Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

shamAdi ShaTka sampatti

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Definition - Dr. Ram Chandran

In the past week, we have started with the discussion on the four step preparatory process known as the sAdhana chatuShTaya. To recapture our thoughts, they are the following:

1. viveka (discrimination of Real from unreal)

2. vairAgya (detachment or dispassion from sense objects)

3. shamAdi ShaTka sampatti (a collective group of six behavior traits)

4. mumukShutva (intense desire to achieve permanent bliss)


The sAdhana chatuShTaya is described by Shankara in the vivekachUDAmaNi as follows:

Adau nityAnityavastuvivekaH parigaNyate |
ihAmutraphalabhOgavirAgasttadanantaram ||
shamAdiShaTkasampattiH mumukShutvamiti sphuTam || - Verse 19.

The first discipline is the discrimination between the Real and unreal. The next discipline is the detachment or dispassion from the enjoyments of the world here and after death (heaven). The third discipline is the practice of the six behavior traits - shama, dama, uparati, samAdhAna, shraddhA and titikShA; the fourth discipline is the intense desire for escape from this saMsAra or realization of the divinity in her or him.

In the coming months, the definition for the topics, viveka, vairAgya, and mumukShutva will be taken up. At this time, let us focus on shamAdi ShaTka sampatti which include shama, dama, uparati, samAdhAna, shraddhA and titikShA.

shama means mind-control. This is very hard to achieve. The mind can cause bondage; it can also confer liberation. It is an amalgam of rAjasika and tAmasika modes, the passionate and dull attitudes. It can be easily polluted. Mind takes every opportunity to run helplessly behind the senses. When there is a single hole in a pot of water it becomes empty within a short time. Similarly even if a single sense is out of control, we will likely be thrown into bondage. Therefore, every sense has to be mastered. The potency and purity of the mind can be maintained by good practices like DhyAna (meditation and contemplation), japa (mental prayer), bhajana (group recitation) and pUjA (worship). With the strength and skill thus reinforced, the mind gets fine tuned. manas or mind is but a bundle of thoughts, a collection one's wants and wishes. As soon as a desire arises from the mind, the buddhi (intellect) should evaluate its value and validity - is it good or bad, will it help or hinder, where will this lead or end? If the mind does not submit to this probe, it will land itself in the path of ruin. If it does and obeys the intelligence, it can move along the right path. We have three chief instruments for uplifting ourselves - Intelligence, Mind and the Senses. When the mind gets enslaved by the senses, we get entangled and bound. The same mind, when it is regulated by the intellect, can make us aware of our true identity – the Atman. Thus, the act of ignoring the stream of thoughts which come on account of the past tendencies (vAsanA-s) and diverting our attention towards what has to be done in this life constitutes shama. Strong willed people can achieve this by mere will power. Others will have to strive for it with the help of dama.

2. dama
dama means keeping the body and the senses under control. This can be achieved only by sAdhana or spiritual exercise and not by any other means. One has to avoid spending precious time in useless pursuits. One has to be ever vigilant. One has to engage the senses of perception and of action and the body in congenial but noble tasks which would keep them busy. There should be no chance for tamas or sloth to creep in. And, every act must also promote the good of others. While confining oneself to activities which reflect one's natural duties (svadharma), it is possible to sublimate them into sAdhana for the body and the senses. dama means controlling the external indriya-s. External indriya-s are ten in number. They are: five j~nAnendriya-s (instruments of perception) and five karmendriya-s (instruments of action). When, on account of the tendencies of the past lives, desires arise in the mind, these external indriya-s will set out to fulfill them. Even though the mind encourages the person to perform a wicked act, there is a technique that can be employed to overcome the temptation. This is called dama and it comes from the wisdom got from studying the scriptures. Even here, one has to utilize the mental power to achieve the goal. It is interesting to note that the external indriya-s are easier to control than the mind. If dama is practiced properly, the will power will also increase and therefore shama can be achieved with relative ease. On the other hand, if one tries to practice it ostentatiously, it will do more harm because, the desires which are dormant in the mind will flare up and will completely spoil whatever shama one has achieved and, at the same time will destroy dama too. Therefore it is important to practice dama honestly.

3. uparati
The third qualification with which one has to be equipped is uparati. This implies a state of mind which is above and beyond all dualities such as joy and grief, liking and disliking, good and bad, praise and blame, which agitate and affect the common man. These universal experiences can be overcome or negated by means of spiritual exercises or intellectual inquiry. Man can escape from these opposites and dualities and attain balance and stability. uparati can be achieved, if one is careful, while engaged in day-to- day living, to avoid entanglement with, and bondage to, differences and distinctions. One should free oneself from identification with castes like Brahmin, kShatriya, vaishya and shUdra, or clans like gotra-s, or conditions like boyhood, youth, adult and old age, or genders like masculine and feminine. When he succeeds in discarding these and is firmly established in the Atmika Reality alone, he has really achieved uparati. uparati literally means 'to rest'. Stimuli such as form, sound, touch, smell, etc., attract the mind and cause bondage. We become attracted to an object we see because we think that there is something very special in it. When discrimination dawns on us and when we realize that they are not permanent and that indulging in such attraction will only bring misery, we will no more be attracted by them. Consequently, the sense organs will stop running after them. Such a recess of the sense organs is called uparati. Do not look at the world as the world with a worldly eye. Look upon it with the eye of Atma, as the projection of paramAtman. That can make one cross the horizon of dualities into the region of the One. The One is experienced as many, because of the forms and names man has imposed on it. That is the result of the mind playing its game.

