Shri Shankara says that Vedanta means Upanishad

It is said in the Shastra: “This Atman ought to be listened to, ought to be reflected upon and then ought to be meditated upon.” (“Brihadaranyaka Upanishad” 2.4.5.) We therefore listen to this Atman as it is spoken of in the holy Scriptures. Here is offered a series of graded thoughts, and if these are carefully listened to and noted, then we will have a systematised cognition of the philosophy of holy Adhyatma Yoga.

 1. The first thing is, what is Vedanta? The word “Vedanta” is used in the Upanishads and very often the holy Acharya says: “And the Vedantins say so.” This shows that the name of the Holy theory, the philosophy of Adhyatma Yoga, is Vedanta.

Shri Shankara says that it means “Upanishad”. Other Acharyas have explained it in other, different ways also, but virtually it means “Upanishad”.

For the ordinary man, what shall we say? Suppose we want to communicate it to a pure-minded person who has applied for instructions. These instructions are never to be given to an individual unless he comes and says nine times: “Please teach me.” You can explain dharma but not the holy philosophy, because there are so many sceptics and blind people. Once Mrs Besant was lecturing, and I saw a man in the audience who I knew did not know a word of English, yet he had come. There are many such enquirers also. So the rule is, that this holy philosophy will be revealed only to him who asks and goes on asking: “Adhih Bhagavan Brahmavidyam! O Lord, teach me the science of perfection!”

What shall we say to the ordinary person that Vedanta is? It is a mental attitude which aims to transcend the feeling of difference and separation called bheda and leads to unity. It is not a system of dialectics. This is Vedanta. This is the holy philosophy – a mental attitude. The knowledge must change our mind. Sometimes it takes a long time for mind to change, and when the mind begins to change then there are many relapses unless we are careful and unless we continue devotion to the Lord and service to His children. And when they come, we are not aware that they are relapses and we think: “This is truth, and what we heard so far was just abstraction.” Just as Professor Deussen says: “The Absolute of Shankara is almost nothing.” Therefore we must create a mental attitude, which aims to transcend the sense of division and separation.

There are two kinds of life manifest; the organic form and the rational form. The organic is the life of all other than man, and the rational expression is only in man. The law in the rational form is unity. When a man ceases to have a conception of his inner unity, he suffers from the psychological condition called the split personality or split mind. The most important thing in nature is neither sun nor atoms nor the laws, but it is human experience. It means a conception of underlying unity. This thought, expressed so often in the Upanishads and Gita, is the keynote of the philosophy of Shri Shankara.

Answers to questions

(a) There are no relapses after Aparokshanubhuti, but many before realization.

(b) I do not think it can be said that Vedanta subscribes to the doctrine that man is the measure of all things. Even Aristotle and Plato repudiated this very early expression of the Ionian philosophers.

2. What is the cause of this bheda that we want to overcome? The cause is imperfect vision of consciousness, and this is created by the limiting adjunct called avidya. We want to overcome it by vidya. One may say: “What does duality matter? We can do very well in the realm of duality.” But the Shruti says: “Wherever there is duality there is fear.” (“Taittiriya Upanishad” 2.7.) No one wants to live in a state of fear. Without an underlying sense of unity no friendship, no relationship, either domestic or social or political or international, can exist. Therefore we must rub out the feeling of duality by evoking in us a consciousness of Advaita.


3. What do we seek? We seek truth in its widest generality. So as Vedantins the object of our search, deep, abiding, most earnest, for the sake of which we will make any sacrifice, is truth in all its generality. When Shri Rama Tirtha announced his intention to leave his domestic life, his brilliant career, his utility to the learned body to which he belonged and to his parents and wife and children, he quoted this Shruti in support of his resolution: “In that path the father becomes no father, the mother no mother, the wife no wife” and so forth. (“Brihadaranyaka Upanishad” 4.3.22.). If we hold any worldly relationship dearer than truth, we will not have realization. We practically assimilate the infinite truth in life. In Vedanta, the theoretical and practical life are one and not two. Unless the truth is demonstrated by negation of the pairs of opposites, by abandonment of the love of the objects in avidya, it is not truth at all. Hence we practically assimilate it in life. Now this is about the pragmatic importance of the holy Yoga. Our whole life in the form of conduct, thinking, aspiration, is saturated by this holy truth, by the one-pointed devotion to achieve it and by expressing it through our conduct when we have achieved it, in the form of service of truth, devotion to the Lord, etc., as long as the prarabdha karma lasts.

