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Advaita for the 21st Century

Vedanta - Part 58


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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III - Çravaëam, mananam and nididhyäsanam (continued)

When all the logical reservations are gone, our questioning intellect is able to accept the knowledge conveyed by the pramäëa that the self, ätmä, is Brahman and that it is nitya (free from time), çuddha (free from attributes), buddha (free from ignorance) and mukta (free from bondage), adhiñöäna (the basis of everything) and satya (the truth of everything).

 

Even so, we are not able to entirely free our mind from its earlier notions. This situation arises as self-knowledge is unlike the knowledge of objects, which we know for certain once we perceive them. In the case of self-knowledge, generally there are obstructions to the knowledge, as our entire living has been based on our erroneous notion that “I” is limited in all respects. Normally, a single clarification is adequate to remove the confusion about what we want to know. But, we cannot eliminate the deep-seated misunderstanding about ourselves so easily. Even in the case of the wall clock that has been shifted to another location, we continue to look for it only at the old place for a number of days. In this case, the obstruction caused by the old habit is far more serious. Apart from the ingrained erroneous notion of considering ourselves to be small and insignificant, the worry, concern, anxiety and panic born during the childhood are still in us and they manifest. Thus, there arises the condition in which our stored experience is opposed to what we know in spite of the invalidation of the “opposite attitude” to the knowledge [354] by çravaëam and mananam. It obstructs the cognition created by the çruti that while our body-mind-sense-complex is not separate from sat-cit-ananta-ätmä, sat-cit-ananta-ätmä is not our body-mind-sense-complex. It stands against the very knowledge and prevents the owning up of the fact about ourselves. Therefore, the need arises to free our mind from its hold. This is why we have the expression, jïäna-niñöä, which is steady, unwavering knowledge free from obstruction.

 

Straying away from the truth is undone by staying with the truth continually. This is accomplished through continued çravaëam and mananam and by dwelling upon the knowledge by reading, mutual discussion among seekers, writing, teaching and contemplation [355]. 

 

Contemplation consists of consciously staying exclusively with the knowledge. It is called nididhyäsanam.

 

During nididhyäsanam, we dwell on the knowledge that we are the whole without any process of thinking. It is possible for us to do so only when

 

• our body-mind-sense-complex has become a vehicle for nididhyäsanam having given up the pursuits for artha, käma and puëya;

• we have no emotional problems and are of a cheerful disposition ;

• we are free from expectations including that of mokña;

• in effect, we are no longer a seeker (sädhaka), having known through ätma-jïäna that we are the whole ; and

• we are preferably a sannyäsé [356].

 

Nididhyäsanam is not autosuggestion or self-hypnosis. It is merely seeing what we already know as the fact. Our will is dropped and we become as though possessed by contemplativeness. We let the appreciation of ätmä take place in the mind by seeing it from different angles: the limitless self (pürëa-ätmä), the detached self (asaìga-ätmä), the self as witness (säkñi-ätmä), the action-free self (akartå-ätmä), the self that is free from the sense of being an enjoyer (abhoktå-ätmä), and the self that is ever full (änanda-ätmä). The meaning of key words that reveal our true nature like “sat-svarüpo’ham”, “cit-svarüpo’ham”, “änanda-svarüpo’ham, “ahaà brahmäsmi”(the self is Brahman) “ätmä idaà sarvam” (the self is everything), ätmä pürëaù” (the self is the whole), “ätmä suddaù (the self is pure), “ätmä nitya-muktaù” (the self is always free), “ätmä paraà brahma” (the self is limitless Brahman), “ätmä sarvasya käraëam” (the self is the cause of everything) are maintained in the mind without any thinking process to just see the fact of them. Through contemplation, we merely highlight the fact of being none other than Brahman.

 

Nididhyäsanam on the knowledge does not produce any new knowledge. Contemplation upon the knowledge is also not an action (karma). As we have already seen, karma can only produce, modify, attain, cleanse or reach something. When a statement of fact about which we have gained clarity is contemplated upon, none of these results is produced as what is contemplated upon is already a fact. The fact is that we are ätmä, which is Brahman. It is like saying that “fire is hot”. The heat of fire is not the result of the action of saying it. As a statement of fact, it is merely to be owned up. Moreover, if self-knowledge does not have the power to remove self-ignorance, it is not going to acquire that power through repetition. So, nididhyäsanam is not the cause for knowing that ätmä is Brahman. We already have that knowledge but it is stifled. This obstruction has to be removed so that knowledge may be effective. What nididhyäsanam does is only to neutralize the obstructive opposite attitude to the knowledge that we have.

 

Nididhyäsanam is practiced until the opposite attitude to knowledge is gone. When the impediments to knowledge are removed, the pramäëa gives rise to aparokña-jïänam of ätmä, like the direct knowledge of the tenth man to the çiñya, which once for all freed him from his problem.

 

The expression “meditation” is used both for nididhyäsanam and upäsanä. This creates confusion, as they are quite different from each other even though both of them are mental processes. In upäsanä, the meditator and the object of meditation are different from each other. In contemplation however, we do not meditate on the self as Brahman but on the knowledge that we are Brahman. We contemplate upon our own true nature. There is no difference between what we contemplate upon and what we are. In upäsanä, the våtti in the mind corresponds to the form of the object of meditation. In nididhyäsanam, the våtti corresponds to the self, which is the whole without any division.

354. This is called viparéta bhävanä.
355. Taccintanaà tatkathanaà anyonyaà tatprabhodanam | Etadekaparatvaà ca brahmäbhyäsaà vidurbudhäù || Çaìkaräcärya, Laghuväkyavåttiù, 17.
The knowledgeable persons know that constantly thinking, speaking, discussing, teaching and being absorbed in that (Brahman) is inculcation of Brahman.
356. This is called vividiñä sannyäsa.

This section to be continued...

 

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