The Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita

Assessing the veracity of the ancient Hindu metaphysics following texts such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads, which speak of an absolute self, or Atman, which may be said to be one with the Absolute Reality of Brahman, obviously depends upon the perspective or methodology we employ when investigating the question. According to the dominance of modern scientific discourse, all such claims would have to be backed up with empirical science, putting our faith upon such methodology.

However, if we adapt a perspective from within the phenomenological horizon of the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanisahds and the Hindu religion in general, the coherency of this claim becomes more pertinent. For the basic point in this metaphysics is that – precisely against the discourse of modern science it should be mentioned – is that the perceived reality is not the ultimate or absolute reality. This includes conceptions of the individual self that are generated through its juxtaposition to the everyday, tangible and empirical world. Accordingly, the aim is to strive beyond this surface reality, towards an absolute reality; this becomes possible insofar as every self possesses the aspect of the Atman, and thus there is a direct link between the self, the absolute self and the absolute reality of the Brahman.  All that this claim requires to be justified is to carry the conception that perhaps our everyday reality and its concerns is not the ultimate reality: and this certainly seems true, insofar as societies are always changing and also conditioning our conceptions of ourselves and realities in different ways. The point of this metaphysics is that these conceptions are precisely in a state of flux, and therefore cannot be counted as absolute. This seems to be a fact grounded in our everyday experience, in a certain paradoxical manner: we see the changes in our everyday experience, and therefore through everyday experience itself we can learn that it is not the ultimate reality, or rather, that something exists beyond. When one tears down the conceptions of the self determined by society, conceptions that can often lead one towards a degenerated self-image, since one must conform to a society’s particular expectations, this creates a passage to another reality which exists beyond contingent social reality. When we accept the possibility of this passage – and as argued above, it certainly seems legitimate when we consider social structures as constantly changing – then this metaphysics gives us an opportunity to reflect on such an absolute reality.