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I And Mine: [01.05] - I And My Mind - The Question Of The Non-Manifest

Published: 19.10.2005
Updated: 06.08.2008

Only a few hours earlier the sky looked like a canopy bedecked with a million shining stars. But now all have disappeared and the sun is shining bright. All the minor lamps have extinguished. Only the sun is shedding light. But is this the truth? Superficially, yes. In reality, however, all the other planets and stars have not lost their existence, they have merely been overwhelmed by an intenser light.

Can existence ever cease to be? Can anything existing today be ever regarded not existent either in the past or in the future? Both existence and non-existence are eternal. The same tree, which was completely bare in autumn, has put on rich foliage in spring and with the onset of autumn will once again shed all its leaves. But being bare and putting on leaves do not constitute the tree's existence. They only denote that the tree exists. Likewise, life and death are merely expressions of our existence. They are not existence itself. Manifest is merely the surface expression of existence as the ripples on the bosom of an ocean. The senses and the intellect can apprehend the water's existence only through the medium of the ripples. It is for this reason that their perception of truth is not simply the direct observation of reality.

Sieving through the window lattice the rays of the sun were lighting up a myriad particles of dust, which only a few moments ago I was not able to see. Again, the taped music is being played and I am listening to a familiar voice, which only a little while ago I was not able to hear. When the abstract changes into the concrete, the hidden becomes manifest and the remote becomes close, then the invisible turns into the visible and the inaccessible becomes accessible.

What I can see in the light I cannot see in the dark. The microscope reveals much more than the bare eyes do. If I carry this argument to its logical conclusion, I can say that the best of microscopes cannot reveal what inner enlightenment can.

Any developmental sequence must have an ultimate stage. There must be, accordingly, an ultimate means of knowing the truth. It is this, which is in Indian philosophy called para-knowledge. On its basis it can be said that the visible, the concrete, the manifest and the close are as true as the invisible, the abstract, the hidden and the remote. When I use my imagination the truth appears to be endless and boundless. On the contrary, when I use my senses and the intellect and stop the play of imagination, the truth like a closed room appears to be both placid and limited. Within that room I become surrounded by indirect apprehension of the truth.

One day I was intently gazing at the sky. My philosophical disposition reminded me that the sky was limitless. Right then my practical sense opposed it and maintained that it was limited. I was confused. Was the sky limitless or limited? I kept wondering for a long time. Suddenly I heard the air-raid siren. Anti-aircraft guns started firing. The peaceful atmosphere turned tumultuous. I was naturally curious to know why it happened so? t got the answer that the enemy aircraft had penetrated our airspace and they were being shot down. Our ancestors knew the boundaries of the earth and they also got acquainted with the boundaries of the sea. Both the earth and the sea have boundaries and so it would have appeared natural to those ancestors to regard them as limited. But they could not conceive the sky being limited. It was this chain of thought which reminded me of the Nyaya system of Indian philosophy. In it I came across terms like

  • Ghatakash
  • Patakash and
  • Grihakash

It further lent support to the fact that the sky was indeed limited. If I had believed in logic, this finding would have satisfied me. But I wanted to experience the truth and so plodded on. My desire to reach out for the philosophical truth freed me from the confines of logic and I saw that the sky was limitless. Limitlessness represents the sky's existential reality and my philosophical understanding of it. Limitedness is the modification of the sky' s existential reality by my ego - the outcome of superficial knowledge. The limitation is man's own creation. So long as there is a pitcher, it can enclose space within it. Once the pitcher breaks, the enclosed space disappears and with it my perception of limited space also vanishes. Then I see space as space, boundless and infinite. Its limitedness was a mere illusion, not the truth.

You will now ask me, 'How can the space inside the pitcher be fictive? It holds liquid. Will open space be able to hold it? Fictiveness cannot belong to something that holds water.”

My answer is that I see two levels of reality - one imaginary and the other born of change. The projection of the space within the pitcher on to the open space is the imaginary level of reality. But the perception of confined space within the pitcher is the imaginary level of reality born of the latter's transfer from the open to the enclosed state. The former is existential untruth the latter is existential truth.

Misleading perceptions are not uncommon. It is the case when a bird pecks away at its own reflection in a mirror. It is misled into regarding the reflection a rival bird. Likewise, how often does a man get frightened by his own shadow? It is again an illusion that makes him treat the latter as his own enemy. Both the bird and the man illustrate the difference between darkness and light. So does my recognition of a voice heard from behind a wall. In each case there is some screen that keeps out light. Believing (the reflection to be a rival bird, the shadow to be an enemy, the voice to be of a known person) has its base in darkness (the presence of a screen keeping the light out); knowing is direct apprehension of reality. I know that the sun exists, but I believe in the existence of the legendary golden mountain Sumeru. A direct contact with existence results in direct knowledge; contact through some medium leads to indirect knowledge. The former is knowing, the latter is believing. As light spreads, believing gives way to knowing. The object of Indian philosophy is to move from believing to knowing and with the direct experience of existential reality that goal is achieved. Whereas existence is independent, the knower of knowing or believing, utility or usefulness requires the combination of the knower and the object.

My existence is not the result of others experiencing it.
They experience it because I exist.
I experience myself; that is why I exist.

  • I And Mine by Acharya Mahaprajna
  • Edited by Muni Dulahraj ji
  • Translated by R.P. Bhatnagar, formerly Prof. Dept. of English at Jaipur University
  • Published by Jain Vishva Bharati Institute, Ladnun, India, 1st Edition, 1995

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