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OM

Ajnanatimirintasyajnananjanasalakaya

Cakshurunmilitam yena tasmai 

srigurave namah

ADVAITA VEDANTA

D   Krishna Ayyar

 

Part II


OUTLINE OF ADVAITA VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY

 

Section 1 - Nature of Self

1. Let us start with finding answers to the questions raised in Party I. It is not difficult to understand that I am not the physical  body .  I can see the body. So, no thinking man will deny the fact, “ I am not the body.” “Am I the ‘prana’ (divided into prana, apana, vyana, udana and samana) , i. e., the life forces that are responsible for the respiratory, circulatory, assimilative functions etc.? I am aware that I am breathing. I am aware that I am hungry etc.  So, I am not the ‘prana.’ Am I the ‘jnanendriyas,’ i.e., the sense organs of perception, i.e., the faculties of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch? I am aware that I see, hear etc.. So, I am not the jnanendriyas. Am I the ‘karmendriyas’, the sense organs of action, i.e., the faculties of speaking, lifting, walking etc?  I am aware that I am speaking, walking etc. So, I am not the karmendriyas. ( A single name for the jnanendriyas and karmendriyas put together is ‘indriyas’ – sense organs, in English).

2. Next, we have to find out about the mind. [In Sanskrit, the mind is called ‘antahkarana’ which comprises “ manah ” ( the faculty which receives stimuli from the outer world and is the seat of emotions and feeling), “buddhi ” ( the faculty of reasoning, decision, speculation and imagination). “citta” ( the faculty of memory) and  the “ahampratyaya”* (ego)  ( the ‘I’ thought, the sense of ‘I am the knower, doer etc.). (In what follows, for the sake of simplicity, the word, mind, is used as a synonym for antahkarana.) (The physical body is called, “sthoola sarira." The prana, the indriyas and the antahkarana together are called “sukshma sarira”. The prana that continues to function during deep sleep and the indriyas and the antahkarana that lie dormant in the deep sleep state are, together, called “karana sarira.”) (* The technical term used for the ‘I’ notion in Sastra is ahamkara. But the word ahamkara is used also for the combination of antahkarana as a whole and the cidabhasa as it will be used later in this paper itself. To avoid confusion, in this paper, the word, ahampratyaya, is used for the ‘I’ notion as it is used in some places in Sureswaracarya’s “Naishkarmyasiddhi” and the word , ahamkara, for the combination of antahkarana and cidabhasa.)

 3. Am I the mind? The mind is an entity that expresses as thoughts in the form of cognition of external objects, emotion , reasoning, decision, speculation, imagination recollection and conceptualisation. “ I know the pot is a thought”. “ I am angry at my son” is a thought. “I had ice cream yesterday” is a thought. “Black hole is a mystery” is a thought”. Thoughts are momentary; one thought arises, stays for a while and disappears; then, another thought arises,  stays for a while and disappears, and so on.  “Is there an awareness of these changes”, if we ask, the answer is “yes”. That which is changes cannot itself be aware of the changes. It follows that, besides the changing mind, there is a changeless conscious principle. In the individual, this is invoked in the form of a constant “I”. For example, when  I think that I who was angry yesterday am calm today, though this thought arises in the mind, the “I” that is invoked as the one existing yesterday and the same “I” existing today cannot be the changing mind; because the angry the angry I disappeared yesterday and the calm I has appeared only today.   The constant “I” that is invoked by the thought in question is a changeless consciousness, which, as we shall see later, is the original consciousness by the reflection of which the mind itself becomes sentient and acquires the capacity of cognition etc.  The answer to the question “who am I” is “I am this unchanging original consciousness”. It is called “atma”. Other terms for atma is “pratyagatma” and “ sakshi caitanyam” or “sakshi”.

4. This process of connecting a past condition of the mind and the present condition is called “pratyabhinja”. We can observe pratyabhinja in situations connecting the dream state (called “swapna avastha”) and deep sleep state (called “sushupti avastha”) on the one hand and the waking state (called “jagrat avastha”) on the other.  In the dream state, the mind projects a dream world which it cognises as objects existing outside it. When one wakes up, one realises that what he saw as a world existing outside one’s mind were merely thoughts in one’s mind. Thus, one says, for example, “last night I dreamt that I got a lottery of one lakh rupees but now I know that I don’t have a paisa”. Again, this constant I that is invoked by this thought as having existed during the dream and as existing now is the changeless consciousness, the atma. Similarly, when one is a state of dreamless deep sleep, the mind is bereft of any kind of cognition, emotion and conception. When one wakes up one says, “I didn’t know anything”. Here also, the I that is invoked by this thought connecting the I that existed when the mind was blank and  the I that exists now when the mind recollects the blank state is the changeless consciousness, the atma. To make this clearer, suppose you ask a person who has woken up from deep sleep “when you were sleeping were you conscious of yourself?”. He will say that  “I did not know that I was there”. The “I” referred as having been absent during sushupti is not the changeless “I”, the Sakshi, which is never absent, but the changing ‘I’, which, as part of the sukshma sarira, is dormant during sushupti and  is not evident.  Thus, if we analyse the sushupti experience, we can clearly recognize the existence of the changeless “I”, the atma caitanyam called Sakshi, separating it, intellectually, from the changing “I”. 