uparati promotes inner exploration, nivRRitti, not outer enquiry and activity, pravRRitti. Along nivRRitti lies the path of j~nAna (Intellectual Inquiry); along pravRRitti lies the Path of Karma (Dedicated Activity). The sacred activities like rituals and sacrifices (karma) laid down in the Vedas cannot confer liberation from bondage to birth and death, mokSha. They help only to cleanse the Consciousness. It is said that they raise man to Heaven; but Heaven too is but a bond. It does not promise eternal freedom. The freedom which makes one aware of the Truth, of his own Truth, can be gained only through shravaNa (listening to the guru), manana (ruminating over what has been so listened to) and nididhyAsana (meditating on its validity and significance). Only those who have detached their minds from desire can benefit from the guru. Others cannot profit from the guidance. Those who expect and look forward to the fruits of their actions can engage in them until their consciousness is cleansed. After that, their actions are of no value. So, one must be ever conscious of the Atma, as pervading and penetrating everything, so that attraction and repulsion, the duality complex, cannot affect him. When dama is practiced with the help of uparati achieved by the power of discrimination, it leads us to shama. On the other hand, if dama is practiced either out of fear or for the sake of acquiring some supernatural power, it will cause more harm than good. Therefore, only when dama is practiced with the help of uparati, it will yield favorable results.

4. titikShA
The fourth qualification is titikShA. This is the attitude of forbearance, which refuses to be affected or pained when afflicted with sorrow and loss, and the ingratitude and wickedness of others. In fact, one is happy and calm, for one knows that these are the results of one's own actions now recoiling on him, and one looks upon those who caused the misery as friends and well-wishers. One does not retaliate nor does he wish ill for them. One bears all the blows patiently, and gladly. The natural reactions of a person, whoever he may be, when someone injures him is to injure in return; when someone causes harm to do harm and when someone insults him to insult back by some means or other. But, this is the characteristic of the pravRRitti path - the path of objective involvement. Those who seek the inner path of sublimation and purification, the nivRRitti path have to avoid such reaction. Returning injury for injury, harm for harm or insult for insult only adds to the karmic burden, which has to be endured and eliminated in future lives. This burden is termed AgAmin or lineal. One cannot escape the task of undergoing the consequences of one's thought, word and deed in due course. Paying evil for evil can never lighten the weight of karma; it will only become heavier. It might confer immediate relief and contentment, but it cannot but make the person suffer later. titikShA, therefore, instructs man to do good to the person who injures him. titikShA makes way for uparati.

5. shraddhA
The fifth among the virtues to be cultivated is shraddhA. shraddhA means unwavering faith in the sacred scriptures or shAstra-s and in the moral codes they contain as well as in the Atma and the guru. Faith is the sign of shraddhA. Gurus are worth worshipping. They show us the path of fulfillment, the shreyomarga. The shAstra-s are designed to ensure the peace and prosperity of the world and the spiritual perfection of mankind. They have before them this great aim. They show the way to its realization. So, one must place faith in such holy shAstra-s, gurus, and elders. The gurus, on their part, must instruct people only in the knowledge of the Atman that is immanent in all Beings, [sarva jIvAt maikya j~nAna]. He who has shraddhA will achieve this j~nAna. They must themselves have full faith in it and live according to that faith without the slightest deviation. shraddhA means conviction or faith. It is now clear that the first four aspects are achieved with the help of discrimination. Discrimination in turn, comes from the knowledge of scriptures. Those who teach us the scriptures are gurus. Only when we have unflinching faith, can we understand those aspects properly. We will be able to experience them too. Therefore, shraddhA or faith is the basis of the above four aspects.

6. samAdhAna
samAdhAna means single pointed concentration. Normally, one concentrates hard when one is subjected to fear, desire etc. For example, examination fear makes the student concentrate on his studies. This cannot be called samAdhAna. By constantly asking ourselves - 'What is our real nature or True Being?', 'What is the real nature of creation that we perceive?' etc., we will gradually lose attachments in worldly affairs. We will then naturally develop concentration on the ultimate Truth. This is called samAdhAna. samAdhAna comes from the past tendencies which have been carried by us during this birth. samAdhAna will increase the power of discrimination. Increased power of discrimination will further foster samAdhAna. shraddhA and samAdhAna will help achieve titikShA. titikShA bestows uparati and uparati in turn will cause dama, which ultimately bring about shama.

The collection of these six virtues is called shamAdi ShaTka sampatti (a treasure of six virtues). Acquiring these constitutes the third step in sAdhana.

The entire discussion of sAdhana chatuShTaya including shamAdi ShaTka sampatti is also available in the tattva bodha (Shankara’s other famous work). Detailed lessons of tattva bodha (lessons 1 to 12) by Swami Atmandaji (a former member of this list) are available.

Return to the Contents page for the Terms and Definition.

Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012