The Ultimate or Highest Truth according to the Upanishads

There is a famous verse in the Upanishads that explicitly and specifically proclaims to hold the highest truth.

This verse was considered important enough that it was also incorporated into Shankara’s masterpiece Vivekachudamani and also Gaudapada’s main work, his commentary on the Mandukya Upanishad (the Mandukya Karika).

In fact it is the only verse that I know of that is repeated not only in more than one Upanishad, but is also repeated by the two greatest traditional exponents of Advaita Vedanta (ie. Shankara and Gaudapada) in their subsequent works.

Here is the verse:

There is neither destruction (Nirodha) nor creation (Utpatti), none in bondage (Bandha) and none practicing disciplines (Sadhaka). There is none seeking Liberation (Mumukshu) and none liberated (Mukta). This is the ultimate or highest truth (Paramartha).’

As I said above, this verse is found repeated in the Amritabindu Upanishad in verse 10, in the Atma Upanishad in verse 2.31. It was later incorporated by both Gaudapada (Mandukya Karika 2.32) and Shankara (Vivekachudamani verse 574) in their writings.

What do you think of this verse?

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Bhagavad Gita – how to advance in Yoga

Gita the path is stillness.png

In the original Sanskrit, the word translated here as ‘work’ is ‘karma’. In the the preceding chapters Krishna has taught Arjuna about spiritual practice during activities, ie. karma yoga, in which the mind is made calm during activities by various means.

Now, in Chapter 6, Krishna teaches Arjuna that eventually the path of work leads to the path of stillness, and it is through stillness of mind that one advances in yoga. The rest of Chapter 6 explains in more details how this is to be done.

Be still and abide as the Self

Gita step by step he should become still.png

Whilst everything is nothing but the Self and nothing is ever apart from the Self, the Vedanta texts often speak of abiding as the Self.

This means to still the mind so that it is undisturbed and lose any notion of being a separate ‘I’ or ‘me’. Here we just abide as pure consciousness or pure knowingness, devoid of thoughts and phenomena, devoid of egotism.

This is pure ‘knowledge’ beyond knowledge, direct ‘experience’ beyond experiences, the ‘peace’ that passeth all understanding, Silence, beyond words and chatter.

❤️🙏

Ramana Maharshi – Upadesa Saram: The Essence of the Teachings

In Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi’s Upadesa Saram (The Essence of Instruction), we have in concise form all we need to know in order to attain liberation in this life. The teaching is densely packed in, making the teaching all the sweeter for the ripe seeker of Truth.

Here you will find universal teachings for enlightenment, the true Vedanta.

I have made some comments to hopefully make the teachings clearer. but have attempted to keep them to a minimum. They are in italicised red.

!Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya Om!

 

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1. कर्तुराज्ञया प्राप्यते फलम् ।
कर्म किं परं कर्म तज्जडम् ॥ १॥

kartur ājñyayā prāpyate phalaṃ
karma kiṃ paraṃ karma tajjaḍam

  1. Action yields fruit,
    For so the Lord ordains it.
    How can action be the Lord?
    It is insentient.

Cause and effect (action and fruit, karma) is essentially a mechanical process, insentient, subject to change, and not at all the Divine.

2. कृतिमहोदधौ पतनकारणम् ।
फलमशाश्वतं गतिनिरोधकम् ॥ २॥

kṛti-maho-dadhau patana-kāraṇam
phalama-śaśvataṃ gati-nirodhakam

2. The fruit of action passes.
But action leaves behind
Seed of further action
Leading to an endless ocean of action;
Not at all to moksha.

This here is a very important verse. All actions are limited, and therefore give rise to limited effects. These effects then in turn become the cause for another limited effect, and so on. Limited actions cannot give rise to That, in which there are no limits, so no limited actions can lead to Moksha. The unstated implication is THAT which we are looking for -The Absolute, Brahman, call IT what you will – THAT is already fully and completely here –  no action is required to attain the Self, as we are already THAT.

3. ईश्वरार्पितं नेच्छया कृतम् ।
चित्तशोधकं मुक्तिसाधकम् ॥ ३॥

īśvarārpitaṃ necchayā kṛtam
citta-śodhakaṃ mukti-sādhakam

3. Disinterested action
Surrendered to the Lord
Purifies the mind and points
The way to moksha.

Becoming increasingly disinterested in things that happen in the world, carrying out your social and ethical duties whilst surrendering all to Him, this is conducive to Liberation.

4. कायवाङ्मनः कार्यमुत्तमम् ।
पूजनं जपश्चिन्तनं क्रमात् ॥ ४॥

kāya-vāṅ-manaḥ kāryam-uttamam
pūjanaṃ japa-ścintanaṃ kramāt

4. This is certain:
Worship, praise and meditation,
Being work of body, speech and mind,
Are steps for orderly ascent.

Bhagavan gives us a hierarchy of practice, starting with worship (which utilises the body), then going to use praise (which utilises speech), and the to the higher practice of meditation (which utilises the mind). We are not to greedily jump straight to meditation as it is the higher practice, unless we are naturally ripe for this, but to start where we are for ‘orderly ascent’.

In the next few verses Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi will explain these practices to us in greater detail:

5. जगत ईशधी युक्तसेवनम् ।
अष्टमूर्तिभृद्देवपूजनम् ॥ ५॥

jagata īśadhī yukta sevanaṃ
aśṭa-mūrti bhṛd deva-pūjanam

5. Ether, fire, air, water, earth,
Sun, moon and living beings
Worship of these,
Regarded all as forms of His,
Is perfect worship of the Lord.

Worship of God can be worship of Him in any form, as long as we realised that the object itself is not Him, but just a divine expression of Him.