5. Pratyabhinja invoking a constant is also observed when we connect different stages in our life. Our body and mind are changing entities. When  one is young, one is strong and healthy and can win a cross country race. When  one becomes old one needs a stick even to walk. In early age, one can recite the entire Bhagawatgita and Upanishads from memory . When one becomes old ,one doesn’t remember even the name of his dearest friend. In one’s youth one is arrogant. When one has become old , one has become humble.  When one says,  for example, “I who could recite the entire Bhagawatgita from memory once upon a time can’t even recollect a single line now”, one is imvoking the constant I, the unchanging consciousness, the atma.  The consciousness reflected in the mind is called  “cidabhasa” and the mind and cidabhasa together are called “ahamkara”). ( The body, the ahamkara and atma together are called "jivatma").

Section 2 – Brahman, the ultimate reality.

The central theme of the Upanishads is Brahman, called also Paramatma. It is a conscious principle. The word for conscious principle in Sanskrit is “caitanyam” The seminal sentence defining Brahman which occurs in Taittiriya Upanishad (II.1.ii) is  “satyam jnanam anantam Brahma.” In English, this is translated as “ existence-consciousness-infinity. ( Existence, consciousness and infinity are not three separate entities; they are three words denoting the nature of the same entity.) The word, “ satyam ” is defined as that which is eternal and has independent existence. The word,“ jnanam ”, in this context, means consciousness. The word, “anantam”  means infinity. Infinity denotes what is infinite not only in terms of space but in terms of time and entity. (In some places, Brahman is also defined as saccidananda.; it is a compound word consisting of “ sat ” which is the equivalent of “ satyam ”, “ cit ” which is the equivalent of  “jnanam ” and “ ananda ” which is the equivalent of “ ananatam”).

Section 3 – Identity of the individual self and Brahman

1. There are various Upanishad passages which talk of Brahman, the all pervading consciousness as being available for recognition  within the intellect or the mind. The Upanishads also expressly state that Brahman is  not only nondual (“advayam”) but divisionless (“nirvikalpam”). Therefore  Advaita Vedanta says that  the atma in you, in me, in other human beings, in  the animals, the birds, the insects, the plants and, in fact, in all living beings, be they denizens of this world or the other worlds, i.e., even the atma in gods (“Devas”) and demons (“Asuras”) is one and the same entity. Brahman and Atma are not different. They are just two words for the same entity. There is only one unbroken, undivided, all pervading consciousness. ("akhanda caitanyam" or “Brahma caitanyam”)  When the focus of teaching is on the all pervading aspect, it is generally referred to as Brahman and when the focus is on the original consciousness available in the jivatmas, it is generally referred to as Atma. When the focus is on the source of cidabhasa, It is referred to as Sakshi.  It is the same all pervading consciousness that is available in the jivatmas. And it is this that is invoked as the unchanging, constant I, by a pratyabhinja vritti. When the minds of the jivatmas are superimposed in the ‘field’ of the all pervading consciousness, there occur reflections of consciousness in the minds. The minds have the capacity to receive the consciousness  and reflect it, unlike objects like the table, just as mirrors have the capacity to receive the sunlight and reflect it. The reflected consciousness is called "cidabhasa", in Sanskrit. Without the reflected consciousness, the mind cannot perceive objects, cannot know, cannot think, cannot react, cannot recall and cannot imagine. (The qualities of different minds are different. Some are cheerful, some are morose. Some are intelligent; some are dull the comparison is that a mirror coated with dirt will throw a dull light on a dark room and a clean mirror will throw a bright light.) The mind, in turn, lends the borrowed consciousness to the sense organs and the body; that is how the mind, the sense organs and the body become sentient. It is the mind cum cidabhasa (technically called ahamkara) that expresses as the changing I.

2. Deriving  consciousness from the Atma, the mind perceives the external world through the sense organs.  While the awareness of the existence of oneself as a self conscious human being and as the same person, in spite of the changes which the body and mind undergo cannot be explained without the Atma,  the perception of particular objects or entertainment of particular thoughts in a voluntary, selective manner cannot be explained without the mind.  If I am watching the T.V. with great interest, I may be eating at the same time, but if you ask me later what I ate , I will not be able to tell you. Another proof of the  capacity of the mind to select what it wants is what is known as the “cocktail effect.” And it is  the mind which perceives objects of the external world, at one time, projects a dream world at another time and  becomes dormant at a third time.  Atma, the eternal consciousness, is there all the time, without undergoing any of these changes. If Atma alone was there and there was no mind, there would be permanent perception of everything together at the same time  (which will be utter confusion) if we assume Atma to be a knower or there will be permanent non-perception, if we assume Atma to be a non-knower. 

