By Anup Taneja
Sep 04, 2014
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, whose birthday is celebrated as Teachers’ Day, was known for his metaphysical idealism. On the one hand, he recognised Prakriti, the reality of the world of experience with myriad diversities, and on the other hand, he simultaneously accepted the notion of the transcendent Absolute Being, the eternal Self, pure, formless, undifferentiated Consciousness. Though the external world that is perceived through the senses is definitely not ultimate reality -- by virtue of it being subject to constant change characterised by finitude and multiplicity -- it derives its support from the Absolute Being that is devoid of all limits, diversities and distinctions.
Despite being the canvas on which the colourful world appears with all sorts of apparent impurities, eternal Consciousness remains absolutely untainted and does not lose its immaculate purity.
Radhakrishnan’s reinterpretation of Sankara’s understanding of Maya strictly as illusion stands out. In Radhakrishnan’s view, Maya ought not to be interpreted to mean a rigid, objective idealism wherein the world is perceived as totally disconnected from the Absolute Being -- but to be seen as a subjective misperception of the world as ultimate reality.
Radhakrishnan’s assertion that when forms cease to be attractive, that does not necessarily mean that they cease to exist, received accolades from great philosophers. The fact that forms cease to be attractive points to a change in the soteriological status of those whom they previously attracted. No change in the ontological status of the forms is indicated. He says: “Maya is concerned not with the existence of the world but with its meaning, not with the factuality of the world but with the way in which we look upon it”. Thus, the state of Moksha or liberation transforms the seeker from within---so much so that forms cease to hold any attraction for him. In this lofty state, forms no longer conceal the Absolute Being---the power behind all external manifestations---from the spiritual vision of the seeker.
Radhakrishnan explains that when the illusion of the mirage is dissipated by scientific knowledge, the illusory appearance remains, though it no longer leads us astray; we see the same appearance but give a different value to it. A puddle in the desert is a mirage. But when, through scientific knowledge, we learn that mirage is caused by heat rising up, the mirage is dissipated. The mirage, though, does not disappear; only we become aware of the fact that the mirage depends on and arises from the desert heat. Mirage, in this analogy, is the world, while the desert heat is the Absolute Being. Just as ontological reality of the mirage depends on and arises from the desert heat, the ontological reality of the world depends on and arises from the Absolute Being.
Radhakrishnan states that just as the mirage does not disappear when scientific knowledge is gained, the world too does not disappear when intuitively we come to know about the source of the world’s existence. The world continues to exist, though it is valued differently. A Jnani, after attaining Jnana, begins to perceive the world from a totally different perspective. He sees the world being permeated by particles of Chitti or pure Consciousness.
According to Radhakrishnan, because of the impact of Maya we unable to perceive real values. Freedom from Maya is the ability to penetrate the veil. It is the state of being united with that which is behind drama of the world. It is the state of being released from what he calls ‘unreal values’.