Posted by: adbhutam | September 9, 2012


श्रीगुरुभ्यो नमः

In the teaching of Vedanta the process of attaining the liberating knowledge consists of the four-fold steps of shravaNam, mananam, nididhyAsanam and darshanam.  The well-known mantra  ’आत्मा वा अरे द्रष्टव्यः श्रोतव्यो मन्तव्यो निदिध्यसितव्यः’ occurring in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (Br.Up.2.4.5) is a classic example of the four-fold steps, shravaNam, mananam and nididhyAsanam leading to or culminating in Atma darshanam.  There is yet another mantra where this pattern is discernible:

Kathopanishat 1.2. Mantra 13 –

एतत् श्रुत्वा संपरिगृह्य मर्त्यः

प्रवृह्य धर्म्यम् अणुम् एतम् आप्य ।

स मोदते मोदनीयं हि लब्ध्वा

विवृतं सद्म नचिकेतसं मन्ये ॥

The mortal who has heard this teaching and comprehended it well, who has separated that Atman, the very soul of dharma, from all physical objects and has realized the subtle essence, rejoices because he has obtained that which is the cause of rejoicing. The Abode of brahman, I believe, is open for Nachiketa.

एतत् श्रुत्वा Having ‘heard’ this संपरिगृह्य and ‘assimilating’ the teaching मर्त्यः the mortal (jiva) प्रवृह्य upon ‘separating’ धर्म्यम् that which is inseparable from dharma, righteousness अणुम् subtle एतम् this आप्य having ‘obtained’ स he मोदते rejoicesमोदनीयं the most delightfulहि लब्ध्वा having attained/obtainedविवृतं wide open सद्म the abode नचिकेतसं for Nachiketaमन्ये thus do I, Yama, consider.

Here the four elements are:  

  1. श्रुत्वा – corresponding to shravaNam
  2. प्रवृह्य- corresponding to mananam
  3. संपरिगृह्य – nididhyAsanam
  4. आप्य – darshanam or sAkShAtkAra

Here one would notice there is a change in the order mentioned in the Upanishad.  संपरिगृह्य – nididhyAsanam appears in the mantra before  प्रवृह्य- corresponding to mananam.  While understanding the mantra one has to make the appropriate transfer of places of the two words.  Actually ‘प्रवृह्य’ means ‘having separated’.  Here it is the the mental activity of separating the not-self, anAtman, from the Self, the Atman.  This involves yukti, tarka, logic.  Hence this is taken as mananam.  Scholars have pointed out that this kind of ‘changing the order contained in the Upanishad’ is not without a parallel:

The mantra अस्माच्छरीरात् समुत्थाय परं ज्योतिरुपसंपद्य स्वेन रूपेणाभिनिष्पद्यते स उत्तमः पुरुषः’ (chandogya upanishad 8.12.3) is cited by Shankara: इति यदस्य पारमार्थिकं स्वरूपं परं ब्रह्म तद्रूपतयैनं जीवं व्याचष्टे न जैवेन रूपेण।  Brahmasutra bhashya 1.3.19 (उत्तराच्चेदाविर्भूतस्वरूपस्तु

). Here the BhAmatI points out:

तदनेन श्वणमननध्यानाभ्यासाद्विवेकविज्ञानमुक्त्वा तस्य विवेकविज्ञानस्य फलं केवलात्मरूपसाक्षात्कारः स्वरूपेणाभिनिष्पत्तिः, स च साक्षात्कारो वृत्तिरूपः प्रपञ्चमात्रं प्रविलापयन् स्वयमपि प्रपञ्चरूपत्वात्कतकफलवत्प्रविलीयते । तथा च निर्मृष्टनिखिलप्रपञ्चजालमनुपसर्गमपराधीन-प्रकाशमात्मज्योतिः सिद्धं भवति । तदिदमुक्तम् – परं ज्योतिरिति ।अत्र चोपसंपत्तावुत्तरकालायामपि क्त्वाप्रयोगो ’मुखं व्यादाय स्वपिति’ इतिवन्मन्तव्यः । 

