This short post throws great light into the Advaita Vedanta teachings of Adi Sankara. There are many such works that were composed by the great Poet Philosopher and each is a gem that explains the same concepts from different angles.
This short post throws great light into the Advaita Vedanta teachings of Adi Sankara. There are many such works that were composed by the great Poet Philosopher and each is a gem that explains the same concepts from different angles.
Accommodating Others, Advait, Adwait, Aim for Seva, Arsh Vidhya, Arsha, Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, AVGSatsang, Discovering Love, freedom, Freedom from Sadness, Growing into a loving person, Love, Non-Duality, Oneness, Swami Viditatmananda Saraswasti, talk with acharya, The Source of Happiness, The Vision of Oneness, Vedanta
Namaskaar. Reblogging this very nice article by Swamiji posted on http://www.ahambrahmasmi4.wordpress.com
The Vision of Oneness (Samatva-Dristi) Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati The vision of oneness, presented by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gītā, is both the goal of life and the means for attaining that goal. The significance of this vision is understood only when we understand the conflicts and stresses that accompany a belief in the reality […]
Query by a Student :
“…what your good self explained in the mail pertains to ‘karma phala tyAga’ with ahaMkAra & mamakAra tyAga…But story does not end there, Shankara at various places without any ambiguity insists on ‘sarva karma saNyAsa’ too, i.e. nivrutti mArga. If time permits kindly share your thoughts on these two points.
Sada Sir responds :
Here is my perspective on the topic addressed:
Karma phala tyaaga is what it says I am renouncing the results of an action. What does that mean or what does that really involve. Let us take an example. I worked very hard for a month and as a result I got paid, the salary that is due to me. Now scripture says I have to practice karma phala tyaaga for my chitta suddhi or for purification of my mind. Does that involve renouncing my salary? If so, pretty soon I will be on the streets begging for food. In addition, I will be dragging all others who depend on that salary. Obviously that is not what karma phala tyaaga implies. When it says that I have to renounce the results of my action, I can do so only if there is feeling that the results are mine that is there is a mamakaara associated with the results. I cannot definitely renounce that which does not belong to me. There is a famous saying in Telugu “attagari sommu alluDu daanamu cesinaTTu” that is it is like mother-in-laws wealth the son-in-law is readily and freely donating to others. Hence, I have to own it for me to renounce. The salary belongs to me since I worked hard and earned out my sweat; we say. That is our attitude when we perform an action and gets the results of the action. We think we deserve. By the by, there is a booklet with the title – Serve & Deserve – by Swami Tejomayanandaji glorifying Hanuman who serves without any expectations and returns; hence deserves to be revered as God himself. The essence of the book is – I have to serve in order for me to deserve.
The renunciation of fruits of the action, therefore, involves a change in the attitude with which I receive the fruits of my actions. In addition, it involves an attitude with which I expend or dispose of the fruits of action. First, the purpose of karma yoga is to prepare my mind for jnana yoga, the very karma has to be done with Iswara arpita buddhi or an action performed with an attitude of offering to the Lord. Lord will accept only if it is offered with devotion yat karoshi yadaShNaati .. tat kuruShva madarpanam whatever you do, eat etc offer it to Me says Krishna. Before that He says,- I will accept whatever you offer patram, pushpam, phalam, toyam, yo me bhktyaa prayacchasi who ever offers me a leaf, a flower, a fruit or even little water, I will accept it if it is offered with devotion. Therefore it is not what I offer but with what attitude I offer counts.
Since the Lord is everywhere, including in the field of action that I am involved, in order for me to offer the action to the Lord, the action should be offer-worthy. That means first it should be 1) dhaarmic action, and 2) complete action, well executed to the best of my ability, taking into consideration all the factors that go into the action. Dhaarmic actions could be those that are obligatory; that is obligatory because of my status in the family, in the society, in the organization that I am involved or actions that are done for the benefit of society at large. We say Lord is omnipresent, that is present everywhere or there is no place where He is not. However, when I recognize this fact and recognize His presence in every field of action or set-up that I am involved, I cannot but be a devotee all the time. Hence I am not a devotee only in the temple; I have to be a full-time devotee, if and when I recognize the truth of the statement that He is omnipresent. That is jnaana part of the karma yoga, that is, the recognition of His presence everywhere, in every field of action.
Hence karma yoga involves performing all obligatory actions while remaining as a full time devotee of the Lord. Hence as a father I am a devotee + a father thus becoming a devoted father, as a husband I become devoted husband, similarly devoted wife, devoted son/daughter, devoted student/teacher, devoted employee/employer, devoted citizen; thus the seal of devotion goes with every action, since in every action He is there. Hence Krishna says yogaH karmasu koushalam the dexterity in action becomes a norm for a karma yogi. This is what is involved in offering action as a prayer to the Lord, as a devotee. All the obligatory actions become the best that I can perform with as much of perfection as possible. In that perfection, the Lord Himself manifests in the action or the action itself becomes an inspired action. The second aspect is to recognize that Lord is karma phala daata the one who gives the results for the action taking into consideration innumerable factors that are involved in framing the results. Let us take a simple action of throwing a stone. Once I throw a stone or once throwing action is completed, the trajectory of the stone does not depend any more on me but on the gravitational laws, frictional laws etc which are authored by Him. In addition, other factors can come in, such as someone or something coming in between the stone and the target thereby undermining the result of the intended action, for which I have no control. Hence all those factors that I have no control in formulating the results of the action are together called daivam, discussed in 18th Ch. of Gita. In essence, the results for my action come from Him and I have no control on the result. Another way of looking at this is, I can only perform an action in the present and the result is always in future to the action and I have no control on the future. Hence Krishnas statement karmani eva adhikaaraste; maaphaleshu kadaachana to be translated as, one has only choice in action but not in the results of the action. I cannot will the result of an action. Thus I have recognized His presence in the set up and perform the action as best as I can and offer the action with devotion as a prayer to the Lord. Since the result of action comes from Him, I accept the result as prasaadam (I do not know an equivalent word in English) that is with reverential attitude, since it comes from Him. This means there is no mamakaara in the result when I accept the result as His prasadam. I have no attachment to the result. Next when someone offers as Lords prasaadam my attitude in receiving it is an attitude of reverence, since it comes from Him. Irrespective of whether it is a sweet, hot or bitter; food, flower, or water, I accept it without questioning why or why not thus only with a reverential attitude without any likes and dislikes superimposed on it. Thus the result is accepted without a reaction. If the result is not what I wanted, then I learn from the result and formulate or refine the next course of action and perform with greater skill which again is offered to the Lord as kaikaryam or as a prayer. Krishna says when everyone performs their allotted action cooperatively for the benefit of the totality, it forms a yagna and the gods which are deities of the phenomenal forces have to shower the results when they are pleased by the action (that is when the action is perfect). Thus we please the gods in performing our action in unison cooperatively, and gods have to please us by giving proper results; and we perform again thus setting the eternal wheel of action and results. In the cooperative action, I have to share the results with those who participated in the yago of action, in proportion to the input. That is the wheel of dharma set into eternal motion- says Krishna. In essence the karma phala tyaaga involves (1) performance of action as a duty (which is called service) and (2) accepting the result as prasaadam without reaction other than a reverential attitude. In the process, mamakaara or notion that this is mine goes away.
