View Full Version : advaita analogies

07 April 2012, 08:37 AM
This universe, as we see and experience it, is the result of involvement of five entities: nirguNa brahman (NB), saguNa brahman (SB), mAyA, jIvAtmas, and prakRuti. We can think of some analogies in the context of our modern world to explain the relationships that exist between them. As with all analogies, each has its limit that cannot be stretched. We should also note that except NB all other entities exist only as practical reality (PR)--not absolute reality (AR).

The database analogy

In a relational database management system (RDBMS) there are entities, relationships and attributes. An entity is an independent existence that is captured in a table. A relationship captures how entities are related to each other. Attributes are names that identify different features of an entity. Entities are arranged in a hierarchy.

Three kinds of relationships exist between the entities:
one-to-one relationship
one-to-many relationship
many-to-many relationship.

• One-to-one relationship is like every child having only one mother.
• One-to-many is like a mother having many children. Here the relationship is one-to-one between a child and mother, and many-to-one between the children and their mother.
• many-to-many is like a student having many lecturers in a college and each lecturer having many sets of students to teach.

Using this relationship model,
One-to-one relationship exists between
• NB and SB (in PR);
• NB and jIvAtman (who in AR is identical to NB as Self);

• SB and mAyA; (as mAyA is inherent in NB, there is no relationship there).
• SB and prakRuti (which is another face of mAyA, so no relationship between mAyA and prakRuti);

One-to many relationship exists between
• NB and jIvas (in PR);
• NB and the individual deities of SB (in PR);

• SB and its individual deities;
• SB and jIvas;
• prakRuti and jIvas;

Many-to-many relationship exists between
• jIvas (when related to each other in PR);
• jIvas and deities of SB;
• jIvas and the three guNas of prakRuti;
• jIvas and mAyA (which whose two faces are prakRuti--objective, and avidyA--subjective);

The object-oriented programming analogy

In OOP, there is a superclass at the apex of the hierarchy from which all its subclasses are derived. The superclass has only the minimum attributes to define the entity. These attributes are inherited by subclasses, with addition of their own attributes. The superclass subsumes all its subclasses.

Two kinds of relationships exist between classes in OOP:
is-a relationship
has-a relationship.

• When a class D is derived from a superclass B, they have an is-a relationship: that is, D is-a B. Concept D is a specialization of concept B. while concept B is a generalization of the concept D. As an example, apples and oranges are specialization of fruits, which as a general concept subsumes all fruits, so an apple is-a fruit and so is an orange.

• Has-a relationship arises when a class subsumes another class. In this case, the subsumed class becomes an attribute of the class that subsumes it. Multiple has-a relationships will combine to form a possessive hierarchy. As an example, a house subsumes the bathroom, where bathroom becomes one of the member objects that constitute the house.

Using this relationship model,
is-a relationship exists between
• NB and SB, NB and jIva, prakRuti and mAyA, mAya and avidyA, and so on.

and has-a relationship exists between
• SB and mAyA, SB and the individual deities, jIva and mAyA, and so on.

Other analogies

There could be other analogies too:

• mAyA is like a computer software that processes the inputs from prakRuti and avidyA from jIva and creates the world as its output. Although mAyA is said to create the world, it is actually the programmer--SB--behind it who is the author of creation.

• mAyA is a firewall that NB sets up, delegating SB to deal with it. In order to 'access' NB and realize it as their immanent Self, jIvas have to get past this firewall, relinquishing their input of avidyA that causes worldly desires to spring up.

• The Hindu classical ghaTa-AkAsha--space and the pot, analogy seems to be the best of all analogies. As a modern equivalent, we might think of mAyA as a virtual grid or matrix placed over the infinite consciousness that is Brahman: this creates the effects of time and confined space and gives rise to forms and names that limit brahma-chaitanya to the chaitanya-jaDa--sentient-insentient units of existentence in this world.

07 April 2012, 09:26 AM
Namaste Saidevo,

Wow, thank you for your informative post; computing is a great analogy and very inspiring. Currently rather absorbed in Kashmir Shavism, I shall try to use your superb analogy to better understand the terminology and concepts of Advaita also.

Thank you kindly.



08 April 2012, 08:47 PM
The computer system analogy

One way to understand the nature and role of, and the relationships between mAyA, prakRuti, saguNa. nirguNa brahman and jIvAtmas could be through the analogy of a computer system.