The purport of the above citation is:  Through the practice of shravaNam, mananam, dhyAna the discriminative knowledge arises.  The culmination of this knowledge is in the direct realization of the Self without any adjuncts.  This is what is known as ’emerging as one’s very nature’.  This direct realization, sAkShAtkAraH, is of the nature of a vRtti.  This vRtti dispels/resolves the entire world and since it is itself of the world, the vRtti too resolves/gets destroyed just as the ‘kataka’ fruit.  Thus is established/realized the resplendent Self that is totally untouched by the entire world, without any adjuncts and not dependent on any external illumination.  This is being stated by the mantra: param jyotiH – the Supreme Light.  Here, in the mantra even though the ‘attaining’ (‘उपसंपत्तिः) is said to be ‘after’ the ’emerging as one’s very nature’ (स्वेन रूपेण अभिनिष्पद्य),  by use of the suffix ‘क्त्वा’ (which denotes a following sequence), it is to be understood in the manner of ‘he sleeps with mouth open’ where the opened mouth and the sleep are concurrent and not sequential.  In other words, there is no time difference between the ’emerging as one’s very nature’ and  ‘attaining’.

It is in a similar manner the Kathopanishad mantra stated above is to be understood. In the Chandogya mantra the portion  परं ज्योतिरुपसंपद्य स्वेन रूपेणाभिनिष्पद्यते is to be understood as: स्वेन रूपेणाभिनिष्पद्य परं ज्योतिरुपसंपद्यते.  In the Katha mantra the understanding should be: श्रुत्वा (shravaNam) प्रवृह्य (mananam) संपरिगृह्य (nididhyAsanam) आप्य (darshanam/sAkShAtkAraH). 

The above is based on a special talk on the Kathopanishad by Dr.Mani Dravid SastriNaH recently at Chennai.




  1. Dear Adbhutam,

    Re posting this again with proper URL, as requested.

    I had replied a friend’s query on what is the role of sadhana in Vedanta? As it brings the place of Shravana Manana and Ninidhysana, which was topic of the recent entry in the blog , I am sending the reply I had written:

    If one dispassionately observes his or her own disposition one would acknowledge that there is feeling of “something missing”, in and through, all our experiences. It seems to be a constant companion, a background drone, like the sound of bass guitar or tanpura in rock/jazz or Indian classical music, respectively. Not loud enough to shroud other sounds but nevertheless audible. No matter how hard we try we cannot come to terms with it; so we attempt to find ways to thwart it either temporally or, better still, once and for all. It pushes us to engage ourselves into various activities and have experiences which would give us respite, either immediately or later, in form results. Experiences are able to relive us from this nuisance albeit, temporarily. So we have resort to take their aid, repeatedly. We befriend this imposter. In the process we have firmly established a cause and effect relationship between the activities/ experiences and their ability to mitigate this sense of incompleteness (apuranatva). Thus, we remain constantly engaged in action or we seek experiences convinced this is the only way to free ourselves. In nutshell this is samsara.

    Is there a way out?

    Had there been a simple answer, we would not have waited, this long. It a complex problem and there are no simple solutions. Majority of us either do not acknowledge the problem and its gravity, we prefer to live in oblivion or fall for quick fix answers and are consequentially are taken for a ride. A genuine solution cannot come from a source that is sailing in the same (defective) boat. It cannot be like one us, for: “if he could find a way out this maze then I also, by now, should have found it”. So the solution has to be from a more authentic source, not born from ordinary human mind (apurshaya). This is where Vedanta comes in and without beating around the bush, reveals that our essential nature lacks nothing, is complete (purana). This is sole purpose of Upanishads/Vedanta; a qualified teacher uses words and qualified student listens in his presence, ponders and ascertains. (Sharavan, Manan & Ninidhyasana part of Padarth shodhak or antarang sadhana)

    So, the solution of ending samsara lies is recognizing out nature and not in doing action or gaining experiences. This recognition is diametrically contrary to our present orientation and is therefore a tall order. It would require a mind that has the wherewithal (yogyata) to decipher the words of vedanta and see them as reality and not as concepts. (Shakshat sadhana or param- antarang sadhana) For concepts, however magnificent and comforting, will not save us from the onslaught of unpleasant events and eventually death, which no soul has been able to, till date, avoid. But till the time words don’t transmute into what they intend to reveal they have to harbored as concepts, along with implicit and unswerving faith (shraddha) that they are: (a) not just words and they have a corresponding reality and (b) they have the ability to reveal (pramana) the reality of my nature, directly and independently. Mind’s capacity to be able to translate these words is not a just intellectual prowess but more intricate quality of mind (adhikaritvam) that has to be earned by making efforts in the right direction (bahirang & parampara sadhana). It is often naively misunderstood that action in form of efforts will bring about a novel experience that will be the basis of release from menace of samsara. But it can’t be overemphasized that experiencer of any experience is intrinsically free and it is this very insight that forms the basis of release and not any action or experience. But action does have a place in spiritual growth to prepare the mind and endow it with ability to gain this insight. It is these efforts the can be put under the category of “applied” part the teachings.

