Âtmavedî Part I - Chapter 1
Life in Perspective
There is an Ocean of Consciousness within which our universe and all universes exist. Beyond the Ocean of Consciousness is the Light of Pure Consciousness. This is the Ultimate, Transcendental, Absolute, changeless source of all that can be. The Light of Pure Consciousness is S’îva/Krishna.
S’îva and Krishna are distinct and independent Beings paradoxically existing as one S’îva/Krishna. They are eternally inseparable and neither is the cause or source of the other. Both Beings, taken together or separately, are the Supreme Deity of all universes.
S’îva, which means “pure,” is the aloof one of the pair who is the transcendental archetype of jîva – you and I are jîva. This means thatS’îva and jîva are identical in structure, but S’îva is a perfectly pure jîva. In a moment we will see what makes jîva less than perfectly pure. The body of Krishna is the collective consciousness of all jîvas that surroundS’îva like iron filings that cling to a strong magnet. KrishnaConsciousness is the collective consciousness of those jîvas who have attained Brahman Consciousness, the pinnacle of jîva evolution in which the jîva has become S’îva.
A jîva is the essence or soul of an individual evolving being. Each one of us is a jîva. We came into existence as separate fromS’îva by our own choice and intention to be an independent being. That is, we are, each one of us, entirely self -created beings. It is as if from an ocean, a tiny droplet of water spontaneously emerges into the atmosphere of its own volition. Thus a jîva spontaneously emerges fromKrishna and moves away from S’îva. However, it is not quite so simple.
To understand the reason the jîva breaks away from Krishna, we need to first look into this collective consciousness of jîvas, the body ofKrishna that surrounds Pure Consciousness, and discover its underlying structure. Just as water is made of invisible molecules of hydrogen and oxygen atoms, the body of Krishna is made of innumerable jîvas – the “molecules” of consciousness. A jîva is a collection of self -referral knowledge constructs. Knowledge constructs are the “atoms” of consciousness. They are simple, self-contained structures that consist of the knower, process of knowing and the known.
Our universe and the innumerable ones that coexist with ours are totally made of vast collections of knowledge constructs. Like a dream in the Mind of the Creator, the universe unfolds with its billions of apparent forms and creatures. This illusory universe of seemingly concrete physical objects is called mâyâ, “that which is not.” As we delve into the structure of consciousness, the fundamental substratum of all that exists, we will see how our universe was created in the Mind of the Creator. We will also see how the universe is maintained and eventually dissolves as well.
Consciousness can exist in two forms, manifest and unmanifest. It its unmanifest form, consciousness is pure potentiality. In its manifest form, consciousness is the dynamic substratum within which knowledge constructs exist in their three-fold structure that consists of the knower, the process of knowing and the known. The knower aspect of consciousness is called rishî. The process of knowing aspect is called devatâ and the known aspect is chhandas. The process of self-referral knowledge looping is supported by the spontaneous innate dynamism of consciousness, which gives “life” to knowledge constructs. Each self-referral knowledge loop is a quantum of knowledge that keeps itself fresh and viable through a continual looping process of remembering, sustained by the dynamism of consciousness.
The fundamental property of consciousness is a binary on/off cycle. We see this fundamental cycle exhibited throughout the universe as cycles of rest and activity. The rest and activity cycle forms the basis for the dynamism of consciousness. Manifest consciousness vibrates at a frequency of approximately 333,150 cycles per second on the physical plane, increasing in frequency on each more subtle plane until at the level of Pure Consciousness the frequency is infinite, carrying all knowledge constructs in potential, unmanifest form.
Each quantum of knowledge has a unique on/off frequency, independent of the frequency of consciousness when consciousness is manifest. On the level of Pure Consciousness, the frequency of all knowledge constructs is unmanifest.
Rishî is the knower or ego of the jîva. Each one of us senses this “knower” aspect of ourselves. It is that aspect we identify as our ”self.” Rishî is a viewpoint of the universe that is uniquely personal, like a window through which an individual perceives the world.
