You are not a human being looking for a spiritual experience; you are a spiritual being with a temporary human experience.
Whoever might have said that, we have its essence in our dear, divine Bhagavadgita, the teaching in God’s own words. So free of egoism that He is, the Lord chooses to talk about us, you and me, before saying anything about Himself. In the Second Chapter, responding to the woeful pleas of Arjuna, the Lord provides the first-aid like immediate reassurance to Arjuna:
अविनाशि तु तद् विद्धि येन सर्वमिदं ततम् ।
विनाशमव्ययस्यास्य न कश्चित् कर्तुमर्हति ॥
Know the Self to be Imperishable, and that pervades all this creation. None can bring about the destruction of That which is Inexhaustible. (This is decidedly not about the ParamAtma because Arjuna’s concern is about the fate of his kinsmen)
What can limit us?
Man’s quest for freedom is triggered by his recognizing that he is limited (so he thinks), finite and constantly dependent on something else outside of him. Realizing he is trapped in the cage of the body-mind contrivance, he continuously seeks release from the trammels of embodied life, only not consciously knowing so. Fortunately, he has experienced a taste of what freedom could be like, at least remotely, in the deep sleep state that he goes into and comes out of every day. There he experiences his unlimited, independent, infinite self, freed from all the appendages, upadhis. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.3.22 alludes to this experience:
अत्र पिता अपिता भवति, माता अमाता, लोका अलोका, देवा अदेवा, वेदा अवेदा । अत्र स्तेनोऽस्तेनो भवति, भ्रूणहाऽअभ्रूणहा, चाण्डालोऽचाण्डालः, पौल्कसोऽपौल्कसः, श्रमणोऽश्रमणः, तापसोऽतापसः, अनन्वागतं पुण्येन अनन्वागतं पापेन, तीर्णो हि तदा सर्वाञ्छोकान्हृदयस्य भवति ।
[In this state a father is no father, a mother no mother, ……gods no gods, the Vedas no Vedas. In this state a thief is no thief, the killer of a noble brahmaNa no killer, …a monk no monk, a hermit no hermit..This form of his is untouched by good work and untouched by evil work, for he is then beyond all the woes of his intellect.]
It would be pertinent to note that the Upanishad gives the above illustration of the deep sleep state where the jiva stands freed from all the avidya-caused upAdhis like being a father, mother, monk, etc. and experiences great freedom, albeit only temporary, to the ultimate state of liberation where owing to true Realisation all these upAdhis and all duality stand destroyed forever. Why do we call these ‘upAdhi-s’? It is because they do not constitute our intrinsic nature; they are only incidental to our birth, social status, environment and other circumstances. That they, all of them, are shed by us, or depart from us, every day during sleep and even during the waking when we assume some other roles, is clear proof of their not belonging to us truly but only assumed, knowingly or otherwise. A man who is not a father by birth becomes one once he sires a son. A woman who is not a wife when born becomes one on marriage. The Lord also says that He does not cause the three states of waking, etc. and the experiences they give to the jiva:
न कर्तृत्वं न कर्माणि लोकस्य सृजति प्रभु: । न कर्मफलसंयोगं स्वभावस्तु प्रवर्तते 5.14
14. The Lord, Atman, does not create agentship or any objects (of desire) for anyone; nor association with the results of actions. But it is Nature that acts.
//Objection: If the embodied one, Atma, does not do anything himself, and does not make others do, then who is it that engages in work by doing and making others do?
The answer is: Tu, but; it is svabhavah, Nature- one’s own (sva) nature (bhava)-characterized as ignorance, Maya, which will be spoken of in, ‘Since this divine Maya’ (7.14); pravartate, that acts.//
It is one’s karma that gives one the various experiences, pleasurable and painful, and the Lord is a passive witness to the experiences that the jiva experiences. The Lord does not cause anything to do. He has called Himself the Non-doer, akartA in the Bhagavadgita. It is maayaa that makes one do actions and reap the fruits thereof in all the three states. In deep sleep he is only remains in the state of bliss and one goes into this state once one’s karma-s for the particular day are over yielding their fruits and he has become tired. He slips into dream state and again experiences some more karma phala. When even this is over, he goes into sleep mode by default. Being in waking/dream is the alternative for being in sleep. All these three states are karma-dependent and not Ishwara-dependent. If he remains awake, it means his prarabdha karma for that day is not yet over and he engages in work – of the body/mind/speech. The Lord neither forces him into sleep nor prevents him from sleep; it is one’s karma that decides this, of course, by mAyA, as clarified by Bhagavan in the verse quoted above.
