The First Step of the Aspirant
Vedanta is the Science of Reality. Reality is uncontradicted experience, the experience that is not transcended or sublated by any other experience. Naturally, Reality must be imperish-able, for perishability marks a state or a thing as unreal. Imperishability means, at the same time, unlimitedness, for limit is non-independence and non-absoluteness, which means changefulness. Changelessness is the nature of Truth. The world which we live in is characterised by change and destruction. The world includes the individual, also. The body of an individual is a part of the world as a whole. The changing character of the world is kept up by changing events, changing actions, changing thoughts and feelings. Hence, the quest for Reality must necessarily be of a nature quite different from the natural ways of the world. The seeker after the Real has to be specially equipped with the power of separating Truth from falsehood; Reality from the unreal, transient universe.
The change required of an aspirant after the Real is not an ordinary external one, but a total transfiguration of life itself. This extraordinary change in life is hard to be had; the seeker after Perfection is asked to get himself ready for this great change for good.
The immediate reality which presents itself before us is the physical body situated in the physical world. Hence the first discipline required is of bodily actions or karma. Karma has a special significance in religion and philosophy. In addition to service devoid of individualistic motive or desire, karma means the selfless performance of one’s own prescribed duty without reluctance or failure. Every person is expected to be either a brahmachari, a grihastha, a vanaprastha or a sannyasi. One should not live, as far as it is within one’s capacity, in a stage which is not one of these four. And also, a person can belong to only one ashrama at a time, not to more than one. Performance of one’s own duty means the observance of the ashrama-dharma. Nitya and naimittika karmas pertaining to an ashrama constitute svadharma or one’s own duty, as far as the Vedanta philosophy is concerned with it. Kamya-karmas are excluded from svadharma.
The rigid observance of svadharma renders the mind pure (shuddha), freeing it from mala, the gross tamas and rajas which are the deluding and the distracting factors in it. The Vedanta prescribes upasana or the worship of and meditation on the personal God (Saguna Brahman) to those who have thus already purified their nature or attained chitta-shuddhi through nishkama-karma. Upasana removes vikshepa and brings chitta-ekagrata or one-pointedness of mind. It is this prepared aspirant who is qualified with shuddhi and ekagrata of chitta that is required to possess the sadhana-chatushtaya, the ethical requisites which are directly connected with the entrance to the main court of Vedanta-sadhana.
Sadhana-chatushtaya means the fourfold equipment, the necessary means to brahma-vidya, which removes avarana or the veil of ignorance. The discussion about the adhikari is one of the main subjects in the Vedanta. The first of these sadhanas is viveka or clear discrimination between the Eternal Principle and the perishable universe of names and forms. Viveka generally comes through purva-punya or the effect of past meritorious deeds accelerated by the perception of pain and death here. Satsanga is another factor which generates viveka. Perhaps satsanga is the greatest of all the means that transforms a person from worldliness to divine life. Satsanga leads to viveka and vichara, consciousness of the inadequacy of the phenomenal world and enquiry into the nature of Truth.
Viveka creates an indifference to the world and its contents. This supreme indifference born of viveka is the second of the four means, vairagya. True vairagya is the effect of correct discrimination and not of mere failure in life. Real dispassion is the consequence of the perception of the impermanence of things, the falsity of the existence of happiness in objects, the knowledge of the distinction between Reality and appearance. This vairagya reaches even up to Brahmaloka, the highest phenomenal manifestation, and discards it as defective. Thus, vairagya is distaste for everything that is objective (including one’s own body). It is not possible to love the Eternal as long as there is faith in the impermanent. Immortality and mortality are set against each other. Passion for the world and its objects is opposed to devotion to the Supreme Being, even as darkness is against light. Where the latter is, the former is not. Vairagya is the gateway to the knowledge of what truly is.
The third of the requisites is shatsampat or the sixfold wealth of internal discipline and virtues. (1) Tranquillity of mind (shama) which is the result of viveka and vairagya, (2) Self-restraint (dama) or control of the senses which is the effect of the knowledge of the ultimate worthlessness of the forms of external objects, (3) Cessation from distracting activity connected with the world (uparati), (4) Fortitude (titiksha) or the power to endure the ravages of Nature, like heat and cold, hunger and thirst, censure and praise, insult and injury, etc., (5) Faith (shraddha) in God, Preceptor, Scripture and the Voice of one’s own purified Conscience, and (6) One-pointedness of mind (samadhana), i.e., resting of the mind in the spiritual Ideal alone to the exclusion of everything else, are the six spiritual qualities which together make up the shatsampat. All these virtues are to be developed on the basis of correct understanding or clarified intelligence and not by mere force. The greater and more purified the understanding, the more precious and diviner is the virtue.
The last of the four means is mumukshutva or an ardent yearning for freeing oneself from the ignorance of finite life. These are the important conditions that are to be fulfilled by every aspirant after the Absolute Truth, before he actually starts sadhana in its strict sense. It is to be, however, pointed out again, that none of these sadhanas is to be practised with brute force without proper purification and a brilliant discrimination.
Practice of Discipline
There are certain general principles which every aspirant has to observe before starting spiritual discipline. Otherwise, there is the danger of perverted notions and wrong practice. The purpose of spiritual sadhana is to realise the Supreme Reality and not to attain some psychic siddhis, as the common aspirant-world would seem to think. For this purpose, it is necessary, in the beginning itself, to know what the purpose of sadhana is, what is meant by God, and what is life.
Life as it is lived here, is a perpetual struggle to acquire happiness, physical and egoistic, through possession of objects, desirable conditions, name, fame, power, worship, exaltation, etc. Every action, speech or thought, whatever be its form, is, consciously or unconsciously, directed towards the attainment of a supreme, unlimited, indivisible form of happiness. This is the final meaning of all desire and love. The aspiration is, no doubt, genuine; but the method through which man tries to win this happiness is foolish, defective and incapable of achieving what it wants to achieve. He is deluded by the desire and love he cherishes for external things. No amount of addition to one’s possessions, no amount of fame, respect or power is going to bring the happiness, of which one is really in need. It is everybody’s personal experience that what seemed desirable in the past does not appear to be so at present, and every thinking person would be able to infer from this, as to what the nature would be of such experiences as are at present thought to be conducive to the happiness of one’s self. It should always be remembered that only those conditions which are suited to the happy well-being of a particular form of a temporary transformation of the functions of the mind are considered desirable, only at that lightning-like rapid duration of time when that particular mental transformation occurs. Another variety of mental modification would require another kind of experience suited to itself, which must necessarily be of a nature different from that of its predecessor. These modifications of the mind are numberless and inscrutable, wherefore there is no end for desires and the objects longed for. The mind takes as many forms, and demands as many varieties of experience, as there are potential desires and impressions of previous experiences piled up in its subconscious substratum. And there can be no end for these potential residual impressions, as every fresh experience adds on a fresh impression to the old stock, and as, also, every impression stimulates another new experience, and thus ad infinitum. This would mean the never-ending misery of the mortal individual, because, thus, he will be endlessly required to cast off old bodies and put on new ones in order to be able to fulfil the conditions of these endless desire-impressions, through struggle, love for the perishable body and consequent pain. This process is called the cycle of samsara. This endless movement born of endless dissatisfaction shows that unbroken happiness is not to be found in contact with external forms of existence.
