Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

of shrI vidyAraNya svAmi

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Chapter 7

Fulfillment on Realization of Pure Consciousness

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6

The bRRihadAraNyaka upaniShad (4.4.12) says that a person who has realized that he is the pure Self (brahman) will not afflict his body for the fulfillment of any desire. This statement is analyzed thoroughly in this chapter to enable us to understand the state of perfect bliss of a liberated person.

Ishvara and the jIvas are both reflections of brahman in mAyA. The whole universe is the creation of Ishvara and the jIvas. From the determination of Ishvara to create, down to his entrance into the created objects, is the creation of Ishvara. (The term �entrance� means only the presence of Ishvara as the antaryAmI or inner controller in all jIvas.) From the waking state up to liberation, which constitutes �samsAra�, is the creation of the jIva.

The universe appears on the substratum brahman which is pure consciousness, the Self of all beings and immutable. The reflection of brahman in the intellect is known as chidAbhAsa. Because of mutual superimposition between brahman and the intellect, the chidAbhAsa identifies itself with the intellect. The chidAbhAsa identified with the intellect is the jIva. The jIva looks upon himself as an agent and an enjoyer. Because of identification with the gross and subtle bodies, the jIva attributes to himself the joys and sorrows which pertain to the bodies alone. When the jIva gives up his identification with the bodies he realizes that he is the substratum, brahman, which is pure consciousness and devoid of association with anything.

A story is told in vedAntic works to illustrate how knowledge of the reality dawns as a result of hearing from a guru the mahAvAkya �That thou art�. Ten ignorant villagers crossed a river. On reaching the other bank one of them counted their number to see if all of them had reached safely. He counted only nine and felt that one of them must have been drowned in the river. Each of the others then counted and got the same result. When they were grieving about the loss of one of them, a man who was passing by offered to count their number. After counting nine, when he came to the last man he told him, 'You are the tenth'. Each one then realized that he had forgotten himself while counting, because of his ignorance. In the same way, every human being has forgotten his real nature and realizes it only when instructed by a competent teacher with the mahAvAkya �That thou art�.

There are seven stages in the process of realization of the Self. They are, ignorance, obscuration, super-imposition, indirect or mediate knowledge, direct or immediate knowledge, cessation of sorrow and a sense of supreme fulfillment. The jIva is ignorant of the truth that he is brahman in essence. Because of this ignorance he says that brahman is not manifest and does not exist. This is obscuration. He looks upon himself as a doer and an enjoyer because of identification with his body and mind. This is super-imposition. When he is instructed by a competent teacher, he gets the knowledge that brahman exists. This is mediate or indirect knowledge. Then by acquiring the requisites such as detachment, etc., and reflecting and meditating on the teachings, he realizes that he is brahman and remains established in that experience. This is direct or immediate knowledge. Now he is free from the wrong notion that he is a doer and an enjoyer. With this all sorrows come to an end. He feels that he has accomplished the ultimate goal of life and has a sense of supreme fulfillment.

The statement in the upaniShad that before creation brahman alone existed (chhAndogya upaniShad (6.2.1)) gives indirect knowledge (parokSha j~nAna) of brahman. The statement �That thou art� (chhAndogya upaniShad (6.8.7)) gives direct knowledge (aparokSha j~nAna) of brahman. The sage BhRigu acquired indirect knowledge of brahman from the indicatory statement that brahman is that from which the universe arises, that by which it is sustained and that into which it merges. He got direct knowledge of brahman by enquiry into the five sheaths. (taittirIya upaniShad, BhRigu valli).

In the statement �That thou art�, the word �thou� primarily denotes pure Consciousness or brahman limited by the mind, which is what is denoted by the word �I�. Pure Consciousness conditioned by mAyA is Ishvara who is omniscient and is the cause of the universe. He is primarily denoted by the word �That�. The entities denoted by the primary meanings of these two words possess totally contradictory qualities and so there can be no identity between them. The identity is only between the implied meanings. This point has been dealt with in detail in chapter 1.

