What is the role of the Guru and of God in spiritual liberation? What about devotion, bhakti and surrender? Faith in Jesus, faith in Ramana… This video was recorded live during a Satsang meeting with Tom Das
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Perfection of Faith in God/Guru/Self is the same as Jnana (spiritual ‘knowledge’ or ‘enlightenment’).
You could say that one leads to another – faith and surrender leads to knowledge, or knowledge leads to surrender and faith – and these are both true on one level, but ultimately they are one and the same – where is the difference apart from on the conceptual level?
For me Faith in the Guru, my Beloved, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, overcame me quite spontaneously, without my asking, and clinging to Him and Faith in his Word and dwelling in His Presence became the Way and the Law and my Self.
For me, whilst I like to learn a bit about Ramana’s life and I enjoy reading his teachings, gazing at His Image and feeling His Presence has often been more powerful than all the written teachings and all my efforts put together.
Someone recently approached me at the end of one of my Satsangs/meetings and asked me which book would I recommend as being the best one to understand Ramana’s teachings. I told him that Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi and Be As You Are are two wonderful books, but when you open the book, the most important page is the one which has a photograph of Ramana on it (most of Ramana’s books contain a photograph of him in the first few pages).
Instead of reading all the teachings and trying to figure it all out, just look at His Image, feel His Presence!
We can read and listen to the teachings as much as we like, but I have found there is power in something else, something intangible – the Guru’s grace, the eyes of the Guru, His Divine Grace…
So, cling to the Guru, cling to His Teachings. For me, that means Sri Ramana Maharshi. If it suits you, if you are drawn to Him, Ramana, take Him up as your Guru. Look at His Image, give yourself to Him, if it feels right for you. Of if you have another Guru/God you are drawn to, do the same with him/her. Or if you cannot relate to a Guru or God, try relating to Life or the Universe or Universal Energy or something similar. See what happens and feel free to let me know too!
Ramana said that life often brings us to have faith in God, then God brings us a Guru, and the Guru then directs us back to our Self and we realise all is One. Of course, we do not really realise, rather the ‘we’ or the ‘me’ that is seeking Union disappears or ‘merges into Him’. There was only ever Him/Self/Guru/God/Oneness…use any word that suits you.
Ramana also said that if we are lucky enough to be blessed with faith in something, that is a blessing to us and we should seize that faith and lean on it with loving devotion, and not to allow it to wither away.
So I encourage you to look at His Image, surrender to Him, and let me know how it goes!
‘Perfection of Faith in God/Guru/Self is the same as Jnana’
With love and best wishes
One learns more and more that no number of objects we experience (this includes worldly objects, people, thoughts, feelings, experiences, praise, adoration, etc) will ever bring lasting satisfaction. These objects (which includes all experiences), each being temporary and limited, will bring only temporary and limited pleasures at best. This pleasure will inevitably end which results in stress and suffering as we try to prevent the ending of our association with the desired objects. So seeking fulfillment in objects results in the perpetuation of suffering, and this is learnt over and over again ever more deeply over the course of time.
Simultaneously, we realise that lasting fulfillment only comes from not-seeking, ie. when we are resting as our-Self in the Natural Condition. Again, this insight-realisation deepens and our conviction that this is true grows stronger over time, as we psychologically and spiritually mature.
How quickly we learn this depends on our ability to observe, listen, discern and learn the lessons life is teaching us (this is called Viveka in Sanskrit, often translated as discrimination or discernment, but also can be translated as wisdom).
This natural turning away from gross and subtle objects and dropping away of desire for them is known as dispassion or vairagya in Sanskrit, and this vairagya naturally occurs to spiritual seekers (ie. the ego) as they spiritually mature and internalise these above lessons.
When vairagya becomes fully mature there is just constant abiding as Self. Self is satisfied as Self, not needing pleasure or good feelings from ‘outside’ limited objects. The seeking mind (which is the egoic mind or the functioning of the separate ‘I’ concept), then never emerges and is eventually destroyed through sustained inactivity.
This total Vairagya is where the separate ‘I concept’ never rises and is essentially dead. This is known as destruction of the Mind (Manonasa) or extinction of the vasanas (the habitual egoic tendencies, the extinction of which is called Vasana Kshaya). It is also known as Self-Realisation (Atma Sakshatkara) or Self-Knowledge (Atma Jnana). It is not realisation or knowledge in the traditional sense, as there is not necessarily any knowledge in the mind. Rather it is the non-emergence of egotism (egotism is also known as ignorance or separation, so knowledge is simple the lack of ignorance or the lack of separation). It is also known as Silence (Mauna) or the Absolute (Brahman).
Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi gives us a practical definition of Silence here when he states:
‘The Self is that where there is absolutely no “I”-thought. That is called silence [mauna]’ and again he states ‘That state in which the “I”-thought does not rise even in the least is silence [mauna].’
In the same vein Advaita Bodha Deepika states:
‘What is variously described as Knowledge [Jnana], Liberation [Moksha], etc., in the scriptures, is but stillness of mind.’
In the Amritabindu Upanishad it is written:
‘When the mind, with its attachment for sense-objects annihilated, is fully controlled within the heart and thus realises its own essence, then that is the Supreme State (Brahman is gained)’
The Advaitic giant, Sri Gaudapada, (Shankara’s guru’s guru) writes in his Mandukya Karika:
‘The controlled mind is verily the fearless Brahman’ (Chapter 3, verse 35)
Regarding Vairagya and Jnana, in the text ‘Who am I?’, Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi writes:
‘Not to desire anything extraneous to oneself constitutes vairagya (dispassion) or nirasa (desirelessness). Not to give up one’s hold on the Self constitutes jnana (knowledge). But really vairagya and jnana are one and the same.’
Later in the same text, ‘Who am I?’, he writes:
‘It is pleasant under the shade of a tree, and scorching in the heat of the sun outside. A person toiling in the sun seeks the cool shade of the tree and is happy under it. After staying there for a while, he moves out again but, unable to bear the merciless heat of the sun, he again seeks the shade. In this way he keeps on moving from shade to sun and sun to shade.
It is an unwise person who acts thus, whereas the wise man never leaves the shade: in the same way the mind of the Enlightened Sage (Jnani) never exists apart from Brahman, the Absolute. The mind of the ignorant, on the other hand, entering into the phenomenal world, suffers pain and anguish; and then, turning for a short while towards Brahman, it experiences happiness. Such is the mind of the ignorant.’
May these teachings, through repeated hearing and contemplation, grow in your hearts and mind and give rise to stillness of mind and eventually Mauna, that is Self-Realisation itself.
May vairagya and viveka grow and blossom into timeless Jnana!
Tat Tvam Asi!
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti
Q. We are all connected, like buds on a rosebush are all connected. And when a rosebud blooms, we do not state “there is no rosebud, there is no bloom.” And yet, you seem intent on denying the flowering of your own local focal point of consciousness. You are an individual viewpoint for the Cosmic Consciousness (aka Brahma). Like a rosebud, you have bloomed.
I understand that awakening is unlike an academic or professional accomplishment. It’s not something that you have printed out on a sheepskin and get framed and hang on your wall. It’s not something to brag about. Its not something to check off on your spiritual “bucket list.” But to deny that the mind/body combination known as Tom Das has had his awakening to oneness makes as much sense as denying that a rosebud has opened and is in full bloom. Those Satsangs that you share with the world as part of your Sadhana are you sharing the fragrance of truth. What purpose does denying your awakening have?
Tom: I know it may appear that Tom Das has awakened, etc, but actually Tom Das is just an appearance, nothing. There is no-one here that knows anything, although it may appear that way within the waking dream. The ‘me’ identifies itself & believes itself to be a body-mind entity and projects that identity onto others, and so believes that Tom Das or whoever has ‘woken up’. But this is all part of the apparent dream. I agree there is no point denying the appearance (I do appear to be Tom Das), but it is empty and non-significant with respect to liberation/non-duality. The scriptures have tried to explain this in many ways, I will try to find you a few quotes…Namaste
Here are the quotes I later put together: Ramana Maharshi Quotes: Nobody here/ the jnani is not a person
The earliest of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi’s written works was his translation of Shankara’s Crest Jewel of Discrimination (Vivekachudamani in Sanskrit). He wrote it when he was still very young and was living in Virupaksha Cave. This was also to remain the single largest work of Sri Ramana’s.
In his introduction to the Vivekachudamani, Ramana explains that Vedanta, as written in the triple cannon (Upanishads, Brahma Sutras and Bhagavad Gita) points the way to attaining liberation, and that Shankara wrote commentaries on these three texts to make clear the path. However, Ramana also noted that for those who did not have the capacity for such scholarship, Shankara wrote the essence of his length commentaries and collated them together in the form of Vivekachudamani.
Below is Ramana’s introduction to the text, which gives in brief an overview of its teachings. Bold-type has been added by myself for emphasis of some key points. In another post I will post the full text of Ramana Maharshi’s translation of Vivekachudamani:
Introduction to Vivekachudamani, as written by Sri Ramana Maharshi:
Every being in the world yearns to be always happy and free from the taint of sorrow, and desires to get rid of bodily ailments, etc., which are not of its true nature. Further, everyone cherishes the greatest love for himself, and this love is not possible in the absence of happiness. In deep sleep, though devoid of everything, one has the experience of being happy. Yet, due to the ignorance of the real nature of one’s own being, which is happiness itself, people flounder in the vast ocean of material existence, forsaking the right path that leads to happiness, and act under the mistaken belief that the way to be happy consists in obtaining the pleasures of this and the other world.