Aspirants are to be warned against hankering after siddhis, for these very reasons. A siddhi is a power, and a power is useful only in fulfilling one’s desires and ambitions. A desire is always a desire for external possessions, objects, states or conditions. These, however, will quickly be realised to be worthless and incapable of bringing permanent satisfaction to the Self, since what the Self really needs is not an object or an external environment, but pure happiness. If this happiness is in external forms, how can it be transferred to the Self? What is the relation between the Self and the externals? Certainly, this cannot be either an identity or a difference. If it is identity, the object loses its objectness; if difference, the object ever remains unconnected with the Self. This proves the impossibility of acquiring happiness from truly external beings. This also demonstrates the unworthy character of siddhis. The siddhis are not only incapable of bringing happiness, but they positively obstruct the process of Self-Perfection, by inducing the aspirant to the mistaken idea that there is objectively something real.
Hence, the practical urge for perfection seen in life is to be fulfilled through a method of self-integrating completeness, which must include every possible aspect of existence in one’s own Being. The contact of the self with externality is not the way to bliss; it is the womb of sorrow. The only recourse to be taken, therefore, is to discard objectivating desires, disregard the appearance of the external form of the universe and become the whole Existence oneself. This must be a self-existent, self-evident, ever-existing, self-conscious, unquestionable, truth; otherwise, the practical urge for absolute perfection in individuals cannot be accounted for. It must, therefore, be a realisation, and not an acquisition of something existent as the very Self of everyone. The Self cannot be obtained, or acquired, or possessed, for it is not an object; it can only be realised. One can only “know” one’s Self and not “possess” oneself. It is only this realisation that is the purpose of life, the goal of activity, the culmination of desires, the cessation of misery, the attainment of perennial joy.
The above analysis of life will give an adequate idea of the purpose of sadhana and the nature of Reality, world and soul. The purpose of sadhana is the realisation of unending, perfect bliss. This bliss is found only in the Absolute and nowhere else. This is logically proved and also corroborated by intuitional declarations. The Absolute is the Self of all, and therefore the realisation of the Self is the same as the realisation of the Absolute. The world and the individual cannot have any intelligent meaning except words indicating different conceptions of One Truth.
It will be quite clear from this that the realisation of Brahman is the zenith or the most exalted form of selflessness; nay, it is the very dissolution of the self in God-Being. Hence, evidently, sadhana for this realisation should begin with righteousness, morality and virtue. That which is “indivisible” and “absolute” can be realised only on the condition of impartial and undivided universal love, sense-restraint, perfect selflessness of feeling and utter truth. Enmity, falsehood, sensuality, greed, anger, pride, jealousy, domination, conceit, egoism, self-adoration and attachment contradict the truth that God is the Absolute Being, and hence, turn the individual away from the path to Perfection. This is the reason why moral and ethical discipline should form the first step of all forms of sadhana. Also, this discipline of the self should be practised with a proper understanding of the purpose and technique of sadhana, the nature of the Goal to be realised, the probable obstructions thereto, and the means of conquering obstacles.
The Technique of Sadhana
The sadhana-chatushtaya and the other virtues should be practised for the reasons explained, that they act as a powerful help in withdrawing oneself from taking interest in the perishable body and the world, and directing the consciousness to the Great Destination. If it is well understood at the very outset, how, actually, these disciplines are going to lead one to the way of Liberation, the process of practice will be intelligently and undeludedly undergone, the practice itself would be easy, and also get accentuated by a sense of freedom. Without proper knowledge of the exact anatomy, history and constitution of sadhana, one’s attempts are likely to be blind, and may not yield much good. Also, many a time, such thoughtless routines lead the aspirant to great calamity, instead of elevating him. A sadhaka is not expected to be idiotic or foolish, though he is required to have implicit devotion to his practices, to his teacher and to his deity. A sadhaka should have a clear presence of mind, common sense and rightly discriminating intellect, so that be may not be led astray by his emotions and the other sides of his weaker nature.
In order to become a well-fitted aspirant, one must purify oneself, by transforming the brutal and human instincts into spiritual energy. The natural expression of these undivine instincts is to be withheld and properly directed through various intelligent means. The most important of these self-transfiguring methods are:
(iii) transformation and sublimation,
Opposition is acting in a manner directly contrary to a particular instinct, through thought, word and deed. Substitution is curbing the instinct through a replacement of it by another, more virtuous one. Transformation and sublimation is the melting and evaporating of the instinct into spiritual devotion, yogic energy and divine knowledge.
The subhuman qualities and the evil phases of human nature are rooted in the desire for the greedy satisfaction of one’s egoistic self, even if it may drown other individuals in sorrow. The grief forced upon other sentient beings, being the effect of a breach of the law of universal harmony, must necessarily rebel against and redound upon its cause, so that the disturbed balance may be restored again. It is not absolutely necessary to hold the theory that some extra-cosmic transcendental Father or Creator will afterwards inflict punishment on the sinner. It is obvious that, even without such a religious belief, it is quite intelligible that, sin being a violation of the truth of the inseparable unity of existence through an obstinate selfishness, clinging to the body and yielding to the dictates of the ego, the reinstallation of this truth, which ever refuses to be suppressed, should logically be by a defeat of the inimical force, which means the flow of the current of events against the individualistic propensity. But the propensity, too, demands fulfilment and craves for victory, and its victory over Truth being impossible, the ceaseless battle between the untruth of individual nature and the truth of absoluteness ends in the painful succession of the deaths and births of the individual trying to maintain its egoism. Every thought that is directed against the undividedness of existence is a venomous spear darted against the sender of that thought. It is a fetter to bind oneself with, a prison to throw oneself in. Evil is the perpetration of an action, physical, verbal or psychological, which presupposes a mental consciousness that directly or indirectly denies the indivisible character of the Absolute. This is sin, and this is real crime. This is the error that breeds the miseries of mortal life.
It is, therefore, not easy to detect the evil inside, as, very often, the perpetrator gets identified with the evil nature, as consciousness gets unified with the ambitious, non-discriminating ego. In the majority of cases, discrimination fails, and even if it shows its head, it is, generally, after the commission of wrong. The purpose of sadhana is to prevent the mind from taking recourse to its dangerous aberrations and from getting for the individual the bitter fruit of metempsychosis. Only after a very searching investigation would it be possible for one to have a correct knowledge of the workings of the inner powers, and to direct the consciousness to the apperception of its essential reality. The method of opposing the instincts of life with contradicting powers, or even the way of substitution, will not ultimately be able to achieve the required success. The sadhana-chatushtaya is a means of transforming and sublimating relativity in Absoluteness. Viveka, the foundation of all sadhana, is an extremely powerful overhauling, enlivening and illuminating spiritual agent. It helps one to understand, to know. Without intelligence, no act has value, no sadhana is worth its name. The moment there arises the light of pure intelligence, there is also at once the transformation of the individual from the lower nature to the higher essence. All the items of the sadhana-chatushtaya aim at the complete destruction of characters that are contrary to, or different from, the truly enduring Truth-Consciousness, and not merely at suspension of their activities through opposition in war or replacement of them by some other powers. As long as the lower obstacle shows even a slight trace of life, the higher region cannot be said to be really occupied fully.
The love for the individual, limited, selfish life is many times wrongly justified by the ravaging desires for name, fame, power, wealth and sex; by the tyrannising demands of the body; by lust for honour, worship, exaltation, praise and lordship; by ambitions connected with the objective world, whatever be the nicety and the refined garb or the polished appearance of these ambitions. Even craving for too much erudition or scholarship is an impediment to the spiritual seeker. These hosts of obstacles have to be stepped over; all desires, ambitions and curiosities have to be nipped in their bud. The more careful and circumspect a sadhaka is, the more should he try to sharpen and deepen his intelligence. There is no limit to the need for one’s vigilance and active consciousness. Even at the entrance to heaven, a passage may be there leading to hell. The boat may sink even near the opposite shore. The life of the sadhaka should be one of unfailing viveka and vichara crowned with the penetrating light of purified consciousness, so that he may search out and reach the knowledge and experience of the innermost recess of his heart, the bottom of the truth of his own being. All thoughts, words and actions which do not contribute to the realisation of this Being should be dispensed with, by the practice of the sadhana-chatushtaya, and then, the aspirant becomes fit to sit at the feet of the shrotriya and the brahmanishtha, to hear the nature of the Great Truth.
