Thursday, July 31, 2014

Possessor of Independence

"The limited state of consciousness is insentient and cannot simultaneously expand itself to become the various forms of the universe. The possessor of independence is absolutely different from that insentient state of consciousness. You cannot, therefore, recognize Him in only one way. The moment you recognize Him in one way you will also recognize Him in the other way.
This Lord Siva, who is completely independent (svatantra), has the diversity of creation and destruction existing in His own nature. And, at the same time, this diversity is found existing in its own way as the field of ignorance." ............ Abhinavagupta

Abhinavagupta was one of India's greatest philosophers, mystics and aestheticians. He lived in the tenth century and was a great exponent of Kashmir Śaivism. His understanding of consciousness both manifest and unmanifest can be sampled in these two verses. He was greatly influenced by Buddhist thought.

The above verses 8 and 9 are taken from Bodhapañcadaśikā, a work by Abhinavagupta. This has a similar ring to the concept of pratītyasamutpāda for which the most common translations are dependent origination or dependent arising. But the term is also translated as interdependent co-arising, conditioned arising, conditioned genesis, etc. The term could be translated somewhat more literally as arising in dependence upon conditions. This is the philosophy of the second century Buddhist philosopher, Nagarjuna.

The moment we have dependency we descend into the created realm (limited state of consciousness) there can be only one attribute which ultimate annihilation. There cannot be self sustenance in all fullness through creation within the created realm. Only that which is capable of self sustenance, despite the process of creation and annihilation, can be termed as the omnipotent Divine as it does not have origination outside of itself.
This is why the invocation to Brihadaranyaka Upanishad states:
" That (Brahman) is infinite, and this (universe) is infinite. the infinite proceeds from the infinite.
(Then) taking the infinitude of the infinite (universe), it remains as the infinite (Brahman) alone."

This reflects the contemporary tenets of philosophy of quantum physics. Contemporary Tibetan Buddhist teacher Mingyur Rinpoche states:

"In my conversations with modern scientists, I’ve been struck by a number of similarities between the principles of quantum mechanics and the Buddhist understanding of the relationship between emptiness and appearance. Because the words we used were different, it took me quite a while to recognize that we were talking about the same thing—phenomena unfolding moment by moment, caused and conditioned by an almost infinite number and variety of events."

And contemporary Western philosopher Christian Thomas Kohl states:

"There is a surprising parallelism between the philosophical concept of reality articulated by Nagarjuna and the physical concept of reality implied by quantum physics. For neither is there a fundamental core to reality, rather reality consists of systems of interacting objects. Such concepts of reality cannot be reconciled with the substantial, subjective, holistic or instrumentalist concepts of reality which underlie modern modes of thought."

The independent nature of fundamental causation has to be appreciated both through the scriptures as well as through modern science.

Love to you all


  1. Dear Tib,
    Thank you so much. These concepts are very well articulated for one's understanding, and their parallelism are also significant. It seems that contemporary science has much to learn yet from the ancient Buddhist philosophy. It does astounds me no end.

  2. Dear Bhaskar,
    Thank you for your feedback and appreciation. I am so glad that I have your now your wisdom to enrich my thoughts.