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THE NATURE OF REALITY By Swami Nikhilananda Sri Ramakrishna Centre New York USA As early as the Vedic times the Rishis investigated the nature of reality from two levels of experience one of which may be called the absolute acosmic or transcendental level and the other relative cosmic or phenomenal level At the phenomenal level one perceives the universe of diversity and is aware of ones own individual ego whereas at the transcendental level the differences merge into an inexplicable non dual consciousness Both of these levels of experience are real from their respective standpoints though what is perceived at one level may be negated at the other Reality experienced at the transcendental level is called BRAHMAN This term denotes the non-dual PURE CONSCIOUSNESS which pervades the universe yet remains outside itJust as the sun pervades all life on earth yet remains outside it Brahman is described as the first principle from it all things are derived by it all are supported and into it all finally disappear In Brahman alone the apparent differences of the phenomenal world are unified Brahman is identical with the self of man known as atman The word ATMAN signifies the consciousness in man which experiences gross objects during the waking state subtle objects during the dream state and the bliss arising from absence of the duality of subject and object in dreamless sleep The Upanishads speak of the transcendental Brahman as devoid of qualifying attributes or indicative marks and of the phenomenal Brahman as endowed with them The attributeless Brahman is called the supreme or unconditioned Brahman and the other the inferior or conditioned Brahman When the sense perceived world is regarded as real Brahman is spoken of as its omnipotent and omniscient Creator Preserver and Destroyer But when the world is
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