Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

of shrI vidyAraNya svAmi

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Chapter 10

The Lamp of the Theatre

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9

In this chapter the supreme Self is compared to the lamp, which lights the stage in a theatre. The lamp illumines the empty stage before the play starts; it illumines the play when it is in progress; and after the play is over and there is no one on the stage, the lamp continues to illumine the empty stage. Similarly, the supreme Self which is self-luminous exists before the origination of the universe, during the period of appearance of the universe, and also after the dissolution of the universe.

Before the creation of the universe the supreme Self which is nondual, infinite bliss, alone existed. Through its mAyA it appeared as the universe of names and forms and entered into them as the jIva or the individual self. Entering into divine bodies, the same Self became all the deities such as viShNu. Entering into the bodies of human beings, it became the worshipper of the deities.

As a result of the practice of devotion in many lives, the desire to enquire into his real nature arises in the jIva. When such enquiry and reflection attain perfection, mAyA is negated and the Self alone remains.

As long as the jIva, who is in reality the Self which is nondual and of the nature of supreme bliss, perceives duality and looks upon it as real because of ignorance, he experiences misery. This state of ignorance of his real nature and the consequent suffering is what is known as bondage. Realizing his own nature as the supreme Self and remaining established in that realization is liberation.

The jIva who is ignorant of his real nature identifies himself with his body and mind and looks upon himself as the performer of action and the enjoyer of the fruit thereof. The mind is his instrument of action. The mind undergoes a twofold modification, namely, internal and external. The internal modification takes the form �I�. It makes him the performer of action. The external modification takes the form of objects which are referred to as �this�. The external objects are cognized by the five organs of sense distinctively as sound, touch, colour, taste and smell. The Consciousness which simultaneously illumines the agent, the action and the external objects is known as the �witness�. While revealing all these, the witness remains changeless like the lamp illumining the stage in a theatre. The lamp reveals the patron, the performer on the stage, as well as the audience and continues to shine even when all of them have left. The witness Consciousness illumines the ego, the intellect and the sense-objects. Even when these are absent, as in deep sleep, the witness remains self-luminous. The intellect functions only in the light of the ever-luminous and ever -present witness.

In the above illustration the patron is the ego, the various sense-objects are the audience, the intellect is the performer on the stage, the musicians playing on their instruments are the sense-organs, and the lamp lighting up all of them is the witness Consciousness. Just as the lamp lights up all these while remaining in its own place, the witness, which is motionless, illumines external objects as well as the states of the internal organ. The distinction as internal and external is only from the point of view of the body and not the witness. The ego is internal while objects are external. The qualities of the mind such as fickleness are wrongly attributed to the witness Consciousness by the ignorant. When the mind becomes absolutely quiet, the witness shines as it is.

The Self illumines all the modifications of the mind as the witness, but is itself beyond the grasp of speech and the mind. When the unreality of all duality is realized, the Self alone remains. Since the Self is self-luminous, its existence need not be proved by any pramANa (means of knowledge). The Self can be realized as the witness of all the internal and external creations of the intellect if one hears the instruction of the shruti from a guru and reflects on the teachings.

End of Chapter 10

Chapter 11

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