Today, I have a very short quote from one of my favourite books, but despite its length, we could really write books and books upon it. But I'll try one blog entry.
This quote is from the ancient Hindu text The Bhagavadgita:

From S. Radhakrishnan's commentary on The Bhagavadgita (1948)
"Man, essentially, is not a part of nature but a spirit that interrupts the continuity of nature."


We can categorize the universe into two aspects (though later, we'll see that one aspect is actually a part of the other, but ignore that for now): the field, and the knower of the field.
The field is the world, the unconscious matter and energy out of which the universe is formed. There are also knowers of the field, the sparks of consciousness that can perceive the world. The field is called prakrti, and the knower is called purusa.* These also correspond to the body (field) and the mind (knower).
Yet beyond our individual consciousness is the supreme "knower" that witnesses everything. This is called ksetrajna, the knower of all objects. Yet so too is this consciousness within all objects. It is a panentheist idea: the knower--God, the first cause, or whatever you like best--is within all objects, but is also beyond them. He is not the world (pantheism), but the world is within him.
Humans are two-fold beings, both prakrti and purusa. We are limited by our body and our senses, by the elemental forces of the world that prevent us from living out our full potential. Yet what really defines us as humans is our consciousness that connects us to ksetrajna. As Radhakrishnan writes, "Man, as a subject, has another origin. He is not a child of the world...He does not belong to the objective hierarchy of nature...He can only be recognized as a subject, in which is hidden the secret of existence, a complete universe in an individual form."
This returns us to the quote; we are, in a sense, a microcosm of the universe, both prakrti and purusa. Like ksetrajna, our bodies are a part of us, but so too are we something beyond them. As part of the universal consciousness, we are a subject and not just an object. We disrupt the continuity of nature in the sense that we do not just obey physical laws, but have a freedom that can change the course of nature. Maybe we can't change forces of nature like reversing gravity, but we can make decisions, and these choices set us apart from inert matter that will just follow natural laws (natural laws involve some probability, but not "choice").
Man "enters into infinity and infinity enters into him." This is difficult to grasp (is it even possible to grasp something that involves infinity?) but the idea seems to be that the universal consciousness is infinite, and as we ourselves are microcosms of this infinity, we too must be infinite (in the sense that we are purusa). But we are still part of the greater universal infinity! (This is my interpretation, at least). It is the paradox of immanence and transcendence: the knower/consciousness/God is in the world and beyond it, is infinite and finite. We are both infinite and finite.
One can also look at this from a scientific angle. In quantum physics, we have a world of subatomic particles that our observations can alter. The very act of measuring some property of the particles will alter their qualities. We are the knowers of the field, not just matter, but something beyond it. Something that can "interrupts" nature.
It is even more intriguing because particles are described by fields, so matter is in fact just quantum fields interacting with each other. Our consciousness is another sort of field that is not the material, and it allows us to interact with the world. The quantum world, the "fields", serve as the interface between matter and consciousness: the fields of matter can interact with the fields of consciousness at this level.
So this quality of being a "knower", or having conscious perceptions of reality, is what distinguishes us as human beings. We are not just a part of nature, but a spirit. To fully realize this identity, to gain the freedom which is characteristic of our identity, we must rise above the limitations of our prakrti nature and truly be the souls we are behind it all.



*Note that I'm using the spelling of these words (and others later on) given in Radhakrishnan's translation, but I am omitting the accents, so they might not be technically correct. The ideas behind them should be clear nonetheless.

2 comments:

This makes me stop in my tracks and look at the big picture rather than what I need to do day to day to survive.

I could at one time not see what the authors of ancient Indian philosophy were saying but today a reading of modern physics gives me a scientific approach to these ideas.truth and true science are not far from each other.In this area the book to read is "The Holographic Universe" by Michael Talbot.An eye opener!

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"A Soul Wanderer never knows. He wanders; he makes his own path through the
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Mary-Jean's books

The Printer's Devil
The Crystal Cave
The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Lost Prince
The Fellowship of the Ring
The Hobbit
Rise of the Darklings
The Fire King
Clockwork Angel
Jane Eyre
Wuthering Heights
The Lost World
Around the World in Eighty Days
The Sum of All Men
Brotherhood of the Wolf
Wizardborn
The Lair of Bones
Sons of the Oak
Worldbinder
The Wyrmling Horde


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