Even the creatorship or destroyership of the universe … etc.—The State of Ishvara is not an eternal one, for it is related to the universe which is perishable. Ishvara merges in Brahman when the consciousness of the universe is transcended.
Degrees in empirical reality.—The degrees of Reality are only the degrees of the perception of Reality. There can be no degrees or planes in Reality as such, for it is non-objective and undivided. Progress, downfall, degrees, and change of every kind are not parts of the Absolute, but form the varying phases of the objectified consciousness which is associated with the means or the instruments of changeful knowledge in the universe. However, these steps or stages of relative consciousness are experienced as true in their own realms, and have to be passed through by all those who have an individuality separating them from pure being; for, these objective stages or degrees are as real as the subjects experiencing them in the cloaks of phenomenality.
The world of experience.—The philosophy of the Vedanta is not solipsism or the lower mentalism. Nor does it affirm the absolute reality of the world. The method of approach of the Vedanta is integral. It does not say that the subjective idea alone is real or that the objective world alone is real. Nor does it hold that there is nothing real at all. It does not say that the Real is transcendent alone or immanent alone. It does not also say that between the subject and the object one is superior to the other. The two are correlative to each other. The Vedanta does not lean towards any dogmatic notion, to any one side or aspect, but takes into its view the whole of true being. The Upanishads, the ground of the Vedanta philosophy, do not make a mere subjective or individualistic approach to Truth and do not land themselves in individualistic subjectivism. They know that the individual is imperfect. Nor do they commit the blunder of taking a view of a mere objective side of existence and landing in materialism. In fact nothing objective can be proved to be real, for no object is really known independent of the categories of knowing, which limit knowledge to their own sphere of comprehension. The nature of the world existing outside the knower cannot be determined for want of the necessary means of knowledge. Objective observation of things, however acute it may be, cannot give us absolutely correct knowledge of them, for in every form of observation there is left unbridged a gulf between the knower and the known. The wider one extends his power of observation, the wider still seems the range of existence. There is no hope of fathoming the infinite by using the sense-powers or even the mental faculty, which are all engaged in the knowledge of fleeting forms. The Spirit appears objective and material and in a transient mode the moment it is beheld through the mind and the senses. The Sankhya philosophy used the method of objective observation and consequently fell into the deep chasm of purusha and prakriti, which it was obliged to hold as two eternal realities. The existence of two realities is obviously unwarranted, and contradicts the very urge for philosophising, which is the experience of unchallenged existence. The yoga philosophy, basing itself on the Sankhya, brought forth an Ishvara who hangs loosely in the scheme of existence, and there is actually no way at all of finding any meaning in its Ishvara who is neither the creator of the universe nor the goal of the aspiration of anyone. This is hardly better than to say that there is no Ishvara at all. The Nyaya and the Vaiseshika philosophies, too, followed the erroneous method of objective perception in their search for true knowledge and posited several absurdities like ultimately independent substances, and a transcendental Fashioner of the universe, who has really no hand to reach the universe that is fashioned. The Mimamsa, also, because of its objective outlook, is made to admit the reality or the outward forms of the world, the deities, the heavenly region, etc. All these objective philosophies have also tried to view existence from the subjective side and have come to the conclusion that there is a plurality of Atmans or souls; some of these schools went even to the extent of saying that the essential nature of the Atman is not pure consciousness. In all these philosophies the dualism that is posited between the experiencer and the experienced is a great bar to the realisation of absolute freedom, for that which is limited by an object cannot be absolute. A purely objective approach is blind and would lead to the perception of even the Spirit as mere material phenomena, while a purely subjective approach is narrow and leads to agnosticism, scepticism, etc. Only a complete view of life can give us a sound philosophy and a satisfactory religion.
The Vedanta is the celebrated science of the Absolute, which is Divinity and Perfection. The Upanishads are called the Vedanta because they are the concluding and crowning parts of the Vedas, and give the highest essence of the teachings of the Vedas. The Upanishads view existence as adhyatma, adhibhuta and adhidaiva, as the individual, the world and Ishvara or God, and they declare the existence of Brahman which comprehends all these in its transcendent Being. They do not say that the adhyatma alone is real; that would be subjectivism. They do not also say that the adhibhuta alone is real; that would be materialism. To them the adhyatma, the adhibhuta and the adhidaiva are phases of Brahman or Paramatman; the three are a triadic appearance of the really indivisible Brahman. These three—jiva, jagat and Ishvara—with the Ground, Brahman, exhaust the possible principles of all experience. This, in fact, is the entirety of experience. In several ways the Upanishads give expression to the oneness of life, the unity of the individual and the cosmic. “He who is in the individual here is the same as He who is in the sun there” says the Taittiriya Upanishad. The Chhandogya Upanishad identifies the ether in the heart within with the cosmic ether outside. The microcosm and the macrocosm are one. Uddalaka gives to Svetaketu an objective description of the Reality, as the ekam sat, the One Real, the source and basis of all beings, and then with artistic dexterity identifies this One Real with the Self of Svetaketu. There is a wonderful dramatic beauty in the way in which the Upanishads portray the Reality of the life of the universe. The sages of the Upanishads were absolutely practical persons who were concerned with living and being, and not with mere fantastic daydreaming. They directly realised the Absolute Truth and knew that distinctions, even of the individual, world and God, are relative, and anything has a meaning only because it is a phase of the Supreme Being.
When reason is based on the Srutis it gives us strength to love Truth. It unveils Truth by disclosing the errors of empirical life. The material world of experience is not real. Matter, energy (life), mind, intellect, etc. are not substances, things or essences having absolute reality, but are modes or categories of knowing. Matter is Reality discerned by the senses and the mind. Consciousness objectified appears as matter. Energy, mind and intellect, too, are Reality itself known by degrees. Space, time, causation and objectness, which are the categories of the knowing process, are solely responsible for the perception of Reality as manifoldly divided into intellect, mind, energy, matter, and the like. Apart from these objective categories there is no universe. What is real in space, time, causation and substance or individuality is Brahman or the Consciousness-Absolute. It is the Absolute that appears as the universe on account of these categories or relations which the inscrutable knowing process has projected into experience. The universe freed from these categories is Brahman. These categories, again, are not objective facts subsisting in the universe as a reality in itself, but conditions, ways, modes, devices, for knowing Reality in terms of an individual knower. The knowledge of the universe is based on the fundamental hideous error of the notion of the reality of the separateness of the knower from the known and from the connecting process of knowledge. This knowledge which is bound by the belief in causality cannot be real knowledge. As a resume of all examination what becomes clear is that there is no world except categories of knowing superimposed upon Reality, which the individual vainly tries to objectify, and that the value and the reality perceived or known to be present in the world is but Brahman. Matter-ness is a fiction; similarly, the distinctive natures of energy, life, mind and intellect are fictions. But the truth about matter, the substantiality of matter, is the Absolute itself. The truth of energy, life, mind and intellect is, in the same manner, the very same Absolute. When the word “Brahman” or “the Absolute” is uttered, everything is said. Attributes are only limiting adjuncts and do not add to the perfection of the Absolute.
