Advaita Vedanta Indian Philosophy Upanishads

How Plurality (Many) Emerge From Unity (One)?

About Author: –

Sunil Upasana hails from Kerala (India) and has been a Bengalurean for 17 years. He has had a deep yearning to understand the profound philosophy that underlies Hinduism Read More.

To Read Third Part of this Article, click Here.

In the previous article, I explained how the Upanishads reduce Plurality to Unity. Now let us consider the opposite view of this. That is, how plurality emerge from Unity?

Before starting, I must say that, the answer to the above question is metaphysical, because the existence of ‘One’ is above physical plane, beyond the reach of senses. Then how can we know about the emergence of plurality from this trans-experiential realm of ‘One’? The answer is simple. Overcome the limitation imposed on man and thus transcend the physical world plane and realize/attain the realm of One. Only then we can know how plurality/Many emerge from One. Can human really transcend the Physical world plane? Indian Philosophy emphatically says, YES. How?

In India, for philosophers/Rishis philosophy was not just speculation, but a way of life. Indian philosophers lived according to their philosophy, thereby showing the effectiveness, validity and truthfulness of their philosophical ideas. Thus, Indian philosophers have developed the spiritual techniques to withdraw the senses from sensing the experiential world, and realize the Realm of ‘One’. (For example, in Yoga system, a Yogi completely withdraw his senses from sensing the external world, to realize the highest bliss).

So, ‘One’ is not a speculative idea for Upanishadic Rishis, but a Reality which they have realized or attained. This experience of highest bliss enabled them to find out ‘how Plurality/Many arise from Unity/One’.

The Metaphysical Solution: –

In the previous part (Part 3), I have mentioned that, we can reduce all objects in the experiential world to 92 elements of Physics. This is in the Physical Plane. What is the Upanishadic counterpart of Physical Plane/world ? — It is ‘Vyavaharika’ or ‘‘Vyavaharika-Satya’.

Next, like I wrote in Part – 3, we can reduce all 92 chemical elements to a non-material Absolute – Consciousness. What is the Upanishadic counterpart of Consciousness? — It is ‘Prajna’ or ‘Brahman‘. Brahman is also known as Paramarthika-Satya in the Upanishads. Thus,

Many ———— can be reduced to ———-> One.             OR
Plurality ———– can be reduced to ——> Unity.           OR
Physical Plane ——- can be reduced to ————> Metaphysical Plane       OR
Vyavaharika Satya —– can be reduced to —–> Paramarthika Satya / Prajna.

A table summarizes these info below:

One and Many

Now the interesting thing is that the opposite of the above mentioned point is also true. That is, Plurality / Many is emerged from none, but Unity/One. In other words, physical plane/world is emerged from Metaphysical plane. In Advaitic terminology, (which I will use abundantly in the coming articles), Vyavaharika Satya is the manifestation of Paramartha Satya. Thus, we can say,

Many <———— emerge from —————————————- One             OR
Plurality <———– emerge from ———————————— Unity           OR
Physical Plane <——— emerge from ———-> Metaphysical Plane       OR
Vyavaharika Satya <—— emerge from —-> Paramarthika Satya / Prajna.

How ‘Many’ emerge from ‘One’?

It is very easy to understand that a ‘One’ cannot itself become ‘Many’, because any action by One will make it’s status ‘not-One’. Every action presupposes duality and plurality. So ‘One’ cannot appear as ‘Many’ by itself [6]. Another principle/entity must be present there. So we write as follows: –

One    +    ?    =>   Many.

In Upanishadic Terminology, we say,

Paramarthika Satya (Brahman)    +     ?      => Vyavaharika Satya

It is this unknown principle (indicated as ‘?’) that causes ‘One’ to appear as ‘Many’. The Upanishads calls this unknown principle as ‘Avidya’. (I am not explaining further about ‘how Avidya causes One to appear as Many‘, in this article. Because that will make things very difficult to comprehend for readers. Vedanta is not an easy topic to comprehend. I will explain more about Avidya and its operation in the coming article). Avidya is not a part of One/Brahman. When we realize Brahman, Avidya‘s influence on us will come to an end. 

In the Upanishads, The relation between Brahman/One and Avidya is in agnostic level. Even enlightened Rishis cannot know it because upon realizing Brahman/One, Avidya become totally extinct for that Rishi.

Upcoming Article => What is meant by Moksha in Hinduism from Advaitic and Non-Advaitic viewpoints ? 

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