Friday, April 3, 2009


Atmaa vaare drshtavya mantavya nidhidhyasitavyah (Br.Up)

Shravana means hearing of course – but it is not simply a matter of the physical act of hearing. It is not meant that a mahAvAkya such as tat tvam asi is some sort of a Sanskritized abracadabra where as soon as those words are heard by a qualified seeker the veils of ignorance will magically part and the Truth revealed. Hearing in this case itself means understanding. If you say e = mc2 to a novice student he may have heard you alright but he has not really “heard” i.e. he has not understood what you are saying. So the teacher has to unfold the equation – similarly tat tvam asi has to be unfolded – what is tat, what is tvam, and what is this aikyam. In what sense is one to understand this aikyam. The students difficulty in understanding each of three components must be carefully anticipated by a qualified teacher so that this equation is communicated to the student with caution and clarity. This entire process is shravanam alone. In the words of the panchadashi - "The mode of the introduction of the mind of the student from Paroksha-Jnana to Aparoksha-Jnana is indicated in the sixth chapter of the Chhandogya Upanishad, while Uddalaka Aruni instructs the student Svetaketu. While the indirect knowledge of Brahman is declared in such statements of the Upanishad as ‘Satyam-Jnanam- Anantam Brahma,’ - Truth-Knowledge- Infinity is Brahman, the direct knowledge of it is the theme of the sixth chapter of the Chhandogya Upanishad, which expatiates upon the great sentence, ‘Tat-Tvam-Asi’ - ‘That Thou Art’. The demonstrative pronouns, ‘That’ and ‘‘Thou’, refer to a remote object and an immediate object respectively, as is well known. In this sentence, ‘That’ indicates Isvara, or God, and the word ‘Thou’ indicates Jiva, or the individual. The separative connotation of these two indicative words may appear to prevent the identification of Isvara and Jiva, since, at least from the point of view ofthe Jiva, Isvara is a remote object who existed even before creation, and the Jiva is a subsequent manifestation posterior to creation. But the inseparability of the cause and its effect requires the recognition of an identical substance present both in God, the Creator, and the individual, the created embodiment. The usual illustration offered to explain this basic identity of this Supreme Cause with the individual effect is the way in which we recognize the identity of a person here and now with the very same person seen somewhere else at a different time. In the identification of the single person in this manner, the associations of the person with a different place and a different time from the place and the time in which he is recognised now, are ignored, and only the person concerned is taken into consideration, for instance, when we say ‘This is that Devadatta’, indicating thereby that this Devadatta who is in this place at this moment is thesame Devadatta who was seen at some other time earlier in some other place. In a similar manner, the identity of the basic Substance in God and the individual is established by a separation of this Substance from the limiting adjuncts of remoteness and immediacy associated with God and the individual - Isvara and the Jiva."Once shravanam has been completed the job of the Shastra and the Guru is over. In the Kena Upanishad the student actually asks the Guru after the teaching is concluded – “Sir please tell me about the Upanishad” and the Guru confirms that “I have already given you that instruction about Brahman”! Suppose a student says – I have completely understood tat tvam asi – now what? Well now you go back to class and hear all over again! – why? Because you still have understood nothing! If tat tvam asi is understood it means I have understood myself to be akarta abhokta nitya asangah nitya shuddha and nitya mukta etc If after this my question is what now? then with certitude this understanding is incomplete. Here we need to understand the relationship between knowledge and its result because there seem to be some misconceptions about this in many people. This relationship is of two types chodya-chodaka sambandha and pratipaadya- pratipaadaka sambandha.Suppose I am given a map from google maps – how to reach Pittsburgh from Philadelphia . This knowledge gained by this map does not actually get me to Pittsburgh . The map has only informed or better prepared me for that particular journey. In order to "experience" or "reach" Pittsburgh I now need to act on that knowledge. Similarly a cookbook knowledge does not allow me to taste a gulab jamun. Fortunately this is not the case with brahmavidyA – this is a extremely crucial point to bear in mind. This belongs to the latter type or pratipaadya- pratipaadaka. Here the knowledge itself gives the result. How is this possible? This is possible ONLY when the thing to be attained is already a given, is already pre-attained, but we are unaware of it due to ignorance. The best example of this is also Adi Shankara’s favorite example of