Cognition of Reality takes place in the timeless transcendental region5 min read

The Nature of Reality

There are two kinds of attribute: those that are imposed and those that are innate. A real attribute – one that constitutes the nature of an object, like liquidity in water and heat in fire – is inseparable from that object. The imposed attribute is that which belongs temporarily to the object, as heat to water.

Attributes distinguish one object from another. When we define an object logically, we state the particular innate attribute belonging to it which renders it identifiable and distinguished from other objects of the same class or otherwise.

There is another way of defining an object, of which the European logicians are not aware. It is called environmental (tatastha) definition. For instance we point out a certain star in the Great Bear by describing its surroundings, thus making it identifiable. Then there is also a negative way of defining an object.

Now ultimate Reality, being the origin of the phenomenal universe and its contents, must be infinite. The dictum of Einstein, regarding the finitude of the universe, leads us to the conclusion that the infinite Reality is beyond the universe and that all the past and future universes are contained in it, like clouds in the sky. Either a thing is or it is not. The Reality is, therefore it is Existence (Sat). It is also called Truth. The Reality must either be the cognizer or the cognized. Let us assume that it is cognition – because the universe perpetually brings to light that which is inherent within it. The Reality must, therefore, be cognition – or Consciousness (Chit).

Every object in nature is a composition of Reality and appearance. Appearances change – the Reality abides. Man, also, is a composition of appearance and Reality. The appearance is appreciated by the senses and the mind (also called the sixth sense or the inner organ, antahkaran). If we subtract all that appears, from man – what remains? Nothing. Who is the cognizer of this nothingness? Is not the cognition of nothingness a solid fact? Is not cognition as manifest as the sense perceptions and the thought forms, or even more so?

Plato ruled out the reality of the phenomenal world and located Reality in a higher world, which he called the realm of Ideas: Aristotle quarrelled with his great master and postulated the existence of the world of Reality not without, but within.

When philosophers study the universe, they often exclude a consideration of the Reality in man. The proper study of mankind is man. So our starting point in philosophy is the nature of man.

Our minds are out to discover Reality. As the child breaks its mechanical toy to find out the hidden workings, so man experiments with books, possessions, friends, fame and power, with a view to discover Reality. What do we love in a friend? His virtues, as they belong to the eternal values.

Truth is the object of our enquiry – and nothing else. Let us ever remember that the mercurial mind is looking for the ultimate Reality, non-recognition of which makes it dissatisfied and causes it to change its centre of attraction. The spiritualists, the theosophists and the wonder-mongers are really unscientific, because instead of trying to find the explanation of phenomena in the phenomenon itself, they seek it elsewhere.

Only man can study man completely. The investigation of inert matter by the scientist leads him from ignorance to greater ignorance, whereas the innate attribute of man is consciousness. He knows he is aware of objects. As children see fairies in a garden, so, in his intellectual childhood, man builds the picture of heaven and hell, also of a supra-cosmic Deity. Scripture (Shruti) says, with reference to the imagined supra-cosmic God: “TAT TWAM ASI (That Thou Art)!” The Self of man is the ultimate Reality.

Lovers of Reality are the true lovers – all other loves are delusive and shadowy. “THAT THOU ART” and “I AM brahman (God)” are the great dicta of the holy Shruti. Their unqualified acceptance, with or without reasoning, is called “illumined faith”. How misleading are the words of Omar Khayam: “There was a door to which I found no key”. There is a positive key to the door of fate, to the lock of destiny, to the garden of Truth. Where is it?

Let us be scientific. It must be in man himself, and it is the spirit of unrestricted enquiry. The door to Divinity is guarded by a great demon, whom the enquiring intellect must slay, in order to gain admittance into the chamber of Light.

It is not the unmanifest that becomes manifest. It is the manifest rediscovering Itself. The demon of false individuality is called ahankar or ego. The intellect has to transcend it. Some of the pupils of Shri Dada acquired the supreme vision after one year’s yogic practice and service of the Teacher. Some in even less. They had slain the demon of ahankar. As pure water flowing through a tap tainted with cholera bacteria becomes poisonous, similarly, pure Consciousness flowing through ahankar becomes tainted and its power of cognition does not penetrate beyond appearances. What is the use of studying, if humility and self-effacement are not ours.

Gnanam (awareness of Reality) and ahankar (egoity) cannot co-exist. Let us realise the littleness of human personality and the Infinitude of God. The experience of the cognition of Reality takes place in the timeless transcendental region.