I would like to know whether the ultimate consciousness is finite or infinite.

Can anyone know the supreme being completely or even for the liberated souls, there would be something still they should learn about the supreme being?

Also, what does it mean to learn completely about him?

  1. Is it understanding how he pervades the universe?
  2. Is it understanding all of his deeds/powers?
  • 3
    what does it take to enjoy the sweetness of sugar? Is it necessary to analyze how many sugar canes can yield how much of sugar? Is it identifying the germination mechanism of a sugar cane and finding out the optimum time of growth for sugar cane? Is it visiting different sugar cane production mills? Which of the three give the satisfaction or complete experience about sugar? None. Just go ahead and taste the sugar. That is the ONLY thing that can give the taste of its sweetness.
    – Sai
    Dec 11 '14 at 19:04
  • 3
    Similarly the only way to enjoy the Glory of God is to EXPERIENCE Him. Understanding 'how' he pervades and all his glories is use only for the curious minded. The Jnana Yogis try to experience Him by BEING Him, while the Bhaktas try to experience Him by BEING His. That is it. Aspire to experience Him, and that is what knowing him really means. Just as how you 'know' sugar is sweet, by tasting it, rather than reading a hundred scriptures, or listening to hundred people. The former is much better and is a direct knowledge of sugar. Nothing can equal that dear friend. All the best
    – Sai
    Dec 11 '14 at 19:08

Infinite and non-infinite are both qualities, upadhis. Qualities can only arise in maya. Describing the ultimate consciousness as infinite is like describing the ocean by the outline of the seashore. The Ultimate is neither infinite nor is it non-infinite.

The Mandukya Upanishad (VII.) says: "Turiya is not that which is conscious of the inner (subjective) world, nor that which is conscious of the outer (objective) world, nor that which is conscious of both, no that which is a mass of consciousness. It is not simple consciousness nor is It unconsciousness. It is unperceived, unrelated, incomprehensible, uninferable, unthinkable, and indescribable. The essence of the Consciousness manifesting as the self [in the three states], It is the cessation of all phenomena; It is all peace, all bliss, and non-dual. This is what is known as the Fourth (Turiya). This is Atman, and this has to be realized."

'uninferable' - attributes such as existence, knowledge, infinity are not positive attributes of Turiya, They only indicate that Turiya is other than non-existence, non-consciousness, non-infinity. To make an inference requires a common feature, which presupposes an object more than one. Turiya is one without a second (ekamvadvitiyam); it is therefore uninferable. There is nothing in maya that can infer Turiya. All that can be said of It is neti, neti, not this, not this.

  • @@Swami - If so, how do you explain "Taittiriya Upanisad 2.2.2 which reads as "Satyam jnanam anantam Brahman" or Reality, Knowledge and Infinity is Brahman."
    – user808
    Dec 12 '14 at 13:02
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    @Krishna Please check your reference. In the two versions of the Taittiriya that I have, both show only 1 verse in Part II, Chapter 2. Neither shows a 2nd verse. Dec 13 '14 at 4:39
  • @Krishna I found the verse you referenced. In one version it is II. 1. 3. in another it is II. 1. 1. The short answer to your question is this. First, infinity does not mean spatial infinity. Spatial distance only exists in maya. In the context of this verse, infinity means that which is not separated from anything. This in in agreement with the Chandogya U. (VII. xxiv. 1.) "That is the infinite in which one does not know anything else. And that in which one knows anything else is limited." Dec 13 '14 at 10:28
  • @@Swami- "That is the infinite in which one does not know anything else." What do you mean by this?
    – user808
    Dec 13 '14 at 15:27
  • @Krishna - See my comment again. I think you mean to say what does the Chandogya U. mean. What it means is that the non-dual Brahman is only aware of the non-dual Brahman. It is not aware of anything else. There is nothing else for it to be aware of. It is only aware of Brahman. There is no separateness as there is only One. As there is no separateness, therefore it is infinite. Dec 14 '14 at 8:14

Quoting from a book called ‘Principal Upanishads” - by Dr.Anantha Rangachary which based on the sanskrit commentary of Sri Rangaramanuja muni (16th century)

The author refers to Anandavalli section (Anandamaya Vidya) of Taittiriya upanishad and provides the following meaning for "Anantham", for the aphorism

"Satyam Jnanam anatham brahma"

The author says "the Anadavalli which expounds the nature of supreme reality, the goal and the way is introduced with the words

“the knower of the brahman attains the highest" (Brahmavidhapnoti param).

Bramhavid means one who meditates upon Brahman which is infinitely great by its nature and also on account of its qualities.

Meaning of Anantham:

The word “Anantham” signifies that it is not limited spacially, temporally or with reference to a substance.

This is here, not elsewhere is the form of “desaparicheda”

It is now, not at any other time is the form of “Kalaparicheda”

This is not this” is “Vastuparicheda”.

So, Brahman has “sarvavastu samanadhikaranyarhatva” and so is without any limitations related to the substance.

This non-limited nature in respect of substance also means infinite excellence of qualities on account of which it is without an equal or a superior.

The meaning of the word “Anantham” also means the infinite nature of its auspicious qualities.

So, the Vedas claim too-that he knows the Lord’s greatness to be unknowable. This is borne out by the Anandavalli vAkya

“YatO vAchO nivartantE, aprApya manasA saha”

Veda Vakyas, which set out to describe fully at least one attribute of the Parama Purusha , return vanquished, unable to fathom the full depth of each auspicious quality.

As per Ramanujacharya, Brahman is defined as anantham or infinite because it is omniscient, it exists at all time and it pervades all other objects in the universe. This charaterestic of Brahman distinguishes it from the nitya jivas or the eternally free souls because the later are monadic in character (Anu), whereas brahman is Vibhu or all pervasive.

For Madhvacharya, the term anantam or infinity means that which is not conditioned by space, time and gunas (desakalaguna aparichinnatvam).

So, as per the Ramanujacharya and Madhvacharya, BRAHMAN is Qualified by Satyatva, Jnanatva and Anatatva.

As per Shankaracharya, the three terms convey the bramasvarupa, i.e. Brahman doesn't possess these characteristics, but it is itself reality, pure knowledge and infinite.

So, as per Ramanujacharya and Madhvacharya, in a nutshell, the only way of comprehending the ParamAtmA’s grandeur is to realize that it is beyond comprehension, being infinite on characharacter.

For more details refer to Philosophy of Upanishads by Dr.S.M.Srinivasachari


For your question 'Can anyone know the supreme being completely', if talking about scriptures, we can find one such reference in Shiva Purana. There is a story in Rudra Samhita of Shiva Purana, where once Sage Narad does a very deep penance, and he gets equal to Parabramha. But then after being awake he became proud and started praising himself by using the words 'Aham Bramhasmi' meaning that 'I am Parabramha now'. Lords then played a trick on him, after which he realizes his mistake. So, moral of the story is that: 1. Even after knowing the supreme being, you can still be out of ultimate consciousness and therefore prone to mistakes. 2. Supreme being is still supreme being, you can try equal him, but when you actually realize you will know that he is still above all and you are just nothing in front of him.

  • You should give a specific citation and/or quotes from the Shiva Purana. I gave you links to the Shiva Purana in an earlier answer: hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/3830/36 Dec 19 '14 at 17:52
  • @Keshav, I have added the link to the story.
    – Aby
    Dec 19 '14 at 17:59
  • What page is it on? Dec 19 '14 at 18:07
  • @Aby And is knowing the supreme being different from getting liberated while alive (Jivan Mukti)?
    – user12458
    Dec 20 '14 at 10:18

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