What I have is His gift and what I do with what I have is my gift to Him- says Gurudev Swami Chinmayanandaji this continuous exchange of gifts forms dhaarmic wheel of action set forth by the creator himself in the beginning of creation, says Krishna. This is the essence of karma phala tyaagam. In the process, from the result, I utilize part of it for my and for my family needs, and the rest I put back into the field of action for the benefit of the totality. Thus whatever I have is His gift and that has to be properly utilized giving back to the totality or to the Lord Himself as my gift, after taking care of my needs as well as those who depend on me. Living within that frame of mind will purify the mind and prepare it for the jnaana yoga.
The next level of understanding comes with jnaana, (knowledge) where I understand that I am not even a doer to have the result. Here there is no karma phala tyaaga since karma itself does not belong to me. It is clear understanding that I am never a doer to begin with. This understanding comes with jnaana where I understand that I am akarthaa in spite of actions being done by the body, mind and intellect, BMI. This understanding comes only when I recognize that they (BMI) are in me and I am not in them. They are part of prakRiti which is my lower nature. My true nature is I am pure existence-consciousness-limitless. I pervade this entire universe of beings and objects in an unmanifest form
maya tatam idam sarvam jagat avyakta muurtinaa,
mastaani sarva bhuutani na ca aham teshu avasthitaH| says Krishna.
I pervade this entire universe in unmanifest form. In Me only all beings are there, but yet I am not in any of them. When jnaani understands that I am that tat tvam asi– any claims that I am doer gets transcended in that understanding He may scream with ecstasy akartaaham abhoktaaham ahameva ahamavyayaH I am neither doer nor enjoyer, I am that I am — eternal and inexhaustible. When that understanding sinks in, I recognize that BMI belongs to the prakRiti which is nothing but maayaa only maayantu prakRitim viddhyaat says Swetasvatara Upanishad. I recognize that I am pure saakshii and prakRiti becomes dynamic in my presence and performs an action and Sat-chit-ananda that I am is never get affected by the actions or inactions of the prakRiti.
prakRiti eva ca karmaaNi kriyamaanaani sarvaShaH|,
yaH pasyati tat aatmaanam akartaaram sa pasyati||
All actions are done by prakRiti alone and who ever recognizes that I am never a doer he alone sees the truth. Hence jnaani understands that actions do not belong to him but to prakRiti but that prakRiti acts in his presence only. He remains akarthaa or non-doer in spite of any action that is being done in his presence. Krishna discusses action, inaction and unaction exhaustively in Ch. 4 saying that many have misconceptions about it.
With this understanding we can look at the question what does the sarva karma sanyaasa renunciation of all actions implies. This cannot be done by giving up the action as Krishna discusses in the 18th Ch. Gita. He starts the gitopadesha with the statement that no one can remain even for a second without performing an action. If so, how can I give up an action. However if I understand correctly that I am never an actor in spite of the action that is being done at BMI level, then I have as though renounced any notion that I am actor that forms the essence of sarva karma sanyaasa giving up all the actions without any exception. Hence the statement essentially means there is no more kartRitva bhaavam, that is the notion that I am doer is gone in the awakening of the knowledge that I am pure saakshii swaruupam. Clear understanding of this fact is sarva karma sanyaasa. It is essentially renouncing the wrong notions that I am doer and therefore I have give up the doing. If I am never a doer, where is there then to give up. Therefore karma sanyaasa should imply I am renouncing the notion that I am a doer. That can happen only when I understand the fact that I am pure sat-chit-ananda swaruupa. Hence Krishna says:
naivakinchit karomiiti yukto manyeta tattavavit|
pasyanshRinvanspRishan jigran ashnan gacchanswapansvasan||
pralayan visRijan gRahanan unmiShannimiShannapi|
indriyanindriyaartheShu vartanta iti dharayan||
All activities are being done by the senses as they are programmed and jnaani understands that he is never a doer Krishna lists all the activities at BMI level as being performed by the prakRiti itself.
That understanding is sarva karma sanyaasa it is not really renouncing actions that I never do but renouncing the notion that I am doer. Notions will get removed only in the awakening of the knowledge.
Pranaam from Kamal Kothari
Nobody is happy with what he has or what he has achieved. He is happy, of course, when others envy what he has or others long for what he has.
What is success? Normally success is measured in terms of ones achievement. It is said that success comes before work only in the dictionary! Hence every success involves hard work. One wants to acquire good education that secures good job and that gives more opportunities to become more successful in future. The one who is most successful is the one who has the most of everything that all others desire — a good education, a secure high paying job, with all the personal relations with all other beings, exactly the way one wants. Like in fairy tales, he lives happily ever after. Unfortunately, every set-up changes continuously and that is the law of nature. All set-ups are not necessarily conducive for ones likes and dislikes. The changing set-up can always up-set the mental frame of a person, even though he is successful in terms of his accomplishments.Listen to any parent the success of his child is seen in every accomplishment, in gaining that is worthy to gain. His success is connected to the success of his child. He first feels that the child is successful if he gets first rank. Then the next success depends on his securing an admission in very good university, then his completion of his studies with high rank, then getting a job in prestigious company. That is not settling yet. Then, he feels his son is completely settled once he is married. Indian parents proudly declare that all their children are settled now. What it means, as any parent can explain, is all the daughters are married and now settled, – and all the boys are settled with secure jobs and married, etc. All his children are settled but he is not settled yet. Now all he wants is to have grand children; with the cycle that starts again; their school admission, their education, their marriages, etc. Hence, none feels at any time, he is completely settled with what he has. None is happy with what he has; but always wants something more to ‘settle’. Complete settlement is where there is no more longing for the mind to have anything else in order to settle. Wanting mind will never settle down with having what it wanted, since the wanting mind keeps moving forward at a faster pace with some more wanting then settling down with having fulfilled what it wanted before. ‘Having’ is living in the present, while ‘wanting’ is to achieve something in future. ‘Owning’ is identifying with what one is having as ones own. In the same way, renouncing is also some kind of notion of owning, since one has to own in order to renounce. Thus it involves renouncing the ownership of things, which one never really owns, to begin with. The true renunciation is not renunciation of things, but renunciation of the notion of ownership. The wanting keeps shifting to the future all the time without settling down with the present. One wants to want, rather than just settle with what one has. Thus, a wanting mind never settles with just having. On the same token any statement that renunciation of external things is needed for one to realize one own self implies inherently ownership of things that one never owns. Nobody is happy with what he has or what he has achieved. He is happy, of course, when others envy what he has or others long for what he has. He can measure his success in counting what he has in relation to others who do not have and would want to have what he has. Yet, that is not where the mind can settle down and say I have no more wants since I am happy with what I have. I am happy with what I have, but I will be happier if I have this, this, and this, which I do not have. Wanting mind is the desiring mind and scripture says feeding the mind by what it wants is like pouring ghee to put out the fire. The wanting mind includes those that one wants to have and also those that one wants to get rid of. These in the language of Vedanta are called as Vaasanas or likes and dislikes.
