A Treatise on the Vedanta Philosophy and Its Methodology
by Swami Krishnananda
The methods of the Affirmation of the Absolute and the meditation on the Universal Divine Being are not actually much different in their essence. The extreme of rational thinking proclaims that since change and duality are unreal, the factors of objective meditation and divine grace lose their validity. It says that the conscious affirmation of Pure Knowledge is not like meditation on an external God, for the former is non-different from the object of knowledge, while the latter is independent of the object of meditation. In the first case Knowledge is dependent on the essential nature of the object (Vastu-Tantra), and hence self-existent and eternal, whereas, in the second case, meditation is dependent on the idea of the subject (Purusha-Tantra), and hence capricious and phenomenal. The object of Pure Knowledge has its nature connected with it in a relation of simultaneous and immediate identity, while the nature of the object of meditation is connected with the meditator’s thought in a subject-object-relationship and changes according to the desire of the meditator. Hence, meditation becomes only an apology for Pure Knowledge.
The seekers of Truth through the method of Pure Knowledge cannot be many on earth, since such a rigorous ascertainment and assertion requires the brightest intelligence and the purest heart, free from the desire to have any dealing with anything external to the Self. The majority of seekers are suited only to the method of devout meditation on God as conceived of by them. Moreover, the grace of God is a fact of divine revelation due to the force of Truth-Consciousness experienced through the total surrender of the personal will. This practically amounts to what the philosopher-seeker does through Pure Knowledge and absolute disdain for all relational concepts. We do not find, even in the Upanishads, many people, except a few like Sanatkumara and Yajnavalkya, taking recourse to such a strict method of Pure Knowledge in its highest logical sense. The majority of the Vidyas of the Upanishads in general abounds in qualitative meditations on the Absolute, and it is very difficult to find such Vidyas there as devote themselves to the method of realisation of Truth through self-identical Knowledge. Only the Pure Absolutism of Yajnavalkya suggests this method. This shows how rare seekers are who are prepared to remorselessly cut the chain of qualities and relations through the ruthless axe of Pure Knowledge. This immediate Knowledge is with precise reference to the indeterminate absolute Reality, whereas, the meditative process is in relation to the determinate cosmic Reality. As far as practical religion is concerned, the two do not seem to pull man from two opposite sides, but act as the Higher Wisdom and the lower knowledge of the Absolute.
Knowledge and meditation, however, are not possible for one who is worldly, sensual, deluded proud, egoistic and selfish. It is the clean mirror that reflects the shining sun and not the wall built of mud and stone. Love for the Infinite means detachment from all particulars and renunciation of objective indulgence. Renunciation is the denial of the validity of plural and dual consciousness in the light of the truth that “Existence is One”. The discriminative grasping of the nature of the essential existence implies the negation of the state of appearance which is in contradiction to the nature of Reality. An aspiration for higher purposes in life necessitates a transformation and transcendence of lower conditions of limited life. The mortal and the Immortal are set in opposition to each other. The instinctive assertions of the individual ego can never be consistent with the nature of the Absolute. So long as there is faith in the objective nature of the world, there is a loss of the highest purpose in life. There cannot be perfect satisfaction and Divine Life except in the realisation of the Transcendent Presence. It requires a rejection of the form of the world, together with its contents. Likes and dislikes, attractions and repulsions, are distractions which hinder the soul’s progress towards Eternity. The knots of the heart which tie the individual to the earth must be broken before the central court of Reality is stepped into. A complete surrender of selfishness and egoity to the cause of Spiritual Perfection is the condition demanded by the process of Truth-realisation. Truth does not pay heed to lame excuses and twisting of ultimate facts for one’s material good. A refusal to feed the selfish individuality and an expansion of consciousness with an absolute end are what pave the way to one’s Final Liberation.
In the Upanishads we find a scientific and psychological presentation of what is the greatest obstacle to Self-realisation. They classify this under three distinct heads:
“Desire for progeny; Desire for wealth; Desire for world.” —Brih. Up., III. 5.
The first is one of the two vital urges of life, the other being the instinct of self-preservation. It is the expression of the creative impulse said to have been set at work ever since the original creative will of the Universal Being was let loose. Variety is the meaning of manifestation. Every individual force is a copy of the cosmic creative force in a state of riotous degeneration and uncontrollable activity. It is not easy to direct this self-multiplying nature (avidya) unless one starts to work against it with the help of the higher self-integrating Nature (vidya). The seeker of Truth goes to the very root of this self-reproductive energy and compels it to diffuse itself in the Ground-Noumenon. One who lets go the flow of the creative force gets entangled in the endless process of diversifying and multiplying existence and ever remains away from the Consciousness of the Absolute.
Those who have known the spiritual reality refrain from the delusive instinct of creation and hold fast to the Consciousness of Truth.
“Brahmanas, having known that Self, rise above the desire for progeny, desire for wealth, desire for world, and live the life of mendicants.” —Brih. Up., III. 5.
The seekers who austerely transform the objectifying energy into the Conscious Power that causes the blossoming of the self-sense into the objectless Consciousness are the integrated aspirants of the Absolute, whose power is used to carry on profound spiritual meditation. The Chhandogya Upanishad says that, when purity and light are increased, there is a generation of steady consciousness which shatters open the knots of the self. Such glorious aspirants glow with a lustrous spiritual strength which handles with ease even the most formidable forces of nature. They are the heroes who have girt up their loins with the vow of leaping over phenomenon into the Heart of Existence. Love that wants an object is not perfect. True love is never expressed. It simply melts in experience. It is transient affection and defective faith that pour themselves out on objects of sense. Love is spilt on ashes and not ennobled when it is directed to fleeting appearances. True love is self-integrating and not the medium of the interaction of the subject and the object. All energy is creative, but we have to direct it away from diversifying creativity to the unifying one. Avidya and vidya are both the creative powers of the Absolute; only the one is a descent to ignorance and separation, while the other is an ascent to knowledge and unity.
