by Swami Krishnananda
Though the Yogins who are engaged in meditation and are endowed with an acute discriminative faculty do recognise the Bliss of Brahman in actual experience, as also during occasions of the cessation of Rajas in the mind, and at the time when there is an impression left by the Bliss of Brahman after its experience in the state of sleep; yet, the more ignorant ones cannot discover this Bliss so easily due to their minds being affected with greater amounts of Rajas and Tamas. On account of the performance of Dharma and Adharma, or meritorious deeds and sinful deeds, the cycle of births and deaths is kept on revolving, and the Jiva, thus, takes countless births. It may, therefore, appear that, perhaps, there is no way at all for dull-witted persons to get out of the wheel of Samsara. But, really, the way of Sadhana being vast and all-comprehending, there is to be found a way for everyone placed in any circumstance in life. The moment there is a commencement of the sacrifice of one’s selfishness even in the least degree one is on the right path, though living at a lower level. For those who are of superior understanding the method has already been explained in the eleventh chapter, but to those who are mostly extrovert in nature, unselfish activity and Upasana, or devout contemplation, should be prescribed. By those who are really aspiring and yet are not endowed with a higher understanding, the procedure mentioned below may be adopted.
This procedure has actually been followed by Sage Yajnavalkya in his instructions to his consort, Maitreyi. He holds that everything in this world is desirable and lovable for the sake of the Atman, the True Self. The mind is moved gradually inward in this teaching, by taking into consideration the outward aspects of objects and the external nature of the world. The love between husband and wife, for instance, is a conditioned, personal desire made manifest. If there is an absence of desire either by the call of duty or by diminishing of desire, the love, too, gets diminished. The love is indicated to bring satisfaction to one’s own self in the end, whether in the case of the husband or the wife. Even in mutual love, the incentive is a desire for one’s own happiness. The parent’s love for children is of a similar nature. The parents expect the release of an emotional tension within, in many ways, by which they acquire some pleasure, having no real objective love for children, a fact well known. One does not love wealth for the sake of wealth, because wealth has no consciousness of its own, and it is absolutely desireless. One wishes to make use of it as an instrument for one’s own pleasure. People tend cattle because they expect services from them. A bull, for example, is yoked and made to carry weights, not for its pleasure but for the pleasure of the person concerned. The feeling of satisfaction due to one’s being a Brahmana or Kshatriya, on account of the respectability, power, and so on, which one finds invested on oneself thereby, does not belong to those circumstances of caste, etc., because they are unconscious, and are only attributes, but they bring joy to the mind only of that human being who has a desire of that nature. This is the case with persons in any status of life, or social position, that they may be enjoying. People love to rule in heaven, in Brahmaloka, etc., not with the intention of bringing any good to those regions but for their own enjoyment. This, again, is very clear. Worships offered to deities are meant for achieving some personal ends, overcoming difficulties, and getting rid of troubles, etc. It is never done for the pleasure of the gods so worshipped, because the gods want nothing from men, and it is futile to think that they can be pleased by human actions. Here, again, it is a question of one’s own satisfaction. People study the scriptures, like the Vedas to overcome the stigma of a false status in life. The study is really not concerned with the Vedas, themselves, but with the mind of man alone. Our regard for earth and the other elements is because they give us place and facility to live, and we cannot live without them. The earth is the abode, water quenches thirst, fire gives warmth and enables us to cook our food, air helps us in drying and makes our life-breath function, and space makes our existence itself possible. They are all held by us in great esteem, not for their own sake, but because they are instruments in bringing happiness to us in some way or other. Psychologically, this is the position, but spiritually it is an indication of an inward calling of the Infinite, without which no individual can exist, and whose love is the real meaning behind all empirical loves. It is, as it were, the Infinite summoning the Infinite, when there is an attraction of one thing towards another, because the Infinite Atman is the Source of all Bliss, and it is this Bliss that is the real explanation and the central aim of all thoughts, feelings and actions in this world. The aim of life is the realisation of Brahman, and it is the love for the Bliss of Brahman that appears in this world distortedly and in a broken form as affections for things. The Atman, or Brahman, is the Goal. It is the existence of that Bliss that makes individuals restless here.