    Life spent in undertaking these efforts, to grow in this direction, is life well spent. Any advancement in this direction is neither easily visible nor gets endorsement of society/family. Therefore it will be an arduous task and can be undertaken by someone who has total conviction that this is the only worthwhile end to pursue and has gained unequivocal conviction about the meaninglessness of every other goal/experience.(mumukshu) If someone lacks this conviction then he/she should go and pursue whatever he/she sees as meaningful and ascertain its futility in ending samsara. This should not be construed as that we give up everything; for the world, can and does offer many things in life, but will never be able to cease samsara.

    This insight that world has limited capacity to offer, will push us to examine every experience critically and give us ability to discriminate (vivek) based in its worth and thus get dispassionate about many things (vairagya). Both vivek & vairagya are necessary qualities for the seeker of truth. One should learn to drop habits, like a hot potato, when one realizes it does more harm than good. This ability discriminate is not mere IQ; for many cancer specialists continue to smoke inspite of seeing perils of tobacco, day in and day out, and one has to be intelligent enough to be a cancer specialist. Most end up misusing their intellect to justify the habit.

    So one should learn to observe ones thinking patterns and see the tricks our intellect plays to justify our weaknesses. We have an indigenous ability to deceive ourselves and our intellect partakes in this (kutark). Ability to intelligently use the intellect is viveka and to get dispassionate or give up our proclivities, based things based on sound ground, is vairagya. To begin with we should observe and acknowledge these traits and then make necessary efforts to correct ourselves. In this process we discover right values which will be the basis on which we further lead our lives. Since we have discovered these values the hard way they will stay with us good stead.

    We may find that inspite of these efforts our strong proclivities continue to have their say; even though we may know something is detrimental we still may continue pursue them. In this situation one should continue to make efforts despite repeated failures. Also, we can use means that may not have direct, cause and effect relationship, with our problems. These efforts are taken voluntarily, with a certain time period earmarked specially for this (tapas). They can be in form japa or chanting of mantras with an earnest mind. Since the cause and effect relationship between these efforts and their effectiveness to help us grow out of our strong tendencies, is not obvious, we need have shraddha in its efficacy, so that we don’t falter in due course.

    The use of ‘will’ should be based on sound ‘understanding’ of ‘why’ and ‘what for’ it is used; it is ‘informed will’ that will reap results that would lead you to find an everlasting solution. If we examine the spiritual market we find majority of teachers, dispense prescriptions for making efforts, without instilling the values or on the other hand, some (Jiddu Krishnamurti) completely dismiss use of will. Both these approaches become futile, after certain period of time, leading to despondency within the disciples.

    In worldly endeavors ‘will’ has played a pivotal role in determining the outcome. We have supreme confidence in ourselves; we think can maneuver the course of events, according to, our whims and fancies. Here too we think results will come at our behest, after we have done our bit. But every earnest seeker, sooner or later, realizes the falsity of this position and realizes his or her inherent limitations. As one realizes his limited abilities one should simultaneously appreciate the omniscience and omnipotence of another entity, Ishawara. We realize it is only by His grace we can make headway in these sacred matters. We establish a relationship with Ishawara based on reverence (bhakti) and relate with Him through various rituals (upasana).

    We see: His laws are just; his decree, infallible; his might, invincible. We can’t, but surrender. This surrender leads to acceptance of any unfavorable events that happen with us or around us. This also helps us to jettison lot of our concerns and anxieties about the future and regrets of our past; for both ‘will be’ and ‘were’, as per His wishes.

    All this purifies the mind (antarkaran shuddhi) to discover its essential nature as fulfilled entity. There can’t be a greater blessing than this discovery.

    Sadhana in Vedanta are divided into four categories:

    1 .Karam shodhak or parampara sadhana:

    This includes:

    a. Dharma (yagna dana & tapas)
    b. Upasana and
    c. Yog

    2. Karan shodhak or bahirang sadhana:

    This includes:

    a. Vivek
    b. Vairagya
    c. Shat sampati (sham dam uparatti titiksha shradhha & sanadhan)
    d. Mumkshtva

    3. Padarth shodhak or antarang sadhana:

    This includes:

    a. Sharavan
    b. Manan
    c. Ninidhyasana

    4. Shakshat sadhana or param- antarang sadhana

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