6. उत्तमस्तवादुच्चमन्दतः ।
चित्तजं जपध्यानमुत्तमम् ॥ ६॥

uttama-stavād-ucca-mandataḥ
cittajaṃ japa dhyānam uttamam

6. Better than hymns of praise
Is repetition of the Name;
Better low-voiced than loud,
But best of all
Is meditation in the mind.

The practice becomes, in time, increasingly subtle, starting from coarser practices involving the body and then speech, to subtler practices of the mind, as per verse 4.

7. आज्यधारया स्रोतसा समम् ।
सरलचिन्तनं विरलतः परम् ॥ ७॥

ajya-dhāraya srotasā samam
sarala cintanaṃ viralataḥ param

7. Better than spells of meditation
Is one continuous current,
Steady as a stream,
Or downward flow of oil.

Over time, meditation should move from the sporadic to the continuous. A wonderful traditional metaphor of a continuous current of a stream of oil is used so there is no mistake as to what this means. What what exactly is this meditation, and how can it be done? Worry not! Bhagavan will explain all to us in later verses. How lucky we are to have these beautiful teachings of His!

8. भेदभावनात् सोऽहमित्यसौ ।
भावनाऽभिदा पावनी मता ॥ ८॥

bheda-bhāvanāt so’hamityasau
bhavana’bhidā pāvanī matā

8. Better than viewing Him as Other,
Indeed the noblest attitude of all,
Is to hold Him as the ‘I’ within,
The very ‘I’.

A key part of the teachings is this – to realise that all is non-separate from Him. Furthermore, He is none other that the essence of You, the ‘I’ within. You are not praising a divine entity that is separate from your Being. All this is implied in verses 20 and 23, and more clearly stated in verse 26.

The next verse also states the same:

9. भावशून्यसद्भावसुस्थितिः ।
भावनाबलाद्भक्तिरुत्तमा ॥ ९॥

bhāva śūnyasad bhāva susthitiḥ
bhāvanā-balād bhaktir-uttamā

9. Abidance in pure being
Transcending thought through love intense
Is the very essence
Of supreme devotion.

10. हृत्स्थले मनः स्वस्थता क्रिया ।
भक्तियोगबोधाश्च निश्चितम् ॥ १०॥

hṛtsthale manaḥ svasthatā kriyā
bhakti yoga bodhaśca niścitam

10. Absorption in the heart of being,
Whence we sprang,
Is the path of action, of devotion,
Of union and of knowledge.

For the more intellectually inclined, this verse can be illuminating. Bhagavan is stating here, in line with the Upanishads (eg. Amritabindu Upanishad verses 2-5) and Bhagavad Gita (eg Chapter 5 verse 4), that all the main yogas are, at this stage in the practice, all essentially the same. Abiding as the Self IS the path of action, abiding as the Self IS Devotion, abiding as the Self IS Yoga (‘union’), abiding as the Self IS Knowledge.

Amritabindu Upanishad, verse 5: ‘The mind should be prevented from functioning, until it dissolves itself in the heart. This is Jnana, this is Dhyana, the rest is all mere concoction of untruth.’

Bhagavad Gita 5.4: ‘Only the ignorant say that the yoga of knowledge and the yoga of devotional action are different, wise people do not. One who is perfectly established in one, obtains the result of both.’

11. वायुरोधनाल्लीयते मनः ।
जालपक्षिवद्रोधसाधनम् ॥ ११॥

vayu-rodhanāl līyate manaḥ
jāla-pakṣivat rodha-sādhanam

11. Holding the breath controls the mind,
A bird caught in a net.
Breath-regulation helps
Absorption in the heart.

A key teaching that regulation of the breath is a useful aid to Abiding as Self. The invitation is to take up this advice an incorporate it into your practice.

12. चित्तवायवश्चित्क्रियायुताः ।
शाखयोर्द्वयी शक्तिमूलका ॥ १२॥

citta-vāyavaś cit-kriyāyutāḥ
śā khayor-dvayi śakti-mūlakā

12. Mind and breath (as thought and action)
Fork out like two branches.
But both spring
From a single root.

Both the mind and breath or actions, in fact all phenomena, arise from a single Source. The implication is that finding the source of the mind can also be done by finding the source of the breath.

13. लयविनाशने उभयरोधने ।
लयगतं पुनर्भवति नो मृतम् ॥ १३॥

laya vinaśane ubhaya-rodhane
laya-gataṃ punar bhavati no mṛtam

13. Absorption is of two sorts;
Submergence and destruction.
Mind submerged rises again;
Dead, it revives no more.

The implication is that death of mind is the goal, rather than just a mere temporary quiescence of mind.

Next the method by which the mind can be killed is given:

14. प्राणबन्धनाल्लीनमानसम् ।
एकचिन्तनान्नाशमेत्यदः ॥ १४॥

prāṇa-bandhanāt līna-mānasam
eka-cintanāt nāśametyadaḥ

14. Breath controlled and thought restrained,
The mind turned one-way inward
Fades and dies.

Why kill the mind? It is through killing the mind that one abides as the Self and returns to one’s own ‘natural being’, which is without action:

15. नष्टमानसोत्कृष्टयोगिनः ।
कृत्यमस्ति किं स्वस्थितिं यतः ॥ १५॥

naṣta-manasot-kṛṣṭa yoginaḥ
kṛtyam asti kiṃ svasthitiṃ yataḥ

15. Mind extinct, the mighty seer
Returns to his own natural being
And has no action to perform.

Yoga Vasishta, one of Ramana’s favourite traditional texts, says: ‘Supreme Bliss cannot be experienced through contact of the senses with their objects. The supreme state is that in which the mind is annihilated through one-pointed enquiry.’ and elsewhere it also states: ‘Every moving or unmoving thing whatsoever is only an object visualised by the mind. When the mind is annihilated duality (i.e. multiplicity) is not perceived.’