The wanting mind can never settle down with what it has, unless it has, of course, everything in the universe and there is nothing left to want. That means having infinite that is Brahman, the limitless. However, finite being can never achieve or acquire infinite by adding finite things. That is mathematically illogical. Thus the problem can never be solved since wanting mind remains all the time wanting. It is a useless advice to ask the mind not to want more, since that feeling of inadequacy and wanting to be adequate is natural and instinctive too.
The reason is simple. The wanting is the very nature of the ego. Ego arises by identification with what I have, with automatic exclusion of what I do not have that I want to have, to feel that I am an adequate being. This forms the fundamental human struggle; nay the struggle of every being in the universe; from the first born (hiranya garbha) to the blade of grass, says Shree Sureswara in his introduction to Naiskarmya Siddhi.
Hence, what one has, represents the present state. Future is where one is heading with his – wants to have this and that. Wanting mind is the one which longs to have this and that in the future, and gains a measure of success in achieving what it wants. Achieving puts the man with the present as having what one wanted. However, the mind never settles down in the present with what one has; hence it wants all that it still does not have; the struggle continues till death. Nay, it continues ever after death. Even if one goes to heaven the problem continues. In Taittriya Upanishad, it says, in its amicable style, that there are three different colonies even in heaven, just like here, the slums, the middle class and the hierarchically elite class. Shankara says, the slum class residents are those who reached there by noble deeds prescribed by smRiti texts, the next higher class is those who reached there by following the righteous actions prescribed by Shrutis, and of course the elite class are the natives who hold very important positions like MP and ministers etc they are supposed to be 33 of them. They do not have any ministers without portfolio. They deal with the God on the first name basis. Each one is 100 times happier than the fellow down the next level. Happiest person is, of course, the first born, hiranya garbha, whose happiness scale is 10 to the power of 23 times that of ideal happy human youth who is owner of entire earth with all the yellow and black gold resources at his disposal. But no one is happy, they are happier than the fellow who is below their rank or below what they have achieved. Every one falling in this happy scale has egotistical happiness, since happiness depends on what one has in relation to what others do not have and like to have. Actually everyone is only happier but no one is happy, since everyone is still left with a wanting mind that wants to want.
It is interesting to note that those who do not have and those who have, both are not happy. Some people do not have anything not by choice, while some do not have by choice shotriyasya akaamaya tasya. Some want to gain happiness by acquiring what they do not have. Others want to gain the happiness by renouncing what they have. They quote scriptures that say that one has to renounce every thing to realize one is infinite or the interpretations of the scriptures that says so tyagenaike amRitatvamaanasuH. The fundamental problem remains. Happy state is state of limitlessness where there is no more wanting mind. A finite mind cannot but WANT in order to be happy or to reach that infiniteness or limitlessness. Finite can never reach infinite either by adding or subtracting finite things. On the other hand, the pursuit to reach the infinite does not stop and cannot stop until the wanting mind ceases to want.
Thus there is a fundamental problem in all these not happy with what it is and having wanting mind that wants to want be it absolute happy state by renunciation or wanting to reach that absolute happiness by trying to acquire everything in the universe. These are two sides of the same coin. The longing mind remains in both. Both are not happy with what it is. Present is always perceived as the stepping stone for the coming future. It is a transitory state or a passage for the future happy and absolute state. Unfortunately future never comes. There is no bridge from the present to the future, since future is just a segment of mental projection.
Thus, we have fundamentally two overriding factors: longing to achieve absolute happiness and not relative happiness, or being fully adequate all the time, which is very intrinsic nature of all beings. Not to have that wanting mind is not the solution since it is the intrinsic nature of the limited mind. Hence neither renunciation of what it is (the present state), or what one has, is the solution to the problem. In either case, the wanting mind remains wanting and not happy with what it is, since there is a desire to become something other than what it is. This is also what JK calls as conditioned mind. A mind conditioned to look for or to want for things that make one to be absolutely happy. Unconditioning is not a process since any process reconditions in some form. Solution to this desperate problem is to recognize the problem correctly. This is what Krishna calls the solution as sanyaasa yoga what Gurudev Swami Chinmayanandaji translates it as detachment-attachment technique. It is an oxymoron to solve a problem, which cannot be solved by any process. This does not include either sanyaasa or yoga, but sanyaasa-yoga that involves seeing what it is. What it is is present and not what one wants it to be. It is neither by not wanting what it is, since both are wants to want something other than what it is. True sanyaasa is not renunciation of things that one owns, but it is the renunciation of the very notion of ownership. It involves the recognition that I never own anything. This is true sharaNaagati or a complete surrendering of the wanting mind to the infinite wisdom. In the process, the wanting mind ceases to be wanting, since it rests with that infinite mind that pervades everything as His vibhuuti. In the sanyaasa of giving up the wanting mind to the infinite, one gains the yoga (of or with) the infinite – the essence of sanyaasa-yoga. The complete surrender involves identification with the totality where the individuality ceases to be separate for it to want any thing separate from the infinite. It is the same as knowing that I own everything or the whole universe of things and beings, and therefore wanting mind that wants is no more wanting, since there is nothing more to want. The notional wanting mind ceases to be in the unity of the totality that underlies the plurality.
I am – is the present, not an entity in the future, with something that I want my self to be, either by gaining or by achieving or by getting rid of or sanyaasa of what I have. Sanyaasa in the sanyaasa-yoga involves renunciation of not what I have but renunciation of the very notion of separate ownership and the associated renunciation of the wanting mind which always wants to want, through yoga or by shifting my attention to that the enlivening presence because of which the inert mind dances to its wants. It is as though yoking the mind to the very existence-consciousness because of which I am conscious of the wanting mind that wants to want things that I do not possess, or that wants to renounce things that I possess. By being conscious of the very wanting mind that wants to want or wants to renounce what one has, one is beyond the wanting mind or beyond the longing for something in the future that never comes. That is the same as being the witnessing consciousness or saakshii by renouncing all mental misconceptions of ownership of those results, in both wanting things and in renouncing things. Here sanyaasa is not renunciation of things but renunciation of notional ownership to the things that one never owned. It is true, that external renunciation can help in this internal renunciation of the notional ownership. However, to say that it is essential, I am giving notional ownership more reality that what it is. The true sanyaasa is mental detachment to the notion of ownerships, and attaching or abiding oneself as the very existence-conscious entity that I am. That is the essence of SharaNaagati. In that very understanding, the wanting mind itself gets resolved, since it can exists only as long as the conscious entity which enlivens it by identifying with it and with its limitations. It survives as long as there is an identification with the wanting mind as – I am the mind – continues irrespective of whether external changes I do at the physical level. One cannot renounce notional ownership by a process. It can be done only by clear understanding that there is no reality for notional ownership of things and beings.
