Chapter 11: Cosmos — Collective Consciousness

1. After he had listened to this sublime story of Hemachuda, Bhargava was confused and asked:

2-5. "Lord, my Master! What you have related as a wonderful teaching appears to me against the experience of all people in every way. How can the magnificent, objective universe be no other than tenuous consciousness, which is not seen, but only inferred? Pure intelligence devoid of known objects cannot be imagined and therefore cannot be postulated. Thus the whole theme based on it is not at all clear to me. I pray you kindly to elucidate the subject so that I may understand it." Thus requested, Dattatreya continued:

6-30. "I will now tell you the truth of the objective world, as it is. What is seen is absolutely nothing but sight. I shall now give you the proof of this statement. Listen with attention. All that is seen has an origin and there must therefore be an antecedent cause for it. What is origin except that the thing newly appears? The world is changing every moment and its appearance is new every moment and so it is born every moment. Some say that the birth of the universe is infinite and eternal each moment. Some may contest the point saying that the statement is true of a specific object or objects but not of the world which is the aggregate of all that is seen. The scholiasts of Vijnana answer them thus: The external phenomena are only momentary projections of the anamnesis of the continuous link, namely, the subject and the worldly actions are based on them. But the intellect which collates time, space and phenomena is infinite and eternal at each moment of their appearance and it is called Vijnana by them. Others say that the universe is the aggregate of matter - mobile and immobile. (The atomists maintain that the universe is made up of five elements, earth, air, fire, water and ether which are permanent and of things like a pot, a cloth, etc., which are transient. They are still unable to prove the external existence of the world, because they admit that happenings in life imply their conceptual nature. It follows that the objects not so involved are useless.)

"But all are agreed that the universe has an origin. (What is then the point in saying that the momentary creations are eternal and infinite? The momentary nature cannot be modified by the qualifications mentioned. There is no use in dressing a condemned man before the executioner's axe is laid on him.) To say however that creation is due to nature (accidental?) is to overstretch the imagination and therefore unwarranted. The Charvakas, nihilists, argue that some effects are not traceable to their efficient causes. There are occurrences without any antecedent causes. Just as a cause need not always foretell an event, so also the event need not always have a cause. The conclusion follows that the world is an accident.

"If a thing can appear without a cause there is no relation between cause and effect, and there can be no harmony in the world. A potter's work may lead to a weaver's products, and vice versa, which is absurd. The interdependence of cause and effect is ascertained by their logical sequence and proved by its role in practical life. How then can an universe be accident?

"They infer the cause where it is not obvious, and trace the cause from the effect. This conforms to the universal practice. Each occurrence must have a cause for it; that is the rule. Even if the cause is not obvious, it must be inferred; otherwise the world activities would be in vain - which is absurd. The conclusion is then reached that every event is a product of a certain condition or conditions; and this fact enables people to engage in purposeful work. So it is in the practical world. Therefore the theory of accidental creation is not admissible.

"The atomists premise a material cause for creation and name it imponderable atoms. According to them, the imponderable atoms produce the tangible world, which did not exist before creation and will not remain after dissolution. (The existence of the world before or after is only imaginary and untrue, like a human horn - they say.) How can the same thing be true at one time and untrue at another? Again if the primary atoms are imponderable, without magnitude and yet are permanent, how can they give rise to material and transient products endowed with magnitude?"

"How can the same thing be yellow and not yellow - bright and dark - at the same time? These qualities are not in harmony; the whole theory is confused, it is as if one were trying to mix up the immiscibles. Again, how did the primordial atoms begin to unite to produce diatoms or triatoms? Was it of their own accord? (which is impossible because, they are insentient) or by God's will? (Then the action is God's and not of the atoms. Otherwise it would be like a king in his palace who, by merely willing to kill the enemy, sent his weapons flying about in the act of destruction). (It has already been pointed out that God cannot be supposed to operate atoms for the purpose of creation, as a potter does with clay.)

Note. - Thus the idea of the beginning of creation is altogether refuted.

