Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Metric Soul and Divided Minds & Divinities

"A one-hundredth part of a hair's tip, and again split into hundred,
this fragment is the living self or soul, also conceived of as endless."
(Svetasvatara Upanisad, 5.9)
The following text is drawn and expanded from my reply to a friend's query on the Upanisadic descriptions of the soul being the size of a ten-thousandth of the tip of the hair, and at the same time pervade the body; in general, the diverse depictions of the soul to be of a particular measure can come across as confusing. The second half of the post discusses the greater "divided spirit" issue of God and soul.

Oxymoron of Metric Soul

The soul, if we choose to believe in one that is, being an immaterial spirit-substance, cannot have a scale of comparison with matter. It is no more the size of a proton than it is the size of a hamburger or a Polish truck-driver. It is neither proportionate nor disproportionate to the object it appears to animate, for it has no proportion in common with inanimate matter.

Of course one might compare the soul to a lamp and the pervading of the body to its rays in a room, and that's a rather appropriate analogy as long as we forget about our attempts to pin it out on the metric scale. Both the lamp and the rays are finite objects, as are the individual jiva-soul and his field of awareness; hence the metaphor works in this application.

Technically speaking, the soul pervades and animates the body through the conscious mental functions (citta) filtered through the medium of ahankara conjointly with Antaryamin, the Inner Regulator or the so-called "super-soul" (paramatman). The antaryamin is variously identified as Ishvara (Supreme God) or Atman (Supreme Self) in differing schools of thought.

Atisayokti - Literary Exaggeration

Everything in the scriptures is a mixture of literal and metaphorical. There is svabhavokti or statement (ukti) reflecting or object's own (sva) nature (bhava), and there is atisayokti or excessive (atisaya) statement. All the four standard atisayoktis in the alankara-shastra (e.g. Alankara-kaustubha: 8.23), or the classical Indian corpus of books on  literary composition and criticism, feature departures from the literal or face-value meaning.

The third excessive metaphorical statement, where the impossible is being stated, is the one we are primarily after at the moment, for the soul has no material scale. Therefore, the statement of comparison is an impossibility. The two first atisayoktis are comparisons to other objects (and I suppose taking this as a hyperbolic diminutive would be every bit as valid), the other overt and the other covert, and the fourth features effect as simultaneous with or preceding the cause.

If we were to indeed indeed pursue this literally, as fundamentalists frequently do, we would have to first ask whether this proverbial hair is Afro-American, French or Vedic Indian — perhaps the sage in question split his own hair tip into 10,000 pieces and compared it to his soul, discovering it was an exact match under his microscope? Did he split it with a Vedic hair-splitter? Perhaps everyone's soul is 10,000 tip of their own hair? This again is problematic for men with thinning hair or baldness; their souls must be approaching limbo...

God and Souls - Divided Minds

A related field of paradox is in the supposed division that exists between the Jiva-Atman and the all-pervasive Brahman or ultimate God. From where I look at things, Advaita-vedanta is quite right in insisting that the atman (which is equated in the realization-stage with the brahman although brahman and brahman alone was the atman was all along) cannot be factually divided into individual soul-units, and that the individuality in question is only a temporary illusion rooted in Avidya or primal ignorance. This is naturally solved with the acquisition of Jnana or knowledge proper.

Let us assume the presence of an individual "soul fragment", a separate conscious unit. Fragments by definition cannot have the same quality as an unbreakable whole, for they differ in the quality of being fragmentable. Again, if the great whole can be divided into fragments, a second is thereby posited next to the non-dual, leading to a number of questions on the unique nature of the supposed one and the greatest non-dual spirit proclaimed across the Upanishads.

The Theory of Simultaneous Difference-Nondifference

Gaudiya Vaishnavism proposes an inconceivable symbiotic difference-cum-non-difference solution to the issue under the heading of acintya-bheda-abheda. Aristoteles would insist things either are or are not, for they cannot be both. A follower of Jiva Goswami's would then employ the acintya-shakti defence: You need to believe that God has the power to not make sense to make headway with the dilemma.

All too often, the inconceivability card is a handy answer to each and every equation that doesn't exactly add up because a transcendent object is beyond logical derivation and accessible perception. This leaves me wondering whether this God does not become irrelevant altogether, stretching entirely out of our objective human grasp and contact as he does.

