Chapter 1: Tattva Viveka – Discrimination of Reality
Jagato yadu pādānaṁ māyā mādāya tāmasīm, nimittaṁ śuddha sasattvāṁ tāmucyate brahma tadgirā (44). This is the introduction to a system of analysis known as jahad ajaha lakshana. When we make statements, sometimes they are involved in certain associations which are not part of the conclusion that we have to arrive at. In Sanskrit, this method of elimination of unnecessary factors in a sentence and only taking the essentials is called jahad ajaha lakshana. Lakshana is a definition of a sentence, or a proposition that is made. Where the literal connotation is abandoned for the spirit of the sentence, jahad ajaha lakshana is employed. The literal meaning is abandoned, and that is called jahad; jahad means ‘abandoned’. Ajahad means ‘not abandoned’, ‘taken’. We take the spirit of the statement made, and not only the letter.
The general illustration in Vedanta philosophy is this. Suppose there is a person called Devadatta, and he has a friend called Yajnadatta. Devadatta is living in Bombay, and Yajnadatta saw him in Bombay. After some years, Yajnadatta sees Devadatta in another place. The place has changed; the time has also changed. Firstly, instead of being in Bombay, he is now seen in Rishikesh. And instead of having seen him ten years back, he sees him now, after ten years. When Yajnadatta sees Devadatta in an audience, he makes a statement: “This is that Devadatta whom I saw in Bombay ten years back.”
Now, two places cannot be identical, and two times also cannot be identical. Bombay is not Rishikesh, and ten years back is not now, after ten years. The identity of the person is what is connoted here. The aspect of space and time are abandoned. The distance of space between Bombay and Rishikesh is ignored, and also the distance of duration, a gap of ten years, is abandoned. Therefore, the epithets that are used in the sentence “This is the same Devadatta whom I saw ten years back” are unnecessary because ‘ten years back’ is unnecessary to define a person, and ‘this’ and ‘that’ are also unnecessary. It is the same identical person who is before us whether he was there in some other place or whether he is here, and whether he was at that time or whether he is here at this time.
In a similar manner, the doctrine says that we have to eliminate certain unnecessary descriptive factors associated with God as Creator and the individual as an isolated part. How can an isolated part become one with the Universal Being? It is possible only in the same sense as a person seen in some other place is the same as the person seen in this place, if only we eliminate unnecessary factors. Now, what are these factors that condition God and make us feel that He is totally different from the individual? These factors are described here in the verses following.
Ishvara is the name of the creative principle. God is not only the instrumental cause of the world, but also the material cause. We must know the difference between an instrumental cause—an efficient cause, as it is called—and a material cause. The carpenter is the instrumental cause, or the efficient cause, of a piece of furniture because he causes the furniture to manifest by his effort. In a similar manner, God causes the world to manifest by the force of His will, as the carpenter creates the shape or the structure of the furniture by the force of his will. But there is a difference between the carpenter and God in the sense that the wood that is the material of the furniture does not come from the body of the carpenter. He is not the material cause of the product—namely, the furniture. He is only the efficient cause, and not the material cause.
Here in the case of the carpenter and the table, the material comes from somewhere else, outside the location or the personality of the carpenter. But in the case of God, there is no external material. There is no furniture, wood, steel, brick and cement, etc., that God can have outside Himself. He cannot have an exterior or totally outside material for the creation of the world. God is also the substance out of which the world is made. The Mundakopanishad gives the illustration of a spider spinning its web. The web is made out of the very substance that comes out of its own being.
Therefore, God is not only the instrumental cause, He is also the material cause. He becomes the material of the universe when He associates Himself as consciousness with the tamasic aspect of prakriti, which becomes the five tanmatras—sabda, sparsa, rupa, rasa, gandha—and by the process of quintuplication becomes the five gross elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether.