All the objects of the world are subsidiary to the love of the Atman, and it is certain that the affection that one has for objects is not entirely for their own sake, but for the satisfaction of one’s own Self, which pulls everything to itself in the different degrees and levels of its expression. Even the good that is done to others is intended to bring the satisfaction to oneself of having done the good act. Even help of various kinds given to others brings about a release of inner tension caused by the feeling of the pain of not being able to see the suffering of others. We can generally say that whatever be the object towards which one cherishes an affection, the object is subsidiary, instrumental, and secondary to the Atman.
No doubt, there are differences in the manifestation of love. For example, when it is in relation to an object not yet possessed, it is called Ichha, or longing. If it is towards God, or Guru, it is called Bhakti, or devotion. If it is towards performance of a Yajna, or sacrifice, etc., it is called Sraddha, or faith. If it is in regard to such objects as wife etc., it is called Raga, or attachment. Nevertheless, it can be said that all these are just ramifications of a primary Sattvika Vritti, whose object is mere pleasure, and which persists whether the object in question is obtained or not obtained, or is removed from oneself. Such things, as food and drink are only external instruments in bringing about happiness to ourselves, and hence lovable on that account; but it cannot be said that the Atman is also merely an agent or instrument in bringing happiness, as food and drink are, because, here, in the case of the Atman, the concept of instrumentality is inapplicable. It cannot be said that the Atman can be both the experiencer and the instrument, at one and the same time, because enjoyership and the object enjoyed cannot be identified with each other and the two cannot be one thing. One never knows enjoying the Atman as an objective pleasure, because the Atman is second to none, and is supreme. In the case of sense-pleasures, our affection is fickle, and is subject to conditions, on account of which it changes from time to time, from person to person, or from one thing to another, as the occasion may demand, but the Atman is unconditionally loved, and this love for the Atman can never be restricted to conditions and circumstances or to anything that is in this world. There is no change whatsoever in the love that one has for one’s own Self, though one may take in one object and abandon another at different times, because of the variety in the pleasures that these objects are supposed to be bringing to oneself. The Atman cannot be abandoned or possessed like the objects of the world. Hence, it is impossible to have attitudes of like and dislike in regard to the Atman. Nor is the Atman an object of our indifference, as, for example, a piece of grass or straw, the Atman being the very essence and nature of the person who tries to develop such an attitude of indifference. The essential Atman is not an object of mental attitude and is not conditioned by personal behaviours. No doubt, it is seen, sometimes, that people who are affected with agonising diseases and overcome by great emotions evince a desire to die. and it may appear that they have a real hatred for the Self, but this is not at all the fact. They never hate their own Self really, but are fed up with some particular unpleasant conditions in their lives, due to which they would prefer to put an end to those conditions which are the causes of the sorrow, but not end the Self itself. Suicide is a love to be free from pain, and not a hatred for oneself. The Atman is the essence of even him who tries to commit suicide. The hatred is not towards the Atman. For all these reasons it should be clear that the Atman is the object of one’s deepest and most genuine love.
This is also seen from such an instance as the father having some affection for his son’s friend, because of his love for his own son. That, again, is ultimately connected with his affection towards himself, and this love is certainly much more that the one he has for his son. Everyone feels: “Let me not cease to be; let me remain always”. This inner prayerful feeling is always present in everyone, from which it is ostensibly clear that there is immense love for one’s own Self. Yet, there are people in this world who, many a time, regard son, wife, etc., as representatives of one’s own Atman and hold that the love which one has for them is real. From the scriptural allusion that one is reborn as one’s son, it is made out that the son is the real Atman of the father and that the son is the true representative of the father on earth, acquired by his past meritorious deeds. But, there is no end to the series of fathers and sons, and so we have to imagine also a series of those transferred Atmans, whereby it may look that the Atman can really be outside one’s Self and loved as an object. It is seen in this world that people have intense love for their children and regard a son as not only a means of their happiness in the other world, but even of their pleasure in this world. It is seen that people are usually unhappy without children and it is a common feeling of the generality of mankind that children are of great importance, as it is seen especially when people are very eager, even when they are about to die, that their family and children are well fixed in society and their properties well safeguarded. They struggle hard to assure the safety and permanency of their family and children even after their own death, all which may make it appear that one’s Atman is transferred to them and they are themselves one’s Atman. This, however, is not the truth.
