Thought for the Day - 14/01/2015 - Akhandadhi Das
Thought for the Day
Good morning. This week Radio 4 launched an ambitious new series of A History of Ideas entitled: How did everything begin? And yesterday, Jessica Frazier presented an excellent synopsis of creation stories from several diverse traditions suggesting that many ideas from past millennia may still have relevance today… as we continue to ponder the ultimate big question:
what came before the universe? Was there something or nothing?
The ancient Hindu text, Vedanta-sutra starts with this very question; and calls whatever existed before space & time: Brahman.
The big issue, even for cosmologists today, is whether or not that primordial state contained some of the information needed for the appearance and development of the cosmos. And where did that information come from: From chaos? Or, from an infinite regression of information leaking from previous universes.
Vedanta argues that useful information most likely has a sentient source, and that Brahman, is conscious energy in its “purest” state. Physical matter is transformed by the passage of time. But Brahman exists before time and is therefore timeless, eternal.
But, then Vedanta makes an extraordinary claim: that thou art – you are Brahman. The idea is that each soul or atma, the life force that is inhabiting our physical body, the self experiencing all the thoughts & emotions of our mind – is a tiny fragment of Brahman. And therefore, the atma soul, like Brahman, also pre-dates the universe and is eternal.
This distinguishes the Vedantic view from many other religious creation stories. Instead of God alone creating the world, then creating us to live in it; Vedanta suggests that our own consciousness and desires before the dawn of creation influenced how the world was formed developed. To use a modern organisational phrase, it was a type of co-creation.
And, the big thing that this co-creation accommodates is that problematic feature of conscious beings: freewill. The Vedanta view doesn’t allow us to blame God for the evil or suffering in the world. Rather, it suggests that we (and we have to include all living beings scattered throughout the universe, not just Radio 4 listeners) each effectively voted for a world in which we have the opportunity not to act perfectly, if we don’t want to. So, sometimes we hurt others; and sometimes we find ourselves on the receiving end of their hurtful actions.
This is a creation story of responsibility. We may have each played an infinitesimal part in the creation of the entire cosmos – but, we have a highly significant role in the life we create and share with others now.