The answer to the question: ‘What can limit us?’ can be provided in a concise manner thus: Time and Space are the ones that limit us. Of these, the limitation caused by time is the most dreaded. All other forms of limitations come within these two parameters. The Lord gives His initial reassurance by specifying that the jiva, in truth, is beyond the grip of time and space. ‘avinAshi’ (Imperishable) is the word to denote the jiva’s natural transcendence of time and ‘yena sarvamidam tatam’, (the self pervades everything in this creation) is the expression that denotes the jiva’s natural transcendence of space.
‘I am here, I am not there’ is the natural, unenquired-into notion every one of us holds. ‘Nothing should happen to me that will put an end to my existence’ is another natural, underlying fear each of us has. The ‘us’ here includes all living creatures. All other fears and concerns fall within these two broad types. The Lord points out by the two expressions noted above that man’s fears are founded on ignorance of his real nature and that this knowledge holds the key to his freedom, forever. All teaching of the Gita, the Upanishads and all other scriptural works is to enable man to gain this knowledge and become free. That is why it is called ‘Moksha shAstram’.
It is only much later, in the 9th chapter, that the Lord says about Himself:
मया ततमिदं सर्वं जगदव्यक्तमूर्तिना ।
मत्स्थानि सर्वभूतानि न चाहं तेष्ववस्थितः ॥ (9.4)
By Me, the Unmanifested, all this world is pervaded. All beings dwell in Me; and I do not dwell in them.
The Lord is so compassionate that He does not want to alienate us from Himself and that He provides a definition of Himself in exactly the same way He defined the jiva above:
अविनाशि तु तद् विद्धि येन सर्वमिदं ततम् ।
//Know the Self to be Indestructible and by whom all this creation is pervaded.//
By studying this pair of definitions we can quickly conclude that the jiva, is beyond time and space just as the Lord is. In other words, the jiva, in its true nature, is infinite, unlimited and completely independent, just the way the Lord is. For, the Lord denies any being, sentient or inert, inhering in Him, Brahman:
न च मत्स्थानि भूतानि पश्य मे योगमैश्वरम् ।
भूतभृन्न च भूतस्थो ममात्मा भूतभावनः ॥ (9.5)
Nor do these beings dwell in Me; behold My Divine Yoga! Sustaining all the beings, but not dwelling in them, is My Self, the cause of beings.
The Lord is making the jiva-Brahma identity even more clearer in this verse:
यतः प्रवृत्तिर्भूतानां येन सर्वमिदं ततम् ।
स्वकर्मणा तमभ्यर्च्य सिद्धिं विन्दति मानवः ॥ 18.46
Him from whom is the evolution of all beings, by Whom all this is pervaded – by worshipping Him with his proper duty, man attains perfection.
The Lord is teaching in unambiguous terms: The Creator is none other than the One that pervades everything. (The jiva was defined by the Lord as all-pervading in the II chapter.)
Thus, nothing other than Brahman can be in or near Brahman or in any way related to Brahman.
This conclusion drives us to these further conclusions:
- There cannot be two (or more) infinite entities; it is logically impossible.
- The Atma pervades this whole creation. Does It pervade Brahman too?
- Brahman pervades this entire creation. Does Brahman pervade Atman too?
- How are Atman and Brahman ‘placed’? One within the other? One near the other? One from the other? One for the other? One by the other? One and the other? ….etc? [For example, Dvaita holds that the jiva ‘comes from’ Brahman. This is completely unUpanishadic for the Kathopanishad 1.2.8 (and the Gita) teaches that the jiva is never born in truth. It is eternal. What ‘comes’ however, in every creation cycle is only the body-mind apparatus which is only matter that the Chandogya Upanishad teaches is mere ‘name’ and the truth of matter is also Brahman, the Source, Sat. Also see Brahmasutras 2.3.17: न आत्मा, अश्रुतेः… and 2.2.42: उत्पत्त्यसंभवात् which deny the ‘birth’ of the jiva from any source.] Also, what the body-mind apparatus ‘depends’ upon for its maintenance is the food and water as taught by this Upanishad. So, the Atman, the jiva, is not dependent on any other entity.
