by Swami Krishnananda
Upādāne vinaṣṭe’pi kṣaṇaṁ kāryaṁ pratīkṣate, ityāhus tārkikā stadvad asmākaṁ kim na saṁbhavet (54). Tantūnāṁ dina saṅkhyānāṁ taistādṛk kṣaṇa īritaḥ, bhramasyā saṅkhya kalpasya yogyaḥ kṣaṇa iheṣyatām (55). The prarabdha karma, which is the cause of this present body, permits the continuance of this body for some time, as long as the force of this prarabdha has not exhausted itself. The Naiyayikas, or logicians, also hold the view that when the effect is produced from a cause, the nature of the cause persists in the effect for some time, even if it be only for a moment. In a similar manner, the continuance of this body, though it be for some years, should really be considered as only a continuance for a moment in the light of eternity and the long duration of the astronomical cosmos.
If we are able to live in this world for fifteen years, it cannot be regarded as a great achievement because what are fifteen years, twenty years or even thirty years in this vast universe where the sun has been shining for millions of years and the stars have been there for millions of years? Even this mountain in front of us has been there – for how many years, nobody knows. So many people have come and gone; this mountain has seen them in this place.
Therefore, there is no need for any kind of extra exultation on the body’s being there and continuing for some time. The continuance of the body is no advantage to the soul. It is only the lingering of an illness. Even after a person has been declared fit and is discharged from the hospital, something lingers.
Anyway, the Upanishads proclaim that ‘such’ a person will not have rebirth. The description here is in regard to a jivanmukta purusha who has no sanchita karma or agami karma left in him, but prarabdha continues. What causes rebirth is not prarabdha, because prarabdha is that particular allotted portion of karma which is to be worked out only through this body. It is not to be carried forward to the next body. What causes the birth of the new body is the fresh allotment of karma that is made out of the storehouse of sanchita karmas – the accumulated potencies of past actions lying in the deep unconscious level of our personality in the anandamaya kosha. This has been burnt up in the case of the jivanmukta purusha.
There are three kinds of karmas. All the potentials of past deeds are stored up as in a granary, and a little of these items in the storeroom are brought forward to the shop front for retail selling. The shopkeeper does not bring the entire stock to the forefront. When the commodities kept for retail sale are exhausted or are about to be exhausted, he brings fresh stock from the storeroom.
Sanchita karma is like this storeroom which contains all the potencies of our deeds performed in thousands of births that we have taken earlier. Inasmuch as one single body cannot experience the fruits of all these actions, it has been arranged that many, many bodies have to be taken in order that different kinds of karmas may be experienced. Else, if all the karmas have to be worked out through one body only, the karmas will crush this body to such an extent that it will not be there even for a moment. The body will crumble immediately due to the weight of these karmas.
Hence, the arrangement of cosmic law is so very careful. Wishing that all karmas have to be worked out, and yet it is not possible for any person to individually work out all karmas through one body, the arrangement is that we will have many, many bodies. One particular body will be able to undergo the fruit of one kind of karma; another body will be necessary to work out the fruit of another kind of karma. And so, a systematic arrangement has been made in this manner.
When a particular body is born due to the working of the ‘retail’ or shopfront karma that has been taken out from the storehouse of sanchita, the consciousness of the person gets identified with the body very intensely; and due to the attachment to this body, further karmas are done. More and more deeds are performed. That is, we have been born into this world with this body due to some karma of the past. But are we keeping quiet now? We are busy doing something even in this birth, even through this body. This ‘being busy’ is also a cause for adding further karmas to the storeroom. Thus, the store of karmas will never be exhausted.
Now in the case of the jivanmukta – the person who has been illumined with the nature of God, Brahman – the old store of karmas has been burnt up and, therefore, there is no chance of another body being born for him. The agami karma, or the karma created by fresh actions, will also not be there because he is wise enough not to entangle himself in any fresh action. So neither will he do any fresh action to add to the old store, nor is the old store there; it is burnt up. The only thing that remains is this prarabdha. When that is exhausted, he will attain videhamukti, Universal salvation.
