[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next]

God as "A Being" versus God as "No-being"

Nov 23, 2002 11:42 AM
by Daniel H. Caldwell

Koot Hoomi wrote to A.P. Sinnett:

"A Being however gigantic, occupying space and having length breadth 
and thickness is most certainly the Mosaic deity; 'No-being' and a 
mere principle lands you directly in the Buddhistic atheism, or the 
Vedantic primitive Acosmism."

That is: DUALITY versus NON-DUALITY: "A Being" versus "No-being"

Compare the above with the following excerpts from the
Encyclopædia Britannica. CAPS have been added to emphasize
certain words.
VAISHNAVISM also called Vishnuism, or Visnuism . . . [is] worship of 
the god Vishnu and of his incarnations, principally as Rama and as 
Krishna. It is one of the major forms of modern Hinduism—with
Saivism and Shaktism (Saktism). 

A major characteristic of Vaishnavism is the strong part played by 
bhakti, or religious devotion. The ultimate goal of the devotee is to 
escape from the cycle of birth and death so as to enjoy the presence 
of Vishnu. This cannot be achieved without the grace of God. . . .

The philosophical schools of Vaishnavism differ in their 
interpretation of THE RELATIONSHIP between individual souls and God. 
The doctrines of the most important schools are: 

(1) visist advaita ("qualified monism"), associated with the
name of Ramanuja (11th century) and continued by the Srivais nava 
sect, prominent in South India; 

(2) dvaita ("dualism"), the principal exponent of which was
Madhva (13th century), who taught that although the soul is dependent 
on God it is NOT an extension of God, that the soul and God are 
SEPARATE entities; 

(3) dvaitadvaita ("dualistic monism"), taught by Nimbarka. . .

(4) suddhadvaita ("pure monism") of Vallabha. . .

(5) acintya-bhedabheda ("inconceivable duality and
nonduality"), the doctrine of Caitanya. . . 

DVAITA . . . (Sanskrit: "Dualism"), [dualism, or belief in a
BASIC DIFFERENCE in kind between God and individual souls] [is] an 
important school in the orthodox Hindu philosophical system of 
Vedanta. Its founder was Madhva. . . . 

Already during his lifetime, Madhva was regarded by his followers as 
an incarnation of the wind god Vayu, who had been sent to earth by 
the lord Vishnu to save the good, after the powers of evil had sent 
the philosopher Sankara, an important proponent of the Advaita 
("Nondualist") school. 

In his expositions, Madhva shows the influence of the Nyaya 
philosophic school. He maintains that Vishnu is the supreme God, thus 
identifying the Brahman of the Upanisads with A PERSONAL God, as 
Ramanuja (c. 1050–1137) had done before him. There are in
Madhva's system THREE ETERNAL, ontological orders: that of God, that 
of soul, and that of inanimate nature. The existence of God is 
demonstrable by logical proof, though only scripture teaches his 
nature. He is the epitome of all perfections and possesses a 
nonmaterial body, which consists of saccidananda (being, spirit, and 
bliss). God is the efficient cause of the universe, but Madhva denies 
that he is the material cause, for God cannot have created the world 
by splitting himself nor in any other way, since that militates 
against the doctrine that God is unalterable; in addition, it is 
blasphemous to accept that a perfect God changes himself into an 
imperfect world. . . .

Madhva set out to refute the nondualistic Advaita philosophy of 
Sankara (d. c. AD 750), who believed the INDIVIDUAL self to be a 
phenomenon and the absolute spirit (Brahman) the ONLY reality. Thus, 
Madhva rejected the venerable Hindu theory of maya
("illusion"), which taught that only spirituality is eternal
and the material world is illusory and deceptive. Madhva maintained 
that the simple fact that things are transient and everchanging does 
not mean they are not real. . . .

Madhva . . . belonged to the tradition of Vaisnava religious faith 
and showed a great polemical spirit in refuting Sankara's philosophy 
and in converting people to his own fold. . . . He glorified 
DIFFFERENCE. Five types of differences are central to Madhva's 
system: DIFFERENCE between soul and God, between soul and soul, 
between soul and matter, between God and matter, and that between 
matter and matter. Brahman is the fullness of qualities, and by his 
own intrinsic nature, Brahman produces the world. The individual, 
otherwise free, is dependent only upon God. The Advaita concepts of 
falsity and indescribability of the world were severely criticized 
and rejected. 


ADVAITA (Sanskrit: "Nondualism," or "Monism"), [is]
most influential of the schools of Vedanta, an orthodox philosophy of 
India. While its followers find its main tenets already fully 
expressed in the Upanisads and systematized by the Vedanta-sutras, it 
has its historical beginning with the 7th-century thinker 
Gaudapada. . . Gaudapada builds further on the Mahayana Buddhist 
philosophy of Sunyava-da ("Emptiness"). He argues that there
is NO DUALITY; the mind, awake or dreaming, moves through maya
("illusion"); and only nonduality (advaita) is the final
truth. This truth is concealed by the ignorance of illusion. There is 
no becoming, either of a thing by itself or of a thing out of some 
ONLY THE ATMAN (all-soul), in which individuals may be temporarily 
delineated just as the space in a jar delineates a part of main 
space: when the jar is broken, the individual space becomes once more 
part of the main space. 