- There is this very interesting verse, from the Yoga vAsiShTha (5.8.12), giving out the Vedantic import of ‘Tat Tvam asi’ or ‘Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma’ in all the vibhakti-s (declensions) of the Sanskrit language in a single verse:
यस्मिन् सर्वं यस्य सर्वं यतस्सर्वं यस्मै इदम् । येन सर्वं यद्धि सर्वं तत्सत्यं समुपास्महे ॥
(That in which everything is, to which everything pertains, from which everything comes out, for which everything is intended, by which everything is, that which is everything, that Truth we adore.) Naturally, the ‘everything’ here is the manifestation of that Truth alone with which it is ‘related’ in vyavahara. This is like the Chandogya illustration of the clay-products being ‘related’ to clay. And gold ornaments being ‘called’, ‘named’ ornaments; their substance being gold alone.
- All the above and any other conceivable questions/possibilities are summarily negated by the Lord just by the One definition: The Atman/Brahman is Infinite, Unlimited.
- Even conceding that the Atman is not infinite, just for argument’s sake, it is impossible that the Atman/jiva is ‘in’ or ‘near’ Brahman the Infinite. This is because, all conceptions of one thing inside another thing or one thing near another thing is possible only with reference to two things, both finite, limited. Even if one of the two is infinite, the two possibilities considered become nullified. The one that is infinite cannot have anything second to it whether finite or infinite. For, the ‘other’ finite entity, if real, will falsify the infinitude of the only infinite entity. And, the ‘other’ infinite entity is simply an impossibility as there cannot be two infinites.
- Also, most importantly, the Upanishads declare the nature of Brahman/Atman as a homogenous Conscious whole by giving the examples of ‘saindhava-ghana’. Just as a lump/rock of salt is all salty and not otherwise all over, so too is Brahman/Atman all Consciousness and not otherwise. Since such a Brahman is also all-pervading, ananta, it is simply not possible to have any other that is not Brahman ‘within’ It or ‘near’ It or in any manner related/relatable to It whatsoever. For in Its absolute state since ‘….Brahman can do without the prakriti (world) and purusha (jiva) (dependent realities)….’ there is no way that Brahman can/will accommodate the jiva or the world ‘in’ or ‘near’ It in the absolute sense.
- Can the all-pervading jiva be ‘like’ or ‘similar’ to the All-pervading Brahman? This possibility is also ruled out because there can be no two ‘infinite’ entities.
- The only conclusion that the Gita and the Upanishads arrive at is: The Infinite Atman is none other than the Infinite Brahman.
- It is this realization alone that is the key to freedom from finitude, fear of mortality.
Now, can there be finitude, limitation, for the jiva caused by ignorance/knowledge? Yes, the jiva, in samsara, is characterized by limited knowledge and ignorance of frightening dimensions. However, even on this count, the Lord assures us that Atman is not really ignorant and that Its nature is Knowledge:
यो मामेवमस्म्मूढो जानाति पुरुषोत्तमम् ।
स सर्वविद् भजति मां सर्वभावेन भारत ॥ 15.19
He who, undeluded, thus knows Me, the Highest Spirit, he, ‘sarvavit’, knowing all, worships Me with his whole being, O Bharata.
The Kathopanishad 1.2.18 too says about the Atman:
न जायते म्रियते वा विपश्चित्….
[ ‘vipashchit’ literally means: The Intelligent One. It is called so here because Its nature of Consciousness is never lost.] Incidentally, this mantra, undoubtedly describing the characteristic of the (jiva)Atman, gives out the infinite nature of the Self. The teaching of Atman in this Upanishad is an answer to Nachiketa’s question about the Atman that obtains after the death of an individual. Surely, such a question is about the jiva Atman alone and not the Parama Atman. And it is the knowledge of this pratyagAtman that is declared to be the liberating knowledge. It is another matter that the Upanishads do not at all prescribe two knowledges, one, of the jiva and the other, of Ishwara, for liberation. So, there is only One Atman in every jiva and that is the ParamAtman, Brahman.
