[Advaita-l] Essence of Mundaka Upanishad - Section 1- Part 2

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Thu Sep 10 01:16:48 CDT 2015

Essence of Mundaka Upanishad – Continued 
Section I-Part 2.

Mundaka thus defines Brahman in the form of saguna Brahman, that is isIswara, as the cause for creation. It says He himself became many, vibhum. When we say gold became many ornaments, it implies that gold is the material cause for all the ornaments – from gold they came, by gold they are sustained and into gold they merge. Ornaments are nothing but gold itself in different names and forms; thus material cause manifesting as many different products with names and forms. In the case of gold ornaments, the intelligent cause, the Gold-Smith is different from the material cause, gold. Thank God, gold-smith does not become ornaments. Gold-Smith is only kartaa (intelligent cause) not kaaraNam (material cause). Most of religions define God only as creator or intelligent cause. They do not question– where did He get the material to create? 

Science says Matter can neither be created nor destroyed; expressed as conservation of matter. Then, where did it come from, is not questioned, and even it is asked it cannot be answered, other than starting with big-bang, which is a mathematical singularity; a technical jargon for saying that we do not know.  Vedanta says Brahman expressed as pure existence or consciousness can neither be created nor destroyed. Krishna expresses this as absolute law of conservation – naasato vidyate bhaavo naabhaavo vidyate sataH. Recognizing this absolute law, Mundaka Up. says that He himself appears to be many. Thus Brahman being infinite, one without a second, Vedanta defines Brahman as one cause for all – the intelligent, the material and the instrumental cause for the apparent universe. In the Vishusahasranaamavali, it says Vishnu as karaNam, kaaraNam, kartaa, as He is the instrumental, material and intelligent cause for the world. 

Gold becoming ornaments example is provided in the Chandogya Upanishad. It says the transformation of gold into ornaments is peculiar transformation – it is transformation-less transformation – vaachaarambhanam vikaaro naamadheyam – that is, it is only namkevaste or name-sake transformation. Thus, gold still remains as gold, and yet many ornaments are born. In Vedanta, it is called vivarta transformation rather than pariNAma transformation. In science, we are familiar with reversible transformation and irreversible transformations. Here gold is one cause but the effects or products are many. Gold pervades all the (gold) ornaments, while remaining as gold. PariNaama involves destructive transformation like milk becoming curds or yogurt. Gold becoming ring, bangle, etc., is vivarta, while ring changing into bangle etc is pariNaama. From the point of Brahman, Vedanta defines creation as vivarta and from the point of continuous changes in the world of
 objects, it is pariNama. Hence the name jagat – jaayate gacchate iti – that which continuously undergoes changes. These aspects are further brought out in the next few mantras of the Upanishad. Thus we have one cause – kaaraNam and many products, kaaryam, that include both subtle and gross products. 

In essence, kaaraNam or cause for creation is a) alone (ekam) b) being infinite it is formless (niraakaaram) c) eternal (nityam) and d) absolutely real, (satyasya satyam). In contrast, the products of creation or kaaryam are a) infinitely many (anekam), b) each with distinct form (aakaaram), c) hence each one is knowable and therefore namable, d) continuously changing (anityam) and e) therefore is mithyaa (only transactionally real but not absolutely real). Mithyaa means the creation with infinitely many objects appears to be there, but not really there from the absolutely point. Rings, bangles, bracelets are there, but not really there. What is there is only gold; and the weight and value of each ornament depends on the amount of gold it has. All products are only names for forms of gold.  Is ring real or not? – Questions one philosopher. Yes, it is real but not really real, says Vedantin. It is real enough to use it and therefore its utility,
 transactability, differentiability from other ornaments based on its attributes, and experiencability, etc., are not the criteria for its absolute reality, say Goudapaada. Absolute reality is that which cannot undergo any change, and thus remains the same in spite of all changes. In the case of relative example of gold becoming ornaments, gold remains changeless when ring changes into bangle, and bangle into bracelet. At absolute scale, Brahman remains as Brahman without undergoing any change since being infinite it cannot undergo a change. Changes can only occur for finite objects. Hence in all changes, Brahman remains as a changeless substratum for all things and beings in the world. 

