There are two aspects of Brahman, called Jnana-jneya and Upasya-jneya, the aspect which can be realized by Jnana and the aspect which can be realized by Upasana. Jnana means the realization of Brahman sattyam jagan mithya jivo Brahmaiva na parah. Whenever the word Jnana is used in the philosophical sense in the holy literature, it is used in this sense: Brahman sattyam jagan mithya jivo Brahmaiva na parah. Jneya means subject to knowledge. These paths are referred to in the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 11 as Sankya-yoga and Karma-yoga.
Karma has again two aspects. Karma means discharge of duty, and Karma means preparing the mind for a direct perception of Atman; in this sense it is Upasana. The approach through Upasana is important because it fits the buddhi for knowledge or Jnana.
Rare is the human birth.
In the human birth, precious is the inclination to know God and to do good to all his creatures. If anybody has an inclination to know the truth, he should consider himself more fortunate than Seleucus who inherited the vast empire of Alexander after his death. The empire of Seleucus lasted a very short time, but the empire of the one who has inclination to know God, who is drawn towards Yoga, towards Upasana and Jnana, is immortal, all-pervasive. Then it is proper to devote as much time as possible to study, to be indifferent to the pleasures of the world, to put away all thoughts of hoarding property, marrying and so forth, and by devotion, by discipline, to try to know the Lord as Sacchidananda. This is the very highest good, the greatest privilege than can befall one. But it is also our duty to bring this privilege to others by making it available to them without trying to run after anybody.
The Sutra “Athato Brahma-jijnasa” contains the sublime truth and is one of the most important statements in the holy philosophy. There is a great controversy over this Sutra. There are many Acharyas who say that Brahman, which is said to be the cause of the origination, sustenance and withdrawal of the world (Tajjalaniti), is not Brahman the indeterminate but Ishvara, Brahman-determinate.
Many Acharyas have said: “It cannot be said of Him that the world is born of Him, etc. To say this, is to predicate of Him a function, and to ascribe a function to the Absolute is to destroy the absoluteness of the Absolute. ” When you will read the great works of Sureshvaracharya and others, you will find all these discussions.
Now we are concerned with one: “You say Athato Brahma-j jijnasa. Tell us whether the Brahman is known or is unknown.” It can be either known or unknown; there is no third alternative. If Brahman is known, then the enquiry is quite useless. If Brahman is unknown, then who runs after something which is unknown? Who wants to give his daughter in marriage to the son of a barren woman? Who tries to run after a person when we do not know if that person exists? So if Brahman is known, the enquiry is useless, and if not known, why run after it? It is useless in either case.
“Furthermore, Brahman is said to be unknowable, not only unknown. Therefore give up this madness and run after the joys of the world which are real, which you can see on the palm of the hand. ” Remember that the objections which the Lokayatas, Bauddhas and Jainas raise are nothing compared with the objections raised by the Acharyas themselves in order to understand the holy truth.
The reply is that Brahman is known. How? Because we all say, “I know, and I go, I see and I write.” Everybody uses the word “I”. This “I” is Brahman. So it is not a wild-goose chase. We try to know it because there is a confusion about the nature of our “I”. The Naiyayikas say that it is the creator, and this Atman, Self or Brahman, is the receptacle of knowledge. The materialists say that the body is the Self.
When the body has been reduced to ashes, nothing is left to be reborn or to reap the consequences of its evil deeds. Chintamani Shastri used to point to a tree that had died and say: “Which is more reasonable, to think that it was alive and now this tree is dead and that is all, or to think that there is something which has escaped and gone elsewhere? It is a mere guess.”
Buddhists say the self consists of the moments of knowledge, which are born every moment and come to nothing every moment, and their continuity is called “the self”. Others like Plato and Aristotle confound the intellect with the soul. Plato speaks a good deal of the attributes of the soul. In his short but great classic “DeAnima”, Aristotle gives ideas about the soul, but they are all ideas only about the buddhi.
Whom shall we believe? Because there is a confusion and so many people say so many things, and without knowledge of the soul our life has no value, we institute the enquiry.
If all these different philosophers have a common perception of “I” or Brahman, why are their views so different? The sun is an object of common knowledge of everybody, but it is only through a telescope or mathematical calculations that we can know the position and nature of the sun and not by common sight.
So, though Brahman is commonly and superficially known to all as “I”, they have not applied that telescope of meditation, devotion, cogitation, tranquillity of mind, etc., and therefore they do not know about it. Suppose fifty people with their cameras proceed towards the moon. One photographs it after five miles, another after twenty miles, another after a thousand and so on. They all sit together afterwards and produce their prints; each is radically different, although they are photographs of the same moon. But there are those who have recourse to a telescope and mathematics, and they give a theory of the moon which, though different from all, is true. So though Atman is known to all, the real nature is known only to those who have known it through Samadhi.
When we have known Atman or the Self or Brahman, we become free, and as it was told to Narada in “Chandogya Upanishad” Chapter VII: “O Narada”, says Sanatkumara, “the knower of Brahman goes beyond all sorrow. There is no sorrow for him. From bliss the world is born, in bliss the world stays, to bliss it returns; the whole universe including self is nothing but a tranquil translucent ocean of bliss, bliss, bliss.” And as these people who have superficial knowledge are subject to grief and hatred, they do not know it.
What is that telescope through which we can see God or Self? The word God is a dear word, but in the holy philosophy the word God applies to God within and not to God without. If you go into the goldfield, first of all you try to find it under your foot. God is all-pervasive and therefore the highest way is to know Him within the structure of our mind. What is the telescope?
