Brahmanism or Hinduism, as in its later development the former has been called, is not merely a religion. It is a Socio-Economic System, the foundation of which is the Law of Caste and Stages of life. That System has its culture of which several forms of Religion, resting on a certain common basis, are but a part. Dealing, however, with Brahmanism in its religious aspect, we may say that it, together with Jainism and Buddhism, are the three chief religions of India, as opposed to those of the Semitic origin. All three religious systems share in common certain fundamental concepts which are denoted by the Sanskrit terms Karma, Samsara and Moksha. These concepts constitute a common denominator of Indian belief as next stated.
The Universe is in constant activity. Nothing which is Psycho-physical is at rest. Karma is Action. The Psychophysical as such is determined by Karma or action, and, therefore, man's present condition is determined by past Karma, either his own, or that of collectivities of men of which he is a member, or with which he is in relation, as also by the action of natural causes. In the same way, present Karma determines the future Karma. The doctrine of Karma is thus the affirmance of the Law of causality operating not only in this but in an infinity of Universes. As you sow so shall you reap. The present Universe is not the first and last only. It is true that this particular Universe has a beginning and an end called dissolution, for nothing composite is eternal; but it is only one of a series which has neither beginning nor end. There has been, is now, and ever will be an Universe.
Mental action as desire for worldly enjoyment, even though such enjoyment be lawful, keeps man in the Worlds of repeated Birth and Death, or (to use the English term) of Reincarnation. These worlds the Greeks called the Cycle of Becoming, and Hindus the Samsara, a term which literally means the unending 'moving on' or wandering, that is, being born and dying repeatedly. These worlds comprise not only Earth but Heaven and Hell, in which are reaped the fruits of man's actions on Earth. Heaven and Hell, are states of enjoyment and suffering which exist here on earth as well as in the after-death state as the result of man's good and bad actions returning. When man dies there is no resurrection of the gross body. That is resolved into its subtle elements, and the specific relation between man and a particular gross body comes to an end. But there is always some body until bodiless liberation is achieved. On death man in his subtle body enjoys the state called Heaven or suffers in that called Hell. Neither is eternal, but each a part of the Cycle of the Becoming. When, then, man has had Heavenly enjoyment or suffered the pains of Hell in his subtle body, in the afterdeath state, according to his merits or demerits, he is 'reincarnated' in a gross body on Earth. He continues thus to be 'reincarnated' until he has found and desires the way out from the Cycle, that, is, until he ceases to desire world-existence. His desire is then not only for release from the sufferings and limited happiness of the Cycle but also (according to Vedanta) for the attainment of the Supreme Worth which is Supreme Bliss. There is, in short, a change of values and states. Man, as Nietzsche said, is something to be transcended. He cannot transcend his present state so long as he is attached to and desires to remain in it. This liberation from the Cycle is called Moksha or Mukti. For all Three Systems are at one in holding that, notwithstanding the Law of Causality, man is free to liberate himself from the Cycle. Causality governs the Psychophysical. Spirit as such is Freedom from the Psycho-physical. All three Systems assume a State of Liberation.
Whether the Universe as a play of force is the work of a Personal God is a question which philosophers have disputed both in the East and the West. One set of Buddhists professed belief in Deity as the Lord. Another affirmed Svabhava which means the proper vigor of Nature and what is called creation is truly spontaneity resulting from powers inherent in the Psycho-physical substance eternally.
Mayavada Vedanta reconciles to a great extent these two views by its doctrine that the personal Brahman or the Lord is the self-less absolute Brahman as conceived by the Psycho-physical experiencer, though the latter as the Absolute exclusive of all relations is not the former. In Shakta doctrine Brahman is the Lord or Creator and Director of the Universe but in its own nature is more than that.
Whether there is or is not a Personal God or Lord (as held by some systems), belief in such a Lord is no essential portion of the Common Doctrine Both Jainism and Buddhism are atheistic in the sense of being Lordless, though the latter system, in some forms of the later Northern schools, takes on a theistic color. In fact the notion of a Personal God is no essential part even of Brahmanism itself. For putting aside downright atheists in the Western sense, such as the Indian Carvakas and Lokayatas who denied God, Soul, immortality and future life, it is to be observed that some schools posit no such Lord whilst others do.