If the world is a means, the world is also the end,… etc.—The forms are not in the Real, but the Real is in the forms. The individual has the potentiality to realise the Absolute, not because there is any relation between the Absolute and the form of the individual or the factors which constitute the individuality independent of the Real, but because the Real is present in the individual as its essence or being. That the individual takes the help of its lower individualistic experiences in attaining the Absolute is not an argument that can favour the view that the world is real in itself. The lower experiences have a value because of the consciousness which is their reality, and this consciousness is not in any way a part or a content of the world of forms. Consciousness is never identical with any form or condition. But still it is consciousness that gives reality to any value that is in any form or condition. It is true that in this world we take one thing as the end and another thing as the means thereto. The world is a long chain of causes and effects which have neither a beginning nor an end. This vicious circle is called samsara. But nothing in this wheel can ever touch the taintless Brahman or Pure Consciousness, and the individual, as long as it is revolving in this world-cycle, cannot have a comprehension of Brahman. What is reached through the world is the world itself, and not anything different from it. The Absolute is beyond the relation between causes and effects, means and ends. That anything of this world can be of use in the Absolute or is a means to the knowledge of the Absolute is not true. “Verily, that Eternal is not to be attained through the non-eternal” says the Katha Upanishad. “That which is Not-Created is not (to be reached) through what is created” says the Mundaka Upanishad. We cannot jump from one realm to another unless there is something which is commonly real for both. The individual in the world reaches the Absolute because the Absolute is the reality of both the individual and the world. The individuality or the worldly character in the individual does not reach the Absolute and is never a means to it, but the reality of the individual, which is eternal, is what realises the Absolute, and is the real means to it. In the case of such realisation, the means should not be different from the end in any way. Even a broken needle or a piece of straw from this world cannot be taken to the Absolute. The world of forms is not a means to Knowledge, for form and Knowledge are contrary to each other.
But, then, does it mean that the world is completely estranged from Brahman? Definitely not. If there is no relation of the world to Brahman, there would be no such thing as the individual’s attainment of Immortality. The truth of Brahman is present in every form of the world, and the world exists because of the existence of Brahman. It is the reality in the world and not the form of the world that is the link between the world and the Absolute. We reach Brahman through the reality of Brahman present in us and in the world, and not through the constitution of our individuality which is a group of forms, or through the world which is also a huge mass of forms. It was already observed that when the world is denied as unreal, it is its form, and not its essence or fundamental being, that is thus denied. The essence of the world is Brahman.
The world as cosmic thought—The categories of space, time, causation and individuality are in relation to all the beings of the cosmos and are not the figments of any particular discrete being. The Cosmic Mind which comprehends within itself all the individual minds is the generator of the whole universe independent of superimposed values. The likes and dislikes, the pleasures and pains, the passion, the greed and the evil which each one experiences in himself are, however, attributable to the particular experiencer alone. The values that are found to be present in the objects of the universe are the experiencing psychological reactions to these objects. But the existence of a thing in its unrelated form is not the creation of any other thing different from it. (That the nature of a thing unrelated to anything else can only be consciousness has been explained elsewhere in this book.) Each one brings forth his own form of individuality through his special potentialities of experience, these being divided into the three primary modes of existence, viz., sattvika (pure and conscious), rajasika (passionate and active) and tamasika (dark and inert). As long as one experiences himself as a localised being, he will perforce be made to perceive the external universe and the other individuals therein as existing independent of himself and to feel the need for and the presence of a cosmic Ishvara or Creator-consciousness; but when the individual transcends its individuality, it is at once freed from the bond of the causal chain of the universe, and exists as the Supreme Truth, to which there is neither the universe that is created nor any separate creator involved in it.
The Idea of progress.—It is true that Brahman is not partial or limited in any way. But it does not mean that it contains within itself divisions or clefts which alone constitute the world. When there is division there is no Brahman, and when there is no division there is no world. All, except the reality of duality and plurality, that the logical or the scientific mind declares, is true, but its passion for individual, social, national and humanistic considerations and its utilitarian motives make it cling on to a universe of divided beings who are known as objects. Progress, downfall, change and the various degrees of experience are true only in relative life and not in the Absolute. Reality is not a process. Birth, life in a world and death, no doubt, appear as processes of change upward or downward, but these are merely changes in the relative conditions of the individualities of the world, and do not refer to anything beyond the appearance of dualistic experience. Change, whether as progress or downfall, and the presence of an external world, are both corollaries of jivabhavana or the notion of one’s being an individual knower, and therefore these cannot exist in the super-individual Absolute-Being.
Yet, the Vedanta does not say that any experience in the universe is unreal in itself, but that it is relative and subject to transcendence, and so unreal in a higher experience. Anything that is liable to be transcended at some time or the other is not ultimately real. Every objective experience is a degree of positive truth, but subject to transcendence, and unreal only to a higher condition. The entire existence is revealed to the individual in different degrees, but no experience can be an utter falsehood, as there is an element of consciousness in all experiences. But, all truths, except the last, are shadows, relatively real, and absolutely unreal. The world is unreal because no experience in it is unsublated. And its practical efficiency or relative worth cannot, however, hold water in the state of Self-Knowledge.
The ultimately illusory nature of the multiple world,… etc.—The dualistic or objective and material nature of the world is an illusion, a naught, in the light of Brahman. But the existence of the world is real, it is the same as Brahman.
The conception of the progressive evolution of the world,… etc.—To make the Absolute a process or a system of conditions or states would be to destroy its Absoluteness and reduce it to a temporal becoming, which can convey no meaning without a changeless being underlying it. Progress, downfall and change are necessary empirical concepts based on the practical experience of the individual; these have a relative purpose and meaning as far as the individual goes; but they cannot be consistent with the Absolute which is ever itself and is never any change or what changes.
Svarupa-lakshana and tatastha-lakshana. The svarupa-lakshana of a thing is the definition given of it in terms of the characteristics or svabhavas which constitute it as long as it exists, and which are not different from its svarupa or essential nature. The qualities which give the svarupa-lakshana of a thing are identical with the essential existence of a thing itself. Svabhava and svarupa mean the same thing, and are not two things related to each other through some kind of contact. A house, for example, may be defined through its essential characteristics which last as long as the house itself endures. Such a definition would be its svarupa-lakshana. In the case of Brahman, its svarupa-lakshana should comprise only those characteristics which are eternal, as Brahman itself is, and not those which appear for the time being in relation to the jiva. Existence or sat is eternal. There can be no destruction of Existence. And there can be no Existence without Consciousness of Existence. Hence Consciousness or chit, too, is eternal. Since Existence is unfettered, being undivided, secondless and infinite in every respect, it is also supreme Freedom or Bliss. Therefore, Bliss or ananda is eternal like Existence or Consciousness. Existence-Consciousness-Bliss or satchidananda is not tripartite but the One Eternal Reality. This is the svarupa-lakshana or the definition of the Essential Nature of Brahman. Though, in reality, sat-chit-ananda are one, they are differently manifested through the tamasika, the rajasika and the sattvika-vrittis of the manas, where the tamasika-vritti manifests Existence alone, the rajasika-vritti Existence-Consciousness alone, and the sattvika-vritti the whole Existence-Consciousness-Bliss. Sat-chit-ananda are not parts or properties of Brahman but Brahman’s very essence or being itself.