Desire for wealth is the desire for possessions the greed for material gain, which is the effect of the instinctive love for life, the self-preservative impulse of the individual nature. As being is more real than becoming, the desire for self-preservation is a more powerful instinct than self-reproduction. The two are intimately connected with each other. They function mainly through the senses having the water-principle as their source of energy, which are the working channels of the desire for phenomenal existence and formative action. The whole business of ordinary gross life is essentially the one play of the twofold individual nature of protecting and increasing individuality. These positively harmful impulses have their negative phase in indolence and sleep, which is a temporary winding up and an adjournment of the preservative and the creative action, when the senses at work are tired, or when they are denied their objective demands from the external nature. Talkativeness and physical activity are two others of the dynamic forms of the vital creative impulse which takes recourse to violent methods of self-expression when it is not allowed to do its normal function of creation. The stubborn and unsubdued lower creative nature flows out impetuously in a thousand channels and tethers the individual to the social life through creating innumerable relations between the individual and the other contents of the world. The desire to live as an individual and in diversity with relative connections with one another is the whole scene of the worldly life kept up by this mighty process of the disintegrating nature. When such a process is forcedly stopped, there is a general negative reaction of the active forces in the form of bringing forgetfulness of everything by inducing deep sleep in the individual. Sometimes they react with a bursting activity. The task of the aspirant lies, therefore, in a double guarding of himself against positive action and negative inertia.
Desire for world is the desire for one’s own name, fame, power, lordship and enjoyment in this world or in a heavenly world. The first two are born of the high estimation of the greatness of one’s individual being, whereby the hankering for advertising and proclaiming oneself to other individuals and for receiving high praise, honour and exaltation from other individuals is strengthened. This reception of worship of one’s ego is given a further elevated push by the desire to domineer over other individuals and stand above them all, distinctly recognised as great in knowledge and power. This process of egoistic relation with external beings which is used to harden the sense of individual reality is the outcome of the great conceit born of the double misfortune of forgetting the Real and catching the unreal. The height of selfish nature is reached in the craving for great name, wide fame and enormous power, which block the ego-consciousness away from expanding itself into Infinite Consciousness. The original universal momentum of creation and preservation somehow gets perverted and spoilt when it begins to work in the individual which falls too short of the Real. The perversion of Truth actually starts, in one sense, with Ishvara himself, though he remains unfettered through his immense proximity to the Absolute, and especially because of his having no being second to himself, which he may relate himself to. The shedding of tears, however, starts when duality and multiplicity begin to play havoc, and through an extreme of passion and darkness the individual is rendered incapable of knowing what actually is Truth and what its relation is to the world and its contents. The omnipotence of the Absolute Nature degrades itself in the individual in the craving for self-exaltation and supremacy over others, which is the effect of the misapprehension of the true relation existing among individuals. The universal natures of omnipresence and omniscience are cast down into the states of clinging to individual life and individual conceit respectively. Infatuated love is the unconscious blind movement along the wrong path of the one bond of integral love that connects beings of the universe into a one whole being of Self-Bliss. The Self-Love of the Universal Being gets degenerated into relational attachments among its individual parts. Selfishness and egoism are the crude rotten forms of the instinct of Eternal Self-Existence misrepresented by the action of the concealing and the distracting power of Reality. The whole drama of phenomenal life is a blind struggle of the disintegrated consciousness to find itself in the truth of the absolute nature of Reality. Life’s struggle cannot cease as long as Absolute Consciousness is not realised, for the eternal nature of Reality will not cease to assert itself in the individual even for a single moment. But the absolute urge appears to be incapable of being answered in the individual so long as it is unable to know the true meaning of the involuntary calls and the higher demands of life given rise to by the phenomenal nature and the Truth-Impetus. The individual’s ignorance of the facts of experience is due to the presence of forces of intense clouding and self-dividing of consciousness, respectively known as avidya or tamas and kama or rajas. The absence of the knowledge of one’s relation to the Absolute Self-Identity of all individuals is the cause of life’s distresses. There is a foolishness in every individual which makes it believe in the manifoldness of the individuals, and thus reap the bitter fruit of transmigratory existence with its dreadful concomitant laws of action and reaction, cause and effect, etc., which turn ceaselessly the endless cycle of the birth and the death of individual states of consciousness. The breaking of this dissipated relation of world-endurance can be affected only through the higher knowledge which soars above the relations of space, time, cause and effect. Without transcending the sway of these phenomenal relations one cannot hope to achieve success in acquiring Pure Knowledge or practising meditation on God. Truly, there is no other relation among individuals than the fullness of the being of a conscious identity of itself. There should be no attitude of an individual towards other individuals except of the awareness of the Self-Identity of Complete Being. There is no ignorance and sorrow as long as the individual is at least an absolute individual, Ishvara, where there is no subject-object-opposition, but misery shows its head the moment duality-consciousness dawns, and multiplicity-consciousness makes matters worse. The evils that are bred by individual thought-relations act as the mala or the dirt that covers the pure consciousness of the Self. The relations themselves are the vikshepa or the tossing force, and the delusion that causes relations is the avarana or the befooling root-ignorance. This dirt, this tossing and this veiling, which are the causes of bondage, have to be removed through the intense practice of Meditation and Knowledge.