PART I: THE FOUNDATIONS OF PHILOSOPHY
Chapter 10: The Jiva
The Defining Characteristics
Jiva is an appellation given to consciousness defined by the principles constituting individuality. It denotes the embodied being limited to the psycho-physical states. The notion of the Jiva is the basis of all world-experience. The concept of reality is arrived at by the analysis of the implications of this experience. We can observe in the individual self traces of the elements that go to form the universe as a whole. The delimited reflection of the eternal consciousness in the mind-stuff goes by the name of the Jiva. Understanding, feeling and willing are the primary functions of this reflected consciousness. The basis of the Jiva is Brahman, which is the substratum of all creation. But the arrogation of reality to itself by each form of the reflected consciousness becomes responsible for the notion of the ‘I’ in everyone. Though this ‘I’ has at its back the general reality of all things, it has reference to objectified conditions, and its reality is tremendously influenced by its perception of objects. Perception, inference and the other ways of valid knowledge, as well as wrong knowledge, doubt, sleep, memory, and the forms of error such as ignorance, egoism, likes, dislikes and the fear of death together with an intense love for life, are the principal psychological associations of the Jiva. Though the Jiva appears as a subject of knowledge in this world, it is not really the metaphysical subject, for its existence is not wholly independent of the appearance of objects; nay, its own body is part of the appearance. The organisation of individuality is relative to the framework of the contents of the consciousness operating through it. The empirical subject is itself an object from the point of view of the Atman, and when divested of its psychological cloggings, it gets down to the irreducible minimum of pure being. The ideas connected with doership and enjoyership are inseparable from the consciousness of duality. The Jiva is, in truth, not a being, but a becoming, a state of experience attempting to transcend itself every moment. Activity cannot be avoided as long as individuality persists. This world is a world of action, where struggle is the law, striving the rule. The mutations of the universe get erroneously identified with the self, and it is this that gives rise to the idea of agency and enjoyership. Birth and death are the consequences of such wrong identification, for it results in the rise of several desires which clamour for fulfilment, and the way of their fulfilment is the drudgery of transmigratory life. Agency, however, is not essential to the innermost essence of the Jiva, for, if it were so, there would be no chances of achieving freedom at any time. All activity, when carefully viewed, is found to be of the nature of pain, but the essential Self is blissful by nature. The activities of the Jiva are not properties of the Atman, but are contingent features of the outward adjuncts that get confused with what they are not. The sense of agency and activity is attributable to the Upadhis which go to make up the Jiva.
It can be said that, in a sense, the Jiva is eternal, for its individuality is never destroyed in all the births and deaths it undergoes. But it is non-eternal in the sense that it is transfigured in the realisation of Brahman. The principle of individuality is active in the waking and the dreaming states, but potential in sleep, swoon and death. But for its continuance even in times of the cessation of all its functions, it could not rise again in a new birth. When objective consciousness is absent, the Jiva exists in a latent form, ready to manifest itself in action whenever suitable conditions arise. Jivahood is completely negatived in Brahman. The Jiva is different from Brahman as long as it is confined to the body, the Pranas, the senses and the Antahkarana, but one with it in its fundamental nature which it realises in profound meditation. From the point of view of the body, the Jiva is a hack working under the oppressive yoke of the laws of Nature; as a limited soul, it is a part of God; and as pure consciousness, it is identical with Brahman. From the structure of Jivahood as such, its relation to Brahman cannot be strictly determined. It cannot be said to be different from Brahman, for there is no second to Brahman. Nor is it a part of Brahman, for Brahman cannot be divided into elements. It cannot also be said to be the same as Brahman in its present form, for its limiting characters are incompatible with the perfection of Brahman. The Jiva passes for reality within the universe of its experience, but gets lifted up gradually in the different stages of self-transcendence, until it attains Brahman.
The Jiva is a limitation as well as a reflection, a Parichheda as well as an Abhasa of Brahman. It is inferior to Brahman not only quantitatively but also qualitatively. As restricted to the internal organ and the senses, it is Parichhinna or limited, and as an image of the highest consciousness, it is an Abhasa. As the defects of a reflected image do not sully the original in any way, the defects of the Jiva do not affect Brahman even in the least. As a reflection, the Jiva is not genuine being but a process, and, as limited to the internal organ, even this process is not universal but localised. The nature of the mind is transferred to consciousness, and so the experiences of the Jiva are nothing but the feelings and the modes of the mind. The possibility of Jivahood has to be traced to the presence of Brahman in the background, albeit in the form of a reflection; but the content of this reflected consciousness is organically related to the movements of the Upadhis. The Jivachaitanya, thus, partakes of the double nature of reality as well as appearance.
The Atman, as the Kutasthachaitanya or the witnessing Self, is the ground of the Jiva, though in itself it is absolutely free from the limitations of Jivahood. The Atman does not modify or transform itself into the Jiva but exists only as an unrelated witness. There is the same inexplicability about the relation of the Jiva to the Atman as of Maya to Brahman, or of appearance to Reality. When the limiting conditions are withdrawn, the Jiva turns back to its source, which is the light of eternity. The birth, growth and death of the individual have meaning only in relation to its accidental circumstances. As the limiting features are incidental, Jivahood is non-eternal. The whole history of the Jiva is but the procession of the activities of these external vestures,—nothing real to the Atman. The diversity of things is adventitious, their ultimate unity is essential. As long as there is a clinging to the conglomeration of the elements composing the individuality, there is bound to be the sorrow attending upon the pain of transformation and death. The salvation of the Jiva consists in the giving up of its fictitious conceit of doership and enjoyership in the world and recognising the absolute perfection of Brahman.
The Bodies and the Sheaths
An analysis of the nature of the Jiva is virtually a study of the various vestments in which the empirical consciousness is shrouded and which principally constitute its existence. Swami Sivananda, in his Jnana-Yoga (pp. 112-136), details this fascinating theme, and conducts the enquiry as follows:
There are three bodies, viz. the gross, the subtle and the causal. Contained in these bodies are the five sheaths, viz. the physical, the vital, the mental, the intellectual and the blissful. That which is seen by the physical eyes, that which is composed of flesh, bones, fat, skin, nerves, hair, blood, etc. is the physical body, the outermost sheath covering the inner consciousness. This body undergoes six kinds of change,—empirical existence, birth, growth, change, decay and death. It grows in youth and decays in old age. It develops when nourishing food is given, and becomes weakened if food is withdrawn, or if it is overtaken by disease. This body is subject to decline and disintegration. The subtle body is composed of nineteen principles,—the five senses of knowledge, the five organs of action, the five vital forces, the Manas, the Chitta, the Buddhi and the Ahamkara. This body grows and develops through egoism, attachment, love and hatred, and breaks down when it is freed from these encumbrances. It is affected by three kinds of misery,—the psychological, the physical and the heaven-ordained. The essence of the subtle body consists in Avidya, Kama and Karma—ignorance, desire and action. The causal body develops through the ideas: ‘I am a Jiva,’ and falls off when this idea gets weakened in intensity or is annihilated in the unification of the real ‘I’ with Brahman. The subtle and the causal bodies get thickened in worldly-minded persons on account of lust, greed and anger, and get thinned out in earnest spiritual aspirants who are free from these impurities. The subtle body is also called the Lingadeha, or Lingasarira, for it is the symbol or mark (Linga) of one’s individuality. It is the subtle body that materialises itself as the physical body, and is itself an expression of a part of the potencies lying dormant in the causal body.
We can clearly see the physical body as an object of the senses. But the subtle body does not become an object in this way, for the instruments of objective knowledge are contained in the subtle body itself, and it is too subtle to be perceived physically. The existence of this finer body can, however, be inferred from the effects produced as the nineteen principles constituting it. It is this ethereal aggregate that really carries on all the functions of the individual personality and uses the physical body as its instrument of action. Fire cooks food and also does other kinds of work with the aid of fuel; it cannot work without the instrumentality of some material. Yes, it is not the fuel that cooks food but the fire that burns through it. The functions of seeing, hearing, etc. that are performed by the subtle body depend upon the gross body for their outward expression. The real doer and enjoyer is the Jivachaitanya, animating the subtle body. The physical body is inert, it cannot manifest intelligence, and so cannot be the real doer of anything. The Antahkarana or the internal organ in the subtle body is transparent owing to its being formed of the derivatives of Sattvaguna, and so it can reflect consciousness, though imperfectly, and keep up the busy life of the world.