When this identity between the jIva and brahman is realized, there remains only pure Consciousness which is absolute bliss. The view held by some schools that the mahAvAkya can give only indirect knowledge of brahman is wrong.

The difference between jIva and brahman consists only in the fact that the former has the upAdhi or limiting adjunct in the form of the mind, while the latter does not. But for this adjunct the two are identical. Just as a reflection exists only as long as there is a reflecting medium, jIvahood exists only as long as the mind, which is the reflecting medium, exists.

In the mahAvAkya, �aham brahma asmi�, which means �I am brahman�, the primary meaning of �I� is the blend of the pure Self and the mind. The implied meaning of �I� is the pure Self alone. The identity is thus between this pure Self and brahman.

There is a distinction between the cognition of an external object such as a pot, which is of the form �this is a pot� and the direct knowledge of brahman, which is of the form �I am brahman�. In the former case, the mind first becomes modified in the form of the pot. This modification is known as vRitti. This vRitti removes the ignorance covering the pot. Then the reflection of brahman or pure Consciousness on the vRitti produces the knowledge �this is a pot�. In the case of the knowledge of brahman also, there is a vRitti in the form of brahman, known as akhaNDa-AkAra-vRitti. After this, the second step of the reflection of brahman falling on the vRitti is not necessary here, because brahman is self-luminous, unlike inert objects. This is similar to the difference between perceiving a pot and perceiving a lighted lamp. In the former case both the eye and a light are necessary, but in the latter case another light is not necessary. Therefore, while in the case of external objects the reflection of brahman in the vRitti is necessary, in the case of realization of brahman it is not necessary. The reflection of brahman or Consciousness in the vRitti is known as �phala�. Thus the cognition of an external object is brought about by 'phala', but the direct knowledge (which is called realization) of brahman is brought about by the vRitti itself, without the aid of any phala. It is therefore said in vedAnta that all objects are �phala vyApya�, while brahman is �vRitti vyApya�.

It has been stated above that the mind takes the form of brahman. The question arises - since brahman has no form, what is meant by saying that the mind takes the form of brahman? This is explained by Svami VidyAraNya himself in jIvanmuktiviveka, chapter 3, by taking an example. A pot made of clay is full of the all-pervading space as soon as it is made. Filling it afterwards with water, rice or any other substance is due to human effort. Though the water, etc., in the pot can be removed, the space inside can never be removed. It continues to be there even if the mouth of the pot is hermetically sealed. In the same manner, the mind, in the act of being born, comes into existence full of the Consciousness of the Self. It takes on, after its birth, due to the influence of virtue and vice, the form of pots, cloths, colour, taste, pleasure, pain, and other transformations, just like melted copper, cast into moulds. Of these, the transformations such as colour, taste and the like, which are not-self, can be removed from the mind, but the form of the Self, which does not depend on any external cause, cannot be removed at all. Thus, when all other thoughts are removed from the mind, the self is realized without any impediment. It has been said: 'One should cause the mind which, by its very nature, is ever prone to assume either of the two forms of the Self and the not-Self, to throw into the background the perception of the not-Self, by taking on the form of the Self alone.' And also: 'The mind takes on the form of pleasure, pain and the like, because of the influence of virtue and vice, whereas the form of the mind, in its native aspect, is not conditioned by any extraneous cause. To the mind devoid of all transformations is revealed the supreme Bliss.' Thus, when the mind is emptied of all other thoughts Self-knowledge arises.

The mahAvAkyas such as �That thou art� produce direct knowledge of brahman, but this knowledge does not become firmly established because of defects in the mind such as doubts and wrong notions. It is therefore necessary to hear the scriptures, reflect on them and meditate on their purport repeatedly and also practise the disciplines such as control of the senses, control of the mind, etc.

�Hearing� is the process by which the conviction is attained that the identity of jIva and brahman is declared throughout in the Vedas. �Reflection� is satisfying oneself of the validity of what has been heard by the test of reasoning. Meditation removes the wrong notion, acquired over innumerable births, that the body is the Self and that the world is real. Concentration of mind is acquired by the worship of God.