Answer to question.

 The analysis into the five sheaths is to be realised in experience in the sense of

 “It is not I”.

4. Now two standpoints about individuality. This idea of individuality which we all have before we come to the Yoga, and the true idea of individuality which is stated in the Shruti and the experience of the holy Saint, how are they related? The individuality which shows itself by identification with the body, caste, sex, etc., is one; the other is assimilation of the holy truth in life in its widest generality. What is the connection between them? Is one the product of the other? Is the one encased in the other like a seed? Is the second to grow out of the first?

The first kind, the empirical individuality, is false and a creation of avidya, and it must be warded off. Take the case of the butterfly, alive and perhaps conscious in the chrysalis, when the chrysalis is the whole world. Under the influence of Spring, it is broken. Then comes out the butterfly and sees the rose gardens, the expanse lit by sunlight, the lake of water on which are floating water lilies. It sees the beauty only when it comes out of its false individuality in the form of the chrysalis.

The doctrine that God Himself has become prisoner in the body is wrong. This individuality is an illusion created by ajnana. The vision of infinity is realised and becomes permanent only when the empirical individuality is transcended. There are many verses from the Gita on this. The normal man proceeds to accomplish it; the neurotic simply says “it is difficult.”

Avidya creates the empirical personality. Avidya is a limiting adjunct which has no consciousness, but it has existence; it has no beginning but it has an end. There is no escape from the ideal. The Sufi verse says: “Love has attraction and there is no escape from it. If you will not come to my funeral, you will have to come to the namaz following it. ” God is the only home of all the jivas ; they must return home either in this incarnation through the grace of Dada, or after a million incarnations, each a succession of events in sorrow.

5. Why do we have a disturbed vision of Bliss? One Shruti says: “Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma.” (“Chandogya Upanishad” 3.14.3.) Another says: “From Bliss all these beings are born, in Bliss they stay, and to Bliss they finally return.” (“Taittiriya Upanishad” 3.6.) But we see strife and suffering, not bliss. The explanation is that when truth is obscured, our vision is distorted and we see water where there is desert, snake where there is rope, death where there is immortality. Then have the right vision, free from all disturbance, the vision of spiritual consciousness. As the man under delusion sees two moons, so the spiritual vision when disturbed appears as sansara, the series of transmigrations, sufferings succeeding each other, sometimes slowly and sometimes quickly.

Now as the Mahatmas explain it. One explanation is as the Shastras, and the other as the Mahatmas explain it. The latter is simple, direct and very telling. What is this avidya? This avidya that you are talking of is our mind, our mind, our mind. You need not look for avidya like a hidden tiger. This ever active mind, clogged with desires and aversions, intoxicated with self-sufficiency, pride, pride, conceit, ahankara. Patanjali says: “Ignorance is the field in which suffering germinates.” (“Yoga Sutras” 2.4.) To negate our avidya we must negate our mind, when we have made it light and mobile. While it is heavy like an elephant, you cannot easily drive it out; the pigeon is easily driven out. When the mind is full of tamas and rajas and out of it are rising the currents of effluvium of desire and aversion, you cannot negate it. So usher in the truth through meditation and devotion, and in practical life dissociate it as much as possible from rajas and tamas. What Swami Sacchidananda said about this matter, I think you know: “If you want to conquer an enemy, you want to know the strength of its fort, the position of the fortifications, the disposition of its army. If you want to destroy the mind, in order to destroy it, destroy its strongest position, and that is that you think it is real. Negate it by always thinking that this mind is unreal, its creations are unreal, its relationships unreal, and that all its functions lead eventually to a greater and greater bondage of the soul.” By this meditation, by tutoring the buddhi in this way, it is done. The buddhi is the Prime Minister of this mind, our enemy, with its army of raga and dvaish (there is a very beautiful description given by Vachaspati Mishra in a verse in Chatussutri) . It is by, so to say, bribing the buddhi, by making it subservient to you, that he will, so to say, sell the whole fort to you.

This is how the Mahatmas teach. The value of Sat Sang is that the Mahatmas throw a light on these guest ions in a way which is quite different from the Shastrika or dialectical way.