The medieval Indian philosopher Sankara, or Sankaracarya (Master 
Sankara, c. 700–750), builds further on Gaudapada's foundation, .
. . Sankara in his philosophy does not start from the empirical world 
with logical analysis but, rather, directly from the absolute 
(Brahman). If interpreted correctly, he argues, the Upanisads teach 
the nature of Brahman. In making this argument, he develops a 
complete epistemology to account for the human error in taking the 
phenomenal world for real. Fundamental for Sankara is the tenet that 
the Brahman is real and the world is unreal. Any change, duality, or 
plurality is an illusion. The self is NOTHING BUT Brahman. Insight 
into this identity results in spiritual release. Brahman is outside 
time, space, and causality, which are simply forms of empirical 
experience. NO DISTINCTIN in Brahman or from Brahman is possible. 

Sankara points to scriptural texts, either stating identity
("Thou art that") or denying difference ("There is no duality
here"), as declaring the true meaning of a Brahman without
qualities (nirguna ). Other texts that ascribe qualities (saguna) to 
Brahman refer not to the true nature of Brahman but to its 
personality as God(Isvara). . . . 


PANTHEISM in Hinduism
The gods of the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India (c.1200 BC), 
represented for the most part natural forces. Exceptions were the 
gods Prajapati (Lord of Creatures) and Purusa (Supreme Being or Soul 
of the Universe), whose competition for influence provided, in its 
outcome, a possible explanation of how the Indian tradition came to 
be one of pantheism rather than of Classical Theism. By the 10th book 
of the Rigveda, Prajapati had become a lordly, monotheistic figure, a 
creator deity transcending the world; and in the later period of the 
sacred writings of the Brahmanas (c. 7th century BC), prose 
commentaries on the Vedas, he was moving into a central position. The 
rising influence of this Theism was later eclipsed by Purusa, who was 
also represented in Rigveda X. In a creation myth Purusa was 
sacrificed by the gods in order to supply (from his body) the pieces 
from which all the things of the world arise. From this standpoint 
the ground of all things lies in a Cosmic Self, and all of life 
participates in that of Purusa. The Vedic hymn to Purusa may be 
regarded as the starting point of Indian pantheism. 

In the Upanisads (c. 1000–500 BC), the most important of the
ancient scriptures of India, the later writings contain philosophic 
speculations concerning the relation between the individual and the 
divine. In the earlier Upanisads, the absolute, impersonal, eternal 
properties of the divine had been stressed; in the later Upanisads, 
on the other hand, and in the Bhagavadgita , the personal, loving, 
immanentistic properties became dominant. In both cases the divine 
was held to be IDENTICAL with the inner self of each man. At times 
these opposites were implicitly held to be in fact identical—the
view earlier called identity of opposites pantheism. At other times 
the two sets of qualities were related, one to the unmanifest 
absolute Brahman, or supreme reality (sustaining the universe), and 
the other to the manifest Brahman bearing qualities (and containing 
the universe). Thus Brahman can be regarded as exclusive of the world 
and inclusive, unchanging and yet the origin of all change. Sometimes 
the manifest Brahman was regarded as an emanation from the unmanifest 
Brahman; and then emanationistic pantheism—the Neoplatonic
pantheism of the foregoing typology—was the result.

Sankara, an outstanding nondualistic Vedantist and advocate of a 
spiritual view of life, began with the Neoplatonic alternative but 
added a qualification that turned his view into what was later called 
acosmic pantheism. Distinguishing first between Brahman as being the 
eternal Absolute and Brahman as a lower principle and declaring the 
lower Brahman to be a manifestation of the higher, he then made the 
judgment that all save the higher unqualitied Brahman is the product 
of ignorance or nescience and exists (apparently only in men's minds) 
as the phantoms of a dream. Since for Sankara, the world and 
individuality thus disappear upon enlightenment into the unmanifest 
Brahman, and in reality only the Absolute without distinctions 
exists, Sankara has provided an instance of acosmism.

ACOSMISM [is] in philosophy, the view that God is the sole and 
ultimate reality and that finite objects and events have no 
INDEPENDENT existence. Acosmism has been equated with pantheism, the 
belief that everything is God. G.W.F. Hegel coined the word to defend 
Benedict de Spinoza, who was accused of atheism for rejecting the 
traditional view of a created world EXISTING OUTSIDE GOD. Hegel 
argued that Spinoza could not be an atheist because pantheists hold 
that EVERYTHING is God, whereas atheists exclude God altogether and 
make a godless world the sole reality. Furthermore, because Spinoza's 
cosmos is part of God, it is not what it seems to be. He is 
acosmistic insofar as "noncosmic" seems to deny the
cosmos—a position, however, very alien to Spinoza's thought. 

Acosmism has also been used to describe the philosophies of Hindu 
Vedanta, Buddhism, and Arthur Schopenhauer; and Johann Gottlieb 
Fichte used the term to defend himself against accusations similar to 
those leveled against Spinoza.


[Back to Top]

Theosophy World: Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application