God is the creator of the material of the universe in the form of the five tanmatras and the five gross elements, by associating Himself with tamasic prakriti. By associating Himself with sattvic prakriti, which is the sattva guna manifest in a universal way, He becomes the instrumental cause. That is, the intelligence of Brahman is reflected through the universal sattva of prakriti, and that universally manifest intelligence is the causative factor, the instrumental or efficient cause, the intelligent cause of the universe. But the material is the very same Brahman associating itself with tamasic prakriti. This is the meaning of this particular verse: jagato yadu pādānaṁ māyā mādāya tāmasīm, nimittaṁ śuddha sasattvāṁ tāmucyate brahma tadgirā. God becomes the upadana, or the material cause, by associating Himself with tamasic prakriti. But He becomes nimitta, or the instrumental cause, by associating with shuddha sattva pradhan prakriti.
So the manner of the reflection of Brahman in the properties of prakriti, sattva and tamas differently, becomes the cause of God Himself appearing as the instrumental cause and the material cause together. Therefore, God is called abhina nimitta upadana karana. Abhina means non-differentiated, nimitta is instrumental, upadana is material, and karana is cause. God is the undifferentiated material and instrumental cause of the universe. This is how God appears as the creative principle of the cosmos, but He may appear as an individual by associating Himself with another thing.
Yadā malina sattvāṁ tāṁ kāma karmādi dūṣitām, ādatte tatparaṁ brahma tvaṁ padena tadocyate (45). Here is a description of the statement of the Upanishad: tat tvam asi. Tat is that Brahman Himself appearing as Ishvara creating the universe, both as an instrumental cause and as a material cause. The word tat in that statement of the Upanishad refers to Brahman appearing as Ishvara, causing the universe to appear as an instrument as well as material.
Tvam means ‘you’. It refers to an individual. The individual is constituted of the very same Brahman Consciousness reflected through malina sattva. Shuddha sattva is pure universal sattva. Because of the purity of that sattva in the original cosmic prakriti, it is universal, it is not limited to any particular place, and so the reflection of Brahman through that is also universal. Thus, Brahman manifesting in that way becomes Ishvara and is omniscient, knowing all things.
But here, in the case of the individual, the sattva guna is contaminated by the overpowering influence of rajas and tamas. We individuals are more rajasic and tamasic than sattvic and, therefore, the universal character of sattva does not manifest in us. Only the discriminative, segregating, individualising character of rajas manifests. This is why we always feel that we are separate persons with no connection to the universality of existence. There is no connection between you and me, or anything whatsoever. That apparent dissociation and disconnectedness of one thing from another, one person from another person, etc., is a very faulty consciousness that has entered into us on account of Brahman Consciousness working through rajas.
It is like sunlight, which is an indivisible whole, manifesting in split parts of water so that it looks like little pieces. Such is the case with this reflection of Brahman in the distracted rajas guna of prakriti which conditions the individual jiva, and so we do not feel that we are universal. We feel that we are particulars. Brahman knows that it is universal when it reflects itself in cosmic universal sattva, whereas it feels that it is individual when it reflects itself through rajas, which is distracting, separating one thing from the other. This rajas and tamas in the jiva is infected with desire and the impulse for action, etc. Avidya, which is the obliteration of the universality of Consciousness, causing distraction and individuality consciousness, is also the cause of desire and action.
So we can imagine what are the troubles befalling us. Avidya, kama and karma are the terms used to indicate our present predicament. Firstly there is avidya, the total ignorance of the universality of our nature, secondly there is kama, the desire for things external, and then there is karma, the intense effort that we put forth to fulfil our desires in the direction of objects. This is the fate of individual jivas. Yet, unfortunately, we are vitalised by Brahman Consciousness through rajas and tamas, and not through sattva. Ādatte tatparaṁ brahma tvaṁ padena tadocyate: This kind of individuality is the second manifestation of Brahman as any one of us. Now, what has to be done?
Tritayī mapi tāṁ muktvā paras paraviro dhinīm, akhaṇḍaṁ saccidā nandaṁ mahā vākyena lakṣyate (46). Three kinds of factors are mentioned here. One is that God becomes the material cause of the universe by association with the five tanmatras and the five gross elements. That is the first statement. The next statement is that He becomes the instrumental cause by associating Himself with sattva that is cosmic in nature. Then He becomes the individual by associating Himself with rajas and tamas properties.
