies with the essence of the entire universe.

The word brahman has had some success in the Indo-European sphere of influence. Its root is ḅrhat, « greatness ». The Latin word flamen derives from it, as does brazman (« priest » in old Persian).

But the meaning of brahman as “priest” does not at all capture the mystery of its main meaning.

The mystery of the poet and the mystery of the sacred word are both called brahman. The mystery of absolute silence is also brahman. Finally, the mystery of the absolute, the mystery of the absolute is brahman.

The brahman is that from which all beings are born, all gods, and the first of them is Brahmā himself. Brahman is what everything is born of, « from Brahmā to the clump of grass »iii.

The absolute, the brahman of Śaṃkara, is at the same time greatness, speech, silence, sacred, enigma, mystery, divinity.

It must be underlined. The Veda does not offer a unique, exclusive, absolute truth. There is no truth, because an absolute truth could not account for the absolute mystery. In the Veda, the absolute remains an absolute mystery.

This lesson is compatible with other ideas of the hidden God, that of ancient Egypt, that of the God of Israel, or that of the God of Christian kenosis.

This may be a hint of an anthropological persistence, throughout the ages.

The persistent presence of an absolute mystery.

iMuU II,2,2

iiMuU II,2,5

iiiTubh III, 1,1