"It is also absurd to say that the insentient atoms of matter began creation when the equilibrium of the three forces Satva, Rajas and Tamas, was disturbed. (One of the systems of philosophy believes that three qualities, brightness, activity and darkness, are always there in equilibrium. When disturbed, creation begins; when they revert to equilibrium, the universe is dissolved.) How are the changes in the state of equilibrium brought about? Change is not possible without an intelligent cause. So none of the systems can satisfactorily account for creation. Scriptures alone are the guide for comprehending the metaphysical and the transcendental. The rest are not authoritative because of the individual's limitations, the absence of reliable tests for their accuracy, and of the repeated failures of attempts which ignore God. The universe must have a Creator, and He must be an intelligent principle, but He cannot be of any known type because of the vastness of the creation. His power is past understanding and is dealt with in the Scriptures, whose authority is incontrovertible. They speak of the unique Creator, the Lord who was before creation, being self-contained. He created the universe by His own power. It is in its entirety and all its details, a picture on the screen of His Self like the dream world on the individual consciousness. The individual encompasses his own creation with his ego (as 'I'); so does the Lord play with the universe. Just as the dreamer is not to be confounded with the dream so is the Lord not to be confounded with the creation. Just as a man survives his dream, so does the Lord survive the dissolution of His creation. Just as you remain ever as pure consciousness apart from the body, etc., so is the Lord, unbounded consciousness apart from the universe, etc. Is it not after all only a picture drawn by Him on His Self? How can this unique creation be apart from Him? There can indeed be nothing but consciousness. Tell me of any place where there is no consciousness; there is no place beyond consciousness. Or can any one prove in any manner anything outside consciousness? Consciousness is inescapable.

31-32. "Moreover, this consciousness is the only existence, covering the whole universe, and perfect all through. Just as there cannot be breakers apart from the ocean and light without the Sun, so also the Universe cannot be conceived without consciousness. The Supreme God is thus the embodiment of pure Consciousness.

33-34. "This whole universe consisting of the mobile and the immobile, arises from, abides in, and resolves into Him. This is the final and well-known conclusion of the Scriptures; and the Scriptures never err. The guide by which one can apprehend the metaphysical and transcendental matters is Scripture alone.

35. "Miraculous powers possessed by gems and incantations cannot be denied, nor can they be fathomed by a man of limited knowledge.

36-40. "Because the scriptures proceed from the all-knowing Lord, they partake of His omniscient quality. The Being mentioned in them is eternally existing even before the birth of the universe. His creation has been without any material aids. Therefore God is supreme, perfect, pure and self-contained. The creation is not an object apart; it is a picture drawn on the canvas of supreme consciousness, for there cannot possibly be anything beyond Perfection. Imagination on the contrary, is impractical. The universe has thus originated only as an image on the surface of the mirror of the Absolute. This conclusion is in harmony with all facts.

41-45. "Creation is like a magician's trick, and is a city born of divine imagination. O Parasurama, you are aware of the mental creations of day-dreamers which are full of people, life and work, similar to this. There are also doubts, tests, discussions and conclusions - all imaginary arising in the mind and subsiding there. Just as castles in the air are mental figments of men so also is this creation a mental figment of Siva. Siva is absolute Awareness, without any form. Sri Tripura is Sakti (energy) and Witness of the whole. That Being is perfect all round and remains undivided.

46-47. "Time and space are the factors of division in the world; of these, space refers to the location of objects and time to the sequence of events. Time and space are themselves projected from consciousness, how then would they divide or destroy their own basis and still continue to be what they are?

48-51. "Can you show the time or place not permeated by consciousness? Is it not within your consciousness when you speak of it? The fact of the existence of things is only illumination of them, and nothing more. Such illumination pertains to consciousness alone. That alone counts which is self-shining. Objects are not so, for their existence depends upon perception of them by conscious beings. But consciousness is self-effulgent - not so the objects, which depend on conscious beings for being known.

52-54. "If on the other hand, you contend that objects exist even if not perceived by us, I tell you - listen! There is no consistency in the world regarding the existence or non-existence of things. Their cognition is the only factor determining it. Just as reflections have no substance in them, outside of the mirror, so also the things of the world have no substance in them outside of the cognising factor, viz., Intelligence.

The detail and tangibility of things are no arguments against their being nothing but images.