What is that magic that makes an ignorant one in samsara, an all-knowing One? It is the knowledge of That One by Knowing Which All Else is Known – एकविज्ञानेन सर्वविज्ञानम् – the supreme formula for freedom from bondage – laid out by the Upanishads (specifically the Chandogya VI and the Mundaka). This very theme is the essence of the Chandogya Upanishad VI Chapter where Uddalaka, the father-Guru imparts this knowledge to the aspirant-son Shvetaketu by specifying three unmistakable examples, that of clay-clay products, gold and ornaments and iron and iron implements. How does this knowledge come about? By knowing the essence, the cause, that underlies this whole universe. What is that cause? It is Sat, Existence, that is the essence of everything created. It is the essence of the Creator Brahman as well as the Atman, the jiva. It is given out by the sacred teaching, the MahAvAkya, ‘Tat tvam asi’, You are That. You, Shvetaketu, the essentially Sat, is none other than That Brahman which is essentially Sat that has manifested as this entire universe. It is like the most commonplace example: ‘सोऽयं देवदत्तः’ ‘This is that Devadatta’. While jogging in the park this morning I see a man crossing me. The moment I see his face I recognize him as the one whom I had seen the earlier evening at the shopping mall in the neighborhood. Then he was in casuals and now he is in jogging suit. I disregard the earlier circumstance, the evening, the shopping mall, the casuals and the present circumstance, the morning, the park, the jogging suit, all that do not belong to his natural identity and recognize him as ‘this is that one’. All this takes place in a fraction of a second. Again, when they want to record identification marks of a person, they look for moles, scars, and the like on the body of a person. The dress, hairstyle, etc. are not recorded. The idea is: no matter what the person’s age, apparel, hair-presence or hair-absence, etc., are at any given time/place, these marks on the body do not disappear. And it becomes easy to ‘identify’ the person. The ones that change are upAdhi-s. Similarly the Sat with the creator- upAdhi and the Sat with the jiva-upAdhi are recognized as the One Sat sans these upadhis. Just as the two circumstances, the attire, etc. are all not intrinsic to that man, but only incidental and could be easily excluded from his real natural identity, so too the upAdhis of creatorship and jivahood are only incidental to the One Sat and could be excluded from It in an intellectual process.
Everything is Sat and there is no ‘place’ in this Whole that is not Sat, no thing in this Whole that is not Sat and no time in this Whole when it is not Sat. ‘Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma’, ‘Atmaivedam Sarvam’, ‘Brahmaivedam sarvam’, ‘EkamevAdviteeyam’, ‘neha nAnA asti kinchana’ are just a few of the innumerable Upanishadic statements that declare that there is None but this Sat Brahman. ‘VAsudevaH sarvam’ says the Gita. ‘Tat tvam asi’, ‘aham BrahmAsmi’, ‘ayamAtmA Brahma’, ‘prajnAnam Brahma’ are some of the dozens of statements declaring the identity of Brahman and Atman/jiva.
And the two identical definitions that the Lord gave for the Atman/jiva and for Himself/Brahman also teach this identity alone. Not being satisfied with this, the Lord further emphasizes that the Knower, jnani, is He Himself: ज्ञानी त्वात्मैव मे मतम् 7.18. Thus, it is the realization of one’s own Infinite nature that results in freedom from all fears of mortality and of every other kind. The misconception of the jiva being dependent on any other entity eternally is also dispelled by the Lord:
नैव तस्य कृतेनार्थो नाकृतेनेह कश्चन ।
न चास्य सर्वभूतेषु कश्चिदर्थव्यपाश्रयः ॥ 3.18
[For the Jnani there is here no interest whatever in what is done or what is not done. Nor is there in all beings any one he should resort to for anything.]
This Knowledge frees the jiva from all kinds of dependence. Dependence on anything arises only from the feeling of want, incompleteness, apUrNatvam. When one realizes one’s Infinite nature that is taught by the scripture, freedom from all wants is attained and hence freedom from all dependence, both in the bound as well as in the liberated state. To speak of ‘dependence’ in the liberated state is a contradiction in terms: ‘dependence’ and ‘liberation’ are antithetical and never go together.
Who is the jiva in truth?
The Chandogya Upanishad declares categorically that it is Brahman that is appearing as the jiva in every body-mind apparatus that It has created out of the prakriti and enlivened:
The mantra (6.3.2) ‘…anEna jeevena AtmanA anupravishya…’ teaches that it is the Sat Itself that has entered the bodies as the jeeva-s.