The tatastha-lakshana of a thing is the definition given of it in terms of certain characteristics which are accidental to it and do not exist at all times. These characteristics are extraneous to the thing defined and thus do not constitute its essential nature. They are different from its svarupa or svabhava, i.e. different from the thing defined. There is an external relation between these characteristics and the thing they define. A house, for example, may be defined as a building on whose roof a crow is perching. It cannot, however, mean that a crow is always perching on the roof of every house. This is only a temporary definition of the house in relation to an object external to it, where the relation with that object is merely accidental to it. This definition will not obtain for all time. It is, rather, an imperfect definition of a house. Such, however, would be the tatastha-lakshana of a house. In the case of Brahman, its tatastha-lakshana is the definition given of it in terms of the apparent and accidental universe of individualistic experience. Creatorship, preservership and destroyership of the universe, omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence, are all characteristics of Brahman in relation to something external to it. This definition will hold good only so long as the universe is experienced. This is a dependent and artificial definition which has no real relation to what is sought to be defined. The causality of Brahman is not a fact as such, but an empirical notion of the jivas.
Taittiriya Upanishad, II. 6.—Sri Sankaracharya gives the meaning of the later portion of this mantra as follows: “It, the Absolute Reality, became the formed and the formless, the defined and the undefined, the support and the non-support, the intelligent and the non-intelligent, practical (relative) reality and what is not practical (relative) reality, whatever that is here; that they call ‘the Real’.”
Free-will and Necessity.—The relation between jiva and Ishvara raises the further question of the part played by Free-will and Necessity in evolution. How does right knowledge arise in the jiva? It will be clear that the cause of the rise of knowledge is ultimately not a real but an unreal thing. Since ignorance or bondage of consciousness is an appearance, its destruction also should be an appearance in the same way. The fact is that Consciousness is ever free. If it appears to be bound or confined, this must be false. And a false confinement is removed by a false cause of freedom, and no absolutely real thing is necessary for this purpose. Dream-experiences are unreal (from the standpoint of waking), and the cause of the awakening from dream, also, may be some unreal thing like the painful experience of being chased by a tiger, a fall from a tree or a mountain, a drowning in waters, being assaulted by some persons, or some happy experiences like feasting or merriment of any kind, etc. Similarly the destruction of ignorance is caused not by an absolute principle but by a relative appearance like the exhaustion of prarabdha, the efficacy of purushartha, or the Will of Ishvara acting as Necessity. All these, including the Will of Ishvara, are only appearances and not Reality, and they have only an empirical value, i.e., they have an existence which is necessitated by the appearance of individualistic consciousness. Ishvara has to be accepted as a fact as long as all knowledge is expressed in terms of individuality and world-consciousness. But when the individual self is transcended, Ishvara and the world are both transcended. Ishvara has a regulative use in explaining the events of the empirical universe. He is Brahman, the Absolute, conceived of as related to the experiences of the individual. Thus, if bondage is true, and if the event of Self-realisation is a fact, it follows that the cause of bondage and of the event of liberation also must be true. In the acceptance of the reality of bondage, the reality of the world of experience is implied. Now, bondage is equal to absence of infinitude in consciousness or limitation of consciousness. This plight cannot be caused by the jiva, for the jiva itself is the effect of ignorance. It cannot be caused by the world, for by the world we mean either a collection of individuals or mere inert matter. It cannot, again, be caused by Brahman, for it is secondless. An Ishvara who combines in himself the consciousness of Brahman and of the universe becomes necessary, if bondage is to be explained. If he is the cause of bondage, He alone can be the cause of liberation, also. But the scriptures are definite that Ishvara can never be the cause of evil or suffering in the world. Ishvara does not cause bondage, for He is the very embodiment of perfection. Hence it is wrong logic which establishes Ishvara as the cause of the bondage of the jiva. No doubt, bondage is cosmic in the sense that it is experienced by all the jivas in the cosmos, but we cannot impute to Ishvara agency in the origination of bondage. The fact is that the cause of bondage is not any one factor alone—there is a reciprocal action of the subject and the object in bringing about the experience of bondage. This is why it is said that bondage is relative.
Anyhow, in the consciousness of the bondage of the jiva the notion of the existence of a cosmic Ishvara is comprehended. Ishvara’s existence is postulated, not to attribute to Him the cause of bondage, but to find a meaning in and an explanation for the experience of the world of bondage. But this explanation is relative; bondage, its cause and everything related to it is relative; Ishvara and the universe also turn to be relative. All these have an empirical reality, and a transcendental unreality. It is the consciousness of the reality of an ultimately false bondage that requires the admission of the consciousness of its ultimately unreal correlatives, viz., the world and Ishvara.
Now, regarding Free-will and Necessity, it has to be said that since the normal jiva has a consciousness of the imperfection of its knowledge and happiness, it has also the consciousness of the effort directed to ridding itself of this imperfection. This is intelligible because consciousness is present in the jiva. But, what is it that causes the rise of right discrimination and power of reasoning in the jiva? It cannot be said that it is effort that causes this, for effort is impossible without such a discriminative knowledge. It cannot, again, be said that all jivas have this knowledge, for it is not seen in all. Animals have not got such a discrimination. Who brings them up to a higher level of consciousness? Can we say that originally all jivas were endowed with discrimination and all the animals, plants and inanimate things are only fallen jivas? This cannot be, for one who has discrimination cannot fall. Then, how did non-discriminating jivas and stones, etc. come into existence? These difficulties can be solved only when an all-powerful and all-knowing Ishvara or Absolute-Necessity or the Law of the Absolute is accepted as existing in relation to the universe.
So, then, has Ishvara—or the Absolute-Necessity or the Law of the Absolute, as we would prefer to call Him, in order to be free from an anthropomorphic conception of Reality—full power over the jiva, or has the jiva, too, a little freedom of its own? There is no use in trying to explain the difficulty caused by the idea of a distinction of Ishvara and the jiva through the standard of the oneness of the two. That would be a wrong procedure, altogether. There cannot be a real solution to a false difficulty. Of it even the solution has to be unreal ultimately, and it is perfectly logical to regard it as such. As is the effect, so has the cause also to be. Thus, then, those jivas who have no discriminative power or reason have no independence or freedom of their own, and have no responsibility of any kind. It is the Absolute-Necessity alone that works in their case. Up to the stage of the reasoning human being, there is no moral responsibility and no freedom to act independent of Necessity or constraint of instinct over which the jiva has no control. The divine element in the subhuman beings is covered over. The case with the reasoning human being is, however, different. The jiva, at the stage of man, begins to grow in the image of Truth, the divine spark begins to twinkle in it here, and so it shares a certain amount of freedom and responsibility. Since, however, the divinity is not completely manifest here, this freedom is not full but limited. The dreaming subject has freedom to act in the dream-world, and there is also a dream-world-reason or dream-world-discrimination. Here it must be remembered that the reason in dream is a faint memory of the waking reason, and the waking reason is a limited reflection of the Ishvara-Consciousness. There is experience of progress, downfall and pleasure and pain in dream. But these experiences of the dreaming individual are not known by the waking individual then—and as a matter of fact there is no waking individual at that time, separate from the dreaming one—it is engaged in dreaming. And yet the law of the waking individual governs the dreaming one. But this analogy has to be used with reserve in the case of Ishvara, for He is neither exhausted nor involved in the world-dream of the jivas. That, as long as the jiva is having world-perception and does not know Ishvara it cannot receive direct response from Him (i.e., Brahman in relation to the jiva), is, however, a fact. Hence Ishvara cannot be held responsible for the particular experiences of the jiva in its condition of the dream of world-perception, though Ishvara’s universal law governs, in general, every jiva.
