Deep sleep is Brahman – the three states according to the Birhadaranyaka Upanishad with commentary by Shankara

(I’ve just typed this up quite quickly so, as usual, apologies for any spelling or grammatical mistakes)

The teaching of the three states (ie. the waking, dream and deep sleep states) is a staple Vedanta teaching and often the source for this teaching is cited as being the Mandukya Upanishad. However, the three states are presented and analysed in the earlier-written Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, especially in section 4.3.

Section 4 of the Brihadarankaya Upanishad consists of a conversation between King Janaka and the Sage Yajnavalkya. Now for those of you who have not encountered Sage Yajnavalkya, he is quite a character at times, demonstrating the dry humour present in many of the Upanishads. Here is an example from Section 3.1 of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad:

3.1.1:   Om. Janaka, Emperor of Videha, performed a sacrifice in which gifts were freely distributed among the priests. Brahmin scholars from the countries of Kuru and Panchala were assembled there. Emperor Tanaka of Videha wished to know which of these brahmins was the most erudite Vedic scholar.  So he confined a thousand cows in a pen and fastened on the  horns of each ten padas of gold. 

3.1.2:    He said to them: “Venerable brahmins, let him among you who is the best Vedic scholar drive these cows home.”  None of the brahmins dared. Then Yajnavalkya said to one of  his pupils: “Dear Samsrava, drive these cows home.” He drove them away. The brahmins were furious and said: “How does he dare to call  himself the best Vedic scholar among us?” Now among them there was Asvala, the hotri priest of Emperor Janaka of Videha. He asked Yajnavalkya: “Are you indeed the  best Vedic scholar among us, O Yajnavalkya?” He replied: “I bow to the best Vedic scholar, but I just wish to  have these cows.” Thereupon the Hotri Asvala determined to question him. 

Here we have a scenario in which King Janaka effectively sets up a challenge to see who the best Vedic Scholar is, with the prize being one thousand cows. However before the challenge has even begun, Sage Yajnavalkya simply asks one of his students to take the cows. When challenged by the other scholars to see if he is really the most knowledgeable in the Vedas, Yajnavalkya dryly replies that irrespective of who the best scholar is, he just wants the cows! For me this demonstrates the humour, irony and rebellious spirit that is present throughout many of the Upanishads, but this humourous aspect of the teaching is often missed when the approach becomes overly intellectual and analytical.

Anyway, back to the three states and section 4 of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. In section 4.3 Yajnavalkya goes to King Janaka with the intent of not speaking, but because he had previously made a promise to King Janaka that he will answer any questions King Janaka asks, we obtain the dialogue of section 4.3 which pertains to the three states. In Shankara’s commentary on these verses he explains that the real reason Yajnavalkya visits King Janaka is to gain more wealth and cattle from the King, and throughout the following dialogue King Janaka keeps on gifting increasing numbers of cattle to Sage Yajnavalkya.

4.3.1 Yajnavalkya called on Janaka, Emperor of Videha. He said to  himself: “I will not say anything.”  But once upon a time Janaka, Emperor of Videha and  Yajnavalkya had had a talk about the Agnihotra sacrifice and  Yajnavalkya had offered him a boon. Janaka had chosen the  right to ask him any questions he wished and Yajnavalkya had  granted him the boon.  So it was the Emperor who first questioned him. 

Shankara’s commentary on the above verse reads as follows:

‘Yajnavalkya went to Janaka, Emperor of Videha. While going, he thought he would not say anything to the Emperor. The object of the visit was to get more wealth and maintain that already possessed….’

Note how this is contrary to how many nowadays state that a true teacher would not accept money or material objects for their teaching. In this, the oldest, longest and perhaps the most authoritative of Upanishads, we have the reverse situation! Again, such is the often dry humour of the Upanishads!

In the next verses, verses 4.3.2 to 4.3.6 Yajnavalkya reveals that the Self is the Ultimate Reality upon which all stands. You can see that Yajnavalkya does not give the ultimate answer straight away, but only when pressed by King Janaka does he eventually reveal the Self as the true answer he is looking for. My reading of this is that Sage Yajnavalkya only wants to give the teaching to those who are truly intererested, who are truly enquiring, and not to those who merely accept the first answer given to them:

4.3.2.    “Yajnavalkya, what serves as light for a man?”  “The light of the sun, O Emperor,” said Yajnavalkya, “for with  the sun as light he sits, goes out, works and returns.”  “Just so, Yajnavalkya.” 

4.3.3.    “When the sun has set, Yajnavalkya, what serves as light for a  man?”  “The moon serves as his light, for with the moon as light he  sits, goes out, works and returns.”  “Just so, Yajnavalkya.” 

4.3.4.    “When the sun has set and the moon has set, Yajnavalkya, what  serves as light for a man?”  “Fire serves as his light, for with fire as light he sits, goes out,  works and returns.”  “Just so, Yajnavalkya.” 

4.3.5.    “When the sun has set, Yajnavalkya and the moon has set and  the fire has gone out, what serves as light for a man?”  “Speech (sound) serves as his light, for with speech as light he  sits, goes out, works and returns. Therefore, Your Majesty,  when one cannot see even one’s own hand, yet when a sound is  uttered, one can go there.”  “Just so, Yajnavalkya.” 

4.3.6.    “When the sun has set, Yajnavalkya and the moon has set and  the fire has gone out and speech has stopped, what serves as  light for a man?”  “The self, indeed, is his light, for with the self as light he sits,  goes out, works and returns.” 

4.3.7 “What is this Self”….

In the next few verses Yajnavalkya teachings that the Self floats between two states, the dream state and waking state, but remains unaffected by theses states, returning to the state of deep sleep when not in dream or waking. All this time Yajnavalkya receives more and more cattle from King Janaka for his teachings! Here is a description of the dream state by Yajnavalkya, in which he explains the dream is a mere unreal projection:

4.3.9 and 4.3.10 ….”And when he dreams, he takes away a little of the impressions of this all-embracing world (the waking state), himself makes the body unconscious and creates a dream body in its place, revealing his own brightness by his own light-and he dreams.  In this state the person becomes self-illumined. There are no real chariots in that state, nor animals to be yoked  to them, nor roads there, but he creates the chariots, animals  and roads. There are no pleasures in that state, no joys, no  rejoicings, but he creates the pleasures, joys and rejoicings.  There are no pools in that state, no reservoirs, no rivers, but he  creates the pools, reservoirs and rivers. He indeed is the agent. 

Similarly in verse 13:

4.3.13.    ‘In the dream world, the luminous one attains higher and lower  states and creates many forms – now, as it were, enjoying  himself in the company of women, now laughing, now even  beholding frightful sights. 

Next Yajnavalkya describes how the Self, referred here by the term Purusha, which literally means ‘supreme being’ or ‘supreme person’ (think ‘higher-self’), floats between two states, the dream state and waking state, but remains unaffected by theses states, returning to the state of deep sleep when not in dream or waking. He receives cattle for his teachings here:

15.    Yajnavalkya said: “The entity (purusha), after enjoying himself  and raoming in the dream state and merely witnessing the  results of good and evil, remians in a state of profound sleep  and then hastens back in the reverse way to his former  condition, the dream state. He remains unaffected by whatever  he sees in that dream state, for this infinite being is unattached.”  Janaka said: “Just so, Yajnavalkya. I give you, Sir, a thousand  cows.  Please instruct me further about Liberation itself. 

16.    “Yajnavalkya said: “That entity (purusha), after enjoying  himself and roaming in the dream state and merely witnessing  the results of good and evil, hastens back in the reverse way to  his former condition, the waking state. He remains unaffected  by whatever he sees in that state, for this infinite being is  unattached.”  Janaka said: “Just so, Yajnavalkya. I give you, Sir, a thousand  cows.  Please instruct me further about Liberation itself.”  

17.    Yajnavalkya said: “That entity (purusha), after enjoying  himself and roaming in the waking state and merely witnessing  the results of good and evil, hastens back in the reverse way to  its former condition, the dream state or that of dreamless sleep. 

18.    “As a large fish swims alternately to both banks of a river – the  east and the west – so does the infinite being move to both  these states: dreaming and waking. 

19.    “As a hawk or a falcon roaming in the sky becomes tired, folds  its wings and makes for its nest, so does this infinite entity  (purusha) hasten for this state, where, falling asleep, he  cherishes no more desires and dreams no more dreams. 

So we can see in the above verses Yajnavalkya has described the three states and how the Self remains unaffected by the 2 states of waking or dreaming. Now Yajnavalkya proceeds to teach more about the Self, comparing it to the ecstacy of sexual orgasm in which one loses all knowledge of the body mind and world, one loses all sense of fear and misery, and one feels completely and totally fulfilled, not desiring anything more and with no trace of suffering:

21.    “That indeed is his form-free from desires, free from evils,  free from fear. As a man fully embraced by his beloved wife  knows nothing that is without, nothing that is within, so does  this infinite being (the self), when fully embraced by the  Supreme Self, know nothing that is without, nothing that is  within.  “That indeed is his form, in which all his desires are fulfilled, in  which all desires become the self and which is free from desires  and devoid of grief. 