Devatâ is the intellect or faculty of discrimination. Devatâconnects the knower with the known, and completes the circuit which gives rise to knowledge. In the self-referral process of knowing,rishî becomes devatâ and devatâ becomes chhandas and chhandas isthe knowledge, which is the new rishî. The new rishî is different from the original rishî because of the assimilation of the knowledge.
There is one unknowable – the ultimate value of thegap between rishî and devatâ and the gap between devatâ andchhandas. The gap cannot be the object of knowledge because it is forever the process through which knowledge is gained. As one investigates into the gap, there comes a point in which conscious awareness dips into the unmanifest and ceases to be in the field of knowing.
Experience is the end result of the process of knowing. When we experience something, our rishî has become devatâ and devatâ has become chhandas. Our rishî has changed because we have experienced and gained knowledge. However, the transformation of rishî into devatâand devatâ into chhandas cannot be known in its entirety because the transformation occurs in the gap. We can only infer after the fact that the transformation from rishî to devatâ to chhandas did occur because we have experienced and now own some new knowledge. Because the ultimate value of the gap can only be inferred but never known directly, it is transcendental or beyond consciousness.
Earlier, we said that S’îva is the pure archetype of jîva. Now we can explain this. What makes S’îva pure is that S’îva does not containrishî, devatâ, and chhandas as separate, but rather together as a unified wholeness (samhîta) in the infinite dynamism of Pure Consciousness.S’îva is fullness and complete wholeness. In Pure Consciousness there is no impulse for the transformational processing of rishî, devatâ, andchhandas. S’îva is the Transcendental fullness of Pure Knowledge that responds spontaneously to the call of devatâ when rishî desires some bit of knowledge. This means that S’îva is the unknowable gap from where all Pure Knowledge springs.
Knowledge that is pure is Truth for all beings and all times. It is knowledge that transcends individuals and universes, from which all universes and individuals arise. An example of Pure Knowledge is theS’rî Chakra, which will be the topic of many subsequent chapters of this book. Knowledge also exists that is not Truth for all beings and all times. This we call individual or localized knowledge, and it is gained from life experiences with the jîva, not S’îva, as its source. However, the process of gaining knowledge, whether Pure Knowledge or individual knowledge, is the same self-referral knowledge loop of rishî, devatâ, andchhandas.
To take a simple example of individual knowledge, if you look at something, the knowledge of that thing comes into your awareness. If you look at a pencil, you will see the pencil and have some knowledge of it. The mechanics of gaining that knowledge is, first your rishî aspect intended to see the pencil, then your rishî became devatâ and dipped into the unmanifest gap of your own sub-conscious (your jîva) to retrieve the knowledge of the pencil. Emerging from the gap, devatâ became the knowledge of the pencil (chhandas) and that knowledge was embedded within your consciousness (the self-referral knowledge loop that is the knowledge of the pencil began to reverberate in your consciousness) and you (rishî) became aware of the pencil.
When we mention consciousness from this point, we will be referring to the combination of consciousness along with all of the knowledge constructs that exist in it, because consciousness is never devoid of knowledge constructs, just as water cannot exist independently of hydrogen and oxygen. Each individual’s sub-conscious (jîva) and even Pure Consciousness (S’îva) is teeming with knowledge constructs in unmanifest, pure potential form.
What is there that is not consciousness? It is fairly easy to categorize all the thoughts in our mind as made of consciousness. Perhaps we are accustomed to thinking of consciousness only in terms of a vague, unreal, imaginary collection of thoughts in our mind. However, as we are now beginning to see, consciousness is the fundamental constituent of the universe and everything in it. In fact, nothing exists but consciousness.
Let’s go back to our model of the body of Krishna, which is a vast collection of jîvas. We can trace the emergence of a single jîva from the body of Krishna and follow it through its entire course of evolution, which ultimately culminates in one of the following two situations:
1. jîva merges back into the body of Krishna, or
2. jîva merges into Krishna Consciousness – this only happens if the jîva has achieved Brahman Consciousness in its last lifetime.
During the journey of a jîva we will see how all that we might now think of as not consciousness, really is consciousness after all.