Thus, there is, in man alone, a reciprocal action of Free-will and Necessity, and both take a part of their own in the waking up of the dreaming or the bound individual. This position has to be accepted as long as our explanation is bound to be merely empirical. Here, the waking up from dreaming has to be taken not merely in the sense of waking to the Absolute Self, but also waking to every higher degree of empirical state or experience.
The differences among the discriminative powers of different men are explained by the priority or the posteriority of some among them in the scale of development, whether they have arisen from an animal state or fallen from a celestial status quo. No two individuals rise up from the animal state or fall from the divine state at the same time; else, there would be identity of these individuals. So no two minds can ever coincide. In the pure self-attuned state of individuality there cannot be the question of Free-will or kriyamana-karma, for there is only Necessity or Ishvara’s Law of Being. But once the ego begins to function, the individual exercises its Free-will and subsequently may show signs of pain and suffering, if its efforts were not rightly directed to a non-selfish end, to the extent possible for it then. In the egoless state there can be no painful experience, as such a birth is directly caused by the Law of Necessity and not by individual Free-will. Man is a mixture of the divine consciousness and brute instinct, and so in the former aspect he has a little freedom of choice, but in the latter aspect he is under subjection to Necessity. In the case of men fallen to lower births, through their own actions, however, what functions is neither fresh Free-will nor Ishvara’s Law, but the result of the previous Free-will which has caused that fall. When we say ‘man’, we have to include therein all individuals like the Gandharvas, the Devas, etc. also, who may be not merely men risen-up due to good karmas and who therefore will certainly fall on the exhaustion of the force of their virtues, but also those who have been manifested directly by Ishvara’s original Will. Even the latter have egoism in them and so are subject to further descent, though they need not fall if they use their discrimination. Free-will is a function of the higher consciousness, but it is always connected with an ego, for it is absent in subhuman and super-individualistic beings who have neither egoism nor, consequently, a separate Free-will other than the Will of Ishvara or the Universal Law. In subhuman beings it is complete subjection to and ignorance of Law, and in super-individualistic beings it is knowledge of Truth and complete freedom that causes the absence of egoism and a separate Free-will. As long as this egoism persists there is a joint operation of Free-will and Necessity, midway between complete subjection and complete freedom. The freedom or Free-will that one has is inversely proportional to the sense of individuality that one has of oneself, and the Will of Ishvara or the Cosmic Force or Necessity that constrains one is directly proportional to it. Free-will is a symptom of desirelessness and expansion of consciousness to the extent indicated by it, and Necessity is the symptom of the opposite thereof. Absolute freedom is the consciousness of one’s being identical with the Absolute Necessity or Law, and it appears to constrain the individual as long as the individual is devoid of the consciousness of Unity and is attached to dualistic consciousness. Truly speaking, even the little freedom of choice which the human being seems to possess is a limited reflection of this Absolute Law in a particular degree.
The question of Free-will and necessity can be answered only by understanding the relation of the jiva to jagat and Ishvara. There is always a very intimate connection of the one with the other. None is prior to the other or posterior to the other. The three rise simultaneously in the consciousness and also subside simultaneously. There is no cause-and-effect-relationship among these necessary categories of experience. Ishvara is the name given to the Supreme Absolute appearing to operate in the universe of dualistic experience and giving a value to all conceptions and perceptions within it.
Brahman appears as the Supreme Person… etc.—If there is no cessation of the essential nature of Brahman, and if Brahman appears as Ishvara even as a rope appears as a snake, Ishvara can have no reality as distinct from Brahman.
If it is said that… Who created the individuals?— Even the view that Ishvara merely acts through his very existence itself as a cause of the manifestation of the potentialities of the previous world-cycle does not warrant the position of an Ishvara who can be completely isolated from Brahman. This could as well be effected by Brahman itself, for Ishvara’s part is only causing activity through his mere existence. If it is said that there is possible activity on the part of Ishvara, which cannot be attributed to the immutable Brahman, the question, “What prompts Ishvara to act?”, is still left unanswered. Even the theory that Ishvara imagined Himself to be many is open to the same objection. Compassion, necessity and sport (lila) cannot give a satisfactory answer, for Brahman cannot have compassion for itself, is not compelled by any necessity to act, and being supreme perfection does not feel the need for diversion or play. Without the perception of duality there can be no showing of compassion, feeling any necessity or desiring to sport. These views are inconsistent with the Non-Duality of Brahman.
Further, the view that the freed souls should wait… etc.—There can be no waiting of the liberated souls in Ishvara until the end of the world-cycle unless the world-cycle is an objective fact even to the Absolute. There is, however, no reliable proof for the existence of an objectively eternal process, except with reference to the jivas or the individuals of the universe. Is the world eternal or non-eternal? If it is eternal, what happens to it when the jiva attains Self-realisation? If it still persists, the Absolute Self would be a subject knowing an external world, which would mean that there is something second to the Self. If the world is non-eternal, it should have an end, and Ishvara would be only another name for Brahman and not a separate reality, since the world which is the defining form of Ishvara becomes non-existent. Such being the case, there can be no waiting of jivas in Ishvara till the end of the world-cycle, provided the individuality is completely transcended. This immediate self-transcendence is sadyo-mukti. But, if there is something of the individual left in the jiva, which prevents it from experiencing immediate kaivalya, still, it cannot be that it has to wait till the end of the kalpa of another person, for, to it, the end of kalpa is the end of its own individuality, after which nothing can prevent it from experiencing the Absolute. Hence, there can be no such thing as sarva-mukti or universal salvation except as the liberation of all the jivas independently and at different times. This does not, however, conflict with the theory of krama-mukti, for the latter only means the jiva’s temporary assuming of the form of a subtle and pervasive mental being until the potentialities of such an objective experience are exhausted through experience itself. Ishvara is real as long as the jiva is real, and when the latter realises Pure Consciousness there can be none holding it back from that realisation. But, until that state is reached, it has to be accepted that Ishvara, the Law of the Absolute, will definitely control the jiva. If, on the other hand, we are to assert that even the freed soul is barred in the state of Ishvara from attaining complete Perfection, it would mean the introduction of a tyrant independent of the liberated souls, who can act as he likes, even against the liberated ones who have become one with Truth, which theory would also indirectly give rise to the possibilities of partiality on the part of Ishvara, eternal damnation of souls, and such untenable positions. Such an Ishvara may hold these souls in himself eternally and there is no reason why he should release them even at the end of the kalpa. If it is said that they are held in on account of the existence of an objective Ishvara till the end of the kalpa, the question again arises, “What makes Ishvara stay till the end of the kalpa?” Further, that there can be an object in relation to the freed Self is without meaning. The whole of such a theory lends itself to absurdity when pressed on to its logical limits.
Ishvara’s creation cannot be explained in terms of the different individuals… etc.—The individuals are objects of perception and their reality is not established as long as they are not contained in a real conscious cause or perceiver. This cause is certainly not anything that is directly perceived through the senses or the mind. It has only to be inferred on the basis of Scripture and empirical necessity. The effect is proved to be real through a cause which is postulated as real, and the cause is proved to exist through the perception of the effect. The reasoning ends in a vicious circle and no objective reality is established to be true, for nothing objective can be a constituent of consciousness.
It is also said that Ishvara divided himself… etc.— If Ishvara has not really become the many, but merely appears as the manifold world, the causality of Ishvara can only be an appearance, and there remains no real thing second to Brahman.