Yajnavalkya then goes on to say that with realisation of the Self, everything is no longer what it appeared to be, and the Self is untouched by karma – good deeds and bad deeds – and also untouched by any suffering:

22.    “In this state a father is no father, a mother is no mother, the worlds are no worlds, the gods are no gods, the Vedas are no the Vedas. In this state a  thief is no thief, the killer of a noble brahmin is no killer, a chandala is no chandala, a paulkasa is no paulkasa, a monk is no monk, an ascetic is no ascetic.  “This form of his is untouched by good deeds and untouched by  evil deeds, for he is then beyond all the woes of his heart. 

He then states that even in deep sleep the Self exists as pure consciousness, not conscious of any object, for there are no objects in deep sleep, but conscious somehow nonetheless, for it’s nature is imperishable eternal consciousness:

23.    “And when it appears that in deep sleep it does not see, yet it is seeing though it does not see; for there is no cessation of the  vision of the seer, because the seer is imperishable. There is  then, however, no second thing separate from the seer that it  could see. 

The above verse is essentially repeated for all the senses and mind, but then culminates at verses 31 and 32. I have here included the full sanskrit and Shankara’s commentary for these important verses. The verses state that when objective phenomena appear, ie. in the dream or waking states, it appears as if we can see something separate from us or perceive something separate from us. This apparent perception is due to ignorance or illusion. However, when we return to deep sleep, that is the Self:

Verse 4.3.31:

यत्र वा अन्यदिव स्यात्, तत्रान्योऽन्यत्पश्येत्, अन्योऽन्यज्जिघ्रेत्, अन्योऽन्यद्रसयेत्, अन्योऽन्यद्वदेत्, अन्योऽन्यच्छृणुयात्, अन्योऽन्यन्मन्वीत, अन्योऽन्यत्स्पृशेत्, अन्योऽन्यद्विजानीयात् ॥ ३१ ॥

yatra vā anyadiva syāt, tatrānyo’nyatpaśyet, anyo’nyajjighret, anyo’nyadrasayet, anyo’nyadvadet, anyo’nyacchṛṇuyāt, anyo’nyanmanvīta, anyo’nyatspṛśet, anyo’nyadvijānīyāt || 31 “||

31. In the waking and dream states, when there is something else, as it were, then one can see something, one can smell some-thing, one can taste something, one can speak something, one can hear something, one can think something, one can touch something, or one can know something.

Shankara’s commentary on 4.3.31:

It has been said that in the state of profound sleep there is not, as in the waking and dream states, that second thing [ie. objects] differentiated from the self which it can know; hence it knows no particulars [ie. objects] in profound sleep. Here it is objected: If this is its nature, why does it give up that nature and have particular knowledge [of objects]? If, on the other hand, it is its nature to have this kind of knowledge, why does it not know particulars [ie. objects] in the state of profound sleep? The answer is this: When, in the waking or dream state, there is something else besides the self, as it were, presented by ignorance, then one, thinking of oneself as different from that something—although there is nothing different from the self, nor is there any self different from it—can see something. This has been shown by a referrence to one’s experience in the dream state in the passage, ‘As if he were being killed, or overpowered’(IV. iii. 20). Similarly one can smell, taste, speak, hear, think, touch and know something.

Verse 4.3.32:

सलिल एको द्रष्टाद्वैतो भवति, एष ब्रह्मलोकः सम्राडिति हैनमनुशशास याज्ञवल्क्यः, एषास्य परमा गतिः, एषास्य परमा संपत्, एषोऽस्य परमो लोकः, एषोऽस्य परम आनन्दः; एतस्यैवानन्दस्यान्यानि भूतानि मात्रामुपजीवन्ति ॥ ३२ ॥

salila eko draṣṭādvaito bhavati, eṣa brahmalokaḥ samrāḍiti hainamanuśaśāsa yājñavalkyaḥ, eṣāsya paramā gatiḥ, eṣāsya paramā saṃpat, eṣo’sya paramo lokaḥ, eṣo’sya parama ānandaḥ; etasyaivānandasyānyāni bhūtāni mātrāmupajīvanti || 32 ||

32. In the deep sleep state, it becomes (transparent) like water, one, the witness, and without a second. This is the world (state) of Brahman, O Emperor. Thus did Yājñavalkya instruct Janaka: This is its supreme attainment, this is its supreme glory, this is its highest world, this is its supreme bliss. On a particle of this very bliss other beings live.

Shankara’s commentary on 4.3.32:

When, however, that ignorance which presents things other than the self is at rest, in that state of profound sleep, there being nothing separated from the self by ignorance, what should one see, smell, or know, and through what? Therefore, being fully embraced by his own self-luminous Supreme Self, the Jīva becomes infinite, perfectly serene, with all his objects of desire attained, and the self the only object of his desire, transparent like water, one, because there is no second: It is ignorance which separates a second entity, and that is at rest in the state of profound sleep; hence ‘one.’ The witness, because the vision that is identical with the light of the self is never lost. And without a second, for there is no second entity different from the self to be seen. This is immortal and fearless. This is the world of Brahman, the world that is Brahman: In deep sleep the self, bereft of its limiting adjuncts, the body and organs, remains in its own supreme light of the Ātman [the Self], free from all relations, O Emperor. Thus did Yājñavalkya instruct Janaka. This is spoken by the Śruti.

How did he instruct him? This is its supreme attainment, the attainment of the individual self.

The other attainments, characterised by the taking of a body, from the state of Hiraṇyagarbha down to that of a clump of grass, are created by ignorance and therefore inferior to this, being within the sphere of ignorance. But this identification with all, in which one sees nothing else, hears nothing else, knows nothing olse, is the highest of all attainments such‘as identity with the gods, that are achieved through meditation and rites. This too is its supreme glory, the highest of all its splendours, being natural to it; other glories are artificial. Likewise this is its highest world; the other worlds, which are the result of its past work, are inferior to it; this, however, is not attainable by any action, being natural; hence ‘this is its highest world.’ Similarly this is its supreme bliss, in comparison with the bther joys that are due to the contact of the organs with their objects, since it is eternal; for another Śruti says, ‘That which is infinite is bliss’ (Ch. VII. xxiii. 1). ‘That in which one sees something. . . . knows something, is puny,’ mortal, secondary joy. But this is the opposite of thathence ‘this is its supreme bliss.’ On a particle of this very bliss, put forward by ignorance, and perceived only during the contact of the organs with their objects, other beings live. Who are they? Those that have been separated from that bliss by ignorance, and are considered different from Brahman. Being thus different, they subsist on a fraction of that bliss which is perceived through the contact of the organs with their objects.


Tom’s concluding remarks:

We can see that in the above two verses Shankara and Yajnavalkya are stating that:

-The Self cannot be attain by various karmas or works, for these are relating to objective phenomena only which occur only in the dream and waking states. ie. works or practices can only occur in the waking or dream states.

-However, the Self already is, it is already our True Actual Nature, naturally unattached and unaffected by it all, naturally beyond desire and suffering, its nature being happiness or bliss and oneness in which there is no sense of other.

– In deep sleep, when there are no adjuncts, ie. objective phenomena such as body or mind, then there is only the Self. Shankara states ‘this is spoken by shruti’, shruti referring to the revealed scriptures that are the vedas and upanishads, meaning that this teaching comes from the highest authority.

– All else, ie. all objective phenomena, are created and presented to us by ignorance, and so we are separated from the Bliss of Brahman by our seeing of objects ‘outside of us’.

The Upanishad tell us Thus did Yājñavalkya instruct Janaka

Note that a clear and direct method for realisation is not given in this section of the Upanishad, although it is hinted at. For more on this see here which is where the instruction for liberation is given in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad by our friend Sage Yajnavalkya.

Note that this above section of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad also tallies with and is indirectly explained further by Sri Ramana Maharshi’s method of wakeful-sleep, a wonderful and simple explanation of the path to liberation.

Why faith IS required for liberation | Advaita Vedanta

I have heard some Advaita Vedanta teachers say that there is no need for faith in Vedanta. However, what do the Advaita scriptures say?

Here we shall look at some selected quotes from Shankara and the Bhagavad Gita below which state both the importance and necessity of faith on the Path to Liberation, and explore why this is the case.

WHY IS FAITH IMPORTANT?

Why is faith important? Simply put, because without sufficient faith one will not have the dedication, love and perseverance to continue with self-enquiry (vichara), until liberation is attained. And Self-Enquiry, as taught by the Upanishads, by Shankara and by Sri Ramana Maharshi, is the only practice that ultimately leads to Moksha.

