Expansion of Being (text) |


Sprituality & Transpersonal

Śiva's Brainchild

Hinduism, in one particular way, could be said to be ahead of science in that it already recognises that the material world is primarily a world that we experience, rather than a world that has nothing to do with us, other than that we happen to be experiencing it.

The Godhead is called Brahman because it is immense and it expands.62

- Śiva Purana

When, in the popular Mythology, Viśnu is pictured as “laying on the ocean”, floating on a "couch" that is the serpent called Ananta Śeśa, this does not describe the whole picture. 

Anyone with some familiarity with the Hindu corpus would probably be amused by that statement. Because it is an understatement, to say the least. 

We have talked about how parts of the Hindu corpus describe Viśnu (as His expansion of Being) as having different expansions, as Kāranodakaśāyī Viśnu, who lays on the causal ocean, Garbhodakaśāyī Viśnu, who lays on the Garbhodaka ocean of living entities (jivas), and Ksīrodakaśāyī Viśnu, who lays on “the Ocean of Milk”.63

What is going on here is one small example of the principle of the expansion of being, that we will come to talk much more about in due course. 

The principle of the expansion of being even takes place in its own way, in human reproduction. Of course it's not quite the same thing there, that we are talking about in the case of Viśnu, because human reproduction is a material, genetic expansion. 

Nevertheless, the way in which nature expands the numbers of human beings is still an expansion in the principle of experience of being. Because human beings, even as material, biological beings, still constitute experience of being. 

You can even see particular aspects of expansion, in terms of personal characteristics, in the way that children inherit features and characteristics genetically, from their parents. And, indeed, the way we all do, from our ancestors in general.64

As we have already seen, in the case of Viśnu, essentially, Garbhodakaśāyī Viśnu is an expansion of being of Kāranodakaśāyī Viśnu, and Ksīrodakaśāyī Viśnu is an expansion of being of Garbhodakaśāyī Viśnu . 

So Ksīrodakaśāyī Viśnu is also an expansion of the Being of Kāranodakaśāyī Viśnu, but one that only takes place through the intermediate Being called Garbhodakaśāyī Viśnu. 

So in the three Viśnus we are getting our first glimpse of the principle of expansion of being. It's not really where expansion of being begins, but it is where we first start to talk about it.

Bear in mind that whilst this has the appearance of a hierarchy, from Kāranodakaśāyī to Garbhodakaśāyī to Ksīrodakaśāyī, not all expansion of being in the Hindu picture is hierarchical in appearance, in this way. 

Describing it conceptually, in this way, if you were to represent hierarchies as vertical, then you would also have to show “lateral” expansions too. And that’s only the beginning of the ways in which the Being can expand. Ultimately, it is all an expansion of the Brahman, or in an alternative terminology, the One (as referred to by the early Greeks). 

As we have already mentioned, in the Hindu corpus, more than one Being declares themselves alone to be the Supreme Being, even though the Supreme Being is one Being. This is because all beings, ultimately, are expansions of the one Being. If reading the corpus, this is a really important thing to remember.

The oneness of all beings in that they are all really the one Being, or all an expansion of what Hinduism sometimes calls the Supreme Being, is not a plural, collective oneness, of "us". Rather, it is the realisation that "who I am" is Brahman, the Being.

Appreciating this is crucial to seeing what is really going on in the Purana stories. The underlying framework of all that goes on, that isn't always explicitly declared, is all about this expansion of being, from the one Being, the Brahman.  

But at the same time, the only way in which anything is happening, or going on, in these stories in the first place, is through "forgetfulness" of the Being that is everyone's (in the stories) true Identity. Even Brahma, "the creator" of all other beings after the Trimurti, forgets his true Identity. But he does realise, through penance, that He is the Brahman, the Being.

In the Hindu corpus creation itself - the thing called "the universe" - comes from the expansion of being, originating from the Supreme Being. This expansion, after Śiva, is Śakti, and Maya, as the Śiva Purana states, as we shall come to see. But, as we have emphasised before, we must remember this:

In this 21st-century global civilisation in which we are living, what, in the world of science and technology - is called "the material world", or "the universe", is not the same thing that the Hindu corpus calls "the universe" or "the material world". We will repeatedly talk about this throughout this book. The conflating of one with the other tends to come about from not really understanding the modus operandi of modern science. We will talk more about this in due course.