the tenth man. Ten men cross the river and each of them tries to get a head count to verify that allten men reached the other bank safely and in the process forget to count themselves and so always fall short by one. A competent person in whom these men have faith in tells this man who is counting that you alone are that tenth man. Here the knowledge conveyed by the words “That thou art” itself brings about the end of the search. Pratipaadya means 'that which is to be revealed', while pratipaadaka means 'that which reveals'. The moment we catch the implied meaning, (not the primary meaning) of tat tvam asi, that very moment the Truth is as though attained. So knowledge gained from shravam alone is primary. Hence alone does Shankara begin the Brahmasutra bhashya with his famous treatise on adhyAsa, because without establishing adhyAsa as a fact, there is no way to establish knowledge gained from the mahavAkyas - which is direct and immediate - as the means to liberation or mukti. And once it is established that the only and immediate means to moksha is understanding of the mahAvAkyas then there is only one primary means to moksha and that is shravana. If some one thinks that after getting knowledge one has to perform some actions or sadhana, then more shravana is needed, till the real implication has been correctly andcomprehensively understood. Hence alone does shraddhA assume paramount importance – for the words to reveal themselves one must surrender to them and allow them to work. Now there is a misconception among many (even within the fold of Vedanta) that the knowledge of "tat tvam asi" so gained is only "indirect" or "intellectual" – paroksha jnAnam - and it has to be converted by meditation into direct knowledge or aparoksha jnanam. Or that mere book knowledge only produces jnanam and what is needed is put that into practice to gain vijnanam! Some stock examples will also be provided - one will not get a taste of a mango fruit by mere book knowledge - only by tasting it can it be known. Shankara categorically dismisses (in his Up.Sahasri). 18.201(objection)The Bliss of liberation is not obtained afterascertaining the meaning of the sentence (tat tvamasi) unlike the satisfaction which is felt byeating.(Sankara's reply)Indirect knowledge it is true is the result producedby the sentences regarding the non-Self but it is notso in the case of those regarding the Innermost self.It is on the other hand direct and certain knowledgelike that in the case of the tenth boy.Proponents of such types of misconstrued and misconceived views of Vedanta will say sharvanam is hearing the mahAvAkya, mananam is understanding these words and nididhyasanam is intensely meditating on those words till a mystic experience of the Atman - atmasakshatkara - is attained - at some point in time. What leads to Moksha then is the actual special Atman "experience" brought about by the meditation (nidhidhyasanam) , not the understanding of the mahAvAkya (shravanam) itself! Once again this is extremely misleading. Using the tenth man example – paroskha jnAnam or indirect knowledge is simply the instruction that the tenth man very much is alive – confirming the presence of the tenth man. So when the Shruti talks about Brahman as the substratum as satyam - that sarvam khalvidam Brahman - all this Brahman alone, etc - that is paroskha jnAnam. What then is aparoksha jnAnam? the understanding that "that" Brahman is "me" alone! - in other words the understanding of "aham brahmasmi". Again going back to the the tenth man example when the true identity of the tenth man is revealed and that too as myself and when this is understood that alone is aparoksha jnAnam. Once I have gained the conviction based on my shraddha in the shabda pramAna the sense of closure to my seeking alone is the freedom – knowing that I am what I was seeking. Shankara affirms this as much in the VakyaVrtti “When, as explained above, the mutualidentity between the two words ‘thou’ and ‘that’ is comprehended, then the idea ‘I am not Brahman’, entertained by ‘thou’, shall immediately end.” And again the same text goes into great length to provide a template as it were for the teacher to unfold the intended meaning of the mahAvAkya so as to confer this liberating knowledge. So once again, the mahAvAkya itself and hence shravana alone is the primary means to moksha. Without shravanam – without gaining a clear and complete and comprehensive understanding of the words of the mahavAkyas which the Upanishads or Shruti itself says is the only means to know Brahman (Br. Up 3.9.26 - ....I ask you of that Purusha who is to be known ONLY from the Upanishads.. .) - there can be no jnAnam - without jnAnam - no MokshA. Once this understanding (to say "intellectual" understanding is tautology - there being no other kind of understanding) has taken place, there is nothing more to be known, and nothing more to be done. Then what role does manana and nidhidhyasana play. The reason is there may be lack of either clarity, or conviction, in this knowledge. Lack of clarity