object:1.02.2.1 - Brahman Oneness of God and the World
book class:Isha Upanishad
author class:Sri Aurobindo
class:chapter --- II - SECOND MOVEMENT  --- Brahman: Oneness of God and the World
Verses 4 - 5*
BRAHMAN - THE UNITY
The Lord and the world, even when they seem to be distinct, are
not really different from each other; they are one Brahman.
God is the one stable and eternal Reality. He is One because
there is nothing else, since all existence and non-existence are
He. He is stable or unmoving, because motion implies change
in Space and change in Time, and He, being beyond Time and
Space, is immutable. He possesses eternally in Himself all that
is, has been or ever can be, and He therefore does not increase
or diminish. He is beyond causality and relativity and therefore
there is no change of relations in His being.
* 4. One unmoving that is swifter than Mind; That the Gods reach not, for It progresses
ever in front. That, standing, passes beyond others as they run. In That the Master of
Life establishes the Waters.
5. That moves and That moves not; That is far and the same is near; That is within
all this and That also is outside all this.
"SWIFTER THAN MIND"
The world is a cyclic movement (samsara) of the Divine Consciousness in Space and Time. Its law and, in a sense, its object
is progression; it exists by movement and would be dissolved
by cessation of movement. But the basis of this movement is
not material; it is the energy of active consciousness which, by
its motion and multiplication in different principles (different in
appearance, the same in essence), creates oppositions of unity
and multiplicity, divisions of Time and Space, relations and
groupings of circumstance and Causality. All these things are
real in consciousness, but only symbolic of the Being, somewhat
as the imaginations of a creative Mind are true representations
of itself, yet not quite real in comparison with itself, or real with
a different kind of reality.
But mental consciousness is not the Power that creates
the universe. That is something infinitely more puissant, swift
and unfettered than the mind. It is the pure omnipotent selfawareness of the Absolute unbound by any law of the relativity.
The laws of the relativity, upheld by the gods, are Its temporary
creations. Their apparent eternity is only the duration, immeasurable to us, of the world which they govern. They are laws
regularising motion and change, not laws binding the Lord of
the movement. The gods, therefore, are described as continually
running in their course. But the Lord is free and unaffected by
His own movement.
"THAT MOVES, THAT MOVES NOT"
The motion of the world works under the government of a
perpetual stability. Change represents the constant shifting of
apparent relations in an eternal Immutability.
It is these truths that are expressed in the formulae of the
one Unmoving that is swifter than Mind, That which moves
and moves not, the one Stable which outstrips in the speed of its
effective consciousness the others who run.
If the One is pre-eminently real, "the others", the Many are not
unreal. The world is not a figment of the Mind.
Unity is the eternal truth of things, diversity a play of the
unity. The sense of unity has therefore been termed Knowledge,
Vidya, the sense of diversity Ignorance, Avidya. But diversity is
not false except when it is divorced from the sense of its true
and eternal unity.
Brahman is one, not numerically, but in essence. Numerical
oneness would either exclude multiplicity or would be a pluralistic and divisible oneness with the Many as its parts. That is
not the unity of Brahman, which can neither be diminished nor
increased, nor divided.
The Many in the universe are sometimes called parts of the
universal Brahman as the waves are parts of the sea. But, in
truth, these waves are each of them that sea, their diversities
being those of frontal or superficial appearances caused by the
sea's motion. As each object in the universe is really the whole
universe in a different frontal appearance, so each individual
soul is all Brahman regarding Itself and world from a centre of
For That is identical, not single. It is identical always and
everywhere in Time and Space, as well as identical beyond Time
and Space. Numerical oneness and multiplicity are equally valid
terms of its essential unity.
