A unifying vision between Samsara and Nirvana has been presented in this study by placing human beings at the centre of the universe. Once this is accepted, the role of God turns to be nothing. This fact is not acceptable to most of the schools of Indian philosophy because of their strong faith in Brahman (God) as the creator of the universe. In that, this study raises the fundamental question. Why Brahman, being the creator, sustainer and dissolver of the universe, has taken such a long time of more than three billion years after the solar system to provide the conditions for the evolution of human life? Since the first cause of universe is the most difficult question, it is suggested to see the creator on the creation itself.
An inference has been drawn that the action (karma) of human beings cannot be treated as ignorance, once it is accepted that human beings are at the centre of the universe. We human beings have nothing else except the freedom of action (karma). In fact, karma itself is freedom.
This volume, in a way, an offshoot of the author's earlier work, Science of Consciousness draws the inferences based on the different systems of Indian philosophy and the philosophy of the West.
V.N. Misra, PhD, retired from Indian Economic Service (IES), has worked as Economic Advisor in different ministries of Government of India. He also has the experience of working in various research centres. He had several consultancy assignments with the ADB, FAO, World Bank and IFPRI. Dr Misra has also to his credit more than forty research papers published in reputed journals in the field of agricultural policy and development, labour, employment, rural poverty, etc. He has also co-authored (with VS. Vyas and D.S. Tyagi) a book, Significance of New Technology for Small Farmers. Dr Misra's study on Terms of Trade is a published work. He has now shifted his interest from economics to philosophy and has recently published his first philosophical study Science of Consciousness: A Synthesis of Vedanta and Buddhism.
In the Madhyarnika system of Buddhism it is categorically stated that there is no difference between Samsara and Nirvana. However, no attempt has been made to explain why there is no difference between Samsara and Nirvana, despite the fact that both are antithesis of each other in the sense that if Samsara is full of suffering, Nirvana happens to be end of suffering. In this context, the position of Vedanta is different, because Samsara is not equated with Nirvana. In Vedanta, there is no compulsion to achieve Nirvana, whereas in Buddhism, it is rather a well-known fact that every monk has to devote full time for realizing Nirvana. Yet, it is difficult to establish the unity between Samsara and Nirvana unless it is categorically stated that Samsara and Nirvana both are embodied in human beings. Once this is accepted, human beings become the centre of the universe through which an attempt has been made to present a unifying vision of Samsara and Nirvana.
In this stud y the unity between Samsara and Nirvana has been established through human beings mainly because both are meant for them. Once human beings are placed at the centre of the universe, it has the following implications:
1. The role of God turns out to be nothing. This fact is not acceptable to most of the schools of Indian philosophy because they have very strong faith in Brahman (God) as creator of the universe. In that, this study raises the fundamental question: why Brahman being the creator, sustainer and dissolver of the universe has taken such a long time of more than three billion years after the solar system to provide the conditions for the evolution of human life. Since the first cause of universe is the most difficult question, it is suggested that it would be quite appropriate to see the creator in the creation itself as mentioned in Chandogya Upanisad.
2. The action (karma) of human beings cannot be treated as ignorance, once it is accepted that they are at centre stage of the universe. It ought to be recognized that human beings have freedom only to perform their karma, knowing fully well that its results are not in their hands because the effects of karma depend upon many factors. In such a situation if karma is treated as ignorance as has been the case in Buddhism as well as in Vedanta, it means in a way negating the human beings.
It may be noted that there is a contradictory statement about karma in Vedanta. Sankaracarya in Brahmasutra Bhasya said that karma (action) is ignorance. The same Sankaracarya has stated in Bhagavadgita that every action (karma) culminates in knowledge. Therefore, karma has not been treated as ignorance in this study, because it plays an important role in constituting the empirical world (Samsara).
I have no hesitation in stating categorically that we human beings have nothing else except the freedom of action (karma). In fact, karma itself is freedom. This has been explained quite convincingly by the famous existential philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre who rejected the Nobel Prize for literature in 1965.
The inferences in this study have, however, been drawn on the basis of observations not only from different systems of Indian philosophy but also from Western philosophers. Wherever possible scientific facts are also taken into account for drawing inferences. Further, this study in a way is an offshoot of my earlier book, Science of Consciousness: A Synthesis of vedanta and Buddhism. I have drawn about 25 per cent of material as such from this book in completing the present study. This is basically a research-based study, it does not claim any originality. There is no denying the fact that only topmost philosophers make original contributions. Whereas a man like me who has no formal education in philosophy, the only option is to conduct a research-based study.
One way of making original idea which is prevalent nowadays is to suppress the source from where the observation has been taken into consideration for drawing an inference. I do not have any faith in such an approach for the obvious reason that this would ultimately lead to the negation of research activities, which have now become the most crucial for further development not only in philosophy but also in all the disciplines related to knowledge and human development.
My gratitude is beyond words to Shri M.L. Pandit for writing a foreword, a generous testimonial to my first book Science of Consciousness: A Synthesis of Vedanta and Buddhism. He also encouraged me to write philosophy books. His outstanding books on Buddhism helped me in synthesizing the various conflicting views on important aspects of Indian philosophy of Vedanta and Buddhism. In fact, he has suggested the usage of consistent and explicit diacritics.
I am indebted to Shri S.N. Upadhyay, Dr V.S. Vyas, Dr S.M. Pathak, Dr S.K. Mishra, Dr Bibek Debroy, Dr G.R. Saini, Shri S.K. Sharma and Shri P.R. Sharma for their appreciation of my earlier book, Science of Consciousness. This has encouraged me to complete the present study. I am also grateful to Shri M.K. Deepak for suggestions in improving the draft. Further, I thankfully acknowledge the help rendered by my son Yash Prakash Mishra in clarifying some issues discussed in the book and my grandson Ayush Mishra for thoroughly checking the manuscript.