Now we are half-way through the text. The essential teaching has already been given. In the second half further elucidation and clarification will be lovingly dispensed:


16. दृश्यवारितं चित्तमात्मनः ।
चित्त्वदर्शनं तत्त्वदर्शनम् ॥ १६॥

dṛśya-vāritaṃ citta-mātmanaḥ
citva-darśanaṃ tattva darśanam

16. It is true wisdom
For the mind to turn away
From outer objects and behold
Its own effulgent form.

What is true wisdom? It is for the mind to turn away from all objects and phenomena and abide as the Self.

Some confusion may arise as to how the mind, the nature of which is thought (verse 18), can behold it’s ‘own effulgent form’. When the mind is turn outward, occupied with objects such as thoughts, feelings, the body and the outer world of objects, it is called the mind. When the mind is no longer occupied with these things, it is none other than the Self.

Yoga Vasishta states: ‘Consciousness which is undivided imagines to itself desirable objects and runs after them. It is then known as the mind.’ and also elsewhere states: ‘After knowing that by which you know this (world) turn the mind inward and then you will see clearly (i.e. realize) the effulgence of the Self.’ and elsewhere states: ‘O Rama, the mind has, by its own activity, bound itself; when it is calm it is free.’

17. मानसं तु किं मार्गणे कृते ।
नैव मानसं मार्ग आर्जवात् ॥ १७॥

mānasaṃ tu kiṃ mārgaṇe kṛte
naiva mānasaṃ mārge ārjavāt

17. When unceasingly the mind
Scans its own form
There is nothing of the kind.
For every one
This path direct is open.

Another key verse here. The insight here is that the mind is not a real entity, just an imagined one. When searched for, it cannot be found as a distinct entity. What a wonderful and essential teaching is presented here! It is further expounded on in the next two verses:

18. वृत्तयस्त्वहं वृत्तिमाश्रिताः ।
वृत्तयो मनो विद्ध्यहं मनः ॥ १८॥

vṛttayastvahaṃ vṛtti-maśritaḥ
vṛttayo mano viddhayahaṃ manaḥ

18. Thoughts alone make up the mind;
And of all thoughts the ‘I’ thought is the root.
What is called mind is but the notion ‘I’.

The mind is nothing but a bundle of thoughts, and it is founded upon the I-concept. The concept of a separate ‘me’ or ‘I’ is the mind.

19. अहमयं कुतो भवति चिन्वतः ।
अयि पतत्यहं निजविचारणम् ॥ १९॥

ahamayaṃ kuto bhavati cinvataḥ
ayi patatyahaṃ nijavicāraṇam

19. When one turns within and searches
Whence this ‘I’ thought arises,
The shamed ‘I’ vanishes –
And wisdom’s quest begins.

The above verse states this is but the beginning of self-enquiry, ‘the quest’. How do we proceed after we have searched for the source of the I-concept and found it to be non-existent? Let us see:

20. अहमि नाशभाज्यहमहंतया ।
स्फुरति हृत्स्वयं परमपूर्णसत् ॥ २०॥

ahami nāśa-bhā-jyahama-hantaya
sphurati hṛt-svayaṃ parama-pūrṇa-sat

20. Where this ‘I’ notion faded
Now there as I–I, arises
The One, the very Self,
The Infinite.

The Self is defined as that in which there is no I-concept. This can only be realised non-verbally through practice and direct experience.

21. इदमहं पदाऽभिख्यमन्वहम् ।
अहमिलीनकेऽप्यलयसत्तया ॥ २१॥

idamaham padā’bhikhya-manvaham
aham-ilīnake’pyalaya sattyā

21. Of the term, ‘I’, the permanent import
Is That. For even in deep sleep
Where we have no sense of ‘I’
We do not cease to be.

A pointer here that what is known as ‘I’ is actually none other than THAT, ie. God or the Absolute, the Infinite. Even in deep sleep, whilst there is no I-concept, our BEINGNESS persists, BEINGNESS being the true I, or true Self, as per verse 23.

22. विग्रहेन्द्रियप्राणधीतमः ।
नाहमेकसत्तज्जडं ह्यसत् ॥ २२॥

vigrah-endriya prāṇa-dhītamaḥ
nāhameka-sat tajjaḍam hyasat

22. Body, senses, mind, breath, sleep –
All insentient and unreal –
Cannot be ‘I’,
‘I’ who am the Real.

Rather late on in the text Ramana introduces to us the teaching of discerning the Self from the non-Self (Viveka, or Atma-anatma-viveka). The essence of what we are, which does not change, which is ever-present and ‘Real’, cannot be that which changes and that which has no consciousness of its own (ie. ‘insentient’). The real is that which illuminates the unreal, ie. is consciousness or sentient.

23. सत्त्वभासिका चित्क्ववेतरा ।
सत्तया हि चिच्चित्तया ह्यहम् ॥ २३॥

sattva-bhāsika citkva vetarā
sattyā hi cit cittayā hyaham

23. For knowing That which is
There is no other knower.
Hence Being is Awareness;
And we all are Awareness.

Awareness needs no second light to illuminate it. We may need a light source to illuminate a common everyday object in darkness, but the sun needs no secondary light source to be seen. It is self-shining, self-aware. To know the Self, THAT, is not really a knowing in that there is no second object to be known (hence non-duality), but knowing the Self really just being BEING the Self, or BEING AWARENESS.

