Thursday, April 4, 2013

Hinduism 101: Terminology, Elements of Reality

Before you read research papers on science, you have to go through the elemental studies of physics, chemistry, etc. In the same way it is good to learn the fundamentals on which the highest knowledge is based. One of the introductory texts on Vedic wisdom is the "Tattva Bodha," by Adi Shankaracharya. It covers the above and much more. It talks about the structure of creation and relation to consciousness. This chart graphically illustrates this part of the text:

It is interesting how the microcosm, the human being, is an exact replica of the macrocosm. The macrocosm replicates itself infinitely, like a fractal.

An easy way to remember this is using the ten fingers. The five fingers on the right hand, pinky for physical body, ring finger for subtle body, index finger for causal body, fore finger for conditioned consciousness (Jiva) and thumb for soul (Atma).
Then on the left hand, pinky for the total physical universe or creation(called Virat), ring finger for the total subtle creation or cosmic mind (called Hiranyagarbha or Mahat Tattva), index finger for the causal cosmic creation (Mool Prakritri), fore finger for the cosmic creator (Ishvara), and thumb for cosmic consciousness (Brahman).

In addition to the associations made above, Karmas (account of our actions) and Vasanas(impressions) are part of the causal body.

All the terms in the chart above such as Isvara, Jiva, Maya, etc. are explained in the Tattva Bodha.
Jiva is essentially the same as Maya, illusion. It is the veil of ignorance that covers the true Self. It is the false identification with the causal, subtle and gross bodies that get conditioned and therefore Jiva is the conditioned consciousness. The root cause of ignorance creates a sense of separateness, the limited identity, the “I”ness, commonly known as ego. The gross body drops at death but the other bodies still exist and carry into the next birth. Once one is enlightened the Jiva also drops and there is no false separateness. The soul is seen as a part of the whole.

The five Koshas (layers of personality) and the three states of experience - sleeping, waking, dreaming - are all co-related to the three bodies here in this chart.

One term not on the chart (because it is not in the text) is the term ‘Jagat’, commonly translated as ‘creation’, or ‘universe’. Everything that can be perceived, gross or subtle, is objectified through name, form and function. The totality of manifest names and forms, together with pure existence (sat-brahman), is called jagat. Thus when we say: ‘chair is’, ‘thought is’, ‘feeling is’, the ‘is-ness’ is sat brahman, while ‘chair’, ‘thought’, ‘feeling’ are names of forms in which pure existence can be experienced.

The text also gives an introduction to other Vedic concepts such as the theory of Karma, the description of an enlightened person, etc.
Having clarity about what is Atma and what is not is key to understanding the concluding section of Tattva Bodha. The oneness of Jiva and Ishvara is described by enquiry into the inner meaning of the statement 'Tat Tvam Asi'.

I think the knowledge in the Tattva Bodha is very important, a pre-requisite for understanding any further teachings in the Vedic scriptures on creation and consciousness. This book is also available online free as an eBook.
Hari Om.

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