(1) Purity and tranquillity of the mind. The first condition is that we should have universal goodwill. As long as regard anybody as our enemy or against us, we shall not be able to know God. If we regard anybody as inferior to us, then also we create a great impediment. Because He is in all, He is all. The highest wisdom given by Lord Jesus is: “Love thy neighbour as thyself.” I do not know any wisdom higher in this part of the world than the wisdom of Jesus.
(2) Tranquillity of the heart. It is made tranquil by the practice of the principle of unity of all, by expelling from it desires and aversions which are factors of disturbance.
(3) High moral and intellectual adaptation by Upasana or devotion. The object of devotion is to raise the moral tone higher and higher, and to adapt our intellect to truth irrespective of any consideration of utility. Truth is not pragmatic, as William James tries to make us believe. Truth is Truth.
(4) When these conditions have been performed Shravana, listening to the holy truth according to the Scriptures, not to the harangues, not to the talks of “Masters” delivered through notoriously ignorant mediums. It is in the Fourth gospel, in the Gita and the Upanishads. Listening means with rapt attention, opening the soul to be impregnated by the holy Truth that we listen to. People often say: “Shri Shankara refuses reason.” But if there is a philosophy which does not believe in reason it is weak. This objection is that of people who did not know the philosophy of Shri Shankara.
(5) Manana, finding out intellectually the truth of identity of jiva and Brahman and the unreality of the world. It does not mean useless objections; it is critical discourse of the mind with itself, and also Manana is the discourse which refutes the objections which the intellect raises against the holy truth of identity of jiva and Brahman.
(6) Nididhyasana has many meanings. I give you the meanings which the Mahatmas believe in. I have told you that the Scriptures are right, but the way in which the Mahatmas put the words of the Scriptures is based on common sense and is very impressive. Swami Sacchidananda said the mind breaks out into modifications called vrittis all the time. They are of two kinds: those helpful to the realization and those which obstruct realization – anukula and virodhi. The first are congenial to and helpful to the truth of identity; vrittis which are opposed to the truth of identity (are the second). Always suppression of opposing vrittis and encouragement of the vrittis which help the identity of jiva and Brahman is called Nididhyasana.
The desirable vritti is created by bringing out the latent impressions in our mind of goodness, truth, compassion and so forth. You see a man suffering from some contagious disease. A man without spiritual wisdom will say: “Let us avoid him: he must have done great sins.” This is one vritti. The other vritti is: “How miserable he is; is there any way to relieve him? Can I tell him of any place he can go to be treated?” You can do either; the man is the same but you can express either.
Emerson has said every object has an empirical or face value, a pragmatic value and also a symbolic value. First face value, second “what can I get out of it?” and the third is it symbolizes something. A rose has a beautiful appearance. It is the vyavaharika value; it delights my heart. The petals of the rose if eaten have a curative effect on heart palpitations; rosewater refreshes a weak heart; let me offer a rose to a silly girl on the stage; that is pragmatic. The symbol is that it is a symbol of Truth; it has come from the lap of God; it is to be admired, and we admire the Force which brought it forth.
To see the symbolic value is a part of Nididhyasana. Every object has two aspects. The natural aspect is three-dimensional; the Adhyatmika metaphysical aspect is Sacchidananda. It is to try to dwell on the metaphysical aspect. The old Granny is very ill and abuses us. The ordinary aspect is to keep away. The metaphysical aspect is that she is not herself and we shall also one day be reduced to this condition; so our duty is to bring her comfort. God has furnished us with an opportunity to serve God and bring our mind to tranquillity by serving her.
There is mental consciousness of the vrittis. We have purpose and conception through these vrittis. Vrittis declare purpose and conception. Jar is jar; its purpose is to fill it with water and keep it near in hot weather, to serve others from it as well as ourselves. Consciousness itself expresses itself through the vrittis. If the consciousness is withdrawn, the vrittis are nothing; they vanish like soap bubbles. That is the consciousness devoid of all vrittis and devoid of ajnana, these two things. You may say “Can ajnana exist without vrittis?” Yes, because vrittis are only rays and ajnana is the source, and it is in the form of ahankara or abhimana. That which is devoid of all vrittis and ajnana is Brahman.
Let us pass over the subject-object relationship. The subject-object relationship, and inter alia cause-and-effect relationship, will not give us an idea of Reality. Let us pass over it in our meditations. There is something which sometimes appears as object. The subject and object are passed over. What remains? “Sakshi, cheta, kevalo, nirgunascha.” (“Shvetashvatara Upanishad” VI.11). Witness, consciousness, the One alone, free from attributes. In order to have a vision of Atman, let the purified and controlled mind receive the grace of the Guru and contemplate Govinda; these two practices add wings to the mind -through which it can rise from rajas and tamas to sattva. The witness-state is not sushupti; it is called samadhi. Samadhi also is a form of mental consciousness; it is witness in relation to what is witnessed. But Brahman is Kutastha. Witness-state merges into Kutastha and Kutastha is Brahman.
“I am Brahman which is the support of all, which is the light under which every object is seen.” (Viveka Chudamani)
You will say every object is seen under the light of the sun. But we ask “Under what light is the sun seen? Under what light is darkness and the absence of the sun found everywhere? Nothing exists in Him, void of all; eternal, pure, without any action, without any mentation, that Advaita Brahman I am, I am, I am. “
“I am the essence of all.
I am the immortal eternal element in the universe, in the atoms.
I am all; without a second I am, without any other duality.
I am one, without any parts,
I am knowledge,
I am ceaseless bliss.”