First we should broaden our distinction between S’îva,Krishna and jîva. S’îva is that Supreme light of total knowledge, which we have called Pure Consciousness. S’îva is complete, self -sufficient and lacking nothing. Krishna is the full expression of this light of total knowledge whose body consists of a vast collection of jîvas. Unlike individual jîvas, Krishna has not become separate from S’îva and therefore maintains connection and ownership of the totality of knowledge. The jîvas are like the cells of the body of Krishna, butKrishna is far more that simply a collection of jîvas.
Think of Krishna as a complete holographic image of S’îva. As with any holographic plate, the image is most vivid and full when the resolving laser is passed through the full, original plate. However, if a small fragment of the plate is broken off, this one fragment is capable of producing the complete image, but will not produce the image with the same vivid and clear resolution that the full plate is capable. Jîvas are like tiny fragments of the Krishna holographic image of S’îva.
Jîvas have two and only two modes of functioning, either at rest or in activity. Jîvas at rest make up the collective consciousness that is the body of Krishna. When a jîva becomes active it spontaneously breaks away from the body of Krishna.
What causes a jîva to come out of a resting state and become active? The cause is the nature of consciousness to be in a state of either rest or activity, and to cycle between the two. Jîvas simply begin to act due to the natural rhythm of consciousness. You and I are jîvasand our action at the beginning of an action cycle resulted in each one of us breaking away from the body of Krishna. Eons of evolutionary experience culminating in this moment have been the result of this action.
Jîvas are eternal, there is no “birth date” for jîvas and they never cease existing. Every jîva is unique because every jîva has had a different range of experience. Remember the rishî, devatâ, and chhandas cycle? Every cycle changes the rishî and this makes the jîvaunique. When a jîva starts out on a new activity cycle there is a faint memory of past cycles and a tendency to “pick up where it left off.” This is due to the existence of vâsanâs, which resonate with the jîva’saccumulated past-cycle experiences. Vâsanâs are passive impressions of unbalanced actions (kârmas), much like ruts in a road that tend to force a vehicle to take a certain path. The passive influence of thevâsanâs channel the jîva into actions that cause similar experiences to arise. In a subsequent chapter we will go into detail about kârma andvâsanâ.
There is no “reason” for these cycles that jîvas go through, other than the basic rest and activity cycle - this is just the way it is. Thejîva is simply a structure that encapsulates a bit of consciousness and some knowledge structures, and is subject to the rest and activity cycles of consciousness.
Once the jîva starts a major activity cycle and breaks away from body of Krishna, that cycle will keep it away for the long tenure of its evolutionary course through innumerable lifetimes. The active existence of the jîva functions within this extremely long activity cycle. Simultaneously, throughout this major cycle, the jîva inhabits numerous bodies that participate in much smaller rest and activity cycles of their own.
Near the end of the jîva’s major activity cycle there will occasionally arise a window of opportunity for the jîva to initiate its free will to:
1. either cut short the remaining duration of the major cycle and immediately return to the body of Krishna, or
2. initiate a new cycle that extends the major cycle and ultimately culminates in Brahman Consciousness.
If the jîva is not presented with the opportunity to take an option, or does not exercise its free will to take either option that is presented, its major cycle will naturally come to an end, and the jîva will return to the body ofKrishna.
When a jîva is participating in the long cycle of activity, it is constantly by nature engaged in creating. A “creation” is simply thechhandas knowledge structure that arises when rishî interacts withdevatâ. As mentioned before, the consciousness of a jîva has two modes of operation, rest and activity. During rest the rishî is disengaged from devatâ and no chhandas arises. During activity, the rishî engages with devatâ and produces chhandas – a creation.
The self-referral knowledge looping that occurs exclusively within consciousness is initiated by the intention of the jîva, through itsrishî aspect, in the process of creation. The rishî aspect of the jîvaconsciousness is always awake as the purûsha or silent witness. Thedevatâ aspect of the jîva consciousness, known as prâkritî, possessess’aktî, a form of energy. Prâkritî is always standing by to respond to the intention of the purûsha. So we see that intention is the means for obtaining knowledge.