Now, ignore these association factors. Do not consider this tamasic pradhan, vishuddha sattva pradhan, or malina sattva pradhan prakriti. Do not consider the reflection aspect at all. Take Brahman as unreflected, not reflected in these three ways as mentioned. Tritayī mapi tāṁ muktvā: All the three factors may be abandoned for the sake of the direct knowledge of what Brahman is by itself. Paras paraviro dhi: This is because tamas, rajas and sattva cannot have any association, one with the other. They are totally different. The function of each one is different from the function of the other two. Therefore, the self-contradictory factors of prakriti, namely sattva, rajas and tamas, should be abandoned while we are considering the nature of Brahman Supreme. When we eliminate the association aspect of Brahman in terms of sattva, rajas and tamas, we will find Brahman is akhanda, eka rasa, Sat-Chit-Ananda; it is undivided. Therefore, it is called akhanda, not khanda. Khanda means divided. Akhanda is undivided. Sat-Chit-Ananda, Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, is Brahman.
This is what is taught to us by the great statement tat tvam asi: Thou art That. ‘Thou art That’ means this individual which has taken the shape of a particular location in some place, due to the rajas aspect of prakriti preponderating, is the same as that cosmic Brahman manifest through, reflected through, sattva guna prakriti and tamas guna prakriti. If we dissociate rajas from the individual, and free Brahman’s reflection from sattva and tamas, we will find that the essence of the jiva is identical with the essence of the Supreme Absolute.
If we break a pot, the space inside the pot merges into the universal ether. Otherwise, the space inside the pot looks very little. In a little tumbler, there is a small space inside. There is a wider space outside the pot. This is something like the jiva, or the individual. Now, do we say that the individual space inside the pot is the same as the universal space, or different? We can say it is different because that space outside is so wide, and this space contained in the pot or tumbler is so small. This smallness is an appearance caused by the pot. If we break the pot, we will find there is the same Brahman universal space that appears as this little pot space.
So our consciousness, which is the Atman, is like the pot space. We seem to be small individuals because our consciousness is tied up within the walls of this body, just as space may look very little when it is inside the pot. We remove this association obtained through the physical, vital, mental, intellectual and causal pots. These are the fivefold pots into which we have cast the Consciousness of Brahman, as if in a mould.
In the previous session we realised how it is possible for us to dissociate this Consciousness from the three states, from the five koshas, and ascertain the true indivisibility of our essential Self. Tvam, which is individuality, or ‘thou’, is the basic Consciousness appearing to be limited in one place on account of the action of segregating rajas, from which we have to dissociate Consciousness carefully, as we tried to do yesterday. Then we will find that it is the same as the Universal Brahman. Therefore, if we avoid association with sattva, rajas and tamas, we will find that we are identical with cosmic Existence.
So’ya mityā divākyeṣu virodhāt tadi danta yoḥ, tyāgena bhāgayo reka āśrayo lakṣyate yathā (47) means that Devadatta of Bombay is this Devadatta in Rishikesh. We have avoided the association of Bombay and Rishikesh, and identified the person as one single individual. In a similar manner, the identity of Brahman in the individuality of the jiva should be affirmed by the dissociation of factors which are secondary, and not essential.
Māyā’vidye vihā yaivam upādhī para jīvayoḥ, akhaṇḍaṁ saccidā nandaṁ para brahmaiva lakṣyate (48). As mentioned, by dissociating consciousness from its apparent connection with maya in the cosmic sense and avidya in the individual sense, we will feel that, freed from these adjuncts or upadhis of cosmicality and individuality, what remains would be only indivisible Satchidananda Parabrahma.
We must free our consciousness from the association of the definitions of omnipresence, omniscience, omni- potence, etc. These definitions have meaning only so long as there is space, time, and externality. Due to space, time and objectivity being visible to our eyes, we associate Brahman with such factors as omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence, etc. God by Himself is more than omnipotence, and is also more than omniscience and omnipresence. Also, He is not a particular individual.
Thus, the particularity of the individuality of a person, and the universality of the omnipresence, etc., of God, are only factors arisen on account of perception through space and time. If these screens of space, time and objectivity are lifted, the individual merges into Brahman in one instant.