SOME TEACHERS SAY FAITH IS NOT REQUIRED

There are some teachers that say faith is not required for Vedanta as one can discover this all for oneself like a scientist can discover the various laws of nature.

Whilst this truth needs to be discovered for oneself and realised for oneself, I have noticed these teachings that push out the need for faith tend to be the teachings that predominately stay on the level of the mind. They tend to teach that prolonged meditation on the Self/Self-Enquiry is not required for liberation, and that essentially one can come to liberation through qualities such as having a keen intellect combined with exploring the nature of our present experience only.

This being the case, these teachings alone do not lead to the end of individuality, duality and suffering – ie. they do not actually lead to Moksha (liberation) at all, and the ego-separation remains.

‘FAITH PENDING RESULTS’?

Some say that Shraddha, the Sankrit word for faith, does not refer to blind faith or mere belief, but to a ‘faith pending results’, similar to the ‘faith’ required for a science student to follow a scientific experiment in order to discover the truth it yields.

Whilst there is some truth in this, it is not the whole truth, and also note that the scriptures do not define faith in this way (see the quotes section below). It is true that faith, as spoken of in the Advaita scriptures, is not the end goal in itself, meaning one doesn’t simply believe in God or in a dogma or creed of some kind and leave it at that, which would be rather superficial and on the level of the intellect predominantly. Rather faith is a ferry to take us to the shore of liberation, and this liberation is the goal, and this goal of liberation or God must be ‘experienced’ or ‘realised’ or ‘known’ for oneself, for want of a better phrase.

However, the faith spoken of in the Vedanta scriptures is much deeper than what has been described above. It is not just a mere willingness to try something until you see the results, like a scientist, or even a simple trust that the teachings will show you the way, but something that throbs in our very core, a deep conviction, in our very heart, in our Being. It is a deep resonance, a magnetic pull, intertwined with an intuitive knowing.

This faith cannot be taught, but is something that at some point in our journey springs into our very Being and takes us Home to Liberation. Perhaps it comes to us having listened to and studied the Advaita (or similar) teachings for some time, or perhaps faith dawns after having experienced the various ups and downs of life, or perhaps it comes to us unasked for, as Divine a Gift from God, a Gift of His Grace.

This true faith is inextricably linked with Bhakti, or devotional love of the Divine, which culminates in love to be with Self as Self, otherwise known as Self-Enquiry or Dhyana (meditation).

For me this Faith arose through the Presence and Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, and for that I am forever grateful. His Presence and His Teachings unfailingly guide Homeward those who have come under His Spell and Grace. He is the Lord, He is the very Self, he resides within your very Heart – turn inwards and dis-cover (ie. uncover and reveal) your identity with Him.

QUOTES FROM THE VEDANTA SCRIPTURES

Let us see what kind of person, according to Vedanta, attains Jnana, or ‘divine knowledge’, otherwise known as liberation:

Bhagavan Lord Krishna states in the Gita Chapter 4, verse 39: ‘Those whose faith is deep and who have practiced controlling their mind and senses attain divine knowledge.’

But what if this faith is not present?

Lord Krishna also states in the Gita in the next verse, chapter 4, verse 40: ‘But persons who possess neither faith nor knowledge, and who are of a doubting nature, suffer a downfall. For the skeptical souls, there is no happiness either in this world or the next.’

In Chapter 5, Krishna further states in verse 17: ‘Those whose intellect is fixed in God, who are wholly absorbed in God, with firm faith in Him as the supreme goal, such persons quickly reach the state from which there is no return, their sins having been dispelled by the light of knowledge.’

What is the definition of faith?

Shankara defines faith and states it is necessary for realisation in Vivekachudamani: ‘Acceptance by firm judgment 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

Shankara also writes in Aparokshanubhuti that Shraddha is required for liberation and defines Shraddha as follows: ‘Implicit faith in the words of the Vedas and the teachers (who interpret them) is known as Shraddha

Lets leave the last quote of this post to Bhagavan Sri Krishna, this time from the last verse of Chapter 6 of the Bhagavad Gita where he states: ‘Of all yogis, those whose minds are always absorbed in me, and who engage in devotion to me with great faith, them I consider to be the highest of all.’

Ribhu Gita – Chapter 26 (as recommended by Sri Ramana Maharshi)

Sri Ramana Maharshi often mentioned the Ribhu Gita in his teachings. It is reportedly said that he especially recommended the recitation of chapter 26, and that reciting it could lead one directly to the natural state or sahaja samadhi.

I have subdivided the chapter into four sections: the introduction, ‘without a trace of sankalpa’, ‘I am that, that am I’ and the concluding portion of the chapter.

Recite and be free!

You can download the PDF version of Ribhu Gita Chapter 26 here:

PDF: Ribhu Gita Chapter 26

ramana maharshi eyes of grace

!Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramayana!
!Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramayana!
!Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramayana!


RIBHU GITA

Chapter 26
‘Undifferentiated Abidance in the Non-Dual Nature’

Translated from the Tamil version of the Ribhu Gita

Introductory verses

1.

Nidagha! in this explanation,
I shall tell you about being established in the Undivided,
Which has nothing apart from itself, which is full of itself.
May you be in the Bliss of being That itself, as being proclaimed to you.
This teaching is highly secret and rare to come by
In the Vedas and the scriptures.
Moreover, this is rare to come by for even the gods and yogis
And is dear to their hearts.

2.

Son ! it has been said by those who know fully
That being at one with the perfectly full non dual Brahman,
The mass of Existence Consciousness Bliss, the immutable
The Self of all, the serene,
With the vikalpas (imaginations, notions) of the fickle mind ended
And thought dissolved wholly and indistinguishably herein,
Like a solute such as cumin seed dissolved in water,
Is the abidance in That itself.

3.

When inquired into deeply, all the multitude of differences
Will be seen to be never existent.
All is the undivided Supreme Brahman, which is not different from the Self,
And That am I.
Be always correctly practicing
In this exalted certitude
And relinquishing all else,
Be in the Bliss of being ever That itself.

4.

That in which all these apparent differences of duality
Cease to exist when inquired into,
In which all cause and effect –
Even a trace thereof – cease to exist,
And in which not a trace of this fear of duality exists
When the mind is merged therein –
Being that itself,
Ever abide in unwavering Bliss.

5.

That in which there is neither a sankalpa (intention) nor vikalpa (notion)
In which there is neither peace nor perturbance,
In which there is neither mind nor intellect,
In which there is no confusion or conviction,
In which there is no bhava (conviction or feeling) or absence of bhava,
And in which there is no cognition of duality at all –
Being as That itself, without the least fear of duality
Ever abide in unwavering Bliss.

‘Without a Trace of Sankalpa (intention, volition, will)’

6.

That in which there is nothing bad or good,
In which there is neither sorrow nor pleasure,
In which there is neither silence nor speech.
In which there are no pairs of opposites.
In which there is no distinction of ‘I’ or ‘body’ (or I am the body)
And in which there is not the least thing to perceive –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa (intention).
In That itself as That itself.

7.

That in which there is no activity of body,
In which there is no activity of speech,
In which there is no activity of any other kind,
In which there is nothing sinful or meritorious,
And in which there is no trace of desire or its consequences –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

8.

That in which there is never any imagination,
In which there is no one who imagines,
In which he universe has not arisen,
In which the universe does not exist,
In which the universe does not get dissolved,
And in which nothing exists at any time –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

9.

That in which there is no appearance of maya (illusion),
In which there are no effects of maya (delusion),
In which there is neither knowledge nor ignorance,
In which there is neither Lord (Isvara) nor individual (jiva),
In which there is neither reality, nor unreality,
And in which there is not the least appearance of the world –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

10.

That in which there are no manifold gods,
In which there is no worship or service to these,
In which there is no differentiation as the triad of forms (Brahma, Vishnu, Siva),
In which there is no meditation on the triad of forms,
In which there is no form of the Supreme Siva,
And in which there is no meditation on the Supreme Siva –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

11.

That in which there is no action suggesting differentiation,
In which there is neither devotion nor knowledge,
In which there is no result to be obtained,
Bereft of which there is no supreme abode
In which there is nothing of means for attainment,
In which there is nothing to be attained –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa
In That itself as That itself.

12.

That in which there is nothing of the body or senses or life.
In which there is nothing of mind or intellect or thought,
In which there is nothing of ego or ignorance,
In which there is no experiencer of these,
In which there is no macrocosm or microcosm,
And in which there is not a trace of samsara (cycle of birth and death) –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of a sankalpa –
In that itself as That itself.

13.