Vinā kṣoda kṣamaṁ mānam tair vṛthā parikalpyate, śruti yuktyanu bhūtibhyaḥ vadatāṁ kiṁ nu duḥ śakam (56). Āstāṁ dustār kikaiḥ sākaṁ vivādaḥ prakṛtaṁ bruve, svā’hamoḥ siddha mekatvaṁ kūṭastha pariṇāminoḥ (57). This verse deals with some quibble that the author has brought in the middle, which is not connected with the actual subject of discussion – the difference between the Naiyayikas and the Vedantins with regard to the effect that is produced by the cause, and the cause persisting in the effect for some time, etc. It is a diversion from the main subject. Now we come to the main subject.
The main theme is: The Self and the I-consciousness attached to this body have been identified one with the other, and then we begin to feel that we are an individual personality. Kutastha is the innermost Universal Atman; parinami is the ego-consciousness, the transient personality. These two have been mixed up together; and then what happens? The permanency of the Kutastha chaitanya makes us feel that we are here to live for a long time, but the brittleness of the body makes us sometimes suspect that long life is not possible. Yet, the point is, the Self is different from the body-consciousness or from the ‘I’ that is attached to the body.
Bhrāmyante paṇḍitaṁ manyāḥ sarve laukika tairthikāḥ, anādṛtyā śrutiṁ maurkhyāt kevalāṁ yukti māśritāḥ (58). Here mere logic does not work. People who are accustomed to rely only on logical arguments, not basing the logic on the conclusions of the sruti or the Upanishads, do not come to any conclusion in regard to the relationship between the true Self and the false self.
There are three kinds of self, known as mukhyatman, mithyatma and gaunatman. The mithyatman is the false encumbrance that has grown over the Primary Self, the Kutastha or the mukhyatman, in the form of the five sheaths – annamaya, pranamaya, manomaya, vijnanamaya, anandamaya. These five sheaths are false superimpositions and, therefore, they are called mithyatman, unreal self.
The Kutastha, or the real Atman inside, is called mukhyatman or the primary Self. There is a third Atman called the gaunatman, the object that is attractive and is loveable. One hugs an object of affection by pouring selfhood on that object. People say, "Oh my dear, this is my very self!" The mother tells the child, "You are my very self." How could the child become the self of the mother? She has transferred her selfhood into the object, which is the child. Gold and silver are the self of the money-minded businessman. There are so many things in this world over which we pour our selfhood.
Unless we pour our selfhood on something, we cannot love that thing. Love is nothing but the movement of the self in respect of an object outside; and to the extent that the self is lost inside and it is poured more and more outside, to that extent we seem to be less significant and the object seems to be more significant. This is a travesty of affairs where the object seems to become the subject, and the subject has been completely annihilated. This is called gaunatman, or the secondary self, the object that is affectionate. The false self is the five sheaths. Mukhyatman is the primary Self, which is the Kutastha Atman, the Universal Being within us.
Pūrvā para parāmarśa vikalā statra kecana, vākyā bhāsān sva sva pakṣe yojayantya pyalajjayā (59). Kūṭasthādi śarīrānta saṅghāta syātma tāṁ jaguḥ, lokāyatāḥ pāmarāśca pratyakṣā bhāsa māśritāḥ (60). Foolish people have no proper understanding of the distinction that is really there between the Kutastha Atman and the false self, which is the five sheaths, and not knowing the distinction between these two, they consider this personality as the real being. "My friend is coming. Here is my father. This is so-and-so." These statements are a mix-up of ideas because when we say, "This is my father," we do not know what actually it is that we are demonstrating by pointing to some personality. The Universal Atman cannot be regarded as a father. The five sheaths are also not the father, because they have no consciousness. Actually, we cremate the body of the father when he is dead.
Now, the sheaths are not the father; and the Atman is also not the father. Who is it that we call the father? It is an imaginary concoction of ideas in the brain by mixing up two issues: the foisted superimposed false self of the five sheaths over the real Universality on the one hand, and the transferring of the character of permanency or Universality to the individuality of the five sheaths.
Human beings are, therefore, not existent entities. They are only a complex of two issues – the phenomenal and the noumenal. The phenomenal is not the real, and the noumenal cannot become the particular. So actually, no individual can be regarded as real by itself. It is a false appearance – yourself, myself, and everything in the world. They become appearances because they have no substance by themselves except by a mix-up of two issues: partly the noumenal, and partly the phenomenal.
