The Problem of ‘One’ and ‘Many’ is considered as an age old problem among the philosophers of Monistic School. Both Indian and Greek monist philosophers have examined this issue in detail and put forward various explanations. While some of these theories are not up to the mark of excellence, Advaitic theory is considered as solved this puzzle.
The Problem of ‘One’ and ‘Many’ is a puzzle that is related to the experiential world and a single Ultimate Reality. What we see around us, in the experiential world, is full fledged pluralism (called as ‘Many’). There are many things and objects in the experiential world, and many new things are arising and dying out, continuously. These all can evoke an impression in our mind that we are in the midst of some creative and destructive processes.
Everything in the experiential world is a part of pluralistic system. Experiential world itself is thoroughly pluralistic. Every objects in this world continuously changes and goes through different stages of existence. This scenario of innumerable worldly objects and their different stages of existence changes of worldly objects is called as ‘Many’. This Many-ness is with respect to both quantity and quality.
Common people think that all these natural processes are Real and Exact. They assert and believe in the ‘many-ness (pluralistic) character of experiential world. But Upanishadic Rishis never agree with this conclusion. They have closely observed and critically evaluated many natural events, and discovered hitherto unknown truths from them. This is the technique of ‘grasping unknown and invisible truths, from the known and visible ones’. After a careful scrutiny, the enlightened sages of ancient world proposed that an unchanging, permanent Reality acts as the substratum for the natural objects, which changes continously. The permanent Reality is known as ‘One’, because there is nothing apart from this One .
Now, what is ‘problem of One and Many? This question is very very important. Upanishad Rishis says that ‘we can reduce the Many into One’. That means, Multiplicity (many) is included in the Unity (One). In other words, Multiplicity is originated from Unity. But how? . This question is known as ‘the problem of One and Many’.