The holy philosophy of Shri Shankara is a remedy for all the sufferings, which have one cause: that is ignorance or avidya. It is not something to be indulged in intellectually as a luxury. And those people who make a luxury of it will remain bereft of its chief advantage – freedom from all kinds of suffering for ever. There is, first, a preparation for it; there is, second, a discipline of the mind and of the conduct to undergo; then the third is the acceptance and service of a teacher, and the fourth is the spiritual practices, and the fifth is illumination, and the sixth is unbroken happiness. If we want to begin the study of the holy philosophy systematically, we must fulfil the preparatory part of it. It relates to life, not only to intellect, and therefore the preparation is moulding of life in a certain golden frame. There are many things which have to be given up, there are many things which have to be accepted, there are many things which have to be assimilated. Unless this process is adopted, holy ones, we shall remain vachajnani, talking jnani, not the feeling jnani, not the jnani who has realised truth. We do not want to be “talking jnanis”.
Shri Shankara says, quoting from the “Katha Upanishad” first adhyaya second valli verse 24:
Navirato duschar itan na ‘shanto na ‘samahitah
Na ‘shantamanaso’ vapi prainanenainamapnuvat.
What has a man to do in order to obtain prajna? Prajna means the spiritual eye. The eye which sees the world as it is, that is mithya, and which also sees the supreme Spirit which is beyond it, on which the world exists as a ring of gold exists in gold, that faculty is called prajna. Prajna is in the heart of everybody. It has to be aroused and, unless prajna is aroused, we may learn all about the holy philosophy, but we will remain vachajnanis, that is, without the advantage of annihilation of all suffering which the holy philosophy promises.
First is “Navirato dushcharitan.
He who has not abandoned evil conduct”. That is the first thing. You could not a usurer, a pretender, thinking yourself superior to any living being, and yet hope to have prajna. No, it cannot be. Therefore the first thing is “dushcharit, evil conduct”, the actions which are condemned in Shruti and Smriti; those actions which are condemned must be given up. First comes in “Vajasaneyi Upanishad” Isha Upanishad”) : “Ma gridhah kasya svid dhanam. Do not covet anybody’s wealth”. “Navirato dushcharitan”; in Vedanta it means something much higher than ordinary moral conduct. In the ordinary conduct you may remain very vain, remain puffed up with egoity and pride, but as long as in society you do not kick anybody and do sins in such a way that you are not discovered, in society you are a moral man. But not so in the holy law. All evil actions have to be given up. In the holy Gita, what is called avidya, actions called actions of tamas and rajas described in the eighteenth and other chapters, we should make it a point to give them up.
“Na shanto. And he who is not shanta”. Here the word means “who is not agitated”; this is the meaning of “shanta”. If somebody says anything which is unpleasant, he bears it just as the trees bear the assaults of stones from the children, giving in return a fruit or two to the children, not being what is called “put it” over little actions or even over big actions.
Eckermann says during his intimate associationship with Goethe he never saw him excited or agitated. Difficulties will come in life; even Avatars have pains and difficulties; Shri Vidyaranya says: “If what is ordained by our karma could be avoided, then Nala and Rama and King Yudhishthira, the very incarnations of virtue, could never have been subject to suffering”.
You know the life of Shri Rama -fourteen years exile. Yudhishthira, incarnation of dharma -again and again exiled, and deep sufferings. So if what is to happen as a result of our karma were avoidable, then Rama and Yudhishthira would never have suffered.
Therefore let us take it for granted that we will have suffering in this life. Sansara means to be in the realm of sufferings; it is an avowed and established fact. Then what to do? By jnana, by disciplining the mind, by uniting the mind with the Lord in contemplation, we should try to let the moment of evil pass without affecting us, neither should we rejoice excessively when we have a little success or comfort here and there. Every joy is a precursor of suffering, every suffering an announcer of joy. Therefore the jnani must always be shanta.
“Who is not samahita” means “who has not established his mind in equilibrium ” . It is not enough not to be tossed by sorrow or cast down by grief, but what is further necessary is samahitachitta. It is a term which very often occurs in the Gita. There are two words which are key words: one is samata and the other is samahitachitta: equilibrium and the sameness of the mind. “He whose mind has not been rooted in spiritual peace. he will never have prajna” , the faculty by which the spiritual light is discerned.
The first one or two hours in the morning constitute the most important time of the day. And the wise spend the first hour before the sunrise in devotion, in meditation, in dedication and in prayer to be given the grace to live a life of intrepidity and peace. The mind having rested in the state of sleep is in a pliant state in the morning and can be easily stamped with the holy dicta, with the desire for discipline, with the desire for desirelessness. Therefore it is essential that this turbulent horse of the mind must be trained early in the morning. Then the day will come in a very good course.