Of course we also have the standard explanation with the shakti-vada and the nonduality between the energy (shakti) and the energetic (shaktiman), the former of which would include all of us and the inanimate world. Not the least of the problems is the fact that shakti-vada has nothing to do with Vedanta and everything to do with the tantric tradition.

Setting aside doctrinal purism and strict Vedanta interpretation for a moment, the tradition of Kashmiri Saivism which is the root of the shakti theory also features an extensive existential grid, in many ways unique, and in many others parallel to the Vedic Sankhya and its model of causal derivation.

All of that notwithstanding, the problem of evidently divided consciousness between us and God remains. I for one do not possess all the knowledge of God, indicating we are clearly separate units of consciousness. There is little practicality to the proposal of the every-day experience of me being one with a personal and actively omniscient God.

Like Sun and Sunshine?

Omniscience indicates a flawless and all-pervading entity or state of being. This one, all-knowing and all-encompassing God is all that is. Shakti cannot be classified as a second separate unit, even as dependent and subordinate, for this would be introducing dualism, the existence of a second beside God; assuming the non-duality of God and creation, one would expect us souls to share of the same pristine strata of undivided and omniscient existence.

The simile of the sun and the sunshine should be understood for what it is: a simile. A simile does not constitute proof in and of itself, it is a manner of illustrating a more abstract principle. The problems we run into applying this to the case at hand are manifold.

The most obvious of all is the fact sun and sunshine do not feature a known conscious property, whether unified or divided; both are mechanical, passive factors incapable of decision-making, unlike soul and god. Independent decision-making and limited or unlimited fields of awareness, in turn, are the very factors begging the question to begin with.

If a simile is employed in illustrating simultaneously one and different consciousness(es), and especially in the capacity of proof, it should be a comparison of strict equals.

A Monistic Angle

There is a very vivid and distinct duality here, indicating we need to either admit to the non-reality of duality and divided consciousness, labeling them as a mere illusion (and moreover an illusion occuring in Brahman with no existence to its occurence), or do away with an undivided and omniscient, yet eeriely antropomorphic God.

Advaita-siddhanta considers Isvara (personal god) to be the most you can see of the nondual absolute through the veil of maya; as ajnana or individual ignorance is dispelled, the ignorance concerning duality is dispelled, and the one atman alone remains aglow. The doctrine of atman then becomes a de-facto doctrine of anatman, for there was no everlasting individual soul to begin with.

Neither duality nor nonduality are entirely satisfactory for a philosophical answer. I don't have an exact answer for the way all stuff works, though I do have some cool ideas I need to explore a bit further. The citta-matram doctrine of the Yogacara-school of Buddhism, the theory of an unified mind-field and repository consciousness or alaya-vijnana, comes across as rather fascinating to me, and also correlates with some of my experiences.

Summa Summarum

My preferred approach to the question, independent of any scriptures, is to conceive of a single mental field in which both the Ishvara and the jivas are fluctuation in greater or smaller degrees. The only factual omniscient potential is in the universal mind-field, an uninvolved, egoless all-containing entirety, where no catalyst (ahankara) for individuality exists; hence seeing without a seer is actualized. The concept appears to make seamless sense to me, independent of conformance to any ancient or contemporary theories.

In the end, fiddling with lofty philosophical formulations amounts to little more than an entertaining mind-game fulfilling our intellectual urges. Otherwise, assumptions of mastery of a theory may help one to comfort himself and bring order into the surrounding chaos, or to command and conquer existence through comprehension.

Nirvana and God remain lurking in the fabric of the harmony, peace, clarity and joy of an independent nature we discover within ourselves through personal experience, introspection and natural immersion. Even if we all have our respective philosophies and mythologies with diverging particulars, it really doesn't matter a damn thing as long as you arrive at the conclusive non-dual One-Zero paradox at the end.

Related satire from Dissociated Press: Hare Krishna Swami Loses Soul - Downtown Helsinki (DP)


Mr. Ananda said...

It was a bit of a ramble, but surprisingly the lady next room says it makes some sense - huh? I'm glad if it does.

Mr Kurshna said...


