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Re: size of soul

From: Vidyasankar Sundaresan (vidya_at_cco.caltech.edu)
Date: Thu Sep 19 1996 - 17:00:52 PDT

On Thu, 19 Sep 1996 skaushik@mit.edu wrote:

> Vidyasankar writes:
> 
> "... it has to be described as all-pervading, i.e. infinite in nature."
> 
> Couple of questions:
> 
> 1. Pervading implies something to be pervaded. What does brahman pervade?

Everything, but since there is nothing other than brahman, brahman
pervades Itself, no? 

> 
> 2. What does "infinite" mean in the sense of advaita? does it mean that
>    the atman cannot be described in terms of space, and hence, for a lack
>    of a better word, "infinite" is used to characterize Brahman?
> 

I tend to think of "infinite" not as spatial only, but as spatio-temporal.
In this sense, infinite is synonymous with eternal. It is because brahman
is, that the concept of infinity is possible. It is because brahman is,
that the concept of eternity is possible. And so on. 


>    I realize that this might get deeply into the "neti, neti," but I
>    would be interested in getting a birdseye summary of the use of the
>    negative in characterizing Brahman (i.e. in terms of what it is
>    not, rather than what it is).

Neti, neti is a means of transcending words to describe brahman. It is not
as if there are some entities out there that can be excluded from brahman.
However, the minute one says, brahman is X, one is excluding all that is
not-X from brahman. One way of getting around this is to say, brahman is
not this, not that, where this and that could include all X's and
not-X's. This is the neti, neti approach. Another way is to say, brahman
is X, and brahman is also not-X. The upanishads explicitly say the former,
but they do not explicitly say the latter, they only say "sarvam khalvidam
brahma."

Thus, neti, neti (at least according to the advaita interpretation) is
*not* a way of characterizing brahman in terms of what it is not. On the
other hand, it is a statement of the fact that brahman cannot be
characterized by particulars. However, it is not a denial of brahman,
because the upanishads also say that the brahman is to be known as that
which *is*. 

About the Taittiriya upanishad and the dimension of brahman, I will have
to read more about it. Maybe I can post something in future. 

Regards, 

S. Vidyasankar