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This site contains excerpts from the books of Max Muller.

Unreality of the Phenomenal Universe

A spiritual aspirant seeks knowledge of the Eternal from a wise hermit. The hermit says that such knowledge is difficult to teach. The seeker doesn't quit. This is what he says to the hermit about his reasons for knowing the Eternal :

"What is the use of the enjoyment of pleasures in this offensive, unsubstantial body - a mere mass of bones, skin, sinews, marrow, flesh, seed, blood, mucus, tears, phlegm, odor, water, bile and slime? What is the need of enjoyments of pleasures in this body which is assailed by lust, hatred, greed, delusion, fear, anguish, jealousy, separation from what we love, union with what we do not love, hunger, thirst, old age, death, illness, grief and other evils? We see that all is perishable, like the insects, like herbs and trees, growing and decaying. Mighty rulers of empires have, before the eyes of their whole family, surrendered the greatest happiness and passed on from this world to the next.

Great oceans have dried up, mountains have fallen, even the North star moves, the earth has been submerged and the very gods have fled from their places. In such a world as this, what is the use of enjoyment of pleasures, if he who has fed on them has to return again and again!"-(You see here the fear of another life; the fear, not of death but of rebirth, which runs through the whole of Indian philosophy.) " Deign therefore," he says, " to take me out. In this world I am like a frog in a dry well. O saint, thou art the way, thou art the way."


Karma, or deed is the continuous working of every thought, word and action through all ages. All works, good or bad, must bear and certainly bear fruit. The Karmic Law, also known as the law of causation or causality, takes many forms. In Indo-Aryan philosophy, birth and death aren't the beginning and end, but mere episodes in the continuous existence of the soul. The individual souls, from all eternity, and not from the day of their birth, are clothed in their Upadhis (conditions) according to their merits and demerits they have acquired by their former, though long forgotten acts. The Karmic Law says that everybody is born different. A man who suffers seems to be paying off a debt or laying up a capital for another life. A man who enjoys health and wealth is made to feel that he is spending more than he has earned, and he has to make up his debt by new efforts. It can not be a Divine caprice that one man is born deaf, dumb, or blind, and another strong and healthy. It can be the results of their former acts only, whether in this life, the doer of them is aware of them or not.

We can understand why pain, not only as actual suffering, but as an apparent anomaly or imperfection in the universe, should have opened man's eyes to the fact that there was something wrong or limited in his nature, and in the world in which he found himself. It is quite intelligible that this consciousness of his limitation should have acted as the first desire to know the cause of it. This would naturally lead to a religious or a philosophical solution, and it did so in India. A religion must have existed already before the question of suffering could have been mooted. Religion seems to have increased the difficulty of the questioner than solve it. The gods or god, even in their imperfect conception, were generally supposed to be good and just. How could they be the creators of human suffering, particularly of that suffering, bodily or mental, for which the individual was clearly not responsible, such as being, ' born blind, or deaf, or dumb, or mad '. This seems to have been keenly felt by the ancient Indian philosophers, who shrink from charging any divine power with injustice or cruelty towards men.

 Here was when philosophy was called in, or first brought to life, and the answer it gave as to the origin of suffering or, in a wider sense, the origin of evil, was all that seemed wrong in the world must have been the effect of causes, of deeds done, if not in this life, then in a former life. No deed (Karma) good or bad, small or great, could ever be without its effect; its reward or punishment. This was the fundamental principle of their ethics. This sufficed to convince men that the world was exactly as it ought to be, and could not have been otherwise, because man himself had made it what it was, whether as an individual or as a member of a class. There arose a new question which could not be suppressed, namely, whether it was beyond the power of man ever to put an end to the unbroken and unavoidable sequence of the effects of the deeds of himself and of his fellow creatures; whether, in fact, the cycle of life and death, or what was called Sansara, would go on for ever. The bold answer was, yes, the Sansara can be stopped, and man's  former acts can be shaken off and annihilated, but by one means only, by means of the knowledge ( Vidya ) of the Eternal ( Brahman ) or awareness of the Eternal or as it is called in Sanskrit,  Jnana.