Ignorant people, unlettered individuals, atheists and materialists consider the body itself as the reality. They think the physical body consisting of the five elements is the only thing that is visible to the eyes, and that which is not seen is not real. If it is not seen, it cannot be real. This is the pure materialist point of view; it is based on observation and experiment. And all observation, experiment and investigation scientifically conducted are based on the visibility of the object. Invisible things cannot be made the object of scrutiny in this manner.
The material concept has gone so deep into the minds of people that we sometimes call them materialists or lokayatas, worldly people who, following the example of the great leader called Virochana, consider the body as the final reality.
It appears that once upon a time Prajapati, the great creator, made a statement: "This Atman is to be contacted, realised and experienced. Then everything that one wishes becomes one's own." This was heard by Indra and the gods, and the demons led by Virochana. "Oh there is something called the Atman, by knowing which we can have everything that we want. Let us have it!" So Indra and Virochana both went to Brahma. Said Prajapati, "How have you come, sir?"
Indra/Virochana: "We have heard that the Atman must be known; and if it is known, whatever we want, we will get. Please teach us."
Prajapati: "Stay here for thirty-two years, observing self-restraint. I shall tell you what it is."
They stayed there with Brahma for thirty-two years. After that, they said, "Please teach us the Atman. Please teach."
Prajapati: "Go and look at yourself in the water, and what you see there is the Atman." Indra and Virochana went, and they saw themselves reflected in the water. What did they see? The physical body – this is the Atman. Very surprising! Virochana said, "This is the Atman! Wonderful! This is the Atman. This is the body." He returned and proclaimed to the demons, "I have known the Atman. This very thing that you are seeing with your eyes is the Atman."
But Indra did not feel satisfied. A big story it is! He went several times to Brahma and then got initiated into the true Atman. Anyway, Virochana is the one who was misguided by the first instruction of Brahma and thought that the physical body is the Atman. His followers are called lokayatas, materialists who do not believe in anything except the physical elements.
Śrautī kartuṁ svapakṣaṁ te kośa manna mayaṁ tathā, virocanasya siddhāntaṁ pramāṇaṁ prati jajñire (61). Annamaya kosha, or the physical sheath, is regarded by them as all-in-all. Eat, drink and be merry. This is a statement that is readily attributed to the lokayatas, or the materialists.
Jīvātma nirgame deha maraṇa syātra darśanāt, dehāti rikta evātmeti āhur lokāyatāh pare (62). There are certain polished materialists who do not believe that this body is really the Self, because they feel that the body perishes. That would mean that the Atman also perishes. Such a self is useless, undesirable. There must be something which persists after the destruction of the body. That something which is a subtle potential – a subtle element, which is supposed to be there after the passing of the body – should be considered as the Self; this is something that is opined by certain well-educated materialists.
Pratyakṣatva nābhimatā haṁdhīr dehāti rekiṇam, gamaye dindri yātmānaṁ vacmī tyādi prayogataḥ (63). There are others who feel that the body cannot be the Self because the body is moved by the sense organs. Visibly we can see that the consciousness of I-ness is associated with some activity that is not entirely capable of identification with a physical body. Sensations, the perceptions, are the functions of certain principles in us which cannot be identified with the body.
Indriya, or the self which is constituted of the sensations, should be considered as reality. This doctrine that holds sensations to be the Ultimate Reality is called sensationalism. Materialism is the doctrine of the reality of matter only. Sensationalism is the doctrine that suggests that the senses constitute the criterion of judgement of any kind of value in the world.
Vāgādīnā mindriyāṇāṁ kalahaḥ śrutiṣu śrutaḥ, tena caitanya meteṣām ātmatvaṁ tata eva hi (64). In the Upanishads there are anecdotes where the sense organs such as the eye, the ear, etc. supposedly contended among themselves which is superior, because the prana started saying, "Who among us is superior? He, by the exit of whom others cannot exist, may be regarded as superior. Let somebody quit; after that, if the reat of us become miserable, then we may say that person (sense) is superior."