The causal body is nothing but Ajnana or primitive ignorance. It is devoid of consciousness, for in it the Sattvaguna is subordinated to Rajas and Tamas. The causal body gets destroyed when the knowledge of the Atman dawns on the Jiva. The Atman is entirely different from the three bodies, the latter being external to consciousness. Their existence and intelligence are borrowed from another source which is infinite existence and intelligence.
The five sheaths are comprised in the three bodies, and the Atman is different from the sheaths. Just as clouds which are generated by the rays of the sun, and which exist on account of the sun, cover the sun itself; just as smoke which draws its existence from fire conceals fire itself; just as the snake which is erroneously perceived in a rope, and which owes its existence to the rope, hides the rope itself; just as a jar which exists on account of clay hides the perception of the clay in itself; just as ear-rings, etc., which owe their existence to gold, hide the incidence of the gold in them; so do the five sheaths, which owe their existence to the Atman, hide it from experience. It is the natural tendency of the mind to identify itself with the sheaths, and vice versa. This superimposition is mutual, and is caused by Avidya. One has to realise one’s distinction from the five sheaths by the practice of the method of ‘Neti, Neti’, declared in the Vedanta.
The physical sheath is the densest of all the five, and is called the Annamaya-Kosa. It is originated by a combination of Sukla and Sonita, or the male and female reproductive seeds, and is thus made up of the essence of food. It does not exist prior to birth or posterior to death, and so is non-eternal. It is preponderated by the quality of Tamas, and does not manifest consciousness. It is an effect of the combination of the five gross elements that go to make up this perceptible world. We do not see any consciousness in a dead body. If the gross body were to be the Atman, even the corpse ought to be conscious. In dream, the physical body remains immobile, as if deceased. On death, this body gets absorbed into the earth. Even when certain parts of the body are cut off, self-consciousness is observed to be intact. The physical sheath, therefore, cannot be the true knower.
The foolish man identifies himself with the mass of flesh, fat, skin, bones, etc., while a discerning person becomes aware that he is an intelligent principle. The Pandit who has only a theoretical knowledge identifies himself with a mixture of body, mind and soul, while the liberated sage regards the eternal consciousness as his Self. There cannot be a real connection between extended matter and unextended spirit. In Indian logic, two kinds of relationship are pointed out,—Samavaya or inherence, and Samyoga or contact. Samavaya-Sambandha is the inseparable relation that is seen between the whole and its parts, the class and the individual, the substance and its attribute, the actor and the action. Samyoga-Sambandha is the external relation that obtains between two objects, e.g., a drum and a stick. There cannot be the relation of inherence between the sheaths and the Atman, for the insentient and the ephemeral cannot be said to inhere in the sentient and the eternal. There cannot be a relation between entities possessing entirely dissimilar properties. There is not, again, between the sheaths and the Atman, any external contact, for the Atman is unlimited, while the sheaths are confined to spatial and temporal endurance. The two are not made of the same substance, and so there cannot be any contact between them. The apparent relation between the Atman and the sheaths is one of Adhyasa or erroneous imposition.
Superimposition can be of two kinds: partial and mutual. When we see a snake in a rope, the snake is superimposed on the rope, but there is no superimposition of the rope on the snake. This is an instance where the error is one-sided or partial. But the transference of attributes between the Atman and the sheaths is not thus overbalanced, but obtains on both sides; the superimposition is mutual. The essences of the Atman are projected on the sheaths and the defects of the sheaths are swung upon the Atman. This reciprocal superimposition is called Anyonya-Adhyasa. The nature of Satchidananda which belongs to the Atman is falsely attributed to the sheaths when one makes such statements as ‘My body exists,’ ‘my body is intelligent,’ ‘my body is dear,’ ‘my life is precious,’ etc. In statements like ‘I am a man,’ ‘I am a male,’ ‘I live,’ ‘I grow,’ ‘I die,’ ‘I am hungry,’ ‘I am thirsty,’ ‘I am happy,’ ‘I am sorry,’ etc., there is seen an interjection of the qualities of the sheaths on the Atman. It is this apparent relation that is brought about between the Atman and the sheaths that is the cause of one’s bondage and suffering, and it is the aim of the Vedanta to enlighten the Jiva in its attempts to overcome this ignorance and to realise the Atman in this very life.
The vital sheath which lies next to the physical body consists of the five Pranas, actuating the five organs of action, and is called the Pranamaya-Kosa. When permeated by this sheath, the physical body engages itself in activity, as if it were living. There is a mutual superimposition, again, between the vital sheath and the Atman. The Prana is nothing but a force forming a link between the mind and the body. It is inert, is devoid of consciousness, and is an effect of Rajo-guna. It has no knowledge of itself, and it cannot know others. In the state of deep sleep it exhibits its real nature of unconsciousness and inability to undertake any deliberate initiative. The Prana is a subtle force from the active principles of the five Tanmatras. The Atman, obviously, is different from this sheath. The function of the Prana is motion, and in the Atman all activity has to be denied as extraneous to the character of eternality.
The five senses of knowledge, together with the mind, make up the mental sheath, called the Manomaya-Kosa. The mind is the cause of the diversity of concepts and notions like ‘I’ and ‘mine.’ It creates egoism and attachment in regard to objects, such as house, wife, son, etc. It moves outward through the avenues of the senses, in the act of perception. One generally feels: ‘I think,’ ‘I fancy,’ ‘I am in grief,’ ‘I am happy,’ ‘I am deluded,’ ‘I am the seer, the hearer,’ etc. Here the functions of the mental sheath are wrongly imputed to the Atman. Conversely, the stamp of the Atman is imprinted on the mental sheath. This phenomenon is observed when one expresses such feelings as ‘My mind is,’ ‘my mind shines,’ ‘my mind is dear to me,’ etc. The inner conflicts, the pains and the pleasures of life are attributable to this reciprocal superimposition between the mental sheath and the Atman.
The mind is not the Atman, for it is different from consciousness. If it were identical with the Atman, it ought to continue to work even in deep sleep. The mind is seen to lose its light and even its balance on several occasions. It is a product of Avidya, and is inert by nature. It is the outcome of the Sattva property of Prakriti, and so has a beginning and an end. It is only an instrument in the act of knowing, and is subject to modifications of various kinds. The Atman shines even in deep sleep, while the mind does not. The mental sheath pervades the vital sheath and gives it vigour by means of the activation of Vrittis, which work due to the impetus given by a consciousness borrowed from the Atman.
The intellectual sheath consists of the intellect working in collaboration with the senses of knowledge, and is called the Vijnanamaya-Kosa. One’s predisposition to agency in action is attributed to this vesture of the soul. The intellect is the knower, which uses the mind as its instrument. One generally says: ‘I have done this,’ ‘I am the doer,’ ‘I am one of firm determination,’ ‘I am possessed of intelligence,’ etc. Here the functions of the intellectual sheath are falsely ascribed to the Atman. In turn, the attributes of the Atman are transfused into the intellect, as when one opines, for instance: ‘My intellect is,’ ‘my intellect shines,’ ‘my intellect is valuable.’ The intellect cannot be the self luminous Atman, for it is subject to change, and has a beginning and an end. In deep sleep it is involved in ignorance, along with the Chidabhasa or the intelligence reflected through it. It appears to have knowledge on account of its being possessed of an increased amount of Sattvaguna and its proximity to the Atman in subtlety. In fact, the intellect is insentient, being objective, dualistic and limited. It is not eternally present, and so cannot be taken for the highest Self.
The innermost sheath is made up of Avidya or ignorance, in which Sattva is completely overpowered by Tamas and Rajas, and is known as the Anandamaya-Kosa. The great activity of this sheath goes on in the state of dreamless sleep, though it functions in dream and waking, also. The pleasure that one experiences in life is the result of a modification of this sheath. Its essential properties are the Vrittis of Priya or the happiness that arises in one at the mere sight of a desired object, Moda or the happiness which is felt when one is in possession of this object, and Pramoda or the happiness which one obtains from its actual enjoyment. The Anandamaya-Kosa makes itself spontaneously felt during the fruition of one’s virtuous deeds. Man is wont to say: ‘I am the enjoyer,’ ‘I am happy,’ ‘I am peaceful,’ ‘I am contented,’ etc. Here, obviously the qualities of the Anandamaya-Kosa are carried over to the Atman. And conversely, the nature of Satchidananda, which is the true Atman, is attributed to this Kosa in such feelings as: ‘My happiness is,’ ‘my happiness is experienced,’ ‘my happiness is dear to me.’