These two terms, as we see them, are like all others, representations in Chit, in the free and all-creative self-awareness of
1 The series of ideas under this heading seem to me to be the indispensable metaphysical
basis of the Upanishad. The Isha Upanishad does not teach a pure and exclusive Monism;
it declares the One without denying the Many and its method is to see the One in the
Many. It asserts the simultaneous validity of Vidya and Avidya and upholds as the object
of action and knowledge an immortality consistent with Life and Birth in this world. It
regards every object as itself the universe and every soul as itself the divine Purusha. The
ensemble of these ideas is consistent only with a synthetic or comprehensive as opposed
to an illusionist or exclusive Monism.
the Absolute regarding itself variously, infinitely, innumerably
and formulating what it regards. Chit is a power not only of
knowledge, but of expressive will, not only of receptive vision,
but of formative representation; the two are indeed one power.
For Chit is an action of Being, not of the Void. What it sees, that
becomes. It sees itself beyond Space and Time; that becomes in
the conditions of Space and Time.
Creation is not a making of something out of nothing or of
one thing out of another, but a self-projection of Brahman into
the conditions of Space and Time. Creation is not a making, but
a becoming in terms and forms of conscious existence.
In the becoming each individual is Brahman variously represented and entering into various relations with Itself in the
play of the divine consciousness; in being, each individual is all
Brahman as the Absolute or the Universal has the power
of standing back from Itself in the relativity. It conceives, by a
subordinate movement of consciousness, the individual as other
than the universal, the relative as different from the Absolute.
Without this separative movement, the individual would always
tend to lose itself in the universal, the relative to disappear into
the Absolute. Thus, It supports a corresponding reaction in the
individual who regards himself as "other" than the transcendent
and universal Brahman and "other" than the rest of the Many.
He puts identity behind him and enforces the play of Being in
the separative Ego.
The individual may regard himself as eternally different
from the One, or as eternally one with It, yet different, or he
may go back entirely in his consciousness to the pure Identity.2
But he can never regard himself as independent of some kind of
Unity, for such a view would correspond to no conceivable truth
in the universe or beyond it.
These three attitudes correspond to three truths of the
2 The positions, in inverse order, of the three principal philosophical schools of
Vedanta, Monism, Qualified Monism and Dualism.
Brahman which are simultaneously valid and none of them
entirely true without the others as its complements. Their coexistence, difficult of conception to the logical intellect, can be
experienced by identity in consciousness with Brahman.
Even in asserting Oneness, we must remember that Brahman
is beyond our mental distinctions and is a fact not of Thought
that discriminates, but of Being which is absolute, infinite and
escapes discrimination. Our consciousness is representative and
symbolic; it cannot conceive the thing-in-itself, the Absolute,
except by negation, in a sort of void, by emptying it of all
that it seems in the universe to contain. But the Absolute is
not a void or negation. It is all that is here in Time and beyond
Even oneness is a representation and exists in relation to
multiplicity. Vidya and Avidya are equally eternal powers of the
supreme Chit. Neither Vidya nor Avidya by itself is the absolute
knowledge. (See verses 9 - 11.)
Still, of all relations oneness is the secret base, not multiplicity. Oneness constitutes and upholds the multiplicity, multiplicity
does not constitute and uphold the oneness.
Therefore we have to conceive of oneness as our self and
the essential nature of Being, multiplicity as a representation of
Self and a becoming. We have to conceive of the Brahman as
One Self of all and then return upon the Many as becomings of
the One Being (bhutani . . . atman). But both the Self and the
becomings are Brahman; we cannot regard the one as Brahman
and the others as unreal and not Brahman. Both are real, the
one with a constituent and comprehensive, the others with a
derivative or dependent reality.
THE RUNNING OF THE GODS
Brahman representing Itself in the universe as the Stable, by Its
immutable existence (Sat), is Purusha, God, Spirit; representing
Itself as the Motional, by Its power of active Consciousness
(Chit), is Nature, Force or World-Principle (Prakriti, Shakti,
Maya).3 The play of these two principles is the Life of the
The Gods are Brahman representing Itself in cosmic Personalities expressive of the one Godhead who, in their impersonal
action, appear as the various play of the principles of Nature.
The "others" are sarvan.i bhutani of a later verse, all becomings, Brahman representing itself in the separative consciousness
of the Many.
Everything in the universe, even the Gods, seems to itself to
be moving in the general movement towards a goal outside itself
or other than its immediate idea of itself. Brahman is the goal;
for it is both the beginning and the end, the cause and the result
of all movement.