Section 4 – Transmgration and karma

Another fundamental tenet of Advaita Vedanta – indeed of all schools of philosophy in Hinduism – is that the sukshma sarira in which cidabhasa is always there survives the death of the sthoola sarira and is involved in transmigration from one world to another  among the fourteen worlds (lokas) mentioned in Sastra and entry into different sthoola sariras in successive births (janmas).  Associated with this tenet, there is the theory of karma. According to this, for the actions and thoughts of jivatmas they incur what are called “punya” and “papa”  (merit and demerit) and have to undergo enjoyment or suffering in future janmas and, sometimes in this janma itself. Vide Brhadaranyaka Upanishad IV.4.vi – “Being attached, the (transmigrating jivatma) together with its karma attains that on which its subtle body or mind is set. It experiences (in the other world) the karma phalam (recompense for punya papa in the form of enjoyment and suffering) for whatever karma it had done in this world. When it is exhausted, it comes again from that world to this world for new karma.  Thus does the man with craving (transmigrate)”. Kathopanishad II.ii.7 – “ Some embodied ones enter  (after death) into (another) womb for assuming bodies. The extremely inferior ones, after death attain the state of motionless things like trees etc., in accordance with each one’s work – i.e., under the impulsion of the fruits of the works they have accomplished in this life; similarly too, in conformity with the nature of knowledge acquired.”  Prasnopanishad III.7 – “ ….leads to a virtuous world as a result of virtue, to a sinful world as a result of sin, and to the human world as a result of both.” (“punyena punyam lokam papena papam ubobhyam eva manushyalokam.”) The punya papa account is a running account to which additions are made by actions and thoughts and subtractions take place  on account of enjoyment and suffering and through further action and thought.  The accumulated punya papa account is called “sancita karma”, the punya papa incurred in the current janma is called “agami karma”  and the punya papa quota assigned to be exhausted in a particular janma is called “prarabhda karma”. In accordance with prarabdha karma, the jivatma’s next janma may be as a  celestial or a god in one of the lokas superior than the earth or as an asura or some other denizen in an inferior loka , with different kinds of sthoola sariras ,or again, on earth,  as a human being or as a plant or an animal or insect or microbe . Jivatmas and karma are beginningless. Therefore , questions such as “what is the cause of the first janma?” i.e.,“how can there be a first janma with different people being different in  various respects unless there was a preceding karma?”, “how can there be karma without a previous janma?” are out of court. Only a theory of karma and rebirth can explain the phenomenon of prodigies or morons or babies  afflicted with congenital diseases unconnected with heredity and the wide disparity in physical and mental equipment, health, wealth, joy and suffering among human beings. That is, if you say that a person is born and dies once for all, and that there is no rebirth, when a person  undergoes enjoyment or suffering, you cannot explain it, because there is no punya papa for which the enjoyment or suffering is undergone. The other way, for the actions and thoughts of a person, the punya papa will hang in the air without reward or retribution. If you say that the Lord created persons with varying  patterns of physical and mental equipment and comforts, enjoyment and suffering, then that would make that Lord partial.  In Brhadaranyaka Upanishad,, IV.iii.9, read with Sankaracarya’s commentary, we get a logical proof of transmigration of sukshma sariras. The Upanishad says,  “Remaining in the junction between waking and sleep, i.e.,  in the swapna avastha, the jivatma experiences this world and the other world.” This is how we get strange dreams of things we have never experienced. Dreams are based on impressions formed during the waking state, called vasanas. Even a baby has dreams. Where are the previous experiences for it to have formed vasanas? The baby’s dreams are based impression formed in the mind out of experiences  (“vasanas”) of its previous janma. Similarly, on the eve of death, it is said,  that a man has a glimpse pf his next janma during his dreams..   Another argument for the karma theory is the well known fact that  the mind, though conscious of consequences wills evil; and though dissuaded it does engage in deeds of intensely sorrowful consequences. If there was no  vasana of evil, since everybody wants only happiness, evil will not exist in the world at all.

Section 5 – Free will

Apart from karma, there is scope for free will ( called “purushartha”) in human lives. Good action and good thought can reduce papa and increase punya. Whether free will or karma will prevail or to what extent free will can mitigate karma depends on the relative strength of the two. Since there is no way of knowing what one’s karma is, wisdom lies in doing good actions and entertaining good thoughts. One should not lose faith in the efficacy of good actions and good thoughts; good actions and good thoughts are bound to bring about a better balance of punya papa and, consequently, mitigate suffering and increase happiness in the present janma itself or in  future janmas. Brhadaranyaka Upanishad,  fifth chapter, fourteenth section talks of the beneficial result of the chanting of the famous Savitri mantra in the Gayatri metre. There are various other sections in the Upanishads, particularly Brhadaranyaka and Chandogya, which talk of beneficial results of meditation on deities. We should extend this to good actions and good thoughts in general. What physical and mental equipment one is born with, in which set up one is born and what opportunities are available are determined by one’s karma. But, in any janma, how one develops one’s potential, how one makes use of opportunities and how one does action in and reacts to situations depends  on one’s free will.

 Section 6 – Status of the world  - Orders of reality

1. Now, let us consider the nature of the world. From what we see around us, information obtained from others, by inference and through scientific investigation and theories, we know that the universe is a vast, complex entity; the human body itself is a miraculous mechanism; the vegetable and animal kingdoms, the planets, the stars, the galaxies, the black holes, the particles, the waves,  matter,  antimatter and what not – are all miracles. There is no effect without a cause. So, we cannot but postulate an omniscient and omnipotent creator.