So the eye left; he went away. But even if the eyes were not there, there was no problem. The ears could hear, nose could smell, the tongue could taste, etc. Then the ear said, "I am very important. Let me quit, and let us see what happens." The ears left, but nothing happened. If the ears were not there they could not hear, of course, but they could see, and many other things could be done.
So it was found that none of the organs could be regarded as more superior than the others. But when the prana said, "I am superior, and I shall quit," then all the senses started shaking. It looked as if the whole building was cracking because when the prana goes, the senses break down immediately. So all the senses said, "Don't go, don't go! Please, we accept you as superior." Then they all worshipped him.
This kind of contention among the sense organs is a story that is recorded for us in the Upanishads, on account of which we may say that there is some reality in the sense organs; and so a kind of selfhood may be attributed to the senses, but not necessarily to the body.
But there are others who say, "Prana is the real Self, not merely the sense organs, because it has been illustrated and proven in this analogy, the story of contention among the senses, that prana is superior. The senses are not superior, so we cannot consider the senses as the Self. It is the prana that is the real Self, the vital Self. The physical self, the sensational self, all have gone. Now the vital self presents itself. It is a manifestation of the cosmic prana, Hiranyagarbha. Those who worship Hiranyagarbha say, "Prana is the supreme Self."
Hairaṇya garbhāḥ prāṇātma vādina stveva mūcire, cakṣurādya kṣalope’pi prāṇa sattve tu jīvati (65). Even if all the senses are not there, even if we are blind, deaf and dumb, but if the prana is there, we are alive. So the prana should be considered as the true Self, because prana is alive even when we are asleep. Even when the senses are stifled, as it were, as in the state of sleep, and are not conscious, the prana is awake like a watchman; and so we must consider the prana as superior to all the senses.
Prāṇo jāgarti supte’pi prāṇa śraiṣṭhyā dikaṁ śrutam, kośaḥ prāṇamayaḥ samyak vistareṇa prapañcitaḥ (66). Even in sleep, the prana is awake. The pranamaya kosha should be considered as the Self. The vital sheath is the reality; vitality is the Self. This is one doctrine of the vitalists. In the West also there are certain philosophers called vitalists who hold that there is a kind of protoplasmic energy which is present in all living beings, and it is the final reality in the individual. Those who hold that vitality is the ultimate value, call their doctrine vitalism – not materialism, not sensationalism, but vitalism. Bergson comes under this category.
Mana ātmeti manyanta upāsana parā janāḥ, prāṇasyā bhoktṛtā spaṣṭā bhoktṛtvam manasas tataḥ (67). There are idealists who say that prana cannot be the Self. What is the prana? It has no consciousness of its own. You are saying it is awake during sleep; let it be awake. But it is not aware that it is awake. It has no consciousness; it cannot think. It is a kind of action, minus thought. So thought is more important; minus thought, what is the good of life? You may be breathing, that is all right, but you don't think. Is it a proper life? The mind is the real Self, not the prana, say the idealists who consider the mind as the supreme function in the human individual.
Mana eva manuṣyāṇām kāraṇaṁ bandha mokṣayoḥ, śruto manomayaḥ kośas tenātmetī ritaṁ manaḥ (68). In the Upanishad also, it is said that mind is the cause of the bondage and the liberation of a person. If the mind is filled with the desire for objects, it is for our bondage; if the mind is free from desire for objects, it is for our liberation. So the mind is superior, and it is the source of our joys and sorrows. It is the true Self, is what the idealists say – not the prana or the vital substance.
There are others who think that this is not a final solution of things. Mind is, of course, there; it is very essential, and it is superior to the prana, but mind is there even in animals. There is a kind of instinctive mind working there; there is an indeterminate process of thinking. Indistinct thought is the work of the mind. Decisive, determined, logical conclusions cannot be arrived at by the mind. The reason, intellect, is necessary.
We consider the intellect as superior to the mind. The Vijnanavadins are Buddhist idealists who consider reason as the final reality; all the objects of the world are considered as manifestations or concretisations of certain processes of the intellect itself. This philosophy is called subjectivism, which considers the internal processes of the intellect or the reason as determining factors of even objects outside in the world.
