Saturday, March 29, 2008

AdhkikAri: Qualifications for AtmavidyA

That adhikaritvam or competence is necessary for jnana is wellknown . Perhaps it is worth reiterating. More than "tat tvam asi" it is these qualifications that really need a lifetime or perhaps even several lifetimes of effort.

The main requisite (besides viveka and vairagya) which are requirements for a "uttama adhikari" are the shamaadi shatsampat or sixfold virtue - Shama, Dama, Uparati, Titiksha, Shraddha and Samadhana. Selfknowledge is a "mirage" without a fairly intense degree of acquisition of these qualities.

Shama is equanimity of mind or mind control. This is the first and at the same time quite easily the most difficult to attain. It demands intense selfeffort and selfobservation.
We only have to examine ourselves honestly for an hour or so to see how much shama we have or more appropritaly how much we lack? The Kathopanishad draws the famous and beautiful analogy of the charioteer being the intellect, the reins being the mind and the horses being the sense orgnas. Without a tught hold on the reins and without the horses being under control and used to the intellects benefit, the intellect can do nothing worthwhile.

Dama is sense-control - not allowing the organs of perception and our organs of action to run riot. The Vivekachudamani has the beautiful examples of how just by one sense organ running riot different animals like the fish, the elephant, etc bring about their own death, what to speak of a human whose ruin is certain by not adequately retaining all the sense organs. Again selfeffort is the key here. In his short but beautiful treatise Sadhana panchakam Shankara begins with "Treat hunger like a disease and do not relish your food" Before each and every meal are we truly able to consistently bring this attitude to the food and eat simply as a medicine to appease our hunger?? Same with every other senseorgan besides the tongue.

Uparati comes next. It is a sense of cheerful acceptance of our lot in life - a noncomplaining attitude. With adequate dama, whatever enjoyments come unasked to us we should be satisified with, and grateful to Ishwara. Upariti when it matures has to result in sannyasa. For atmabodha a graduation in one's ashrama from grhasta or vanaprastha to sannyasa becomes necessary.

Titiksha is power of endurance, an ability to patiently bear the pairs of opposites such as heat and cold, pleasure and pain and the rest. How much pain - physical or emotional - are we able to take with a pleasant attitude? How much of a pleasant (intrinsic) disposition do we harbor for most of the day. During a fast, when we detect hunger pangs, am I able to say i am the consciousness that is witnessing this hunger sensation in this body or do we simply give in and say "I am hungry" and so on for other afflictions as well. No selfdevelopment can proceedfrom a lack of bhramacharyam and tapas. Bhagwan Shankara starts the atma bodha with the verse - "this teaching is meant only for those who have developed austerity".

In the words of Bhagwan Krishna, The austerity of the body consists in this: worship of
the Supreme Lord, the brahmanas, the spiritual master, and superiors like the father and mother. Cleanliness, simplicity, cellibacy and nonviolence are also austerities of the body. Brahmacharyam in addition to sexual celibacy also includes avoidance of revelry in other sense pleasures.

Austerity of speech consists in speaking truthfully and beneficially and in avoiding speech that offends. One should also recite the Vedas regularly. This perhaps may be our greatest barrier- having control of our tongue. Swami-ji used to comment that in reality austerity of speech is part of austerity of the body alone, but this is this one austerity that is so profoundly lacking yet so important that Bhagwan mentions it separately and again re-repeats it as maunam in the next sloka!!

And serenity, silence (control of the mind with regard to speech),self-control and purity of thought are the austerities of the mind.

Samadhana is mental awareness and focus, and mental equipoise. This is the fruit of the above three practices. Whenever a mind engaged in Sravana and the rest wanders to any worldly object or desire, and finding it worthless, returns to the teaching, such returning is called Samadhana.

Shraddha is intense faith in the words of the Guru and in the saying of the Vedantic scriptures and, above all, in one's own self.

If we examine (in a NONJUDEGEMENTAL way) ourselves with the above qualifications, we will readily appreciate what is lacking in us from being a uttamaadhikari.

If all of these qualities accrue to us in due course, with selfeffort, and by Grace of Guru and Ishwara, then tat tvam asi will bless us with certitude.