2. Upanishads state expressly in innumerable passages that Brahman is nondual  (“advayam”, “ekam”) and eternal (”nityam”); “nityam” implies changelessness; in the Bhagavadgita (Gita, for short), Brahman is specifically said to be changeless. ( In his Bhashyam, Sankaracarya says that , unlike  milk turning into curd, Brahman does not undergo any such transformation. (Transformation is called "parinama" in Sanskrit). But we do experience a world. The world that we experience cannot be the effect or transe formation of Brahman. We can explain what is experienced only if we say that the world belongs to a lower of reality. So, a cardinal doctrine of Advaita Vedanta is the scheme of three orders of reality ( ontological statuses ) – “ paramarthika satyam” ( absolute reality), “ vyavaharika  satyam” ( empirical reality ) and  “pratibhasika satyam” ( subjective reality ). Brahman is paramarthika satyam. The universe comprising external objects and our bodies and minds is vyavaharika satyam. The dream world is pratibhasika satyam. Objects that are erroneously perceived in jagrat avastha as existing outside are also called “ pratibhasika satyam”. Examples are snake perceived on the rope, silver perceived on the shell, water perceived on the desert sand ( i.e. mirage), man perceived on the post etc. The position of the world vis a vis Brahman is compared to the position of the dream world vis a vis  the waker, the position of the snake perceived in  the rope etc. Cf. Chandogya Upanishad II.vi.1– “That (Brahman) created all that exists. That ( Brahman), having created that entered into that very thing. And, having entered there, It became the true and the untrue, Truth became all this.  (“satyam ca anrutam ca; satyam abhavat”). The first  “the true” (“satyam”), refers to vyavaharika satyam, “the untrue” (“anrutam”) refers to pratibhasika satyam and the second “Truth”  (“satyam”)  refers to paramarthika satyam.  Orders of reality lower then Brahman are covered by the technical term, “mithya” All that  is experienced but is not paramarthika satyam falls under the category of mithya.  Mithya can be either vyavaharika satyam or pratibhasika satyam.  Mithya is defined as that which is experienced but has no independent existence, E.g., If clay is taken away, there is no pot. The dream world is dependent on the waker. If the rope was not there, snake would not appear.  Another definition of mithya is that which is neither totally existent nor totally non-existent. “Totally non-existent” is ruled out because it is an object of experience. “Totally existent” is ruled out because when the Brahman is known, the object is seen as unreal  i.e., relegated to a lower order of reality.  Thus the snake perceived on the rope is mithya.  The dream world is mithya. Anything that is mithya is also called “anirvacaniyam” (that which cannot be defined) in Sanskrit. Whatever is mithya is a superimposition on a substratum. If there was no substratum, it cannot appear and when the substratum is known it disappears or is relegated to a lower order of reality. (When the word, “ satyam” or “ real ”is used without any adjective, hereafter, it should be taken to refer to paramarthika satyam and when the word,  “ mithya” or “ unreal” is used without any adjective, it should be taken to refer to “vyavaharika  satyam” or “pratibhasika satyam”, depending on  the context.)

Section 7 - Creation

According to Advaita Vedanta – indeed all schools of Hindu philosophy – there is a beginningless  and endless cycle of creation, maintenance and dissolution or resolution, called  “srishti”, “sthithi”, ”laya.”  Cf. Svesvatara Upanishad I.9, where it is said that Iswara as well as jiva are birthless.)   In each srishti, the variety and pattern of objects, the attributes of the bodies and minds and the events and situations have to be fashioned to suit the karmas of the myriad of sentient beings in the janmas they go through in that srishti. This requires conscious planning and skilful action on the part of the creator. According to Sastra, Brahman is eternal and changeless and It is neither a doer  nor a thinker thinking with a mind which undergoes modification.  Put in Sanskrit, It is  “akarta” and   “amanah”. ( Action involves change. Thought is also change because it is movement  of the mind). If Brahman has to be a cause and the world has to be a product, Brahman has to change and when the product comes, the cause in its original form is no longer there. So an eternal, changeless Brahman cannot be the material cause of the world (“upadhana karanam”). Since the  changeless Brahman is amanah, It cannot be the intelligent cause of the world (“nimitta karanam.”). So, the question arises, how does creation come?  Advaita Vedanta says that in Brahman, there is, as a lower order of reality, an entity and power, called “Maya”. Maya is inert matter, consisting of undifferentiated names and  forms.  Brahma caitanyam gets reflected in Maya, to constitute an entity called “Iswara”. Iswara has the caitanyam aspect of Brahman in the form of reflected consciousness as well as the matter aspect of Maya. Therefore Iswara has in himself the capacity to think, visualise and plan creation and the raw material to evolve the objects of creation. Just as creation is mithya, Iswara is  also mithya, belonging to the vyavaharika order of reality.  Creation is only unfolding of  forms with corresponding names (nama roopa) on a substratum. The substratum is Brahman, the non-dual existence, the sat. Sat does not undergo any change. The names and forms unfolded as a superimposition on sat, the substratum, include not only various worlds, stars, planets, mountains, rivers etc but the bodies  of plants, insects, animals and human beings, gods, asuras etc. Iswara visualises and plans the creation, keeping in mind the requirements of the karmas of the jivas and impels Maya to unfold the names and forms accordingly.  ( Cf. Svesvatara Upanishad IV.10 where world is said to be the form of Maya and Svesvatara Upanishad IV. 6, where it is said that  Iswara referred to as Mayi creates the universe. That the word, Mayi, refers to Iswara, we can see from Svesvatara Upanishad IV.10 which says that ‘Prakriti said, earlier, to be the cause of the world should be known as Maya and the great Iswara to be ruler of Maya.)  \) The world Mayi In the minds of living beings, the consciousness aspect of Brahman, (cit) is reflected to form cidabhasa. After the  karmas of the jivas assigned for that creation have been exhausted through enjoyment and suffering, Iswara makes Maya withdraw the projected names and forms unto Himself in his aspect as Maya, there to remain, for a period, called “pralaya”, in potential or seed form.