It can be only achieved by recognition that I am is complete by itself without any need of the wanting mind that wants things that one does not have, or renouncing things that one has. It is recognition that I am full and complete by myself with recognition that I do not own anything even to renounce or I own everything since I am that everything. aham annam, aham annam, aham annam – aham annado aham annado aham annado is the screaming song of a realized master I am all that which is consumed or desired and I am all that who is consuming or desiring; I am that which is supported, and I am all that which supports everything in essence there is nothing that is separate from me I am the desirer and the desired I am all that, yet beyond all that I am immaculately pure with neither desire nor desired I am that I am without a second – the very living present which transcends time, since there is no time in the present, as it is the meeting ground where past meets the future. What is there in the present is not the time-gap but that which transcends the time itself where there is only the very presence of the existence-consciousness that I am. Now–alone is that which counts, and is that where one truly lives, or in that only all experiences takes place, but that which is beyond any experience itself that beyond any sanyaasa or yoga. Wanting mind dissolves into the very presence in that present, since there is no more wanting in it which relates to future. What is there is only MY PRESENCE AS I AM with simultaneous recognition that I AM is the essence of the world too, the things and beings that I wanted, since I AM is the infinite presence that pervades both the mind that wants and the wants that mind wants.
Acharya Dr. K. Sadananda answers questions on a much debated topic — Reincarnation as per Vedanta. This is a topic that is sure to generate a lot of questions and comments as each of us has preconceived notions, opinions and thoughts. Please leave your comments and queries in the box at the end. I’ll pass them on to Sada Sir who will surely answer.
Q: Does Advaita believe in Reincarnation?
A: To answer simply, Advaita is not based on any single soul – there is no soul and not-soul at that ultimate understanding – there is only one non-dual sat chit and ananda. Existence-consciousness-ananda cannot be divided. If one sees divisions they are only apparent and not real. If one takes the apparent as real, then all others factors become as real.
Jiiva (soul) itself is a notion and when that notion is taken as real – all other problems become as real as jiiva. Hence reincarnation and transmigration of soul are all real in that frame of reference.
Look at this way: gold, iron and copper look different if these difference as taken as real. They can exist in different forms – now as ring, now as bangle, now as chain, now as bracelet – gold undergoing transmigration or reincarnation into different forms.
If one understands that all are nothing but electrons, protons, neutrons etc., then from that perspective gold, iron, copper are just bunches of electrons, protons and neutrons – which themselves are nothing but energy-states.
I can understand as a scientist they are all one – yet I can transact in the world taking gold as different from iron and copper. Transactions are done at one level while understanding is at the ultimate level – there is no confusion if one understands correctly. I know that the sun neither rises nor sets but I can still appreciate the beauty of sunrise and sunset.
That is Advaita in spite of Dvaita – that is no incarnation in spite of reincarnation. Karma (action) is at the transactional level. At the absolute level I realize that I am never a kartRRi (doer). That is Advaita. Advaita in spite of Dvaita.
Q: But if reincarnation is not real at the ultimate level, what happens to dharma and ethics?
A: All dharma and adharma operate at the transaction level only. They are as real as jiiva and Isvara. Everything is included in that One – which is real from the absolute point.
When we say ‘I am’, ‘I’ stands for the consciousness aspect and ‘am’ stands for the existence aspect. When we say I am this, there is the confusion of identification of the subject I am with the object ‘this’. That is due to error ,which is due to the ignorance of not knowing that ‘I am’. Right now ‘I am a jiiva’ is the notional understanding while I am Brahman is the vision of my self according to the Upanishads. That true I am has to be realized or recognized.
The body is only a vehicle or instrument required to exhaust my vAsana-s. Essentially, vAsana-s decide the type of body required – man or woman, white, brown or black skin etc. I, the jiiva, gravitate towards the environment that is conducive to my vAsana-s. Hence they are called ‘kAraNa shariira’ or causal body.
Hence what birth I take next depends on the most powerful vasana-s that are ready to germinate next. There is my total bank account of karma (saMchita karma), of which I brought into this life only those that can be exhausted (prArabdha karma) and, if in the process I make new ones (AgAmin karma), which cannot be exhausted in this life, these are deposited to my account. Until all vasanas get neutralized, I will continue taking births in one form or the other. By yoga or sAdhanA, I neutralize the vAsanas. When I realize who I am – I am not this, not this etc. (since I am the subject that can never be an object ‘this’) – I recognize that I am that sat chit ananda and then there is no more ownership of any karma. All are transcended in that knowledge of who I am.
As long as I think I am a jiiva, these notions are regarded as facts and Brahman does not come into picture ’I am Brahman’ is only realised from the state of absolute knowledge. Until this is recognized as a fact and not merely as a thought, jiiva-hood is there and vAsana-s operate. So karma and its kShaya (dominion) are there as long as you are there to question, since the questioning is done by a jiiva.
As long as I am dreaming that I am being chased by a tiger, that dream tiger is as real as the one who is being chased. I have to run away as fast as I can to save myself from that tiger. Only when I am awakened to the higher state of consciousness, are the tiger and the one whom the tiger is chasing, as well as the forest and the ground upon which I am running, all resolved into my own mind.
The dreamer thinks that the dream world is real until he is awakened to a higher state where there is only one mind that projects the world of plurality. The plurality is real as long as dream lasts. The problem in your questions is that you want to place one leg in the waking state and one leg in the dream state and then question the validity of each from the other reference point. Any question from the Brahman viewpoint whilst still sitting at the jiiva position is like a dreamer asking about the waking mind. The waking mind is one Advaita. The plurality of the dream world is from the viewpoint of a dreamer who thinks he is different from the tiger and the trees in the forest.
Pranaam from Kamal Kothari
It is everyone’s experience that there are two fundamental entities that one is dealing with throughout one’s lifetime, from birth to death. The first one is related to his own presence in this world, who is the conscious entity, the questioner or the individual I, and the second one is the rest of the world which includes both living and non-living entities. The facts as it appears to be are:
(a) that I came in to this world not out of my choice and must quit this world whether I want it or not, and
(b) the existence of this universe which is so vast and so huge beyond anyone’s comprehension.
The fact of the matter is that I am propelled to interact with this universe, which sometimes is conducive to my likes and many times is not. I am forced to live out experiences from this world, day in day out, from birth to death. I find myself happy when my experiences and environments are favorable to my liking and unhappy when they are unfavorable or when I dislike them. Bottom line is, as long as I am here in this world, I want to be happy. This was true centuries ago, this is true now and will be true even in next millennium. Hence I go on looking for environments or experiences that are conducive to my likes so that I can be happy. It is a continuous struggle since the environment keeps changing continuously and does not remain constant to my liking, and even if the environment remains the same, my likes and dislikes keep changing.
