The Mystical Core of Hindu Dharma
The Infinite Beyond
Hindu dharma has a deep mystical core that rises like sap into the various branchings of the dharma. Without understanding the mystical core, we lose the true Hinduism and end up with the external chaff of rituals and rules.
The mystical core, the very heart, of Hinduism is the Vedantic idea of Brahman, the One Supreme Truth that manifests as Cosmos, as matter, life and consciousness. All is Brahman, sarvam brahmeti, is the ruling mantra of Hindu dharma’s mystic core. If we were to peel off all the layers of what is popularly known as Hindu religion, and reduce all its varied and divergent philosophies and practices to one fundamental idea, what we would have is Brahman.
The word brahman in Sanskrit simply implies expansion (root: bṛh, to expand; therefore, that which expands). Brahman is not to be confused with Brahmin, a caste nomenclature. The English equivalent for Brahman would be the Divine, the Supreme.
Thus, when the Hindu says that all is the Divine, he is stating what all other religions state: that the Divine is omnipresent, and all is the Divine. But the Hindu dharma goes a step beyond with this and states further that there is nothing else but the Divine, neha nanasti kinchan. Nothing else, in fact, is needed: idam purnam, this is perfect and complete.
This one central idea of the Hindu dharma pervades all of Hinduism, all of its philosophical and metaphysical streams, its darshan, its scriptures, its processes and practices, its gods and goddesses, its art and architecture, its culture and literature, even its social customs and rituals.
This ‘idea’ of Brahman is, however, not intellectual; Brahman is not metaphysical speculation or even intuitive reasoning — it is a Truth directly experienced and lived by innumerable sages and prophets, the Maharishis and Yogis, of Hindu tradition, those who have been, through the generations, the forerunners and exemplars of the Hindu dharma. None amongst them, not even those regarded as the greatest, the most advanced, have even once claimed that their realizations were absolute and final and could not be attempted by any other. On the contrary, each of them went to tremendous lengths, as preceptors and guides, to explain the path, the discipline, the methodology to attain to such realizations. These paths, disciplines and methodologies are the Yogas of Hindu dharma. Yoga (from the root yuj, meaning to join) literally implies union, union with the Divine, with the Supreme Truth.
This is yet another driving idea, idee-force, of Hinduism: that all humans have the spiritual right or adhikara, to attain to the highest and deepest realizations of the Hindu dharma; none is excluded, none is unworthy. The only precondition for realization is the psychological preparedness of the seeker, his or her sincerity, willingness to follow the path, for the Yogas are exacting and all-consuming.
Consider further that if Brahman is the sole existence, and there is none else, if all that is manifest (and not yet manifest) is that Brahman, then the seeker, the devotee too is Brahman. Not only that, each living being, every life form, every animate and inanimate object in the universe, is Brahman. The logic is inescapable: everything and everyone is that Brahman; and if so, then where and how does one search for Brahman? Who, in fact, searches, and who is the sought? Is it not all the same?
This is where the seeker comes to the mystic core: the realization that Brahman cannot be sought nor found, as long as one functions out of human mind and consciousness. The human mind and consciousness is still rooted in the falsehood, and glimpses Truth only through several filters of falsehood. The Hindu sages called this condition Ignorance, avidya (root word is vid, to know). Human beings are not born in sin and are not automatons in the hands of an all-powerful God. The only ontological issue is spiritual ignorance, or more precisely, ignorance of one’s spiritual source.
According to Hindu dharma, since all is Brahman, the source of the universe, and of all humans in it, is also Brahman. Not knowing that one arises from Brahman (and one will subside in Brahman) is the root, the ontological, Ignorance. And this ignorance, avidya, can be overcome by deep and sustained self-enquiry into the nature of being and becoming and delving into the depths of one’s own consciousness. The depths, or heart, of one’s consciousness conceals the Truth of not only self but the universe. This heart of consciousness is known as the Atman in Hindu dharma. Next to Brahman, atman is the only other central idea and idee-force of Hinduism, because the atman is that faculty within us that bridges the Ignorance and the Truth. To know one’s atman is the first supreme attainment of Hindu dharma; and to know the atman as Brahman, one in identity, is the other supreme attainment of Hindu dharma. Attaining these two supreme realizations is indeed the first fruition of Hindu dharma in its devotee or disciple.
But it is still ‘first fruition’ because even these supreme realizations are not the end of the path; as Sri Aurobindo says, these are in fact the beginning of the higher ascent to Truth. One may consider these two supreme attainments as the base camp for the ascent to the Everest of Supreme Truth.
Such is the vast and mighty sweep of Hindu dharma and darshan. And such indeed is its simple premise, so trenchantly formulated through the centuries, that there is no end-point of the evolution of consciousness, no final judgment day; there is only a continual going beyond, because Truth is infinite, like Brahman. As one nears the Everest, the Everest recedes. Anyone who has ever managed to scale such heights of spiritual realization has always come to the one question that Hindu dharma or darshan has no answer to: Is there an end, a final consummation of it all?
Sri Aurobindo, the Maharishi of the twentieth Century, one who undoubtedly scaled the supreme heights of Vedic realization, said from his timeless vantage point that there was still an infinite beyond.
The ancient Vedic Rishis, when confronted by the same mystery, resolved it in a simpler way: that it was anirvachaniya — that which transcends thought and speech.