55-63. "Those qualities of reflected images depend on the excellence of the reflecting surface, we can see in the case of water and polished surface. Mirrors are insentient and are not self-contained. Whereas, consciousness is always pure and self-contained; it does not require an external object to create the image. Ordinary mirrors are liable to be soiled by extraneous dirt whereas consciousness has nothing foreign to it, being always alone and undivided; and therefore its reflections are unique. Created things are not self-luminous and are illumined by another's cognitive faculty. Cognition of things implies their images on our intelligence. They are only images. The creation therefore is an image. It is not self-shining; and thus it is not self-aware, but becomes a fact on our perception of it. Therefore I say that the universe is nothing but an image on our consciousness. Consciousness shines notwithstanding the formation of images on it; though impalpable, it is steadily fixed and does not falter. Just as the images in a mirror are not apart from the mirror, so also the creations of consciousness are not apart from it.

64. "Objects are necessary for producing images in a mirror; they are not however necessary for consciousness because it is self-contained.

65-66 .... "O Parasurama! note how day-dreams and hallucinations are clearly pictured in the mind even in the absence of any reality behind them. How does it happen? The place of objects is taken up by the peculiar imaginative quality of the mind. When such imagination is deep, it takes shape as creation; consciousness is pure and unblemished in the absence of imagination.

67. "Thus you see how consciousness was absolute and pure before creation and how its peculiar quality or will brought about this image of the world in it.

68-69. "So the world is nothing but an image drawn on the screen of consciousness; it differs from a mental picture in its long duration; that is again due to the strength of will producing the phenomenon. The universe appears practical, material and perfect because the will determining its creation is perfect and independent; whereas the human conceptions are more or less transitory according to the strength or the weakness of the will behind them.

70. "The hampering of limitations is to some extent overcome by the use of incantations, gems and herbs, and an unbroken current of 'I' is established.

71. "With the aid of that pure yoga, O Rama observe the creation manifested by one's will like the hallucinations brought about by a magician.

Note. - There are said to be some live gems which have extraordinary properties. They are lustrous even in the dark and do not take on different lustres according to the background. They also illumine the objects close to them. One kind is said to be cool to touch and it does not become warm even on contact with the body; another is said to sweat in moonlight; still another makes the owner prosperous; yet another ruins him (e.g., the 'Hope' diamond), and so on.

A vivid account is given of a magician's performance in Ranjit Singh's court. He threw a rope into the air which stood taut. A man climbed up the rope and disappeared.

72. Objects in the world can be handled and put to use, while mental creations (e.g., dreams) present the same phenomenon.

73. "A magician's creations are only transitory; a yogi's creations may be permanent; both are external to the creator, whereas the divine creation cannot be apart from the omnipresent Lord.

Note. - Visvamitra, a great Rishi, is reputed to have created a duplicate Universe, a part of which consists of the constellations composing Scorpio, Sagittarius, and the Southern Cross. Some trees, plants and herbs in imitation of well-known species (e.g., palmyra corresponding to cocoanut, jungle potatoes and onions insipid to taste and useless, etc.) are among his creations.

74. "Because the Lord of consciousness is infinite, the creation can remain only within Him and the contrary is pure fancy.

75. "Since the Universe is only a projection from and in the mirror of consciousness, its unreal nature can become clear only on investigation, and not otherwise.

76. "Truth can never change its nature, whereas untruth is always changing. See how changeful the nature of the world is!

77-78. "Distinguish between the changeless truth and the changeful untruth and scrutinise the world comprised of these two factors, changeful phenomena and changeless subjective consciousness, like the unchanging light of the mirror and the changing images in it.

79. "The world cannot stand investigation because of its changing unreal nature. Just as the owl is dazzled and blinded by bright sunlight, so the world parades in glory before ignorance and disappears before right analysis.

Note. - The man sees by sunlight and is helpless in its absence. The owl sees in darkness and is blinded in sunlight. Whose sight is the better of the two? This cannot be determined satisfactorily so that investigation becomes lame.

80-84. "What is food for one, is poison for another (e.s., decomposed food for worms and men). What is one thing to yogis and celestials, is another to others. A long distance by one vehicle is short by another.

"Long intervals of space reflected in the mirror are themselves in it and yet unreal.

"In this way, investigation becomes indeterminate by itself. Investigation and the object investigated are both indeterminate, and the only constant factor underlying both is consciousness. Nothing else can stand beside it.

85. "That which shines as 'Is' is Her Majesty the Absolute Consciousness.

"Thus the universe is only the Self - the One and one only."

Thus ends the Chapter XI on the Ascertainment of Truth in Tripura Rahasya.