Unfortunately, however, there is no such happiness which has not the taint of sorrow. It is precisely for the purpose of pointing out the straight path to true happiness that Lord Shiva, taking on the guise of Sri Shankaracharya, wrote the commentaries on the Triple Canon [Prasthana Traya] of the Vedanta, which extols the excellence of this bliss; and that he demonstrated it by his own example in life. These commentaries, however, are of little use to those ardent seekers who are intent upon realising the bliss of liberation but have not the scholarship necessary for studying them.
It is for such as these that Sri Shankara revealed the essence of the commentaries in this short treatise, The Crown Gem of Discrimination [Vivekachudamani], explaining in detail the points that have to be grasped by those who seek liberation, and thereby directing them to the true and direct path.
Sri Shankara begins by observing that it is hard indeed to attain human birth, and that, having attained it, one should strive to achieve the bliss of liberation, which is really only the nature of one’s being. By jnana or spiritual knowledge alone is this bliss to be realised, and jnana is achieved only through vichara or steady enquiry. In order to learn this method of enquiry, says Sri Shankara, one should seek the Grace of a Guru; and he then proceeds to describe the qualities of the Guru and his disciple and how the latter should approach and serve his master. He further emphasises that in order to realise the bliss of liberation one’s own individual effort is an essential factor. Mere book learning never yields this bliss; it can be realised only through Self-enquiry or vichara, which consists of sravana or devoted attention to the precepts of the Guru, manana or deep contemplation and nidhidhyasana or the cultivation of equanimity in the Self.
The three bodies, are non-self and are unreal. The Self, that is the Aham or “I” is quite different from them. It is due to ignorance that the sense of Self or the “I”-notion is foisted on that which is not Self, and this indeed is bondage. Since from ignorance arises bondage, from knowledge ensues liberation. To know this from the Guru is sravana.
The process of manana, which is subtle enquiry or deep contemplation, consists in rejecting the three bodies consisting of the five sheaths [physical, vital, mental, intellectual, and blissful], as not “I” and discovering through subtle enquiry of “Who am I?” that which is different from all three and exists single and Universal in the Heart as Aham or “I”, just as a stalk of grass is delicately drawn out from its sheath. This “I” is denoted by the word tvam [in the scriptural dictum “Tat Tvam Asi”, “Thou art That”].
The world of name and form is but an adjunct of Tat or Brahman [Reality] and, having no separate reality, is rejected as reality and affirmed as nothing else but Brahman. The instruction of the disciple by the Guru in the scriptural saying [mahavakya] “Tat Tvam Asi“, which declares the identity of the Self and the Supreme, is this upadesa [spiritual guidance]. The disciple is then enjoined to remain in the beatific state of Aham-Brahman, [I – the Absolute]. Nevertheless, the old tendencies of the mind sprout up thick and strong and constitute an obstruction. These tendencies are threefold and ego is their root. The ego flourishes in the externalised and differentiating consciousness caused by the forces of projection due to rajas [restlessness], and veiling due to tamas [dullness].
To fix the mind firmly in the Heart until these forces are destroyed and to awaken with unswerving, ceaseless vigilance the true and cognate tendency which is characteristic of the Self [Atman] and is expressed by sayings: “Aham Brahmasmi” [“I am Brahman”], and “Brahmaivaham” [“Brahman alone am I”] is termed nidhidhyasana or Atmanusandhana, that is constancy in the Self. This is otherwise called bhakti [devotion], yoga and dhyana [meditation].
Atmanusandhana has been compared to churning curds in order to make butter, the mind being compared to the churn, the Heart to the curds, and the practice of concentration on the Self to the process of churning. Just as butter is made by churning the curds and fire by friction, so the natural and changeless state of Nirvikalpa samadhi is produced by unswerving vigilant concentration on the Self, ceaseless like the unbroken flow of oil. This readily and spontaneously yields that direct, immediate, unobstructed, and Universal perception of Brahman, which is at once knowledge and experience and which transcends time and space.
This perception is Self-realisation. Achieving It cuts the knot of the Heart. The false delusions of ignorance, the vicious and age-long tendencies of the mind which constitute this knot are destroyed. All doubts are dispelled and the bondage of karma is severed.
