Chapter 6: Chitradipa – Light on the Analogy of a Painted Picture
Kiyantaṁ kāla miti cet khedo’yaṁ dvaita iṣyatām, advaite tu na yukto’yaṁ sarvā nartha nivāraṇāt (248). Kṣut pipāsā dayo dṛṣṭā yathā pūrvaṁ mayīti cet, macchabdā vācye’haṅkāre dṛśyatāṁ neti ko vadet (249). Afflictions such as hunger and thirst will continue as long as there is this body, in spite of the fact that one has acquired a kind of knowledge of the difference between the Atman and the body. The associations are of three kinds, and these associations are known in Sanskrit as adhyasa. The first one is known as bhramaja adhyasa: superimposition caused by sheer ignorance. The second one is sahaja adhyasa: superimposition which is natural to existing conditions. The third is karmaja adhyasa: superimposition that is the outcome of the existence of the body itself.
The first one, bhramaja adhyasa—superimposition brought about by sheer ignorance—is the transference of values between the intellect and the Atman, pure and simple. The universality of the Atman, which is eternity in its essential nature, is wrongly transferred to the individual principle known as the intellect, and then there is a false feeling that the individual is long-standing—eternity itself. We do not feel that we are going to die tomorrow. That feeling never enters our mind because of the transference of the perpetual or the eternal character of the Atman to the individuality principle that is our intellect. If this transference of values were not to be there, every moment we would be in fear of death and there would be no incentive to work; even for a moment we would not lift even a finger.
On the other hand, there is the transference of the qualities of the individuality principle (intellect) upon the Atman, pure and simple, on account of which we begin to feel that we are limited in location. We are in one place only; we are not in different places. We are ignorant; we are not omniscient. We are helpless; we are not omnipotent. That is finitude.
Finitude in space, finitude in knowledge, and finitude in power—all these three kinds of finitude are imposed upon us by the transference of individuality characters of the intellect onto the Atman. Because of the Atman’s character getting reflected or transferred to the individuality principle, we feel that we are going to live for endless years. There is a sense of permanency to our existence on account of this other kind of transference, the transference of the Atman’s character upon the intellect. This kind of mutual transference of values from the Atman to the intellect and from the intellect to the Atman is called bhramaja adhyasa—superimposition of characters caused by sheer ignorance, bereft of proper understanding.
The second one is called sahaja adhyasa, or the natural superimposition taking place between the consciousness reflected through the intellect and the ego principle. When the Atman Consciousness gets reflected through the intellect, it assumes the awareness of individuality. We feel “I am” in our personal character; and the consciousness of personality, or I am-ness, is simultaneous with the consciousness of egoism—intense attachment to the personality itself. The consciousness of personality is identical with the attachment to personality. This is natural superimposition, or sahaja adhyasa.
Karmaja is the third superimposition, the transference of the characters of finitude upon the physical body, and the transference of characters such as hunger-thirst, heat-cold, etc., which are felt by the body, upon the intellect.
Now, in the case of the jivanmukta, or the person who has realised the Self, the first adhyasa is checked off. He will not feel that this personality is transferable to the Atman or that the Atman is transferable to the individuality principle. On account of this severance of the original adhyasa, which is based on ignorance, he will not take rebirth. But he will continue to be in this world with this personal body as long as the other two karmas persist. The reflection of the Consciousness of the Atman through the intellect will continue in the case of the jivanmukta purusha also—that is, he will know that he is existing as a person, and he will also feel the pinches of hunger and thirst, heat and cold, as long as the prarabdha karma, the third kind of adhyasa, persists.
This is with reference to this particular verse which says hunger and thirst, etc., will be seen to be present even in the case of those who are enlightened; but this feeling of hunger and thirst, etc., is to be attributed to the ego-consciousness rather than to the original Atman itself.
Cidrūpe’pi prasa jyeraṅ tādātmyā dhyāsato yadi, mā’dhyāsaṁ kuru kintu tvaṁ vivekaṁ kuru sarvadā (250). We have to be constantly in a state of meditation to convince ourselves that our experiences, which are either joyful or miserable as the case may be, are attributable to the physical sheaths. Bodily existence actually does not belong to the Atman, pure and simple. All the processes of analysis to which we have been introduced in these chapters, right from the beginning itself, will be helpful in convincing ourselves and establishing ourselves in the consciousness that basically we are unconcerned with the affections which the finite body feels.
Jhaṭitya dhyāsa āyāti dṛḍha vāsana yeti cet, āvartayet vivekaṁ ca dṛḍhaṁ vāsayituṁ sadā (251). In spite of our daily meditation, suddenly the prarabdha will rise up into action and we will begin to feel that we are the body only. Sometimes this also happens in the case of very great people, though at other moments they are universally conscious. No one can be universally conscious twenty-four hours of the day, not even the greatest of saints, because their prarabdha gives a pinch now and then to make them feel that there is a body.