6. How is this vision of unbounded consciousness attained? The present consciousness is bounded. I am this body. I am one of fifty million Englishmen. I am a man, a biped only. To have a vision of Consciousness undivided, that is the real vision. In one word, it is done by intuition, prajna. Prajna is that faculty in the buddhi which kills the buddhi when it is awakened and reveals itself in the form of the spiritual experience. Therefore, the aspirants must try to attain intuition, or aparoksha jnana. What will happen then? It is attended by felicitous peace, not the peace of lethargy, not the peace in which they prepare for war, not the temporary peace between husband and wife, but a felicitous peace, the shadow or ray of which is felicity and the delight of conviction and the bliss of attainment. By intuition this vision is had, and it is called Atma-jnana, Atma-darshana, Aparoksha-darshana. The ideal of Vedanta is thus concrete, clear-cut, not something nebulous.

7. The summum bonum is knowledge of truth and the consequent bliss. You say: “You don’t speak of ‘liberation’: we have always heard of ‘liberation’.” “Liberation” means identity-consciousness, not separative consciousness but identity-consciousness, “I am all”. As you have just heard in the Hastamalaka Stotra, this is called the identity-consciousness. To speak plainly, it is loss of the false ‘ I ‘ , individual consciousness, the breaking of nescience. As long as man is seated on a horse, he is not free. As long as man has based his personality on the one-legged stool of ego, he is insecure. The loss of the false “I”, individual consciousness, and the breaking of nescience, that is liberation.

8. Now, is there any positive subjective evidence that something like this exists? Russell has said that the whole philosophy of Hegel is one colossal error. Is there anything to which we can point subjectively, unmistakeably, to show that there is some substance in this philosophy? We are not afraid of such questions. If you read the works of the holy Acharyas like Chitsukhi, objections of the most difficult kind are raised. But they all end in smoke. This present objection is met by the one word, Sakshi. The Witness-consciousness in us is proof positive of the existence of Self which is bliss, immortal and knowledge absolute. All of us have Witness-consciousness, Sakshi, in us. This Witness-consciousness shows beyond doubt it is the region of transcendence in practical consciousness. The Sakshi is not affected by the vision of the lower consciousness of duality. Sakshi is merely its Witness; it is not affected. Its existence is proof undeniable, positive, that the ideal which Vedanta has before it is real, is practical and is undeniable. OM.

It is said in the classic called “Shankara Digvijaya” by the great Anandagiri that when the most holy Acharya was on his way, he came to a certain village in which there lived a boy of very tender age. His family was a poor Brahmin family. The boy had not spoken a word up to that time. They produced him before the holy Acharya for his blessing and for the restoration of his faculty of speech. When the boy came before him, the holy Acharya said: “O dear child, who art thou? To whom dost thou belong? Whence art thou? What is thy name? Where art thou going? Thou has created affection in my heart for thee. Now speak, O son.”

Hastamalaka said:

“I am neither man nor Deva nor Yaksha. I am neither Brahmin nor Kshatriya nor Shudra. I am not a Brahmachari, nor a householder, nor a forest-dweller. I am not a monk. I am knowledge of my own Self, which also is knowledge.

“I am the cause of the activity of the mind and the eyes. I am free from all media of expression. I am like the space or the sun which is the cause of the movement of the world. That every achieved knowledge by nature, that Atman am I.

“The reflection of the face in the mirror is not separate from the face itself. It has no existence of its own. So the reflection of consciousness in the buddhi, called jiva, is that ever-achieved knowledge absolute; that Atman am I.

“As in the absence of the mirror the reflection of the face disappears and the face alone remains and, free from all mental activities, exists: so when separated from the intellect, no longer a reflection, that ever-achieved knowledge, Atman, am I.

“Ever unconnected with the mind and the eyes and other senses, and yet who is the mind of the mind and the eye of the eye, who is inaccessible to the mind and the eyes, that ever-achieved Atman, knowledge itself, am I.

“He, the one, ever pure Consciousness, self-luminous, is reflected in many intellects, like the sun who is ever one and yet seems to be abiding in many water-filled pots; that ever-achieved knowledge itself, Atman, am I.

“The deluded ones, whose eyes are screened by the cloud, imagine the cloud-conditioned sun to be shorn of its light; similarly Atman appears as if bound according to the experience of the dull-minded seer; that ever-achieved consciousness, Atman, am I.

“That ever-pure, ever-achieved Self, ever-unconditioned Atman, pervading all objects, abides in His glory unaffected by His objects; that ever-achieved consciousness am I.”

It is further related that this boy named Hastamalaka, known as a great Acharya and one of the Pillars of the holy Shri Shankara, followed his Guru serving him with all his love and might. In all the traditional pictures of the holy Acharya, Hastamalaka Acharya figures as one of his closest disciples.

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