The Philosophy

If we ask ourselves the question why do we even exist, then we will basically get two types of answers. One is, we just exist and the other is we exist because someone wants us to exist. The first one is a naturalistic response while the second one is a deistic one. Once we accept the fact that we exist, the question regarding our possible origin comes into the mind. To peek into the past to see whether we always existed or at some point of time we came to exist was not possible in the medieval times as it is possible today. So from a naturalistic point of view eternity of our existence was only obvious to assume. But if the concept of a deity who created us is accepted, then we’ll also have to accept the non eternity of our existence that we have an origin and at a certain point of time we all were brought into life. We all know how after the discovery of the expanding universe in the late 1930s by Hubble changed the course of our understanding of the universe. What once was believed to be eternal and static turned out to be non eternal and dynamic having an origin in the past. But this origin that the scientists discovered was nothing like that of the origin described in some religious scriptures and expounded in various creation myths. So it won’t take much time for a rational person to doubt and discard the age old beliefs. But the weight of thousand years of old beliefs is heavy enough to be put away by findings of science only few decades old. Can all these scriptures, Vedas, puranas, etc. be wrong? Is it possible that there exists no supreme being in some higher heavens but only in our stupid beliefs? These types of questions regarding God require a proper investigation and research not only through science but also through the scriptures using an open and unbiased mind. Overcoming the puranic human like concepts of God prevalent in the public if one tries to find out the answer directly from the scriptures, then he will find that all the scriptures unanimously declare one unknown and unseen entity as the root cause of everything. They have named it “Brahma”. Once Brahma has been accepted as the root cause, the task remained to determine its nature, qualities, position, location, etc. It is only then that we start to see contradictions and confusions in the opinions given by the scholars, sages and munis. While everyone agrees upon a single fundamental entity, they tend to disagree and differ regarding its details, descriptions and quality.

The doctrine of Brahma has been heavily discussed in various Upanishads. Some where it has been identified as the soul dwelling in the body; somewhere it has been said as an independent entity that exists separately. Somewhere it has been attributed person like qualities and somewhere it has been described as an impersonal entity. Due to this contradicting and confusing attitude that the Vedas hold regarding Brahma, getting a clear picture of what Brahma actually is was not possible. So a sage named Badarayana reconciled teachings of the primary Upanishads regarding Brahma and created Brahma Sutra. Although it gave some direct definition and details regarding Brahma, its short aphorisms remained open for different types of interpretations. Scholars throughout time have commented and interpreted it in various ways in accordance with the scriptures (prasthana trayi) and basing upon the conclusions they drew regarding Brahma, various schools of thought came into formation. The most prominent of which are, Advaita, Visistadvaita, Dvaita, Dvaitadvaita, Suddhadvaita, All these schools of thought hold differing views regarding Brahma at least to certain degrees which throughout time has acted as the seed for various disputes and arguments. Advaita vada says Brahma is all that there is and everything else including our world is just an illusion. But other schools of thought differ and deny. They say, apart from Brahma, jiva, the living soul also has separate existence, they are not one and this world is real not a mere illusion. While advaita vadis (Nondualists) say Brahma is nirguna nirakara, the dvatia vadis (dualists) say Brahma is saguna sakara. And then some others accept the contradiction that Brahma is both saguna, sakara and nirguna nirakar. All these different Vedas give different definitions of Brahma which creates a doubt in the mind about which one is correct and true. To me the question was not just about which one is correct, but why so many variations and differences. If the truth is one, then why it’s not one? Why so many versions of the single truth? The scripture says, Truth is one but the scholars say it differently:

एकं सद्विप्रा बहुधा वदन्ति  [Rg Ved – 1.164.46]

eka sadviprā bahudhā vadanti

ब्रह्मैतद् अद्वितीयम् वै गीयते बहुधाऋषिभिः [SB – 11.9.31]

brahmaitad advitīyaḿ vai gīyate bahudharṣibhiḥ

Well, OK; but why they say it differently? How can one truth have many versions? To this the scripture says people and scholars having different kinds of nature, describe the absolute truth differently as per their likings; so some even say God doesn’t exist:

एवम पकृति-वैचित्र्याद् भिद्यन्ते मतयो नृनाम्

पारम्पर्येन केसाञ्चित् पासान्ड मतयोऽपरे [SB – 11.14.8]

evaṁ prakṛtivaicitryādbhidyante matayo nṛṇām

pāramparyeṇa keṣāñcitpāṣaṇḍamatayo’pare

 माम् बहुधा प्राहुर् गुन-व्यतिकरे सति [SB – 11.10.34]

māṁ bahudhā prāhurguṇavyatikare sati

श्रेयो वदन्त्य् अनेकान्तम् यथा-कर्म यथा-रुचि [SB – 11.14.9]

śreyo vadanty anekāntam yathā-karma yathā-ruci

Very well; but what causes different types of natures? To this the scripture says Prakruti gives rise to the various natures which are generally threefold (goodness, passion and ignorance):

बिकारांश्च गुणांश्चैव बिद्धि प्रकृतिसम्भवान् [BG -13.20]

bikārāṃśca guṇāṃścaiva biddhi prakṛtisambhavān

सत्त्वं रजस्तम इति प्रकृतेर्गुणास्तैर्

sattvaṃ rajastama iti prakṛterguṇāstair [SB – 1.2.23]

 Understood, but why Prakruti creates nature? Doesn’t it have anything else to do? One may answer Prakruti creates nature because it is her inherent nature. But then, why only threefold nature, why not fourfold or five fold? Like these my mind was lost in many whats and whys but neither did I have any answers to these questions nor did I have anyone to tell me. I listened to speeches of some excellent teachers, but they were not completely satisfying. Moreover, what I found is that nobody is actually interested to solve your personal queries. Nobody likes when you question what they teach. Using a good escape clause of some kind they either shut you off or leave you behind to wander on your own. You see, most of my questions were why questions. And why questions by their very nature are never ending. You can put a why even before the best possible answer and push the question again into an infinite regression. I knew I was a troubled soul with so many questions and problems in my mind, but still I wanted to know the answers if possible. This partly puzzled state of my mind continued until the answer occurred to me that “Brahma is Shunya”. This realization instantly burnt away so many doubts that I felt as if my year long search finally found its end. Suddenly the sentence “He is Shunya Purusha” came to my mind which I think I had heard somewhere many years back. In the next five minutes all my whys found their answers and perhaps for the first time in my life I experienced a complete relief. A certain couplet came to my mind which I couldn’t exactly remember where I had read or heard:

ଭଲା ପଚାରିଲୁ ଗୁପତ ସନ୍ଧି । ଶୂନ୍ୟ ପୁରୁଷ ଶୂନ୍ୟ ପରେ ବନ୍ଦୀ ।।

You asked such a secret thing,

In Shunya is concealed the Shunya Being.

These are the words of Mahapurusha Achuytananda Das, a 16th century Odia poet saint who is well known among the people of Odisha for His future prophesies. While I was aware of Him, I was unaware about His philosophy and writings except few devotional songs that I used to sing during my intermediate college days as part of my daily routine. My father like many people is a bit spiritual and has this tendency of getting initiated (dikshita) into whichever spiritual organization or institution he likes. However, one such organization where I had gone and taken initiation happened to be related to Mahapurusha Achyutananda Das and once I realized Brahman as Shunya, and identified those lines to be of Mahapurusha, my doubt regarding the correctness of the assertion that Brahman is Shunya vanished and I got my confirmation. In subsequent days I collected some published writings of Him and found that all the concepts that had developed in my mind regarding life, universe, existence, etc. was completely matching with His philosophy. Excited I looked into the Upanishads and my astonishment knew no bound when I found the very same analogies present there for certain concepts that had already come to my mind without even hearing or reading it anywhere before. These findings removed my doubt regarding correctness of my thoughts and established my belief that what I had come to know was indeed the truth. Apart from Achyutananda Das, there were four other saints who are commonly known as Pancha Sakha (Five Friends). These five great souls were the proponents of Utakaliya Vaishnavism and Shunya Vada. So the Shunya Vada of the medieval vaishnavas of Odisha is the doctrine that describes Brahman as Shunya. In a general sense everything is Brahman (sarvam khalu idam brahma – Chg. Up 3.14.1), but the single primordial entity that becomes everything has been asserted differently by different scholars and different philosophers. Some say consciousness is Brahman (prajnanam brahma – Ait Up 3.3), some say the soul is the Brahma (ayamatma brahma – Brh Up 4.4.5), some say “I am Brahman” (aham brahmasmi – Brh. Up 1.4.10), some say “You are Brahma” (tat tvam asi - Chg Up 6.8.7 ) and some say bliss is Brahman (ananda brahmeti vyajanat – Tait. Up 3.6), but we say Shunya is Brahman:

ନାହି ତାହାର ରୂପ ବର୍ଣ, ଅଦ୍ରୁଶ ଅବର୍ଣ ତା ଚିହ୍ନ ।

ତାହାକୁ ବ୍ରହ୍ମ ବୋଲି କହି, ଶୂନ୍ୟ ବ୍ରହ୍ମଟି ସେ ବୋଲାଇ ।।

nāhi tāhāra rūpa varṇa, adṛsha avarṇa tā cinha,

tāhāku brahmā boli kahi, śūnya brahmhati se bolāi.

— That has no color no form, unseen uncolored is its norm,

Brahman is what it is called, Shunya Brahma hence it’s told.

It is only this Shunya Brahman that becomes everything. All the other descriptions of Brahman are either synonymous to it or belong to it just like a subset. Now the question arises, why or how Brahman is Shunya. Well, it’s simple. But first let’s see what the general definition of Brahman is:

यतोवाइमानि भूतानि जायन्ते [Tait Up – 3.1]

yatovāimāni bhūtāni jāyante — From which all these beings originate

जन्मादस्य यतः [Br Su – 1.1.2 / SB 1.1.1]

janmādasya yataḥ — Wherefrom origin etc. take place.

The scripture says, that from which creation, dissolution, etc. take place is the Brahman. But what exactly is that from which everything originates? What gives rise to all these that we see in the world? What was there when all these were not there? What is the root material from which everything sprang forth? The answer to all these questions is only one thing, Nothing. When there was nothing, there was only Nothing. This Nothing (Shunya) is the ultimate singularity from which everything originates and into this Nothing at the end everything merges. So Shunya being the cause of all causes is Brahman. God is Shunya. Then the question arises if God is shunya, then what made the Shunya God leave His original state of Shunyata and produce such a vast creation? The answer is simple, His own Shunya nature made Him leave the original state. It is because He is Shunya that He creates (gives rise to) so many worlds and universes which although seem as something, in actuality are nothing. This might seem a little ambiguous to you. It is because the Shunya or Nothing you have pictured in your mind is not exactly the Shunya we are talking about here. Generally shunya means complete emptiness, pure void, and complete nothingness. That is the concept of Shunyata in Buddhism. But the Shunya we are talking about is not devoid of everything, rather it is full of everything. It is Shunya because it is Purna (full). You will say how can something which is full of everything be empty? You are right, it can’t be. But what if you fill that something with things that are exact opposite or complement to each other? See the point? If you fill something with 5 positive charges and 5 equivalent negative charges, then the whole will simply be a zero, a nothing. And that’s exactly how Brahman is Shunya. Brahman, the root element from which everything originates is both existent and nonexistent. In scriptures, there is contradiction regarding whether the absolute from which everything came forth was a being or a non-being. While at one place it is said to be non-being (asat) at another place it has been speculated as being a being (sat) in the beginning:

असद्वा इदमग्र असीत् । ततो वै सदजायत ।। [Tait Up – 2.7]

asadvā idamagra asīt tato vai sadajāyata

— In the beginning, verily, this world was non-being. There from, originated the being.

सदेव सोम्येदमग्र आसीदेकमेवाद्वितीयम् [Ch Up 6.2.1]

sadeva somyedamagra āsīdekamevādvitīyam

— In the beginning, my dear, this world was just being, one without a second.