The only path to liberation is to chant, eat prasadam, and dress in funny orange robes!

Damn thee!! Damn thee to hell!

Wait a minute.. This just in: the rules of the game have been changed. Apparently, the supreme being is content if you just drink beer. He says he changed his mind. Go figure!

Vegman said...

It's mental speculation or as they say "mental masturbation".
Grease 'er up good Ananda and you can probably invent a new God who plays Saxophone and herds lemmings.

He has a Turkey feather in his turban and dances with old women in the dead of night.

Anonymous said...


IT IS .. wait for it.. wait for it..

Just kidding.

Vegman said...

Sorry Ananda, but your home-brewed philosophy didn't pass the "nectar" test. It doesn't have any juice, any taste or any sweet scent.

It tasted kinda like sawdust mixed with sand and was heavy on the salt.

See, when you have the "tasting machine" that Sridhar Maharaja refered to, you can seperate the nectar from the poison.

Dave said...

Apophatic (negative) theology is your first stepping stone to a mystical understanding of God. Coming to terms with God as incomprehensible is the first hurdle.

And.. the whole idea of a 'super-soul' has never made much sense. I've never understood why God as the omniscient one would need a little tattle-tale to sit along side every jiva.

Vegman at work on laptop said...

The existence of anything doesn't make any sense.
The greatest mystery of all is why is there anything?
How did something come out of the absolute nothing?
Theoretically, before there was anything there was NOTHING.
So, why did something all of a sudden come out of nothing?

How did the universe with all it's complex, complicated and sophisticated scientific laws, design and order just appear out of nowhere from the great NOTHING that existed before there was anything.

If there is a God, how did he come to be?
How did consciousness evolve out of non-consciousness to become the first and supreme conscious unit who created unlimited spiritual and material worlds that he became God of?

Obviously, consciousness cannot come from non-consciousness.

Life cannot come from non-existence.

Light cannot come from nowhere without a source.

Every light has a source.

How did God come into existence?

Why is there a "God" or supreme being?

What can't I become God and make my own rules?

Damn, I wish I would have become God before God became God because that sure would have been the ultimate power trip and I would have had unlimited goddesses catering to my every whim.

Maybe I can create another dimension, an alternate dimension to the transcendental plane and create my own spiritual universe where I can be the absolute truth?

Once I master the control of energy I will create a new form of energy that is even greater than spiritual energy.

Then, I will create millions of Goddesses with breasts that ooze a nectarean milk that when drunk will intoxicate me into a mystic trance of ecstacy that is millions of times more intense than the bliss of having a billion orgasms all at once.

Yeah, just watch!!

I am going to become the Absolute Truth of my own plane of existence.

OOOpps..... I have to go take a shit.
I'll be back to explain more later.

Mr. Ananda said...

Dave: "And.. the whole idea of a 'super-soul' has never made much sense. I've never understood why God as the omniscient one would need a little tattle-tale to sit along side every jiva."

According to some, antaryamin simply refers to the atman itself. The Pancharatrikas have their own theory of who he is, the Vaishnava Puranas again another.

The Gaudiya "super-soul" concept (as Ksirodakasayi-Vishnu) isn't exactly in the Upanishads.

Gita notes:

ahaM AtmA guDAkeza sarva-bhUtAzaya-sthitaH (10.20) - "O Arjuna, I am the atman located in the vessel of every being."

Then of course, at times also "Isvara" is said to dwell in everyone's heart, but if Isvara is taken to be a partial vision of Atman-Brahman, as Advaita-siddhanta would have it, that adds up too.

Vegman said...

Ananda said:
"The Gaudiya "super-soul" concept (as Ksirodakasayi-Vishnu) isn't exactly in the Upanishads".

Is that a trick statement?

Paramatma is certainly mentioned in Vedas and Upanishads.

Description in Vedas and Upanishads

The relationship between Paramātmā and Atman is likened to the indwelling God and the soul within one's heart like two birds on a tree.