The Anandamaya-Kosa cannot be the Atman, for it is affected by changeful qualities. It is a modification of Prakriti, and consists of the latent potencies of one’s past actions. If the Anandamaya-Kosa were the Atman, one in deep sleep would enter into Samadhi and have an experience of the Absolute. Those who regard this sheath to be identical with the Atman forget that in sleep, when it has its fullest play, one does not have a knowledge of the Atman, but appears to be drowned in an ignorance from which he rises again to empirical activity, propelled by the forces hidden therein.
The five sheaths have, thus, no independent reality. Just as the mutations that take place in the body of a cow,—growth, decay, etc., do not in the least affect the owner of the cow, who is only a witness, so the changes that occur in the sheaths do not touch the Atman which is their witness. Just as one can distinguish the sound of one person from that of another through the power of discrimination; just as by this faculty one can feel: ‘This is soft, this is hard, this is hot, this is cold,’ etc.; just as one can, by looking at a mural picture on a wall, say: ‘This is blue colour, this is red colour, this is the wall,’ etc., with one’s discerning capacity, although one is not able to separate the red colour from the blue, or the picture from the wall; just as one can know by tasting a drink: ‘This is lemonade, this is orange,’ etc., through the understanding faculty; just as one can know the odour in a cloth by the organ of smell, although the odour cannot really be separated from the cloth; so also one can clearly differentiate the Atman from the sheaths by an analysis and study of their respective natures. It is impossible for ordinary people to separate water from milk when the two are mixed together, but it is possible for a swan to do so. In like manner, though it is impossible for persons of gross understanding to distinguish between the Atman and the sheaths, yet, it is within the capacity of an aspirant endowed with subtle discrimination to fulfil this difficult task.
A doubt is likely to arise as to the nature of the phenomenality of the sheaths as contradistinguished from the Atman, for it is seen that the former do not entirely vanish but manifest themselves even after one’s attainment of spiritual insight. How, then, can they be said to be unreal? Well; we know that the water in a mirage appears to a person even after he becomes conscious that its water is illusory, and that a pot with its characteristic form, though it is nothing but clay in itself, continues to be seen, even if we know that there is no pot apart from clay. The five sheaths, thus, may be present to the sage even after he attains Self-knowledge, but this appearance will be like that of a burnt cloth—which has perceptibility but no substantiality. When the soul gets discriminated from the sheaths, it shines in its pristine glory of pure consciousness. It, then, does not require to be established by proof of any kind, for it knows itself as self-evident reality. The Atman is the presupposition of all proof. It is the unshakable and the final conclusion of the Vedanta that, as clay alone truly endures after the name and form of the jar disappear, the eternal Atman alone survives even after the five sheaths are shaken off with the saving knowledge. Whoever knows thus is a knower of Brahman.
States of Consciousness
In his exposition of the Mandukya Upanishad, Swami Sivananda gives the following account of the Jiva as constituted of certain states of consciousness (Principal Upanishads, vol. I, pp. 420-32):
The Jiva is the supreme consciousness appearing to undergo the three states of waking, dream and deep sleep. Waking is the condition where the consciousness is associated with external objects having a pragmatic existence for the Jiva. The experiences of the waking individual are made possible by the operation of nineteen powers that form the subtle body within. The auditory, the tactile, the visual, the gustatory and the olfactory senses; the vocal, the prehensile, the locomotive, the generative and the excretory organs; the five vital breaths, called respectively the Prana or the central energy, Apana or the down-going energy, Vyana or the circulating energy, Udana or the up-going energy and Samana or the equalising energy; the four provinces of the psychological organ, viz. the mind, the intellect, the ego and the subconscious;—these together are the building-bricks, as it were, of individual experience. The distinguishing feature of the waking consciousness is that its contents are physical objects. The nineteen principles become for the Jiva the means of the enjoyment of objects, as well as of the suffering of mortal life. Swami Sivananda makes an opposite remark in regard to the waking condition of the Jiva: The Jagrat-Avastha or the wakeful state is the last in the evolution of the universe, but the first in the order of involution. The dreaming and the deep sleep states follow the wakeful one. This quarter (viz. the waking condition) is called the first with reference to experience, but not with reference to the order of evolution or creation. This is called the first, because all the other quarters are approached through this, and because from it the dream state and the deep sleep state are known. From a study of the waking state one will have to proceed to the study of dream and deep sleep. When we begin to analyse the universe for the sake of realising the Atman, we will have to deal with the wakeful state first, and understand the nature of the gross objects in the beginning. It is then that we can gradually enter the subtle and the causal nature of things (p. 422). The Jiva in the waking state goes by the names of Visva, Vijnanatma, Chidabhasa, Vyavaharika-Jiva, Karma-Purusha, etc.
Dream is the second quarter, where the Jiva is called the Taijasa, and where it is conscious of internal objects and works by means of similar nineteen avenues of knowledge and action. The objects of the dreaming consciousness are subtle in comparison with those of the waking state. The mind in dream creates various objects out of the impressions produced in it by the waking experiences. The mind can reproduce the whole of its waking life, through the force of Avidya, Kama and Karma. In the dream world the mind is the perceiver as well as the perceived. It creates objects without the help of any external means. It is the condition during which the Taijasa-Atman, in association with the mind laden with the residual impressions of waking life, experiences sound and the other objects, created merely out of the impressions, for the time being. Here the external senses are at rest, there is only a manifestation of the knower and the known with affinities to things enjoyed in the waking condition. The Visva, its normal actions having ceased, reaches the state of Taijasa, which moves in the middle of the subtle nerves near the throat, and illumines by its lustre the heterogeneity of the dream world. The dream phenomena are nothing but the states of the mind alone, though the Jiva here considers the externality of experience as real. The dream world is objective only to the dreamer.
That is the state of deep sleep wherein the Jiva does not desire any object, nor see any dream. This third quarter of the Jiva is termed Prajna, whose sphere is ignorance, in which all experiences become one, which enjoys bliss and provides a key to the knowledge of the other two states. Sound and the other objects of sense are not felt here due to the cessation of the objectifying function of the mind. Even the ego is here at rest. There is only Avidya or the veil of nescience. The Visva and the Taijasa enter a temporary condition of oneness in Prajna. An analysis of dreamless sleep leads us to the recognition of the existence of the Atman in all the three states. The remembrance of sleep, when one returns to the wakeful state, indicates that the witness of the three states is one. This witness is the Atman. The bliss of sleep, however, is not to be confused with the bliss of the Atman. As the mind is in a state of quiescence, due to the absence of desire and activity, it is wound up in sleep into an unconscious condition of absence of all pain and an unwitting proximity to the Absolute. Our impassioned craving for sleep, even if it may mean the rejection of all other pleasures of life, gives us an inkling of there being a positive bliss underlying it. As the state of sleep, though a negative one, is the causal condition of empirical life, a knowledge of the seeds of experience hidden in it would throw an immense light on the whole life of the individual, whose essential characters get temporarily dissolved in the body of Prajna.
As the soul in the state of waking, dream and sleep is called, respectively, Visva, Taijasa and Prajna, the Universal Soul animating the physical, the subtle and the causal universes is designated Virat, Hiranyagarbha and Isvara. The Virat, having entered the microcosmic gross body and having the Buddhi as its vehicle, reaches the state of Visva. Hiranyagarbha, having entered the microcosmic subtle body and having the Manas as its vehicle, reaches the state of Taijasa. Isvara, who is coupled with the Avyakta, having entered the microcosmic causal body and having Avidya as His vehicle, reaches the state of Prajna. In the macrocosm, Virat is the last manifestation of Isvara, while in the microcosm, Visva is to be considered the first manifestation of the Jiva. In a sense, the waking state of the Jiva forms a link between itself and the manifestations of Isvara. Hence in the waking state the Jiva is supposed to be at its best.
Fill a pot with the water of the sea, tie a rope to the neck of the pot, and immerse it in the sea. Though the water of the pot is one with the water of the sea, it appears to be separate on account of the limiting adjunct, viz. the pot. When the pot is drawn out by means of the rope, the water of the pot gets differentiated. But the ether, which is contained in the pot and is also outside it, forms a single homogeneous whole, and cannot be distinguished thus. Even so, the pot of the subtle body which is filled with the water of ignorance and to which is tied the rope of the impetus of past good and evil deeds, gets involved, in deep sleep, in a collective causal state, which is the adjunct of Isvara in the cosmic plane. With the individual ignorance, which is its own adjunct, the Jiva in dreamless sleep gets immersed in this vast sea of stillness. It appears to be discrete due to its containing in itself, potentially, the subtle body. When the Antaryamin, or the Inner Ruler, draws the rope of Karma, it gets differentiated, and comes back to the waking state. But the Atman remains a silent witness of the three states, as a support for the pot of the subtle body, which is the vehicle of individual ignorance.
