A Treatise on the Vedanta Philosophy and Its Methodology
by Swami Krishnananda
The Attainment of Perfection is the Conscious Integration of Being. This is the central theme of the Upanishads. The Upanishads are intuitional revelations, and intuition is integral experience. Their declarations cannot fail to include within themselves the absolute scope of the diverse methods of approach to the one Reality, for integrality excludes nothing. No two individuals think alike, for thinking, which is the objective movement of the Spiritual Force, differs in its mode and impetus in different points of stress in integral existence. But, then, in spite of this separation of beings through their modes of mentation, all individuals have to aim at the attainment of a common Goal, the achievement of a common purpose, for, the truth of them all is one, and all their paths must but meet at One Perfection. Perfection or truth cannot be two, and there cannot be two absolutes. Hence, the methods of approach to Reality must all inherit certain fundamental natures or qualities which belong to the eternal nature of pure Existence. It is this undeniable fact that goes to prove the logical consistency that must exist and that exists among the multitudes of the methods employed by the relative individuals to experience Truth as it really is.
The one and the most important point to be remembered in all the processes of reasoning out the nature of Existence is that we cannot, with loyalty to reason, make in it such relative distinctions as subjective and objective, since such differences in nature are based on mere arbitrary conception and perception. We separate in pure Being the subject and the object only with concession to a belief in internality and externality based on immediate empirical experience bereft of intelligibility. The objective world and the subjective body are both in relation to the cognising entity, and existence is a divisionless mass of cognition, which fact is proved by the inexplicability of objective experience without our positing a conscious reality inclusive of both the subject and the object. The reality of the universe, both in its objective and subjective aspects, is in its existence, which cannot be known unless it becomes a content of consciousness. Unless, again, this content itself is non-different from consciousness, it will have no relation to consciousness, and it cannot be known. Existence must be the same as consciousness in order that existence may be known. If it is not known, it itself is not. Existence is really the existence of consciousness. The cognitive organ modifying the basic consciousness follows existence. And, as consciousness is indivisible, such a distinction in existence gets narrowed to identity of nature through inseparability in undifferentiatedness which has neither inside nor outside. Nothing that is related to another is real. Relation always means interdependence and not self-existence. Existence is always absolute; nothing else. Common perception, however, is not the criterion of truth. The sun does not become non-existent even if all men and animals have no eyes to see. Nor does he become an eternal being just because we perceive him. An unconscious unrest felt by every individualised personality in its own state and the impossibility to rest eternally in the separative consciousness points to the Being of the Supreme State of Absolute Perfection. Desire, which, in common parlance, is understood as the force which attracts the individual to relational existence, is only a clear proof of the inability of the individualised being to pull on with its finitude, and of its demand to have further experiences in the field of consciousness. There is no satisfaction in existing in a relative state of consciousness, however superior in the degree of its extension it may be when compared with the lower states of consciousness. There is a craving inherent in every individual to experience other states of consciousness and to possess other varieties of objects of the universe. This craving finds no rest until infinite states of consciousness are experienced and until infinite objects are possessed. This, however, does not imply multiplicity in Infinity, for that which is Infinite is Divisionless Existence. Even the emperorship of the entire universe cannot give perpetual satisfaction as long as it falls short of the Infinite. The rulership of heaven and earth is but a relative existence, though of a high order of merit, but satisfaction does not reach its summit even at absolute individuality. Perfect satisfaction is not to be found even in a dual state of life—even if it be absolute duality—but in infinite experience and infinite being.
This Infinite Being is not experienced by mere metaphysical speculation, but has its meaning in immediate non-relational experience. An integral experience necessitates an integral approach, a transformation of the integral personality. Hence, intellect which is a part of the integral man, cannot reach the Reality which is the Whole. The entire consciousness has to be concentrated upon the Ideal to be attained. Towards this end, it is imperative that the dissipated rays of personal consciousness should be withdrawn to their primal relative source, the root of the individual personality, the purified ego. The purified ego-consciousness thus freed from the divergent attractions of sense-perception is allowed to devote itself completely to the higher purpose of conscious expansion into the subtler and vaster states of consciousness. Each higher state is more extensive, subtler and more inclusive than the lower states, and the power of integration is greater in every succeeding state. Forces which cannot be controlled by a certain state of consciousness come under the easy sway of a further superior state, and the ability of the individual to fulfil a certain purpose is greater in more extensive states. Thus, the innate and the ultimate nature of consciousness should necessarily be all-inclusive, the most extensive and, hence, Infinite. The Consciousness and Power of this climax of Being is illimitable, for, there is nothing second to this essential condition of existence. The conscious establishment of the self in this homogeneous essence is achieved through a sacrifice of the individual separateness to the fullness of Infinitude. The Upanishads are the legacies of those who transcended the finite consciousness of a miserable individuality and hailed supreme in the Wholeness of Experience. The limitedness of diversified life is pointed out by the fact that the individual living such a life is put to the necessity of feeling a want of things and states other than those that are its own. Objective existence itself is a demarcation in the unity of existence's permanent nature, and the presentation of the untruth of relativity in undifferentiated being cannot win final victory. Even against the surface-conscience there is an urge from within the depth of every being to become the All, whether this is felt perfectly or otherwise. The Upanishads are the ripe fruits of such fine flowers blossomed out in the Light of the Wisdom-Sun. They lead us to the Whole, who are but its psychological parts.
