Mithyatvam of dualistic universe emphasised
The tenth chapter of Upadesa Sahasri deals exclusively with the nature of the Self (Sakshi Chaitanyam), which the author calls drishi. According to Vedanta, drishi (Witness Consciousness) is none other than Brahman (paramatma). The chapter is titled Drishi svarupa paramartha darsana prakaranam.
This is again a small chapter with 14 verses, each containing important characteristics or features of the sakshi (Drishi) as revealed in our scriptures. The essential purpose of such a recounting of the Sakshi’s nature is to help the seeker practise nididhyasanam, an exercise intended to internalise and assimilate the Vedantic teaching already received during sravanam and doubtlessly ascertained by mananam.
During nididhyasanam, the seeker has to invoke in his mind and continuously dwell upon the several aspects of the Self (Drishi) enunciated in the Upanishads and other spiritual literature.This will help remove habitual tendencies born of identification with the body-mind complex and the people, objects and situations in the material world of plurality (anatma dvaita prapancha).
The thought pattern to be entertained by the seeker should, apart from focusing on the Sakshi’s intrinsic nature (satyatvam) and identity with Brahman, also include the ascertainment of mithyatvam of the dualistic universe (Brahma satyam, jagat mithya and jiva-brahma aikyam).
It is for this purpose that the author presents in all the 14 verses different ideas related to the nature of the Sakshi and also negating the entire anatma prapancha as not endowed with any existence of its own.
Two new ideas presented in our text are that the sakshi is neither a cause nor an effect (karya karana vilakshanam) and also that the sakshi is free from attributes (nirgunam). The seeker will have to spend quality time everyday exclusively for nididhyasanam when he should deliberately invoke and entertain in his mind the thought pattern as suggested in the various verses of this chapter.
Nididhyasanam can also be in the form of repeated sravanam, writing notes, exchanging views with co-students, teaching interested seekers or any other manner keeping one’s self exposed to Vedantic revelations.
Also, when we dwell upon the teaching, it must be ensured that instead of treating the features as those of the Sakshi, we must deliberately claim these as our glories. With this background, we can sum up the ideas contained in each of the 14 verses in this chapter, with explanatory notes within brackets wherever necessary.
Verse 1: I am the supreme Brahman and of the nature of Pure Consciousness, self-evident, self-effulgent, birthless, without a second, imperishable, unattached (asanga), all pervading like the space, non-dual, ever-liberated and revealed by the vedic syllable Omkara.
Verse 2: I am the consciousness free from all impurities (related to the gross, subtle and causal bodies), and not subject to any modification. By my nature, I am the objectless awareness--avishaya jnana svarupam; all pervading--in front, oblique, upward, downward and all directions. I am the infinite Brahman, birthless and always established in the Self.
Verse 3: I, the sakshi, am birthless, eternal, free from old age (jara) and growth (vriddhi), and by implication free of all other modifications. I am self-effulgent, all pervading and non-dual. I am neither a cause nor an effect (karya karana vilakshanam) (consciousness is not born of anything and nothing is born of consciousness). I am absolutely pure, untainted by either maya or avidya. I am always non-dual and ever remain fulfilled and, therefore, only I am ever-free.
Effulgence or prakasa is defined as that in whose presence objects come to be known. Based on this definition, Consciousness is the ultimate light in whose presence all objective knowledge becomes possible).
While talking of consciousness, we must remember its all-pervasiveness (sarvagatatvam) in order not to be misled by our worldly experience where we see sentient embodied entities, resulting in an impression that consciousness is limited to each body as we are not able to infer the intervening chaitanya.
Verse 4: I am the Pure Consciousness, witnessing the experiences in all the three states of waking, dream and deep sleep, none of which relate or belong to me, but are superimposed on me because of ignorance. The three states cannot be said to be different from Brahman as in that case they cannot even exist. They cannot also be called identical with Brahman, as this will affect Brahman’s non-dual status. Therefore, they are known as anirvachaniyam (not available for comprehension or description) and hence treated as mithya. I am, therefore, the Witness Consciousness and the non-dual observer of all the three states.
Verse 5: As I am the changless Witness Consciousness, I am free from the body-mind complex (sarira traya vilakshanam). The body mind complex does not belong to me either. The body mind complex and its vyavahara with the external world are unreal like the dream body’s experiences in the dream world. What is available in the waking state is not available in the dream and deep sleep states and therefore the experiences in the waking state cannot enjoy absolute reality.
Thus, the experiences are real only in the respective state and unreal in the other two states. Another reason for treating the body-mind complex as mithya is that any assemblage can only be mithya as it depends on its individual components for its existence.
Verse 6: As I am the non-dual witness consciousness, I am free from all the modifications in the absence of any cause therefor. I do not have a body-mind complex at all and therefore I am neither a karta (doer) nor a bhokta (enjoyer) of actions, and hence I am not subject to punya/papa. Even notions of bondage and liberation are relevant only with regard to intellect and do not belong to me. The varna-asrama disciplines also are not applicable to me as I am not embodied. This is my firm conviction.
Verse 7: As I am without a beginning and as I do not have any attributes, I am free from all actions (karma) and results (karma phalam). Just like the all pervading and subtle space is not tainted by anything, I the witness consciousness am not affected though I pervade the body. I am therefore identical with the non-dual paramatma, who is also free from karma and karma phalam.
Verse 8: I am always uniformly present in all the beings. I am the non-dual supreme Self beyond the manifest and unmanifest universe, but due to ignorance I am taken to be otherwise.
Verse 9: I am never away from the Self. I am free of and different from ignorance, identification with anatma and actions and therefore only I am very pure. I am always established in my real non-dual nature like space. However, due to ignorance, I am taken to be associated with sensory perceptions like seeing.
Even though atma is described as the support for avidya (avidya asraya) it cannot have any association with aviyda which is part of the mithya prapancha.
Verse 10: The Upanishads declare that one who has the clear knowledge that he is Brahman will not have rebirth. This is based on the logic that in the absence of a cause there can be no effect (karana abhave, karya abhavam). Thus, once ignorance is gone, there can be no rebirth.
Verse 11: The ignorance and ignorance-based misconceptions referred to in Verse 10 are indicated in this verse. Notions like “mine,” “this is of this nature,” “there is this notion,”, “I am not of this type”, “somebody is also not so” are all due to ignorance and delusion. These misconceptions are not present in the non-dual Brahman which is pure and auspicious, uniformly manifesting in all beings and I am that Brahman.
Verse 12: The wise people who have gained Self-knowledge (which alone is very pure) are free from bondage in the form of grief and delusion. The conclusion of those who are aware of the Vedic teaching is that in the absence of grief and delusion, there can be no action (karma) or rebirth (punarjanma).
Verse 13: It is the established view of Vedanta that one who despite perceptually being aware of the duality in the material world, is acutely conscious of the unreality of the perceived world and even while seemingly performing actions, does not assume any doership (kartrutvam), he alone is a knower of the Self and not anyone else.
The essence of this verse is that the wise person does not confer any reality on the experiences in the waking state and this is compared to the absence of the perception for a person in deep sleep.
Verse 14: This verse is in the form of phala-sruti (benefit of Self-knowledge). The author says that Self-knowledge as set out in this chapter is the right knowledge and the highest because it has been validated by revelations of the vedantic scriptures.
Whoever gains this wisdom will be liberated and, even while transacting in the world, will be untainted by his actions like the space, otherwise known as jivan mukti. He will later on gain videha mukti once his body falls off on exhausting his prarabdha.
Read Part 11 of the series...
Compiled by R. B. Athreya from the lectures of Swami Paramarthananda in Chennai.