The waking state may be compared to a big city, the dream state to the rampart or the walls of the fort of the city, deep sleep to the central palace within the city, and the Jiva to the king enthroned therein. The king comes out of his palace and moves about in the city, enjoys various objects and returns to his palace. The Jiva is subject to changes. It cannot be called the Witness-consciousness, because it dwindles in deep sleep. It is not real, for it is transcended in the Atman. It is only a reflection of Chaitanya in the Buddhi. The Atman is the real witness of the three states, even of the contingency of Jivahood. This witness-state is called the Turiya or the fourth state of consciousness.
It is said that, as sweetness, liquidity and coldness, which are characteristics of water, appear as inherent in the waves, and then also in the foam, of which the waves form the background; existence, consciousness and bliss, which are the natural essences of the Atman, seem to inhere in the wakeful Jiva on account of its relation with the Atman. Likewise, these facets of the Atman are felt also in the dreaming self, by way of the impressions of the waking consciousness. And just as, on the disappearance of the foam, their characteristics, such as liquidity, revert to the waves, and, again, as with the subsiding of the waves in the sea, these exist in the waters of the sea as before; so existence, consciousness and bliss manifest themselves and shine in the waking consciousness after the disappearance of the dreaming state; and then, again, on the dissolution of the waking phenomena in the Atman, these eternal natures are experienced in the Atman, which is the highest reality. In Moksha, or the final liberation of the soul, when all objective perception is overcome in the consciousness of Brahman, even the character of being a witness drops from the self, and it realises its majestic independence.
Sometimes the states of consciousness are regarded as being sixteen in number. “There are sixteen states of consciousness. They are made up as follows: There are the four primary states of consciousness, called Jagrat, Svapna, Sushupti and Turiya (waking, dreaming, deep sleep and the Witness-consciousness). These, by differentiation, multiply into sixteen states. These are Jagrat-Jagrat (waking in waking), Jagrat-Svapna (waking in dreaming), Jagrat-Sushupti (waking in sleep), Jagrat-Turiya (waking in super-consciousness), and so on with the remaining three other states. These sixteen states, by further differentiation, become two hundred and sixty-six states. These, again, by the differentiation of the phenomenal and the noumenal, become five hundred and twelve states. To realise these states of consciousness, it is very difficult, and is not possible for everyone.” “That is called Jagrat-Jagrat, in which there are no such ideas as ‘this’ or ‘mine’ regarding visible things. The great ones call that Jagrat-Svapna in which all ideas of name and form are given up. This is preceded by the realisation of the nature of Satchidananda. In the state of Jagrat-Sushupti, there is no idea but Self-knowledge. In Jagrat-Turiya the conviction becomes firm that the three states,—gross, subtle and causal—are false. In Svapna-Jagrat there comes the conviction that even the activities proceeding from the astral plane, owing to causes set in motion previously, do not bind the self, when the knowledge of the physical plane is destroyed. In Svapna-Svapna there is no seer, seen and sight, when the Karana-Ajnana (ignorance which is the root of all) is destroyed. It is Svapna-Sushupti where by means of increased subtle thinking, the modifications of one’s mind get merged in knowledge. That is Svapna-Turiya, in which the innate bliss (pertaining to the individual self) is transcended by the attainment of universal bliss. That state is called Sushupti-Jagrat in which the experience of Self-bliss takes the shape of universal intelligence through the rising of the corresponding mental modifications. In Sushupti-Svapna one identifies oneself with the modifications of the mind which has long been immersed in the experience of inward bliss. When one attains oneness of knowledge (Bodhaikya), which is above these mental modifications and above the realisation of any abstract condition, one is said to be in Sushupti-Sushupti. In Sushupti-Turiya, Akhandaikarasa (the one undivided essence of bliss) manifests itself, of its own accord. When the enjoyment of the Akhandaikarasa is natural in the waking state, one is said to be in Turiya-Jagrat. Turiya-Svapna is difficult of attainment; it is a state in which the enjoyment of Akhandaikarasa becomes natural even in one’s dreaming condition. The still higher state of Turiya-Sushupti is even more difficult of accomplishment. In this state, the one undivided essence of bliss manifests itself to the Yogi, even in deep sleep. The highest state is Turiya-Turiya, wherein Akhandaikarasa disappears like the dust of the clearing nut (Kataka) used for clearing water. This is the Arupa or the formless state and is beyond cognition” (Vedanta in Daily Life, pp. 211-14). The Kaivalyopanishad says that the states of consciousness are appearances of one Brahman, and that one who knows this is freed from all bonds (Verse, 17).
Analysis of Dream
A study of dream is now generally regarded as essential in all investigations of the human personality, for dreams are known to form a kind of index to one’s inner constitutions and also to indicate certain possibilities of experience. Usually, four classes of dream are distinguished: Dreams due to (1) physiological disorders, (2) psychological excitations and projection of desire and will, (3) contact of superhuman beings or astral spirits, and (4) the fruition of one’s good and bad deeds. Another type of classification distinguishes between seven kinds of dream: (1) Dreams of objects seen, (2) dreams of objects heard of, (3) dreams of objects felt, (4) dreams of objects wished for, (5) dreams caused by imagination, (6) dreams which foreshadow future events, and (7) dreams which are caused by disordered bodily functions, such as those brought about by wind, bile, phlegm, indigestion, and other disturbed conditions of the body.
Dreams are regarded as phenomena caused when the mind functions in the Svapnavaha or Hita-Nadi. Though disconnected from external sense-perceptions, the mind is somewhat connected here with the tactile sense. When it withdraws itself from its connection even with the tactile sense, it enters the Puritat-Nadi, and experiences deep sleep. The stimulation of the Manovaha-Nadi, or the nerve-current through which the mind externalises itself, is said to cause dreams of a prognostic character, especially indicating diseases or death. The Manovaha-Nadi is the channel of the activation of the seat of the mind in the brain, by consciousness. The sensations received from outside are transferred to the seat of the mind in the brain, and from there these sensations receive the impact of consciousness by means of the Manovaha-Nadi. It is this enlivening of sensations by consciousness that makes possible any determinate perception. The Svapnavaha does the same function as the Manovaha, it being only a section of the latter.
Swami Sivananda presents a detailed analysis of the dream phenomena and throws some light on certain questions raised by the modern theory of psychoanalysis (The Divine Life, vol. IX, pp. 127, 175):
According to Sigmund Freud, dreams indicate a process of wish-fulfilment. Dream is said to be caused by suppressed desires. The physical stimulus alone is not enough or responsible for the production of dreams. The dream mechanism is very intricate, and the wishes are of a complex nature. They clamour for satisfaction, and do not die before self-expression and fulfilment. They are revolting to the moral self, which seeks to exercise a control over their appearance and activity. The wishes, therefore, emerge in several disguised forms, by means of defence-mechanisms, to evade the moral censor. Very few dreams present the wishes as they really are. They provide a partial gratification of unfulfilled desires. Often, their function is to become safety valves to strong impulsions, and relieve mental tension. The animal self is visualised in dream.
The Freudian theory of dreams is apt to associate almost every kind of dream with the sex-urge, try to interpret every dream-object in terms of the sex-impulse, and carry this process to a sort of extreme. This tendency is evidently the result of a failure to take into account many important factors, besides sex, in the make-up of the individual, and the direction of evolution through successive cycles to the present human state. To the Freudians, man is mainly a psychical creature formed of urges, instincts and wishes buried unfulfilled in the unconscious mind. As the need for a permanent self is not felt, the question of reincarnation does not arise. This is just the essence of the empirical view of life, that what is observed through the senses and the mental apparatus is considered to be ultimately real, and nothing beyond it is recognised to exist. The more considered view, however, is that man, in reality, is a spiritual being, expressing himself through the medium of a mind that has the physical body as its objective counterpart to function upon the gross plane of the senses. The true Self of man is devoid of sex, and even of personality and individuality. It is the body influenced by a state of mind that suffers under the tyranny of gender. The body is the least part of man as envisaged and defined by true philosophic wisdom. Sex is just but one aspect, though a dominant one, perhaps, of a living being stationed in a sense-world.
That unconscious desires relating to sex appear as objects in dream is not the whole story. The waking experiences are often retained in the subconscious and unconscious minds in the form of a memory or impression. The unconscious is, in fact, the storehouse of such potentialities of memories and impressions formed in one’s waking life, through aeons. It need not mean that the unconscious contains impressions of experiences which one has gathered in this life alone. The unconscious is the reservoir of unmanifested impressions of experiences undergone in several previous lives. Only a part of this store is expressed or given out for experience in a single bodily life.