This truth alone the Lord reiterates in the Gita in most unequivocal terms:
In the 15th Ch. of the Gita we have this verse:
utkrAmantam sthitam vApi bhunjAnam vaa gunAnvitam
vimUDhA na anupashyanti pashyanti jnAna-chakshushaH (15.10)
What we most closely encounter in our human lives is graphically described as a reminder by the Lord in this verse. We see death and birth around us. We see a variety of experiences, bhoga, sukha and duhkha. We see the variety of moods that the mind undergoes: sattvam, rajas and tamas. All these can happen only to a sentient being. And that is what we are. The Lord says that we have failed to enquire into ‘to whom do these experiences happen? Who is the one Sentient Being behind all these experiences?’ Once this is known, the Lord says, liberation ensues. In other words, the knowledge of the One Being behind these experiences is the Liberating Knowledge. The ignorant ones fail to see this Being whereas those endowed with wisdom perceive This Person. This Person is the Purushottama.
In the very next verse in the 15th chapter the Lord says: Those who strive for this knowledge, with their minds purified, succeed in realizing the Person who is ‘seated’ in the mind, intellect, heart. ‘Atmani avasthitam’. Who is the one seated in the heart? In this very chapter the Lord says: sarvasya chAham hRdi sanniviShTo… It is the Paramatma, the Lord, that is seated in everyone’s heart.
The Lord says in the verse:
Yatanto yoginashchainam pashyanti Atmanyavasthitam
Yatanto’pyakRtaatmAno nainam pashyantyachetasaH (15.11)
‘Enam’: This one. The ‘This one’, him, enam, is of crucial importance for our present study. It is ‘enam, this’, that was just spoken of in the earlier verse as undergoing the various experiences of samsara. The Lord says that the gaining of the knowledge of the ‘svarupa’ of the samsari jiva is the liberating knowledge. For, the Lord says he who is not endowed with this knowledge is ‘vimUDha’, an ignorant one. In the concluding verses of this chapter the Lord says: yo mAm evam asammUDho jAnati purushottamam….He who thus knows Me, the Purushottama, as the true Self of the Samsari is the wise person. Again He says that this teaching is the core teaching of the Vedanta. He who knows this teaching is kritakritya, buddhimAn. The knowledge about the True identity of this ‘enam’ who undergoes samsara is the knowledge about the Truth that is Paramatma. ‘Enam’, referring to the one seated in the heart, (nihitam guhAyAm), is the word that links the jiva to the Paramatma in identity. This ‘enam’ is the pratyagAtmaa the realization of which results in liberation as the Kathopanishad 2.1.1 puts it unmistakably:
पराञ्चि खानि व्यतृणत् स्वयम्भूः तस्मात् पराङ्पश्यति नान्तरात्मन् ।
कश्चिद्धीरः प्रत्यगात्मानमक्षत् आवृत्तचक्षुः अमृतत्वमिच्छन् ॥
The Creator Lord cursed/damned the sense organs to be outward-turned and therefore they always experience the inert world and never the Innermost Atman. Some rare daring aspirant, with the resolve to attain the Immortal, withdraws his attention from the outside world and succeeds in realizing the pratyagAtman. The mantra uses the word ‘antarAtman’ as a synonym to ‘pratyagAtman’. Thus, there is only one antaryAmi, the antarAtman, the pratyagAtman whose knowledge alone results in liberation. This is also called the paramAtman, Brahman, Sat, etc. variously in Upanishadic literature. This pratyagAtman is what is termed by the pronoun ‘enam’ in the above Gita verse. The Lord says there that it is the ParamAtman that is playing the role of the samsArin and exhorts us to recognize this the sooner and get liberated.
Thus, the Lord teaches that the samsari jiva’s (tvam) svarupa is Purushottama Paramatma, (tat). This is the teaching of the Vedanta: Tat tvam asi. The ‘dva suparna’ mantra only states that the One that does not taste the fruit of samsara is the Atmani, hriddeshe, Avasthita Ishwara of the Gita 18th chapter. It is this Paramatma that is referred to as Purushottama in the Gita 15th chapter. The Gita word ‘Enam’, This one, is the word that signifies the aikyam, identity, of the jiva and Ishwara. The final truth is: Ignorance of pratyagAtman is bondage, limitation, death, finitude and dependence. The knowledge of pratyagAtman is liberation, infinitude, pUrNatvam, sarvajnatvam, immortality and independence. Thus the Upanishad and the Gita are proclaiming in one voice that it is Brahman alone that appears as the jiva.