That in which there is no desire and no anger,
In which there is no covetousness and deluded infatuation,
In which there is no arrogance and envious malice,
In which there are no other impurities of the mind,
And in which there is no delusive notion of bondage,
And in which there is no delusive notion of liberation –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa
In That itself as That itself.

14.

That in which there is neither beginning nor end,
In which there is no bottom or middle or top,
In which there is neither shrine nor deity,
In which there is neither charity nor righteous conduct,
In which there is neither time nor space,
And in which there is no object to be perceived –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

15.

That in which the fourfold means for realisation of Brahman (sadhana chatushtaya) do not exist,
In which there is no Sadguru (true guru) nor diligent disciple,
In which there is no illustrious jnani (the Knower or sage).
In which there is neither of the two kinds of liberation (jivanmukti and videha mukti)
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of a sankalpa.
In That itself, as That itself.

16.

That in which there are no scriptures like Vedas and such,
In which there is no inquiring individual,
In which there is no confusion and clarification,
In which there is no position to be established,
In which there is no position to be rejected,
In which there is nothing at all except oneself –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

17.

That in which there is no disputation,
In which here are no victories or defeats,
In which there is no text or its meaning,
In which there are no words with which to give expression,
In which there is no differentiation of individual (jiva) and the Supreme,
and in which there are no conditionings –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of a sankalpa
In That itself, as That itself.

18.

That in which there is no listening (sravana) or connected practices (manana, nididhyasana),
In which here is no exalted samadhi,
In which there is no differentiation between objects of the same particular group,
In which there is no differentiation as affording pleasure or otherwise,
And in which there are no words or their meanings –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa
In That itself, as That itself.

19.

That in which there is no trace of the fear of hell,
In which there is no pleasure of heaven, either,
In which there are no worlds of the Creator or others,
In which there are no fruits to be enjoyed there,
In which there are no other worlds,
And in which there exists no universe –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

20.

That in which there are no elements,
In which there is not even a trace of any derivatives of the elements,
In which there is no egoism or sense of possession,
In which there is no trace of the kingdom of the mind,
In which there is no defect of attachment,
And in which there is not the slightest trace of vikalpa
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa
In That itself as That itself.

21.

That in which there is no triad of bodies (gross, subtle, causal),
In which there is no triad of states of existence (waking, dream and deep sleep),
In which there is no triad of souls (ever free, having attained freedom, bound),
In which there is no triad of afflictions, (caused by bodily and mental factors, caused by external factors, caused by supernatural and cosmic factors),
In which there is no pentad of sheaths, (physical, vital energy, mental, intellectual, blissful),
And in which there is no experiencer of any of these –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankapa,
In That itself as That itself.

22.

That in which there is no sentient being,
In which there is no power of veiling,
In which there is no array of differences,
In which there is no power of false projection,
In which there is no delusion of a manifest world –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

23.

That in which there is nothing of action,
In which there is no performer of action,
In which arises unsurpassed Bliss,
Which is, indeed, the changeless state,
Knowing and realizing which none returns (to mortality or illusion)
And becoming which one is freed from bondage of worldly existence –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of a sankalpa
In That itself as That itself.

24.

That by realizing which and in Bliss of which
All other joys appear to be the joys of That,
That after realizing which with very firm certitude as oneself
Nothing else will be something apart,
That by realizing which with very firm certitude as oneself
All kinds of jivas will attain Liberation –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of a sankalpa
In That itself as That itself.

25.

That which by knowing firmly as oneself
One has no need to know anything else in the least,
By knowing which with full conviction as oneself
All is know for ever,
And by knowing which as oneself in complete certitude
All actions are accomplished in their entirety –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

26.

That which can be easily attained in an unimpeded manner
By the certitude that I am Brahman,
In which, by quiescence after such certitude,
One completely full, ineffable Bliss will reveal itself,
And by merger of the mind in which
One will be joined with unsurpassed, incomparable contentment –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

27.

That by merger of the mind in which
All sorrows will cease to exist in the least,
By merger of mind in which
Neither you nor I nor anything else will exist,
And by merger of the mind in which
All these differences will disappear –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

28.

That by merger of the mind in which
One abides as oneself with no sense of duality,
By merger of the mind in which
Not a trace of anything separate will remain,
and by merger of the mind in which
Incomparable Bliss alone will reveal itself –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

‘I Am That, That Am I’

29.

That which is, indeed, of the nature of undifferentiated Existence,
Which is, indeed, of the nature of undifferentiated Consciousness,
Which, is, indeed, of the nature of undifferentiated Bliss,
Which is, indeed, of the nature of non duality,
Which, is indeed, not different from the Self,
And which, indeed, is of the undivided Supreme Brahman –
In the firm certitude that ‘I am That’,
Abide in the Bliss of ever being That itself.

30.

That which, indeed, is ‘I’ and ‘you’,
Which, indeed, is everyone else,
Which, indeed, is the substratum of all,
Which, indeed, is One without a trace of anything else,
Which, indeed, is utmost purity,
And which, indeed, is the undivided, complete, perfect fullness –
By the conviction that ‘I am That’,
Be in the Bliss of ever being That itself.

31.

That in which there are no varying modes,
In which there is not the least thing different,
In which all egoism is extinguished,
In which all desires or imaginings get destroyed,
In which mind and such perish,
And in which all delusion is destroyed –
By the firm conviction that ‘I am That’,
Be in the Bliss of ever being That itself.

32.

That in which the body and others cannot be discerned,
In which there is no perception of manifestation whatsoever,
In which the thought itself is destroyed,
In which merges the jiva,
In which all the imaginings get dissolved,
And in which even certitude disappears –
By the deep conviction that ‘I am That’,
Be in the Bliss of every being That itself.

33.

That in which all meditation is merged,
In which all yoga is obliterated,
In which all ignorance is dead,
In which all knowledge is nullified,
In which there are no interactions involved,
And which is the state of Absolute Truth –
By the very firm conviction that ‘I am That’,
Be in the Bliss of ever being That itself.

34.

Merging in which one attains happiness always,
Merging in which one never experiences sorrow,
Merging in which one perceives nothing,
Merging in which one never takes birth at all,
Merging in which one never experiences a sense of being separate,
Merging in which one abides as the Supreme (Para) itself –
By this deep conviction of ‘I am That’
Be in the Bliss of ever being That itself.

35.

That which is verily the nature of the Supreme Brahman,
Which is verily is of the nature of Supreme Siva,
What verily is of the nature of the Supreme State,
Which is verily of the nature of the Knowledge of Reality,
And which verily is of the nature of the Supreme Truth –
That, indeed, am I.
By such conviction, be in the Bliss of ever being That itself.

36.

That which is verily of the nature of the Pure Absolute,
Which verily is of the nature of a mass of Bliss,
Which verily is of the nature of the subtle Supreme,
Which verily is of the nature of the non dual,
Which verily is of the nature of self luminous,
And which verily is of the nature of the meaning of the undifferentiated –
That, indeed, am I.
By such conviction, be in the Bliss of ever being That itself.

37.

That which is verily of the nature of Truth,
Which is verily of the nature of the peaceful Absolute,
Which verily is of the nature of the eternal,
Which verily is of the nature of the attribute-less,
Which verily is of the nature of the Self,
Which verily is of the nature of the undivided Absolute –
That, indeed, am I.
By such conviction, be in the Bliss of ever being That itself.

38.

That, indeed, which constitute the entirety of interactions,
That even the least of which, cannot indeed, be conveyed by the ‘highest truth’,
Which, indeed, is the Existence Consciousness Bliss,
Which, indeed, is ever peaceful,
From which, indeed, there is nothing apart,
And which, indeed, abides self existent, all by itself,
That, indeed, am I.
By such conviction, be in the Bliss of ever being That itself.

Concluding Verses

39.

Thus, have I explained to you, Nidagha!
The state of being established as That itself, without any duality.
You shall enjoy perpetual Bliss
By attaining this state by constant
Continuous, changeless certitude
Of the undifferentiated Absolute
There are no more miseries of mundane existence at all at any time in the future
For you are Brahman alone.

40.

Casting aside all impure Vasanas
By the pristine tendency left by the practice of
‘The Absolute Existence Consciousness Bliss, is all,
And That I ever am’,
And subsequently effacing even that tendency,
Son! You will be established in the perfect, full absorption
In and as the non dual Supreme Brahman itself
And attain the Liberation of being the undifferentiated, undivided One.

41.

All impure vasanas are of a state of the mind.
The tendencies (vasanas) about the Pure Absolute are also of a state of the mind.
The Supreme has no such tendencies (vasanas).
Hence, be established in this state,
Without any tendencies (vasanas) of the mind,
Whether considered pure or considered impure,
Like a motionless piece of stone or wood
And without any strain, be in Bliss.

42.