The relation which the father has with the son, for example, is not really the finding of one’s Self in the son, but is something different and is secondary. For the clarification of the different types of attitude which people have in regard to things, the concept of the Atman may be grouped under three heads: 1) Gauna, or secondary; 2) Mithya, or false; and 3) Mukhya, or primary.
When it is said that a certain person is a lion, one does not really mean that the human being has become a lion. What is intended is that the person concerned has the bravery of a lion. The identification of a human being with a lion is secondary, and not real, because, it is clear that a human being can never become a lion and yet such a comparison is made, only from a particular angle of vision and not in all respects. So is the identification of the father’s Atman with the son. It does not mean that the son is really the Atman of the father, for this can never be, for obvious reasons. The father and the son are two different persons and the connection of the one with the other is mental and not real. There are such secondary relationships established with various other things also in this world, which one regards as dear or lovable. Hence, the secondary self, or the Gauna-Atman, is something lying outside oneself as a personality and not genuinely connected with one’s real Self. But there is another self, the Mithya-Atman, the false self. We know very well that there is a difference between the external sheaths, such as the physical body, and the innermost Consciousness, because Consciousness never becomes an object at any time; yet this distinction is not seen. There is a false superimposition of the Consciousness on the Kosha, or the sheath, and so this superimposed self is naturally the Mithya self, or the false self. However, in the real Atman, or the Mukhya-Atman, there is no such distinction as is seen between the Gauna-Atman and the Mithya-Atman. The Mukhya-Atman or the Primary Self has nothing set in opposition to it, because there is nothing second to it and it is the inner Self or the essential Being of everything, including the Gauna-Atman and the Mithya-Atman. Hence, by inordinate attachment to a particular concept of the self, viz., Gauna, Mithya and Mukhya, one regards the former two as secondary, taking one alone as primary, for the fulfilment of a specific purpose under a given set of circumstances. Suppose a person is about to die, and at that time he has a desire that his house etc. should be protected even after his death, who will do it? Not the Universal or the Absolute Atman, because it is changeless and unattached to things. Not also the Mithya-Atman, or the body, because it is about to die. There is only one thing remaining, which will be of use to fulfil this desire, namely, one’s own children, or wife, and the like. Here, again, it should be remembered that we do not regard one’s son really as one’s own self, and this is done only in a secondary sense, just for the purpose of keeping intact one’s property etc., and not for other purposes, just as, when we say that the student is fire, we say so only to indicate that the student is bright like fire, and not that the fire itself is the student, because such a meaning would be unsuited to the context as an unwarranted and extended utilisation of the idea of the Gauna-Atman. But when one says, “I am thin and lean”, “I shall take nutritious diet and put on fat”, etc., naturally, only the body is meant here by the term ‘I’, and not others, such as son, etc. When one expresses a feeling, “I shall perform penance and go to heaven”, one means the individual self, or the Vijnana-Atman, and not the other Atmans, the body, the son, and so on, because even disregarding the comforts of the body one performs for this sake such austerities as Chandrayana, etc. When one says, “I shall attain Moksha, or liberation”, the Atman meant here is not children, or property, or body, or even one’s own individuality, but the Pure Consciousness within, which one comes to know by resorting to a suitable Guru, and study of scripture under him. After knowing that, one does nothing else, having no desire for anything other than meditation on Brahman.
The scripture enjoins a sacrifice called Barhaspatya-Sava on a Brahamana, Rajasuya on a Kshatriya, Vaisya-stoma on a Vaisya, wherein one person becomes relevant in regard to a particular sacrifice, and the other irrelevant and secondary. The point illustrated is that something is primary for a particular purpose and other things are secondary. The point illustrated is that something is primary for a particular purpose and other things are secondary, and in this manner different things may become primary or secondary from the standpoints of different kinds of utility. Love is supreme in regard to the Primary Self in any particular condition, and the remaining ones do not command such love, but remain Gauna, or secondary. At any given moment, only a particular idea of self is taken as primary and supreme love is evinced in accordance to it, regarding others as non-essential or secondary. The love which we have for ordinary things is not unconditional. It is just nominal, but that which is neither the primary self nor the object befitting one’s pleasure becomes the object of indifference, and in regard to this we have neither supreme love nor even ordinary love.