The Philosophical Basis of the Vedic Gods

Let us begin with the simplest beginnings. What can be simpler than the conviction that the regularly recurring events of nature require certain agents ? Animated by this conviction the Vedic poets spoke not only of rain ( Indu ), but of a rainer ( Indra ), not only of fire and light, but of a lighter and burner, an agent of light and fire. One of these agents they called Savitar, the enlivener, as distinguished yet inseparable from Surya, the Sun. The process on which all gods depend for their very existence, or the activity attributed to the great natural phenomena, which more or less obscured in all other religions, takes place in the Rig-Veda as it were in the full light of the day. The gods of the Vedic, and indirectly of all Aryan people, were the agents postulated behind the great phenomena of nature. This was the beginning of philosophy, the first application of the law of causality. We know by what very simple process the Vedic Aryans satisfied their earliest craving for causes, how they created their gods, and divided the whole drama of nature into three acts and the actors into three classes, those of the sky, those of mid-air, and those of the earth. These gods were the first attempt at explaining the wonders of nature. There was no settled system in this pantheon. The same phenomena was often represented by different agents, and different phenomena by the same agents. The gods, however, had evidently been known before they were distributed into three classes, as gods of the sky, of the earth, and of the clouds.

All these tendencies worked together in one direction, and made some of the Vedic poets see that the idea of God, if once clearly conceived, included the ideas of one Supreme Being, or a Primal Being, without an equal, or one without a second ( Ekam Advitiyam ). Thus, they arrived at the conviction that above the great multitude of gods, there must be one Supreme Being, and, after a time, they declared that there was behind all the gods that One ( Tad Ekam ) of which the gods were but various names.

In India, we see another powerful movement which postulated from the first or beginning a Primal Being, most eminent or significant than mere gods or agents of nature. In the eyes of thoughtful men every one of the gods, called by a personal or proper name was limited, and therefore not fit to fill the place which was to be filled by an unlimited and absolute power, as the primary cause of all created things. No name that expressed ideas connected with the male or female sex was considered as fit for such a being, and thus we see that as early as the Vedic hymns it was spoken as Tad Ekam, that One, without name and/or form, or unborn, or without manifestation, afterwards addressed by such murky names as Brahman or Atman. The same postulated Being is most fully described in the famous creation hymn or Nasadiya hymn.

Nasadiya Hymn

1. There was then neither what is nor what is not, there was no sky, nor the heaven which is beyond. What covered ? Where was it, and in whose shelter ? Was the water the deep abyss ( in which it lay ) ?

2. There was no death, hence was there nothing immortal. There was no distinction between night and day. That One breathed by itself without breath, other than it there was nothing.

3. Darkness there was, in the beginning all this was a sea without light ; the germ that lay covered by the husk, that One was born by the power of heat ( Tapas ).

4. Love overcame it in the beginning, which was the seed springing from the mind ; poets having searched in their hearts found by wisdom the bond of what is in what is not.

5. Their ray which was stretched across, was it below or was it above ? There were seed-bearers, there were powers, self-power below, and will above.

6. Who then knows, who has declared it here, from whence was born this creation ? The gods came later then this creation, Who then knows whence it arose ?

7. He from whom this creation arose, or the first cause of this creation, whether he made it or did not make it, the Highest Seer in the highest heaven or he who looks down on it ( creation ) in the highest heaven or he who watches in the highest heaven or whose eye controls this world in the highest heaven, he forsooth knows ; or does even he not know ?

Rig Veda

We see then, that nothing can be created out of nothing. The poet himself is not quite clear in his own mind, and he is constantly oscillating between a personal and an impersonal cause from whom creation arose. But the first step from a sexual to a sexless god, from a mythological to a metaphysical being, had evidently been made at that early time, and with it the decisive step from mythology to philosophy had been taken. It is strange to come across these thoughts in the Rig Veda which contains mostly hymns consisting of childish petitions addressed to the  numerous gods of nature. It must have required considerable boldness, when surrounded by millions who never got tired of celebrating the mighty deeds achieved by various agents of nature.





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