Vijñāna mātmeti para āhuḥ kṣaṇika vādinaḥ, yato vijñāna mūlatvaṁ manaso gamyate sphuṭam (69). The world is transient; it is momentary because the little bits of process that is the intellectual function are also transient. So the world, looking like a solid substance, is really not solid. It is like a piece of cloth which is made up of little threads, and so the appearance of solidity in the cloth is an illusion. Actually, it is a complex of little inner components which are the threads.
The world is not a solid object. Nothing, not even this body and the objects outside, are solid objects. They are temporary complexes constituted of certain bits of intellectual process called vijnana dhara; thus the Buddhist idealists hold. Intellectual process is the Ultimate Reality. There is nothing beyond. No Self exists for them; only process exists.
Ahaṁ vṛtti ridaṁ vṛttiḥ ityantaḥ karaṇaṁ dividhā, vijñānaṁ syādahaṁ vṛttiḥ idaṁ vṛttir mano bhavet (70). I and mine, I and this, are certain processes of the psyche. The affirmation of the I is to be attributed to the ego, which is a part of the intellectual function, and the this-ness that is attributed in perception is to be attributed to the mind. The mind is a kind of instrument of the reason. There are two functions of the psyche – the determining, and the pure thinking. The indeterminate thinking process is attributed to the mind; the deciding and determining function is attributed to the intellect. The intellect is interior to the mind; the mind is exterior to the intellect.
The mind is a kind of crude intellection, and the intellect is the purified form of the mind. Vijnana is the intellect which is the cause of the feeling of I-ness in us, and the sense of this-ness, mine-ness, etc., are attributed to the mental function. The mind and the intellect are primary in our nature psychologically.
Ahaṁ pratyaya bījatvam idaṁ vṛtte riti sphuṭam, aviditvā svamā tmānaṁ bāhyaṁ vetti na tu kvacit (71). The consciousness of this-ness, mine-ness, etc., is actually traceable to the consciousness of I-ness, which is a characteristic of the ego. If ‘I’ is not there, ‘mine’ will not be there. In order that we may possess something and feel a sense of mine-ness, ownership in respect of anything, we must exist first of all. Not only should we exist, we must also know that we are existing. Self-consciousness, which is the consciousness of one's own existence, is prior to the consciousness of anything outside as belonging to oneself, etc.
So the I-consciousness is the root of the other types of consciousness, such as mine-ness, this-ness, etc. Unless we know that we are existing, we cannot know that others are existing. Self-consciousness is primary; other consciousness is secondary. This is also a great instruction to us that, knowingly or unknowingly, we consider ourselves as superior to all other people. And all our welfare or activities outside are only a kind of camouflage of our egoistic action. Finally, when everything is drowning, we will try to save ourselves.
Kṣaṇe kṣaṇe janma nāśau ahaṁ vṛtter mitau yataḥ, vijñānaṁ kṣaṇikaṁ tena svaprakāśaṁ svato miteḥ (72). It is a doctrine that there is a momentary function of the intellectual process, as has been already indicated; and if we are going to agree with the doctrine that the intellectual process is constituted of a kind of process or movement made up of little bits, there can be a continuity of little bits also, just as a chain is made up of little links. A chain is a continuity, but the links are separate. One link is separate from another link. So in spite of there being continuity, there can be a gap or breakup of parts in the middle.
So if we consider that the world, or the perception of the world, is a transitory process of intellectual function, as the idealists of Buddhism hold, then there would be no self-consciousness. Self-consciousness is not made up of little parts. If the intellect is the final reality, as these people hold, and reason is everything and yet it is fractional – made up of little bits, as threads constitute the cloth – then every moment we would be feeling that we are little-little pieces put together. But we never feel like that.
We would feel that we are jumbles of little pieces of matter, little bits of intellectual process, little parts of ideation, and that we are never a single whole. I cannot say, "I am coming” or “We are coming"; I have to say, "The bundles are coming." We never feel that we are bundles of little-little pieces of idea or material substance. We feel that we are one indivisible thing – indivisible and impossible of fraction. We never feel that we are transitory. We do not feel that we are a movement. We feel that we are solid existences. That is a phenomenon that has to be explained, and it cannot be explained by the doctrine that there is only process in the world, and there is nothing prior to the process.