The great expansion of being as represented in the Hindu corpus is actually a kind of descent, and involution, and convolution, of being, or experience of being, from the Supreme Being. 

With the exception of the Brahman, every part and aspect of this great expansion of being, from the Being, is represented in the corpus by personified beings. As we shall come to see, places are beings, principles are beings, even time, is a being.

And it is perhaps a little too easy to forget that all this is what Hinduism calls Maya. That is, it is illusory, in the sense that it is the cause of what the corpus refers to as "delusion". 

Hinduism, in one particular way, could be said to be ahead of science in that it already recognises that the material world is primarily a world that we experience, rather than a world that has nothing to do with us, other than that we happen to be experiencing it. 

This is completely in line with the scientific fact that what we encounter as the material world we encounter as a construct of brain function. And yet in the mainstream, we continue to regard our world in science, as though it has nothing to do with us other than that we happen to be in it.

So long before the rise of modern science, the Hindu corpus already innately recognised in its own pre-scientific way, something that in modern terms we can put in another way: the world we live in is something we only ever encounter as a construct of brain function. Therefore, we only encounter it in conjunction with our experience of self. No matter how objective we are being. And therefore it has everything to do with us, in other words, it is not separate from us. 

We only know it, and experience it, and understand anything about it, through the brain. All that knowing, experiencing, and understanding, is a construct of brain function. Our experiencing of the world, our scientific thinking about it, our comprehension of it, our understanding of it, is all brain function.

In science all this thinking and understanding circulates around what is objective about the world. It is about what can be objectively observed or measured. And it works because the world indeed does have an objective aspect to it. However, this simply means that this aspect is not at all dependent on anyone's individual mind or brain, or on any network of minds or brains. 

It doesn't mean that our experience and understanding of it is not a construct of brain function. It doesn't mean that the world is not a construct of brain function. And the prima facie characteristic of our brain function, actually, is to create our experience of self.

Everything we study and understand, changes the brain. In many cases, when human beings study something, it changes the brain, creating belief, and cognitive bias. This is especially true of religious texts. But it is also true of scientific texts. That's partly why there have always been such things as scientific paradigms, that are believed in.

Studying the Hindu corpus doesn't increase our knowledge of what is objective about the world. But at the same time, studying it from outside the culture, doesn't necessarily only create a belief system and cognitive bias. 

Rather, the Hindu corpus takes the reader towards the realisation of its central message, which is the realisation of something that doesn't even ultimately depend on that particular Mythology or cultural fabric. 

In terms of Saivism, the entire thing is a much ado about nothing in the light of its own central message about Brahman, which burns everything else up as in a sacrificial fire, and out of the ashes rises Śiva - not as a personalised being, but as what Śiva means.

Scientific knowledge doesn't make the central message of Hinduism, fall down. Because the knowledge of how an illusion arises cannot be deduced by studying the illusion. Rather, one has to realise how the magician is creating the illusion. 

The Hindu Puranas are about Maya, and Maya is, as it were, the trick of the magician. The message in the Puranas is not so much about the inner mechanics that manifest through the trick, as how the illusion is created in the first place. 

It's just that, the way the trick is done, results in an aspect of its appearance, that enables the subsequent creation, within the trick, of a thing called science, as we understand it in the modern way.


So let's get back to what we were talking about, in the Hindu picture the various Viśnus we were mentioning above. The Viśnus are expansions of being from the Supreme Being, the Brahman. 

Ksīrodakaśāyī Viśnu is said to lie on "the Ocean of Milk". Ksīro here just means milk. We will talk much more about the Ocean of Milk, and what it means, later. 

To “lie on” or “lie in” an ocean, as talked about in the Hindu corpus, is a description of expansion of being. In other words, the Ocean of Milk is the expansion of being of Ksīrodakaśāyī Viśnu. But, as we shall be seeing later, what is meant by the Ocean of Milk is more far reaching than this limited glimpse of it.

Ksīrodakaśāyī Viśnu is an expansion of being of Garbhodakaśāyī Viśnu. And Garbhodakaśāyī Viśnu is an expansion of being of Kāranodakaśāyī Viśnu. And all, are expansions of being of the Supreme Being. So in other words, the Ocean of Milk is an expansion of being of the Supreme Being.  

Out of this expansion comes Brahma. And out of Brahma comes the world of the rest of the Mythology, with all its beings.