Section 8 – The concept of  Maya     

According to Advaita Vedanta, in our real nature, we are the very infinite Brahman. Maya has a two-fold power - (i) veiling power (“avarana sakti”) and (2) projecting power  (“vikshepa sakti”).  Through avarana sakti Maya hides Brahman, as it were, from us; i.e., makes us ignorant about our real nature as Brahman and through vikshepa sakti, having projected the names and forms which include our body  mind complex, deludes us into identifying ourselves with our body mind complex. Consequently, we regard ourselves as limited individuals, different from other  beings and  take on ourselves the problems, the joy, suffering, fear, sense of insecurity etc. belonging to the body and the mind . Whereas, it is the body mind complex that thinks, does action, enjoys and suffers ( put in Sanskrit, is the "karta" and "bhokta" ,) we regard ourselves as karta and bhokta. Our transactions in the world, with this notion, result in our incurring an obligation to get rewards for good thoughts and deeds and punishments for bad thoughts and deeds in future births. In the course of enjoyment and suffering as reward and punishment, we engage ourselves in further transactions and incur further obligations for the discharge of which we have to be born again and again. Thus, we are caught up in the cycle of births and deaths and enjoyment and suffering. This is called “. Whereas, the macrocosmic cycle of srishti, sthiti and laya is endless as well as beginningless,  individual samsara is not endless. When we understand that we are not the body mind complex but we are the infinite Brahman, we get liberated from samsara.  ( In Svesvatara Upanishad .6, it is said that Jiva regards himself to be different  from Paramatma, and gets involved in samsara)

Section 9 – Liberation – What it means

1. Thus, the correct goal of human life, according to Advaita Vedanta is one’s identification with Brahman, i.e., displacing the “I” from the body, mind and ego and putting it, as it were, in Brahman. the original pure consciousness, the existence-consciousness-infinity. At the macrocosmic level, Iswara is the conglomerate of the original  consciousness, the real part and Maya, the reflecting medium and the cidabhsa, the reflected consciousness, which are the unreal parts  (mithya). At the microcosmic level, Jivatma is the conglomerate of the original consciousness, the real part and the body mind complex, the reflecting medium and the reflected consciousness, which are the unreal parts (mithya).  Owing to ignorance caused by Maya, we, jivatmas regard ourselves as limited individuals. When we negate the unreal parts of Iswara and ourselves, i.e., relegate them to a lower order of reality, and recognize the identity of the real parts, the identity of the original consciousness available in us and the infinite consciousness, we recognize our real nature  as Brahman, the  Existcnce-Consciousness-Infnity.  This is called  “jivabrahmaikyam”. Sentences in the  sastra that reveal jivabrahmaikyam are called Mahavakyas. There are innumerable mahavakyas in the Upanishads.  Four of them are famous, one quoted from each Veda, namely, “ Tat tvam asi ” ( Chandogya Upanishad – Sama Veda), “ aham brahma asmi” (Brhadaranyaka Upanishad – Yajur Veda), “ ayam atma brahma” (Mandukya Upanishad – Atharva Veda) and “ prajnam brahma”, (Aitereya Upanishad – Rg. Veda).   Translated in English, the four mahavakyas would read respectively as “ Thou art That ” “ I am Brahman ” “ This atma is Brahman ” and “ Consciousness is Brahman”).

2. In the process of the teaching, we also understand,  as explained above, that the only reality is Brahman and all else, i.e., the world of objects and our own body mind complexes are Mithya. This, together with the knowledge of “  jivabrahmaikyam” is expressed by the famous sentence, “Brahmasatyam jaganmithya, jivobrhmaiva naparah.” (“ Brahman is the reality; the world is mithya; jiva is Brahman, naught else.”) .The moment this knowledge is gained effectively, one is free in this very life. This freedom ,  liberation from the bondage of samsara,  is called  “moksha”. The benefit of this knowledge is unalloyed peace and happiness. The one who has gained the knowledge is called, “jivanmukta”or “Jnani”.

3. It is not essential that one should become a sanyasi to gain the knowledge. If one can go through the methods ( called  “sadhanas” )  prescribed for attaining mental purity, calmness and concentration which are prerequisites for gaining effective knowledge and devoting sufficient time regularly and systematically under the guidance of a competent teacher to the study of the Upanishads and the commentaries, etc. even while one continues to be engaged in the duties of one’s secular life, one can become a Jnani.

Section 10 – Significance of liberation

1. The world does not disappear for a jnani. But his outlook and attitude to the world become different. On the paramarthika plane, he has identified himself with nondual reality, the infinite Brahman. Since he knows that the world, including the body mind complex is unreal,  he has no sorrow, no anxiety, no fear, no  desire , no hatred, no worry. Cf. Chandogya Upanishad VII. 1. iii – “ I have heard from masters like you that he who knows the Brahman transcends sorrow.”  Because the world is mithya, i.e., of a lesser order or reality and nothing of a lesser order of reality can affect an entity of  the higher order of reality, jnani is not affected by anything, good or bad, happening in the world. In the dream, the tiger has mauled me. But when I wake up, I don’t find any wound in the body. I win a big prize in a raffle in the dream. But when I wake up, I don’t find my bank balance increased. Stain in the reflection in the mirror does not affect my face. The fire in the movie does not burn the screen. If somebody steps on my shadow, I am not hurt.  Similarly, the happenings in the empirical world ( in the “vyavaharika jagat”) do not affect the jnani. 