But the idea of a final goal in the movement of Nature itself is
illusory. For Brahman is Absolute and Infinite. The Gods, labouring to reach him, find, at every goal that they realise, Brahman
still moving forward in front to a farther realisation. Nothing
in the appearances of the universe can be entirely That to the
relative consciousness; all is only a symbolic representation of
All things are already realised in Brahman. The running
of the Others in the course of Nature is only a working out
(Prakriti), by Causality, in Time and Space, of something that
Brahman already possesses.
Even in Its universal being Brahman exceeds the Movement.
Exceeding Time, It contains in Itself past, present and future simultaneously and has not to run to the end of conceivable Time.
Exceeding Space, It contains all formations in Itself coincidently
3 Prakriti, executive Nature as opposed to Purusha, which is the Soul governing, taking
cognizance of and enjoying the works of Prakriti. Shakti, the self-existent, self-cognitive,
self-effective Power of the Lord (Ishwara, Deva or Purusha), which expresses itself in the
workings of Prakriti. Maya, signifying originally in the Veda comprehensive and creative
knowledge, Wisdom that is from of old; afterwards taken in its second and derivative
sense, cunning, magic, Illusion. In this second significance it can really be appropriate
only to the workings of the lower Nature, apara prakr.ti, which has put behind it the
Divine Wisdom and is absorbed in the experiences of the separative Ego. It is in the more
ancient sense that the word Maya is used in the Upanishads, where, indeed, it occurs
and has not to run to the end of conceivable Space. Exceeding
Causality, It contains freely in Itself all eventualities as well as
all potentialities without being bound by the apparent chain of
causality by which they are linked in the universe. Everything is
already realised by It as the Lord before it can be accomplished
by the separated Personalities in the movement.
THE PRINCIPLE OF LIFE
MATARISHWAN AND THE WATERS
What then is Its intention in the movement?
The movement is a rhythm, a harmony which That, as the
Universal Life, works out by figures of Itself in the terms of
conscious Being. It is a formula symbolically expressive of the
Unknowable, - so arranged that every level of consciousness
really represents something beyond itself, depth of depth, continent of continent. It is a play4 of the divine Consciousness
existing for its own satisfaction and adding nothing to That,
which is already complete. It is a fact of conscious being, justified
by its own existence, with no purpose ulterior to itself. The idea
of purpose, of a goal is born of the progressive self-unfolding by
the world of its own true nature to the individual Souls inhabiting its forms; for the Being is gradually self-revealed within its
own becomings, real Unity emerges out of the Multiplicity and
changes entirely the values of the latter to our consciousness.
This self-unfolding is governed by conditions determined by
the complexity of consciousness in its cosmic action.
For consciousness is not simple or homogeneous, it is septuple. That is to say, it constitutes itself into seven forms or grades
of conscious activity descending from pure Being to physical being. Their interplay creates the worlds, determines all activities,
constitutes all becomings.
4 This is the Vaishnava image of the Lila applied usually to the play of the Personal
Deity in the world, but equally applicable to the active impersonal Brahman.
Brahman is always the continent of this play or this working.
Brahman self-extended in Space and Time is the universe.
In this extension Brahman represents Itself as formative
Nature, the universal Mother of things, who appears to us, first,
as Matter, called Prithivi, the Earth-Principle.
Brahman in Matter or physical being represents Itself as
the universal Life-Power, Matarishwan, which moves there as a
dynamic energy, Prana, and presides effectively over all arrangement and formation.
Universal Life establishes, involved in Matter, the septuple
consciousness; and the action of Prana, the dynamic energy, on
the Matrix of things evolves out of it its different forms and
serves as a basis for all their evolutions.
There are, then, seven constituents of Chit active in the universe.