The factors of sex-impulse, repressions and activities during waking hours are not exhaustive in their nature. Impulses arising out of the sum total of the impressions of experiences of previous incarnations also, at times, provide material for dreams. That portion of the results of one’s actions allotted for being worked out in the present incarnation alone gets consciously expressed here in thought and action. Though, generally, the major part of this allotment is worked out in the form of pain and pleasure in one’s waking life, it is not unusual for a measure of it to be repaired in the shape of dream experiences. The dream life is as vital and real, while it lasts, as the waking one. Many a time, certain serious and extremely painful experiences that one has to undergo in waking life become averted by being lightly undergone in dream. This is particularly so in the case of fortunate devotees and aspirants of truth, who have surrendered themselves to God, or taken shelter under a godly man as a preceptor, and have generated in themselves a tremendous Sadhana-Sakti, or a power of the spirit within, through self-restraint and meditation. The working of Grace and the power of Sadhana react upon the aspirant by shielding him from the too violent repercussions of his past deeds, by enabling him to pay off certain of his old debts in the form of some similar experiences in dream. This method is employed due to a mysterious peculiarity of the dream-consciousness, in which lengthy periods of time (in terms of the waking consciousness) can manage to get packed into the short space of a single night’s, nay, a single hour’s dream.
Thus, apart from the merely physical and the occult, deeper spiritual laws seem to have a part in the making of an individual’s dream. The Sadhana performed by a person in past lives makes him qualified and destined to obtain the guidance of a certain saint in his present incarnation. Though separated by thousands of miles, or thousands of years, the aspirant may be enabled, when the appointed time for their spiritual union approaches, to find out, through a graphic and insistent dream, the whereabouts of his would-be teacher, and through this unmistakable dream-guidance, enable the aspirant to reach his hallowed feet. The dream consciousness plays, many times, a very important role in influencing, moulding and determining one’s activities in the waking life. This shows that it is not always that dream is merely a reproduction or image of waking life. There are instances of Svapna-Siddhas, i.e., aspirants who were shown the way to perfection by means of dream. These phenomena go to prove that deeper forces and factors operate, than merely the suppressed or repressed animal instincts of the individual. But these phenomena can hardly be comprehended properly by the merely science-ridden mind wedded to an empirical observation of things that are truncated from the essential consciousness and its implications. The dream of a spiritual aspirant who has a genuine longing for the salvation of his soul, and who intensely strives in the right direction towards the achievement of that end, is of a unique character, and cannot be compared with the process of wish-fulfilment or even with a mere reproduction of waking events. Such dreams have a supermental significance.
There are some dreams that are definitely prophetic in their nature. They keep the dreamer forewarned of approaching diseases, calamities or bereavements. This feature of certain dreams has been established beyond doubt by countless concrete cases, a feature that has nothing whatsoever to do with sexual expressions or submerged anti-social elements. Again, besides forewarning, simple forecast is also effected, at times, in dream. The reason for this is that certain elements in the mental consciousness connected with the future event have begun to rise in that consciousness at the time of the dream. Cases are recorded where a person dreams vividly of certain sceneries, places and objects as distinguishing landmarks in a place. Several years later, quite unexpectedly, the person happens to come across the actual place, which, to his astonishment, he finds tallying even in the minutest details with the scene observed by him in dream, years before. In addition to this, the countless millions of subtle ethereal records embedded in the vast scroll of elemental space operate, sometimes, as direct causative factors in dream. It is not uncommon for a person happening to spend a night at some sacred place of hoary religious tradition or some historical place marking the spot of great and stirring events in the dim past, to dream of objects, persons and occurrences connected with the place, though he may be totally unaware of any such thing as ever existent or possible. This comes about due to the impact of the powerful ethereal impressions teeming at that place upon the consciousness of the person sleeping there. We have to take special note of a phenomenon like this, for here we have a purely objective factor giving rise to dream, demonstrating the error of laying too much emphasis upon a purely subjective causation of the dream process.
It is possible, again, for close friends, relatives or twins to influence the dreams of each other. It is quite common for a person to have a dream of any extreme danger or pain that his friend or relative or twin is undergoing at that time. We have instances where a person upon death bed appears in dream to a friend at a great distance, apprises him of his departure, and bids him farewell. There are also cases where a person long dead appears in dream to someone connected with him when alive, and urges him to do some particular work. This astral being keeps on appearing in successive dreams until the person thus visited accomplishes satisfactorily the purpose indicated. All these are irrespective of the dreamer’s temperament, predisposition, personal sexual life, early impressions, repressed desires, etc. (Vide, Ibid. pp. 175-77).
Certain kinds of external sounds, such as the ringing of a bell, the noise of alarm clocks, knocks on the door or the wall, the blowing of wind, the drizzling of rain, the rustling of leaves, the sound of the horn of a motor car, the creaking of the window, etc., may produce in the mind of the dreamer a variety of imagination. These generate certain sensations which increase in intensity according to the sensitiveness of the mind of the dreamer. The sounds may cause very elaborate dreams. If one touches the dreamer’s chest with the point of a pin, he may dream that someone has given him a severe blow on his body, or stabbed him with a dagger (Ibid. p. 128). Medical men opine that an organic disturbance in the system, especially in the stomach, can cause dreams, and even indicate the coming of a disease. Indigestion also becomes often a cause for several kinds of dream. A patient suffering from heart disease may dream of death under painful conditions. One who has lung disease may dream of suffocation. Intense pain in the teeth may cause the dream of dropping of teeth. It is not also quite unusual for a person whose system in the state of sleep feels a necessity to micturate to dream of swimming in a river or an ocean, or for one suffering from flatulence to dream of flying in the air.
Freud tries to establish his theory of wish-fulfilment in dreams by observation and analysis, which, he thinks, show that the dream content is not merely a translation of latent potency, but is reinforced by an unconscious wish, to fulfil which the content of the dream is transformed. He also advances an additional argument that the residuum of impressions of waking life cannot find expression in dream without the aid of the unconscious drive. Desires supply the impulse to manifest the impressions of waking. To what extent these assertions can be correct we have already noticed in our observations of the different phenomena that act as causes of dream. Freud often starts with what he wishes to prove. He is intent on discovering a wish behind dreams; and when one is not discovered there, the analysis is thought to be incomplete. Often, when we search for a thing in the mind, it is found there.
The mind in the waking state manifests only certain prominent aspects of the reservoir of the unconscious. The subconscious, too, is a partial manifestation of the deep unconscious. The waking and the dreaming states are regarded as expressions of the consequences of the deeds to be worked out in this particular life. In this respect, these states may be considered not as experiences of original conditions but of reflections of experience or reproductions of forces that are buried in the deepest recesses of the unconscious. But what is the unconscious made of? It is constituted of unmanifest impressions and latent tendencies given rise to by past conscious acts. Thus the unconscious in the individual plays a double role: it is the result of past desires and actions, and also the cause of future desires and actions. Originally, it was caused by deliberate psychological acts and volitions, but in the course of countless lives which the individual undergoes, it continues doing newer and newer actions, due to fresh desires cropping up on account of attachment to individuality in every one of its incarnations, and thus adds fresh impressions to the old stock of the unconscious. The result is that the potential forces of the unconscious become so strong that they begin even to direct the course and determine the nature of future actions. This is the tragedy of individual life, that every new conscious action produces fresh impressions that are added on to the unconscious, thus enabling it to have a powerful hold on the destiny of the individual. The misery of bodily existence begins first with conscious acts, and then it becomes the consequence of the incessant surge of unconscious forces hidden behind visible causes. Man is, accordingly, free as well as bound.
Dreams occur in the Manomaya-Kosa or the mental sheath. The functions of the mind are chiefly thoughts of objects. Emotions, feelings, desires, and the like, are natural to the mind, which works in coordination with the Pranamaya-Kosa or the vital sheath. During dreams, the mental sheath acts as a screen on which the pictures of forms are thrown by the impressions lying deep in the Annamaya-Kosa or the bliss-sheath, and the Vijnanamaya-Kosa or the intellectual sheath functions partially, and due to a hazy and dull manifestation of consciousness therein, it gets deprived of its power of volition and proper discrimination. The Atman is the witness of the play of the five sheaths, but the Jiva actually feels the vibrations and activities of the sheaths due to its self-identification with them. In waking, the whole of the intellectual sheath is lighted up and becomes active, but only a very weak part of it is active in dream, it being clouded by Tamas or inertia. A set of impulses which could not have free play in the waking life, because of the operation of the discriminative intelligence, is drawn out by a stimulus of a like character, when the power of discrimination fails and the mind begins to work independent of the senses by means of impressions of waking consciousness alone. The result is that we have a dream. Under these circumstances, there comes about a displacement of emphasis from the proper objective to an unimportant element. When dreams of a shocking nature are cast on the mental screen, the whole system, unable to bear them, awakes, and puts a stop to the dream.