Having disassociated from the imaginings of all other thoughts,
By the conviction (bhava) of being the undivided Absolute,
And forgetting even the said conviction (bhava) of being the Absolute,
You yourself abide as the perfectly full Supreme Brahman.
Even if a great sinner in this world
Hears this explanation now proclaimed
And understands it, he shall, rid of all the great sins of his ego,
Abide as the nature of the undivided, undifferentiated Absolute

43.

The endless Vedas
In revealing here and there,
The means of meditation for mental purification,
Have indicated only rock-like, motionless merger with and absorption in
The unafflicted mass of Bliss,
The undivided, completely, perfectly full Siva,
As the means for the happy Liberation
Of those who are mentally purified.

44.

Therefore, one can here attain
The undifferentiated Liberation by abiding as just That itself
And with a purified mind arising out of the practice of the meditation
That whatever is known is Siva
And that Siva am I.
Whatever stated here is the Truth
Thus, the Sage Ribhu explained in full to Nidagha
The abidance in the True State.

45.

It is the undivided form of our Supreme Lord in a state of sublime, joyous dance that says:
By the conviction that I am ever the Reality, which is Existence Consciousness Bliss,
And by the state of abiding at one with That being That itself,
The empty bondage of the world can be cut asunder and pure Liberation attained.

 

No single teaching is right for everyone

Each teaching has a utility, but no single teaching is right for everyone at any point in time. Sometimes the way is Bhakti (love and devotion), sometimes Silence, sometimes intellectual understanding, sometimes letting things be, sometimes none of these… sometimes the mere notions of a teacher, a teaching and someone to be taught is too much!

God/Life shows us ‘the way’ if we learn how to listen…

Hence the ‘true teacher’ is always with us

What is the difference between Laya, Nirvikalpa Samadhi and Sahaja Samadhi?

Question: Thank you for this post on Laya and Samadhi. What is the difference between ‘Laya’ and Samadhi? And what is the difference between Nirvakalpa Samadhi, and Nirvakalpa Sahaja Samadhi? Thank you. 🙏

Tom: There are several different definitions of each term, depending on the scripture and school (eg. yoga, vedanta, etc). However, in essence, when the mind has been made still but I-thought (ie. ego) has NOT been removed, that is laya, so the ego remains latent and does not end up being destroyed. Instead, once the samadhi is over, the ego sprouts up again and causes suffering. This ‘Laya’ is sometimes known as Nirvikalpa Samadhi.

Abiding as the self is to remain as the Self without the I-thought. This is called Mauna (Silence), and naturally, over time, leads to Moksha once the vasanas (egoic tendencies) are rooted out. This is because the root cause of suffering, namely ignorance or the ‘I thought’ is directly attacked in this practice. Moksha is also called Sahaja Samadhi (which roughly translated means ‘the natural state’), as it is unforced and natural, but there is no sense of egotism/I-thought.

Confusingly, these terms are often used in different ways, even within a single philosophical school such as Advaita Vedanta. Sometimes the word Laya is used to mean Moksha, for example, and Mauna, Self-Abidance and Nirvikalpa Samadhi are also equated at times. At these times it will be said that Nirvikalpa Samadhi does lead to Moksha.

Best wishes!

Q. Can you briefly define Jnana Yoga vs Bhakti Yoga and how they relate to Advaita and Vedanta?

Krishna The ignorant speak of yoga as different from the path of knowledge

Q. Can you briefly define Jnana Yoga vs Bhakti Yoga and how they relate to Advaita and Vedanta?

Tom: Jnana yoga usually refers to the use of (intellectual) knowledge in the mind used to remove ignorance, a thorn to remove a thorn, and then the thorn of ‘knowledge’ is itself allowed to fall away; Bhakti yoga is faith, love and devotion from the heart to Self/Guru/God. These 2 yogas seem different at first, but then they quickly merge together to remove ignorance and end suffering, which is what the word ‘yoga’ means of course. Both of the above are part and parcel of Advaita Vedanta as per the Upanishads, Gita, etc.

Q. What about Advaita vs. Jnana?

Tom: Advaita Vedanta, as a traditional teaching is the general term used to refer to the teachings of the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Brahma Sutras and a few other traditional texts. Jnana yoga refers to one part of the teachings of Advaita Vedanta. Other aspects of Advaita Vedanta include Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga and several other teachings found in the above aforementioned texts.

Advaita, literally means not-two. Jnana means knowledge. Jnana can either mean relative knowledge in the mind, which is the means of jnana yoga, or it can refer to the Absolute, which is not really knowledge per se as it is beyond ideas/conceptualisation, but the word Jnana is sometimes used nonetheless. This ‘absolute Jnana’ is synonymous with Advaita and points to that which is beyond both Advaita and Jnana, ie. God or True Self! It is also known as Parabhakti (divine love), Aparokshanubhuti (direct experience), Moksha (freedom) and various other terms, none of which fully capture what is spoken of!

What is True Self-Knowledge (Atma-Jnana)? Yoga Vasistha and the source of the River Ganges

The true meaning of Jnana (Self-Knowledge) is revealed by Sage Vasistha, taken from the wonderful and highly authoritative traditional Advaita text, the Yoga Vasistha.


At Rama’s request, VASISTHA narrated the following story:

Once upon a time there was a king named Bhagiratha who was devoted to dharma. He gave liberal gifts to the pious and holy ones and he was terror to the evildoers. He worked tirelessly to eradicate the very causes of poverty. When he was in the company of the holy ones his heart melted in devotion.

Bhagiratha brought the holy river Ganga from the heavens down to the earth. In this he had to encounter great difficulties and propitiate the gods Brahma and Siva and also the sage Jahnu. In all this he suffered frequent frustrations and disappointments.

He, too, was endowed with discrimination and dispassion even at an early age, O Rama. One day while remaining alone he reflected thus: “This worldly life is really essenceless and stupid. Day and night chase each other. People repeat the same meaningless actions again and again. I regard only that as proper action which leads to the attainment beyond which there is nothing to be gained; the rest is repeated foul excretion (as in cholera).” He approached his guru Tritala and prayed, “Lord, how can one put an end to this sorrow and to old age, death and delusion which contribute to repeated birth here?”

Tom – here below the first teaching will be dispensed. The teaching says that suffering will end when the self is known. How to know the self? One has to abide as the Self for a long time:

TRITALA said: Sorrow ceases, all the bondages are rent asunder and doubts are dispelled when one is fully established in the equanimity of the self for a long time, when the perception of division has ceased and when there is the experience of fullness through the knowledge of that which is to be known. What is to be known? It is the self which is pure and which is of the nature of pure consciousness which is omnipresent and eternal.

BHAGIRATHA asked: I know that the self alone is real and the body, etc., are not real. But how is it that it is not perfectly clear to me?

Tom – how often we have heard the teaching, we have heard the words, we may know the theory, but still we do not know! Let us listen to Tritala’s response, in which he will tell us the true nature of Knolwedge and the means to it:

TRITALA said: Such intellectual knowledge is not knowledge! Unattachment to wife, son and house, equanimity in pleasure and pain, love of solitude, being firmly established in self-knowledge—this is knowledge, all else is ignorance! Only when the ego-sense is thinned out does this self­-knowledge arise.

BHAGIRATHA asked: Since this ego-sense is firmly established in this body, how can it be uprooted?

TRITALA replied: By self­-effort and by resolutely turning away from the pursuit of pleasure. And by the resolute breaking down of the prison-­house of shame (false dignity), etc. If you abandon all this and remain firm, the ego-sense will vanish and you will realise that you are the supreme being!

VASISTHA continued: Having heard the teachings of his teacher, Bhagiratha decided to perform a religious rite as a prelude to total renunciation of the world. In three days he had given away everything to the priests and to his own relatives, whether they were endowed with good nature or not. His own kingdom he handed over to his enemies living across the borders. Clad in a small piece of loin-­cloth, he left the kingdom and roamed in countries and forests where he was totally unknown.

Very soon, he had attained the state of supreme peace within himself. Accidentally and unknowingly Bhagiratha entered his own previous kingdom and solicited alms from the citizens there. They recognised him, worshipped him and prayed that he should be their king. But he accepted from them nothing but food. They bewailed, “This is king Bhagiratha, what a sad plight, what an unfortunate turn of events!” After a few days he left the kingdom again.

Tom – in the following paragraphs we will see some hints, in bold type, as to how life is for the apparently self-realised sage:

Bhagiratha once again met his teacher and the two of them roamed the country all the time engaged in spiritual dialogue: “Why do we still carry the burden of this physical body? On the other hand, why should it be discarded? Let it be as long as it will be!” They were devoid of sorrow and of rejoicing, nor could they be said to adhere to the middle path. Even if the gods and sages offered them wealth and psychic powers, they spurned them as blades of dry grass.