2. The freedom from disturbance from the empirical world is a psychological freedom arising from the knowledge of the truth and does not extend to the physiological body. The jnani has no sorrow, no anxiety, no fear, no worry, no craving, no attachment and no hatred. Cf. Chandogya Upanishad VII.i.3 –“I have heard from masters like you that he who knows Brahman transcends sorrow.” Brhadaranyaka Upanishad IV.iv.12 – “ If a man knows Atma (Brahman) as “I am this” then desiring what and for whose sake will be suffer when the body is afflicted?” Sankaracarya’s commentary – “ If a man.....knows the atma which is his own atma as well as the Paramatma – knows how? – as ‘I am this Paramatma’, the sakshi of perceptions of all beings, which has been described as ‘not this, not this’ and so on, than which there is no seer.........knower and is in all beings, and which is by nature eternal, pure consciousness and free,  desiring what other thing distinct from his own Self which is everything and for whose sake, i.e., for the need of what other person distinct from himself will he become miserable when mithya body is afflicted? Because he as the atma has nothing to wish for, and there is none other than himself for whose sake he may wish it, he being the atma of all, therefore desiring what and for whose sake will he suffer when the body is afflicted?. For, this is possible for the man who identifies himself with anatma (that which is not atma, i.e. the body mind complex) and desires things other than atma and struggles and desires something for himself, something else for his son, and a third thing for his wife and so on, goes round the births and deaths and is diseased  when his body is diseased. Bur all this is impossible for the man who sees everything as his atma.” However, the body mind complex with which the person who has become a jnani is part of the vyavaharika world and as long as that body lives, there are duties pertaining to it. So, if the jnani is a householder, he does not cease to perform the duties and obligations towards the body, the family and the society. He does his duties with purpose  but without any desire and he accepts the results of actions, good or bad, favourable or unfavourable with  spontaneous equanimity. The jnani is not dependent on anything except his identification with Brahman for peace of mind and happiness. This does not mean that he ceases to enjoy the good things of life, like good food or music or literature, but he does not have desire for them. That is to say, if it is there, he takes it and enjoys it , but if it is  not there , he does not miss it. He may have preferences, but he has no need. If the jnani is ill, he will also go to the doctor, but he will do so without any anxiety . If  his wife is ill, the jnani will look after her with compassion but without sadness or anxiety or worry. If the jnani’s son has to gain admission in a college, the jnani will also make efforts, but he will not be sad  if he fails. If his son obtains the first rank in his class, the jnani will also be happy,  but he will be equally happy if the son of a complete stranger, instead of his son, secures the first rank .If he was a poet, he can continue to be a poet. If hw was a musician, he can continue to be a musician.  When he goes to a temple or church or mosque, he will also do worship but he will do so with the knowledge that he himself is Brahman. But whatever he does, he will do that, not for himself, but  for the welfare of society or humanity or as an example for the common man.  His efforts for himself  will be confined to the barest minimum requirements of sustenance. Even while he is transacting with the world, the deep undercurrent of thought  that he is the Brahman that is beyond the vyvaharika world will be there.  The jnani is like the actor on the stage. Today, the actor plays the role of a beggar ; tomorrow , he may play the role of a millionaire. But he knows that he is neither a beggar nor a millionaire. Like that, the jnani plays the role of father, husband, teacher and what not, committed but unattached and never without the undercurrent in the mind that he is really none of these but he is the relationless (“asanga”)  Brahman.

3. On the vyavaharika plane, anything that there is in the world is Brahman only, because the real essence is only Brahman and what we see as external objects or persons are only names and forms appearing on Brahman. Since the jnani has identified with  Brahman, the essence of everything, he can regard himself as  everything ; this attitude is called “ “sarvatmabhava”. For him,  everything that there is his, everybody’s happiness is his happiness, everybody’s knowledge is his knowledge and everybody’s achievement is his achievement. This is not to be taken literally.  Even a jnani can actually enjoy whatever falls  within the scope of the antahkarana in the body with which he was  born.  Regarding others, enjoyment  etc. as his is a question of attitude born out of the knowledge that all nama roopas exist on Brahman and he himself is Brahman.. Having this attitude, the Jnani has no sense of lacking anything, nor has he desire for anything . Cf. Brhadaranyaka Upanishad IV.iii.21 – “aptakamam atmakamam akamam roopam.” Also Chandogya Upanishad  VII.xxiv.2 – “Evam vijanan atmaratih atmakridah atmamithunah atmanandah sa swarat bhavati”. Since everybody is himself, he loves all equally and he has no jealousy or hatred towards anybody or fear of anything or anybody. He goes on teaching or working for the welfare of society peacefully and  happily. In this connection, we can usefully refer to Brhadaranyaka Upanishad II.4.vi. “ The Brahmana rejects him who knows the Brahmana to be different from the Self. The Kshatriya rejects him who knows the Kshatriya to be different from the Self. Worlds reject him who knows the worlds to be different from the Self. The gods reject him who knows the gods to be different from the Self. Beings  reject him who knows beings to be different from the Self. All reject him who knows all to be different from the Self. This Brahmana, this Kshatriya, these worlds, these gods, these beings and this all are only the Self (one’s own atma)” 

4. To put it in technical terms, jnana phalam, the benefit of the recognition of jivabrahmaikyam, is twofold - (i) sarvatmabhava and poornatvam (from the standpoint of the vyavaharika plane), the sense that I am Brahman, Brahman is everything; so, I am everything – the sense of utter fulfillment  and (2) asangatvam ( from the standpoint of the paramarthika plane), dismissing the universe as unreal,  the sense  that I alone am ,  infinite in terms of space, time and entity. The jnani  thus has the choice of ananda arising out of the attitude, “ I am everything” or the peace of  being relationless,  the knowledge that I alone am, all else is mithya and nothing can affect me, the satyam.