Expansion of being is not a simple, one-dimensional thread, so to speak. It is multifarious with all kinds of different expansions, some of them complete, some of them partial. In the Hindu pantheon, if a being expands to become an apparently “other” being then this “other” being may be declared in the text to be “non-different” (abhinnā or abheda) to its progenitor. In other words, it is an apparently separate being, but actually, it is the same being.

They may appear to be two beings in the play of Maya, illusion, but both may be two different instances of the same being. Each experiences their identity as that original being, or becomes one with the original being, when they realise their true identity.

For example, at the very pinnacle of this principle, in the Bhakti texts, the lovers Rādhā and Krsna appear in the play of Maya as two separate beings, female and male, but really, they are both one and the same being.65 The whole point of their appearing as two “separate” beings, is so that the nature of the love of the Being can be realised, and enjoyed.66

In Hinduism, the Being who realises his identity as this conjugal love of Rādhā and Krsna, as the combined Rādhā-Krsna, is Lord Caitanya.67 Lord Caitanya is the realised Being of that aspect of God, or Krsna, which is the union and exchange of love of Rādhā and Krsna.68 

Rādhā (Rādhārāni) is not separate from Krsna, except, as His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupāda puts it, in order to 'understand Himself through the agency of Rādhā', so He unites with Rādhārāni, and 'that unification is called Lord Caitanya'.69

This, in Hinduism, in Bhakti, is the pinnacle of conscious realisation of the nature of the Being, through the combination of different aspects of the Being.

In Hinduism beings also multiply by Śrsti (Sarshti) or Prajanana. We see multiplication by Prajanana where two beings personified as male and female create offspring, just as we also see it in sexual reproduction. 

We also see multiplication by expansion of being from just one being. We see it in the expansion of being from Śiva to Viśnu, and from Viśnu to Brahma. We see it where Śiva creates Śivā (Śakti) also often called Satī. We see it where Brahma creates numerous “mind born” or psychic sons, and his consort and his daughter.      

Where there is a fullness of expansion of being from the Supreme Being, then the play of expansion of beings is such that many beings are appearing also as expansions of themselves, and the interaction of beings is therefore correspondingly complex. 

When described in terms of personalised beings, as it is in the Hindu corpus, the “world” into which the overall expansion of being takes place, is a world that to the modern, educated, Western mind, is clearly “mythological”. 

Going Beyond the Cultural Fabric

In general the Hindu corpus is fully imbued with the characteristics of times, places and culture of the world in which the Puranas arose - namely the culture of India and ancient India in particular. So there is much in the sources pertaining to rituals and fire sacrifices, and so on. There is also ample suggestion of “worship”, that appears to be no more than obsequiousness and ritual idol worship.

So the corpus material is of course specifically linked to India and Indian culture. Being Indian in origin, in the Puranas, we would expect to see a cultural bias of time and place, in the account of creation. This, we do indeed see. But then, all cultures and their associated religions, in their accounts of creation, see the world and its origins with the same kind of bias.

The ancient name of Bhārata refers to India, and it occurs, as we shall later see, according to some parts of the corpus itself, as the only place from which salvation can be attained. Nevertheless, we should be wise enough to at least recognise that God, the Divine, or Spiritual Reality, cannot be bound by any specific culture, religion, human belief, or human behaviour. 

The Hindu corpus is vast and detailed. But a great deal of the detail is specific to the Indian mind and culture. And in that, we can expect the corpus to contain not just wisdom, but also some ignorance of the kind that can be found in all cultures. Because all cultures contain ignorance.  

However, regardless of the fabric, if you look at it, you can see that the principle of the expansion of being is a principle in its own right. It is not just something that has to be expressed in the form of its Indian cultural expression, with its particular personifications and names of beings. God doesn’t only create the Indian mind and brain. 

It is just that the Indian mind and brain must realise what there is to be realised, through the Indian mind and brain. Just as the Chinese, or the Japanese, or the American or the European, must do so through the Chinese or Japanese or American or European mind and brain, respectively. Unless it happens otherwise. And the more globally interconnected we become, as we have been becoming for a very, very long time, long before modern global connectivity, the more likely this is to happen.

Ultimately though, we must be prepared for something that transcends completely, all culture, and cultural expressions. We must be prepared for something beyond the brain. And in that, it doesn't make any difference whether you call it the Brahman, the Being, the Self, God, or Satori.    

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