The Gaudapada Karika is Gaudapada’s comments on the Mandukya Upanishad. Gaudapada argues for Advaita or “non-duality”. Non-duality is a very simple concept and a number of the quantum physicists have commented upon it. For eg., Schrödinger has said “The world is given to me only once, not one existing and one perceived. Subject and object are only one.” Heisenberg has said “Light and matter are both single entities, and the apparent duality arises in the limitations of our language.”
It is just like the optical illusion, multiple facets to the same truth, based on what the receiver is. When the brain is the receiver, it interprets the sensory perceptions and this world around us emerges with all its emotions, intelligence etc., pass it through the EEG machines it is just electric signals, pass it through the MRI machine and you see the magnetic resonance images. But, through all this, the same is present. Would we classify these are three different or the same seen from different angles?
In short, the Advaita Prakarana says the same in the context of truth. It says “truth or the Brahman” is the same as “matter”. Just because you have started interpreting it or you have awareness of it, it does not change the characteristics of the truth. It only appears so, because of “Maya”. The question that this raises is, the very basic question just as in the Dakshinamurthy Sthothram, “what is maya?” And again the only answer that seems correct here is the “brain” or actually the all encompassing term, “manas” or “awareness”.
I have picked a few pretty telling verses from the Advaita Prakarana here rather than all the verses. The first one which is pretty interesting and intriguing is:
nākāśasya ghaṭākāśo vikārāvayavau yathā | naivātmanaḥ sadā jīvo vikārāvayavau tathā || 7 || na = not, akasaya = of space ghata + akaso = pot+space vikara + avyavau = undergoing change + a part yatha = as how na + iva + atmanah = not + also + of self sada = ever, always jivo = life vikara + avyavau = undergoing changing + a part tatha = thus
Just as how space does not undergo a change because of a pot, so also neither does self undergo a change because of life.
Isn’t this an interesting perspective? Other verses exist, that talk about partitioning the spaces by creating multiple pots, but the essence is captured here in this verse. If we created a pot, what happens to the analogous space? Are we changing the properties of the space? Are we really splitting it? Isn’t it just that it appears as if space is cordoned off? When the pot breaks, it appears as if the space has once again become analogous?
Forget the space the pot encompasses. Let’s talk about the mud with which we create the pot. Are we really changing the mud at all or are we just giving it a aggregated form? So, can we call the mud different from the “un-pot formed” mud? In the same way, if we looked at atma as analogous vibrations, just because we have put limitation to it in the form of “life” should the vibrations within life be different from the analogous vibrations? According to Advaita or non-duality, the un-manifested vibrations is the same as the manifested vibrations, both are vibrations and nothing more.
marane sambhave caiva gatyagamanayorapi | sthitau sarvasharireshu AkAshenavilakshanah || 9 || marane = of death sambhave = origin, birth ca + iva = also this gatyagat + manayoh + api = coming and going + of manas + this sthitau = existing in sarva + sharireshu = all + of body akasha + na + vilakshana = space + not + differing from
Birth and death is the coming and going of this manas existing in the body, not differing from space (read it with the space of the pot in the previous verse).
While this may seem as pointing to rebirths and what not and what not, I do not believe this is what any of the upanishads are saying. Look at it this way, if we had energy in the form of coal, we burnt it to run a steam engine, it converts to heat energy and kinetic energy, do we call the heat and kinetic energy as rebirth of the coal or the burnt remains as rebirth of the coal? But, here it is said that, even a conversion of energy is not happening. The Bhagavad Gita says about birth and death a similar thing:
jAthasyahi dhruvo mrthyudhruvam janma mrtyasya ca | tasmAdparihArasya na tvam shocitumarhasi ||27||
It is because of the fact of birth is there also a fact of death, that which is born has to die. Hence do not worry yourself trying to find a solution for it.
Isn’t it true? If the receiver that is the brain became aware of the vibrations around us and hence life happened, it stands to reason that when that awareness goes, so also goes life. If in the first place the awareness was not present, there is no question of the awareness going away?
Limit the awareness to a small part of the vibrations, a partition is created called life. Give the awareness a recognition of “I”, a sense of direction and sense of remoteness, you have space and time. Thus the coming and going of awareness causes us to know a body or not know a body. But does that change the vibrations that is sensed and not sensed? So, is maya really awareness?
sanghatah svapnavatsarve AtmamAyavisarjitah | Adhikye sarvasAmye va nopapatthirhi vidyate || 10 || sanghatah = aggregate of svapnavat + sarve = as dream + is all atma + maya + visarjitah = self + illusion + is produced Adhikye = excess sarva + sAmye = all + equal va = and na + upapatthi + ihi = not + reason + this vidyate = seems
It seems there is no reason other than the awareness of the self, that all this dream like aggregation is produced.
The minute we become aware, and limit it, more and more dream like aggregations are created from that which is sensed around and hence all this exists. We keep creating layers and layers around the base awareness. Hence life grows in excess, but everyone of these layers being equally the same dream and illusion.
I will end this blog with this translation which seems to just reiterate the point:
māyayā bhidyate hyetannānyathā'jaṃ kathañcana | tattvato bhidyamāne hi martyatāmamṛtaṃ vrajet || 19 || mayaya = due to awareness bhidyate = appears hi + etat + annayath + ajam = only + this + not any other + not born kathancana = in any way tattvato = truth / reality bhidyamane = appearing hi = only martya + atmamrtam = mortal + immortal vrajet = condition
The truth is not born in any way other than appearance, due to awareness and only in appearance is it mortal and immortal.
Most of the other verses expound the same idea over and over again with a lot of variations. But the underlying theme is the same, it is only due to awareness that we exist and only due to awareness does matter by itself exist. That, I think, is the crux of the whole thing. The truth cannot just transform back and forth into matter and anti-matter, it just remains the truth throughout. We, due to awareness, sense it as different and hence create this illusion of world around us in our minds.
Advaita Prakarana or non-duality is a very intriguing concept. If what is said is correct, which in all logic seems correct, then we are seriously flawed in trying to trace anything, backward or forward in time, in any direction of space or in-fact trace anything that is understood using the brain. The brain itself is just an illusion created by this awareness. This is exactly is what is asked in the Kena Upanishad. With what do I sense the truth? Or is asked by Japji Sahib’s first Paudi, “What is the truth? How can I cross over to the truth?”