The pantheist ‘brahmacharin’
Between 800BC and 400BC, when the ancient Vedic culture1 was decaying,2 some Indians3 began to explore the notion of pantheism.4 They defined ‘Brahman’5 as ‘All’ (or the ground or cause of all) and abstracted the ‘all’ to mean ‘One without a second or ‘other’.’ So they simply stated that: ‘All is Brahman,’ ‘Thou art Brahman’ and ‘I am Brahman.’
An individual who sought to know the Brahman, the ‘All’, was called a brahmacharin.6 The pantheist brahmacharin, believing himself identical with Brahman, sought to know/realize the Brahman.7 And that was a very tricky rather than difficult endeavour.
To solve his problem the vedantic brahmacharin applied single-minded, unwavering concentration to his one goal of knowing the Brahman.8 In practice that meant relentless self ≈ SELF-enquiry.9,10 In so far as his single track concentration upon the Brahman, as ‘one without a second’, did not waver he was deemed pure (i.e. chaste), i.e. unsullied by ‘otherness.’11
In short, by concentrating12 on ONE, and any One will do, I experience13 only that ONE.14 And then, since no ‘other’ is processed,15 I experience myself as being the whole (or a selected part of the, such as ‘I’ or ‘am’) content of that ONE. By intensifying concentration the content (as template or constraints limitation) of the ONE dissipates and I experience myself as content free (hence unlimited) ONENESS. By further intensifying concentration16 ONENESS disappears.17
Once the vedantic brahmacharin had realised his fundamental identity with the Brahman, and when his student days were over, he applied himself in one of two ways. Either he relinquished his self, i.e. his locality-as-samsara-component, and reverted to the freedom (i.e. moksha 1) of the non-local Brahman12; or he perfected his self-as-samsara-locality thereby completing the Brahman both locally and non-locally13 and so freeing (via moksha 2) the latter-as-himself from incompleteness.
© 2018 by Victor Langheld
1. Vedic, hence orthodox culture/religion was primarily rural, engaged with life, family oriented, Samsara positive, the goal being a ‘freedom to’ moksha (i.e. moksha 1). Post Vedic heterodox culture/religion, mostly non-theistic, turned escapist, Samsara (i.e. life) negative, the goal being a ‘freedom from’ moksha (moksha 2).
2. The causes of the decay are not fully understood. Some scholars assume that Vedic, primarily rural culture lost traction with the rise of kingship, urbanisation and an intensifying struggle to survive and general dissatisfaction with the status quo. This is suggested by the hearsay that the founders of post Vedic religions, such as Vedanta, Buddhism, Jainism and others were founded by aristocrats rather than rishis or Brahmins.
3. They appear to have operated, like the non-theist (possibly early naturalist/scientist) Buddha, Mahavira and the Samkyas, as natural philosophers abstracting either bottom-up from everyday observations (as initial states) to universal principles (as end states) or top-down from the given to basic or ground operating, hence emergence principles. In short, these natural philosophers functioned as (human, indeed biological) systems analysts with the intention of understanding the principles of life and then upgrading everyday responses (as Guide & Control mechanisms) in order to reduce and/or eliminate dukkha (i.e. pain suffering and so on).
4. For ‘pantheism’ read: Greek: to pan ≈ all is God, lately updated to mean: (autonomous) nature naturing.
5. The noun ‘Brahma’ or ‘Brahman’ is derived from the root verb bṛh- ‘to swell, expand, grow, enlarge.’ Depending on context, the noun/name ‘Brahma(n)’ (just like the Greek word/name ‘Christ’, or the Sumerian noun/name ‘El’ (become Allah), meaning ‘the power’) can mean anything you want it to mean, for instance God (personal or impersonal). For that very reason the noun/name ‘Brahma(n)’ is not, cannot be meaningfully translated into English. To translate the word Brahman (or ‘Christ’, i.e. ‘the anointed’) literally would mean to deprive it of its ‘mystical’ content and emotional leverage.
6. Brahmacharin literally means: ‘going after Brahman.’ In other words, in olden times a brahmacharin was an unmarried (hence chaste or pure) student of Brahman, and would nowadays be called a student of theology, i.e. the Veda or Brahmanism. The status of the brahmacharin is mentioned in the Veda and was known to the Buddha. The notion of the brahmacharin as one option, later as one prescriptive stage of the ashram system, was developed towards the end of the Upanishad period and given classical form, still relevant today, by Manu.