Two other concepts of first rate importance are Dharma and its correlative adharma. These two terms, in the Brahmanic sense, mean right activity and its opposite. They are therefore connected with Karma of which they are two species. The term Dharma comes from the root Dhri which means to uphold and maintain, for right activity does that. All three systems posit right and wrong activity and their results as well-being and suffering respectively. Dharma is thus the Law of Being as Form. Morality is part of man's nature. It may therefore be said that the substance of the Brahmanic concept is held by all. Dharma as a technical term is not here included amongst the common concepts, because, its sense varies in Buddhism in which it has its own peculiar meaning, whilst in Jainism the word means something wholly different from what it does in any other system.
Each of the common concepts must be interpreted in the case of any particular Indian faith in terms of its own peculiar tenets as regards these concepts and other matters such as the Reality and Dissolution of the Universe, Karma and Liberation. Thus, the latter is defined differently in Buddhism, Jainism and in the various Brahmanical schools. According to all systems, Liberation is described as the release from the bondage of Birth and Death, Limitation and Suffering. In some systems it is not positively said to be Joy, but is described as pure painless state of That which, in association with mind and matter, manifests as the empirical self. The Jainas regard it as a state of happiness. Some Buddhist descriptions are to the same effect, but in general Buddhism deprecates the discussion of so inconceivable a state. The Vedanta, on the other hand, positively describes it to be unalloyed and unending joy so that the nature of such Joy, whether as arising through the identification of the individual self with the Supreme Self or in association therewith, is variously affirmed by the non-dualist, qualified non-dualist and dualist Brahmanic Schools.
Brahmanism adds to these concepts of the Cycle (Samsara) right and wrong action (Dharma, Adharma), Causality (Karma), and Liberation (Moksha), that of the Atman.
All recognized Brahmanic systems affirm the Atman, though they differ on the question of its nature as also whether it is one or many. It is on this question whether there is or is not an Atman that the Brahmanic and Buddhistic Schools are in dispute. The point at issue as formulated from the standpoint of Vedanta may be shortly stated to be as follows:
Everyone admits the existence of a psycho-physical Flux either as the Individual or the Universe of his experience. Indeed, one of the Sanskrit names of the world is Jagat, which means "the moving thing". For the Universe is in constant activity. At every moment there is molar or molecular change. As an object of sensible perception the Universe is transitory, though some things endure longer or shorter than others. The question is, then, whether, besides psycho-physical transience, there is a spiritual enduring Essence of the Universe and of man, which manifests in the latter as the empirical self whereby it knows itself as permanent amidst all its changeful experiences. The Buddhists are reputed to have held that there is nothing but the flow. Man is only a continually changing psychophysical complex without a static center, a series of momentary mental and bodily states, necessarily generated one from the other in continuous transformation. In this Flux there is no principle of permanence on which "as on a thread" the worlds as beads are strung. Man may have the notion that he is a Self, but this does not, it is said, prove that there is an Atman as 'substratum' of such empirical self. To this Vedanta asks -- If so, who is it that is born and re-incarnates? It then answers its question by saying that the embodied self is born and dies, but that the Atman as such is not a self and is neither born nor does it die. Birth and Death are attributed to it when it appears in connection with psycho-physical bodies. It is the embodied Atman which is born and dies. The Atman as it is in its own bodiless nature is unborn and eternal.
Change and changelessness are terms of logical, that is dualistic thinking, and have no meaning except in relation to one another. All activity implies a static condition relative to which it is active. There can be no Universe except by the combination of the active and non-active. Without activity the Universe does not become. Without some principle of stability it cannot exist even for a moment as an object of the senses. The alogical Atman as such eternally endures. The Universe as the Psycho-physical is the product of the Atman as Power. As such product, it is transient. It presents, however, the appearance of relative or limited stability because of the immanence of the Atman. The Atman manifests as the relatively stable and empirical self, and That which manifests as such self is also the Brahman as essence of the Universe which is the object of such self. For Atman and Brahman are one and the same.
According to the second standard, Atman is the seat of consciousness. In the Vedanta, however, Atman is consciousness itself. Whatever may have been its origin, as to which nothing is of a certainty known (Mother Goddess Worship is as old as the World), Shakta doctrine is now a form of Vedanta which may be called Shakti-vada or Shakta Vedanta.