These difficulties in proving the existence of Ishvara … etc.—Ishvara is nothing more than the object of a logical understanding of Reality underlying the universe. He is to be posited because the universe is perceived. The presence of an Ishvara forces itself, by way of necessity, upon the experience of the universe. This Ishvara is dissolved in Pure Consciousness when there is Self-realisation.
And, wherever Ishvara is identified with the Supreme Self… etc.—Ishvara is many times referred to in the Upanishads as Brahman itself, for they consider every degree of reality—anna, prana, manas, vijnana, etc.—as manifesting Brahman in a lesser or a greater degree. Sometimes they even consider these as the entire Brahman. They would never see anything but Brahman in everything. Many a time they do not make any distinction between form and essence; to them, all is the essence, even the form is nothing but the essence. This is a very highly developed view. But when Ishvara is made a real link in the chain of causation we are constrained to make a distinction between this empirical conception we have of Brahman and Brahman as it is in itself. If the causal notion is discarded, there is no objection to identifying Ishvara with Brahman. Sometimes Ishvara is called the Self of all beings, the Supreme Lord, the Reality of the universe, and the like. Here it is the Consciousness in Ishvara and not his causal nature that is thus identified. In spiritual perception Ishvara and Brahman are one. In empirical judgment Ishvara appears as a category involved in the universe.
The Method of the ‘Denial’ of objectivity.— The aspirant should practise profound meditation on the Non-Dual Consciousness by negating the objective consciousness which is inconsistent with the eternity of the Real. The meditating consciousness should ground itself firmly in its own Source by understanding clearly that duality cannot be real, and the distinctions among jiva, jagat and Ishvara are not true, since (1) everything is relative, one depending on the other for its empirical existence, and nothing in its isolation can be independent or genuinely existent, (2) everything has a presented or objective character, it being involved in space, time and causation, and is not really connected with the eternal experiencing Consciousness, and also nothing is certain or free from dubitableness except the deepest Consciousness of one’s own existence, (3) the waking-experiences have all the characteristics of dream-experiences, and vice versa, notwithstanding a higher degree of reality manifest in the waking-world, (4) no empirical experience persists for all time, but everyone is contradicted by another that takes its place, (5) causation is merely a belief based on practical relative experience and is not logically warranted or established by any valid proof, and (6) in Self-realisation the whole dualistic universe is negatived.
The brahmakara-vritti.—The brahmakara-vritti is the subtlest, the purest and the most expansive state of the higher mind which reflects within it the Consciousness of Brahman. Even this vritti, though the highest of psychical functions, is ultimately relative, for it is meant to destroy the primal ignorance which is also relative. There can be no relation between the destroyer and the destroyed except when both these occupy the same locus, i.e., when the two are relative. An absolute principle cannot be destroyed; nor can what is absolute and unrelated be the destroyer of anything. Ignorance is not absolute but relative, and it can be destroyed only by a knowledge which is also relative. It is vrittijnana or psychic intelligence, which has an object, and not svarupajnana or the Essential Consciousness which has nothing second to it, that becomes the destroyer of ignorance. When its work of sublating ignorance is completed, the brahmakara-vritti subsides by itself for want of an object, and there is then the Absolute-Experience.
The Factor of Devout Meditation.— Meditation should be practised by one sitting in one asana, preferably padmasana, with fingers showing chinmudra and arms stretched straight to touch the knees or with arms bent and with palms opened upward and kept one over the other midway between the two heels (in padmasana). Though there is no restriction regarding posture in the practice of Jnana-Yoga, it is helpful for one to start meditation or manana and nididhyasana being seated in padmasana. Meditation should be continued till death, or till the rise of Self-Knowledge.
In the beginning, it is advisable to select a suitable place and time for meditation, conducive to the psychological factors that are likely to promote it. When, however, the sadhaka is well established in meditation, it can be practised at any place or time, by merely withdrawing the mind from awareness of externals.
Katha Upanishad, II. 20.—Sri Sankaracharya explains the latter part of the mantra thus: “Who is desireless, i.e., whose intellect has ceased from experiencing the external objects, seen as well as not seen, in whom, when he is in this state, the dhatus or the organs like the mind, etc. which sustain the body become pacified—he, on account of the peace attained by these dhatus, beholds the majesty of the Self which is free from increase and decrease that are caused by karmas (actions), knows directly ‘I am That’, and is freed from sorrow.”
Truth is the union of the cosmic thinker and the cosmic thinking.—The admission of a cosmic thinker or Ishvara is, no doubt, necessary to offer an explanation of the universe of experience and to account for the consistency that is in it. The existence of Ishvara cannot be considered to be an imagination of the jiva or the empirical individual, for it is implied in the very existence of the jiva. The argument establishing the existence of Ishvara may be succinctly stated as follows:
There is the world of experience. Who is the cause of this world? Is it the individual experiencer? This cannot be, for the individual has no power over the other individuals constituting the greater part of the world, and the individual perceiver is influenced to a great extent by the external world of perception. There is something outside; where is it?—this the individual does not know. If there can be no effect without a cause, and if the world is perceived to be an effect because of its changeable nature, the world should have a cause which has full knowledge of and power over the world. That this cause should be intelligent and not inert is beyond doubt; else, the world, the effect, would be blind and there would not have been even an awareness of the appearance of the world. This cause which is necessarily demanded by the presence of the world is termed Ishvara or God who has all-knowledge and all-power, and who is the supreme lord of everything created. The very sense of finitude of knowledge regarding the world shows that there should be an infinite knower of the world, who is the same as infinite knowledge of the world, omniscience or cosmic consciousness. If I exist as an individual, Ishvara should exist as the universal knower. The fact that I am, proves that God is, as the correlate of the consciousness of my existence. If God or Ishvara is not, I cannot be, nor can the world be. Neither my existence nor the world’s existence and the mutual interaction between us two can be meaningful if Ishvara is not. My existence as a subject proves that the world exists as an object and that Ishvara exists as the unifying consciousness underlying my being and the world’s being. If an ultimate causeless cause of everything does not exist, nothing that is effected can exist or appear to the consciousness.
But it will be clear that the whole argument is based on the fact of the consciousness of the individual ‘I’ and the objective world. The objective world appears to me because I am a conscious being. So if I can know my consciousness, I can know why and how the world appears to me and how Ishvara who is found so very necessary is related to me and the world. Only if I am an individual knower can the world appear to me or Ishvara can have any relation with us both. So the question ultimately lands itself in “What am I?” Because the ‘I’ is ordinarily, in the state of non-discrimination, taken to be an individual, the enigmatic world and Ishvara obtrude themselves into its experience. But through analysis it is found that the ‘I’ is not an individual but the absolute consciousness. Hence, the world and Ishvara can only be empirical necessities and not absolute realities.
The view that Ishvara is a real reflection of Brahman and not a mere experiential demand of the jiva makes the jiva go to Ishvara after the transcendence of individuality and thus denies the possibility of sadyo-mukti. For this reason the view that Ishvara is an independent reflection of Brahman in the cosmos cannot be accepted. But we are obliged to offer some explanation of the character of Ishvara. The fact, however, seems to be this: That the jiva is, that the world is, and that Ishvara should be as the necessary cause of the world, is the basis or the hypothesis with which all thinking or speculation starts. There is no occasion for the rise of the question as to who created the world, for, that the world should have a cause which shall comprehend the jivas is the primal postulate of all philosophy and religion. The ideas of jiva, jagat and Ishvara are the order and meaning of the universe of experience, the way in which our consciousness works, the three categories in terms of which alone can even the very first thought be possible. These three categories have no transcendental meaning, for they are practical contrivances which make experience possible and which are the very life-breath and stuff of our processes of knowing. Logic does not explain these three categories but is founded on and is itself born out of these, the primary notions or modes of knowledge here. Logic cannot give us metempirical knowledge. Logic is the name given to the system of thought and the order of the universe of possible experience by any individual.
