Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Vedanta - Part 55

VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem
D. Venugopal

D. Venugopal is a student of Swami Paramarthananda and a direct disciple of Pujya Swami Dayananda. He has successfully completed the long-term residential course in Vedanta and Sanskrit conducted from May 2002 to July 2005 at the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Anaikatti.




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VI - Is not cleaning of païcakoças necessary to remove the pollution from ätmä?

The other misunderstanding related to cleansing is that annamaya, präëamaya, manomaya, vijïänamaya and änandamaya are the five koças that cover ätmä and that they have to be cleansed so that they do not contaminate ätmä. This is a serious problem. The çästra speaks of annamaya, präëamaya, manomaya, vijïänamaya and änandamaya as those that are mistaken to be ätmä. The word koça has not been used by the çruti but it has been appended by the sampradäya to all of them making them into annamayakosa, präëamayakosa etc. Maya has two different meanings, pracürya and vikära. Pracürya means predominance or saturation and vikära means modification. When it is wrongly taken to be saturation, the word koça added to maya makes the kosa to be the covering of ätmä. This misunderstanding has led to the practice of koça cleansing. Cleansing of annamayakoça is sought to be achieved through physical cleanliness and the taking of clean sättvic food, of präëamayakoça through regulation of breath, of manomayakoça through elimination of negative emotions like räga, dveña and cultivation of positive emotions through bhakti, püjä, bhajan, kértan etc, of vijïänamayakoça through japa of mantras like Gäyatré and self-effacement through upäsanä and of änandamayakoça by prayer to Éçvara to redeem the self from being a jéva. The misunderstanding is that the koças cover ätmä and affect ätmä.


Koças cannot be the physical covers of ätmä, as limitless ätmä can never be covered. What covers ätmä is only ignorance in these five different ways. The annamaya and others are merely name, form and function. They do not cover Brahman, even as the wave does not cover water. Like seeing water in the wave, we can see Brahman in all of them. The remedy therefore lies in çästra-vicära. This does not mean that the practices mentioned are not useful. As we had seen earlier, cleansing has its legitimate purpose for gaining citta-çuddhi so that the mind may become fit to receive self-knowledge.


VII - Is not knowledge to be realized through experience?


According to modern Vedänta, self-knowledge is intellectual while self-realisation is experiential. Their contention is that the study of çruti can provide only indirect intellectual knowledge, and that this knowledge has to be directly experienced for self-realization to take place. This confusion has arisen out of the thinking that even as we get only indirect knowledge through words about objects that are not available for direct perception, we get only indirect knowledge from the words of çruti about the self.


It is true that when an object is not available for ‘first-hand’ experience, being out of sight (parokña), the knowledge gained of it through words is indirect knowledge [337]. It is also called as mediate knowledge or intellectual knowledge. What it means is that we are not personally aware of what is revealed by the knowledge. In such cases, we have to directly perceive them to convert it into direct knowledge. This is called direct or immediate knowledge (aparokña-jïäna). Following this thinking relating to objects, when no personal experience takes place when the self is known as sat-cit-änanda, it is considered that sädhanas (practices) are necessary to gain the direct experience of sat-cit-änanda. This is called self-realization, which is experiential as distinct from self-knowledge, which is called as intellectual. Towards this end, seekers have been adopting various practices and graphic accounts of the experience gained through them by some seekers are available in prose, poetry and painting.


Let us consider this contention. Firstly, Brahman-ätmä is that, which has neither the object nor the subject. For the subject to be there, there has to be an object. But, there is no object since we cannot objectify ätmä-Brahman. Even though it has neither the subject nor the object, there is no doubt about its existence, since it is self-evident. Nothing can be more evident [338] than what is self-evident.


Çruti does not say that we have to realize self-evident ätmä-Brahman. It says that we are ätmä, which is Brahman. The confusion of making a distinction between knowledge and realisation is caused only because of not recognizing that ätmä is present before the receipt of self-knowledge, during the receipt of self-knowledge and after the receipt of self-knowledge. There is invariable presence (aparokñatva) of ätmä in all situations and çruti is the means of knowledge for us to recognise this svarüpa of ätmä. Not understanding that ätmä is invariably present and what çruti does is only to reveal this fact to us are the reasons for this erroneous thinking. They also overlook the fact that all forms of knowledge happen in the intellect. As such, there is no such thing as intellectual knowledge. There can be only two types of knowledge of objects; one is direct and the other is indirect. But the self is not an object. It is the self-effulgent and self-evident self. On receipt of self-knowledge, what happens is the dropping of the misconception about the self and immediate recognition of the true nature of the self.


Those who speak about ätmä-Brahman experience also overlook the fact that ätmä-Brahman cannot be experienced as it is soundless, touchless, colorless, tasteless and smell-less.[339] Any experience of sound, touch, colour, taste or smell that one has, however unique it may be, is not of ätmä-Brahman. What is experienced is only anätmä.


We may say that we have indirect knowledge (parokña jïäna) of ätmä-Brahman, since we know how exactly çruti says that Brahman is satyam, jïänam and anantam and that ätmä is Brahman. This is not tenable since there is no object called atmä or Brahman to have indirect knowledge of it. When ätmä is known through the çästra-pramäëa, it does not become an object for the knower, as it is ever the self-evident self. Knower does not correctly know ätmä by himself because of his in-born ignorance caused by mäyä. However, çruti creates the correct våtti in the buddhi and destroys the ignorance of the self-evident ätmä. In the case of ätmä-Brahman, there is no knower-known-knowledge distinction, as in the case of objects. If it is an object, knower will take it as pramäëa phalam. It is not an object but is the self. In the case of the self, when the self-knowledge is there, ignorance of the self is gone. This is how self-knowledge takes place. Neither any object nor any perception is involved in recognizing the self.


Our problem is that, out of ignorance, we do not recognize the invariable presence (aparokñatvam) of ätmä in all situations. Kena Upaniñad (2.4) makes it clear that it is known in every thought [340]. The fact is that the cognition of anything does not displace consciousness, since the våttis caused by the sound, touch, form, taste or smell are themselves lighted by consciousness. It lends its existence (sattä) to the våtti. Its nature, which is jïapti  (consciousness), is lent to that. It also lights up the knower, knowledge, known and all these are bathed in one consciousness alone.


337. parokṣa-jñänam.
338. prakatékåta.
339. Kaöha Upaniñad, 1.3.15.
340. pratibodha-viditaà matam.

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