24. ईशजीवयोर्वेषधीभिदा ।
सत्स्वभावतो वस्तु केवलम् ॥ २४॥

īśa-jīvayor veṣa-dhī-bhidā
sat-svabhāvato vastu kevalam

24. In the nature of their being
Creature and creator are in substance one.
They differ only
In adjuncts and awareness.

Ramana makes some clarifications here so we are clear on what is being said. He is stating that the nature of the individual or jiva (ie. ‘creature’ which is actually a translation of jiva) is the same as the essential nature of God or Ishvara (‘creator’, which is a translation of Isa or Isvara, ie. the Lord). The difference is only in the phenomenal appearance, but both are in essence BEING-AWARENESS. This reasoning is taken further in the next verse:

25. वेषहानतः स्वात्मदर्शनम् ।
ईशदर्शनं स्वात्मरूपतः ॥ २५॥

veṣa-hānataḥ svātma-darśanam
īśa-darśanaṃ svātma-rūpataḥ

25. Seeing oneself free of all attributes
Is to see the Lord,
For He shines ever as the pure Self.

Therefore, if you ‘see’ yourself devoid of all phenomena and ‘attributes’, which means to be aware but to be devoid of thoughts, feelings, body and worldly objects, then you are seeing your essential nature, which is to see God (Isa or Ishvara). Your essential nature is Him. Remember, the word seeing doesn’t mean you are seeing something, for there is no duality here. Ramana, out of his love and compassion for us, tells us as follows:

26. आत्मसंस्थितिः स्वात्मदर्शनम् ।
आत्मनिर्द्वयादात्मनिष्ठता ॥ २६॥

ātma-saṃsthitiḥ svātma-darśanam
ātma-nirdvayād ātma-niṣṭhatā

26. To know the Self is but to be the Self,
For it is non-dual.
In such knowledge
One abides as that.

He reminds us that this is not a dualistic knowing (of objects), but just BEING THAT. The word ‘know’ is just a dualistic phrase used, dualistic as it implies a knower and something that is known, whereas here there is no knower or know, just BEING-AWARENESS:

27. ज्ञानवर्जिताऽज्ञानहीनचित् ।
ज्ञानमस्ति किं ज्ञातुमन्तरम् ॥ २७॥

jñāna-varjitā-jñana-hina cit
jñānam-asti kiṃ jñātum-antaram

27. That is true knowledge which transcends
Both knowledge and ignorance,
For in pure knowledge
Is no object to be known.

True Knowledge is simply a synonym for the Self, and there are no objects in the Self. 

The Amritabindu Upanishad says, in verse 4: The mind severed from all connection with sensual objects, and prevented from functioning out, awakes into the light of the heart, and finds the highest condition.

28. किं स्वरूपमित्यात्मदर्शने ।
अव्ययाऽभवाऽऽपूर्णचित्सुखम् ॥ २८॥

kiṃ svarūpamit-yātma darśane
avyayābhavā” pūrṇa-cit sukham

28. Having known one’s nature one abides
As being with no beginning and no end
In unbroken consciousness and bliss.

Importantly, this state is to be ‘abided in’, for want of better wording, meaning that we are not to be attracted to sense-objects and become involved with thoughts and feelings and things and so give birth to the mind (see verse 16 and commentary), but to remain in Truth as Truth, as BEING-AWARENESS (sat-chit) devoid of any objects, which is known as BLISS (written as sukha here, which means happiness in Sanskrit, often called ananda, which also means happiness.)

29. बन्धमुक्त्यतीतं परं सुखम् ।
विन्दतीह जीवस्तु दैविकः ॥ २९॥

bandha muktyatītaṃ paraṃ sukham
vindatīhajī vastu daivikaḥ

29. Beyond bondage and release,
Is steadfastness
In service of the Lord.

Again, like in verse 28, verse 29 implies a continuance in remaining in this stateless state which is transcendent to both liberation and bondage, which are both to do with phenomenal existence. In verse 28 the language of knowledge is used, ‘Having known one’s nature…’. here in verse 29 the language of devotion is used. In verse 10 Ramana has already told us that true devotion and true knowledge are simply to abide as sat-chit-ananda devoid of adjuncts or phenomena, so this is written here poetically as ‘steadfast service of the Lord’. Continue to abide as the Self, that which is beyond dualities of liberation and bondage, that in which there is no change, that which is the nature of ‘unbroken consciousness and bliss’ (verse 28).

30. अहमपेतकं निजविभानकम् ।
महदिदंतपो रमनवागियम् ॥ ३०॥

aham-apetakaṃ nija-vibhānakam
mahadidaṃ tapo ramaṇa vāgiyam

30. All ego gone,
Living as that alone
Is penance good for growth,
Sings Ramana, the Self.

Remaining as the Self, that in which there is no ego, is the only way to Moksha. It is the culmination of the path of devotion, knowledge, yoga and action. It is the highest Knowledge and highest Devotion.

To abide as the self, that is devoid of objects, that is of the nature sat-chit-sukha, until the ego is destroyed never to arise again (cf. verses 13-15) is Moksha (liberation) itself.

So says Guru Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi.

 

!Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya Om!

!Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya Om!

!Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya Om!

Shankara: 4 things you need to do in order to attain spiritual liberation (the 4 Qualifications according to Advaita Vedanta)

There are many ways to liberation, and all true paths join together in the end. In the Advaita Vedanta framework, 4 attributes or qualities are required to be developed before one can sufficiently progress on the path of Jnana or Enquiry.

In Vivekachudamani

In Shankara’s Vivekachudamani he outlines four practices or qualifications (sadhana catustaya)  that are required in order for liberation to successfully occur. First he lists the qualifications, and then he explains each one in turn.