Now those objects for which we have no love at all may be either objects of total indifference or of hatred. The straw, for example, seen on the way is an object of our indifference. A tiger or a cobra is an object of hatred or fear. Thus, there is the Primary Atman for which we have supreme love, the secondary Atman for which we have only ordinary love, the object of indifference, and the object of hatred, and as regards these four types of classification, we cannot lay down a standard and say that certain things are always dear, or always hateful, or always objects of indifference, etc., because as times change and circumstances differ, we have different attitudes and consider different things as desirable and undesirable, etc. Take, for example, the instance of a tiger. If it comes to attack us from the front, it becomes a detestable object. If it runs away in the opposite direction it becomes an object of indifference. But if it has been domesticated and is tended at home, it becomes an object of affection. Though there is no particular determination as to whether something is lovable or otherwise at all times, yet the practical world goes on the assumption and acceptance of there being such a thing as being conducive to our happiness, or opposed to our interests, or sometimes just lying outside our concern itself. The Atman is very dear, the object connected with it is ordinarily dear in a secondary fashion, but other things than these are either disliked or ignored. This is the way the world regards things.
This is also the opinion of the Sage Yajnavalkya, as stated in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. The Atman is dearer than son, dearer than wealth, dearer than everything else, because it is nearer than and interior to everything. Hence, it is the dearest of all things. By careful investigation on the basis of scriptural teachings one comes to know that the Sakshin, or the Witnessing Consciousness, alone, is the true Atman, and nothing else, and this investigation consists in a differentiation of the five external sheaths from the innermost Consciousness, and fixing the vision on Truth. That is the true Consciousness, Self-luminous in nature, by which the appearance and the disappearance of the various states like waking, dreaming and deep sleep are known, and which, therefore, is apart from these different various states. All things, right from the inner Prana, up to outward things as wealth, are secondary to the Atman, and our affection for these various things is in proportion to the nearness of anyone of these. The degree of our nearness determines the degree of our affection for them. So, for instance, the son is dearer than wealth, one’s own body is dearer than son, the senses are dearer than body, the Prana is dearer than the senses, and the Supreme Atman is dearer than even the Prana, or life itself.
This being the truth, the scripture, nevertheless, delineates the controversy between the wise and the ignorant for the sake of the understanding of the student, so that the student may be aware of the difference between wisdom and ignorance. The truth, however, remains that the Atman is the object of Supreme Love. The knower of Truth holds that the inner Witnessing Consciousness alone is real, while the ignorant persons think that there are other things also in this world, like wife, children, property, etc., which are meant for the pleasure of the Atman; but the Upanishad warns us that this is not the fact. The Sage says that if you hold anything other than the Atman as dear, you shall lose what you hold as dear, and that what you consider as dear shall make you weep one day. This expression of the Sage may act as an instruction to the disciple or as a curse on the person who obstinately opposes the Truth of the Atman. We shall be bereft of what we consider as dear if the dear object is different from the Atman. The disciple endeavours to recognise the defects in the ordinary objects of the world, which are usually considered as dear.
For instance, let us take the case of a son. The parents are unhappy when they see no chance of getting a child, and if there is any chance, there is anxiety whether the birth will be safe or not. If the birth becomes all right, there is no knowing whether the child will be affected by some fit or disease. Even supposing that this is averted, the child may turn out a dull-wit, and even when instructed may not be able to acquire any learning. There is the anxiety of finding a match; there is the chance of the youth going astray; there is a possibility of his becoming poor; and even if everything goes well, one cannot know when death will overtake the person. The miser of the parents knows no end, whether they have children, or no children. Such sort of discrimination should be extended to all things in the world which we regard as dear possessions of ours, and abandoning our love for them, the love should be centred in the Supreme Atman alone. When such a spiritual love is developed, we begin to contemplate on the Atman with unshakeable fixity, continuously, without break. Those, however, who cling to perishable things and do not give up their obstinacy in holding that the world is all and that there is nothing above, that the objects are lovable and they are primary - they suffer unending misery in lower births, where there will be contact with undesirable things and separation from desirable ones. There is even the chance of falling into lowest regions, like hell.