The Shruti (Shukarahasyopanishad) teaches that the One Consciousness alone, with the Cause as the upAdhi assumes the role of Ishvara and with the effect as the upAdhi appears as the jiva. When the two upAdhis are negated as not absolutely real, what remains un-negatable is the One Consciousness:
कार्योपाधिरयं जीवः कारणोपाधिरीश्वरः .
कार्यकारणतां हित्वा पूर्णबोधोऽवशिष्यते .3.12
This shows that the jiva is neither Ishwara (God) nor Ishwara is the jiva. The Nondual Truth, Advaitam, is the only Reality, Brahman that is the substratum for the Ishwara and the jiva in the relative plane.
That the ‘jiva is Brahman alone’ and the ‘world is Brahman alone’ and ‘Brahman alone appears as the jivas and the world’ are all graphically demonstrated by Sri Purandara Dasa in his composition: ‘alli nODalu Rama…’ . In this song he describes how Brahman ‘felt’ like being the world and living a human life ‘became’ the entire world and donned the roles of the jiva-s. He says: avanige iva Rama, ivanige ava Rama..For X, Y is Rama and for Y, X is Rama. Hear this song here (second song in the album) and read the lyrics here. Another song of his with similar import is: Govinda, ninna nAmave chanda.
The place and role of ‘difference’:
These ideas of ‘I am ignorant, You are all-knowing’, ‘I am dependent and You are independent’, ‘I am finite and You are Infinite’, ‘You are the Master and I am thy servant’ are all alright in the earlier stages of sadhana when the mind is not yet prepared to take the Upanishadic Truth of Advaita. Shankaracharya has used these ideas in the most creative way in His innumerable compositions like the Shivananda lahari, the Soundarya lahari, the Shatpadee stotram and the Lakshminrsimha karAvalamba stotram. The manner in which these ideas are used to plead with the Lord to bestow mercy on the supplicant jiva cannot be surpassed by anyone. In this sphere there is ample scope for the jiva to sit on the lap of the Lord, sleep on his arms, be near Him, be looked after by Him, and so on. This is a necessary exercise in the jiva’s evolution. But this should not be the destination of the spiritual journey. The spiritual journey is marked by graduating from dvaita bhakti to Advaita bhakti as taught in the Gita 12th chapter verses 8 thru 11, in the reverse order. Thus, these ideas of difference are totally out of place in the Upanishadic sphere. They simply cannot fit the Upanishadic teaching of the Infinitude and Non-duality of Consciousness whether one calls It Brahman or Atman or Advaitam. This does not mean that Jnani-s having the Advaitic realization are incapable of saguNa bhakti. There are innumerable instances in the lives of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and others showing the coexistence of dvaita-bhakti alongside advaitic realization. The bhakti of the saadhana state manifests in its completely mature form in the realized souls.
Verse 14 of Shivanandalahari:
प्रभुस्त्वं दीनानां खलु परमबन्धुः पशुपते
प्रमुख्योऽहं तेषामपि किमुत बन्धुत्वमनयोः ।
त्वयैव क्षन्तव्याः शिव मदपराधाश्च सकलाः
प्रयत्नात्कर्तव्यं मदवनमियं बन्धुसरणिः ॥
O Lord of creatures! Are You not the Almighty as also the greatest friend of the miserable, of whom I am the chief? Is there not, then, a close kinship between us two? Therefore, O You bestower of good, You should forgive all my transgressions and work for my salvation even if it be fraught with difficulty. For this is the test of close relationship everywhere.
Verse 68 of the Shivanandalahari:
सदय पशुपते सुपुण्यपाकां
मम परिपालय भक्तिधेनुमेकाम् ॥
O Thou merciful cowherd ! Protect that only cow of mine – the cow of devotion to Thee – which yields continually as milk an endless supply of the nectar of joy, which lives in the cow-pen of Thy holy feet, and which I have acquired as the result of my meritorious deeds.