Two birds with fair wings, knit with bonds of friendship, in the same sheltering tree have found a refuge. One of the twain eats the sweet fig tree's fruitage; the other eating not regardeth only. (Rig Veda 1.164.20) [1]

Like two birds of golden plumage, inseparable companions, the individual self and the immortal Self are perched on the branches of the selfsame tree. The former tastes of the sweet and bitter fruits of the tree; the latter, tasting of neither, calmly observes. (Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.1) [2]

They are two birds, close companions, clasping the same tree. Of the two, one eats sweet fruit; the other looks on without eating. On this same tree a person, sunk and grieving in slavery, is deluded, but upon observing the Lord happy and great, becomes free of sorrow. (Shvetashvatara Upanishad 4.7) [3]

The Supreme Being that dwells in our heart is dearer to us than even our children, wealth and everything else. (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.8)

Oh, I guess the Vedas and the Upanishads forgot to mention that Ksirodakshayi Vishnu is the Supersoul?

Either way, there are TWO BIRDS in the tree.
Not ONE bird.

Vegman said...

Subala Upaniṣad:

prakṛty-ādi-sarva-bhūtāntar-yāmī sarva-śeṣī ca nārāyaṇaḥ:

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead is existing as the Supersoul in all manifested universes."

In the Subala Upanishad is says that Narayana (Ksirodaksayi Vishnu is a form of Narayana) is the Supersoul in all the universes.

shiva said...


Your inability to understand how we can be one with and different from God is not why it is called achintya or inconceivable. It is called achintya because you literally cannot understand the details of how we are one and different from God, but that doesn't mean we can't understand the broader framework of the concept. It's like I know how my computer works to a certain degree, but if you asked me to explain in detail every single aspect of how it functions in the minutest detail, I couldn't do it.

In a similar way we can understand that God is an all pervading field of conscious energy and that we exist as a part of that energy, as does everything in existence. And at the same time we know from practical experience that we are not experiencing the powers of an all-pervading consciousness. That is not inconceivable to understand, it is easily understood, and the proof of that is the billions of people throughout history who have believed in that. just because you can't understand something doesn't mean that it is then axiomatic that no one can understand that thing.

You said:

the problem of evidently divided consciousness between us and God remains

What problem? Why is that a problem? An example is the soul or consciousness in the body. God is the consciousness within our consciousness, giving animation to our consciousness in the same way that our consciousness animates our body.

You also make other ego based axiomatic statements like this one:

In the end, all the lofty philosophies aren't much more than a mind-game we do to satisfy our intellectual urges, or otherwise seek to comfort ourselves and bring order into chaos, or to command and conquer existence through comprehension. Nirvana and God remain lurking in the fabric of the harmony, peace, clarity and joy of an independent nature we discover within ourselves through personal experience and natural immersion, and even if we all have it a wee bit different, it really doesn't matter a damn thing when the sun no longer shines.

How is that your personal belief is somehow absolute truth for everyone? Just because you have no experience of God does that make your non-experience an axiomatic truth for everyone? Remember, if your head is stuck up your own ass, then everything looks crappy.

You seem to bought into deluded Buddhist conceptions. Any type of theology which teaches that there is samsara of some type - requires reference to an omniscient omnipresent intelligent agency who oversees samsara and all the attendant karma for everyone. The Advaitins claim that Brahman's lower manifestation as Ishvara is in control of samsara, which while solving the problem of an intelligent powerful agency, still foolishly holds onto the idea that Ishvara is a lower manifestation then Brahman, even though Ishvara is clearly a superior state of existence, i.e. being a person with attributes is a higher state of existence then not being a person with attributes. It's like the difference between a tree and human. Both are alive but only one is capable of having fun. Any Buddhist doctrine which denies an Ishvara who can maintain and control samsara, is ridiculous. Without Ishvara there can be no samsara.

The doctrine of anatman is supposed to teach about losing your self-identification with your consciousness and mind as being you alone. It's not that you are supposed to realize "no atman", you are supposed to realize that what you think is you when you are non-liberated or non-enlightened is wrong. You are not atman nor the mind. The atman is God and the mind is God. You are part of the atman and you experience the mind. When you attain enlightenment you will experience God as you and as your mind. That is learned from detaching your conception of self from being the mind or being in control of the thoughts and emotions given by the mind, and detachment from the conception that your self is really just you. By that detached meditation you are able to have the truth of your existence revealed to you. An enlightened person experiences God as a part of his self, experiences God through his self, and also experience God controlling his thoughts and emotions. That is the truth of anatman. True enlightenment is in the control of God, and true enlightenment is the experience of communing with God as part of your being and mind. It is the recognition of a symbiosis and the culturing of that relationship.