Kularnava Tantra speaks of that "Monism of which Shiva speaks" (Advaitantu Shivenoktam, 1, 108). See also Mahanirvana Tantra, Chapter II, 33-34, III, 33-35, 50-64; Prapañcasara Tantra, II, XIX, XXIX; Advaitabhavopanisad. For the identity of Jivatma and Paramatma in liberation (Mukti),which the Vedantasara defines to be Jivabrahmanohaikyam, see Mahanirvana Tantra, VIII, 264, 265; V, 105. See also Prapañcasara Tantra, II, where Hrim is identified with Kundali and Hamsah, and then with "So'ham". See also ib., Chapter XXIV: "That, which. is subtle I am" (Yah Suksmah So'ham); and Jñanarnava Tantra; XXI, 10.
As to Brahmasmi, see Kularnava Tantra, IX, 32, and ib., 41: So'ham bhavena pujayet. The Shakta disciple (Sadhaka) should not be a dualist (Maharudrayamala, I Khanda,, Chapter 15, II Khanda, Chapter 2). Similarly, the Gandharva Tantra Chapter 2, says that he must be devoid of dualism (Dvaitahina) (see Pranatoshini, 108) In fact, that particular from of worship which has earned the Kaula Tantras, their ill name is practical application of Advaitavada. Kaulacara is said to properly follow a full knowledge of Vedantik doctrine. As the Satcakranirupana (see The Serpent Power) says, the Jivatma or embodied spirit is the same, as the Paramatma or Supreme Spirit, and knowledge of this is the root of all wisdom (Mulavidya).
Shakta Vedanta teaches its doctrine from the practical standpoint which Mayavada calls Vyavaharika. It lays stress on the concept of Power. Atman is not mere Being only. Even in the dissolution of the world Being is Power, though Power or Shakti is then consciousness as such (Cidrupini). Atman manifests as the universe by and out of its power. Atman and Power are never separated, and so it is said, that" there is no Shiva without Shakti or Shakti without Shiva." Shiva without power is but a "corpse." Both Shiva and Shakti are of the same nature since they are both Being-Consciousness- Bliss. But Power manifests as the Becoming or Psycho-physical universe. Power is both Power to be, to self -conserve, and resist change, as well as Power to Become the universe and as material cause of the universe itself. Power to be is the static aspect of Shiva-Shakti. Power to become is the changeful aspect of Shiva-Shakti.
In Mayavada the world is said to be produced by the Power of the Lord -- or Ishvara. But whilst Ishvara is Brahman or Godhead as conceived by the Psycho-physical experiencer, Brahman on the other hand is not Ishvara. The former is beyond (in the sense of exclusive of ) all relations with the universe, and so, though wrongly, some people call Ishvara 'Unreal' and the universe created by Him an 'illusion'. According to Shaktivada, not only is Ishvara Brahman, but Brahman is Ishvara, and no question of the reality of either Ishvara or the world arises. We may, however, say at once that Godhead is real, God is real and the universe is real. The use of the term 'illusion' only tends to mislead even in Mayavada. According to the concise definition of Kamala-kanta, a celebrated Sadhaka, Maya is the 'Form of the Form-less' (Shunyasya akara iti Maya). The World is the Divine Mother in form. As She is in Herself, She is formless.
Discussion on the subject of the reality of the World is often vain and tedious, because the word 'Real' has several meanings, and that in which it is used is not stated. The terms "Absolute" and "Transcendental" should also be clearly defined. The distinction between Maya-vada and Shakti-vada hinges on these definitions.
Both "Absolute" and "Transcendental" mean "beyond relation." But the term beyond" may be used in two senses: (a) exceeding or wider than relation; (b) having no relation at all. The first does not deny or exclude relation but says that the Absolute, though involving all relations within itself, is not their sum total; is not exhausted by them; has Being transcending them. The latter denies every trace of relation to the Absolute; and says that the Absolute must have no intrinsic or extrinsic relation; that relation, therefore, has no place in the Being of the Absolute.
Shakti-vada adopts the first view, Maya-vada the second. From the first point of view, the Absolute is relationless Being as well as Manifestation as an infinity of relations. This is the true and complete Alogical-Whole. Inasmuch as the Absolute exceeds all relation and thought, we cannot say that it is the Cause; that it is the Root of Creation; and so forth; but in as much also as it does involve relation and thought, we can say that It is the First Cause; that there has been a real creation, and so forth.
The Maya-vada view by negating all relation from the reality of Brahman negates from its transcendent standpoint the reality of causation, creation and so forth.
