A Treatise on the Vedanta Philosophy and Its Methodology
by Swami Krishnananda
The brahmakara-vritti is the highest expansion of the mind into the Infinite Nature of the Absolute, where the mind is withdrawn from the perception of plurality and duality and is fixed in the perception of the Infinite. It is the supreme state of the mind, the stoppage of all its modifications, where it takes the form of unlimited existence, spaceless and timeless, where nothing exists besides the limitless expanse of Consciousness. It is not a mere feeling of a state of Infinity but a positive immediateness where the thinking subject expands into the Infinite. There is a vanishing of individuality altogether, and there is the cognition of the Essence. It is the spiritual eye, the intuitional vision, obtained through the repeated practice of Absolute-Affirmation. It is the last vritti or psychosis, whose object is its own infinite form, which is not supported by anything else, which has nothing external, which rests solely on the power of its potential and actual contents. Even this experience is to be transcended by the Absolute-Experience which is the Goal of even the brahmakara-vritti, where the vritti destroys itself by itself on account of the exhaustion of its contents through experience, and exists in Identity with the Absolute. Brahma-samstho-amritatvameti:
“He, who is established in Brahman, attains Immortality.” —Chh. Up., II. 23. 1.
The empirical rationality cannot think too much of its own independence. It is not always that the analytical intellect is guided by right experience, and when not thus guided it often passes along the very edge of a huge fall into self-deceit and delusion. Only a carefully guarded intellect can hold the torch of correct discrimination to help in proceeding rightly along the path to the higher consciousness. Faith seems to transcend the unaided reason. Faith can directly hold on to the truth declared in the Srutis, while the theoretical reason cannot do so without passing through the lower phenomena, a scientific explanation of which is always demanded by the intellect. It wants to understand even delusion and phantasm. The formalistic intellect is a naughty child which will not listen to the words of the elders. It always wishes to be self-dependent. But this autonomous attitude is not always successful, especially when dealing with matters concerned with supersensuous and trans-empirical regions. Reason which goes against the accepted tradition of the intuitional revelations of the Srutis has to be rejected, however just such a reason may appear to be. Reason is meant to strengthen the faith which we have in the Vedic and Upanishadic declarations. If philosophical enquiry arrives at a conclusion different from these, it may well be considered to have been led astray by false shadows. Even in the so-called rationality—except, of course, that rare higher pure reason which is independent of causality and the categories—with which man in the world is ordinarily acquainted, there is, as a matter of fact, hidden behind an element of faith in and devotion and surrender to one’s own convictions and persuasions which are brought about by the relations causing experiences in an individual. It is not the pure independent reason, but instinctive experience, controlling even the lower logical reason which is inseparable from the causal chain and the categories, that forms the ground of the life of an individual. Rationality proceeds from experiences which themselves cannot be accounted for rationally. Sensuous perception forms the basis of the relative reason and the logic which argues in terms of the cause-and-effect-relation. The validity of this perception itself cannot be established by reason. Truly, our sense-experiences befool us every moment and we take pride in running after the mirage. Our yesterday’s reasoned-out facts and beliefs are contradicted by today’s, and today’s by tomorrow’s. Where, then, is the certainty that what we intellectually ascertain and instinctively believe in is not a mistake of the confused mind? The intellectual sifting of empirical categories with great intensity of sincerity and realistic fervour is itself clear proof of how the intellect and the instinct deceive us by making us love and take deep interest in what is to be completely contradicted and negated in a higher and truer eternal experience. Faith in the Ideal as ascertained by intuitive cognition, the Srutis, seems to be the only solace to the individual who cannot directly see the higher light. Upon him shall descend the Grace of the Supreme Being:
The innate nature of all discretive beings is to love an external being. An individual cannot live without loving something or some condition which he is not himself. Love for external things is an involuntary internal urge to become unified with everything by filling the gap in one’s being, and, thus, reach Truth-Experience. But this is a vain attempt, for the One Truth is not to be experienced through objective contact of any kind. Man is punished with an objective tendency. “The Creator inflicted the senses with outward activity” (Katha Up., IV. 1) and this cosmic drive is felt in all individuals, in spite of themselves. The mind alone is the true sense of all perceptions, and its pleasure, therefore, lies in objective willing.
Our folly lies in that we allow the mind to run in all directions. The dissipated rays of the mind take interest in countless objects of the universe, both seen and heard. The essential power of the mind manifests itself only when it is centred in infinity as its object. It is the concentrated ray of the sun passing through a lens that burns things focussed through it, not so much the rays that are scattered in all directions. The mind should be concentrated on the One Substance, not localised in space, but filling all existence. This One Substance is the Supreme Being, God, the object of devout meditation. Love for the objects of samsara has a selfish origin and so is a fetter to bind the self to birth, life and death in transmigratory existence. The love for God is a veritable sacrifice of the self to the universal, and is, therefore, redemptive of phenomenal consciousness. The love for the Universal Being is the zenith of love. The ego cannot assert itself, for God is everywhere. The mind cannot modify itself into various psychoses, for, to it, there is no object but God. Wherever it moves, it feels the presence of the One Being. The whole world is clothed with the glory of God. He who is supremely powerful and supremely wise pervades the earth and the heaven at one stretch. The mind, not being fed by sensual food, dies of itself, and the self reaches God, the consummation of all desires and aspirations.