I’ve noticed there are a small but growing number teachers of Vedanta who claim to be traditional teachers but they change the definitions of the qualifications and so alter the meaning of the teachings to suit different ends. These teachers tend to downplay the need for prolongued meditation on the Self, whereas the actual Vedanta texts and true traditional teachers of Vedanta tend to emphasise this.

So, as always, it pays to read the source texts for yourself and learn how the teachings were originally defined if you want to understand the original intentions of the Vedanta teachings. As usual, my comments are in red:

Shankara states there are 4 things that are required to attain liberation. More than that, he states that without these 4 things, liberation will not be attained. So let us learn about these 4 qualifications and how they are defined:

18. Regarding this, sages have spoken of four means of attainment, which alone being present, the devotion to Brahman succeeds, and in the absence of which, it fails.

19. First is enumerated discrimination between the Real and the unreal; next comes aversion to the enjoyment of fruits (of one’s actions) here and hereafter; (next is) the group of six attributes, viz. calmness and the rest; and (last) is clearly the yearning for Liberation.

Traditionally the 4 Qualifications are:
(1) Viveka or discrimination
(2) Vairagya or dispassion
(3) Samadi-satka-sampatti or the six disciplines consisting of Shama, Dama, Uparati, Titiksha, Shraddha and Samadhana in which the mind is progressively withdrawn from the sense objects and focused onto the pure sense of being (‘Sat’ or ‘Pure Brahman’)
(4) Mumuksutva or the yearning for liberation.

Shankara also adds a further qualification – the most important in his view – Bhakti, or devotion, which he defines in verse 31 as seeking or turning away from what is unreal (defined in the next verse) and turning towards one’s True Nature.

20. A firm conviction of the mind to the effect that Brahman is real and the universe unreal, is designated as discrimination (Viveka) between the Real and the unreal.

This is a clear definition of viveka that forms the foundation for the rest of the qualifications. Next Shankara defines vairagya in a very absolute way, which is essentially renunciation of all worldly objects ranging from the everyday to desires to be reborn in the heavenly realm of Brahma (the creator-deity who resides in heaven).

21. Vairagya or renunciation is the desire to give up all transitory enjoyments (ranging) from those of an (animate) body to those of Brahmahood (having already known their defects) from observation, instruction and so forth.

The notion is that because all such worldly or heavenly objects are transient, they will eventually go and therefore not lead to the eternal ever-existing peace of Brahman or Moksha.

In another text called Aparokshanunhuti, Shankara describes Vairagya as follows in verse 4: ‘The indifference with which one treats the excreta of a crow – such an indifference to all objects of enjoyment from the realm of Brahma to this world (in view of their perishable nature), is verily called pure Vairagya.’

Verses 22-25 will outline the 6 disciplines of Shama, Dama, Uparati, Titiksha, Shraddha and Samadhana. We can see that the gist of the 6 disciplines is to turn away from objects and the world and turn towards the Self:

22. The resting of the mind steadfastly on its Goal (viz. Brahman) after having detached itself from manifold sense-objects by continually observing their defects, is called Shama or calmness.

In Aparokshanunhuti Shankara  in verse 6 writes: ‘Abandonment of desires at all times is called Shama‘.

23. Turning both kinds of sense-organs away from sense-objects and placing them in their respective centres, is called Dama or self-control. The best Uparati or self- withdrawal consists in the mind-function ceasing to be affected by external objects.

24. The bearing of all afflictions without caring to redress them, being free (at the same time) from anxiety or lament on their score, is called Titiksha or forbearance.

25. Acceptance by firm judgement as true of what the Scriptures and the Guru instruct, is called by sages Shraddha or faith, by means of which the Reality is perceived.

26. Not the mere indulgence of thought (in curiosity) but the constant concentration of the intellect (or the affirming faculty) on the ever-pure Brahman, is what is called Samadhana or self-settledness.

Shama is an initial detachment from sense objects after contemplating how impermanent objects cannot give rise to (permanent) liberation. Dama is about withdrawing the sense organs from sense-objects and also reducing one’s activities in the world (‘both kinds’ refer to the sense organs and organs of action). Uparati is when the mind is no longer affected by objects at all.

We can see that Shama, Dama and Uparati represent a step-wise sequence in practicing different levels of vairagya (dispassion) which culminates in Samadhana, which is defined as constant concentration on Brahman devoid of objects as opposed to mere curiosity towards Brahman. We know that the Brahman spoken of is devoid of objects due to the above definitions of Shama, Dama and Uparati. This is further made clear by the verse quotes in Aporokshanubhuti below in which it is stated that the mind should be made to focus on ‘Sat’ (existence).

Titiksha and Shraddha are aids to this sequential process of introversion, which we could call Bhakti or svasvarupanusandhanam (see verse 31 below).

27. Mumukshutva or yearning for Freedom is the desire to free oneself, by realising one’s true nature, from all bondages from that of egoism to that of the body – bondages superimposed by Ignorance.

Shankara now talks of 3 grades of mumukshutva: low, medium and high. If the desire for liberation is low-to-medium, one is to cultivate vairagya and the 6 disciplines. Then the desire for liberation will increase:

28. Even though torpid or mediocre, this yearning for Freedom, through the grace of the Guru, may bear fruit (being developed) by means of Vairagya (renunciation), Shama (calmness), and so on.

If the desire for liberation is high, then the goal will be attained:

29. In his case, verily, whose renunciation and yearning for Freedom are intense, calmness and the other practices have (really) their meaning and bear fruit.