"Beyond" may, therefore, mean (1) "exceeding" "fuller than ", "not exhausted by", or (2) excluding, negating, expunging.
In Shakti-vada, the Supreme Reality is fuller than any definition (limitation) which may be proposed. It is even beyond duality and non - duality. It is thus the Experience-Whole, the Alogical. The Maya-vada Pure Brahman is an aspect of It: but it is not the Whole (Purna).
The expression "wider than relation" may be thus illustrated: I am related in one way to my wife; in another way to my children; in yet another way to my brothers, friends and so on. I am not fully expressed by any one of these relations, nor even by their aggregate; for, as a member of an infinite Stress-system, I bear an infinity of relations. Pragmatically, most of these are ignored, and it is thought that I am expressed, by a certain set of relations which distinguish me from another person who has his own "set". But Brahman as Absolute can have no such "Set". It is expressed, but not fully expressed, even by the infinite set of relations which the cosmos is, because relations, finite or infinite, imply a logical, and therefore segmenting and defining thought; but Brahman as Absolute = Experience-Whole = the Alogical.
Since Brahman = Experience-Whole = Cit as Power to-Be-and-Become, it is nothing like the unknown and unknowable Being ("Thing-in itself") of Western Skeptics and Agnostics.
In all Indian Systems, the world is real, in the sense that it has objective existence for, and is not a projection of, the individual mind . In all such systems, Mind and Matter co-exist, and this is so even in that form of Ekajiva-vada which holds that Brahman by its own veiling and limiting Power makes one Primary Self of itself, and that all other selves are but reflexes of the Primary self, having as reflexes no existence apart from that of the Primary one. The world of matter is not a projection of an individual mind, but its reality is coordinate with that of the individual mind, both being derived from the Self-veiling and Self-limiting operation of Brahman appearing as the One Jiva or Primary Self. Brahman, in appearing as Primary Self, also appears as its (logical) Correlate or Pole -- the Not-Self; and this Not-Self is the Root-Matter on which the primary Self is reflected as multiple selves and their varied relations. Matter, in this fundamental sense is not therefore the product of the first or primary individual (Self); it is with Self the co-effect (logically speaking) of a common fundamental activity which is the veiling and limiting action of the Supreme Being.
The version commonly given of Ekajiva-vada -- namely that the one Primary Self is Me, and that You, He and the rest, and the world of objects are the projection of Me -- is loose and unpsychological. In the first place, Me cannot be there (logically conceiving) without its Correlate or Pole -- the Not-Me; so that, by the very act by which Me is evolved from Brahman, its Correlate is also evolved, and this Correlate is Root-Matter. In the second place, projection, reflection and so forth presuppose not only the projecting or reflecting Being (that which projects or reflects), but also something on which the projection or reflection is cast. Projection out of nothing and projection into nothing will give us only nothing.
Where then there is Matter there is Mind. Where there is no Matter there is no Mind. One is meaningless without the other. Each is every whit as real as the other. But there is no Indian system which is Realist in the sense, that it holds that Matter exists when there is no Mind to perceive it. Such a state is inconceivable. He who alleges it, himself supplies the perceiving Mind. In the First standard, Mind and the so-called "atoms" of Matter are separate, distinct and independent Reals. Matter does not derive from Mind nor the latter from the former. In the Second Standard, both Matter and Mind are equally real, but derive from a common source the Psycho-physical Potential which as such is neither. 'Psychic' here means Mind as distinct from Consciousness in the sense of Cit. This Psycho-physical Potential is a Real, independent of Consciousness which is the other Real. In the Third Standard as non-dual Vedanta the position is the same, except that the Psychophysical Potential is not an independent Real but is the power of the One Supreme Real as God. The world is then Real in the sense that it has true objective Reality for the individual Experiencers for the duration of their experience of it. No one denies this.
