Advaita Philosophy, Yoga Philosophy

Realistic vs. Idealistic Metaphysics – Page 5


Katha Upanishad


As the moving sun He dwells in heaven; as air He pervades all and dwells in the inter-space; as fire He resides on the earth; as Soma He stays in a jar; He lives among men; He lives among gods; He dwells in truth; He dwells in space; He is born in water; He takes birth from the earth; He is born in the sacrifice; He emerges from the mountains; He is unchanging; and He is great.

Thus it is said that the same Brahman constitutes everything and hence everything is of equal reality. Things are dependent for their reality not on the subject but on Brahman itself.

Taittiriya Upanishad


He that is here in the human person, and He that is there in the sun, are one.

Another sutra expressing the same idea of the sun and the person.

Aittiriya Upanishad


This One is (the inferior) Brahman; this is Indra, this is Prajapati; this is all these gods; and this is these five elements, viz, earth, air, space, water, fire; and this is all these (big creatures), together with the tiny ones, that the procreators of others and referable in pairs – to wit, those that are born of eggs, of wombs, of moisture, and of the earth, viz, horses, cattle, men, elephants, and all those creatures that there are which move or fly and those which do not move. All these are impelled by Consciousness, all these have Consciousness as the giver of their reality; the universe has Consciousness as its eye, and Consciousness is its end. Consciousness is Brahman.

Again, asserting that the Brahman is the source of the entire universe, and hence all this is real.

The sutra is interesting for the light it throws on the thinking of the ancient seers. By mentioning earth, air, water, space and fire, all of non–living objects is covered since these five elements together constitute the world. The sutra then goes on to mention all living beings, and it is very interesting that humans are mentioned in the same breath as horses, elephants,and even those born of eggs or moisture, proably meaning insects, slimy creatures and so on. This gives a clear idea that the seers recognised that humans were ultimately of the same league as all other living beings. The sutra shows that all these ultimately have Brahman as Consciousness as their origin and thus again reaffirms the existence and importance of the whole world.

Numerous other sutras can be cited from the Upanishads clarifying this point since the Upanishads undoubtedly are based on realistic metaphysics. Here I have only cited the main important and interesting ones. A detailed study of the Upanishads can throw up a number of other sutras to support this.

There is however one significant writing based on the Upanishads which define an idealistic metaphysics. This is the ‘Karika’ or exposition of Gaudapada on the Mandukya Upanishad. Gaudapada is an important figure in Advaita philosophy because of his influence on Sankaracharya. His Karika also defines an idealistic metaphysics which appears based on Mahayana Buddhism, and in fact he is considered to be a Buddhist by many. However, the Karika after all is not the Upanishads, and therefore I have dealt with it in a different section. The Upanishads themselves are categorically Realistic, and we need not concern ourselves much with the view brought forward by the Karika beyond its historical interest. I have examined the "Karika of Gaudapada" here.

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