“This is the final Goal; from this they do not return; thus, this is the check (of samsara).” —Prash. Up., I. 10.
This is drowning oneself in Truth-Consciousness. This is plunging into the ocean of bliss. This is taking a bath in the sea of ambrosia. This is drinking deep the immortal essence.
Meditation on the Eternal Being is the supreme form of love. A belief in the degrees of truth and reality is necessitated by the fact that the universe appears to be a gradual materialisation of the Spirit. A completely transcendent being unconnected with the meditator is impossible to be meditated upon, for a negation of duality in the beginning itself brings about a statis of the faculty of thinking, an inert condition which frustrates the meditative process. Meditation starts with duality and ends in Unity, from an adoration of God to the being of God.
The Purusha-Sukta of the Rigveda describes one of the grandest visions of the Supreme Being (Rigveda, X. 90). This is the highest object of spiritual meditation with form. The Vishnu-Sukta says:
“Just as the eye spread in space (sees the expanse), the wise always behold That Vishnu’s Supreme State. The wise Brahmanas who are always spiritually awake, sing of in diverse ways and illuminate this, that Supreme State of Vishnu.” —Rigveda, I. 22. 20, 21.
A later Upanishad (Skanda), mentioning these Rig-verses, says that “this is the teaching of Vedas for the attainment of Salvation, and this is the secret doctrine.” Many other minor Upanishads quote these verses as the substance of their teaching in the end, and this is used also as the colophon of many Vedic hymns. This and the famous hymn of the Purusha, with the Nasadiya-Sukta, are, as it were, the sum and substance of the Vedic vision of the Supreme Being as endowed with the best conceptual qualities carried to the degree of perfection. One of the ways in which meditation on the Supreme Being is practised is through the process of the recession of all effects into the Highest Cause. Earth is dissolved by water, water is dried up by fire, fire is extinguished by air, air is absorbed by space, space is lost in the Virat-Purusha or the God of the universe. Even this Purusha is an expression of the Cosmic Subtle Energy which, again, is an expression of the Cosmic Mind. The Cosmic Mind merges in the Cosmic Intelligence and the Cosmic Intelligence is merged in the Unmanifest, the Indescribable Primordial Nature, Mula-Prakriti, the Undifferentiated Transcendental Power of Objectivity. The overstepping of this final causal state unfolds the Consciousness of Being which is the Absolute, Brahman. This meditation is practised through a progressive transcendence of the lower states with the help of ceaseless and severe persistence in trying to dwell in a deeper and a wider consciousness every moment. Every human being has the power to do this, but it depends upon how far he is successful in satisfying himself that this alone is his sole duty in life.
It would not be out of place to paraphrase here in a nutshell the essence of what Patanjali has said about yoga:
Yoga is the inhibition of the modifications of the mind-stuff. This leads to the resting of the Self in its essential nature. The control of the mental modifications is effected through practice and dispassion. Of these, practice is the effort to secure steadiness in meditation. It becomes established when practised for a long time, without any break, and with perfect devotion. Dispassion is the consciousness of mastery arrived at through desirelessness for objects both seen and heard. Higher than that is the desirelessness even for the primal modes of existence, reached through the consciousness of the Self. Success is quick to those whose practice is intense with dispassion. Then comes the attainment of the Inner Consciousness, and also the absence of all obstacles. Practice of Affirmation should be done of the One Reality. Then, the consciousness is filled with Truth. Thus, with the restraint of all mental modifications and impressions, is attained the seedless Super-Consciousness. —Yoga-Sutras: Samadhi-Pada.
For those who cannot meditate on the highest Divinity, Ishvara, Patanjali prescribes meditation on “Dispassioned Ones”, i.e., persons who have realised the Supreme Being. We see in the Upanishads, too, how it was not always that the seekers used to devote themselves to the Pure Absolute, but there were many who contented themselves with relative realisations of cosmic powers, though they were intended to lead them on to the Absolute. Some mystics practise meditation through a twofold process: (1) considering the whole universe as being the One Mass of the Body of the Cosmic Deity which they adore, and (2) perceiving the universe as filled with infinite number of identical forms of the Deity of adoration. Here, the factor which aids Absolute Integration, after attaining objective integration, is the Grace of the Universal Being. Divine Grace is the Consciousness-Pull or the attraction of the part towards the Whole which is more powerful and more real than the part, and the natural spiritual impetus which drives the soul to know itself in essence, when it surrenders its part-consciousness to the Whole-consciousness, i.e., when it crosses the gravitational region of disintegrating and diversifying nature and enters the region of the integrating drive, which, the Power of Truth-Consciousness, has its spiritual gravitational force running towards the absolutely Real Being. The meditator attains progressive salvation, passing through the different planes of the higher consciousness.