In a certain kingdom the king had died without an heir and the ministers were in search of a suitable ruler. Bhagiratha, clad in a loincloth, happened to be in that kingdom. The ministers decided that he was the person fit to ascend the throne, and surrounded him. Bhagiratha mounted the royal elephant. Soon he was crowned king.

While he was ruling that kingdom, the people of his previous kingdom approached him once again and prayed that he should rule that kingdom also. Bhagiratha accepted. Thus he became the emperor of the whole world. Remaining at peace within himself, with his mind silenced, free from desires and jealousy, he engaged himself in doing appropriate action in circumstances as they arose.

Once he heard that the only way to please the souls of his departed ancestors was to offer libation with the waters of the Ganga. In order to bring the heavenly Ganga down to earth, he repaired to the forest to perform austerities, having entrusted the empire to his ministers. There he propitiated the gods and the sages and achieved the most difficult task of bringing the Ganga down to earth so that all the people for all time to come might offer libations to their ancestors with the waters of the holy Ganga. It is only from that time that this sacred Ganga which adorned the crown of lord Siva’s head began to flow on the earth.

Tom – traditionally the river Ganges, here called the Ganga, its Sanskrit name, springs from the head of Lord Shiva. In the picture below we can see the out-shoot of water from the crown of his head which is the source of the Ganga:

Lord Shiva Ganges Ganga Om

VASISTHA continued: Even so, Rama, remain in a state of equanimity like king Bhagiratha. And, like Sikhidhvaja, having renounced everything, remain unmoved. I shall narrate to you the story of Sikhidhvaja. Pray, listen. Once there were two lovers who were re­born in a later age on account of their divine love for each other…[and so the wonderful Yoga Vasistha continues with its interweaving stories all explaining in different ways to paths to Realisation…]

Aparokshanubhuti by Shankara (with brief explanatory notes)

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Aparokshanubhuti 

[Aparoksha = direct; Anubhuti = experience]

By Adi Sankaracharya (788-82 CE)

Translated by Swami Vimuktananda, this version edited by Tom Das

Swami Vimuktananda: Shankara discusses the identity of the individual Self and the universal Self through the direct experience of the highest Truth.

Tom: the original text has no subheadings – I have added these. My brief comments and annotations are in square brackets. I have added bold type for emphasis of what I feel are key points. Occasionally I have removed some verses or I have changed the order of some verses where I have felt this makes sense thematically. I hope these additions are of benefit for sincere seekers of liberation.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

INITIAL VERSES

  1. I bow down to Him – to Sri Hari (the destroyer of ignorance), the Supreme Bliss, the First Teacher, Ishwara, the All-pervading One and the Cause of all Lokas (the universe).
  1. Herein is expounded (the means of attaining to) Aparokshanubhuti (Self-Realization) for the acquisition of final liberation. Only the pure in heart should constantly and with all effort meditate upon the truth herein taught.

FOUR PRELIMINARY QUALIFICATIONS 

(Sadhana Chatushtaya)

[Q. Who is ‘pure in heart’?
A: He who has the 4 qualifications listed below
Q: How to become ‘pure in heart’?
A: Devotion to God, renunciation and karma yoga as per verse 3]

  1. The four preliminary qualifications (the means to the attainment of knowledge), such as Vairagya (dispassion) and the like, are acquired by men by propitiating [gaining favour of] Hari (the Lord), through austerities and the performance of duties pertaining to their social order and stage in life.
  1. 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 [1] Vairagya.
  1. Atman (the seer) in itself is alone permanent, the seen is opposed to it (ie., transient) – such a settled conviction is truly known as [2] discrimination [Viveka].

[[3] The 6 treasures]

  1. Abandonment of desires at all times is called [3i] Shama and restraint of the external functions of the organs is called [3ii] Dama.
  1. Turning away completely from all sense-objects is the height of [3iii] Uparati, and patient endurance of all sorrow or pain is known as [3iv] Titiksha which is conducive to happiness.
  1. Implicit faith in the words of the Vedas and the teachers (who interpret them) is known as (3v) Shraddha, and concentration of the mind on the only object Sat (i.e., Brahman) is regarded as [3vi] Samadhana.
  1. 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 [4] Mumukshuta.
  1. Only that person who is in possession of the said qualification (as means to Knowledge) should constantly reflect with a view to attaining Knowledge, desiring his own good.

VICHARA SUMMARISED

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

[Question]

  1. Who am I ? How is this (world) created ? Who is its creator ? Of what material is this (world) made ? This is the way of that Vichara (enquiry).

[Answer – what I am not, neti-neti, via negativa]

  1. I am neither the body, a combination of the (five) elements (of matter), nor am I an aggregate of the senses; I am something different from these. This is the way of that Vichara.

[The philosophical paradigm: all phenomena is a creation of thoughts/ignorance:]

  1. Everything is produced by ignorance, and dissolves in the wake of Knowledge. The various thoughts must be the creator. Such is this Vichara.

[All is Brahman, what I am, via positiva]

  1. The material (cause) of these two (i.e., ignorance and thought) is the One (without a second), subtle (not apprehended by the senses) and unchanging Sat (Existence), just as the earth is the material (cause) of the pot and the like. This is the way of that Vichara.

[What I am – I am Brahman]

  1. As I am also the One, the Subtle, the Knower, the Witness, the Ever-Existent, and the Unchanging, so there is no doubt that I am “That” (i.e., Brahman). Such is this enquiry.

ATMAN (The Self)

  1. Atman is verily one and without parts, whereas the body consists of many parts; and yet the people see (confound) these two as one ! What else can be called ignorance but this? [repeating refrain]
  1. Atman is all consciousness and holy, the body is all flesh and impure; and yet, etc.,
  1. Atman is the (supreme) Illuminator and purity itself; the body is said to be of the nature of darkness; and yet, etc.,
  1. Atman is eternal, since it is Existence itself; the body is transient, as it is non-existence in essence; and yet etc.,
  1. How strange is it that a person ignorantly rests contented with the idea that he is the body, while he knows it as something belonging to him (and therefore apart from him) even as a person who sees a pot (knows it as apart from him) !

I AM BRAHMAN

  1. I am verily Brahman, being equanimous, quiescent, and by nature absolute Existence, Knowledge, and Bliss. I am not the body which is non-existence itself. This is called true Knowledge by the wise. [repeating refrain]
  1. I am without any change, without any form, free from all blemish and decay. I am not, etc.,
  1. I am not subjected to any disease, I am beyond all comprehension, free from all alternatives and all-pervading. I am not, etc.,
  1. I am without any attribute or activity, I am eternal, ever free, and imperishable. I am not, etc.,
  1. I am free from all impurity, I am immovable, unlimited, holy, undecaying, and immortal. I am not, etc.,

IGNORANCE

  1. O you ignorant one ! Why do you assert the blissful, ever-existent Atman, which resides in your own body [ie. is your essence] and is (evidently) different from it, which is known as Purusha [The Person] and is established (by the Shruti as identical with Brahman), to be absolutely non-existent?

[ie. Why do you say ‘There is no Atman/Self’?]

  1. O you ignorant one ! Try to know, with the help of [1] Shruti and [2] reasoning, your own Self, Purusha, which is different from the body, (not a void but) the very form of existence, and very difficult for persons like you to realize.

[This will be explained below]

1. REASONING

  1. The Supreme (Purusha) known as “I” (ego) is but one, whereas the gross bodies are many. So how can this body be Purusha?
  1. “I” (ego) is well established as the subject of perception whereas the body is the object. This is learnt from the fact that when we speak of the body we say, “This is mine.” So how can this body be Purusha?
  1. It is a fact of direct experience that the “I” (Atman) is without any change, whereas the body is always undergoing changes. So how can this body be Purusha?
  1. Even the subtle body [ie. mind] consists of many parts and is unstable. It is also an object of perception, is changeable, limited and non-existent by nature. So how can this be the Purusha?
  1. The immutable Atman, the substratum of the ego, is thus different from these two bodies [ie. gross and subtle bodies], and is the Purusha, the Ishwara (the Lord of all), the Self of all; It is present in every form and yet transcends them all.

2. SHRUTI

[Shruti literally means ‘heard’ or ‘that which is heard’, and refers to revealed scripture, the highest form of scripture in Vedic tradition, and the examples are the Vedas and Upanishads. Traditionally Shruti is not of human origin but of Divine origin, as opposed to Smriti or ‘remembered’, which comes from the minds of human beings. This text, not being the Vedas or Upanishads would be considered to be Smriti. Most epics such as Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita are all Smriti scriptures]

  1. Wise men have ascertained the (real) nature of Purusha from that Shruti text, “(There is nothing) higher than He (Purusha),” etc. So how can this body be Purusha ?
  1. Again the Shruti has declared in the Purusha Sukta that “All this is verily the Purusha”. So how can this body be Purusha ?
  1. So also it is said in Brihadaranyaka that “The Purusha is completely unattached”. How can this body wherein inhere innumerable impurities be the Purusha ?
  1. There again it is clearly stated that “the Purusha is self-illumined”. So how can the body which is inert (insentient) and illumined by an external agent be the Purusha ?
  1. Moreover, the Karma-kanda also declares that the Atman is different from the body and permanent, as it endures even after the fall of the body and reaps the fruits of actions (done in this life).
  1. The Shruti in the form of the Brihadaranyaka has declared that this Atman, which is the Self of all, is verily Brahman.