The Upanishads are thoroughly spiritual and, hence, advocate the most catholic doctrine of the Yoga of Truth-realisation. Their teachings are not the product of an intellectual wonder or curiosity, but the effect of an intense and irresistible pressure of a practical need arising from the evil of attachment to individual existence. The task of the Seers was to remedy this defect in life, which, they realised, was due to the consciousness of separateness of being and the desire to acquire and become what one is not. The remedy lies in acquiring and becoming everything, expressed all too imperfectly by the words "Infinity," "Immortality," and the like. The central problem of every one of us is the overcoming of the illness of individual life and the attainment of the state of perfection, peace and bliss. The Upanishads point out the "End" as well as the "Means" and, since those sages had the Integral Knowledge of Reality, the method of approach to it they point out is also befitting the Ideal, viz., it is integral. The practice of such an ideal "sadhana" for deliverance from the thralldom of relational life leads one to the shining region of unalloyed happiness.
The differences among the conceptions regarding the efficacies of the various methods of the transformation of personality into the higher consciousness are due to the varying temperaments and grades of experience of those engaged in the task of realising the Divine Existence. Each of the ego-centers is different from the other in consciousness and experience. They require higher touches of experience varying in degree, in proportion to the subtlety of the condition of their present state of consciousness. We may assert that though the fundamental view presented in the declarations of the Upanishads is the one taken by the highest class of the seekers after Truth—a thorough-going intuitional Absolutism—one will not fail to find in them deepest proclamations touching all the aspects of the psychological constitution of the human being in general. The light and the heat of the sun are not useless to any existing entity of the universe—whatever be the way and degree in which it may make use of the sun's presence—and the Upanishadic statements of the integral Truth are not useless to any aspect of man and to no method of approach to Reality; for, "integrality" includes all "aspects".
This Integration of Being can be achieved even in this very life. It is not necessary to take some more rounds of births and deaths for the purpose, provided the integration is effected before the shaking off of the physical sheath, through persistent meditation on Reality and negation of separative consciousness. The quickness of the process of Attainment depends upon the intensity of the power of such meditation, both in its negative and assertive aspects. A dehypnotisation of the consciousness of physicality and individuality is the essential purpose of all methods of spiritual meditation.
The teachings of the Upanishads are expressed in the language of the Self —not of the intellect—and, hence, they do not easily go deeply into every soul, unless it possesses a responsive and burning yearning for Absolute-Experience. The soul, due to its deviation from the Truth and wandering among the shadows, finds it difficult to hear the voice of the Silence. The Upanishads suggest that even the highest achievement in the relative plane—even the creatorship or destroyership of the universe—is, from the ultimate point of view, among the fleeting shadows of phenomenal existence. The delicate tendencies which manifest themselves in the process of the blossoming of individuality into the Infinite try to cover the presence of the Truth in the inmost recesses of our being. Such psychic layers, however brilliant they may be, are, after all, layers of non-being and should not be mistaken for the Real. Even the subtlest layer is but a veil over the Truth, a "golden vessel" that hides the Essence, and must be transcended before the kernel of Being is reached. The delight of unfettered being is beyond all states of relational joy, however extreme that joy may be. The Bliss of unlimited Consciousness is the zenith of Existence, and everything other than this is condemned as untrue.
The delight of the Self is the delight of Being. It is the Bliss of Consciousness-Absolute. The Being of Consciousness is the Being of Bliss, Eternal. It does not lie in achievement but realisation and experience, not invention but discovery. The Consciousness is more intense when the objective existence is presented near the subject, still more complete when the subjective and the objective beings are more intimately related, and fully perfected and extended to Absoluteness in the identification of the subject and the object. This Pure Consciousness is the same as Pure Bliss, the source of Power and the height of Freedom. This is the supreme Silence of the splendid Plenitude of the Real, where the individual is drowned in the ocean of Being.
The Upanishads do not declare that Truth is a state of dynamic change and action, all which marks limitation and imperfection, but one of perennial calm, limitless joy and permanent satisfaction. Change is othering, altering, movement, which is activity, an effort exercised to achieve an unachieved end, which is the characteristic of an unsatisfied imperfect being. This cannot be the Nature of Truth, for Truth is ever-enduring and has no necessity to change itself.
Change is the quality of untruth and the Upanishads assert that Reality is Self-satisfied, Self-existent, Non-dual, Tranquil and utterly Perfect. An appeal to the inwardness of consciousness expanded into limitlessness is the burden of the song of the Upanishads. In this respect the Upanishads are extremely mystic, if mysticism does not carry with it an idea of irrationalism or a madness of spirit. The transcendental mysticism of the Upanishads is not the effect of an emotional outburst, but a calm transcendence of intellect and reason through a development into the integral consciousness.
