[Advaita-l] satyam jnanam anantam brahman

Ramesh Krishnamurthy rkmurthy at gmail.com
Fri Dec 3 03:46:17 CST 2010

Dear Sri Rajaram,

Your post below has a lot of conceptual misunderstandings, so it is rather
difficult to answer it on a list like this. I am only making a brief attempt
to address one particular point.

The word "infinite" as used in Vedanta is NOT the opposite of finite in a
spacio-temporal sense. In fact, infinite is not opposed to anything, and is
better understood as a transcendence of mutually limiting finite entities.

Please understand this carefully. When two objects/concepts are said to be
opposed to each other, they are both finite by virtue of the fact that they
limit each other. For example, left and right are opposites and they limit
each other. If a car turns left it cannot turn right at the same time. One
can even talk of existence and non-existence in this way. For example, "is
there a mango tree in your backyard?". The answer can be "yes" (the mango
tree exists) or "no" (the mango tree does not exist). Again existence and
non-existence limit each other and thereby both are finite. Likewise, a
person either knows or does not know something. If you are asked, "do you
know Russian?", the answer can can be "I know", or "I don't know".

However, such mutually limiting opposites can only "exist" in a substratum.
There are various ways of understanding this. The existence or non-existence
of the mango tree is relevant only with regard to a substratum (the
backyard). In other words, the backyard "supports" both the existence and
the non-existence of the mango tree. Similarly, whether you know Russian is
relevant only with regard to a substratum (your mind). Incidentally, the
latter is the concept of sAkShI. A person may or may not know something but
he always knows whether he knows it or not.

Take the case of a vacuum. It is a region of space where there is no matter.
Does a vacuum exist? Actually non-existence of matter = existence of vacuum
and vice-versa. However, both the existence and non-existence of matter (and
correspondingly, the non-existence or existence of the vacuum) are relevant
only with respect to the substratum (the said region of space).

Extending this understanding, we come to Brahman which is referred to as
"pure existence" or "Existence", as it is a substratum for anything that
exists or does not exist. Using the same mango tree example:

1. There IS a mango tree in the backyard (There IS existence of the mango
tree in the backyard)

2. There IS no mango tree in the backyard (There IS non-existence of the
mango tree in the backyard).

It is even easier to appreciate this mathematically.

Say, x = mango tree. If x is false then x' (x not) is true. If x does not
exist then x' exists. If x is not, then x' IS.

The "IS" is unavoidable, though the mango tree may or may not be there. It
is this "IS" which we refer to as "pure existence". The "IS" of anything is
Brahman, including the "IS" of non-existing entities.

Another (simpler?) way of looking at it is that, strictly speaking, nothing
comes into being from zero. All creation is effectively manifestation only.
Even in physics we have the law of conservation of matter-energy. Taking
this to a philosophical conclusion, we can say that "existence is
conserved". This may help you understand pure existence as that which
transcends all pairs of opposites and is simultaneously their basis. Hence,
even while negating everything, the advaitin really negates nothing.

This "IS" is the sat of the chAndogya upaniShat. It is to be understood as
oneself, as per the teaching of the mahAvAkya.

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