Although these statements are contradicting, they actually denote the different aspects of the same Brahman. As we will see, Brahman is both sat and asat, and hence it is Shunya. Brahms being Shunya this complementary duality is its inherent nature, so also it is the nature of the existence that comes from it. As you might have noticed, our world is filled with only these complementing aspects. Starting form electrons and anti-electrons to male and females, whatever element you will consider, you will certainly find its complementing other. So although from a partial point of view it seems something exists, from an absolute point of view it’s Nothing that actually exists. That is how Shunya Brahman is not empty but completely filled (purna). The scripture also says Brahman is completely full; and not just only full, but infinitely full:

पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पुर्णमुदच्यते।
पूर्णश्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ॥ [Brh. Up – 5.1]

pūrṇamada pūramida pūrātpuramudacyate

pūrṇaśya pūramādāya pūramevāvaśiyate 

So Brahman as a whole is a completely and infinitely filled entity. But as we can see from our observation, it is filled with complementary aspects only. So as a whole, from the absolute point of view Brahman is Shunya and it maintains its Shunyata by complementary dual aspects. This means, Shunya can’t be just one thing; it also has to be the opposite of that thing. Hence, Shunya can’t have just one state; it also has to have the opposite state. It has to be everything; it has to be both this and that. So also says the scripture:

सर्वमयः तद्यदेतदिदंमयोअदोमय इति  [Brh Up 4.4.5]

sarvamaya tadyadetadidamayoadomaya iti

But see, because Brahman is Shunya (Nothing) we can’t just say that “it is both this and that”; it has to be the opposite of this condition as well, that is, it also has to be “neither this nor that”. So also declares the scripture:

स एष, नेति नेति [Brh Up – 4.2.4]

sa eṣa, neti neti

 So what we see here is that Shunya Brahman has two complementary states. One state is Complete Nothingness and the other state is Absolute Nothingness. One state is without desires (no existence of existence) and the other state is with desires (existence of existence). These two states keep on rotating one after another through the course of eternal time. Here you may raise the question, “If Brahman is the only entity that is eternal, then where from a second entity ‘time’ comes into the picture?” Well, the thing is, Brahman and time both are synonymous and coexist just like fire and its light. So the eternal time is in fact none other than Brahman itself:

अहमेवाक्षय कालः [BG – 10.33]

ahamevākṣayaḥ kālh

  So billions of years ago as per our unit of time, leaving the state of complete nothingness, it entered the state of absolute nothingness. It is only then that everything visible and invisible came to exist adhering to complementary duality. But before that neither there was duality nor was there non-duality; neither there was existence, nor was there non-existence:

नासदासींनॊसदासीत्तदानीं नासीद्रजॊ नॊ व्यॊमापरॊ यत् । [Rig Veda, Nasadiya Sukta -1]

nāsa̍dāsī̱nno sadā̍sītta̱dānī̱m nāsī̱drajo̱ no vyo̍mā pa̱ro yat 

— Neither existence nor nonexistence was there, neither matter was around nor was space

This fundamental singularity is the Shunya Brahman which neither exists nor doesn’t exist:

अनादि मत्-परं ब्रह्म न सत्तन्नासद् उच्यते [BG – 13.12]

anādi mat-paraṃ brahma na sattannāsad ucyate

But the interesting thing is, He is not only “neither existent nor inexistent”, but also “both existent and nonexistent”:

सद् असच्चाहम् अर्जुन [BG – 9.19]

sad asaccāham arjuna

Then as if this contradiction was not enough, to confuse us more He has also been stated as the imperishable essence which is beyond existent and nonexistent:

त्वमक्षरं सदसत्तत्परं यत् [BG – 11.37]

tvamakṣaraṃ sadasattatparaṃ yat 

Okay, now you just think for a moment. How can a single entity be something and its opposite thing at the same time? Isn’t it contradicting? Either Brahman should be existent or inexistent, but not both. Even if It becomes both existent and nonexistent, It should no way be opposite of it, that is, It should not be “neither existent, nor nonexistent”. But we find both the contradictions in It. Moreover, after dividing everything visible and invisible, everything manifest and unmanifest in two categories of sat and asat what else beyond it could exist? But no, Brahman exists beyond both sat and asat. All these statements about Brahman are contradicting and confusing, but only when you take Brahman as Shunya all these descriptions become feasible. Brahman being Shunya can either be complete nothing, that is, neither existent nor nonexistent, or it can be an absolute nothing, that is, both existent and nonexistent. Then as it is Shunya, existent and nonexistent being its two subsets only, It is beyond the both. Now I hope you must have got the point regarding Brahman that It is the substratum of mutually opposite natures. These opposite natures inherently exist to maintain the state of Shunyata.