Along with the projection of impressions, the rays of consciousness from the Atman, also, travel and illumine the play of the imagery in dream. These rays, while passing on to the mental sheath, have necessarily to pass through the intellectual sheath, but they are not strong enough to illumine the whole of the sheath on account of the intellect then being dominated by Tamas. This leads to the diminution of the dreamer’s discriminative sense, and to experiences that are not in conformity with the characteristics of objects usually seen by the waking mind. But one does not dream anything that one has not placed in the Anandamaya-Kosa, sometime or the other, except, of course, in the case of dreams which are caused by factors outside the individual’s mind.
It is also possible for a dreamer to remain cognisant, during his dream state, of the fact that he is dreaming. This phenomenon takes place very rarely, but, nevertheless, it is a fact. Philosophers and saints have compared this type of dream with the condition of a person in waking life, in whom the spiritual consciousness has risen to its heights and enables him to recognise the unreality of the waking world in the light of the Absolute Truth. By constant practice it is possible for one to remain a witness even of dream phenomena, as it is possible for the perfected ones to be witnesses of the long dream of world-existence. If one trains oneself to remain detached from one’s thoughts in the waking state, it would also be possible for one to exercise this control over experiences even in dream. It is not impossible to be aware sometimes, even in dream, that the dream is only a dream. One can alter, stop or create one’s thoughts independently, even in the dream state, provided the practice of such control in the waking state is sufficiently strong. Intense meditation on the independence of the conscious Self will enable one to keep awake even in dream. If there is perfect self-discipline in waking, it would be there in dream, too. The liberated soul or the Jivanmukta makes no difference between the essential features of dream and waking. To the Yogi who has successfully risen above the three states, experience is a continuous process of consciousness, spiritual and indivisible. The Jnani, with his intuitive perception, identifies himself with the Atman that runs like a thread through all the states.
That the Freudian analysis of dream is defective has been pointed out by several psychologists and philosophers of note. Wilhelm Stekel of Vienna, after quoting a passage from Freud to the effect that dream is a sinking back of the person into the intrauterine state, remarks: “This one example from Freud’s latest work is enough to show the one-sided character of his conception of dreams. The dream is and remains for him a wish-fulfilment. Into this Procrustean bed of wish he wedges in every dream. Thus he neglects altogether the telepathic dreams which do not happen to fit in with his theory. He does not believe in telepathic dreams. But he brushes aside also all other dreams, which we must recognise as denoting warning or anxiety, as well as the dreams which we may call ‘instructive.’ Anxiety is always for him the sign of a repressed wish. But knowing that the dream portrays the eternal warfare between craving and inhibition, the struggle of man with himself under his dual aspect as the heir of primordial instincts and as the representative of culture, we must look upon the dream as a picture of both sides of the combat, a dramatisation in which the cravings as well as the inhibitions find pictorial representation, and in which even foreign thoughts may crop out through telepathic means. If one sees only the cravings, one may be easily led to the erroneous conception which I myself have held for a time, that the dream is merely a wish-fulfilment. For, back of every wish there always stands some craving: the sexual instinct, the nutritional instinct, the craving for power, for self-aggrandisement, etc. But if we investigate the inhibitions, we find back of them also the influences of culture: warnings, preparations for the future, foreshadowings, religiosity and moral restrictions of every kind.” Stekel concludes that sleep means re-experiencing one’s past, forgetting one’s present, and pre-feeling one’s future.
Psychologists have also extended the features characterising dreams to fairy tales, folk stories and myths of the different races. The myth is considered to be a folk dream and to contain in a cryptic symbolic language an expression of the unconscious wish-excitations and fulfilment-hallucinations of the folk mind. Just as dreams disclose the secret thoughts and imaginations of the individual man, myths are supposed to disclose in unmistakable manner the ideals and wishes of the people. Carl Jung of Zurich posited a collective or racial unconscious, in addition to the personal unconscious. He discovered in this universal unconscious archetypes of experience which dream imagery and phantasy, myths and fables draw upon. He held that the presence of such a collective unconscious accounts for certain universally persistent symbols and modes of thought and imagination in the literature and practices, beliefs and behaviours of the people of several nations. He says: “The collective unconscious is the sediment of all the experience of the universe of all time, and is also an image of the universe that has been in the process of formation for untried ages.” This, he thinks, explains the phenomenon that the matter and themes of legends are met with all the world over in identical forms. The impressions of the thoughts and feelings of different persons that have lived since ages are said to be potentially and partially present in the structure of the brains of those who live today. Certain fundamental processes of thinking and feeling are held to be remarkably similar to all nations in the world. Dreams and myths, fairy and folk tales are considered to present the same kind of psychic structure. Such arguments as these are advanced to establish a racial or collective unconscious. The dreams of the individual, therefore, are said to be much influenced by the contents of this collective unconscious, apart from other factors peculiar to the individual and its environment.
It is also held that certain objects seen in dream can be inhabitants and features of spheres different from the one in which the dreamer lives during his waking life. Gaudapada thinks that the phenomena experienced in dream are Sthani-Dharmas or conditions of a region which is subtler than the one in which the waking individual lives. There are others who opine that dream is a connecting link between two realms of being, the physical and the super-physical. The fact, however, seems to be that dreams, in general, are mental images less clear in the quality of awareness, though in the framework in which they appear they are indistinguishable from waking life. The pattern of experience in waking and dream is the same. Space, time, objects and causal relation are common to both the states, though they belong to different orders when compared with each other. The ‘seen’ is always outside the seer, and the two are related to each other by an objective process of knowing. A study of the relation between dream and waking gives us a clue to the knowledge of the relation between man and God.
Free will and Necessity
If Brahman is the only reality, if Isvara is universal being, the freedom of the Jiva can only be conditional, and not absolute. Freedom of choice in the Jiva is relegated to the appearances that constitute the world, and effort becomes a process of the transmission of the impetus of universal activity through an ego. The force of the universe, as the Will of God or Isvara, causes an all-round evolution of things in space and time. As the universal Will is supreme, it may be said that there is an eternal determinism of the scheme of creation, preservation and destruction. But this universal Will acts not merely in the objective physical universe, but also in the subjective mental states. When the mind is endowed with the consciousness of personality and individuality, it receives the vibration of the cosmic Will through the medium of the constituents of its personality. The light that passes through a coloured glass seems to acquire the colour of that glass. The unique nature of the individual is self-centredness. Limitation to body, desire for objects, and intense self-respect are certain traits of this notable state. The universal Will, when it passes through the prism of individuality, appears to imbibe these strange attributes which the mind arrogates to itself, of its own accord. In this process, the mind, instead of realising that the impulse for activity which it feels within itself is but the ingress of the universal into its individual processes, commits an error in yielding to the dictates of the ego and assuming for itself the role of a real agent, a doer and an enjoyer. When this impulse is deliberately associated with the ego, it goes by the name of effort actuated by a felt free will. Thus it becomes clear that free will and effort are names given to the manner in which the cosmic Will is erroneously received through the medium of the personal ego and attributed to it as a reality.
Effort, however, can be rightly directed,—as it is actually done by all spiritual aspirants,—when it is illumined by the light of the higher understanding. When the whole personality is lighted up by the higher knowledge, the ego begins to act by accepting its guidance. Here comes about the peculiar joint action of the ego, which assumes the role of agency, and the superior knowledge, which directs the individual beyond itself. As far as effort, as such, is concerned, it is to be considered as a result of mistaking the action of the universal impetus for individual power, but, when this effort moves in the direction of contemplation on the Divine Being, it becomes a process of self-purification and spiritual enlightenment. All other forms of effort are misdirected in different degrees, and lead to bondage and pain, ultimately. We have to distinguish between the lower effort of the ignorant Jiva and the higher one of the wise Sadhaka. The higher effort causes in the end a cessation of all personal initiative in the experience of Reality. Rightly directed effort aims at liberating the Jiva gradually from the false notion of its being an independent agent in the performance of actions. The solution of the problem of the relation of free will to necessity lies in our recognising that individual freedom is but the consciousness of the way in which the Absolute is envisaged by temporal processes.