• The computer system in its dormant, switched-off state is like the state of nirguNa brahman (NB) described in the famous nAsadIya sUkta, Rg-veda 10.129 (svAmi KRShNAnanda's translation):

Then even nothingness was not, nor existence,
There was no air then, nor the heavens beyond it.
What covered it? Where was it? In whose keeping
Was there then cosmic water, in depths unfathomed?
At first there was only darkness wrapped in darkness.
All this was only unillumined water.
That One which came to be, enclosed in nothing,
arose at last, born of the power of heat.

• The first 'impulse' of NB to 'arise' was 'born of the power of tapas--heat'--the flow of electricity as the life-force of consciousness, in the case of our computer system.

• The first karma--action, of NB was kAma--desire to multiply itself:

In the beginning desire descended on it -
that was the primal seed, born of the mind.
The sages who have searched their hearts with wisdom
know that which is is kin to that which is not

• Once the system was 'on', its first manifestation came in the form of prakRuti--the computer hardware embedded in the system, in our case.

• NB's 'desire' projected first the shabda-brahman--AUM the great praNava vibration--the BIOS (basic input output system) that kickstarted the creation of gods and the universe of sentient and insentient beings. Notice that this AUM/BIOS is not in prakRuti--hardware, but resides in NB's consciousness, although in creation it manifests in the internal hardware of the computer.

• Out of AUM arose the saguNa brahman (SB)--the ubiquitous operating sytem (OS), of our computer system. Using a strict and just protocol of priorities, the SB/OS creates, maintains and destroys the 'worldly life' of the other programs, playing the role of trimUrti--Trinity.

• The world of illusion of sound and color and motion created on the computer screen is mAyA--the output projected over prakRuti--hardware, by the SB/OS, using the power of consciousness of NB.

• The individual programs running in the system represent the jIvAtma--individual souls, which aggregate and create their own communal, social, political and academic worlds. In the world of multitasking, several groups of programs run on the computer system, interacting with, interpreting and even interrupting the life of other groups.

• The cycle of creation ends when NB 'shuts down' its world, preserving the state of the hardware and softwares whose life energy is withdrawn, and gets back to its dormant state--only to get switched on for another cycle.

This scenario highlights some crucial points about the relationships and interactions between the five entities of creation: NB, SB, mAyA, prakRuti and jIvAtmas--the computer system, operating system, the world created by OS, hardware and the individual programs run by the OS.

• Is the NB as the canvas on which everything is projected, just aware of the world of mAyA or also perceives it?

• Whose power originates mAyA--NB or SB? In the computer system analogy, NB originates mAyA as its power with the primordial vibration of AUM/BIOS, which in turn manifests as prakRuti--hardware. Only thereafter, NB manifests as SB/OS and creates the world of sentient beings.

• But once SB as the operating system is manifested, it has complete control of mAyA and the jIvas (as karmaphala-dAta).

• How many of the programs--jivAs that 'run' on the computer system know their intrinsic nature? That the world of pictures and sound is essentially digital matter--pixels and sound bytes that ultimately resove into the hard disk of the prakRuti; that motion as seen on the screen is only an illusion--animation by frames, in space and time; and that the ultimate happiness for the individual program resides it is essence of the life-force that manifests it, and not in the world perceived by it?

Aum namah Śivāya
10 April 2012, 04:32 PM
नमस्ते saidevo,

Thank you so much for your analogies in this thread. I am actually a computer programmer, so it helps me a lot.

If I may ask a question, though, i have a question about your last analogy. Quite simply, who turns on the computer? Obviously I know that there was and is no one but Brahman, but why and how did that first desire arise?

ॐ नमः शिवाय

10 April 2012, 08:09 PM
namaste ANS.

As you are aware, analogies have their limit that cannot be stretched. In the computer system analogy, Brahman is THE computer system that turns on itself and works in a cycle, so, as you have rightly stated Brahman 'turns on' itself.

'...but why and how did that first desire arise?' is your question. The obvious answer is that we as individual souls trapped in body and mind, cannot fathom it. Even the Rgvedic seer could not know or look into it!

I think that the answer is, as BhagavAn DAs has stated in his book The Science of Peace, all questions of why, how, what, whence, etc. stop with the absolute. We can ask a similar question of ourself: after going into the state of death-like deep sleep--suShupti, what makes us wake up? If it is the tRuShNA--thirst that arrises of our unfulfilled desires stored as vAsanas--impressions in our mind, how did those vAsanas first arise?