Verse 27 of the Soundaryalahari:
Japo jalpah shilpam sakalam api mudra-virachana
Gatih pradaksinya-kramanam ashanaadyaahuti-vidhih;
Pranaamah samvesah sukham akilam atmarpana-drsa
Saparya-paryayas tava bhavatu yan me vilasitam.
Let the mutterings that I do, with the yajna in my soul become chanting of your name, Let all my movements become thine Mudras, Let my travel become perambulations around thee, Let the act of eating and drinking become homa-Ahuti sacrifice to thee,
Let my act of sleeping become namaskarams to you , And let all actions of pleasure of mine, become parts of thine worship.
Advaita never equates a jiva to God, Ishwara. In Advaita the concept of Ishwara, God, is different from that of Consciousness, Brahman. This distinction is most unmistakably brought out in these two representative works of Shankaracharya:
In a verse of the ShaTpadee stotram the devotee prays:
Satyapi bhedhapagame nadha thwaham na mamakeenasthwam,
Saamudhro hi tharanga kwachana samudhro na tharanga. 3
Even at the time of true realization, when I see no differences,
I am but a part of you, and you are never my part,
For a wave is a part of the ocean and the ocean can never be a part of the wave.
Then can’t we claim that the jIvAtma is paramAtma? AcArya says no to this ‘ego’ manifestation. Just as the individual wave rises in the ocean and dissolves into the ocean indistinguishably; yet the wave cannot claim that it is the ocean!
This realization is the ultimate form of sharaNAgati/prapatti!
Now contrast this with the opening stanza of the NirvANa ShaTkam where the sAdhaka contemplates:
// I am not the mind, nor the intellect, nor the ego-sense, nor the store-house of memories. I am not the ear, nor the tongue, nor the nose, nor the eyes. Nor am I the sky (space), or the earth, or fire, or air. I am the supreme auspiciousness of the form of consciousness-bliss. I am the auspiciousness. //
Thus while a clear distinction is maintained between the devotee and God (Ishwara), the identity is taught only when the body-mind appendage is separated from the jiva, at the ultimate Consciousness level.
In the realm of ‘difference’, it is possible to visualize the Infinite Brahman as a child, caress it, cuddle it, threaten it, command it to obey one’s bidding and reprimand it if it does not obey. Sri Purandaradasa has given expression to these emotions in an enchanting manner. His songs: ‘Gummana kareyadire’ (lyrics) (listen),’ jagadoddhAraNa’ are just two in this category. Papanasam Sivan’s song: ’enna tavam seidanai Yeshodha..’ is another gem in this line.
The Mandukya Upanishad presents the concept of freedom from all finitude, dependence, limitation, in the clearest terms. All bondage is experienced only within the gamut of the three states: waking, dream and sleep; in a patent form in waking and dream and in a latent form in deep sleep state. This Upanishad, in the 7th mantra, negates the totality of the three states in the Turiya, Brahman, and declares that this is the state where the objective/subjective universe of duality is completely not there: prapanchopashamam. It calls this Advaitam and teaches that this is Atman and exhorts upon the aspirant to realize It as such.
The SAdhana required to attain this realization:
The Scriptures have laid out a three-phased sadhana that will ensure the attainment of this goal: 1. Karma, 2. Bhakti/upAsana and 3.Jnana.
Karma is the performing of actions that we are required to accomplish in our various roles in life. These actions, of the mind, body and speech, are to be done in the manner of worship of the Lord who is the Supreme Power that runs the universe through His shakti called Maayaa. When one progresses in dedicating the fruits of the actions to the Lord and gradually dedicating even the actions and the very ego that functions behind actions as ‘I am the doer’, one attains great purity of mind. One’s mind naturally develops love for the Lord and engages in every action solely to please the Lord, irrespective of whether the Lord is pleased or not. Every action is done in the spirit of ‘arpaNam’, offering, and every fruit of action that comes is taken as ‘prasAda’, the Lord’s loving gift to us. This is the essence of surrender, sharaNAgati. The Lord specifies such bhakti as:
यत: प्रवृत्तिर्भूतानां येन सर्वमिदं ततम् ।
स्वकर्मणा तमभ्यर्च्य सिद्धिं विन्दति मानवः ॥ 18.46
Shankaracharya comments: Him from whom all creation proceeds and Him by whom all this creation is pervaded, That Ishwara who is the AntaryAmin, the Ruler within, when worshipped through one’s allotted actions, there results perfection, in so far as he becomes qualified for the devotion of knowledge – jnAna niShThA.