Savi kalpasya lakṣyavte lakṣyasya syāda vastutā, nirvi kalpasya lakṣyatvaṁ na dṛṣṭaṁ na ca sambhavi (49). This is a kind of logical cliché that the author introduces here by saying that Brahman is either savikalpa or nirvikalpa. Savikalpa is associated with name and form, which is conceivable through the mind. If we say that Brahman is associated with nama-rupa—that is, name and form—we are also associating Brahman with space and time. In that case, this lakshya, or the supreme target of our concentration, will become a finite individual. Brahman will become a personality like ourselves—maybe a large personality, yet nevertheless a personality only—because we have limited this concept of Brahman to perceptibility, cognisability, in terms of finitude created by space, time and objectivity. Therefore, Brahman should not be considered as cognisable through the mind, and also not as definable in terms of name and form. Else, Brahman will become non-existent, avastu, a non-entity, because it has become a finite entity like any other finite individual.
Nirvi kalpasya lakṣyatvaṁ na dṛṣṭaṁ na ca sambhavi. But can we say that Brahman has no qualities at all? We cannot conceive of anything that has no attributes at all. All things that we can conceive in the mind have some character. So a quandary is being raised here, that we cannot conceive Brahman either with attributes or without attributes. If it is with attributes, it becomes finite. If it is without attributes, it becomes inconceivable. Here is the difficulty in conceiving Brahman through the human intellect or understanding.
Vikalpo nirvi kalpasya savilpkasya vā bhavet, ādye vyāhati ranyatrā navasthā’tmā śrayā dayaḥ (50). Concept is possible either of the finite or of the infinite. But, the infinite cannot be conceived; and if we start conceiving the finite, we will enter into some peculiar logical quandaries in argument. That is, a finite thing is that which is associated with certain conceptual categories. That is to say, there cannot be a finite object or anything that is finite unless it has already been cast into the mould of conceptual categories. Now, to conceive a finite object which is already cast into the mould of a conceptualisation would be to argue in a regressus ad infinitum, or anavastha dosha, as they call it; and many other logical fallacies will follow, such as circular reasoning, called chakraka, or atmashraya, which means begging the question. We start assuming something which is yet to be proved, and so on, are the difficulties that will arise if we start conceiving a thing that is already conceived to be finite. So God cannot be conceived as finite. Nor is it possible to conceive the infinite. This is a peculiar diversion that has been introduced here to make us feel how difficult it is for us to contact Brahman in any way whatsoever with our finite faculties. No contact with Brahman is possible, ordinarily.
Idaṁ guṇakriyā jāti dravya sambandha vastuṣu, samaṁ tena svarūpasya sarva meta ditīṣyatām (51). These problems that we raised just now of vikalpatva or nirvikalpatva, that is, finitude or infinitude as associated with Brahman, may also be considered as futile arguments in the case of quality, action, species, genus, objectivity, relation, and anything whatsoever. Guna is quality, kriya is action, jati is species, dravya is object, sambandha is relation, vastu is anything whatsoever. Hence, in any one of these categories that we find in this world, the same difficulty will arise if we start envisaging these things either as finite or as infinite.
Nothing finally can be looked upon as either finite or infinite. So what is the position of the thing now? A thing that it is neither finite nor infinite is inconceivable. Such is the nature of this world. It is a relative world which is impossible to conceive in any manner whatsoever. Anything that is relative cannot be conceived. The modern science of relativity also takes us to the same conclusion that the world is not as it appears to us. The world is an unthinkable, peculiar mystery. That is why it is called maya—a jugglery-like thing that is appearing before us. If we try to probe into it, we will find it is not there at all, as night vanishes when the sun rises or darkness vanishes when the flash of a torch is thrown on it. It is because our knowledge is not operating that the whole thing looks very solid, so three-dimensional, so real. If a flash of light is thrown on our understanding, we will find it vanishes. It cannot be conceived at all as either existent in this manner or existent in that manner—neither finite nor infinite, which means to say that it is not there at all. Such is this world.