I express my gratitude to the authors from whose books the passages have been quoted in different chapters of this book.
I am, indeed, grateful to Messers D.K. Printworld, New Delhi, for publishing this book.
IN self-consciousness both human being and its becoming are involved. When the former purifies its consciousness (pure consciousness), it leads to Niroiina. In the latter (becoming), self- consciousness manifests through mind, which creates duality, constituting Samsara. When mind reaches the subconscious level, it opens the gate to Nirvana. We have, therefore, placed human being at the centre stage, through which, an attempt has been made to present a unifying vision of Samsara and Nirvana.
Specifically, the study attempts:
1. To examine time, space and causality (cause and effect) and karma and samskaras (impressions) because these concepts constitute the empirical world (Samsara),
2. To explain Samsara and Nirvana by placing human beings at the centre stage. In that, life, consciousness, problem of knowledge and perception are discussed.
3. To discuss Nirvana of Buddhism and Moksa (liberation) of Vedanta, being escape route from Sarnsaric sufferings.
It is possible to provide a unifying vision of Samsara and Nirvana because both have representation in human beings. In this unifying approach, human beings occupy the centre stage, which rather reverses the position of human beings vis-a-vis God. This is evident from the following observation:
Each jiva would appear to be the creator of his world through and out of the nescience abiding in him; the world is sustained by his nescience, and is destroyed with its destruction. The true creator, sustainer and destroyer would thus appear to the jiva himself. If the world be considered to be created by a God, that could be no more than an illusion, on a par with the world-illusion itself. The Creator and His Creatorship would both be figments of the creature's imagination. The jiva is enthroned on high and God apparently reduced to nothing. But such a conclusion can hardly be consistent with the true trend of Advaita.
There is no denying the fact tha t every human being by and large creates his own empirical world and makes determined efforts to achieve the set goal. Having achieved the goal he himself dissolves the created world. This is mainly due to the fact that, "since the Jiva (individual centre) produces his own Samskara (tendencies), there is, it is true, a sense in which we each make our own world".
The self of human beings is known as self-consciousness which has two aspects: immanent and transcendent. The former is involved in Samsara and it becomes limited by the body and mind problem. Whereas at the transcendent level, consciousness becomes the Ultimate Reality. Atman (self) in Indian philosophy is of the nature of transcendental awareness, which is pure and content-less. When pure consciousness descends in human beings, it becomes jivatman (self-consciousness), which in itself cannot know the external objects. If jivatman can know the objects directly, then it would become almost similar to mind. In that case, jivatman (self) would be changeable like mind. This is not acceptable to Vedanta mainly because the mind happens to be an instrument through which self-consciousness manifests. Now the question is: "What is the role of knowledge in such a situation?"
Jivatman itself cannot have knowledge; mind being an object of consciousness, it is treated as jada (unconscious), so it also cannot by itself have knowledge. When jivatman and mind come together in association, "knowledge arises as an emergent phenomenon". This view of knowledge is acceptable to both Samkhya and Vedanta schools of Indian philosophy. However, there are different kinds of knowledge, which may be broadly grouped into two: cognitive knowledge and verbal knowledge. In this study, mainly the cognitive approach is followed. It is confined mainly to perception, which establishes the relationship between self-consciousness and Samsara (empirical world). In this interrelationship, the latter (the empirical world) has no independent existence as it is known mainly due to self- consciousness.
Whatever has been examined in this study, it has only relative existence. These things would collapse in the absolute reality which is Nirvana in present context. This is mainly due to the fact that the absolute reality happens to be pure consciousness, which is referred to by different names such as integrated consciousness, concentricity of consciousness. That apart, the fact remains that pure consciousness or integrated consciousness turns out to be the smallest point known as Mahabindu from which light emerges like sun. At this point the manifest things disappear into the unmanifest things or vice versa, the unmanifest emerges into manifest. This is the reason for saying that in the absolute reality, time and space, causality and karma get collapsed. In other words, these things have no existence in the absolute reality. The most important property of a point of the absolute reality is mentioned below:
The point is the meeting ground or door leading from the world of the unreal to the world of the Real, or from the world of the mind to the world of pure consciousness. On the one side of the point is the world of Reality or pure consciousness, on the other side the multidimensional worlds of the mind, created by the mind and existing within the mind. He whose consciousness is established in the point is therefore in contact with both the worlds. He is standing, as it were, at the threshold of existence. When he looks within, beyond the point, he is aware of the Reality which lies at the basis of the manifested worlds of the mind. When he looks outside he is conscious of all the worlds created by the mind. The vision which can be obtained from this Point or Centre of manifestation is therefore unique.
Now coming to the manifested world (Samsara) which is treated in Indian Philosophy as the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. It is going round and round, embodies the Indian notion about the problem of life. In fact, "we are caught up, as it were, in a meaningless routine of birth and rebirth which degenerates into pain and boredom and from which we seek release. We seek release because although we are essentially free individuals, we are, by accident, in a stage of bondage”. More or less similar things are stated in Buddhism. A Samsara (empirical or manifested world) is full of suffering. But the route of escape from Samsara is possible mainly through realization of Nirvana, which is indeed difficult to realize in one life. That apart, the fact remains that "if Samsara is pain, Nirvana must be painless. Samsara and Nirvana negate and affirm each other through their mutual opposition". In view of the importance of Nirvana as escape route from the suffering of Samsara, an attempt is made to examine Nirvana also in this study.
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