A person who has realized that he is the Self knows that the world is only an appearance on brahman due to mAyA and that it has no absolute reality. He is therefore not affected by the joys and sorrows of the world. But he engages himself in various actions solely for the welfare of the world, according to his karma. The karma which brought about the present birth (prArabdha karma) continues even after enlightenment, but the enlightened person remains undisturbed by whatever happens, while the ignorant person suffers when anything adverse happens. When the realization that the world has no reality has become firmly established, there are neither desires nor the desirer. Consequently all sorrows cease, just as the flame of a lamp gets extinguished when the oil is exhausted. A spectator in a magic show who knows that the objects produced by the magician are not real merely enjoys the show and does not desire those objects. Similarly the enlightened person is convinced of the unreality of all worldly objects and does not harbour any desire for them. The efforts to earn wealth cause suffering; there is always anxiety about the safety of what has been earned, and there is grief when it is spent or lost. Thus wealth causes sorrow at every stage. All objects in the world which are sought by people hoping to get joy from them have their negative aspects. A wise man should see the defects and give up desire for them. All sorrows are caused by the erroneous notion that the objects and happenings in the world are real. Desires can never be quelled by enjoyment; they only increase, like fire fed by clarified butter. But when the impermanence of worldly pleasures is realized, gratification of desires brings about cessation of desire. One who has controlled his mind is satisfied even with a little enjoyment, because he knows that pleasures are impermanent and are followed by sorrow. A king who had been imprisoned by an enemy and is released will be satisfied by becoming the ruler of even a single village, whereas a king who has never been conquered by any one else is not satisfied even with his kingdom.

The prArabdha karma functions in three ways--producing actions motivated by desire, producing actions without desire, and producing actions through the desire of another person. The first type is where the prArabdha karma itself produces desire and makes the person act for its fulfillment. The second is where even without desire a person is compelled by circumstances to undertake a particular action. An example of the third type is that of a realized person teaching his disciples in response to their sincere entreaties. Here it is the karma of the disciples that makes him take up the task of teaching them.

Whatever is destined to happen will certainly happen and what is not destined to happen will never happen in spite of all efforts. The realization of this truth will make a person free from anxiety and grief.

prArabdha karma produces its effect for the enlightened person as well as for the ignorant. But while the ignorant person looks upon the results as real and enjoys or suffers, the enlightened person is indifferent to the result and is therefore never affected by sorrow or disappointment.

If a person carefully examines his experiences in the waking state and in dream, he will realize that they are very similar. He should then give up the notion that the objects in the world are real and become free from attachment towards them. This world of duality is similar to something created by magic. It cannot be explained logically. The wise man who remembers this will not be affected by the effects of his prArabdha karma. By the realization of brahman the unreality of the world from the absolute point of view is realized. But this does not destroy the prArabdha karma which continues to give its effect until it is exhausted. Knowledge and the effects of prArabdha karma are not opposed to each other and can co-exist, just as a spectator can enjoy a magic show even when he is fully aware that what he sees is not real.

Control of the mind is essential for the realization of the unreality of the world. Even though desires may arise in the mind of an enlightened person, they do not bind him as in the case of an ignorant man, because he is free from all attachment. An enlightened person does not consider himself as a doer or enjoyer. This is what is meant by the statement in the first verse of this chapter that 'a person who has realized that he is the pure Self (brahman) will not afflict his body for the fulfillment of any desire'.

