International Forum for NeoVedantins
Vedanta of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda

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Hypothetical Musings
Science, Vedanta, and Samkhya
To begin with, two concepts need be mentioned:

1) That this whole universe of multifarious thoughts, objects and forms can be reduced to the basic building blocks, the subatomic particles, and 2) That these subatomic particles must have an infinite and immaterial substratum to enact their play.

It can be said that in the states of altered consciousness brought about by various spiritual practices including yoga, worship, and meditation (and occasionally by themselves!) the mind develops the capacity and power to see or experience the basic building blocks of the universe - the subatomic particles - without external aid of sophisticated gadgetry.

ASCs (Altered States of Consciousness) can be divided into four states i) visions, ii) bhava, iii) samadhi with form (savikalpa samadhi), and iv) samadhi without form (nirvikalpa samadhi). Out of these altered states, in lower states up to 'samadhi with form' (savikalpa samadhi) the spiritual aspirant (sadhaka) sees or experiences division of all particles into two: one grouped as the subject or the ego, and the other as the object of mediation. This object of mediation can be with form as his chosen deity or other divine form; or can be effulgent space, shapes, or waves, etc.

The aspirant or sadhaka, as if, sees the universe divided into these two realities only: 1) his ego, and 2) form of deity or object of meditation. It is never the case that he is aware of the world (his surroundings, other persons and objects, etc.) and the divine state simultaneously. Thus, the state of consciousness in savikalpa samadhi is like the spread of one unbroken piece of cloth divided into two by tying a knot in the middle, one part becoming the ego and the other the divine form.

Mind-stuff is the subtlest form of organized subatomic particles and hence what we see in savikalpa state is the mind-stuff that takes universal dimension by merging all of its adjuncts of name and form into subatomic particles, but retaining the division of subject and object.

In case of nirvikalpa samadhi, one can say that the knot does not exist, and hence all is one smooth piece of infinite spread! This universe of multifarious names and forms is dissolved into one basic Principle beyond the subatomic particles - the Substratum. As the mind and the thoughts are the energy forms of subatomic particles, they also get dissolved in this 'one uniform principle' - and that is the state of nirvikalpa samadhi! As there is no duality, the subject object differentiation vanishes, and hence no one is there to describe the experience.

This substratum may be likened to the screen onto which the pictures are projected in all their forms and shapes. By necessity such a screen has to be an infinite and unchanging vastness. On the basis of these two concepts viz. a) one infinite, immaterial, and unchanging Existence, and 2) subatomic particles equally infinite, but changing and capable of unifying into various forms and shapes, we can build theories of explanations for Advaita, qualified Advaita, and Samkhya philosophies.

Advaita Vedanta or Absolute Monism

Advaita system of thought recognizes 'substratum' as the only existence, and the existence of subatomic particles is denied! For these proponents of Absolute Monism the immaterial, infinite and all pervading Consciousness is the only Reality. Then the question naturally comes to our mind: 'how to explain this universe of multifarious objects that we perceive with our senses?' To this, the monist posits the theory of illusive change or appearance in the Absolute Existence - 'vivartavada'. This apparent mistake is called Ignorance or Maya.

The goal of Advaita is to go beyond the Ignorance that has superimposed itself as subatomic particles of name and forms (including the idea of Personal God) over the substratum. This primordial ignorance is the hurdle, which does not allow us to experience our true nature that is Infinite, Formless, and Immaterial Consciousness without any attribute. When we realize our true nature, the illusive layer of subatomic particles vanishes and we see that this world of name and forms in fact did not ever exist. When we identify with the screen, pictures have no reality for us anymore. Let it rain heavily in the picture or let there be fire, the screen will never get wet nor would it ever get burnt! When we identify with the rope, the snake vanishes, which in fact was never there in the rope!

Qualified Advaita

Vishishtadvaita or qualified monism maintains that both the substratum and the subatomic particles as the modifications of that substratum are real. The world of names and forms coming out of substratum as a result of modification or change in it - 'parinamavada' - is not an illusion, but they equally exist independently with the substratum as their basis. The infinite consciousness gets converted into subatomic particles that appear as this universe in our ordinary consciousness, or as the duality of Ego and Divine Form in the concentrated mind of the sadhaka.

The effect can't be different from the cause. The milk and the curd have independent existences, but the curd has the milk as its basis! So is the relation between the substratum and the subatomic particles. Like the spider the substratum projects the whole universe from within itself and therefore can withdraw it in itself. As from the blazing fire fly millions of sparks of the same nature; even so from this infinite substratum individual souls come into existence. Instead of Maya or Ignorance, qualified monist posits creative Power or Shakti of the substratum.


Samkhya philosophy accepts both the substratum and the world of subatomic particles as two independent existences. The former it labels as sentient Purusha and the latter as insentient Prakriti. Prakriti as Primordial Energy is composed of three sets of subatomic particles, Gunas - sattva, rajas, and tamas. Innumerable permutations and combinations, and predominance of one or more gunas, create characteristic universe of qualities, names, and forms. The first modification in Prakriti of subatomic particles is Prajna or Mahat. Subsequently, these energy particles are joined by other particles leading to Akasha and Prana (a la particles and waves of modern physics).

In the individual Jiva all these states appear as mind stuff or antahkarana composed of a) manas or mind, 2) chitta or subconscious, 3) buddhi or intellect, and 4) aham or ego. All the changes occur in these organized particles with variable preponderance of one or more gunas giving characteristic nature to the mind stuff, jiva, and the objects of the universe.

The conscious Purusha are infinite and immaterial but separate entities. Purusha is responsible for lending consciousness to Prakriti and thereby individual beings gain experiences of the world. The Purusha is eternal witness to the play and experiences of the individual being, to the modifications and changes occurring in Prakriti. He is like the reader who reads the whole book turning one page after the other, and at the end is satisfied and becomes free. The turning of the pages is like the experiences of one birth after the other. In the whole process it was the Prakriti where the changes occurred, Purusha remaining totally unaffected and uninvolved.
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