The nature of myself and the universe
I want to know myself. Who I truly am. My true nature (svarupa). I also want to know the truth behind this world I see around me – the Universe. Knowing this will free me from Samsara. But how to know my true nature and the nature of the Universe?
Firstly we need to understand a few basic principles about the nature of anything. Any object can have 2 types of nature: (1) Intrinsic Nature (svabhavika dharma) & (2) Incidental Nature (agantuka dharma).
Intrinsic nature is the unchanging aspect of a thing which makes it what it is. For example, Fire is ALWAYS hot. So the ‘Intrinsic nature’ (svarupa) of fire is ‘hotness’. Sugar is ALWAYS sweet. So the ‘intrinsic nature’ of sugar is ‘sweetness’.
Incidental nature is the aspect of a thing which is sometimes there and sometimes not there. It is a borrowed attribute from something else. It is not intrinsic. For example, you place a vessel of water on the fire. What will happen to the water? It will get hot. So now we have HOT water. The question now is: What is the true nature, the svarupa/intrinsic nature, of water? Is it hot-ness, because the water is hot? No. Water’s nature is not always hot. Else wherever there is water, it would be hot. But sometimes water is cold. So the hotness is a borrowed attribute, it is ‘incidental’. Not intrinsic. Where is the hotness borrowed from? The fire, whose very svarupa is hotness.
OK, let’s see if you understood with another tasty example – Chocolate. Is ‘sweet-ness’ in Chocolate Intrinsic or Incidental? Before reading on…please think and see if you can work it out. Chocolate in itself is not sweet. In fact, chocolate is bitter by nature (intrinsically. Like Dark Chocolate). The sweetness of chocolate is BORROWED from the sugar added to it. Therefore, sweetness is incidental to chocolate, not its svarupa.
Why do we care about all these fancy terms? Well…we do not really. It should just help us gain some clarity about the following key Vedantic questions: Is ‘life’ in your body, incidental or intrinsic? i.e. Is the life in your body, intrinsic to the body and always present with the body, or is it BORROWED from something else, just like hot-ness in the water is borrowed from the fire. Many people think life is intrinsic, therefore when the body dies, life dies. But Vedanta reveals that life is not intrinsic to the body, it is incidental. It is borrowed from something else. What is that ‘something else’? Atma. Atma’s very intrinsic nature is life itself.
Ok, use this same principle to look at the very ‘existence’ of the entire Universe. The tree exists, the house exists, the air exists, people exist, rivers exist, planet exists, laws of science exist, laws of economics exist, the whole universe exists. Agreed? Yes, this is obvious. But…is the very ‘existence’ (per se) of the Universe (and all the things in it) intrinsic or incidental? i.e. Does the Universe really exist, or is that existence borrowed from something else? Just like the hot-ness of water is borrowed from something else (fire). This is the whole confusion of Samsara. Everyone assumes that the Universe does exist, and that existence is intrinsic. BUT…Vedanta comes along and totally destroys this fundamental assumption about the Universe. Vedanta reveals that the very existence of the Universe is BORROWED from something else! i.e. The existence of the Universe is incidental, not intrinsic. Where does the Universe ‘borrow’ its existence from? Atma. You! This is a very very big conclusion. Do not underestimate the enormity of what is being said here! In this manner, the oneness of your Self with the Universe is established (Advaita-siddhi) and will be unfolded in Chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita.
(NB: The above is derived from Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 verse 16 and falls under the topic of Satyam-Mithya)