Buddhists became atheists since they applied the theory of relativity of cause and effect in endless way and found that everything is nothing. As a result even the God, the root cause, also does not exist. Shankara attacked this argument that there should be some real receiver, which receives the knowledge that nothing is real. Such receiver can be only awareness, which alone is the receiver of information. Hence awareness should exist. Shankara called this awareness as God so that the existence of God must be accepted. If everything is unreal, the experience of everybody should be that everything does not exist. In contrary, the general experience is that everything exists. Hence, there should be some basic real existence, which is pervading all over the world so that everybody thinks that everything exists. If the basis is unreal and it does not exist, the experience of everybody should be opposite so that everybody should spontaneously feel that everything is nonexistent. Since the basic reality pervades everything including the human being, everybody thinks that he or she exists. This argument of Shankara smashed the shunyavada (everything is nonexistent) of Buddhists and the basic reality was agreed.
Now the point is: What should be that basic reality? Is it imaginable or unimaginable? If it is unimaginable, there is a danger of its nonexistence. Even the scientists do not agree with the existence of unimaginable item. They have always the confidence of making unimaginable as imaginable. They say that they have understood today the unknown of yesterday. Hence, they believe that the unknown of today will be known by tomorrow. But, they do not realize that there is some unknown, which was not known yesterday, is not known today and will not be known tomorrow also. For example, the infinite is a dignified style of expressing the unimaginable only. They say that the universe or space is infinite. It means the boundary of universe is always unimaginable. If you take that unimaginable as God since the universe is projected from God, God is unimaginable. If something projects from you and if I travel all along the projection, I must reach the edge of the projection and I shall be able to touch you.
If I am unable to reach the edge of your projection, you can never be reached and therefore you are unimaginable. This argument convinces every true scientist. But, in the days of Shankara, science was not so developed and all the development was theoretical science, which arrives at fast false conclusions easily based on certain gymnastic feats of tautology. Hence, it was not the proper time for the declaration of unimaginable God to atheistic Buddhists. Unimaginable is one extreme end and visible is the other extreme end. Unimaginable-invisible God is one extreme end and the imaginable-visible matter is another extreme end.
Atheists will not believe if you say that the visible materialized statues or human beings are God. The production, destruction and all over non-pervading nature of the limited materialized forms stand as obstruction to treat these as God. If you bring the unimaginable power of God into the picture and say that God pervades all over the universe even though He is limited by such materialized form, they do not accept because the word ‘unimaginable’ is not acceptable for them. Hence, on the other hand, if you say that God is invisible and unimaginable, they will arrive at fast conclusion and declare that such God is non-existent. They feel that the word ‘unimaginable’ is an intellectual style of expressing the non-existence. They accept anything that is understood. Hence, both the extreme ends could not be projected as God to them. Hence, the middle item existing between these two extreme ends, the imaginable – invisible energy, was chosen as God. In energy, most of the defects of matter could be removed without bringing the concept of unimaginable power. The reason is that the energy is already all pervading. Moreover, the energy is modified into the universe. It maintains and controls all the items of the universe. It also can destroy all the materialized universe. Therefore, the cosmic energy is all pervading, creator, controller, and destroyer of the universe. All these attributes satisfy the attributes of God.
But one small defect stands as the problem for the cosmic energy also i.e. the energy is inert and cannot plan. There is no universal brain and universal nervous system to generate universal awareness. Without the brain and nervous system, inert energy cannot be modified into awareness. If inert energy alone can generate awareness, there will be no difference between inert energy and awareness and the process of generation becomes unreal. Hence, we don’t find awareness anywhere in the cosmic energy except in the living beings where the specific nervous fluids or systems exist. To answer this argument, Shankara analyzed the awareness and showed that it is basically the inert energy only since the awareness is a specific work form of inert energy functioning in a specifically designed nervous system. You can treat the pot basically as mud even though the circular shape of it has come from the mould. Neglecting this minor aspect of shape, the pot is almost mud in several characteristics like color, hardness, etc.
The awareness is called as Jeeva and the basic inert energy is called as Atman, which is also Brahman by its infinite quantitative extension. Atman is bit of energy confined to a limited living organism and Brahman is the infinite cosmic energy. If you attack that Atman and Brahman are inert being inert energy, Shankara treated them as awareness taking the almost oneness of mud and pot. Even Gita says that Atman is inert (Sthanuh…). Even the Brahman (infinite cosmic energy) becomes inert since the world is unreal with respect to the cosmic energy. If all the objects are unreal, the process of knowing the objects, awareness, disappears and hence Brahman becomes only the infinite inert cosmic energy.