If the desire for liberation is low, then all this is mere superficiality and liberation will (likely) not result:

30. Where (however) this renunciation and yearning for Freedom are torpid, there calmness and the other practices are as mere appearances, like water in a desert.

Lastly Shankara extolls the magnificence of Bhakti, and defines it as ‘svasvarupanusandhanam’, which can be translated as striving to seek one’s nature or constantly turning towards one’s nature.

31. Among things conducive to Liberation, devotion (Bhakti) holds the supreme place. The seeking after one’s real nature is designated as devotion.

Interestingly Sri Ramana Maharshi was asked about the nature of svasvarupanusandhanam in Talks 642, and he stated that it referred to atma vichara or Self-enquiry itself. In Aparokshanunhuti verse 11 Shankara writes: ‘Knowledge is not brought about by any other means than Vichara [ie. enquiry], just as an object is nowhere perceived (seen) without the help of light.


In Aparokshanunhuti

In his text Aparokshanunhuti, Shankara explains the same 4 qualifications (sadhana catustaya) in a more punchy way in verses 4-11:

4. The indifference with which one treats the excreta of a crow – such an indifference to all objects of enjoyment from the realm of Brahma to this world (in view of their  perishable nature), is verily called pure Vairagya.

5. Atman (the seer) in itself is alone permanent, the seen is opposed to it (ie., transient) – such a settled conviction is truly known as discrimination.

6. Abandonment of desires at all times is called Shama and restraint of the external functions of the organs is called Dama.

7. Turning away completely from all sense-objects is the height of Uparati, and patient endurance of all sorrow or pain is known as Titiksha which is conducive to happiness.

8. Implicit faith in the words of the Vedas and the teachers (who interpret them) is known as Shraddha, and concentration of the mind on the only object Sat (i.e. Brahman) is regarded as Samadhana.

9. When and how shall I, O Lord, be free from the bonds of this world (i.e., births and deaths) – such a burning desire is called Mumukshutva.

10. Only that person who is in possession of the said qualifications (as means to Knowledge) should constantly reflect with a view to attaining Knowledge, desiring his own good.

11. Knowledge is not brought about by any other means than Vichara, just as an object is nowhere perceived (seen) without the help of light.

Jivanmukti Viveka – The path to liberation in this life by Swami Vidyaranya

Vidyaranya Swami (1296-1386), author of the wonderful Advaita Vedanta text Panchadasi and Shankaracharya (head monk) of Sringeri Math, wrote another less well known text called Jivanmukti Viveka. In it he, in some considerable detail, outlines the path to Jivanmukti, or liberation in this life.

In Chapter 2 he repeatedly makes the point that liberation or jnana cannot occur without both manonasa (destruction of the mind) and vasana kshaya (destruction of the habitual tendencies).

We shall now address ourselves to the means which lead to Jivanmukti (Liberation in this Life). These are Jnana, manonasa and vasana-kshaya.

He states that these three should be practised simultaneously. Throughout this text he quotes extensively from many authoritative texts to back up his view, this time quoting from the wonderful Yoga Vasishta:

Hence, in the Yoga Vasishta, Vasishta says, while dealing with The Body of the Jivanmukta at the end of the Chapter on Supreme Pacification: ‘Oh best of intellects vasasa-Kshaya, Jnana and Manonasa, attended to simultaneously for sufficient length of time, bear the desired fruit…

Vidyaranya then quotes again from Yoga Vasishta emphasising the need to practice these three for and extended period of time:

‘Until these three are not well attended to with sufficient and repeated trials, the Condition [Jivanmukti] can never be realised,  even at the end of a hundred years.’

Here are some more quotes from Chapter 2 of Jivanmukti Viveka:

vidyaranyajnana28knowledge29tooisimpossibleunlessthemindisentirelyatrest

vidyaranyajnananevercomesaboutwithoutvasanakshaya

vidyaranyathemindshouldbepreventedfromfunctioning

brihadaranyakaupdesirelessisbrahman

Vidyaranya no mind.png

Vivekachudamani as translated by Sri Ramana Maharshi

The following text was Ramana Maharshi’s earliest written work, in which he translates the entire text of Vivekachudamani as written by Sri Shankara for the benefit of those who were not able to read Sanskrit.

Ramana has also written a beautiful introduction to the text, which you can find here, which summarises the teachings in brief and states that this text contains all the pertinent points that a seeker requires to attain liberation and also represents the essence of Shankara’s commentaries of the triple canon of the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Brahma Sutras. Continue reading

‘This is Jnana, this is Dhyana, the rest is all mere concoction of untruth’ Vidyaranya Swami, Amritabindu Upanishad

Vidyaranya Swami (1296-1386), author of the wonderful Advaita Vedanta text Panchadasi and Shankaracharya (head monk) of Sringeri Math, wrote another less well known text called Jivanmukti Viveka. In it he, in some considerable detail, outlines the path to Jivanmukti, or liberation in this life.

In Chapter 2 Vidyaranya repeatedly makes the point that liberation or jnana cannot occur without both manonasa (destruction of the mind) and vasana kshaya (destruction of the habitual tendencies). To support this view he quotes from the Amritabindu Upanishad, verses 2-5, as follows:

Mind alone is the cause of bondage or liberation; lost in enjoyment it leads to bondage, emptied of the objective it leads to liberation.

As mind emptied of the objective leads to liberation, one desirous of liberation must always try to wipe off the objective from the plane of his mind.

The mind severed from all connection with sensual objects, and prevented from functioning out, awakes into the light of the heart, and finds the highest condition.

The mind should be prevented from functioning, until it dissolves itself in the heart. This is Jnana, this is Dhyana, the rest is all mere concoction of untruth.

