The properties of the Object are not the properties of the Subject according to Shri Shankara5 min read

At the end of the prose part of “A Thousand Teachings”, Shri Shankara has with great logical acumen demonstrated that the subject is different from the object and that the properties of the object are not the properties of the subject. You see a cow lounging in the open air in a green field. Its properties, which consist of a fractional expression of consciousness in which mental attributes, constructiveness, thought and creativeness play no part, are not your properties.

You have reason, imagination and ability to study science, philosophy and art; you have an ethical sense; you create forms of beauty and utility in the world of time-space, and in the mental world you also create conceptions of art, politics, religion and so forth. In one word, you are not the object which you perceive. Then, the world you perceive is not you. You must know your property and not confuse it with objects of your conception and perception.

What is the chief property of man’s spirit? In a certain sense, the spirit is the subject: in a higher sense it is witness, detached, unaffected; it is existence, consciousness and bliss. It is freedom, luminosity and stability.

The world that is subject to perception and conception, extended in time-space, subject to change every moment, a field of disappointment with flashes of pleasure and an abode of worry, care and pain, cannot be the spirit. The world is nothing but an imaginary and illusory set of limitations, imposed on the universal spirit. It is in fact not real; its existence is like the existence of a ring in a ring of gold.

Who has created the world ? The great philosopher Sarvajnatma Muni calls consciousness both the material and instrumental cause of the world. Let us not, at this point, go into the whirlpool of dialectics. It is enough to know that this illusory creation, which is like passing clouds or a ghost seen in darkness, is a creation in name and not in fact, by a power of the Spirit called Maya. Do not try to understand Maya by your mind because the mind is a creation of Maya, animated by the Spirit. A man seeing himself in a dream cannot understand the dream or the stuff of dream. Let him wake up and then and then alone he will understand the dream.

Under the impress of the Maya of the Lord, the individual Spirit identifies itself with the objects and imposes upon itself the property of the objects. That aspect of Maya which covers the Spirit and gives it an appearance of what it is not, is called Moha, delusion, darkness, attachment. It is an infatuation; but in no way does it soil or taint the witness-consciousness. A mirage river does not wet the sand of the desert. Let us remember that consciousness is not negated by Maya; it is only obscured by it.

The great Sureshvaracharya says: “Brahman (God) is the substratum of nescience or Maya, and Maya expresses Brahman—not the whole, but a fragment only”.

The only source of all pain, woe and frustration is this error; the subject identifying itself with the object, the jiva (soul) attached to the mind and the world. This is the fundamental principle of the holy philosophy.

How can the riddle be solved and man regain his normal nature, free from the illusion of duality ? The universal consciousness is manifest in the Maya which is the mind of man. What is it? It is that which says: “I know; I feel; I am happy; I am the doer”. It is not the mind. Knowledge does not belong to the mind. The knowing subject in the mind is the universal consciousness in a veil of Maya. It is called Jiva.

The riddle of nescience can be solved by educating the mind in the holy philosophy. First learn that the mind is your instrument. Set it right and make it fit for spiritual education by discipline, control, steadiness, and then apply it to Shravana (Listening to the Truth), Manana (Reflecting on the Truth) and Nididhyasana (Meditating on the Truth). Raja Yoga and Hatha Yoga will not help at all. “Be a Yogi, O Arjuna.” Love and knowledge destroy the force of ignorance.

Love, rightly exercised, deprived of possessiveness, greed, narrowness and exclusiveness and applied on Dharma, study, Guru and God fits the mind to meditate on Truth. Truth destroys the error of false identification. Meditation is absorption of the mind in the conception: “I am Brahman”, “I am Chid-Ananda (Consciousness—Bliss) by nature”. It should be deep and long.

The pulls of desire for pleasure and power, desire to be known or to rule others, are all in ignorance. Be humble, contented and devoted. Have few friends, if at all. Be discriminative. Is that all? Yes. But as all is thy own Self, serve others on the plane of knowledge, under the direction of your teacher. Apply art, science, ethics, religion and philosophy to know God as thy Self.

In Sansara (the world) do not be deluded; do not be infatuated. It is a curtain on a theatrical stage, which gives the illusion of time-space and dimensions. Abide in God, within and without. Renounce the unreal; renounce conceit, egoity and all other than God. Persist in the course of love-knowledge. The veil will be lifted and you will realise God, the Infinite, within and without.

Covering all phenomena with Self, withdraw the intellect from the network of uncertainty and delusion; then, transcend the intellect in the pure consciousness which is thy Self.

What about the postures and chakras and other such concepts? What about healing? Let us say, as did the good old Heraclitus in Greece: “Asses prefer straws to gold”. There is only one right and true value and it is the Self of man, ever identical with the Supreme Self, and “Tat Twam Asi” (That thou art).