Awareness means the process of thinking or knowing and for this an object is necessary. In deep sleep, the Jeeva (awareness) also becomes inert Atman (finite quantity of inert energy) because all the objects are delinked from the awareness due to which the awareness disappears. This means, in deep sleep the Jeeva is reduced to Atman as said by Shankara (Shuspti eka siddhah…). Some people use the word ‘awareness of awareness’ as the state of God. If you analyze carefully, the first awareness exists since the second awareness is represented by a pulse of blankness acting as object and therefore even here it is not the objectless state. This subtle point is missing and people think that awareness is the process of knowing itself.
The process and object cannot be one and the same. If the object is not existing separately from the process, the process disappears since for the existence of process the separate object is a must. The process of knowing requires some object other than the process of knowing. When you are knowing the knowing, the first ‘knowing’ is the process and the second ‘knowing’ is the impression or pulse created on the screen of the brain representing the process of knowing. Since you are not aware of the creation of such a pulse standing as an object, you are mistaking that you are knowing the knowing itself. If there is no impression or pulse acting as the object, the very process of knowing disappears as in deep sleep.
The inert brain-screen is simply recording the impressions from the external world or from memory and you are not experiencing the ‘I’ at every stage. When you see a tree, your experience is about the existence of the tree only and not about the ‘I’. Your experience is not that you are seeing the tree. Therefore, this ‘I’ is not spontaneously coming in every experience unless you intentionally bring the ‘I’ to the brain screen from memory. If you bring the ‘I’, the pulse representing your level of knowledge of ‘I’ stored in the memory comes to the screen and gets recorded so that you will be able to experience that you are seeing the tree. Otherwise, the experience is only that this is tree. Hence, neither the brain screen nor the unwarranted ‘I’ from the memory is causing the experience of ‘I’ spontaneously without your effort. The ‘I’ may have different meanings and according to your established meaning only, the impression of ‘I’ sparks on the screen. The meaning may be body or the mind or intelligence or a collective group of all these. The meaning may be also the brain-screen provided you know that the brain-screen is really receiving all the information. Hence, the total mechanism including the ‘I’ is only the inert process like the function of electromagnetic disk in a computer. Hence, the ‘I’ has no specialty and the awareness including the ‘I’ pulse is entirely the inert mechanism as in the case of a robot.
Shankara brought the infinite cosmic energy as formless all pervading Brahman, which is similar to Jehovah in Christianity and Allah in Islam. However, this infinite cosmic energy is supposed to be awareness also through unimaginable power. However, Shankara tried to make the cosmic energy as awareness based on the neglected minor difference between mud and pot. But, in practice, such minor difference cannot be neglected since there no awareness in the cosmic energy except in living beings. This defect can be rectified by accepting the unimaginable God, who charges the all pervading cosmic energy so that we can say that the cosmic energy has awareness. The unimaginable God need not have brain and nervous system to have awareness. This means that the unimaginable God is aware of everything through His unimaginable power.
This point could not be projected by Shankara in His time since the unimaginable God could not be admitted then. However, later on, Ramanuja and Madhva proposed Narayana, who is a limited energetic form having awareness since it is also charged by the unimaginable God. Such limited energetic form is similar to Father of Heaven in Christianity. Such limited form is absent in Islam because the limitation of infinite is not acceptable. But once, you accept the unimaginable power of unimaginable God to make the unlimited cosmic energy to have unimaginable awareness, what is the problem in accepting the all pervading power in the limited form also?.
Hence, the Father of Heaven is also omniscient. In such case, you can extend this concept to the limited human incarnation also and establish the all pervading omnipresent nature of the unimaginable God. If the energetic form is charged by unimaginable God, the materialized form also can be charged by the unimaginable God as in the case of Human incarnation. However, this point should not be extended to the materialized statues since there is no possibility of preaching of divine knowledge. However, the statue can be worshiped as a representative model of God by the beginner. This is only a lower stage but should not be criticized. You can say that the LKG class is lowest in the school but you should not mock and criticize it! Do not forget that you also studied that LKG class some time back.