ADVAITA

[So far we have discerned the difference between Self and Not-Self (ie. the phenomenal world including the body and mind). Now we see this too is an artificial duality and now the focus is on Advaita, or non-duality:]

  1. Thus the view that the body is the Atman has been denounced by the enunciation of the difference between the Atman and the body. Now is clearly stated the unreality of the difference between the two.
  1. No division in Consciousness is admissible at any time as it is always one and the same. Even the individuality of the Jiva must be known as false, like the delusion of a snake in a rope.
  1. As through the ignorance of the real nature of the rope the very rope appears in an instant as a snake, so also does pure Consciousness appear in the form of the phenomenal universe without undergoing any change.
  1. There exists no other material cause of this phenomenal universe except Brahman. Hence this whole universe is but Brahman and nothing else.
  1. From such declaration (of the Shruti) as “All this is Atman”, it follows that the idea of the pervaded and the pervading is illusory. This supreme truth being realized, where is the room for any distinction between the cause and the effect?

[The Mahavakya or great saying ‘Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma’ or ‘All this is Brahman’ is taken from the Chandogya Upanishad 3.14.1]

  1. Certainly the Shruti has directly denied manifoldness in Brahman. The non-dual cause being an established fact, how could the phenomenal universe be different from It ?
  1. Moreover, the Shruti has condemned (the belief in variety) in the words, “The person who”, being deceived by Maya, “sees variety in this (Brahman), goes from death to death”.
  1. Inasmuch as all beings are born of Brahman, the supreme Atman, they must be understood to be verily Brahman.
  1. The Shruti has clearly declared that Brahman alone is the substratum of all varieties of names, forms and actions.
  1. Just as a thing made of gold ever has the nature of gold, so also a being born of Brahman has always the nature of Brahman.
  1. Just as a jar is all earth, so also is the body all consciousness. The division, therefore, into the Self and non-Self is made by the ignorant to no purpose.

SUFFERING

  1. Fear is attributed to the ignorant one who rests after making even the slightest distinction between the Jivatman and the Paramatman.

[ie. duality causes fear]

  1. When duality appears through ignorance, one sees another; but when everything becomes identified with the Atman, one does not perceive another even in the least.
  1. In that state when one realizes all as identified with the Atman, there arises neither delusion nor sorrow, in consequence of the absence of duality.

[ie. lack of duailty, or nonduality, removes suffering]

THE THREE STATES

[ie. The 3 states change, they come and go, and so are without any enduring essence, as opposed to Atman]

  1. This world, though an object of our daily experience and serving all practical purposes, is, like the dream world, of the nature of non-existence, inasmuch as it is contradicted the next moment.
  1. The dream (experience) is unreal in waking, whereas the waking (experience) is absent in dream. Both, however, are non-existent in deep sleep which, again, is not experienced in either.
  1. Thus all the three states are unreal inasmuch as they are the creation of the three Gunas [ie. tamas, rajas, sattva]; but their witness (the reality behind them) is, beyond all Gunas, eternal, one, and is Consciousness itself.

ILLUSION

[The illusion of duality: the illusion of the individual person or Jiva, the illusion of the manifold universe]

  1. Just as (after the illusion has gone) one is no more deluded to see a jar in earth or silver [irridescence] in the nacre [mother of pearl], so does one no more see Jiva in Brahman when the latter is realized (as one’s own self).
  1. Just as earth is described as a jar, gold as an ear-ring, and a nacre as silver, so is Brahman described as Jiva.
  1. Just as blueness in the sky, water in the mirage, and a human figure in a post (are but illusory), so is the universe in Atman.
  1. Just as the appearance of a ghost in an empty place, of a castle in the air, and of a second moon in the sky (is illusory), so is the appearance of the universe in Brahman.
  1. Just as it is water that appears as ripples and waves, or again it is copper, that appears in the form of vessel so it is Atman that appears as the whole universe.
  1. Just as it is earth that appears under the name of a jar, or it is threads that appear under the name of a cloth, so it is Atman that appears under the name of the universe. This Atman is to be known by negating the names.

MITHYA

  1. Just as there ever exist the relation of cause and effect between earth and a jar, so does the same relation exist between Brahman and the phenomenal world; this has been established here on the strength of scriptural texts and reasoning.

METAPHORS FOR ILLUSION

(YOU ARE NOT THE BODY!)

[Note: If I think I am the body, then this is taking the Self (myself) to be the body]

  1. Just as a rope is imagined to be a snake and a nacre to be a piece of silver, so is the Atman determined to be the body by an ignorant person. [repeating refrain]
  1. Just as earth is thought of as a jar (made of it) and threads as a cloth, so is Atman, etc.,
  1. Just as gold is thought of as an ear-ring and water as waves, so is the Atman, etc.,
  1. Just as the stump of a tree is mistaken for a human figure and a mirage for water, so is the Atman, etc.,
  1. Just as a mass of wood work is thought of as a house and iron as a sword, so is the Atman, etc.,
  1. Just as one sees the illusion of a tree on account of water, so does a person on account of ignorance see Atman as the body.
  1. Just as to a person going in a boat everything appears to be in motion, so does one, etc.,
  1. Just as to a person suffering from a defect (jaundice) white things appear as yellow, so does one, etc.,
  1. Just as to a person with defective eyes everything appears to be defective, so does one, etc.,
  1. Just as a firebrand, through mere rotation, appears circular like the sun, so does one, etc.,
  1. Just as all things that are really large appear to be very small owing to great distance, so does one, etc.,
  1. Just as all objects that are very small appear to be large when viewed through lenses, so does one, etc.,
  1. Just as a surface of glass is mistaken for water, or vice versa, so does one, etc.,
  1. Just as a person imagines a jewel in fire or vice versa, so does one, etc.,
  1. Just as when clouds move, the moon appears to be in motion, so does one, etc.,
  1. Just as a person through confusion loses all distinction between the different points of the compass, so does one, etc.,
  1. Just as the moon (when reflected) in water appears to one as unsteady, so does one, etc.,

THE END OF IGNORANCE

  1. Thus, through ignorance, arises in Atman the delusion of the body, which, again, through Self-realization, disappears in the supreme Atman.
  1. When the whole universe, movable and immovable, is known to be Atman, and thus the existence of everything else is negated, where is then any room to say that the body is Atman?
  1. O enlightened one, pass your time always contemplating on Atman while you are experiencing all the results of Prarabdha [Fate or destiny]; for it ill becomes you to feel distressed.

PRARABDHA KARMA 

  1. The theory one hears of from the scripture, that Prarabdha does not lose its hold upon one even after the origination of the knowledge of Atman, is now being refuted.
  1. After the origination of the knowledge of Reality, Prarabdha verily ceases to exist, inasmuch as the body and the like become non-existent; just as a dream does not exist on waking.
  1. Just as the body in a dream is superimposed (and therefore illusory), so is also this body. How could there be any birth of the superimposed (body), and in the absence of birth (of the body) where is the room for that (i.e., Prarabdha) at all ?
  1. The Vedanta texts declare ignorance to be verily the material (cause) of the phenomenal world just as earth is of a jar. That (ignorance) being destroyed, where can the universe subsist ?
  1. Just as a person out of confusion perceives only the snake leaving aside the rope, so does an ignorant person see only the phenomenal world without knowing the reality.
  1. The real nature of the rope being known, the appearance of the snake no longer persists; so the substratum being known, the phenomenal world disappears completely.
  1. The body also being within the phenomenal world (and therefore unreal), how could Prarabdha exist ? It is, therefore, for the understanding of the ignorant alone that the Shruti speaks of Prarabdha.
  1. “And all the actions [Karmas] of a man perish when he realizes that (Atman) which is both the higher and the lower”. Here the clear use of the plural by the Shruti is to negate Prarabdha as well.
  1. If the ignorant still arbitrarily maintain this, they will not only involve themselves into two absurdities but will also run the risk of forgoing the Vedantic conclusion. So one should accept those Shrutis alone from which proceeds true knowledge.

FIFTEEN STEPS TO MEDITATION & LIBERATION

  1. Now, for the attainment of the aforesaid (knowledge), I shall expound the fifteen steps by the help of which one should practice profound meditation at all times.