The Truth, "knowing which everything becomes known" is the subject of enquiry and the object of quest in the Upanishads. The Seers dived into the very depth of Existence and tasted the nature of the Limitless Life. They entered into the Root of the universe and the branches could easily realise their inner being through an investigation into the essential workings of the Great Root of Life. When the root is watered, the branches are automatically watered; when gold is known, all the ornaments also are known; when Truth is realised, everything is realised; for, Truth is One. Whatever system of philosophy may be derived from the Upanishads, the obvious truth goes without saying that they propound a theory that holds Reality to be indivisible, objectless and transcendent. They assert that belief in diversity is an ignorance of consciousness, and Truth is essentially a boundless Unity. They lead us from the faulty faith in the objective reality of the universe to an internal search of the veritable Self existing as the finest essence of our being. And what is even more striking is their untiring insistence on attaining Self-Perfection. To their immortal honour, they grasped the eternal fact that the knowledge of the Self is the supreme end of life, its only meaning and purpose ever, and that beings exist but for that grand Attainment of Light, Freedom and Immortality! Blessed is he, and he has truly lived a purposeful life, who attains to this height of undying joy in this very life; and he is a great loser and has lived his life in vain, who has failed to realise the Truth here (vide Kena Up., II. 5).
The Upanishads affirm in several ways that there is no meaning in taking the phenomenal diversity as a permanent reality, and that Truth is Infinity. The common impulse to express, unfold and realise one's Self is present in all beings in different degrees or intensity. The whole process of conscious exertion to realise Truth lies in the manifesting of this deepest impulse in man and a flowing with it to expand oneself into the Infinite. As the background of every struggle in life there is this urge to get oneself established in the changeless Consciousness. Even when one struggles blindly in one's attachment to personal life for acquiring external gains, one is indeed moved, though unconsciously and wrongly, by this urge to expand oneself to Completeness.
The capability for such an expansion differs by degrees in different beings, according to the extent of the Reality manifested through them. Beings are higher or lower according to the degree of Intelligence that lights up their nature. Entities in the universe are differentiated through their modes of mentation, which are controlled by the intensity of the Truth presented by them. Nature appears to be Spirit distorted in multitudinous ways and expressed in different degrees of revelation. Individuals marked off within themselves, limited by space and time, bear a variegating relation among one another, in proportion to the depth of the Consciousness realised by them. The deeper the Consciousness realised by an individual, the nearer it is to the Eternal. The separative force is the power of individualisation and of the rootedness of the ego-sense. The greater the force with which this separative sense is suppressed to nothingness or expanded to Infinity, the more extensive and deeper is the light and the joy realised and experienced. From this it would be clear that, excepting that great fiery method of attaining Immediate Self-Experience, the process of Self-realisation must be a progressive one, and that none can fly into a higher state of consciousness without fulfilling the conditions of the lower, the lesser and the grosser states. The more limited states of manifestation have to be complied with their demands before one could reach the highest Metaphysical Being. Stricter discrimination may repudiate the view of a progressive process in Reality, but there is process in all relative conditions, and it is valid as long as duality persists. Anyhow, all is well with him whose heart is turned towards acting in accordance with the deathless law of Infinite Life. No disease, physical or mental, can ever assault him.
This important factor is forgotten by the modern man, howevermuch educated he may be. He has refused to walk freely with the workings of the Spiritual Nature and has attempted his best to centre himself in the state of individualised existence. The misery of the present-day world may be attributed to this constrictive tendency in the human being, which is ever trying to block the way of the expansion of the spiritual consciousness. The case of the half-baked material science and psychology may be specially mentioned here as being one of the forces obstructive to the happy process of Truth-realisation. The ills caused by wrong methods of education, the social and political strifes, the individual evils and the world-degeneration are all effected by the one terrible fact that humanity has turned against the law of the Spiritual Reality. So long as this self-destructive tendency of the human mind is not controlled, and man is not shown the correct way of procedure, the unhappy world has to be contented with its fate. The remedy lies in our being sincere in taking recourse to the direct method of such Realisation here and now. Humanity has to be cent-per-cent spiritual. Those who think that they are doing injustice to the world through their act of Self-realisation have naturally to be regarded as having not gone above the credulity of childhood. For, they have forgotten that the Self which is the Absolute includes the whole universe, and far transcends it. It is the obtaining of everything, and not the losing of anything. The welfare of society rests in its spirituality. Society is a formation of bodies effected through the unconscious spiritual bond existing among beings belonging to the same genus or species. The social bond is stronger among those who think alike and who practise the same conduct. This bond is the strongest among those who are in the same level of the depth of consciousness. All this is a feeble reflection of the essential nature of the indivisibility of Existence which is One. Human beings have to know and act according to this spiritual law, and its acceptance should not be merely for the purpose of academical research, but has to be the foundation of the daily life of everyone in general. Unity in the world necessitates a heart-to-heart feeling of oneness among its inhabitants. This is the need of the hour. This is the task of the political and the religious heads. This is what is going to pave the way of blessedness to the whole universe.
The Upanishads are our guide-lights in this supreme pursuit. Let us understand and follow them with sincerity, faith, calmness, surety and persistence.