At a recent Discourse I attended on Bhagavad Gita, the Swamini from Chinmaya Mission took the topic of Real vs. Unreal as outlined in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 2 Verse 16). The verse for the benefit of readers is reproduced as follows:
nāsato vidyate bhāvo nābhāvo vidyate sataḥ
ubhayorapi dṛiṣhṭo ’nta stvanayos tattva-darśhibhiḥ
Translated by her, it means that the supreme reality always remains real and the materialistic unreality will always remain unreal. Real can never be unreal and unreal can never be real.
To help the audience understand this statement, she drew the example of a tree which starts its life as a seed beneath the earth, grows as a plant, becomes a tree, serves as wood, converted into a table, thrown away as scrap, recycled as pulp, used as paper and finally settles back to earth. In all its shapes and forms during this journey, the unreality is the temporary form it assumed and the reality is its existence as a being. In summary, the one that is real is the changeless characteristic of its existence and the unreality is the form and shape it takes in due course. In the context of human life, so she concluded, that the materialistic decomposition of life (into pancha boothaas) is unreal, its supreme form – the Brahman remains real.
My thoughts went suddenly around my recent blog post where I discussed the Raman Effect (that occurs when a light spectrum is passed through a transient medium). The real vs. unreal dilemma explained by Swaminiji, in my understanding, is also perfectly explainable with the light as an example, and that is what I argued with her during the course of the lecture.
The light (not the ones we see from generation of electricity but the natural light that brightens the day) is also, similar to the tree, starts from an unknown eternal source. Hinduism treats this eternal source as the SUN God and so do the physics to a certain limited extent agree. From a scientific point of view, the light (wave or particle – depending upon the scientific study we want to base upon our argument) from this unknown source (say as lightlessness – absence of any color) moves towards infinity (again the state of lightlessness or eternity or infinity).
During the time it encounters with the atmosphere, light passes through the transient medium (which for understanding purpose – consider as a prism). In the process, it generates different wave-lengths, the reflections of which on our eyes are considered as colors (seven of them to be crude – VIBGYOR). So going back to the Gita verse, while the existence of light is reality, the shape it takes (through bulbs, or electronic gadgets) and the reflections it generates (through a spectrum of colors) is unreal – since it is temporary. And to that extent this light phenomenon, similar to the existence of life, is also somewhat linked to God (You may ponder upon why the Chariot of Sun God has seven horses exactly the number of colors in VIBGYOR).
May be this is the reason why we succumb ourselves to the light as God praying:
deepam jyoti para brahma, deepam jyoti paraayane
deepeNa varadaa deepam, sandhyaa deepam saraswati
(Meaning: This light is equal to God, makes all our wishes come true. The light that removes darkness from our lives and enhances our wisdom and knowledge, we salute to such light).
My further thoughts then went to my favorite topic – money and banking. Interestingly, the analogy of God and Light, from the dimensions of Reality and Unreality works even in the context of Money. Like God and Light, even the definition of Money is uncertain (to even most of the economists – see the number of books on Money that were written after the financial crisis). Money is what money does, concludes economists when questioned too much to give a precise definition of money.
We may argue that the coins, currency notes, cards, electronic wallets, and the cheques that we use in our daily lives are money. But they are forms of money and not money themselves. It is indeed the reason that the Central Bank Governor also promises to pay the bearer a certain sum when the closest form of money (the currency note) is brought to the Central Bank (while all the other forms of money are exchangeable with the issuer by a currency note). It is an acknowledgement that the currency note itself is not money but it is merely a sum guaranteed by the Government and this guarantee is operationalized through the Central Bank as Money.
May be this is the reason we consider Government as the Sovereign (or the unquestionable – the way we tend to label God as the Supreme). Remember the way it is hailed in the era of Kings – King is Dead, Long Live the King – which means, while the person who is momentarily called as King is Dead, the supreme force that should rule the kingdom is wished by the citizens to live long. Same way in the democratic Governments, we keep saying – of the people, by the people, and for the people. In other words, Government is nothing but the people constituting it – a philosophical version of saying – Aham Brahmasmi – I (the Citizen) am the Government.
Being a Sovereign, the monetary system (like that of human life) is the creation of the Government (like that of God). This is operated through the Central Bank (like that of Maya) which results in momentary feeling of the things we hold – gold, coins, currency notes, cards, electronic wallets – as Money. In fact, like human life, which begins with God and reaches the eternity at the end, money too begins with the Government issuing its bills based on which Central Bank initiates the circulatory system of Money. Money passes through various forms and institutions and ultimately reaches government in the form of taxes or bailouts.
So, whoever is in the temporary belief that he is in possession of money and is wealthy, is only taking pleasure of the Unreal, in terms of Gita. The reality is that this possession of wealth is at the mercy of the Governments to whom we gave the right to rule us and the Maya of Central Banks through which these Governments operate the monetary system.
May be that’s the reason, hoarding of money, without either consuming it or distributing it, is throughout denounced by all the Hindu thinkers and dharma shastras. Consider the verse to reflect upon this:
dAnaM bhogo nAshastistrI gatayo bhavanti vittasya;
yo na dadAti na bhu~Nkte cha tasya tR^itIyA gatirnAshaH
(Meaning: Money is destined to go in one of these three ways only – charity, enjoyment, and destruction. One who neither spends in charity, nor enjoys it, his is sure to go by the way of the third, i.e. destroyed).
One should keep always in mind that the best use of Money, like life and light is to see it as “Pass-Through-Certificate” rather than try to treat it as permanent. If you don’t believe this soon, the God will make you realize it in His own terms – either in the form of death, day-end or demonetization.