Mind is of two kinds: vikshipta and ekagrata.
Vikshipta- in a state of madness, i.e. irrational, subject to passion, easily upset. To find anything that is pleasing and to run madly after it, and to find a little pain and then to fill the ears of each and every friend and of the wife with complaints. Such a man is called vikshipta.
This mind must be turned into ekagrata, concentrated mind. If concentration is practised, holy ones, on God as the light of the intellect, and on Self, the mind begins to give up its vikshipta state. Food has a good deal to do with it. Eating tamasic or rajasic food makes the mind so. Those who are given to alcohol or vinegar or any other coarse food, add to the mind something which makes it vikshipta. OM.
One thing the holy Acharya recommends, by adopting which the life can become capable of assimilating the spiritual truth. His word is: “Acharyavan inana ved, inana obtained through an Acharya”, not through books, not through public lectures. By listening to the holy truth with faith and reverence, our soul begins to change and becomes fitted for the reception of the holy truth.
I quote a verse: Katha, Adhyaya 1, Valli 2, verse 23
Nayam atma pravachanena labhyo na medhaya na bahuna shrutena
Yamevaisha vrnute tena labhyas tasyaisha atma vivrnute tanum svam.
“This Atman is not to be achieved by word”
I give you the explanation as given by Shri Anandagiri, commenting on the gloss of his Guru, Shri Shankara. Shri Anandagiri explains the meaning of “This Atman is not to be attained by word”; “pravachanena, by word”.
He says: “By accepting theory after theory, hearing this theory and becoming a disciple, hearing that theory and becoming an adherent, hearing another and becoming a chela? No! Let people accept one theory, and that is
“Brahman sattyam jagan mithya jivo brahmaiva na parah. God is real, the world unreal, jiva and Brahman are identical and not different.”
There are many people who want to have their foot in so many fields. Whenever they find they can be made somebody, they are in that society; they are Buddhists, they are Sufis, etc. Well, it is wrong. Not many vadas but one vada, the Advaita.
“Not by means of worldly intellect” : the word “medha” is used in the Veda in the meaning of “superior or high intellect”. Shri Anandagiri says: “Not by the power of understanding and retaining the meaning of the scriptures in the memory”. If anybody says “I hear and I can retain the meaning, I can repeat it when I like, I can inflict it on anybody”, “No”, says the Acharya, “it is wrong”. Not by listening to many theories, nor by a retentive memory which can keep the meaning of the Shastras.
“Na bahuna shrutena …. neither by listening to much” . Here Shri Anandagiri uses the word “kevalena”, and without this word the meaning is not at all clear. He says: “Not by listening to a good deal and listening only.” “Listening only” – listening is good if followed by meditation, charity, and so forth but if you go to listen and listen and listen, it will not do. Now you see the beauty of going to the ancient Acharyas to understand the meaning and not consulting the translations of Roer and others. I have lately discovered his translation contains colossal errors. I do not know why it has been published at all.
“That practising Yogi who prays to Atman, who applies his whole mind to Atman, he who prays nishkama …” he who does not pray for himself, but he who prays for the good of all”… he by his Atman acquires Atman” . His own Atman is lit by the universal Atman, who thus prays to his own Atman and who has cultivated the qualities already mentioned in the verse “Navirato dushcharitan . . . ” . he who has given up all evil conduct, who does not think evil of others at all, who has acquired control over his tongue, lips, ears and reason also. I tell you that the unpurified reason leads people to darker and darker ditches. So, not the mad reason of Hitler or the still more mad reasoning of Communists – “We want to abolish poverty, do good to the people, make people equal .”
It is not human reason but reason of the devil, because the reason they give outwardly is not their meaning but to kill and cloak, to destroy all morality, all goodness, all virtue, all religion.
So reason also has to be purified. This is something new which no one has said in European philosophy. Spinoza and Kant are great advocates of reason but do not speak of purified reason. Reason can be subject to great taint, so Shri Anandagiri says further: “Only study of the Upanishad which teaches about Atman, and of no other Shastra, will help in the knowledge of Atman.” Today listening to a lecture on Buddhism, tomorrow about Jung, and the day after tomorrow on Baha’ullah – that will not do.
Stick to the Upanishad. These are the words I have literally translated from Anandagiri : “Only study of the Upanishad which teaches about Atman, and of no other Shastra.”