There is a story about Sage Vasishtha. He was a great mastermind. The world could not stand before him, such was his power. He had a son called Shakti who was killed by a demon, a Rakshasa. Prarabdha started working in a peculiar way and Vasishtha, the omniscient man, wanted to commit suicide. Immediately he jumped into a flaming fire; the fire became cool, like cold water. He jumped into a river; the river dried up immediately. He hung a rope around his neck; the rope became a garland of flowers. Brahma immediately came and said, “You cannot commit suicide because all the five elements are under your control. That is why the water dried up, the fire became cool, and the rope became a flower garland.” Vasishtha had such a power that all the five elements were under his control, so even if he wanted to commit suicide it was not possible to do it—yet the prarabdha worked and he was grief-stricken because his son died.
Vasishtha’s son Shakti was a Brahmana. He was passing through a narrow passage, a little footpath where only one person could walk, and the king of the country was coming towards him. As two persons could not walk on that little precipice, the king thought he must be given way by this Brahmin because he is a king. Shakti thought the king must give way because he is a Brahmin. Neither would give way, and the king got angry and whipped Shakti. Shakti said, “You behave like a Rakshasa. I curse you to become a Rakshasa just now.” Immediately the king turned into a demon, and he ate this boy Shakti. That is how Vasishtha’s son died, due to which he tried to commit suicide.
After some time, the daughter of Vasishtha was strolling in the garden behind the cottage, and the same demon started pursuing her. She yelled out. Then Vasishtha came and saw the demon, the very same demon who ate his son. He took a little water from his water pot, sprinkled it, and threw it on the face of the demon. That demon immediately returned to his form as the king. This is the power of Vasishtha. Nothing could stand before him—not all the three worlds. Yet, prarabdha sometimes gives a prick even to such great people, though it does not always work like that. That they sometimes begin to feel hunger, thirst, sleep, fatigue, and so on, is demonstrated by this interesting story.
Viveke dvaita mithyātvaṁ yuktyai veti na bhaṇyatām, acintya racanātvasya anubhūtir hi sva sākṣikī (252). When we habituate ourselves to discrimination, constant brooding over the universality of the Atman, day in and day out thinking only this aspect and thinking nothing else in our mind, for some time it may remain as a kind of intellectual activity, a mental operation, though it may not actually delve deep into the feeling. The practice should go deeper than intellectual cogitation. Meditation is not merely thinking through the mind, it is a transmutation of the very being itself. In meditation, the whole personality gets transmuted—the will, the understanding, the feeling. The most important part of the operation is feeling. It is not enough if we think that there is a Universal Being; we must also feel that it is like that. When the understanding or the conviction that the Universal is existent, and that it is the only existence, becomes a part of our feeling also, life gets transformed into the very experience of the Universal. A great mystery is the working of prarabdha karma and the effect produced by meditation.
Cidapya cintya racanā yadi tarhyastu no vayam, citiṁ sucintya racanāṁ brūmo nityatva kāraṇāt (253). A wonder is the working of this prarabdha, and a wonder is the working of this Pure Consciousness. How it manifests itself is a great consolation to us, and how it sometimes withdraws itself is difficult to explain. However, on account of the permanency of the Consciousness that is our essential nature, we will overcome the limitations of prarabdha. In the earlier days there will be a tussle between the meditating consciousness and the suffering caused by prarabdha. Sometimes the balance will tilt on one side, and at other times the balance will tilt on the other side. Often we will feel that meditation is not working well, and we will be very much grieved because of body-consciousness. At other times the other aspect will come up, and we will feel elated, enthused, and we will feel as if God is very near us. This is the power of Consciousness. It is also a great mystery.
Prāgabhāvo nānubhūtaḥ citer nityā tataś citiḥ, dvaitasya prāga bhāvastu caitanyenānubhūyate (254). The prior non-existence of Consciousness cannot be experienced by us. We cannot feel that once upon a time Consciousness was not existing. That feeling cannot arise in us because the consciousness of the ‘imagined non-existence of Consciousness’ sometime earlier is also a postulation of the existence of Consciousness even prior to that apparent non-existence. We cannot conceive the non-existence of Consciousness because that conception is attributable to Consciousness itself. It is Consciousness itself assuming that it did not exist at some time. Therefore, the prior non-existence of Consciousness—sometime in the early days, long ago in the past—is inconceivable.