Now that we understand the nature of Shunya and know Shunya as Brahman itself, we should not be surprised to find its contradicting aspects of it in the scriptures. Somewhere Brahman has been described as one without a second and somewhere He has been described as many:

एक हि रद्रो न द्वितीयाय तस्थु [Sve. Up – 3.2]

eka hi radro na dvitīyāya tasthu

सहस्राणि सहस्रशो ये रुद्रा अधि भुम्याम् [Tait. Sam. 4.5.11]

sahasrāṇi sahasraśo ye rudrā adhi bhumyām

एकम् अद्वितियम् ब्रह्म [Chg. Up – 6.2.1]

ekam advitiyam brahma

त्रिबिधम् ब्रह्मेतद्

tribiidham brahmetad [Sv Up – 1.12]

सर्बम् खल्विदम् ब्रह्म [Chg Up – 1.4.5]

sarbam khalvidam brahma

Somewhere it has been described as having no hands and no legs, yet somewhere it has been described as having thousands of hands and legs:

अपाणिपादो जबनो ग्रहीता [Sve. Up – 3.19]

apāṇipādo jabano grahītā

सर्वतः पाणि-पादम् [BG – 13.13]

sarvataḥ pāṇi-pādam

सहस्र-पादोरु-भुजाननाद्भुतम् [SB – 1.3.4]


It has been described as smaller than the smallest and also simultaneously larger than the largest:

अणोरणीयान् महतो महीयान् [Sve. Up – 3.20 ]

aoraṇīyān mahato mahīyān

It has been said to be unborn, but yet again it has been described as taking many births:

अजातो इती [Sve. Up – 4.21]

ajāto itī — It is unborn

स एव जातः [Sve Up – 2.16]

sa eva jāta — He alone is born

अजयोमानो बहुधा बिजायते [Mu. Up – 1.1.6]

ajayomāno bahudhā bijāyate — Unborn, yet takes many births

It doesn’t have any senses, but enjoys objects of every sense:

सर्वेन्द्रिय-गुणाभासम् सर्वेन्द्रिय-विवर्जितम् [BG – 13.14]

sarvendriya-guṇābhāsaḿ sarvendriya-vivarjitam 

It is both being and non being:

सदसदवरेण्यं [Mun. Up 2.2.1]


And so on. The scriptures are filled with many such contradicting descriptions about Brahman.

If we analyze these, we will again reach the same conclusion that Brahman is the substratum of mutually opposing natures. While the reason and cause of this contradiction may seem incomprehensible to the general seeker of Brahman, to us it is no more a surprise.  It is because, we now know that Brahman is Shunya and these complementary dualities only act to maintain His/Her Shunyata(Nothingness). That is why Brahman cannot be told only as nirguna, nirakara or saguna,sakara; it has to be both, “neither of these” and “both of these”. That is, at one state it is neither saguna sakar nor nirguna nirakar (state of complete nothingness) and at another state it is both saguna sakara and nirguna nirakar (state of absolute nothingness). In this manner we can answer other descriptions of God like name, form, etc. Just the point is, whatever you say for Brahman, the opposite of it will also be true. He is nothing, but yet He is everything. You may ask, then why use the pronoun He for Brahman instead of She? Well, you can use She if you like, it’s just a matter of preference. If you are a girl, then you may like to refer Brahman as Her, and that would also be correct. Brahman being Shunya can be male, female, boy, girl, etc. whatever you like:

त्वं स्त्री त्वं पुमानसि त्वं कुमार उत वा कुमारी

त्वं जीर्णो दण्डेन वञ्चसि त्वं जातो भवसि विश्वतोमुखः [Sve. Up – 4.3]

tvaṃ strī tvaṃ pumānasi tvaṃ kumāra uta vā kumārī

tvaṃ jīrṇo daṇḍena vañcasi tvaṃ jāto bhavasi viśvatomukhaḥ

See, the same Brahman as His dual aspect comprises of Purusha and Prakruti. Due to the interaction of these two aspects existence becomes possible. Purusha is the cause for sentient living part of the existence and Prakruti is the cause for the inert and insentient part. Between these two aspects, the visible insentient aspect which is material nature is kshara (perishable) and the invisible living part which is immaterial is akshara (imperishable). Only by the combination of the sentient and insentient dual aspects that all these life and whole of the universe becomes possible:

संयुक्तं एतद् क्षरमक्षरं च ब्यक्ताब्यक्तं भरते बीश्वमीशः [Sve. Up – 1.8]

saṃyuktaṃ etad kṣaramakṣaraṃ ca byaktābyaktaṃ bharate bīśvamīśaḥ

We all know that part retains the nature of the whole. So once we know this dualistic nature of Brahman we will hardly be surprised to see the pattern present throughout the whole existence that has come forth from It. Every phenomenon in the whole existence is under the influence of this complementary duality. Starting from day and night to male and female, every phenomenon is either one or the other aspect in a duality pair and the various permutation and combination of all these mutually opposite pairs in the course of time give rise to the phenomenal world. As we are subject to relative time, we only observe partial aspects of the whole reality, but for the absolute for which there is no gradation of time in terms of past, present and future, all the phenomena exist simultaneously as if in one instant. Hence the absolute is always purna shunya (full and empty). This is the ultimate truth about God and this is His true nature and norm.

However, you may complain that such a form or type of God has never been heard of. We all know God as an unseen unknown entity and worship His human like incarnations. So as an unknown and unseen entity we are aware of Him through different names like Brahman, God, Allah, Alekh, Nirakar, Niranjan, etc. and as human-like incarnations we are aware of Him as Ram, Krishna, Buddha, Parshuram, etc. But we have never heard of any God who is worshiped as Shunya, have we? Well, actually we all have, but just that we never realized or noticed it. At least I never did until I recalled that night that He is also called as Shunya Purusha. Have you noticed the image at the beginning of the page just below the name of this article and above the writer’s name? Do you recognize whose picture it is? Yes, it’s of Shri Jagannath (Lord of the Universe) of Shrikshetra Puri. Notice the form in the picture. What’s its shape? Its shape is like a round circle,  like a zero or  shunya. His eyes are zero, his mouth is half zero, his tilak is half zero, etc. So the point is, Shri Jagannath is the form of God which represents His absolute true nature. God is Shunya, so also Jagannath. Because that which is Nothing can become anything and everything; Jagganth being Nothing becomes everything. You won’t find any such form of God which bears all the forms, but see  Lord Jagannath, what form He doesn’t bear? He becomes all the ten avatars, He becomes Ganesh. He is also Buddha, He becomes Mahesh. He is Shunya, hence He becomes everything and is worshiped as all the commonly known forms. At the same time He is also worshiped as formless nirakara Brahman. He is the absolute from which everything relative originates. Shri Jagannath is the Shunya Purusha, the absolute form of God.

I hope this little article provides you enough hint to realize the absolute truth yourself through the process of self enquiry and discipline. Once through constant enquiry you realize the truth and get the knowledge, many things will automatically become clear to you and you will be able to understand the message of the scriptures. You’ll feel enlightened and liberated. With the rise of right knowledge your mindset and actions will become right and this knowledge alone will give you emancipation, no other path or method will be necessary. As an article can not clear many doubts and some essential concepts like mind, karma, etc. will require a detailed explanation, I wrote a book explaining those topics as per my realization. If you want to ask any question regarding the philosophy, then you can do so in the forum present on the discussions page. Life is simple and beautiful, only we have made it complex and complicated. Now it’s time to uncomplicate things and make life better. Right knowledge is the primary requirement for this. Right knowledge leads to right view and right view leads to right action. For making the world a better place all these are required along with mutual cooperation. Thank you for reading it so far.

Om! May all find peace, bliss and happiness in life.

ॐ असतोमा सद्गमय । तमसोमा ज्योतिर् गमया । मृत्योर्मामृतं गमय ॥ ॐ शान्ति: शान्ति: शान्ति: ॥


 ଓଁ ବନ୍ଦେ ମହାପରୁଷ! ତେ, ଚରଣାରବିନ୍ଦଂ
õ bande mahāpuruṣa! te, caraṇārabindam