The experience which enchanted me the first time looks pale the next time when I seek for it. Thus the same experience or environment does not seem to give me the same degree of happiness as it did before. I seem to be hunting constantly for that ideal environment wherein I am fully satisfied and contended, ever happy, with no more desires to change either myself or the environment and no more longing for one thing or the other. That is a state of mind free from any wanting and therefore is fully contented with what one has.
When I look around I find that everyone is struggling for the same thing, from the beginning of the time whether in past millennium or in this new one. This seems to be a perennial problem – a fundamental human problem – longing for eternal uninterrupted happiness or absolute happiness, whether I am a sinner or a saint, a believer or non-believer, a Hindu, Jew or Christian, a cave man or 21st century modern man with a rational intellect. These are labels; but the problem is common and beyond the labels. Whether I like it nor not, I have to deal with this problem as long as I live. In fact, the essence of my life itself is only to solve this problem – In all my actions (pravRRitti) or inactions (nivRRitti), what I am seeking is only a solution to this fundamental problem.
What I am looking for is not to learn what Shankara said or Jesus said etc., but how do I solve this problem, which appears to be a fundamental and universal problem. What they like may be different, the environments or the experiences they seek may be different, but the bottom line is fundamentally they all are longing for an eternal uninterrupted happiness or absolute happiness, free from any more longing, no more searching or seeking. The approach or the path that each one is taking to solve this problem may be different. Some long for sensuous objects some drugs, some religion, some advaitin lists and some other pursuits in life.
It is the experience of everyone that whatever pursuits one takes to solve these problems, they appear to give only a temporary relief. In the end, one is still left with a desiring or longing or searching mind for a new improved or an additional experience with the hope that the new one will bring him to a state where there is no more seeking or searching, and wherein one is fully contended with what one has gained. The struggle goes on endlessly until one kicks the bucket. The problem, however, remained unsolved.
This is the central problem addressed by Advaita Vedanta. It first acknowledges the fact that however one tries to solve this fundamental problem, one is going to fail miserably, as is confirmed by everyone’s experience. Any effort on the part of a seeker to seek a solution to this problem only reinforces the problem and he will never be able to find a solution. Advaita Vedanta declares that there is no solution to the problem because it is an invalid problem. The only solution is to recognize this. This is because what one is seeking for one has already has. If one already has it and if one is still searching for it what he has already has, it only means that he does not know that he already has it. If I have the bunch of keys in my own pocket, and without recognizing it, I am searching for it all over the house, I will never find it, however much I search. The seeker of the keys is already the possessor of the keys. He has to rediscover his true nature rather than search for a solution elsewhere. Hence self-knowledge is the only solution to the problem caused by self-ignorance.
The problem actually is very simple and therefore the solution is also very simple -similar to finding the keys in ones own pocket, discovering that the seeker of the keys is already the possessor of the keys. But the problem becomes very much muddled because of everyone’s strong preconceived notions about oneself – who we are and what we are; that is, we have firm knowledge about ourselves, which is totally opposite to what we truly are. Hence even if Vedanta, through a teacher, tries to teach us who we really are, our minds are not able to accept the truth or accept with strong conviction about our true identity. It is like a smoker who knows intellectually that smoking is bad, yet he cannot give up being a smoker since his mind has become a slave to being a smoker. The situation of course is worse when he is not even convinced that smoking is bad for his health.
The processes of quitting the smoking may involve three stages:
(a) First step is to hear from a reliable or trustworthy authority, say a Doctor, that smoking is bad for his health so that he realizes the importance of it.
(b) Second, one develops the firm conviction in his mind beyond any doubt that smoking is indeed bad for his own survival and
(c) finally one has to make a deliberate attempt to divert the mind from indulging in smoking into something better till the mind comes under his full control, till the teaching that he heard from authority fully sinks in and becomes part of his understanding.
In Vedanta these steps are called shravaNa, manana and nidhidhyAsana. shrvanNa is the most important step, hearing from an authority in whose words one has full faith. manana is to contemplate on it to get convinced beyond any trace of doubt (where discussions as in advaitin list are helpful – reflection of the teaching) and nidhidhyAsana is to withdraw the mind that habitually runs out to earlier notions, redirecting it to dwell on what one has heard and convinced oneself about.
Thus shravaNam is the essential cause for liberation while the other two are preparation of the mind to get fully established in what one has heard. Advaita insists that this is the only way to solve the fundamental human problem which is the core of all human suffering.
So what do I gain by knowing who I am? I gain what I am longing for in all my pursuits. That is the very fulfilment of life itself since everyone is only seeking this – uninterrupted absolutely happy state of mind – a mind free from wanting or longing. I am not looking for Brahman, I am not looking for God or I am not looking for Atma – These are words, words and words. What I am looking for is true understanding of my own self which is free from all limitations – since all limitations are just products of my misunderstanding about the true nature of myself.
What Advaita Vedanta declares again and again is that the true nature of myself is: I am the Existence-Consciousness-Bliss beyond all forms and names and limitations. The self I am is the self in all, the very life principle in all – the very consciousness that pervades everything – and that consciousness is nothing other than Brahman – “praj~nAnam brahma” says the Upanishads, i.e. consciousness is Brahman. It is not ‘that consciousness’ – it is not an object for me to experience, it is not a conceptual thought – I am that consciousness – I am that Brahman – There is No world – No God – Nothing – I am that totality – Everything is in the consciousness that I am – The world rises in consciousness, is sustained by that consciousness and goes back into that consciousness that I am. “sarvabhUtasthamAtmAnaM sarvabhUtAnichAtmani” (Bhagavad Gita VI.29) – I am in all and all are in me.
This is the teaching of Advaita Vedanta which is brought out beautifully by Adi Shankara – The purpose of the list serve or discussions is to focus on the essential teaching of Advaita Vedanta as taught by Shankara not just for quoting what one knows or what Shankara said or the other one has said – but (a) to learn from each other till one is fully convinced beyond any doubt about the teaching- that is to reflect on the teaching till one is fully convinced. (b) to provide a forum for ones own contemplation to think deeper and deeper till the habitual mind slowly gets out of the wrong habitual thinking about oneself – that is removing ones own wrong notions about oneself. These two – mananam and nidhidhyAsanam – are the well established methods, proved by many who have tried successfully in the past, for understanding the teachings of the Advaita Vedanta.
Now a brief comment about what is God or who is God, without going into exhaustive details. In Advaita Vedanta, God is a factor brought in (like X in mathematical problems) to explain the second entity discussed above in the first few paragraphs. In the final understanding, the concept of God itself disappears, or more correctly dissolves into that Brahman that I am. Hence if Mehar Baba or some other realized soul claims that he is Brahman or God, it is from that state of understanding that the claims are made. Sitting in the state of ego or limited entity, it is difficult to appreciate that state. But remember all those that claim that they are God also claim that you are too.