But the non-existence of duality can be conceived. Duality is the manifest form of creation. When creation did not take place, Consciousness—which was prior to the awareness of duality—did exist. Yesterday, as we noted, the consciousness of duality implies the consciousness of unity. The awareness that there are two things or many things is impossible unless there is that awareness which is above the duality or the multiplicity of the objects. If everything is different from everything else, nobody would know that such is the state of affairs, because differentiated things cannot know each other. Nobody will know that another person is sitting nearby if the difference is complete. But actually, there is no such difference finally. It is an apparent duality; and because of its apparentness, and no permanency of its character, there is a consciousness of there being many people, many things, etc. One consciousness can comprehend a hundred things at a time. This shows it is basically transcendent to the otherwise multiple or dual character of the objects. There is a beginning for duality, but there is no beginning for Consciousness as such.
Prāg-abhāva yutaṁ dvaitaṁ racyate hi ghaṭādivat, tathāpi racanā’cintyā mithyā tenendra jālavat (255). Objects can have prior non-existence—like a pot. Before the pot was manufactured, it was non-existent. That is called prior non-existence. The non-existence of a pot before it was manufactured is called prior non-existence. When the pot is broken, it then becomes non-existent. This is called posterior non-existence. Prior to the creation of the pot, it is one kind of non-existence. After the destruction of the pot, it is another kind of non-existence. The non-existence of the pot prior to its manufacture has no beginning, but it has an end. When the pot comes into being, the non-existence of the pot prior to its manufacture comes to a cessation. Here is an illustration of non-existence without a beginning, but with an end.
But the posterior non-existence has a beginning, but no end—the other way around. When the pot is broken it becomes non-existent, but this kind of non-existence has no end; forever and ever it will be non-existent. So this is an instance of non-existence with a beginning but no end.
There is another kind of non-existence, called mutual non-existence. The tree is not in the stone; the stone is not in the tree. The tree is non-existent in the stone; the stone is non-existent in the tree. This mutual non-existence is called anyonya abhava.
The fourth kind of non-existence is called atyanta—like the horns of a human being. A human being does not have horns; they are absolutely non-existent.
Therefore, four kinds of non-existence can be attributed to all perceptible objects. Consciousness cannot be attributed to any such character. It is Consciousness alone that cannot cease to be at any time, under any given conditions. All other things involved in duality and multiplicity are involved in these kinds of non-existences that have been defined.
Cit pratyakṣā tato’nysya mithyātvaṁ cānu bhūyate, nā’dvaita maparokṣaṁ ceti etanna vyahataṁ katham (256). Consciousness is a matter of direct experience, and the world of transiency is also a matter of direct experience. We would daily experience the futility of things if only we are to bestow some thought upon what happens in the world. By experience through age, we come to realise finally that the world cannot fulfil its promises. It promises all kinds of pleasures, delights, and even permanency of existence. It uses a false promise that we will live here in this world for a long time, but the next moment the life is cut off. The world is a false promise-giver. This we come to realise when we become old and our hairs become grey. In earlier days when we are warm-blooded youths, we feel that the earth is permanent, we are permanent, and our achievements are also going to be permanent. This transiency, which is at the back of all things in the world, is not visible to the eyes of a young man. They become faded by the experience of age, and consciousness is at the back of this experience.
During our babyhood, our adolescence, our adult age, our old age—through all these stages of our life we will find one consciousness continuing. Every day that we have is an experience of the continuity of consciousness and the non-continuity of experiences in the world. In a way, we daily have this experience of the unity of consciousness and the disunity character of that which is not consciousness—namely, the objects in the world of space and time.
Itthaṁ jñātvā’pya santuṣṭāḥ kecit kuta itīryatām, cārvākādeḥ prabuddhasyāpi ātmā dehaḥ kuto vada (257). In spite of these expositions of the nature of Consciousness, many a time doubts arise in the mind, as in the case of Charvakas, or materialists, who say that satisfaction does not arise by a mere thought of this kind of analysis that we have conducted, that the world is transient. The transiency of the world is not a direct object of perception every day as long as the senses are very active and they manage to pull the consciousness in the direction of their activity towards objects.
The permanency of things, the false notion that joys and sorrows in life in connection with objects are also permanent in their nature, arises on account of consciousness following the activity of the mind and the sense organs. We have noted this feature sometime earlier when it was observed that in object perception—the consciousness of an object—two processes are involved, namely, the mind enveloping the object and taking the shape of the object, and consciousness following the mind together with the sense organs and illumining that consciousness. Not only is there a perception of the form of the object on account of the enveloping of the object by the mind, there is also a consciousness that it is so. We begin to feel a location of the object.