The Upanishad affirms that everything shall desert a person if the person considers that everything is different from oneself. As a knower of Brahman is veritably Brahman himself, he is like God, Isvara, having Omnipotence, and whatever he says shall become true, whether it is said in regard to a disciple, or an opponent. He who, however, knows the inner Witnessing Atman as Supreme and adores it as an object of the highest love, such a thing which he holds as dear will never be separated from him. The object loved, then, will never be destroyed, because the object, here, is the Supreme Absolute itself. The Atman, being the object of the greatest affection, should be regarded as the Source of the highest Bliss, also. The greater the affection, the greater is the feeling of pleasure in a thing. The degrees of pleasure felt in different degrees of love are explained in the Taittiriya Upanishad, where the gradation of Bliss is described in detail. This Bliss of the Atman is not so patent and revealing in ordinary life. Though the modifications of the mind operate equally in waking life and we are mostly conscious, we are not always blissful or happy; as a lamp kept in a room has two properties, heat and light, and it emanates both these qualities simultaneously; yet it is seen that the heat of the lamp is not felt so much as the light of it, which reaches a longer distance than the heat in it.
Moreover, we may compare the situation and the revelation of the Consciousness and Bliss of the Atman to the perception of the different qualities in a flower, for example. Though the qualities in a flower are present as a single unit, yet each is grasped independently by a particular sense-organ and not by another sense-organ. So is the case of Consciousness and Bliss in the Atman. The unity of the Consciousness and Bliss are felt in the Atman in the same manner as there is a feeling of the unity of the different qualities in a flower which contains these qualities in itself. But, just as the one compact existence of the qualities of the flower is differently grasped by different senses, so is the one unit of Consciousness and Bliss in the Atman grasped and revealed differently by different Vrittis or modifications of the mind. Bliss can be revealed only by the Sattva-Vritti of the mind, and Consciousness follows it, so that when a Sattva-Vritti operates, Consciousness and Bliss are revealed together, because Sattva is pure and transparent. The Rajas-Vritti is disturbed and impure, and hence, the Bliss of the Atman cannot be revealed through it. As the property of a thing can be suppressed by addition of salt to tamarind to lessen its sourness, the mixing up of the impure element in the form of Rajas suppresses the revelation of the Bliss of the Atman. The clear Vritti of Sattva reveals Existence, Consciousness and Bliss; the Rajas-Vritti reveals Existence and Consciousness alone; while in Tamas, Existence alone is felt and no other quality.
To have this realisation, one may practise Yoga or Jnana. Both lead to the same result, because their aim is the same, though their ways are different. The differences in the practice of Yoga and Jnana are due to the differences in the temperaments of the seekers. There is no difference in the path itself. Various ways of spiritual life have been laid down to suit the differing endowments of human beings. The absence of love and hatred, the attainment of knowledge, and the transcendence of dualistic perception, are all the same both in the Yogin and the Jnanin. How can there be likes and dislikes when the Atman is known as the sole Reality and nothing second to it is seen anywhere? Both the Yogin and the Jnanin have the ordinary human consciousness when they are actually not in the state of realisation and behave like ordinary beings in the world, but when they are actually in the state of Super-Consciousness, or Atmanubhava, they do not see the duality of the world. One who is established in Advaita-Consciousness through Jnana, and one who is established in Samadhi through Yoga, will not perceive duality. When there is a recognition of the Atman and an establishment in it, together with a rising of the mind above the diversity of the world, the Jnanin is a Yogin, and the Yogin is a Jnanin, both meaning the same thing.
This analysis of the Primary Atman, as different from the secondary and the false concepts of self, has been done for the sake of those whose understanding is not sharp enough to practise the ways described in the previous chapter. (Verses 1-90)