5. Since the jnani has disidentified with the body mind complex with which he was born, he becomes free of the sancita karma  pertaining to that body mind complex. Action involves physical and mental movement. Movement is change  in space and time. Thought is also a movement, being a modification of the mind. Brahman being all pervading, formless attributeless and changeless is not a doer or enjoyer  (  - to put it in Sanskrit, Brahman is neither a “karta” nor  a “ bhokta”. ) An all pervading changeless entity cannot move and, therefore, cannot act or think. Since Jnani is identified with Brahman, he is free from the sense of doership and enjoyership  ( “ kartrtvam and bhoktrtvam.”) .. Cf. Kathopanishad I.2.xix – “ He who thinks that he is the killer or the killed does not know atma. Atma neither kills nor is killed.”      Action and thought done or entertained with kartrtvam and bhoktrtvam alone results in the accumulation of punya and papa,  So, for the jnani, there is no agami kama, either.   Brhadaranyaka Upanishad IV.xxiv.3 –  “Papa does not trouble him by producing the desired  result or generating sin, but, he, the knower of Brahman  consumes all papa, i.e., burns it to ashes with the fire of the realisation of the Self of all.” However, according to Chandogya Upanishad VI.xiv.2,  like an arrow that has already been shot from the bow , the quota of karma out of the sancita karma bundle which has already been assigned to be gone through in this life ( “prarabdha karma”) continues to be there also for the Jnani. But even here, there is a difference. While the physical aspect cannot be avoided, on the psychological plane, the jnani is not disturbed. If something good happens he does not jump with joy. If something bad happens, he is not sad. He takes everything that happens on the physical plane as the prarabdha pertaining to the body-mind complex with which he has already dissociated himself and therefore there is no disturbance in his mind. The state in which Jnani continues to live, with a body mind complex with which he has dissociated himself is called  “Jivanmukti” ( i. e., liberation in this very life). The disassociation with the body is compared to the snake casting off its old skin.

Section 11 – Knowledge, the sole means of liberation

According to Advaita Vedanta, moksha is obtained only through knowledge of identity with Brahman and not through any karma or upasana. Kaivalya Upanishad 3 – “It is through renunciation that a few seekers have attained immortality – not through rituals, not through progeny, not through wealth.....”   (“ na karmana na prajaya na dhanena tyaganaike amrutatvamanasuh”). Mundaka Upanishad I. 7 “ ....Indeed those who consider karma to be a means for moksha are fools. They enter old age and death again and again.” Mundakopanishad  I.9 – “.....These ritualists do not know the glory of moksha due to their attachment. Consequently these wretched ones fall down when the Punya is exhausted.” Kenopanishad II.4 – “Through knowledge is attained immortality” “ (...vidyaya vindate amrutam”). Also cf. Nrsimhapurvatapani Upanishad I.6. Cf. Brhdaranyaka Upanishad IV.iv.19 – “ Brahman has to be recognised by the mind alone. ( “manasa eva anudrashtavyah”.) “ “ Taittiriya Upanishad II.2.1 – “The knower of Brahman attains Brahman” (“Brahmavid apnoti param”)    “The knower of Brahman  becomes immortal.”  Kathopanishad II.iii.8 – “ Superior to the Unmanifested (Maya) is the Infinite who is......without worldly attributes, knowing Whom a man becomes freed and attains immortality.”  (“....Yam jnatva mucyate jantuh..”).   Brhadaranyaka Upanishad IV.iv.17 –  “....that very Atma I regard as Brahman. Knowing Brahman, I am immortal.”   (“Tam eva manya atmanam vidwan brahma amrutah amrutam.) Svetasvatara Upanishad – “   Svetasvatara Upanishad  III.8 -  “ Knowing that Paramatma that is Pratyagatma, Sakshi, that is  the infinite, that is all pervading, that is effulgent........men become immortal. For attaining this Brahman, there is no other means” (“.......na anya pantha vidyate ayanaya.”).  Kaivalya Upanishad  9 - “He alone is everything which is in the past, which is in the present and which will be in the future. Having known him one crosses mortality.  There is no other means for liberation.” (“..... na anya pantha vimuktaye”). Kaivalya Upanishad 10 –   “Clearly recognising oneself to be present in all beings and clearly recognising all beings in oneself, the seeker attains the Supreme Brahman, not by any other means”). (.....na anyena hetuna”).  “Moksha is only by knowledge”. (“ janat eva kaivalyam”). Cf. Brhadaranyaka Upanishad III.viii.10 – “ He...who in this world, without knowing this Immutable, offers oblations in the fire, performs sacrifices and undergoes austerities even for many thousand years, finds all such acts but perishable; he, O Gargi, who departs from this world without knowing this Immutable, is miserable. But he, O Gargi, who departs from this world after knowing this Immutable, is a knower of Brahman”. The same idea is expressed in  different words in Brhadaranyaka Upanishad I.iv.10 . That knowledge is the means of moksha is also said in Svetasvatara Upanishad I.11, Nrsimhapurvatapani Upanishad II.6   (tam eva vidwan amrutam iha bhavati”) Svetasvatara Upanishad VI.17, Brhadaranyaka Upanishad IV.iv.14, Chandogya Upanishad VII.1.3,, Mundaka Upanishad II.i.2 , II.ii.8,  III.ii.8 and III.ii.9 Prasna Upanishad IV.10 and VI.6 Isavasya Upanishad 7, Kena Upanishad II.5, and IV.9 (read with IV.7) , Svetasvatara Upanishad II.14,  ,III,7, IV.17, and V.6, Kathopanishad II.ii.13, Isavasya Upanishad 11 etc.   