7. Or, to translate the brahmacharin’s self-knowledge-cum-realization striving (i.e. sramana) into modern understanding, the (local because limited) all (or self, i.e. the brahmacharin) sought to know/realize the (non-local or unlimited) ALL (or SELF, i.e. the Brahman).
8. In other words, he practiced Yoga, meaning: the gradual reduction of turbulence/fluctuation (meaning the (disturbing) affect of multiple data scanning) in the brain. (See Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra No 2).
9. And which produced a host of difficulties which found no compelling resolution in the Upanishads nor with the reactionary Brahmin commentators like Badarayana and Shankara. Since the Upanishad anthologies began with bottom up analysis, i.e. starting from the personal initial state of ‘I am’, they tended to end with a seemingly personal (experiential, hence saguna) Brahman, later rendered impersonal, automatic and mechanical, as in the nirguna Brahman.
10. What the naïve neo-vedanta pantheist brahmacharin, like Ramana Maharashi and Nisargadatta and most other modern professional yogis, did was simply to focus on ONE (and any one, such as a mantra or a mandala or any imaginary notion or actual feeling would do) thus excluding all ‘other’ (recall that the Brahman was defined as ‘The One without second or other’), the outcome being the complete realisation, meaning @oneness with the ONE, first with (imagined) content (understood as the Lila of Maya, hence as illusion or fantasy), then without content. The end result was the singular, exclusive of all ‘other’ @100% experience/realisation of bare (i.e. unlimited, unconstrained), hence universal presence/being (Sanskrit: sat) and which was the interpreted to mean ‘The Brahman.’ Flooding the brain-as-reality-simulator (i.e. one’s blind autopilot) @100% with one datum only produces the (simulated, albeit experienced as real) experience of @oneness (or non-duality, i.e. advaita) of complete ≈ perfect ≈ @100% and timeless (hence universal) being/realness (or whatever the focus’ content) is a device/trick used by those seeking to escape the unpleasant world.
11. In other words, a brahmacharin is someone whose mind (as data processing device) never wavers (thus rendering him pure, chaste) from the single thought of Brahman ≈ One, and any ‘one’ will do. He is pure because he couples/copulates with ONE only.
12. For ‘concentrating’ read: restricting the data that floods the brain, i.e. reducing data scanning first to on-line then to on-end accessing. This happens in much the same way as a hydro-electric scheme restricts water flow to a narrow channel to create massive force (i.e. irresistible ‘realness’/power) via which to generate electricity.
13. That is to say, ‘am conscious of’.
14. It follows that a brahmacharin is someone who focuses/processes, i.e. floods his brain with only One, and any One will do. By so doing he becomes a mirror image of the Brahman.
15. Following the ancient India adage: ‘If you want to find the true, remove the false!’, to become Brahman, i.e. ‘The One without a second’, eliminate all ‘seconds’, to wit, all Brahman alternatives.
16. Sanskrit: samadhi. Samadhi (a ‘borderline’ psychosis phenomenon) can be practiced (by means of japa in one of its many forms) to @oneness (as in the case of Nisargadatta et al). Or, in some cases it happens spontaneously (as in the case of Ramana Maharshi at 16) as defence mechanism against stress or trauma. Because of the latter, many dedicated yogis engineer (via tapas) high (indeed life threatening) stress situations to force the brain to generate a ‘spontaneous’ samadhi with or without a desired content and which then becomes a ‘fixed idea’ (or fixation). The ancient Buddhist practice of the 4 jhanas describes the samadhi progressions and their emergent side-effects.
17. i.e. as in dreamless sleep/coma, specifically the ‘great forth’ turiya.
18. In other words, he escaped (and freed himself: moksha (2)) into the timeless now of an unchanging single datum/bit by relinquishing the world as emergent of serial data access/copulation. In everyday practical terms (thus available to and used by most), he coped with a nasty situation by first taking ‘one step at a time’, then marked time (-lessness) by processing only one step/datum, as happens when a datum is continuously repeated (to the exclusion of all else) to perfection ≈ @ 100%.
19. ‘The perfect slave is free.’ Moksha/freedom (1) is achieved by completing the Brahman’s rules template as a local app. That is why the Veda proclaimed that the self-sacrificing function of the householder (Sanskrit: grihastha) rather than the escape (i.e. moksha) function of the sannyasin was the highest attainment.