Intention arises from the intellect (bûddhi), whose function is to discriminate between “this” and “that.” Notions of “this” and “that” arise from the ego (ahamkara) whose function is to maintain an inventory of what is “this” and what is “that” in the mind (manas). Objects classified as “this” by the intellect are considered by the ego as owned by it and the inventory record of the object in the mind is created or refreshed. Objects that are classified as “that” are desired because they are not owned by the ego. The ego, by nature, wishes to be wealthy and own everything. To obtain the object of its desire, the ego exercises its free will. Free will is ego directed intention to own that which the ego perceives it does not own.
Considering the heritage of the jîva, what does it not already own? The jîva is like a child of wealthy parents who steps out of the front door one morning and forgets his parentage. Thinking itself alone and impoverished, it looks back at the mansion of its parents and thinks, “I wish I were wealthy like those people!” Continuing in its delusion, thejîva makes mistake after mistake at it attempts to capture and own that which already belongs to it by way of its heritage. Each time the intellect of the jîva discriminates between this and that, a mistake is made. These recurring mistakes of the intellect that occur in the state ofjîva ignorance are called pragya-aparadh.
Intention arises from the discovery by the intellect that there exists an object that is not owned by the jîva. If the jîva is motivated to take action on the basis of this discovery of the intellect, the jîva has committed pragya-aparadh, the mistake of the intellect. It is a mistake because the jîva already owns the totality of knowledge by virtue of its parentage as a child of Krishna. Furthermore, the task of acquiring the totality of knowledge, one bit at a time, is impossible to achieve. The totality of knowledge that is S’îva is infinite and therefore unattainable bit by bit. However, it is freely available to everyone who simply comes home to Krishna in Brahman Consciousness.
So we see that the intention to own something it does not possess is why the jîva creates. Now let us see how the jîva creates through the self-referral process of rishî, devatâ, and chhandas. When the purûsha is in a state of rest, prâkritî is inactive and s’aktî is conserved. When s’aktî is conserved it spontaneously increases in power because the jîva is constantly being fed a steady diet of s’aktî in the form of attention from Krishna. When a jîva breaks off to engage in an independent existence away from S’îva/Krishna, Krishna always keeps His attention on the jîva out of love and compassion – like a parent keeps a watchful eye on the child that is playing in the garden.
Each time purûsha becomes active and brings forth an intention then devatâ automatically responds and through the power ofs’aktî produces the desired chhandas. However, after any such manifestation the energy level of s’aktî is lower because to produce thechhandas, some s’aktî was consumed.
The quality of the chhandas that is produced is a direct result of the amount of s’aktî expended on the project by the devatâ process. To create something as vast and complex as our universe requires a very large amount of s’aktî, compared to the s’aktî required to think a simple thought or solve a logic problem.
We will explore the creation process of our universe in depth, but first let us consider the cycle of evolution that arises when a jîva, under the spell of pragya-aparadh, breaks away from S’îva/Krishna. Every one of us is now participating in this cycle. It is a cycle that has its source in S’îva/Krishna, its course in the universe and its goal inS’îva/Krishna.
When a jîva breaks away it begins a long descending arc into ever increasing misery, struggle, and suffering as it rapidly loses memory of the Bliss Consciousness of S’îva/Krishna and distances itself from the source of its existence. We may feel inclined to ask, “why would the jîva be allowed to break away in the first place if the consequence is always pain and suffering?”
The answer is simple and found in the nature of Divine Love. Love is the nature of S’îva/Krishna and all who serve them. Love respects, accepts, and never finds fault. Love is always standing-by anxious to help when called upon, but Love never dominates or controls. It is out of Love that Krishna always accompanies the jîva, and through this constant and unfailing bond of Love empowers the jîva in its attempts to fulfill a constantly expanding agenda of intentions and desires.
For eons the jîva is lost in the experiences of the world and free to continue making choice after choice, within a moving window of opportunity. Out of ignorance of the totality of knowledge, the jîvausually makes choices that lead to incre10ased suffering and struggle as it unwittingly and arrogantly opposes the immutable Laws of Nature. But ultimately the jîva reaches the end of its major cycle and comes home to the body of Krishna again.