The only difference is they know it and we do not – If one has faith in them and in their understanding then one can follow their teachings and reach the same state of understanding that they have reached. But a right teacher is one who, even though he has realized that state, directs his disciples not to take him as an authority but to accept the Vedanta as the basis for establishing the truth – a means independent of individuals, time and place. Hence Vedanta provides the pramANa or source of knowledge and not the teacher per se, the teacher interpreting Vedanta in the background of his experience. If we hang on to the teacher we become a burden to him and to others. They are there to direct us to the path, pointing out the pitfalls. We have to follow the path ourselves, taking the Vedanta as the light and using the guidance of the teacher to insure we do not get trapped in the path by forgetting the goal. As Swami Chinmayananda-ji used to say – there are no mule Gurus in this world to carry their disciples on their back to the state of realization. One has to know oneself by oneself in oneself – and that is the real teaching of Vedanta as explained by Adi Shankara and the real purpose of our existence.
Namaskaar. This wonderful article was published in the August 2015 issue of the monthly magazine Arsha Vidya Newsletter. Swami Paraamarthananda is the foremost amongst teachers of Advaita Vedanta. He has been affectionately referred to as “teacher of teachers” by none other than his Guru and our icon Swami Dayananda.
The uniqueness of the Vedic culture and tradition is that it prescribes a religious way of life for us to adopt and follow. Religion is not just doing something such as performing puja or chanting slokas for a few minutes a day or a few hours a week. Our entire lifestyle should be governed by religion.
A religious way of life consists of three aspects or components : anushtanam (rituals), dharma (ethics) and swaadhyaya (study of the scriptures).
Anushtanam : The word ‘anushtanam’ means the performance of rituals but is also used to refer to the rituals themselves. Rituals are considered a very important aspect of a religious way of life. Unfortunately many people underestimate the importance of rituals.
There are many purposes of rituals, the primary purpose being to invoke our relationship. We must keep the relationship alive. And further, we should nourish the relationship.
Relationships play a very important role in our lives. We have may relationships. With our family members, friends, colleagues, etc. The scriptures point out that among all relationships, one relationship is extremely important and that is our relationship with the Lord. This relationship is fundamental and eternal.
Our relationship with the Lord is fundamental because it is common to all individuals. In the case of our relationships with people, the relationship will vary from person to person. The same individuals can be a father, son, brother, nephew or uncle to five different people. But in the case of the lord, it is the same relationship with one and all. The Lord is the parent and we are all His children.
Our relationship with Lord is eternal. In contrast, our relationship with beings is always temporary because any individual is subject to an end called death. In the previous birth we were likely not related to the same group of individuals as in our present birth. And assuming a next birth for us, we are unlikely to have the same set of relationships that we presently have. (Strictly speaking, since we are ignorant of our previous birth and future birth if any, the nature of relationship across births is unknown to us.) Thus while worldl relationships are temporary, our relationship with the Lord is permanent.
Why is our relationship with the Lord extremely important ? Psychologists point out that human beings are not isolated entities. ‘No man is an island’. So we need relationship. We can have as many relationships as we like and many of them can even be loose relationships. But we need at least one trusting, reliable and lasting relationship. As we go through the ups and downs of life, the upheavals and challenges, we need some one to share happiness and sorrow. Happiness shared is happiness doubled while sorrow shared is sorrow is halved. Who is the best ‘person’ with whom we can share our joys and sorrows?
If we study human relationships, we will find that most relationships are temporary and unreliable. Consider family relationships. The parent – child relationship lasts only until the child grows. When children get married and settled, they want to be independent and free. They may move to another city or even another country. The parents become insecure. ‘Will my children support me in my twilight years’?
Traditionally, the only strong relationship that we are supposed to depend on is the marital relationship. This relationship is supposed to continue throughout our lives. If this relationship is a strong relationship, both husband and wife will remain safe and healthy. Research shows that married people are more healthy than single ones. A strong and steady relationship will help not only in mental health but also physical health, particularly biological immunity. Happily married people are less prone to disease, heart attack, etc. Today unfortunately this relationship is becoming weaker and weaker. Many marriages are on the rocks. Articles with titles such as ‘Marriage Gone Sour?’, ‘Revive Your Marriage’, ‘How to Hold on to Your Spouse’, etc. regularly appear in magazines giving tips, advice and teaching ‘tricks of the trade’.
If there is one relationship that we can always rely on, it is our relationship with the Lord. The sastra (scriptures) says in and through all our relationships, we must not lose sight of our relationship with the lord. As stated earlier, we must invoke, we must not lose sight of our relationship with the lord. As stated earlier earlier, we must invoke, maintain, nourish and strengthen this relationship. And we do this by performing rituals.
Since God is formless, it is difficult for the human mind to relate to God. Hence the sastra prescribes a form and that too a human form because it is easy to relate to. Since all people may not be attracted towards the same form, the scriptures have given us a choice. We have hundreds of forms – male, female, male-female mixture (Ardhanareeshwar), animal (Hanuman) and human-animal mixture (Narashima). The scriptures mention many kinds of relationships that we can invoke. We can think of the Lord as our father, mother, brother, master, child, friend, spouse, etc. We can choose any relationship we like. When we invoke the relationship, initially it will appear artificial. But as we continue, we will find that the relationships becomes real and strong until it becomes the strongest of our relationships as can be seen in the lives of great devotees such as Tyagaraja and Meera Bai. The greatest advantage of having the relationship with the Lord as our primary relationship is that we will not expect anything from human relationships. We fulfil all our expectations from our relationship with the Lord. Then human relationships are only for loving and giving not taking.
We celebrate festivals for the same reason we perform rituals to invoke our relationship with the Lord. Sri Ramanavami is an occasion to invoke Lord Rama. What can a Krishna-bhakta do as this day? He should imagine that Rama is also Krishna in Rama ‘vesha’. So we see our ishta-devata in every festival.
Why do we need rituals and festivals? Can we not invoke our relationship with the Lord without having to rely on ‘external aids’? When we see our friends, we smile. When we meet people, we do namaste or shake hands. These are rituals. Since we cannot ‘show’ our emotions and feelings, we need rituals. A ritual is a physical expression of our sentiments. Rituals enable us to express our Love, compassion, sympathy, etc. Flag hoisting is a ritual. It gives us the opportunity to show our patriotism. Thus rituals are a necessary part of our lives. We cannot live without them. If we cease to follow religious rituals, we will have to invent a new set. So why not continue with the traditional rituals? And in doing so, let us take some time and effort to understand their significance and import.
Dharma :The second part of religious life is an ethical way of life – leading a life of values. What do we mean by values? What we do not want others to do to us, we should not do to them. Why? When others do to us what we do not want them to do, we get hurt. Similarly when we do to others what they do not want us to do, they get hurt. Since we do not want to get hurt, we should not hurt others. We can ensure this by leading a life of values. The sastra prescribes many values. Some of them are ahimsa (nonviolence), satyam (truthfulness), asteyam (nonstealing), saucham (purity) and santosha (contentment).
