"There are three steps, therefore, in our knowledge of things; the first is that each thing is individual and separate from every other; and the next step is to find that there is a relation and correlation between all things; and the third is that there is only one thing which we see as many. The first idea of God with the ignorant is that this God is somewhere outside the universe, that is to say, the conception of God is extremely human; He does just what a man does, only on a bigger and higher scale. And we have seen how that idea of God is proved on a few words to be unreasonable and insufficient. And the next idea is the idea of a power we see manifested everywhere. This is the real Personal God we get in the Chandi, but mark me, not a God that you can make a reservoir of all good qualities only. You cannot have two Gods, God and Satan; you must have only one and take the logical consequences. This is the second stage. And the third is that God is neither outside nature nor inside nature, but God and nature and soul and universe are all convertible terms."
The thinkers of ancient India understood something very basic about life — they realized that all life, death, and everything that is human or everything that exists from the human point of view or appears as real, is based on duality. They used words such as bheda buddhi or dvaita buddhi, that is, intelligence or thinking based on the concept of difference. Our mind is always measuring and comparing. As long as we depend on the sense organs there is no other way. Our sense organs are measurers, like a measuring tape. Say there is a metre-long tape. The smaller divisions stand for multiplicity. This multiplicity is what the sense organs show. Even to rise to duality, from the common level of multiplicity, takes some thinking. Then to rise to another level, where there is unity behind a seeming duality, involves further evolution; and finally to rise to the level of Advaita, where there is no difference, there is only one-ness, is something fantastic. Our ancient psychologists concluded that it is very tough to leave the sense levels behind, to leave the level of reason behind, and to rise to a level of experience where we can see the universe and ourselves as the expression of just One basic reality.
We, as human beings, make mental maps, depending on sense experience, to help guide us through life. But these are not always based on rational thinking. There are species that seem to function instinctively and apparently have some kind of mental maps. As examples, take the acute sense of smell of dogs and wolves; the unique sense of sight of eagles, flies and many birds; various animal species seem to have very powerful and acute senses of smell, sight, hearing, and taste. Strangely enough, as human beings, our senses do not seem to function with the same acuteness with which they work in other species. Why would we lose touch with that unique sense level that seems to function so well for other species? Have we somehow replaced that level with something else?
Yes we have. We have developed a nervous system, which is not only capable of functioning at the sense level but also makes it possible for the mind to find rational links between our sense experiences. Our awareness has expanded. Our arena of awareness has widened; we seem capable of going beyond the physical and sensual levels, to the rational level; so we need a different kind of mapping. Here I refer to the attitudes to life. Our attitude works through a mental map. It gives direction to our way of thinking and behavior.
In India, religious thought thus evolved with three points of view or three steps as Swami Vivekananda calls them. These are our mental maps. The dualists or the followers of the Dvaita School believe in a personal, extra-cosmic God. This is a point of view, which is entirely unexamined. Followers of the next level, the qualified non-dualists, have a more logical point of view, Vishishta Advaita, which means unity in seeming duality. This gives us the understanding that God is immanent in the universe; that He or She is both the efficient and material cause of this Universe.” The final and most logical step is Advaita or Advaitic thought, the path of perfect monism, where the Atman is identified with Brahman, and “making one Soul, a unit of all these various manifestations in the universe.” Advaita means non- dual, that there is only one. These are different levels of understanding and these attitudes are inherent to the basic understanding of human beings.
Brahma Sutras (77)
Yoga Vasistha (81)
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