Jnana refers to liberation, and dhyana means meditation, stating this instruction refers to the means (meditation) and the fruit (liberation). The last line can alternatively be rendered as ‘…all else is mere argumentation and verbiage’.

 

Ramana Maharshi: the world is not real, attend to yourself

essential teachings of sri ramana maharshi

The following verses are teaching statements of Sri Ramana Maharshi as recorded by Sri Muruganar in his wonderful work Guru Vachaka Kovai. I have used the version translated by Michael James for this selection, bold text has been added by myself for emphasis, and I have left a few comments from Sri Sadhu Om when further explanation may be helpful:

Introduction

8. The benefit of this Light of Supreme Truth is the understanding that there is not the least thing such as ‘attainment’, since the Supreme Self is the Ever-Attained One Whole. Thus the mental wanderings caused by striving towards Dharma, Artha, and Kama are also removed.

Sri Sadhu Om: Up till now the shastras have prescribed, as the rightful goals of human life, the following four aims:

-Dharma: the practice of righteous social duties.
-Artha: the acquisition of wealth through righteous means.
-Kama: the satisfaction of desires within righteous limits.
-Moksha: liberation, the natural state of abiding as Self.

This work, The Light of Supreme Truth shows us now that the first three worldly aims are futile and transitory, and thus it removes our wandering mental efforts to attain them. We may however still think, “Is not mental effort at least needed to obtain Moksha?” but again this Light shows us the meaninglessness of striving to ‘attain’ Self, which is ever-attained, and instead it recommends the cessation of all mental activity, thereby fixing us in the eternal, motionless and ever-attained State of Self.

The unreality of the world

23. The Realised who do not know anything as being other than Self, which is absolute Consciousness, will not say that the world, which has no existence in the view of the Supreme Brahman, is real.

28. O aspirants who hide yourselves away fearing this world, nothing such as a world exists! Fearing this false world which appears to exist, is like fearing the false snake which appears in a rope.

34. The deceptive I-am-the-body idea alone makes the world, which is an appearance of names and forms, seem real, and thereby it at once binds itself with desires [for the world].

35. Since this world of dyads and triads appears only in the mind, like the illusory ring of fire formed [in darkness] by whirling the single point of a glowing rope-end, it is false, and it does not exist in the clear sight of Self.

36. O worldly-minded man who is unable to understand the wise reasoning and the teachings of Sages about the Supreme Knowledge, if properly scrutinized, this big universe of delusion is seen to be nothing but the illusive play of the vasanas [mental tendencies] within you.

40. How does this false and villainous vast world, that cheats and ravages the minds of all people [except the wise], come into existence? Because of no reason other than our own mistake in falling away from, instead of clinging to, Self-attention.

55. The appearance of this world, like the illusory appearance of a dream, is merely mental and its truth [therefore] can be known correctly only by the Supreme Consciousness that transcends Maya, the mind.

Turn away from the world

72. Longing for a tiny grain of pleasure, people toil so hard using the mind to plough the field of the five senses, but they never wish for the flood of Bliss which is the fruit that comes by ploughing the Heart, the Source of the mind, with [simple] Self-attention. Ah, what a wonder!

74. Only when the world’s allurement is lost will true Liberation be possible [and its allurement cannot be lost unless it is found to be unreal]. Hence, to try to foist reality upon this world is to be just like an infatuated lover who tries to foist chastity upon a prostitute.

82. It is not right for the Wise One to behave improperly, even though He has known all that is to be known and attained all that is to be attained. Therefore, observe the code of conduct which is befitting to your outward mode of life.

84. All that is perceived by the mind was already within the heart. Know that all perceptions are a reproduction of past tendencies now being projected outside [through the five senses].

86. Do not ask, “Why does Self, as if confused, not know the Truth that It is Itself which is seen as the world?” If instead you enquire, “To whom does this confusion occur?”, it will be discovered that no such confusion ever existed for Self!

87. Self appearing as the world is just like a rope seeing itself as a snake; just as the snake is, on scrutiny, found to be ever non-existent, so is the world found to be ever non-existent, even as an appearance.

97. The body exists only in the view of the mind, which is deluded and drawn outwards by the power of Maya. In the clear view of Self, which is a single vast Space of Consciousness, there is no body at all and it is therefore wrong to call Self ‘Dehi’ or ‘Kshetrajna’ [the owner or knower of the body]

100. Although Guru Ramana taught various doctrines according to the level of understanding of those who came to Him, we heard from Him that ‘Ajata’ alone is truly His own experience. Thus should you know.

SriSadhu Om: ‘Ajata’ is the knowledge that nothing – neither the world, soul nor God – ever comes into existence, and that ‘That Which Is’ ever exists as IT is.

114. When the limited light [which is used to project pictures on the cinema screen] is dissolved in the bright sunlight [which enters the cinema], the pictures also will disappear instantaneously. Similarly, when the limited consciousness [chittam] of the mind is dissolved in supreme Consciousness [Chit], the picture show of these three prime entities [God, world and soul] will also disappear.

115. Thus, since the Truth of the Source is One, why do all religions [and sometimes even Sages] start their teachings by at first conceding that these three prime entities are real? Because the mind, which is tossed about by objective knowledge, would not agree to believe in the One unless the Sages condescended to teach It as three.

122. Whatever high and wonderful state of tapas one may have attained, if one still identifies oneself with an individuality, one cannot be a Sahaja-Jnani [i.e. One in the State of Effortlessness]; one is only an aspirant of, perhaps, an advanced stage.

B1. Give up thinking that the loathsome body is ‘I’. Know Self, which is eternal Bliss. Cherishing the ephemeral body as well as trying to know Self is just like using a crocodile as a raft to cross a river.