>From thermodynamics, any change of state requires a driving force. Conversely the change of state indicates the presence of the driving force which is imperceptible. Brahman appearing as many requires apparent force causing the apparent change of state. Vedanta recognizes that the presence of force is required to cause this change of state and it is called maayaa. Here appearances do not mean that they are illusions. Vedanta says it is like appearances of the objects in the dream state.  For a dreamer, the dream is not a dream as long as he is in the dream world. If (big if) he develops a discriminative faculty in the dream, then he may be able to cognitively understand that the dream world of objects although appear to be real are not really real; what is real is the waking state that transcends the dream world of objects. 

The same applies to the waking state too. The waking state is real as long as one has not understood the absolute reality that pervades the plurality. If (big if) one develops the discriminative faculty then one can cognitively recognize the Brahman that pervades everything that is perceived and transacted. Such a person Mundaka Upanishad calls him as dheeraaH (paripasyanti dheeraaH), really wise person. 

The Upanishad provides three examples to illustrate the creation of one becoming many. The following sloka from this section is again extensively quoted by Vedantins. 

yathorNanaabhiH sRijate gRihNate ca
yathaa pRithivyaam OshadhayaH sambhavanti|
thathaa sataH puruShaat keshalomaani
thathaa aksharaat sambhavateeha viShvam|| I-1-7

Just as spider creates and withdraws (its web), just as trees are born from the earth, just as hairs on the head and the body (grow) from a living person, in the same manner, the universe is born here out of Brahman (aksharaat). 

The first example – just as spider puts for the its web and also withdraws – provides that a) the intelligent cause (nimitta kaaraNa) and the material cause (upaadaana kaaraNa) are one and the same. Creation and withdrawal both occur in Brahman and by Brahman – at Iswara level the withdrawal is called pralaya and mahaa pralaya. Creation, sustenance and annihilation are beginning-less cyclic process. Since Brahman, being infinite, cannot be perceived, it can only be recognized by the presence and absence of creation. Thus Brahman is defined as sRiShTi, sthiti and laya kaaNam – one who creates, sustains and dissolves the creation. In Tai. Up. Brahman is defined as – yatova imaani bhuutani jaayante, yena jaatani jiivanti, yat prayam tyabhisham vishanti – from which the universe came, by which it is sustained and into which it goes back – is Brahman. In Brahma suutras, Brahman is defined as – janmaadyasya yataH – After saying inquire into
 Brahman, it defines Brahman as the cause for creation, etc. Thus one has to recognize from the effect the cause, since in the previous sloka Mundaka already defined that Brahman has become many. Without the mind I cannot perceive the many. Thus with the mind, while perceiving the many, I have to recognize the one that pervades the many, which is the real cause for the many. Hence the teacher is giving exhaustive details of the creation to teach – knowing which you can know everything.  

The second example – from the earth many trees or vegetation is born. There are varieties and varieties of trees in the world. Some give delicious fruits while some bitter ones. Some are healthy and some are poisonous fruits. Some provide beautiful flowers that are enchanting and enhancing the beauty of creation. Trees gives rise to more trees and the endless cycle goes on unless man destroys the ecology by polluting the earth. Upanishad gives this example to illustrate how one can become many, each differing from the other. Sweet and bitter fruits also indicate the punya and paapam or merits and demerits which form the cause of particular jiivas. This example thus indicates that one cause but many effects or eka kaaraNam and aneka kaaryam. 

The third example – from a living being nails and hair. This example is provided by the Upanishad that a living being can produce the non-living thigs, as we can cut our nails and hair. Brahman which is of the nature of pure consciousness (prajnaanam brahma) some philosophers have questioned that how can pure consciousness can become inert entities. Hence they propose, Brahman the creator is different for prakRiti the matter, which is inert. Here by giving this example Upanishad address that it is possible – just as nails and hair is produced from the living being. In the next sloka the stages of creation is described. 

To be continued. 

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