The question of the freedom of the soul is an agelong one. “Spinoza thought that our actions and experiences are in actual fact determined by a sort of mathematical necessity, like that of a wheel in a machine, but that we feel ourselves free if we enjoy doing what actually we are doing under compulsion; a stone in the air, he said, would think itself free if it could forget the hand that had thrown it. Or, to take a more homely illustration which is not Spinoza’s, I know that I choose jam-roll because I like it and I feel myself free in so choosing because I do not stop to think that my liking is the inevitable result of my inheritance and upbringing, of the present state of my health and of my sugar metabolism, and of all sorts of things which it is quite beyond my power to change at the moment. Hegel and, at a later period, Alexander, held very similar opinions. Kant thought that we feel ourselves free just in so far as our actions appear rational to us; if I rationally run downstairs to welcome a friend, my action seems free to me; but if I run downstairs irrationally because I am afraid of a ghost, it will seem to me that I acted under compulsion” (James Jeans: Physics and Philosophy, pp. 206). It is the condition of the mind that finally determines whether an action is done with freedom of will or under the stress of necessity and force. Freedom in this world is really the individual’s consciousness identified with a particular action or group of actions under consideration, with an unconsciousness of the fact that these actions are but bits of the process of the universe directed by the laws of the Absolute. When the impersonal law gets translated in terms of a conscious individuality which is inseparable from a sense of personal agency, it goes by the name of free will and self-effort.
What we call our freedom is, according to Plotinus, simply the power of obeying our true and essential nature. True freedom does not belong to the appetitive side of human nature, to our desires or to our passions, for it is seen that these impulses restrict the freedom of man in acting otherwise than as they direct. Plotinus holds that complete freedom is not given to us as long as our desires are prompted by finite needs. The connection of our consciousness with the material body makes us dependent on the general laws of the physical world, over which we, as individuals, have no control. The individual is a complex structure, it partakes of elements that are subjected to necessity and also a principle whose essential nature is freedom. We may be individuals, and, as such, under compulsion to obey Nature; but we are also, as persons, each of us a whole. Though as parts we are all determined, as wholes we are free. The highest freedom belongs to the Absolute, and we are ultimately not different from it, and thus enjoy freedom in the real sense. The whole is present in every part, and the part is free to the extent to which the whole is manifest in it. “We are, therefore, not merely cogs in a great machine; we are the machine itself, and the mind which directs it.” The soul which has perfectly realised its inner essential nature is perfectly free. “The imperfect man is pulled and pushed by forces which are external to himself, just because he is himself still external to his true Being.” Though the law of cause and effect operates everywhere inviolably and determines the movement of everything, we as self-conscious spirits are ‘ourselves causative principles.’ The principle of freedom in us is in the innermost Spirit that we all are, for the Spirit cannot be determined by any cause outside itself. Freedom is “the will of the higher Soul to return to its own Principle. The element of freedom in our practical activities is this underlying motive, the spiritual activity of the Soul.” When the individual receives enlightenment, its will enjoys freedom. The will then becomes a good will, and the attainment of its desire is tantamount to spiritual perception, the perception of the glory of the Spirit which is absolutely free. Freedom is the principle of abiding by the laws of the Absolute, which is our own Self (Vide, W.R. Inge: The Philosophy of Plotinus, Vol. II, pp. 183-84).
The freedom that the ordinary man speaks of is an apparent freedom to will certain things and to act in certain ways, but he does not consider whether he has freedom to will what he will, or whether he has knowledge as to why he should will in a particular manner at all. That a man thinks he is free cannot be offered as a proof that he is really free, for it has been observed that a subject under hypnosis carries out a train of activity, suggested to him under hypnosis, and, after awakening from the hypnotic state, gives reasons of his own when asked to explain why he acted in that way. Since the hypnotist knows the real reason behind the subject’s actions, and since this motive or reason differs from the one which the subject offers, it has been suggested that the reasons for our actions can be different from what we believe them to be, and that this indicates the existence and operation of unknown forces. We feel we are free because we are aware only of our present volitions and not of their real causes. It is our limitation to self-consciousness that makes us feel we are free. This has led psychologists to throw overboard free will altogether, and assume an unconscious realm of the psyche as the sole determinant of all conscious behaviour. Our thoughts and desires are said to be expressions of the unconscious, only certain aspects of which are allowed to enter the surface of consciousness. The so-called freedom of the individual is thus threatened by the control which the unconscious impulses have on the conscious life of man. “If, in short, consciousness is rightly regarded as a by-product of unconscious processes, it is clearly determined by the processes which produce it. Conscious events are merely the smoke and flame given off by the workings of the subterranean psychological machinery of which we are unconscious” (C. E. M. Joad: Guide to Philosophy, p. 238). The instincts and impulses are held by psychoanalysts to be the mainspring of all individual action. Even the unselfish actions or desireless activities of man are supposed to be driven by instincts over which he has no control, and of which he has no knowledge. Even the intellect is dubbed as a mere rationalisation of inner urges. Intellectual activity and ratiocinative processes are classed as operations of irrational instincts in the plane of objective consciousness. Human life is depicted as a striving of the impulses to seek satisfaction in the achievement of their particular ends. These findings of Depth-psychology have, no doubt, an element of truth in them; but they do not give us the whole truth.
The human soul is a finite reproduction of God, and so it shares to some extent in the freedom of God. This freedom may be relative, as the individual is limited by the forces of Nature (physical laws), by its relations to the other souls (social laws), and by the absoluteness of God (Divine law). But man is free in proportion as his consciousness is in approximation to God, and is determined in proportion as he is finite and self-conscious in opposition to an object in space and time.
Swami Sivananda’s views on self-effort and necessity may be stated as follows (The Divine Life, Vol. XIV, pp. 36-38):
An animal that is tethered to a peg by a rope of a given length has freedom to move within the circle drawn by the radius of that rope. But it has no freedom beyond that limit; it is bound to move within that specified range. The position of man is somewhat like this. His reason and discrimination afford him a certain amount of freedom which is within their scope. But the reasoning faculty is like the rope with which the animal is tied. It is not unlimited, and is circumscribed by the nature of the forces which govern the body through which it functions. As long as man has consciousness of personality, or even individuality, and insofar as it is within his capacity to exercise the sense of selective discrimination, he is responsible for what he does; he is an agent or doer of the action, and such actions as these are fresh actions or Kriyamana-Karmas, for they are connected with the sense of doership. But if events occur when he is incapable of using this power of understanding, as, for example, when he is not in his body-consciousness, or when things happen without his conscious intervention in them, he is not to be held responsible for the same, for these are not fresh actions but only the fruition of a previous deed or deeds. Though every experience bears, to some extent, a relation to unknown forces, its connection with one’s consciousness constitutes the meaning of a fresh action. Effort is nothing but consciousness of initiative as related to oneself, whatever be the thing that ultimately prompts one to do that action. It is not the action as such but the manner in which it is executed that determines whether it is a Kriyamana-Karma or not. A Jivanmukta’s actions are not Kriyamana-Karmas, for they are not connected with any personal consciousness. They are spontaneous functions of the remaining momentum of past conscious efforts, which are now unconnected with the consciousness of agency. Experiences which are forced upon oneself or which come of their own accord, without the personal will of the experiencer involved in them as an agent, are not to be considered as real actions. An experience caused by mere Prarabdha does not cause another fresh result, but is exhausted thereby, while the Kriyamana-Karma tends to produce a fresh experience in the future, because it is attended by the sense of doership.
Sometimes, the causative factors of actions may manifest themselves, not through the consciousness of the experiencer, but through an external agency or occurrences having causes beyond human understanding. Even when a person is goaded by another to do an action, it is only an aspect of his deserts, in relation to the others, that works. In the state of spiritual realisation, such incitations cease. Efforts are automatically stopped on the rise of Self-knowledge, which is the goal of all effort, and not before that. As long as there is body-consciousness and world-consciousness, man will not perforce continue exerting himself to achieve his desired end. The consciousness of effort is the natural concomitant of the consciousness of imperfection. Man, being what he is, continues, by his own nature, to put forth effort until he reaches his goal. The question of free will and necessity is a relative one, and it loses its meaning on the dawn of the wisdom of the Self.
