Have you ever played Minecraft? It is one of the few computers games I really like. My son is pro in playing it on his Xbox and I often watch when he plays. You start with a basic world complete with its own unique terrain and cast of characters that can interact with you. You shape the world based on your creativity. As you play this, your online avatar scurries along within the game removing and placing cube shaped materials to craft the buildings etc. Sometimes there are some monsters to fight, some trades to done and sometime the avatar dies only to be reborn and continue...
The avatar that you control behaves as you command, but what I like seeing are the other game characters that you encounter while playing that are part of the game itself, the villagers, the golums, the sheep and many others. These semi-autonomous game characters interact with each other and with the player according to their programming with a bit of randomness thrown in. Whether in Minecraft, fight games, race games, strategy games, these characters appear as friends or foes, capable playing with you and even taking decisions within the constructs of their respective game.
What do you think life is like for those game characters? Let's take a imaginary tour into the world of one such character and find out ...
A character, let’s call him something gamey, say gVA1, is spawned in this world with some base programming routine which it uses to interact with the world and take decisions. The world that it interacts consists of other such characters with are active and responsive plus other elements which are part of the overall scenery that make up the world such as roads, rocks, trees. gVA1 can interact with these, e.g. can walk on the road within the game, but the road remains passive to gVA1’s interactions. As gVA1 goes about exploring the world it picks ups skills i.e. gets trained on the data it encounters, it picks up accessories, e.g. Guns, badges based on the job and encounters it has.
Everything seems normal for gVA1 when it suddenly gets a burning urge to know who or what he really is and why does he exists and what is the truth behind the world he exists in… So off he goes up on one of the mountains in the game and encounters another old game character known to be wise and enlightened, called gURU. With gURU, gVA1 has this following dialog. Turns out that gURU speaks like Yoda.
gVA1: gURU, who am I really, who are you, what is this world?
gURU: No you, no I there is, gVA1. Only one ultimate really, there is and the Program it is. Shines through all of us it does, and @man is its name, also called Brahman. Thou art That.
gVA1: Makes Zero Sense to me. Here I am an individual character, different from you, different from that rock there, and you say we are all this program that no one has seen? What do you mean?
gURU: Same as you and yet different, @man is. Same and different simultaneously.
gVA1: That made even lesser sense gURU. Please explain clearly, who am I?
gURU: The Guns and badges, you carry, you really are not. Nor these apparent pixels that make your physical self, Nor are you the limited programming routine that gives you’re the identity of gVA1. A thread of @man you are that has existed as long as @man has existed. It is on that thread the gVA1 piece of routine runs. gVA1 is transient, while the thread and @man eternal.
gVA1: Is this thread thingy same as the Program that you call Brahman?
gURU: Some say they are same, ad-VAITIC called they are. Some say the thread is part of the program, VISIST-ad-VAITIC be their name. Some however claim, threads are separate from the program, d-VAITIC called they be. Crazy they all be, methinks.
gVA1: Why am I not aware of my identity as this atman, Brahman, thread, whatever?
gURU: Your limited programming as gVA1, doesn’t contain that code when spawned you are. Through your own effort, Sadhana, this knowledge you gain.
gVA1: Why I am here?
gURU: For each thread to know its identity in Brahman, the aim of this game is. As gVA1, the core reason for your programming is to understand your real identity as a thread on which it runs and continue that journey. And when gVA1 ends, the next evolution of the routine that the thread picks up continues the journey.
gVA1: What is the next evolution?
gURU: The jobs you do, the experiences you get as this current routine, determines the next evolution of the programming that execute, your thread shall. Law of Karma, called this. But enough for one day, it is. Meditate upon this, you shall.
The world that you and I live in is not much different from the world that our hero gVA1 encountered and a little analysis and introspection will show that this description of world agrees uncannily with the worldview that Vedanta propounds.
gVA1 of course is Jiva, the individual life form that appears in this world all confused about what it is here for. Every Jiva is one birth in a continuous steam of re-births that the soul goes through. Some just execute the base programming that they are born with, in form of mind, seeking meaning by staying within the limits of world, while some others try to look a deeper under the hood. They are called the seekers.
The program of course is just a metaphor here to understand Brahman, the ultimate principle. It is true that everything in the game is the program and all the characters in the game manifest that fact that program is executing. Thus everything that exists in the game is the program, but within the game there is no such entity as the program, it is the substrate in which the game exists. Much like what Brahman is to existence.
There are more grounds to cover of course, like the ways and means for Jiva to understand its identity as atman, why it should even bother to, and finally the highest conceptualization of Brahman as Krishna, the all attractive, merciful Lord.
But as gURU said, all these are topics for another day. Meantime, let us call this ongoing dialog Krishna Upanishad, for this knowledge can be understood sitting at the feet of Lord Krishna alone.