Thus, Ishvara is a cosmic reality posited not because he is known to be existent as an independent cause of the world but because he is one of the categories of experience, a most necessary universal value which alone can explain the values and existences in the entire manifestation, and account for the harmony and unity that is found in it. Without an Ishvara there can be no religion, and so he acts as a step in the realisation of Non-Duality. There is no wonder that man, a centre of finite consciousness as he is, takes the Eternal Brahman as an object of worship by making it the projector of the universe.
The soul reaches the Karya-Brahman or Parameshvara… etc.—According to the Brahmasutras, only those who do not use any symbol or pratika in their meditation on the Qualified Brahman are led by the superhuman being to Brahmaloka (vide also the Chhandogya and the Brihadaranyaka Upanishads). Those who meditate on symbols have their knowledge limited to the symbol, and as the rule is that as is the meditation so is the experience, the meditators on a symbol cannot reach Brahmaloka. The adorers of the panchagnis or the five fires (vide the Chhandogya Upanishad), however, reach Brahmaloka, but they have to return from there, and cannot reach the Supreme Brahman thereby. Different symbols used in meditation give rise to different experiences corresponding to each. But the meditator on the Qualified Brahman reaches the Saguna Brahman and thence proceeds to the Supreme Brahman.
When the Sruti says that the freed souls in Brahmaloka wait there till the end of the cycle, and together with Brahma, at the end of time, reach the Supreme Brahman, this can only be taken to mean that the experience of Brahmaloka being only a stage in the exhaustion of the results of previous wishes or qualitative meditations, or the continuance of life from a previous state of existence, on the exhaustion of the effects of such wishes or meditations, or relative experiences, which are the causes of the experience of Brahmaloka, there is nothing to bind the soul to relative experience, and so it transcends Brahmaloka and realises the Absolute. It does not, however, mean that the soul has to wait for another person’s waking up in spite of its having attained Self-Knowledge. The moment this Knowledge arises, the soul experiences the Absolute, and none, not even the whole universe, can prevent it from having this experience then.
The Brahmasutras hold that the released soul in Brahmaloka attains its purpose, whatever it be, by mere will, and without any other instrument or operative aid. This freed soul has no other master (though it is not omnipotent in the sense of Ishvara); it is master of itself as far as its possible experiences go. This soul can exist with or without a body, according to its liking. Even the body that it assumes by its will is only the mind taking that form, and it has really neither body nor sense-organs by itself, except the mind that it may assume for specific purposes, at different times. The freed soul can assume or animate, at the same time, many bodies, and work or enjoy through them simultaneously, if it so wills; it can influence, work or enjoy in any being, in any world, and in any way it likes, for it is all-powerful and all-knowing, next, of course, only to Ishvara. There is cognition of diversity and enjoyment in Brahmaloka for those who have not reached the seventh bhumika or degree of knowledge. The knowledge and power of a liberated soul in Brahmaloka is, in the state other than the seventh bhumika, limited and not absolute, for there is then the consciousness of personality or individuality. The meditation on the Qualified Brahman is based on a knowledge of the relative appearance of the Supreme Brahman and so it leads to limited experience and not immediately to the seventh bhumika or the Absolute-Experience.
The possibility of the return of the videhamukta to an embodied existence in order to fulfil the functions of an office in a relative state of consciousness can be understood only if the videhamukta is taken in the sense of one who has left his physical body but exists still in a relative state of consciousness either in Brahmaloka or in some other lower superphysical region—in the fourth, fifth or sixth bhumika of knowledge— and not one who has merged in the Supreme Brahman. In the case of one who has realised the Supreme Brahman, a return to embodiment of any kind is without meaning. It is possible for one in the fourth, fifth or sixth bhumika of knowledge, if it so happens that he had wished prior to the rise of knowledge to exist in some body, to continue, after leaving the physical body, either in the state of shuddha-sattva or a state below it but above the material world. This possibility of embodied experience by the videha (one who has left the physical body) can be compared in a way to the prarabdha of the jivanmukta who is still living with a body. But the embodied experience of the videha is different from prarabdha as it is ordinarily understood, since it is experienced after leaving the physical body, though it resembles prarabdha in that it is the result of a potentiality of a subtle mental experience, as in the case of the involuntary functioning of the prarabdha in a jivanmukta. Sri Sankaracharya suggests that this office of the videha is to be considered as self-chosen inasmuch as it must have reference to the desires given rise to before the rise of knowledge. This videha is free to have the experience of the Supreme Brahman the moment this desired function is over and the seventh bhumika of knowledge is reached. This experience of an office comes after the shedding of the physical body, and so it is called videha, though the next embodiment may or may not be in a physical frame, but it is not one of omniscience or omnipotence, unless, of course, the soul, by that time, has reached the seventh bhumika of knowledge and is not aware of the persisting body.
That the freed soul in Brahmaloka is possessed of an individualistic consciousness can be explained only by admitting that there may be jivanmuktas of the fourth, fifth or sixth bhumikas of knowledge living in their mental bodies there. And, the Chhandogya Upanishad explicitly says that the freed soul may enjoy the objects of the universe, but this enjoyment is free from awareness of the body. Hence we are led to conclude that these experiences are of the soul in the seventh state of knowledge in which the body appears to take part in action and enjoyment only from the standpoint of the onlookers, outside that body, though the mukta himself does not feel the body, and all his actions and enjoyments are the automatic self-exhaustion of the remaining momentum of past wishes and actions which are at present unconnected with consciousness. This momentum does not now require the aid of consciousness, as the impressions left of the aid given by consciousness while the jiva was in bondage suffice for keeping it working. Those knowers who have left their bodies before reaching the seventh jnana-bhumika are no doubt videhas, but they have not reached the highest videhamukti which can be had only after reaching the consummation of knowledge. It is these persons who are not in the seventh bhumika that may, on account of the possibilities of further experience in the universe, take the corresponding forms or offices and work until their exhaustion by way of experience. Nevertheless, these souls do not lose their identity of personality or their attunement with Brahman, even when they pass from one body to another, for they remain undeluded even during the processes of excarnation and incarnation, as a result of the Knowledge which they have attained. Their experiences are based on Truth-consciousness and are only the last traces of objectivity which are about to be merged in Brahman.
The jivanmukta experiences his being the lord of all… etc.—In fact, the one in the seventh bhumika does not know anything second to him and there is no question of the consciousness of lordship or power in that state. But the one who is in the fourth, fifth or sixth state can exercise conscious power; he has consciousness of an all-knowing and all-powerful personality; he can do anything and enjoy anything; he can also renounce everything and remain contented with himself. He is a mahakarta, a mahabhokta and a mahatyagi. The same distinction of the degrees of knowledge applies to the soul in Brahmaloka, also.
Evil does not overcome him,… etc.—The moment there is the rise of Knowledge all the demerits and merits of the individual self come to a nought. There is no experience of the effect of any action, whatsoever, after the attainment of Self-Knowledge. Neither the past actions nor future ones can cling to the jivanmukta. What is done and what is not done by him—both these lose their power and have no effect upon him. By realising the Self, he realises that he never was, is or will be a doer of anything. The Brahmasutra says that the results of acts performed without selfish desire, which do not produce any specific effect, but help to acquire Knowledge, are not destroyed, for they are accessories to Knowledge and have already fructified, in the case of the jivanmukta, in the form of Knowledge.