We are habitually aware of three elements in our being,
Mind, Life and Body. These constitute for us a divided and
mutable existence which is in a condition of unstable harmony
and works by a strife of positive and negative forces between the
two poles of Birth and Death. For all life is a constant birth or becoming (sambhava, sambhuti of verses 12 - 14). All birth entails
a constant death or dissolution of that which becomes, in order
that it may change into a new becoming. Therefore this state of
existence is called Mrityu, Death, and described as a stage which
has to be passed through and transcended. (Verses 11, 14)
For this is not the whole of our being and, therefore, not our
pure being. We have, behind, a superconscious existence which
has also three constituents, Sat, Chit-Tapas and Ananda.
Sat is essence of our being, pure, infinite and undivided,
as opposed to this divisible being which founds itself on the
constant changeableness of physical substance. Sat is the divine
counterpart of physical substance.
Chit-Tapas is pure energy of Consciousness, free in its rest
or its action, sovereign in its will, as opposed to the hampered
dynamic energies of Prana which, feeding upon physical substances, are dependent on and limited by their sustenance.5 Tapas
is the divine counterpart of this lower nervous or vital energy.
Ananda is Beatitude, the bliss of pure conscious existence
and energy, as opposed to the life of the sensations and emotions
which are at the mercy of the outward touches of Life and
Matter and their positive and negative reactions, joy and grief,
pleasure and pain. Ananda is the divine counterpart of the lower
emotional and sensational being.
This higher existence, proper to the divine Sachchidananda,
is unified, self-existent, not confused by the figures of Birth and
Death. It is called, therefore, Amritam, Immortality, and offered
to us as the goal to be aimed at and the felicity to be enjoyed
when we have transcended the state of death. (Verses 11, 14,
The higher divine is linked to the lower mortal existence
by the causal Idea6 or supramental Knowledge-Will, Vijnana.
It is the causal Idea which, by supporting and secretly guiding
the confused activities of the Mind, Life and Body, ensures and
compels the right arrangement of the universe. It is called in the
Veda the Truth because it represents by direct vision the truth of
things both inclusive and independent of their appearances; the
Right or Law, because, containing in itself the effective power
of Chit, it works out all things according to their nature with a
perfect knowledge and prevision; the Vast, because it is of the
nature of an infinite cosmic Intelligence comprehensive of all
Vijnana, as the Truth, leads the divided consciousness back
5 Therefore physical substance is called in the Upanishads Annam, Food. In its origin,
however, the word meant simply being or substance.
6 Not the abstract mental idea, but the supramental Real-Idea, the Consciousness,
Force and Delight of the Being precipitated into a comprehensive and discriminative
awareness of all the truths and powers of its own existence, carrying in its self-knowledge
the will of self-manifestation, the power of all its potentialities and the power of all its
forms. It is power that acts and effectuates, as well as knowledge master of its own
to the One. It also sees the truth of things in the multiplicity. Vijnana is the divine counterpart of the lower divided intelligence.
These seven powers of Chit are spoken of by the Vedic Rishis
as the Waters, they are imaged as currents flowing into or rising
out of the general sea of Consciousness in the human being.7
They are all coexistent in the universe eternally and inseparably, but capable of being involved and remanifested in each
other. They are actually involved in physical Nature and must
necessarily evolve out of it. They can be withdrawn into pure
infinite Being and can again be manifested out of it.
The infolding and unfolding of the One in the Many and the
Many in the One is therefore the law of the eternally recurrent
THE VISION OF THE BRAHMAN
The Upanishad teaches us how to perceive Brahman in the
universe and in our self-existence.
We have to perceive Brahman comprehensively as both the
Stable and the Moving. We must see It in eternal and immutable
Spirit and in all the changing manifestations of universe and
We have to perceive all things in Space and Time, the far
and the near, the immemorial Past, the immediate Present, the
infinite Future with all their contents and happenings as the One
We have to perceive Brahman as that which exceeds, contains and supports all individual things as well as all universe,
transcendentally of Time and Space and Causality. We have to
perceive It also as that which lives in and possesses the universe
and all it contains.
This is the transcendental, universal and individual Brahman, Lord, Continent and Indwelling Spirit, which is the object
of all knowledge. Its realisation is the condition of perfection
and the way of Immortality.
7 Hrdya samudra, Ocean of the Heart. R.V. IV. 58. 5.
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