Steve: Narendra and I differ in our use of the term “Transcendental,” but the difference is in words, not realities. All opinions are welcome here.
What is the Transcendent Reality? – Part 1/2
Awakening Spark, Sept. 17, 2018
In my previous post, “Are Hindu Deities Extra-Terrestrials,” I stated that the Hindu Deity, Vishnu, was the holder of the transcendent reality, while the Creator, Brahma, was the creator of the physical, manifest reality. In this post I’ll examine in more detail the concept of the transcendent reality.
The Oxford English dictionary defines ‘Transcendent’ as Beyond or above the range of normal or physical human experience, ‘the search for a transcendent level of knowledge’.
The opposite of transcendent is immanent, or that which is manifest to the senses. Most, if not all religions, speak of the existence of the Soul which transcends the physical body. For many religions, Heaven is supposed to lie in a transcendental realm, accessible to us as eternal Souls when we die.
In many philosophies, this transcendent realm is given more importance than this Earthly or material realm. In fact, Vedantic thought posits that this physical world is Maya, an illusion. Yet, it feels real to our senses. What do the Indian sages mean when they refer to the world as being an illusion?
Perhaps the best description comes from the Greek philosopher Plato, in his famous allegory of the cave. In this description, a group of people are seated in a cave facing the wall. To their back, which they can’t see, is a light source that casts shadows of people and objects behind the group facing the wall. The people facing the wall see these moving shadows, and not realizing the source, thinks the shadows are real. This is Maya, illusion.
The allegory of the cave
Thus, the Indian sages alluded to the fact that this physical world of the senses is but shadows of the real world which is transcendent to our senses.
Interestingly, experiments in quantum physics seem to point to the existence of this transcendent realm. For more detail on the scientific evidence of this see my article The Science of Consciousness.
In quantum physics, the ordinary laws of time and space do not apply. It is known for example that a quantum object such as an electron can randomly disappear from existence (ie. to the senses) and reappear at any point in time and space. In quantum physics it is all about probabilities.
Vishnu is said to hold all probabilities within his Being. In fact, it is stated that in every pore of Vishnu lies an entire universe. These universes exist in parallel, each holding the result of particular permutations and combinations of existence.
In the Sri Ramacaritamanas of Saint Tulsidas, we get a beautiful example of this in the story of the enlightened sage Kakbhusundi. Through a series of events this sage was born as a crow near the palace of Sri Rama, one of the avatars of Vishnu. While still a toddler, Sri Rama saw the bird-sage Kakbhusundi and stretched out his hand to grab him and put him in His mouth, as toddlers are wont to do.
Relating this episode to Garuda, the sage said,
“Listen, King of Birds. Inside His belly I beheld multitudinous universes with many strange spheres each more wonderful than the rest, with myriads of Brahmas (Creator Gods) and Rudras, countless stars, suns and moons; numberless Lokapalas (guardians of the spheres)…
“And listen dear Garuda, Sri Rama’s parents, as well as His brothers, were all different in each universe. In each such universe I witnessed the descent (avatar) of Sri Rama as well as the infinite variety of His childish sports.”
The sage Kakbhusundi was blessed to be able to witness firsthand the various parallel universes that exist within the body of the transcendental Vishnu.
Several of the greatest minds in physics, including John Wheeler and Stephen Hawking postulated theories of parallel universes. These universes are transcendent to our physical senses. They exist in the transcendent realm.
(Continued in Part 2, tomorrow.)
Gita Press, Gorakhpur (1998). Sri Ramacaritamanasa. India.