by Swami Sivananda
Commentary by Swami Krishnananda
1. The Guru said: He who thinks "I am the body, This body is mine, She is my wife, He is my son, I am a Brahmin, I am fat, I am black, I am a Pundit" is an ignorant man. He is bound.
The person who asserts the existence of separate beings is an ignorant man. His life is one of bondage merely. The length of time taken by an individual to possess a desired object is proportional to the intensity of the individual's feeling of identification of itself with the Infinite and the Absolute. The individual which feels that three-fourth of the entire existence is its own self and that one-fourth is not its own being realises a desired end quicker than the one which feels that only half of the entire existence is its self. People who feel that their own individual bodies are their self and that everything else of the universe is different from them can never live a happy life. The happiest person, thus, is the one who has lost his personality in the realization of the truth that the entire existence is his own being and that there is nothing second to him. He becomes the Immortal Being.
All beings are deluded by Prakriti. The feeling that body is the self and that persons connected with that body are all dear is so hard to overcome that even advanced men, learned and clever, are unable to transcend this feeling, in spite of philosophical reflections. The problem of life is not an intellectual trouble but a sense ingrained in the Jiva's being itself. Hence shallow thinking and arm-chair-philosophy cannot solve the riddle of the universe. It is a question of sacrificing one's self, the price for Immortality is one's own existence.
2, 3. He who thinks "I am not the body; I am all-pervading, changeless, immortal, indivisible, self-contained, self-existent, Sat-Chit-Ananda Brahman" is a wise sage. He is free.
Wisdom is an integrating force. It is all-unifying and all-embracing. It discards nothing from its purview, it enters the core of every being. The man of wisdom feels the all-pervading and massive character of the Reality which constitutes the stuff of the beings that appear in the universe. He identifies himself with that stuff itself and hence the formations thereof become his own being.
The assertion of the changeless, immortal, indivisible, self-contained, self-existent, Satchidananda Brahman is wisdom. According to Lord Krishna, wisdom consists in humility, unpretentiousness, non-injuriousness, uprightness, service of the teacher, purity, steadiness, self-control, renunciation of sense-objects, absence of egoism, reflection on the evils of birth, death, old age, sickness and pain, non-attachment, non-identification of the self with son, wife, house, etc., constant even-mindedness in the occurrence of the desirable and the undesirable, unswerving devotion to the Real, feeling of identity of the self with the Truth, resort to sequestered places, distaste for the society of men, constant resort to spiritual knowledge, and understanding the goal of the Reality. Everything else is ignorance.
The wise man hates no creature, is friendly and compassionate towards all, is free from the feelings of "I" and "mine", is even-minded in pain and pleasure, is forbearing, is ever content and steady in meditation, is self-controlled, is possessed of firm conviction, has his mind and intellect fixed on the Reality or Brahman. Such a person is illumined by the Highest Wisdom.
These are the signs of wisdom and not the being of wisdom itself. The Being of Wisdom is Absolute Oneness of Consciousness. Every virtue is the outcome of this supreme Attainment.
4. He who thinks "I did this work; so I will go to heaven; I enjoyed such and such a thing" is an ignorant man.
He who asserts his egoism is an ignorant person. Egoism is the real doer of all actions. It is egoism that creates space for action and deposits its impressions in the Chitta. The most potent method of eradicating this evil ego is the complete surrendering of it to a Person or persons or to the Absolute. Bhakti-Yoga, Karma-Yoga, and Jnana-Yoga are respectively the methods which take recourse to these three aspects of ego-destruction.
The science of selflessness, thus, embodies in itself the processes of the entirety of the systems of all Yogas. A truly selfless act wants nothing at all in particular space or time. It is a natural outflow of the Truth in itself like an overflow of waters within themselves in a river that is in floods. Such a service or tending is not meant to enjoy the gratitude of the person served or usefulness of the animal tended, but for a transformation of the separative consciousness through an expansion of it into universality by disintegrating it into a thousand different fragments or annulling it by an all-embracing love expressing Infinity.
Such stored up feelings of selfless satisfaction effected through self-denial which would otherwise have been dispersed and spread out externally for the purpose of selfish enjoyment derivable through the contact with objects, act as a powerful spade to dig out the depths of the ego and throw it off into the abyss of Infinite Experience. Every act, in common parlance, is directed towards the achievement of an end particularised in time and limited by space. But a truly unselfish act done for no particular object in view is a challenge to the separative ego which cannot live without relating itself to something that is marked in space and time. Such an act which fails to feed the individual self-sense with its diverse requirements compels the relative self-interest to dissolve itself in the Absolute-Interest, which soars high above the limitations of Space and Time and engages itself in its establishment in the perfect satisfaction and the uncontradicted experience of Completeness and utter Reality. The disappearance of egoism is at onement with the Divine Presence.
5. He who thinks "Prakriti does everything, I am only witness, I am non-doer, I am non-enjoyer," is a wise sage.
Prakriti or Nature is the real doer of all actions. Prakriti is understood as the concrete appearance of a universal power which is other than the essence of the Reality. This has got both a cosmical and an individualistic significance. As the cosmical energy Prakriti works the evolution of the mass of beings constituting the universe and as the individualistic energy it brings about the activity of the Jiva.
Action binds the Jiva when it considers itself as the doer of the action. The Intelligence of the Atman is reflected through the Vijnanamaya Kosha which is predominated by distraction and activity and which limits the Self to Jivahood. The actions of the superficial sheaths are superimposed on the taintless Self. The creative push of Prakriti which is inherent in every individual causes the individual to be helplessly driven to act. No amount of protest on the part of the Jiva can stop Prakriti from functioning. The only course that the individual has to take is to be a silent witness of the actions of the superficial nature and be unconcerned with the effects of those involuntary actions.
The self is in fact neither a doer nor an enjoyer. It is Nature that acts as such. The feeling of Sakshittwa of the self should be cultivated as long as the neutral active tendencies cannot be checked. When the active impulses are withdrawn through the meditative force, Sakshi-bhava gives way to Samata-drishti or Aikya-bhava or the feeling of equanimity and oneness in life. This again gives rise to the still higher step, Brahmabhava, where the actions of Prakriti are interdicted through the generation of spiritual power, and the One Brahman alone is perceived in everything.