Why are values important? Values are the lubricating oil due to which alone all human interactions take place without friction and heat. When we apply oil to a squeaking door, it opens and closes without making noise. Value-system is the oil that makes all transactions smooth and noise-free meaning without friction. The result is mental sanity.
Swaadhyaaya : The third and final part of religious life is known as swaadhyaaya or scriptural study. This is an integral and the most important part of religious life. Even though a life of values and rituals makes our lives smooth, it will not guarantee total freedom from sorrow and pain. Knowledge alone will.
In the absence of scriptural study, our lives may be considered faith-based religious life. Faith can be shaky. When we see other people suffer, particularly good people we wonder – Is God just or unjust? When we face problems in our own lives (even though we may be leading an ethical life and doing all the rituals, we begin to doubt the efficacy of religion. In the extreme case, a person becomes an atheist. So faith-based religious life must be converted to knowledge-based religious life.
We have to study the scriptures. We must understand the significance of rituals. We must learn the various facets and nuances of dharma. We must study Vedanta. Only then can we convert faith to knowledge. We must approach a guru and study under him. We must not study the scriptures independently. If we do so, we are more likely to misunderstand than understand.
Many students of Vedanta tend to look down upon those performing rituals. It is important to note that the three constituents of religious life anushtanam, dharma and swadhyaaya must be judiciously balanced and practiced. If we do so, we can see the difference in our lives. Our lives will become smooth and harmonious.
Very insightful thoughts by a renowned teacher of Advaita Vedanta. This article was published in Arsha Vidya Newsletter – January 2016, excerpted by Dr. V. Swaminathan from talks given by Swamiji on June 19-21, 2015 in New Jersey, USA.
The topic, graceful acceptance, is nothing but acceptance of the realities of life. To every situation that one confronts, both the individual, जीव and the Lord ईश्वर, contribute. जीव’s contribution is in the form of पुरुषाथर्, appropriate self-effort. Appropriate self-effort includes देश and काल, time and place. Time is not only the time of the effort but the right duration over which the effort is made. ईश्वर’s role is referred to as दैवम् or the grace of the देवता. This is what we call as destiny, fate, or luck. In other words, this is प्रारब्ध. Thus, both these factors, पुरुषाथर् and प्रारब्ध, are working in every situation.
Despite one’s effort not every situation turns out to be favorable. There are unfavorable situations as well as favorable situations. We generally label the former as due to प्रारब्ध the दैवम् factor. We take the favorable situations as due to our effort. We require graceful acceptance of the unfavorable situations.
Is there someone who can have graceful acceptance of the unfavorable situations? The Bhagavad Gita says there is such a person and describes that person as a वीतरागभयक्रोधः(Chapt. 2.56), one who is free from craving, fear and anger. The Gita goes on further to describe this person as one who is totally resolved in ईश्वर, taking refuge in ईश्वर. In fact, मोक्ष is being comfortable with what is, being happy with what is. Graceful acceptance of the realities of life is being comfortable with what is.
The other aspect of graceful acceptance of any situation, favorable or unfavorable, is to act appropriately for the situation and not to react. When one acts one learns. When one reacts one is not learning. This is especially true for a human being. Humans grow by learning. A non-reacting behavior empowered by graceful acceptance is conducive for learning. The absence of graceful acceptance denies this privilege.
What precludes graceful acceptance is the expectation of ourselves to be all knowing. We obviously do not call all the shots and thus any situation has the potential to turn out to be less or opposite of what one’s expectation is. This basic understanding is covered by one’s pride that one should be all knowing. The wonder is, in spite of our limitations, we do succeed sometime. We do not fail in every situation. This is, in fact, the true miracle.
What is required in us is simply the appreciation of the fact that we are not all knowing and hence in spite of our best efforts, there will be situations when the outcome of our efforts will not be favorable. Similarly, someone else is also not all knowing and hence when we are the recipients of that person’s actions, the outcome may not be favorable. Similarly, someone else is also not all knowing and hence when we are the recipients of that person’s actions, the outcome may not be favorable. This is the reality of life. Therefore, the only agenda we have as a human being is to change our outlook to accept in humility both the favorable and unfavorable situations as the blessings of the Lord.
In graceful acceptance I negate what is unreal. I recognize the blessings of ईश्वर in all situations, ईश्वर is the self of all appearing in many costumes. Human journey, जीव यात्रा, is but to recognize this fact. Of course, no journey is without exertion. A great person said that pilgrimage is the royal way of putting up with obstacles. जीव यात्रा is a pilgrimage where one puts up with obstacles. In fact, this is the only agenda of ईश्वर. Situations which are unfavorable are nothing but ईश्वर’s agenda to mold us to accept the realities of life.
Another aspect of graceful acceptance is how we deal with events, situations and people. No one can really fulfil my expectations in this world. As my demands are satisfied I find that I become more demanding. And when my expectations are not satisfied, I become angry. Anger etc. are not expressions of free will. They are the result of helplessness. A person is overcome by काम and क्रोध etc. There is a daily prayer, कामोऽकाषीर्न्मन्युरकाषीर्न्नमो नमः, it is काम that did it; it is मन्युः(anger) did it. Any unfulfilled desire translates into anger. The expression of anger is not deliberate. It just happens. That is why no one can deliberately get angry. One does not say I am going to get angry now and then gets angry.
An angry person deserves our compassion. If a person is angry towards me and I respond with anger, it is a one-step reaction. Instead, I can accept the situation gracefully and if at all I want to respond, I can do so with compassion. I give the benefit of doubt to the other person. Of course, I can give the benefit of doubt to myself as well. I accept what I am. This is the ultimate in graceful acceptance. I do not validate my anger as it is not my nature.
One has to develop a value to be free from impulses. I need to develop graceful acceptance. Initially I need to put up with situations, events and people. I need to have ितितक्षा, forbearance. I gradually grow into the value of graceful acceptance. Graceful acceptance leads one to ईश्वर. This is the pilgrimage one has to make in one’s life. Go towards ईश्वर by graceful acceptance of His will. नाऽहं कतार् हिरःकतार्; I am not the doer; the Lord is. Subject yourself to His will. ईश्वर’s agenda is also only to shape us and take us towards Him.
The only agenda we can have as a human being is to discover our true nature which is one of compassion. We are like the sandal wood that is covered with layers of dirt that hides its fragrance. We are covered with hurt and guilt. The dirt on the sandal wood is removed by rubbing it against a stone and the sandal wood exudes its natural fragrance. The stone that we need to use is प्रितपक्षभावना, displaying a tendency that is opposite to anger, namely compassion. As situations rub against us, by graceful acceptance of them, our own inherent fragrance of compassion manifests. This alone is the agenda of the human birth.