Life After Death
A study of the conditions of individuality enables us to ascertain the position of man in the universe. Jivahood is a state or phase, not permanent existence. It is a part of changing Nature. It is Avidya or ignorance that is the source of even logical knowledge. The highest power of the individual is Buddhi or the understanding, which is only a sprout rising from the hidden seed of Ajnana. The function of the Buddhi continues as long as Ajnana is not destroyed by Brahmajnana. Consciousness reflected in the Buddhi is the Jiva-Chaitanya, and this lasts even after the death of the physical body. The Jiva is the transmigrating soul passing through the states of waking, dream and deep sleep, in different planes of life, until it attains salvation. The connection of the self with the Buddhi is dormant in deep sleep and death, but becomes active in the state of waking. The death of the body is not the extinction of the Jiva, but the casting off of a vesture that has served its purpose in a particular state of becoming. It is a process of changing the instrument of experience, nothing more. Birth and death are not just two events in one’s life, but form links in the unending chain of transformation going on in the universe, whether one is aware of it or not in one’s attachment to specific conditions. “The Jiva leaves the physical body here, goes to heaven to enjoy the fruits of its various actions with the help of the astral body, and comes back to this Mrityuloka (mortal world) when the Karmas are exhausted” (Philosophy and Teachings, p. 52).
In the different births that the individual takes, its subtle body persists, though the tendencies that give rise to the different forms of individuality vary in different lives. The individuality of the Jiva does not cease as long as the store of the impressions of all its past actions does not get exhausted by experience, or is burnt up by the fire of knowledge. The peculiar features of the personality assumed in each birth are determined by the nature of previous actions. Future births are also determined by present actions which are expected to bear fruit as experiences in newer bodies. The form of the Jiva is its limiting adjunct with which the Atman appears to be associated. The Atman is untouched by the changes of Jivahood, which is rooted in the varying conditions of Avidya that gives rise to Kama and Karma. The subtle principles forming the subtle body continue to be associated with the Jiva, whatever be the nature of the birth it takes,—human, superhuman or subhuman. Only, in superhuman forms of birth there is a greater expansion and subtlety of the Antahkarana (internal organ) and the senses, while in lower births they get contracted in accordance with the nature of the body which the soul happens to enter. The Antahkarana is really the centre of individuality. It is in conjunction with the subtle body of the Jiva that the Atman puts on the fictitious role of doer, enjoyer and sufferer, though it is free from such contingent natures. The misery of Samsara continues as long as this Adhyasa or the superimposition of false characters lasts.
The doctrine of creation is based on the eternity of consciousness. As consciousness can never originate or end, so its existence throughout the past must be conceived as repeated embodiment like the present birth. As the ultimate destiny of man is identity with God, he passes from one life to another, from body to body, according to his desires and actions, until he exhausts all experiences resulting therefrom, and attains identity with God. Reincarnation cannot stop until Self-realisation is attained, for the immortal Atman asserts itself every moment, and the individual cannot find rest anywhere except in such realisation, which, again, is not possible unless all Karmas are destroyed. Without the fundamental acceptance of the eternal Atman, no experience can be explained or understood, and the law of Karma is only a corollary to this basic truth, which is the pivot and central theme of philosophy and religion. The function of the soul in evolution cannot be performed in one life alone. The mind has intimations of overstepping the limitations of space, time, causality and individuality. This cannot be realised now immediately. Memory of the past, anticipation of the future, conception of the remote and perception of the inner causes and relations of things beyond the ken of the senses show that the mind can transcend space, time and its concomitants. It cannot be bound to any single body, and so it flies from one to another in search of a perfected state of life.
In his work, What Becomes of the Soul after Death, Swami Sivananda states that life on earth is a halting place on the way to the achievement of the goal of life. Earthly life is transitory, for it is seen that everything born is doomed to die. But death is not the end of life, since without a continuation of life, the values of the deeds performed in this life would be rendered nugatory. There were births and deaths in the past, there will be births and deaths in the future, too, until Moksha is attained. Life is a long chain of which the recurring births, planary lives and deaths are links. Birth is caused by desires and actions. The present life is, therefore, meant to train the individual to qualify itself for a higher life, to stop birth and death ultimately. This life is not the goal or the end, even as the path is not the same as the destination. If earthly life were the final goal, none would have died here, there would not be mutation, pain and sorrow, and there would be no sense of imperfection anywhere, no further urge or aspiration to get beyond the present condition. Birth is inevitably followed by death, and death by rebirth. As a man casting off worn out garments takes new ones, so the dweller in the body, abandoning worn-out bodies, enters others that are new.
The word reincarnation literally means ‘coming again into a body’, while transmigration signifies passing from one plane to another in the process of reincarnation. The doctrine of rebirth follows from the law of Karma. The differences of disposition which are found among individuals are traced to their respective past actions. Past actions imply past births, for we cannot say that the actions of the present body can be its cause. All actions cannot bear fruit in one life alone, and so there must be others for undergoing the results of the remaining actions.
The individual souls build various bodies to display their activities and gain experience in different worlds. They enter bodies and leave them when found to be unfit for habitation. Life flows on to achieve its conquest in the universal. Rebirth is negatived in eternal life. The process of transmigration emphasises the immortality of the soul. The causes of death are many and indefinite. Man is ever in the jaws of death, which overtakes him suddenly, often when he is the least prepared for it. He ever thinks that he will escape death, and even if he realises the certainty of death, he expects it only at a distant date. Just as a mango, fig or a fruit of the pipal tree is detached from its stalk, the soul of man, detaching itself from the parts of the body, goes, in the way it came, to other bodies. The self that is identified with the subtle body dissociates itself from it and withdraws the vital force into itself. As it detaches itself from the body and the organs while entering into deep sleep, it disconnects itself from the body at the time of death. As frequently as one moves from the dreaming state to the waking one, from the waking to the dreaming, and thence to deep sleep, does the soul transmigrate from one body to another. The Jiva adopts the whole universe as a means for the realisation of the fruits of its works and moves to different habitations for fulfilling this object. The universe implied by its works waits for it with the requisite means for this realisation of deeds made ripe for experience. Man is said to be born into the body that has been made for him by the shape and the constitution of the forces generated by his actions.
The fact of rebirth is also proved by the principle of the conservation of energy. Energy is either physical or it also includes the mental. If energy is only physical, the mind would ever remain distinct as something independent of matter, which would mean that it may continue after the death of the body. But if energy includes even mental energy, then, as physical energy is not absolutely lost but exists in some form or the other, so mental energy, too, cannot be lost even after the dissolution of the physical elements of the body. The soul is immortal. Further, if the universe is a perfect system of balanced forces and harmonious elements in it, it stands to reason that the individual, which is an essential factor in the evolution of the universe, and which forms an integral part of it, should exist as a centre of force, irrespective of the fact whether the body is visible or not. Moreover, our personal desires, ambitions and moral urges give us strong hints that we ought to exist even after the death of our body. The intellect which is limited to operations in space and time ever struggles to overcome its boundaries in a boundless knowledge. If this is to be possible at all, if there is any meaning in one’s ceaseless attempts to overcome barriers, then the essence of man cannot die with the death of the body or the destruction of the world. The ideals of morality and the desires of man are ever in conflict with each other. That the moral ideal has to overcome personal desires and that there should be a reconciliation of duty and desire, indicate that there is a future life, without which life would become meaningless.
The assertion of the ‘I’ in everyone is not confined to any particular individual, but is the eternal assertion of existence in common. This sense of the ‘I’ will exist as long as the universe lasts. It is the deathless will-to-live that affirms itself in this way in all beings. This ‘I’, again, is not a limited ‘I’, but a craving for the Infinite, associated with the I-consciousness. It has significance in the infinitude of the Self, in nothing short of the Absolute. Life can never end, and rebirth never stop, until Brahman is realised. The individuality of man is not his true nature but only an outward manifestation of it. It is phenomenon presented in the frame of time. The reality in man knows neither time, nor beginning, nor end, nor limitation. It is everywhere, in every individual, and no one can exist apart from it. When death comes, one is annihilated as a body; but there is continuance of life as a principle of individuality. The temporal man struggles to reach his eternal being.
Desire is the root-cause of transmigration. Being attached to desires, the soul obtains the results which its subtle body or mind contemplates. Exhausting whatever works it did in this life, it returns to this world or another, for fresh work. Thus does man who desires transmigrate continuously. Rebirth is put an end to only by the absence of all desires. He who is free from desires, the objects of whose desires have been attained, and to whom all objects of desire are but the Self,—his Pranas do not depart; being Brahman, he is merged in Brahman. To such a knower who has rooted out his desires, work will produce no baneful result. The scripture declares that for the one who has completely attained the objects of his desire in the realisation of the Self, all desires dissolve in this very life. But the man with desires prepares for his future birth by his present thoughts and feelings, and obtains whatever he thinks and feels at the moment of death. Therefore, in order to have freedom of action and thought at the time of departure from this world, aspirants who desire emancipation should be alert in the practice of Yoga and right knowledge, and in the acquisition of merits during their lifetime. By such practice the Jiva breaks through its bondage and attains supreme blessedness.