" sri vishNu vishvAdi mUla mAyAlOla
dEva sarvEsha parabommanendu janam
Avudanu kANadoDa-maLtiyim nambihudO
A vichitrake namisO - Manku Timma "

Sri VishNu, the source of the Universe
Who revels in mAyA and is the Lord of all things
Whom men though they know Him not, believe and revere
Salute that Mystery - Oh Manku Timma (manku Timmana kagga - 1).

This mystery that we think is - Brahman, is the subject of our study.

In the discussion of jagat, we understood that its svarUpa is Brahman, though its appearance in names and forms is the empirical experience. In order to understand Brahman, we will follow the Jagat to its kAraNa, when we expect to understand Brahman in its real form. If there is a doubt to the existence of Brahman, chAndOgya upanisaht narrates a story. The guru, understanding that his disciple is doubtful of Brahman, asks him to fetch a pot of water. He asks the disciple to add a fistful of salt to the water. Next morning, the guru asks the disciple to fetch the same pot of water that he had added salt the previous evening. The guru asks him to take out the salt, which obviously he could not do. The salt has dissolved in the water. The guru said, never mind! there is another way to understand the presence of salt in the water. He asks the student to take a spoon of water from different sections of the pot and drink each of those spoonful of water, which the student followed; On enquiry, he then replied that each spoon of water was salty, which confirmed the presence of salt in the water. The salt had transformed from the gross form to the subtle form in the medium of water. However, what could not be seen by the eye (gross form) was perceived by the tongue (subtle form). The guru tells the student, likewise Brahman, which is subtle can be experienced in the gross jagat through enquiry. This enquiry is facilitated by ignoring the names and forms of the kArya (effect) and focus on the substratum, which is Brahman.

It is easy said than done to ignore the names and forms, because (1) the sense organs directed outwards ( parAnchi KAni vyatruNat svayamBUh tasmAt parAng pashyati -kaTa upanishad 2.1.1) explores names and forms. So we are surrounded by Brahman in the form of names and forms and we will have to identify this Brahman amidst us. The shAstrAs help us with two contrivances - vishEShaNa and lakshaNa - to help us understand Brahman.

vishEShaNa is that characteristic by which an object can be separated (or marked out) from other objects that belong to the same class. Examples are the color of a flower that distinguishes it from other flowers, like yellow color separating a yellow flower from red flower. Yellow or red color is the vishEShaNa among the class of flowers. Similarly the thick soft skin in the neck of a cow is the vishEshaNa that distinguishes the cow from other four leg animals.

lakshaNa is a marker (or a quality) that separates an object from all objects that does not belong to its class.

For example, space allows all objects to be contained in it, yet none of the objects have this quality of space. So the lakshaNa of space is to contain all objects. Similarly receptivity is the quality or marker of an ocean which receives water from all rivers and streams. No other object has this characteristic. Therefore, receptivity is a lakshaNa of ocean.

In the following sections, we will apply the markers of vishEShaNa and lakShaNa to separate Brahman from the multitude of nAma and rUpa.

There are two classes of vishEShaNas - bhAva rUpa (of the type of "is") and abhAvarUpa (of the type of "is not") - we will use to sort out Brahman from the names and forms.

Among the class of humans, it is evident we have knowledge (we engage in actions, because of knowledge). Brahman, being the creator, also has knowledge. So Brahman and humans belong to the same class. Infinity is the bhAvarUpa vishEShaNa that separates Brahman from humans; humans have limited creativity, whereas Brahman has infinite creativity; humans have limited knowledge, while Brahman is omniscient (infinite knowledge); humans accomplish partial desires, Brahman's accomplishments are total and infinite. bhaga is a group of six characteristics, the possessor of which is bhagavAn. They are jnyAna (Omniscience), bala (Omnipotence), aishvarya (lordship or sovereignity), shakti (creative power), vIrya (immutability) and tEjas (splendour). Brahman with the upAdhi of mAyA is bhagavAn, who has all these qualities infinitely. This infinite wealth is what separates Brahman from names and forms of humans. Thus infinity is the bhAvarUpa vishEShaNa of Brahman that separates Him from the humans.

Now let us look at the abhAva rUpa vishEShaNa of Brahman. Brahman is described as

apahatapApma vijarO vimrutyu vishOkO vijiGhatsO apipAsaha

- (IshAvAsya upanishad - 8);

brahman is not affected by dharma and adharma, he is not subject to old age, he is not subject to death, he does not have sorrow, hunger and thirst. A human is affected by dharma/adharma, is subject to oldage and death, has sorrow, hunger and thirst. For all these human qualities of "is", Brahman exhibits "is not". So "is not" is the abhAvarUpa vishEShaNa that separates Brahman from humans (of names and forms).

We have understood from the above that the vishEShaNas "infinite and "is not" separate Brahman from the humans, the most evolved of the names and forms of Brahman.

Om shAntih, shAntih, shAntih ( Om peace, peace, peace)

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