is in the form of doubts – after all the Universe is 14 billion years old and I am lucky if have 14 more years to live! – how can I possibly resolve this Universe unto myself. Solar and nuclear powers – so immense – and yet the Upanishad says I verily am the Source of this power when I cannot benchpress 50 pounds! Isnt this all quite farfethced? is it possible all this could be a farce? In what way can I understand myself to be equated to God. How can God be dismissed as being unreal? Many many such doubts may be thrown up again and again by the mind and this is the job of yukti or manana - it is not an independent logical analysis – but a progressive and gradual removal of these internal intellectual obstacles by taking recourse to the teaching already assimilated during the process ofshravana - by a constant dwelling on the Vedantic teaching and by means of questioning the Guru as well. Finally nidhidhyasana to fully internalize and assimilate the teaching – in other words, anubhava , which involves assimilating the knowledge as one's own. Once again this anubhava is confused by people as meaning some kind of mystic experience that comes and goes – one keeps on waiting for the Atman experience – that grand “promised” mega-spectacle - the elusive Atman finally revelas itself in all its glory and majesty as a reward for years of effort - which one and for all and forever will end this sense of duality – and sadly this itself is one of the biggest obstacles – my waiting itself is a sign of my habitual notions holding sway over my antahkarana. We may keep getting plagued by our samsaaric anubhava as - I am limited, I am small, I am mortal, I am inadequate, the world is a source of grief unto me, - from beginningless time these vasanas have led to a buildup of habitual notions which do not easily and readily go away. AsShankara says in the Br.Up 1.4.10 "Morover false notions do not arise in a Realized Man........however sometimes memories due to the impressions of false notions antecendent to the dawning of knowledge, simulating those notions, suddenyl appear and throw him into the error of regarding them as actual false notions."What is the remedy then so that I can abide in the purNatvam, the wholeness that is ever my True intrinsic nature?? Directing my thoughts at all times towards the knowledge of my true nature, that which has already been doubtlessly assimilated by me (through the process of shravanam) will alone enable an abidance in that knowledge – which is in the form of full freedom from all limitations. Until when? Until it is spontaneous – the samsara bhavana goes away. What should be clear here is that for nidhidhyasana, the understanding of tat tvam asi already needs to be complete! – one cannot NOT know and do nidhidhyasanam. There is no enquiry – no vichara involved here. “Aham BrahmAsmi” has to be already and completely understood and known to me as a fact. The job of nidhidhyasana then is only this – to not allow my habitual tendencies to come in the way. As Shankara says in the Br.Up1.4.7 the Jnani needs to “regulate the train of remembrance of the knowledge of the Self (atmavijnana smrti) by means of renunciation and dispassion.” And hence alone doesvairagyam and sannyasa become critical - nay indispensable - here.Now suppose one takes a position - OK I have no interest in shravana - in scriptural teachings, I will resort to some other means to control the mind and its flow of thoughts so they be directed inwards - wont I gain a vision of the Atman? - Shankara categorically dismisses this - "for it is not a means to liberation.. .there is no other means for the control of mental states except the knowledge of the Self and the train of remembrance about it" Note here the very crucial point that knowledge of the Self must already be present for nidhidhyasana to occur. An ignorant jivA, one lacking in self-knowledge, cannot do nidhidhyasana - hence there is no equating nidhidhyasana with meditation - Yogic,etc or any other method that has not been preceded by Vedanta shravana-manana. The steady recollection of Self-knowledge, by a constant flow of the mind towards the Self, enabled with renuncation and dispassion, serves to counter the residual effects of prior karma. When I have a thought – it is consciousness plus the content of the thought – my attention previously being focused solely on the content, the consciousness was as though hidden – similarly when I perceive an object – it is existence plus name and form – but my attention was previously exclusively on the name and form and the existence aspect is as though hidden – nididhyasana then is an abidance on my part in the Atma which isever-experienced - in the recognition that at all times - the existence principle - the consciousness principle - in and through all thoughts and all perceptions as being of the nature of one’s own Self which is limitless. Then as the bhaja govindam says – yasya brahmani ramate cittam nandati nandati nandatyeva – He alone is in Bliss, whose mind is steadily established in Brahman.