The question as to who is the doer and enjoyer, whether it is the immutable kUTastha (brahman) or the reflected Consciousness (ChidAbhAsa) or a blend of the two, is now being examined. Enjoyment implies change as a result of identification with the experience of pleasure and pain. Since brahman is changeless, it cannot be the enjoyer. The reflection of Consciousness has no separate existence apart from pure Consciousness and so it too cannot be the enjoyer. So it is generally thought that the blend of the two is the enjoyer. But this too cannot be correct because the shruti says that kUTastha or pure Consciousness alone exists in reality. Because of ignorance the jIva attributes to himself the reality which is the nature of kUTastha alone. Consequently he thinks that his enjoyment is real and does not like to give it up. He wishes to have a wife, son, properties, etc., for his enjoyment. The bRRihadAraNyaka upaniShad (2.4.5) says that wife, son and all others are loved by the jIva only for his own sake and not for the sake of the wife, son, etc. A person loves his wife, son, etc., only as long as they give him happiness. One�s own self is thus the object of unconditional love. Therefore a spiritual aspirant should acquire dispassion towards all objects of enjoyment in the world and direct his love towards the Self, which is his own self. He should keep his attention fixed on the Self at all times and differentiate the body from the Self.

It is common experience that the states of waking, dream and deep sleep are distinct from one another. The experiences in each state are totally different from the experiences in the other two states. But the Consciousness, which is the experiencer, is the same in all the states. When a person has realized the identity of his self with this pure Consciousness, which is brahman, he is released from the bondage caused by ignorance. This Self, which is brahman, is beyond the three states of waking, dream and deep sleep. It is the witness, ever blissful, and is neither the enjoyer nor the enjoyment, nor the object of enjoyment. When the Self has been differentiated in this way, what remains as the enjoyer is the chidAbhAsa or jIva, who is also known as the intellect-sheath and who is ever undergoing change. This world is like a creation of magic and chidAbhAsa is part of it. By repeatedly differentiating the chidAbhAsa from pure Consciousness one becomes convinced that the jIva has no existence apart from kUTastha and that the jIva is nothing but kUTastha. Then all desire for enjoyment of external objects ceases. A person harbours desire only for objects thought to be different from himself. When a person has realized that he is kUTastha or brahman, there is no object different from himself, since everything is brahman. He then no longer looks upon himself as an enjoyer of happiness or an experiencer of sorrow.

The physical body is subject to various diseases. The subtle body is afflicted by desire, anger, greed, etc. On the other hand, it experiences happiness when there is control of the mind and the senses. In deep sleep the jIva knows neither himself nor others. This is the state in which the causal body predominates. The causal body is the seed of sorrow in this birth as well as in future births. These sufferings are natural to these bodies. ChidAbhAsa, which is the reflection of pure Consciousness in the mind, is however free from all these sorrows. But due to ignorance the chidAbhAsa identifies himself with the three bodies and considers himself to be suffering. When he realizes that he is not the bodies, but the kUTastha itself, he becomes free from all sorrow. The sruti says: 'The knower of brahman becomes brahman.' By fixing his mind on brahman alone, the jIva realizes that he is brahman. But the jIva continues in the body until the prArabdha karma is exhausted. He is, however, a jIvanmukta and remains established in the knowledge that he is brahman. He enjoys total fulfillment. The satisfaction arising from external objects is limited, but the satisfaction arising from direct realization of brahman is unlimited and absolute. The realized person has no further duties to be performed, and there is nothing more to be achieved by him. The onlookers may, out of ignorance, attribute worldly actions and qualities to him, but he is not in the least affected by such attribution, just as a bush of red gunja berries may be mistaken for a blazing fire by a person looking at it from a distance, but such an imaginary fire does not affect the bush in the least. Even the scriptures are no longer necessary for him. There is no more any need for meditation or samAdhi. He has attained all that was to be attained and has done all that was to be done. He may still engage himself in action for the good of the world. His senses may still perceive duality, but he knows that it is not real and so he is not affected. When he is in the midst of ordinary people he may behave like them, just as a father plays with his baby, pretending to be like it. When he is praised or blamed by other persons, he does not praise or blame them in turn, but behaves in such a way as to awaken the knowledge of the ultimate reality in them. The enlightened person has no duty other than awakening the ignorant to the reality.

The wise who study this chapter repeatedly will realize brahman and attain the goal of perfect bliss.

End of Chapter 7

Chapter 8

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