The Lord promises that He Himself will destroy the bondage-causing-ignorance in such devoted souls and release them from samsara, which is finitude, dependence:
तेषामेवानुकम्पार्थं अहमज्ञानजं तमः ।
नाशयाम्यात्मभावस्थो ज्ञानदीपेन भास्वता ॥ 10.11
// Out of mercy, anxious as to how they may attain bliss, I dwell in their mind which is engaged in thinking exclusively of the Self and destroy the darkness of ignorance – that illusory knowledge which is caused by the absence of discrimination – by the lamp of wisdom, by the lamp of discriminatory knowledge, fed by the oil of pure Devotion (bhakti-prasada), fanned by the wind of earnest meditation on Me, furnished with the wick of right intuition purified by the cultivation of piety, chastity and other virtues, held in the mind which is completely detached from all worldly concerns, placed in the wind-sheltered enclosure of the mind which is withdrawn from the sense-objects and untainted by attachment and aversion, and shining with the light of right knowledge generated by incessant practice of concentration and meditation. //
The above commentary is a complete guide for sadhana by itself, in a concise form. It says everything that is required of an aspirant after liberation: Discrimination, viveka, Dispassion, vairagya, Disciplines – shamAdiShaTka sampatti, Deep desire for liberation – mumukshutvam, and Devotion to the Supreme God. Shankara, commenting on the Bhagavadgita verse 13.18, says:
//Who is fit to attain this right knowledge? He who is devoted to Me, who regards Me, Vasudeva, the Supreme Lord, the Omniscient, the Supreme Guru, as the Self, the Soul, the Essence, of everything, i.e., he who is possessed, as it were, with the idea that all that he sees or hears or touches is nothing but the Lord, Vasudeva. Thus devoted to Me, and having attained the right knowledge described above, he is fit to attain to My state, i.e. he attains Moksha.//
A summing up of the foregoing would enable us to appreciate the Scriptural teaching leading to our Infinite, Unlimited and Independent nature:
- Atman is Infinite. Brahman is Infinite. There cannot be two ‘Infinites’.
- Atman cannot be ‘in’ or ‘near’ or ‘like’ (or in any other conceivable way ‘related’ to) Brahman. Infinite cannot be related to anything; It is the Absolute One Only entity without a second of any kind. To say Brahman is Infinite and at the same time to assert that It is related to something else is a mockery of Infinitude; it is taking away the Absolute status of Brahman and reducing It to the plane of the relative.
- This realization alone results in freedom from finitude and limitations of all kinds.
- The Gita and the Upanishads are the sources for this unique Knowledge. For example, in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad Sage Yajnavalkya declares to King Janaka: abhayam vai Janaka prApto’si. ‘Oh Janaka, thou hast attained to Fearlessness’.
- Upon gaining this knowledge one will realize that there is no ‘I’, ‘you’, ‘we’, ‘that’ and the like; all these are simply impossibilities in the Infinite.
- To gain this knowledge that one is really a spiritual being is the only purpose of this temporary, illusory, human experience. All sAdhanas are directed to achieving this end.
- Finally, the duality of ‘U & I’ is inevitable in parlance; any question and answer is possible only in the language of duality. It is inevitable and hence the title of this article. However, the Absolute position is Advaitam alone brought out by Shankaracharya in this monumental piece:
न शास्त्रं न शास्ता न शिक्षा न शिष्यो
न च त्वं न चाहं न चायं प्रपञ्चः ।
स्वरूपावबोधो न विकल्पासहिष्णुः
तदेकोऽवशिष्टः शिवः केवलोऽहम् ॥
[From the Absolute standpoint there is no scripture, no preceptor, no teaching, no aspirant/listener. There is no ‘you’, no ‘me’, nor is the world of differences. The Real Nature of the Self does not tolerate any such differences. I am That Auspicious Truth that remains un-negated after everything else is negated. Dashashloki 10th verse]
कृष्णं वन्दे जगद्गुरुम्
भव शंकरदेशिक मे शरणम्