[The need for practice]

  1. The Atman that is absolute existence and knowledge cannot be realized without constant practice. So one seeking after knowledge should long meditate upon Brahman for the attainment of the desired goal.

102-103. The steps, in order, are described as follows: the control of the senses, the control of the mind, renunciation, silence, space, time, posture [asana], the restraining root (Mulabandha), the equipoise of the body, the firmness of vision, the control of the vital forces, the withdrawal of the mind, concentration, self-contemplation and complete absorption. 

[These above stages are similar to and include the classical 8 stages of Patanjali’s Raja Yoga. Shankara will redefine these steps in the next few verses giving them a non-dual spin]

  1. The restraint of all the senses by means of such knowledge as “All this is Brahman” is rightly called Yama, which should be practiced again and again.

[Yama or self-control is usually defined as being ethical, truthful, not stealing, etc]

  1. The continuous flow of only one kind of thought to the exclusion of all other thoughts, is called Niyama [discipline], which is verily the supreme bliss and is regularly practiced by the wise.

[The one kind of thought are those of the Mahavakyas such as ‘I am Brahman’, etc]

[Niyama, or discipline usually includes virtuous habits to externally and inwardly cleanse the body and mind respectively]

  1. The abandonment of the illusory universe by realizing it as the all-conscious Atman is the real renunciation honored by the great, since it is of the nature of immediate liberation.

[as in verse 104, the underlying method utilised is the realisation that ‘All is Brahman-Atman’. The emphasis is on a shift of perspective rather than just taking yourself to be the body-mind and renouncing objects from that ignorant perspective]

  1. The wise should always be one with that Silence wherefrom words together with the mind turn back without reaching it, but which is attainable by the Yogins.

[The Silence refers to the Self, Atman/Brahman, which is what we are. ‘Mind turns back without reaching it’ refers to Taittiriya Upanishad II.9]

108-109. Who can describe That (i.e., Brahman) whence words turn away ? (So silence is inevitable while describing Brahman). Or if the phenomenal world were to be described, even that is beyond words. This, to give an alternate definition, may also be termed silence known among the sages as congenital. The observance of silence by restraining speech, on the other hand, is ordained by the teachers of Brahman for the ignorant.

[True Silence is Self-Knowledge and not mere cessation of speech]

  1. That solitude is known as space, wherein the universe does not exist in the beginning, end or middle, but whereby it is pervaded at all times.

[True solitude is Self-Knowledge, in which there is only One without a Second, the implication is that solitude is not the mere retiring to a forest in seclusion]

  1. The non-dual (Brahman) that is bliss indivisible is denoted by the word ‘time’, since it brings into existence, in the twinkling of an eye all beings from Brahman downwards.
  1. One should known that as real posture in which the meditation on Brahman flows spontaneously and unceasingly, and not any other that destroys one’s happiness.

[Shankara’s humour that the true Yogic asana/posture are not mere contortions of body that ‘destroy one’s happiness’ but meditation upon Brahman]

  1. That which is well known as the origin of all beings and the support of the whole universe, which is immutable and in which the enlightened are completely merged … that alone is known as Siddhasana [a seated meditation pose] (eternal Brahman).
  1. That (Brahman) which is the root of all existence and on which the restraint of the mind is based is called the restraining root (Mulabandha) which should always be adopted since it is fit for Raja-yogins.
  1. Absorption in the uniform Brahman should be known as the equipoise of the limbs (Dehasamya). Otherwise mere straightening of the body like that of a dried-up tree is no equipoise.
  1. Converting the ordinary vision into one of knowledge one should view the world as Brahman itself. That is the noblest vision, and not that which is directed to the tip of the nose.
  1. Or, one should direct one’s vision to That alone where all distinction of the seer, sight, and the seen ceases and not to the tip of the nose.
  1. The restraint of all modifications of the mind by regarding all mental states like the Chitta as Brahman alone, is called Pranayama.

119-120. The negation of the phenomenal world is known as Rechaka (breathing out), the thought, “I am verily Brahman”, is called Puraka (breathing in), and the steadiness of that thought thereafter is called Kumbhaka (restraining the breath). This is the real course of Pranayama for the enlightened, whereas the ignorant only torture the nose [more humour from Shankara here].

  1. The absorption of the mind in the Supreme Consciousness by realizing Atman in all objects is known as Pratyahara (withdrawal of the mind) which should be practiced by the seekers after liberation.
  1. The steadiness of the mind through realization of Brahman wherever the mind goes, is known as the supreme Dharana (concentration).
  1. Remaining independent of everything as a result of the unassailable thought, “I am verily Brahman”, is well known by the word Dhyana (meditation), and is productive of supreme bliss.
  1. The complete forgetfulness of all thought by first making it changeless and then identifying it with Brahman is called Samadhi known also as knowledge.

[The method is to make thought changeless, which means to only have one thought such as ‘I am Brahman’ as per verses 119 and 123, and then to realise this thought as nothing else but Brahman or Atman (self), and then forget all thought. Shankara equates this Samadhi with Knowledge]

THE FRUIT OF PRACTICE

  1. The aspirant should carefully practice this (meditation) that reveals his natural bliss until, being under his full control, it arises spontaneously, in an instant when called into action.
  1. Then he, the best among Yogis having attained to perfection, becomes free from all practices. The real nature of such a man never becomes an object of the mind or speech.

OBSTACLES

127-128. While practicing Samadhi there appear unavoidably many obstacles, such as lack of inquiry, idleness, desire for sense-pleasure, sleep, dullness, distraction, tasting of joy, and the sense of blankness. One desiring the knowledge of Brahman should slowly get rid of such innumerable obstacles.

ENCOURAGEMENT AND A WARNING

  1. While thinking of an object the mind verily identifies itself with that, and while thinking of a void it really becomes blank, whereas by the thought of Brahman it attains to perfection. So one should constantly think of (Brahman to attain) perfection.
  1. Those who give up this supremely purifying thought of Brahman, live in vain and are on the same level with beasts.
  1. Blessed indeed are those virtuous persons who at first have this consciousness of Brahman and then develop it more and more. They are respected everywhere.

[Against the intellectual approach:]

  1. Only those in whom this consciousness (of Brahman) being ever present grows into maturity, attain to the state of ever-existent Brahman; and not others who merely deal with words.
  1. Also those persons who are only clever in discussing about Brahman but have no realization, and are very much attached to worldly pleasures, are born and die again and again in consequence of their ignorance.
  1. The aspirants after Brahman should not remain a single moment without the thought of Brahman, just like Brahma, Sanaka, Suka and others.

ANALYSIS OF ‘CAUSE’ AND ‘EFFECT’

  1. The nature of the cause inheres in the effect and not vice versa; so through reasoning it is found that in the absence of the effect, the cause, as such also disappears.

[Cause and effect refers to karma and the phenomenal world. When this world is removed, only Brahman remains:]

  1. Then that pure reality (Brahman) which is beyond speech alone remains. This should be understood again and again verily through the illustration of earth and the pot.

[ie. When the pot is destroyed, the earth from which it is made remains]

  1. In this way alone there arises in the pure-minded a state of awareness (of Brahman), which is afterwards merged into Brahman.
  1. One should first look for the cause by the negative method and then find it by the positive method, as ever inherent in the effect.

[Here the cause is Brahman and the effect is the world, ie. by removing all objects from perception through meditation (negative method 1) or by negating all objects of perception as being not-self (negative method 2) the Self should be discovered, but then the Self should be seen being in All Objects (positive method)]

  1. One should verily see the cause in the effect, and then dismiss the effect altogether. What then remains, the sage himself becomes.
  1. A person who meditates upon a thing with great assiduity and firm conviction, becomes that very thing. This may be understood from the illustration of the wasp and the worm.

UNITY OF FORMLESS AND FORM

  1. The wise should always think with great care of the invisible, the visible, and everything else, as his own Self which is consciousness itself.
  1. Having reduced the visible [objects of perception] to the invisible [formless Brahman], the wise should think of the universe as one with Brahman. Thus alone will he abide in eternal felicity with mind full of consciousness and bliss.
  1. Thus has been described Raja-Yoga consisting of these steps (mentioned above). With this is to be combined Hatha-Yoga for (the benefit of) those whose worldly desires are partially attenuated.

[The above described Raja Yoga is purely mental, having been stripped of the more external practices. Therefore for those whose minds have not been purified, the external and physical aspects of yoga, denoted here as Hatha Yoga, should also be performed]

  1. For those whose mind is completely purified this (Raja-Yoga) alone is productive of perfection. Purity of the mind, again, is speedily accessible to those who are devoted to the teacher and the Deity.

[Devotion to and faith in Guru and God are recommended methods of purification of mind. When the mind is sufficiently pure, then Shankara’s form of Raja Yoga on the mental levels alone leads directly to liberation]