126. Instead of attending to Sat-Chit-Ananda, the subtlest, which is beyond the reach of speech or mind, to spend one’s life attending merely to the welfare of the gross body is just like drawing water with great difficulty from a well in order to water some useless grass [instead of paddy].

127. Those who take to the petty life, mistaking the body as ‘I’, have lost, so to speak, the great life of unlimited Bliss in the Heart, which is ever waiting to be experienced by them.

128. Not knowing that the world in front of them brings only great harm, those who take it to be real and a source of happiness will drown in the ocean of birth and death, like one who takes hold of a floating bear as a raft.

Discard intellectual knowledge

133. Enquiring, “Who is this ‘I’ that has learnt all these arts and sciences?”, and thereby reaching the Heart, the ego vanishes along with all its learning. He who knows the remaining Self-Consciousness is the true Pandit; how can others who have not realised It be Pandits?

134. Those who have learnt to forget all that was learnt, and to abide within, are alone the Truth-Knowers. Others, who remember everything, will suffer with anxiety, being deluded by the false samsara.

141. After knowing that the purport at the heart of all scripture is that the mind should be subdued in order to gain Liberation, what is the use in continuously studying them? Who am I?

144. To be freed from ignorance by mere studies is as impossible as the horns of a horse, unless by some means the mind is killed and the tendencies are thus completely erased by the blossoming of Self-Knowledge.

145. For the jiva’s weak and unsteady mind, which is ever wavering like the wind, there is no place to enjoy bliss except the Heart, its Source; the study of scriptures is, for it, like a noisy shandai [a cattle fair].

Turn away from the non-existent imaginary world

149. The experience of Vedanta is possible only for those who have completely given up all desires. For the desirous it is far away, and they should therefore try to rid themselves of all other desires by the desire for God, who is free from desires.

150. The Wise, who know that all worldly experiences are formed by prarabdha [destiny] alone, never worry about their life’s requirements. Know that all one’s requirements will be thrust upon one by prarabdha, whether one wills them or not.

156. The reason for our mistake of seeing a world of objects in front of us is that we have risen as a separate ‘I’, the seer, due to our failure to attend to the vast perfection of Self-Consciousness, which is our Reality.

159. The life of the filthy ego, which mistakes a body both as ‘I’ and as ‘my place’, is merely a false imagination seen as a dream in the pure, real, Supreme Self.

160. This fictitious jiva, who lives as ‘I [am the body]’, is also one of the pictures on the screen.

The only true practice/teaching

175. The only worthy occupation is to thoroughly absorb the ego by turning Selfward and, without allowing it to rise, to thus abide quietly, like a waveless ocean, in Self-Knowledge, having annihilated the delusive mind-ghost, which had been wandering about unobstructed.

186. O miserable and extroverted people, failing to see the seer, you see only the seen! To dissolve duality by turning inwards instead of outwards is alone Blissful.

187. O mind, it is not wise for you to come out [in the form of thoughts]; it is best to go within. Hide yourself deep within the Heart and escape from the tricks of Maya, who tries to upset you by drawing you outwards.

189. Since it is only the notion of duality that spoils Bliss and causes misery, to avoid yielding to the attractions of that notion and to thus arrest all chitta vrittis is alone worthwhile.

190. O people, not knowing that Shiva is dwelling within you, you fly about like birds from one holy place to another [seeking His Darshan]. Consciousness, when abiding still in the Heart, is the Supreme Shiva.

191. The ship would be destroyed by the storm if its sails were spread outside, but it is safe when its anchor is sunk deep into the sea. Similarly, if the mind were sunk deep in the Heart instead of being spread outside, that would be Jnana.

192. To arrest the mind – which tries to rush outwards – securely within, is the truly heroic act of the ripe aspirant who wants to see the Supreme Lord in the Heart.

193. When the mind [i.e., the ego’s attention] which wanders outside, knowing only other objects [2nd and 3rd persons] – begins to attend to its own nature, all other objects will disappear, and then, by experiencing it’s own true nature [i.e. Self], the pseudo-‘I’ will also die.

204. A peaceful attitude, together with a ‘silent-flow’ of mind towards undeviating abidance in Self, Sat-Chit, is the best worship of Shiva.

205. Saint Markandeya survived death by conquering even Yama, and lived beyond his destined time. Know, therefore, that death can be overcome by worshipping Shiva, the death-killer.

291. If one wants to be saved, one is given the following true and essential advice: just as the tortoise draws all its five limbs within its shell, so one should draw the five senses within and turn one’s mind Selfward. This alone is happiness.

293. Having known for certain that everything which is seen, without the least exception, is merely a dream, and that it [the seen] does not exist without the seer, turn only towards Self – Sat-Chit-Ananda – without attending to the world of names and forms, which is only a mental conception.

294. Attention to one’s own Self, which is ever shining as ‘I’, the one undivided and pure Reality, is the only raft with which the jiva, who is deluded by thinking “I am the body”, can cross the ocean of unending births.

296. Having annihilated the delusive mind which always dwells upon worldly things, having killed the restless ego, and having completely erased the worldly vasanas, shine as Shiva, the pure Consciousness Itself.

297. Do not wander outside, eating the scorching sand of worldly pleasures, which are non-Self; come home to the Heart where Peace is shining as a vast, everlasting, cool shade, and enjoy the feast of the Bliss of Self.

319. One’s merging into the Heart – through the enquiry into the nature of the ego, which is a delusion in the form of mind – is the right worship of the Lotus-Feet of the supreme Mouna-Guru, who is beyond the mind.