Vikalpa tada bhāvā bhyām asaṁ spṛṣṭāt ma vastuni, vikalpi tatva lakṣyatva sambandhā dyāstu kalpitāḥ (52). In this case where it is a question of ascertaining the nature of a reality which is uncontaminated with either the concept of finitude or the concept of infinitude, all these categories that we have been discussing are only foisted upon it. We say so many things about God. He does this, He does that, He did this, He is like this, He is like that. None of these statements that we make can apply to Him. Neither did He do this, nor did He do that. He neither looks like this, nor does He look like that. All our intellectual categories are foisted upon God. The category of finitude and the category of infinitude, and the category of relation of one thing with the other are all imagined by the conditioning factors of the mind. Brahman is above all that we can imagine in our mind.
This kind of study that we have made is called sravana. We have heard a lot about the nature of the world, the nature of the individual, the nature of Brahman. We have studied Ishvara, jagat and jiva in some measure. What is the nature of these great principles God, world and individual?
Itthaṁ vākyais tadar thānu sandhā naṁ śravaṇaṁ bhaveta, yuktyā sambhā vita tvānu saṅdhānaṁ mana nantu tat (53). This kind of thing that you have heard and studied now is equal to hearing. You have studied by actually hearing. But merely hearing is not sufficient. When you return home, you must ponder over this deeply. The ideas that have been made to enter into your mind through the medium of your hearing should enter your heart. They should become objects of deep investigation, Self-investigation. The mind withdraws into itself all the ideas that it has collected by hearing, and deeply bestows thought on these considerations. That is called manana.
Sravana is hearing, learning, studying. Manana is deep thinking. If you merely hear and go away, and hear again tomorrow, it will be what is humorously called Eustachian philosophy, which means that what you hear through one ear goes out through the other ear. Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj used to say there are Eustachian philosophers. They understand nothing; it does not go inside.
It has to go inside. Unless we bestow deep thought on what we have heard, that knowledge which we have gained by hearing will not be part of our nature. We will be sitting independently as we were earlier, and the knowledge will be outside in space, or it will sit on top of a tree. It has to be brought into the depths of our understanding by deep reflection. That process is called manana. Even that is not sufficient. We have to become that knowledge itself.
Tābhyāṁ nirvicikitse’rthe cetasaḥ sthāpi tasya yat, eka tānatva metaddhi nidi dhyāsana mucyate (54). The deep association of ourselves with this knowledge is nididhyasana. Firstly, we hear and study. Secondly, we bestow deep thought and investigate into the substance and essentiality of what we have heard and studied, and make it a part and parcel of our daily thought and understanding. But when this process goes on continuously day in and day out, it becomes the very spirit of our nature. We do not merely know; we actually become it. Knowledge is not merely a property that we have gained by hearing or studying. It is not a quality of our intellect, as an academic qualification. It is our very substance. Knowledge is Being. Chit is Sat. So when the knowledge that we have gained by sravana and manana becomes our very substance itself, we move like God Himself in the world. That is jivanmukta lakshana. That condition is nididhyasana tattva, a continuous flow of knowledge without break, which becomes the essence of our person. This is called nididhyasana.
Dhyātṛ dhyāne pari tyajya kramād dhyeyaika gocaram, nivāta dīpa vaccittaṁ samādhi rabhi dhīyate (55). Deep meditation, which is nididhyasana, is, in the beginning, involved in three processes: the meditating consciousness, the object on which meditation is carried on, and the process of meditation. Therefore, three things are involved. There is someone who is meditating, there is something on which meditation is being carried on, and some process of knowledge is linking the subject with the object, connecting the meditator with the object meditated upon. So when we meditate, in the beginning we will have a consciousness of three things. We will feel that we are there contemplating or meditating, we will feel that there is something on which we are concentrating, and we will also know that there is a relation between the two.
When by deep concentration, by going further, deeper, the consciousness of our being there and the consciousness of a process going on are also dropped, our consciousness merges into that object, and we become the very object itself. The very artha, the very target, the very ideal, the very aim becomes us. We are not contemplating something; we have become that. That becoming of the identity of our consciousness with the very object which we are concentrating upon, losing the consciousness of individuality and the process of concentration—the identity of the subject with the object, the merger of the consciousness perceiving with the object concentrated upon—is called samadhi.