“Siddhopadesha”, the teaching given by a siddha purusha, the man who has acquired spiritual acumen, that alone; it is not to be acquired by one who is not taught by a Guru. “Siddha” means “perfect” here; it is equivalent to “perfect”. Two things: Atman is to be known by a study of the Upanishad undertaken under the guidance of a Guru. Says Shri Anandagiri: “The realization of Self is obtained by the grace of Parameshvara and the Acharya. ” These are the words of Shri Anandagiri; you cannot twist them now, they are so clear.
“He who is sadhaka , that is, practicant of his own Atman , who does shravana with the feeling ‘I am That, I am That, I am That'”.
Further Anandagiri says: “He who worships God as non-different from him”, not as something different from him, that is to say, who does ahangrahopasana, which means “Shivoham, Kevaloham, Ekoham, Nirvanoham”, praying to Atman, applying to Atman feelings of identity, making Atman the object of deepest and most loving contemplation.
This verse is explained, because it is a very important one, as it is explained both by the holy Acharya Shankara and by his great Tikakara, Shri Anandagiri, one of his closest disciples who devoted his whole life travelling with his teacher from place to place .
A very great Acharya called Lokacharya says in his book railed “Tattvatrayam” (three doctrines ) : “Sattva originates jnana and sukha, love for it, but it binds us”. Love can be very binding and degrading.
When Christ says “God is love”, do not think that the prima facie view is meant. The love of a gambler for the dice, of a drunkard for the bottle, that is not love at all. The love of a silly mother for her child in which she resigns all independence and goodness to the wayward will of a child, is no love at all; it is a faculty that binds. If love does not give independence of the spirit, there is something wrong with that love.
Therefore love is a feeling of identity with God. The Santa give a very good illustration which we must know. You know that the sannyasin sadhus own nothing, like Shri Rama Tirtha. They own nothing, do not touch metal, do not sleep more than one night under the same roof, love to sleep under a tree.
Such are the Dandi swamis, sannyasis. The sannyasis used to come to a town which looked very prosperous and had very good temples. But one street as occupied by magicians who were very fond of cracking jokes on he holy people. If you ever read “Shankara Digvijaya” by Shri Anandagiri (the Conquest of the World – the intellectual conquest) then that particular episode of the dialogue between Shri Shankara and Mandana is in humour unique.
These magicians were crafty, proud fellows. Their practice was, if the sadhus came to the street – (and the method of egging is that they beg only at seven doors in one line. They go to three o’clock, not before, when the people and family and servants are fed. They go and say “OM” three times. If someone comes with pure cooked food they accept; if not, they give blessings and pass to the next house. If the bowl is filled at one house, they do not go to another) – these magicians, when a sadhu came and said “OM”, came with food well-cooked and said: “How kind of you to have honoured me.” He took it but, when he came out and wanted to eat it, he found his bowl was empty. It was a joke. And they delighted in that joke and began to say: “Today three sannyasis came and we ‘did’ them, these worthless parasites who produce nothing and only consume, and according to political economy they ought to be shot!”
There were some good people who used to come out of the gate of the city and warn the sadhus: “Do not go to such and such a street where the magicians live. You will think they are giving you very good bhiksha but in fact it will be nothing”.
The street of the magicians – they are our senses. The eyes, ears and lips and tongue are magicians. If the soul goes to beg for pleasure and satisfaction at their door, then these crafty magicians at that time give great satisfaction, but wait five minutes and it is all gone. You are empty. Therefore the Gurus are the good people who warn the disciple against depending on or going to the senses for satisfaction. We should go to the senses just to obtain what is essential for keeping alive, not for luxury or to think “we will get something there”, no.
In Tokyo there are people called O-hanashi-ya, storytellers. I used to pay thirty sen and go in the evening. A man used to sit in very good dress in the middle and the listeners surrounded him and he told three stories most eloquently. Poetry, rhetoric, humour and pathos. But when we came out it was as we had gone in; the mind was not educated. Therefore we are warned not to keep company with the eyes, with the ears, because whatever they give will be the alms of the magicians. Satisfaction is found in contemplation of Atman and independence of Spirit.
A verse from the Gita (7.7.) contains all you have heard say and much more:
“O Dhananiava, there is nothing above Me in is world. I am Parameshvara” .
In the holy philosophy, Ishvara, Parameshvara and Brahman are synonymous. The pundits Radhakrishnan and Dasgupta have not understood and have made great errors. Sadhus who have studied at the feet of Mangalnath and others, they understand, but not these flatulent and petulant pundits who understand nothing.
“The whole world is embedded in Me” .
Just as the knots of cotton string are nothing but cotton, beginning, middle and end, the knots are all cotton, cotton, cotton, so the whole world, the -called enemy, the so-called friend, the so-called peace, the so-called war, is not above Me. It is in Me; it is all I.