Pranaam from Kamal Kothari
Namaskaar. This is a wonderful talk by Pujya Swamiji. It is an excerpt from the book “Action and Reaction”, Arsha Vidya Research and Publications, Chennai, 2007 and sourced from AVG Satsang from their website http://www.avgsatsang.org which has many talks by Pujya Swamiji and other teachers of AVG
Action and reaction, as we know from physics, are both equal and opposite. You cannot rub against something, without yourself getting rubbed in the process. However, I am looking at these two words with reference to one’s response to the world.
LIFE INVOLVES RELATIONSHIP
You cannot avoid relating as well as responding to the world, whether you like it. You must necessarily relate to the world in order to live your life; you need not relate to the world just to be alive. When you are in deep sleep, you are alive but you do not relate to the world; there is no world, in fact, for you. There is no relationship, no memories, no situational problems to cause any concern. You are just alive; you merely exist. You can exist even in a state of coma, without in any way relating to the world. It is possible to keep a person alive in coma for years on life support systems. However, that is not living. In order to live your life, you need to relate to the world.
Any relationship implies two factors: one is you, the person, who relates and the other is what or whom you relate to. Of these two, one is a changing factor – that which you are related to. The situation to which you are related keeps on changing all the time and the change can be total. Now you see fire and now you see a stream of water; two things entirely different in nature. You meet your father and the next moment you meet your son. The object has completely changed, the son replacing the father. In terms of sensory perception, the objects constantly change. You perceive a form or smell or sound or touch or taste. Thus, the world you confront keeps changing whereas you, the one who confronts the world, is invariable. A person who sees a form is the same who hears a sound. The one who saw and heard is the one who is talking to someone now. The person, ‘you’ remains the same, whereas the objects keep changing. Therefore, we can say that of the two factors involved in relating, one is variable and the other, the one who confronts, is invariable. You are the same person whether you relate to father or son, uncle or husband, friends or foe, employer or employee. You are the same whether you see or hear, walk or talk, sing or smell. This is true even from the standpoint of mental activities: the one who doubts is the one who decides; the one who loves is the one who hates; the one who is kind is the one who is cruel. The person is invariable and that is you.
THE INVARIABLE FACTOR
We need to look into the ‘you’ that is invariable. Is it totally invariable? We cannot say so because there seems to be a variable status even for the subject, the person who relates, in keeping with what or whom he or she relates. When you relate to your father either mentally or perceptually; you are a son. Again, when you relate to your son, you are no longer the previous person, the son; you are now a father. You undergo a change. The subject ‘I’ that was a son while relating to the father has changed to become a father while relating to the son. The person ‘I’ is there but he or she has a different status now. To a sister, the ‘I’ is a brother; to a wife, the ‘I’ is a husband; to a student ‘I’ is a teacher and to a teacher the ‘I’ is a student. Thus, because of a relationship, the ‘I’ also undergoes change.
The change in the ‘I’, however, is not total as is the case with the objects with which the ‘I’ relates. The object can be a form perceived earlier, that is totally replaced by a sound heard now. The object can be a friend that is totally replaced by another, a stranger, the exact opposite. There is something I like and something I do not like. Thus the change in the object is total. The subject ‘I’, however, is not totally replaced. If it is, there will be no continuity at all. The father-I is replaced by the son-I, but the ‘I’ is not totally replaced. If it is totally replaced, there will be neither father nor son because the one who related to the son has vanished, while a new one who has appeared in his place cannot have a relationship with the father. If an invariable factor is not there in the subject, there will no thread to connect the experiences. Hence, the subject does undergo a change in relation to the object but the change is not total; it is incidental and partial.
The partial change in the subject ‘I’ does not seem to leave any trace upon the ‘I’. Imagine that while you are talking to your sister, your wife comes along and you start talking to her. In relation to your wife, the brother goes away completely and the husband has taken his place. You are very much there, remember, because the one who was a brother is the same who is now the husband. At the same time, the previous role does not leave a trace upon you, the subject. Therefore, you are able to assume a new role altogether without suffering a change on your part. It reveals a great fact about life. It is an amazing capacity to undergo change when you relate to something, without intrinsically undergoing change. It is this capacity that makes your life imbued with freshness and freedom. If you do not recognise this fact fully, it is indeed a great tragedy and life becomes a misery.
The invariable factor ‘I’ undergoes a seeming change with reference to a particular situation. When I come in contact with an object that I like I become a liker. The next moment, if I come in contact with an object that I dislike I immediately become a disliker. In both these situations the ‘I’ is very much present. This ‘I’ is invariable and is therefore neither a liker nor a disliker. Is it not true? If you know this to be true, you have made your life.
Pranaam from Kamal Kothari
Namaskaar. We conclude the series with this Part 35 of the Kathopanishat commentary by Shri V. Subrahmanian. It has been a great learning session for me and I hope all readers have also enjoyed and benefited from it. This is just a glimpse into the teachings of this great Upanishad, there is no substitute for learning in a structured manner from a proficient teacher or Guru face-to-face but an attempt has been made by me through these posts to at least have a basic understanding of the principles of Vedanta. I once again reiterate that NONE of the content of this wonderful commentary is my own. I have been studying it along and posting it here part by part ab verbatim, and still have a long way to go to fully understand the depth and glory of this Upanishadic teachings. I am grateful to Shri V. Subrahmanian and Advaita Academy for so graciously sharing this with us all. The website http://www.advaita-academy.org has a lot of material on Vedanta and Adi Sankaracharya’s works by several renowned teachers. Please read up some of it as you please. I thank you all for reading and giving your valuable comments.
By realizing the all-pervading brahman that is free of all differences and as one’s very Self, one becomes freed of the ‘knots’ of ignorance etc. Such a one is verily brahman even while living (the rest of his destined bodily life). He does not transmigrate upon the death of the body. The upaniShadic passages such as ‘अत्र ब्रह्म समश्नुते’ (‘He attains to brahman here itself’) kaThopaniShat (2.3.14) and ‘न तस्य प्राणा उत्क्रामन्ति ब्रह्मैव सन् ब्रह्माप्येति’ (‘His subtle body does not leave the gross body upon death; He being brahman Itself attains to brahman’) bRRihadAraNyaka upaniShat (4.4.6) teach this beyond doubt.
Those who are not endowed with the knowledge of the Absolute brahman stated above and those who wish to attain to the brahmaloka (owing to specific meditations on the conditioned brahman) and also those who will be returning to the transmigratory life in a different body, however, will take one or the other path upon the death of the body. Such specific path(s) get delineated with a view to praise the knowledge of the Absolute brahman. Moreover, in the beginning of the upaniShadic dialogue Nachiketa had asked for the knowledge of the meditation on agni, the Fire God, as his second boon. The method of obtaining the fruit of this meditation too has to be stated. Keeping all this in view the next mantra states:
शतं च एका hundred and one हृदयस्य of the heart नाड्यः nerves (channels) तासां of which मूर्धानम् crown अभिनिःसृता pierces एका one तया through it ऊर्ध्वम् upwards आयन् move अमृतत्वं immortality एति attains विष्वङ् in all directions अन्या others उत्क्रमणे in rebirth भवन्ति happen