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:
- श्रुत्वा – corresponding to shravaNam
- प्रवृह्य- corresponding to mananam
- संपरिगृह्य – nididhyAsanam
- 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
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.