The consciousness aspect of perception is due to the Atman Consciousness through the intellect proceeding through the mind in terms of the sense organs. But the shape of the structure of the object that is perceived is due to the enveloping of the mind in terms of the object. The mind enveloping the object is called vritti vyakti, and the consciousness following the mental operation is called phala vyakti. The Charvakas, etc., are materialists, and they consider the body alone as the real Self.
Samyak vicāro nāstyasya dhīdoṣā diti cettathā, asantuṣṭāstu śāstrārthaṁ na tvaikṣanta viśeṣataḥ (258). Proper discrimination is absent in the case of those who believe in the permanency of things—the reality of this world. It is due to a mistake or error in the working of the intellect itself. Their genius is very muddled.
Those who are indulging in the sense and mental operations in terms of objects will have no desire to study scriptures. They will not have the mind to go to satsanga. They will not have any kind of inclination towards the existence of things above this world. Prarabdha can be very rajasic and tamasic in many cases, where even the longing for the realisation of God cannot be there. Even the thought of God cannot arise in the minds of people whose prarabdha is entirely rajasic and tamasic. It is only where prarabdha is a little bit sattvic that the awareness of a higher world arises, and we begin to see the lacuna or the insufficiency of things in this world.
Yadā sarve pramu cyante kāmā ye’sya hṛdi śritāḥ, iti śrautaṁ phalaṁ dṛṣṭaṁ neti cet dṛṣta meva tat (259). This is a quotation from the Kathopanishad, which makes out that when all the desires of the heart are entirely released, one experiences Brahman Consciousness at once. This is the scriptural statement in the Kathopanishad. At once, at this very moment, the experience of universal Brahman would be possible—provided that all the longings of the heart are pulled out and the desires cease entirely.
Desires must cease—not merely in their obvious operative form, but also in their submerged, latent form. In the operative form they are visible in the waking state and dream state. In the submerged form they are there in the state of deep sleep. The desires should not be there, either as operative or non-operative, active or latent. They should be totally thrown out by the awareness of all things being pervaded by one Consciousness. Because of the pervasion of one Consciousness through all things, desires for objects should cease of their own accord.
Yadā sarve prabhidyante hṛdaya granthaya stviti, kāmā granthi svarūpeṇa vyākhyātā vākya śeṣataḥ (260). This is also a quotation from the Kathopanishad. When the knots of the heart are broken, Brahman is experienced instantaneously. What are these knots of the heart? They are ignorance, desire and action.
The non-perception of reality is called ignorance. This is one kind of knot with which we are tied to this earthly existence. When we are unconscious of the existence of a universal Reality, we suddenly become conscious of the existence of an unreality, which is the world. When the Universal is not an object of our consciousness, the externality of the world becomes at once the opposite experience. This is desire.
Ignorance is the non-perception of the universal, desire is the perception of the particular, and the running after the particular objects for fulfilment of those desires is action, karma. Three knots are mentioned: avidya, kama, karma—ignorance, desire, action. These three words are repeated many times by Acharya Sankara in his commentaries as the source of all problems in life: avidya, kama, karma—a threefold knot of the heart, to which the consciousness is tied in terms of empirical experience.
Ahaṅkāra cidātmā nāu ekī kṛtyā vivekataḥ, idaṁ me syād idaṁ me syāt itīcchāḥ kāma śabditāḥ (261). What do we mean by desire? It is defined here. By the identification of egoism, personality-consciousness, and not being able to distinguish it from the universal Consciousness which is reflected through it, one begins to feel, “This is a very good thing; let me have it. This is not at all a good thing; let me not have it.” The desire spoken of is the desire to have something and the desire not to have something, and this kind of dual desire—wanting some things in terms of what is desirable or pleasurable, and not wanting some things which are not pleasurable—is a twofold manifestation of desire. Wanting and not wanting are the obverse and the reverse of the same coin. They are both desire. This is called kama, the outcome of avidya, and the cause of action directed in terms of the fulfilment of desires.
Apraveśya cidātmānaṁ pṛthak paśyanna haṅkṛtim, icchaṁstu koṭi vastūni na bādho granthi bhedataḥ (262). Merely experiencing bodily aches, the temporary feeling of hunger and thirst, does not preclude universal Consciousness. Jivanmuktas also eat food; they also feel thirsty. When they feel fatigued, they go to sleep. These are natural effects following from the karmaja adhyasa mentioned, the superimposition of the ego-consciousness, personality-consciousness, with the body, and the body with the ego; but they do not have the other kind of consciousness which mistakes the personal for the universal and the universal for the personal.
Thus, there is a distinction drawn between ordinary human experience, which is born of karmaja adhyasa, and the real spiritual experience, which has no bhramaja adhyasa, causing no rebirth in spite of a temporary feeling of the body and its consequent appurtenances of feeling hunger, thirst, etc.