The next question is the problem of Monism. If ultimate Reality be One, how can it be the cause of and become the Universe. It is said, that Reality is of dual aspect, namely, as it is in relation to the World as Ishvara, the Lord or God, and as it is in itself beyond such relation which we may call Brahman. According to Mayavada, Ishvara is Brahman, for Ishvara is Brahman as seen through the Veil of Maya, that is, by the Psycho-physical Experiencer. But Brahman is not Ishvara because Brahman is the absolute alogical Real, that is, Reality not as conceived by Mind but as it is in itself beyond all relation. The notion of God as the Supreme Self is the highest concept imposed on the alogical which, as it is in itself, is not a Self either supreme or limited. The Absolute as such is not a cause. There is, transcendentally speaking, no creation, no Universe. The Absolute is and nothing happens. It is only pragmatically a Cause. There is from this aspect no nexus between Brahman and the World. In the logical order there is. What then is the Universe? It is in this connection that it is said by some to be an "illusion," which is an inapt term. For to whom is it an "illusion"? Not to the Psycho-physical Experiencer to whom it is admittedly real. Nor is it illusion for the Experience-Whole. It is only by the importation of the logical notion of a self to whom an object is real or unreal that we can speak of illusion. But there is in this state of Liberation no Self. More correctly we say that the World is Maya. But what is Maya in Mayavada? It is not real, for it is neither Brahman nor an independent Real. Nor is it unreal for in the logical order it is real. It is neither Brahman nor different from it as an independent reality. It is unexplainable. For this reason one of the scholastics of this System calls it the doctrine of the Inscrutable.
In the doctrine of Power (Shaktivada),Maya is the Divine Mother Power or Mahamaya. The two aspects of Reality as Brahman and Ishvara are accepted. The Lord is real, but that which we call 'Lord' is more than Lord, for the Real is not adequately defined in terms only of its relations to the Universe. In this sense it is alogical, that is, "beyond Mind and speech". As the one ultimate Reality is both Ishvara and Brahman, in one aspect it is the Cause, and in the other it is not. But it is one and the same Reality which is both as Shiva - Shakti. As these are real so are their appearance, the Universe. For the Universe is Shiva-Shakti. It is their appearance. When we say it is their appearance we imply that there has been a real becoming issuing from them as Power. Reality has two aspects. First as it is in itself, and secondly as it exists as Universe. At base the Samsara or worlds of Birth and Death and Moksha or Liberation are One. For Shiva-Shakti are both the Experience-Whole and the Part which exists therein as the Universe. Reality is a concrete unity in duality and duality in unity. In practice the One is realized in and as the Many and the Many as the One. So in the Shakta Wine ritual, the worshipper conceives himself to be Shiva Shakti as the Divine Mother. It is She who as and in the person of the worshipper, Her manifestation, consumes the wine which is again Herself, the Savioress in liquid form. It is not only he, who as a separate Self does so. This principle is applied to all man's functionings and is of cardinal importance from a Monistic standpoint notwithstanding its well-known abuse in fact.
Real is again used in the sense of eminence. The Real is that which is for itself and has a reason for its being in itself. The Real as God is the perfect and changeless and the "Good." The Universe is dependent on the Ens Realissimum, for it proceeds from it and is imperfect as limited and changeful and in a sense it is that which does not endure and in this sense is called 'unreal.' Though, however, the Universe comes and goes it does so eternally. The Supreme Cause is eternally creative. The Real is then both infinite Changeless Being as also unbeginning and unending process as the Becoming. In this system the Real both is and becomes. It yet becomes without derogation from its own changelessness, as it were a Fountain of Life which pours itself forth incessantly from infinite and inexhaustible source. Both the infinite and the finite are real.
Real is again used in the sense of interest and value and of the worth while". In this sense, the worshiper prays to be led from Unreality to Reality, but this does not mean that the world is unreal, but that it is not the supreme worth for him.
In whatever sense, then, the term Real is used the Universe is that. All is real for as the Upanishad says, "All this Universe is verily Brahman". The Scriptural Text says "All". It does not say "This " but not "That". The whole is an alogical concrete Reality which is Unity in Duality and Duality in Unity. The doctrine does not lose hold of either the One or the Many, and for this reason the Lord Shiva says in the Kularnava Tantra, "There are some who seek dualism and some non-dualism, but my doctrine is beyond both." That is, it takes account of and reconciles both Dualism and Non-Dualism.
Reality is no mere abstraction of the intellect making jettison of all that is concrete and varied. It is the Experience Whole whose object is Itself as such Whole. It is also Partial Experience within that whole. This union of whole and Part is alogical, not unknowable, for their unity is a fact of actual experience just as we have the unity of Power to Be and Power to Become, of the Conscious and Unconscious, of Mind and Body, of freedom and determination, and other dualities of Man's experiencing.