Section 12 - Liberation is this life itself - Jivanmukti

According to Advaita Vedanta, as a result of knowledge of jivabrahmaikyam,  liberation from samsara( moksha) is possible in the current life itself; one does not have to wait for the end of life. Cf. Brhadaranyaka Upanishad IV.iv.6 – “Being but Brahman he becomes merged in Brahman. ( This refers to jivanmukti followed by videhamukti. Videha mukti is the disintegration of the karana and sukshma sarira when the death of jnani’s sthoola sarira takes place.) Brhadaranyaka Upanishad IV.iv.14 – “Being in this very body we have somehow known that Brahman…….Those who know It become immortal,” Brhadaranyaka Upanishad IV.iv.7 – “When all the desires that dwell in his mind are gone, he……….becomes immortal and attains Brahman in this very body. Just as the slough of a snake is cast off and lies in the any-hill, so does this body lie.” In the commentary on Brhadaranyaka Upanishad I.iv.10, citing Rg. Veda IV.xxvi.1, Sankaracarya points out that Vamadeva, while talking of his sarvatmabhava as a result of his knowledge of identity with Brahman uses the present participle, ‘while realising’; present participle is used only when the action indicated by the present participle and the action indicated by the main verb are simultaneous. Nrsimhapurvatapani Upanishad II.6 talks of the knower of Brahman becoming immortal , here itself.  Cf. Also Kathopanishad II.iii.14 and II.iii.15 – “…..he attains Brahman here.” and “….even when a man is alive, then a mortal becomes immortal.”

Section 13 - Liberation not an event in time. It is self-recognition

Moksha is not a new state or an event. Being the infinite Brahman is our eternal nature. The notion of being separate limited inidividuals subject to the bondage of samsara is only ignorance in the mind. The moment one gains the knowledge, “ I am Brahman”, one discovers one’s true eternal nature. The event that happens is only destruction of the ignorance in the mind. Moksha is only owning up one’s true nature. Cf. Sankaracharya’s Brahmasutra Bhashyam – “…..for as Brahman constitutes a  person’s Self, it is not something to be attained by that person.”  . Jivanmukti is like discovering a diamond one had misplaced and thought that he had lost it. 

Section 14 – “Merging” in Brahman – Videha mukti

1. the case of ordinary people,, i.e., those who have not owned up their identity with the Infinite Brahman, at the time called death, the sukshma sarira and karana sarira, along with cidabhasa, vasanas,  i.e., habit-forming impressions of experiences of thoughts and actions stored in the mind)  and the karma ( the sancita karma) leave the sthoola sarira and enter another sthoola sarira in another world or  in this world.  But when the sthoola sarira of a jnani dies, the sukshma sarira and karana sarira disintegrate. Because, consequent on disassociation with the body mind complex the entire sancita karma pertaining to that body mind complex has already been  extinguished; in the absence of kartrutvam and bhoktrutvam there is no agami karma; and prarabdha karma has been exhausted. Therefore the sukshma sarira and karana sarira of the jnani have become functus officio. This is called  “videha mukti”. ( Vide Brhadaranyaka Upanishad IV.4.vi – “ Regarding this there is this Mantra verse: ‘Being attached, the (transmigrating self ) together with its karma attains that on which its subtle body or mind is set. It experiences (in the other world) the karma phalam for whatever karma it had done in this world. When it is exhausted, it comes again from that world to this world for new  karma.  Thus does the man with craving (transmigrate). But of a man who has no craving – who is without desires, whose actions and thoughts are without desire,  who is fulfilled and  whose only desire is Brahman ,  (to put it more clearly, of him who knows that he is Brahman), his prana, i.e., his sukshma sarira does not go out (to enter another body). (Ever) being Brahman Itself, he is merged in Brahman.”     Cf. also Prasna Upanishad VI.5 and Brhadaranyaka Upanishad III.ii.11.

2. Sastra also talks of a more difficult route of attaining liberation through knowledge. If one has done upasana on Hiranyagarbha, the creator-god form of Iswara, throughout his life and also at the moment of death but has not attained the doubt-free and abiding knowledge that he is Brahman goes to the world of Hiranyagarbha (Brahmaa). There he has the opportunity to learn Vedanta from Brahmaa himself as the teacher. If he utilises that opportunity, he becomes a jivan mukta in Brahmaa’s world At the end of that Brahma’s life, he also attains Videha mukti along with that Hiranyagarbha.  This is called “krama mukti”. We get a reference to it in Svesvatara Upanishad I.11.

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