When jîvas break away from the body of Krishna, the entry of the jîvas into universes for experiential lifetimes occurs in three steps:
1. Accumulation of jîvas into the body of a Mahâvishnû. As more and more jîvas break away from the body of Krishna and accumulate, eventually the body of Mahâvishnû reaches a sort of critical mass, and slips from Krishna into the Ocean of Consciousness.
2. The journey of the jîva into the realms of universes begins when the jîva joins other jîvas to form the body of a Narâyâna.
3. The jîva leaves the body of a Narâyâna through a Brahma and enters into a body in a universe to experience a physical lifetime.
At all times there are innumerable Mahâvishnûs, with each creating innumerable Narâyânas, each one appointing a Brahma, who creates a universe to host innumerable jîvas, as illustrated in the drawing on the next page.
Sometimes the best way to begin a discussion of a complex body of knowledge is with a symbolic story. The story that follows is about the innumerable cycles through which a jîva progresses, and will help us to put our current lifetime into perspective. Let this story paint a picture in your mind. You may discover that this story already reverberates deep in your consciousness. The symbolic construct of this myth will provide us with a framework that we can use to develop a complete understanding of the nature of the jîva in the chapters that follow.
The story begins as Râdhâ, the s’aktî of Krishna, gives birth to an egg containing innumerable jîvas. Râdhâ, upon seeing the egg, kicks it with her foot, and the egg falls into the causal ocean that surrounds their island home. When the egg hits the water it breaks open, and inside is revealed a beautiful infant with radiant blue skin that is an image of Krishna. Within the body of the Infant are contained the hosts of jîvas.
The Infant peacefully floats on the causal waters, breathing slowly and deeply. The Infant is a Mahâvishnû. As the Mahâvishnûslowly breathes out, innumerable replicas of Him emerge, carried aloft in the moisture of His breath.
These innumerable replicas of the Mahâvishnû, known asNarâyânas, lightly come to rest, floating on the causal waters of the Ocean of Consciousness. Within the body of each Narâyâna are contained innumerable jîvas. As we focus in on one Narâyâna, we see that He is in a reclining position, floating on the causal waters. From His naval a lotus flower is sprouting. He selects the foremost jîva from the vast host contained within His body, and places that jîva in the center of the lotus. Narâyâna bestows upon this jîva the title of “Brahma.”Narâyâna gives Brahma one instruction, “create a universe.”
Brahma does not know how to create a universe so He asksNarâyâna for further instruction. Narâyâna replies simply, “tapas.”Brahma understands and begins to create a universe through the agency of Saraswatî, the s’aktî of Brahma, who begins to manifest a universe to satisfy the intention of Her rishî.
The unwavering devotion of Brahma to the Will of God to create a universe continues to bear fruit, and eventually the universe is finished. All the jîvas in the body of Narâyâna are then brought forth to inhabit it.
Brahma sees all the jîvas and is overcome by compassion. He is filled with parental love as He watches the jîvas play in the garden He has created for them. He assumes responsibility for their evolution, as a parent would adopt an orphaned child.
Brahma lives for a very long time when measured in years as we experience them. During His lifetime he creates a new universe each “morning” and sends his family of jîvas forth to play. Every night Brahmacalls the jîvas back into His vast body as Saraswatî, His s’aktî,becomes exhausted and His universe dissolves. He rests to restore Hiss’aktî, then repeats the same cycle of creation. Thus pass the days and nights in the life of Brahma.
One day/night cycle in the life of Brahma is equivalent to approximately 167,389,960,000 years of man’s life. Over His lifetimeBrahma creates 36,000 universes that each exist for only one day of His life.
At the end of the lifetime of Brahma, Narâyâna brings forth from His navel another lotus and another Brahma is born. And, so do the cycles continue. In each cycle massive numbers of universes are created and dissolved from the countless Brahmas that arise from each of the innumerable Narâyânas. The cycles continue until theMahâvishnû has finished exhaling His first breath.
The Mahâvishnû begins to inhale. All the existing universes dissolve and the Brahmas call back their families of jîvas. All the jîvascome back into the bodies of the Narâyânas. All the Narâyânas come back into the body of the Mahâvishnû, and the surface of the causal waters become still for a moment.
Then, the Baby begins to breathe out, and the cycle starts again.