Vegman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

All too often, the inconceivability card is a handy answer to each and every equation that doesn't exactly add up; issue transcendent is beyond your logic and perceptions. (Which has me wondering whether, stretching entirely out of our objective human grasp, this God does not become irrelevant altogether.)

Inconceivable yet conceivable, it is the only card that adds it all up. Think more carefully about it. It not only makes thit god relevant, but it makes thit the only god to have.

Vegman said...

It always amusing when a finite soul tries to wrap his mind around the infinite. The functions of the infinite are beyond our mental capacity. We always want everything reduced down into the most mundane and remedial concepts for the understanding of our conditioned minds.
But, the absolute infinite is beyond our grasp.
The best we can do is try and understand some of the basic concepts.
If faith doesn't come in to play in trying to approach the infinite then we are left on the mental plane far, far away from The supreme conscious being.

Mr. Ananda said...

I suppose one of the grand problems is that the theory employed to explain the simultaneous nature is derived from outside classical Vedantic sources. The only such sources are texts cited to illustrate either/or, not simultaneous, and do not feature the shakti-theory to explain it. (And please don't quote parasya zaktir etc.)

In fact, I find that the whole simultaneous one-and-different lovin' business is quite aptly summarized right here.

Vegman said...

So, now instead of classical Gaudiya parivars Ananda is now putting all his trust into the classic Vedic shastra and rejecting the acintya bheda abheda tattva of Mahaprabhu?

See I knew you were special!!
I finally found a guru who is more brilliant and spiritual than Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Rupa and Sanatan,Sri Jiva Goswami,Baladeva Vidyabusana, Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur and all the other Gaudiya masters.

When can I get diksha from you Sri Anandaji Siddha?

In your yoga system do we get our own planets like Mahesha-dhama and our own goddess like Uma?

I knew I would find a guru who could teach me how to become God.

I pays to shop around.

I am sending everything I have via Paypal right away.

Mr. Ananda said...

Yea, you got me pinned down there for what I am. Please do send everything you have over PayPal, you can use the Donate-button on the front page. In return, you will be enjoying my perpetual blessings, and you can tell that to your friends too if you like.

Vegman said...

Well, I don't have any friends because I am a hermit.
But, I will tell my dog Maggie - the cutest little Beagle you could ever see.

Om said...

"This again is problematic for men with thinning hair or baldness; their souls must be approaching limbo..."

this is certainly correct in my experience

Mr. Ananda ∴ μ α ω λ said...

2010/11/28: Links added, slight editing.

Mr. Ananda ∴ μ α ω λ said...

It is like this... Said Iam Thatiam Once for All!

╠══════► ∞ ♥ ∞ [ONE-LOVE]
╠═════► ∞ ☯ ∞ — ☺|☻ ═► [Quantum-Bipolar-Bliss]
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╠═══► ☺☺☺|☺☺☻|☺☻☺|☺☻☻ [Solar-Ternary]
╠══► ☻☺☺|☻☺☻|☻☻☺|☻☻☻ ═► [Lunar-Ternary]
╠═ ◄ ≡ ☺ ≡ ☯ ≡ ☻ ≡ ► ═╣ [ Mirror World = Above & Outside ]
╠═══ ∞ ♥ ∞ ☯ ∞ ♥ ∞ ═══╣ ALL-AS-ONE: ONE-LOVE-AXIS!
╠═ ◄ ≡ ☻ ≡ ☯ ≡ ☺ ≡ ► ═╣ [ Mirror Brain = Below & Inside ]
╠══► ☺☻☻|☺☻☺|☺☺☻|☺☺☺ ═► [Solar-Ternary]
╠═══► ☻☻☻|☻☻☺|☻☺☻|☻☺☺ [Lunar-Ternary]
╠════► ☻☻|☻☺|☺☻|☺☺ ═► [Lunar-Solar-Binary]
╠═════► ∞ ☯ ∞ — ☻|☺ ═► [Bipolar-Quantum-Bliss]
╠══════► ∞ ♥ ∞ [ONE-LOVE]

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