Thus in this Crown Gem of Discrimination Sri Shankara has described samadhi or spiritual trance which is the limitless bliss of liberation, beyond doubt and duality, and at the same time has indicated the means for its attainment. To attain this state of freedom from duality is the real purpose of life, and only he who has done so is a jivanmukta, liberated while yet alive, not one who has a mere theoretical understanding of what constitutes Purushartha or the desired end and aim of human endeavour.
Thus defining a jivanmukta, Sri Shankara declares him to be free from the bonds of threefold karma [sanchita, agami and prarabdha]. The disciple attains this state and then relates his personal experience. He who is liberated is indeed free to act as he pleases, and when he leaves the body, he abides in liberation and never returns to this birth, which is death.
Sri Shankara thus describes realisation, that is liberation, as twofold, jivanmukti [liberation while alive] and videhamukti [liberation after death], as explained above. Moreover, in this short treatise, written in the form of a dialogue between a Guru and his disciple, he has considered many other relevant topics.
Tom’s summary and comments:
-Bhagavan Sri Ramana has stated that the text Vivekachudamani contains all the key points required for the earnest seeker to attain liberation, and that it is the essence of Vedanta and the essence of Sri Shankara’s commentaries of the triple canon [ie. the Upanishads, Brahman Sutras and Bhagavad Gita].
-One wrongly seeks happiness outwardly, when actually one’s own nature is that of happiness. Happiness obtained through limited external objects will also be limited and also result in suffering.
-Spiritual liberation is the ending of all sorrow. It is to be obtained by Jnana, or spiritual knowledge, the path to which is outlined below:
-Jnana is to be obtained by seeking the grace of a guru .
-Jnana can only be gained through self-enquiry.
–Individual effort of the part of the seeker is required during this.
–Self-enquiry itself consists of sravana (listening to the teachings), manana (contemplating upon the teachings), and nididhyasana or Atmanusandhana (remaining constantly as the self/in the self).
–Manana consists of realising the import of the mahavakya or great saying ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ or ‘That Thou Art’. Tat or That refers to the Absolute, or Brahman. The arising transient phenomena that come and go are realised to be dependent on Brahman, nothing other than Brahman, but not real in that the objects themselves have no permanancy. Tvam or Thou refers to the ‘I’ that remains when all that is non-self is rejected and turned away from. Asi, or art means that this ‘I’ and ‘That’ are equated as being one in essence.
-This last step of abiding as the self/ Nididhyasana/ Atmanusandhana is also known as Bhakti (devotion), Yoga and Dhyana (meditation).
-Self-abidance is required due to age-old habitual tendencies (vasanas) which arise and block Self-Realisation. There are three types of vasanas [tamas, rajas and sattva], the source of which is the ego.
-The ego flourishes in the world of phenomenal objects. The implication here is that turning away from the body, mind and world is necessary to lead to the end of the ego and the resultant liberation.
-Through ceaseless unswerving concentration on the self, like the unbroken flow of oil, one achieves the state of Nirvikalpa Samadhi, which transcends space and time. The implication here is that as it transcends space and time, it is not really a state, nor is it an object or arising phenomena, but it is spoken of as such due to the limitations of language.
–Nirvikalpa samadhi and directly and spontaneously gives rise to the unobstructed knowledge or experience of Brahman. This is what is known as Jnana or spiritual knowledge and is the same as direct experience of Brahman, which in turn is the same as Self-realisation. Again the implication is that it is spoken of as ‘knowledge’, ‘experience’ and ‘realisation’, all of which are used here as synonyms, due to the limitations of language, as this cannot really be put into words.
-In self-realisation, the knot of the heart is cut. The knot of the heart consists of ignorance and the habitual tendencies of the mind [vasanas]. These both are removed though samadhi and the subsequent self-realisation. Here there is no longer any further doubt.
-Ramana states that Samadhi is the same as liberation, and that this liberation is the true purpose of one’s life.
–Intellectual understanding alone is not enough. The implication here is not to make the mistake that many do and stop after manana or the teachings ‘Tat Tvam Asi’, but proceed to abide as the Self in order to remove ignorance and the vasanas, and not give up until Samadhi ‘arises’ and the knot of the heart is cut.
-Two forms of liberation are described by Shankara, that whilst alive (Jivanmukti) and that which occurs with death of the body (Videhamukti).
Q. Tom, I appreciate this essay very much. I once got into quite an intense discussion with my Vēdānta teacher over this topic. We had just completed Panchadasi. The need for Silence (Samadhi) in conjunction with Self Inquiry was quite explicit in the text. And as you mention the Upanishads state the same.
I do have a question for you. In Vivekachudamani, Shankara makes contradictory statements about attainment. On one hand he extols the importance of meditation and knowledge. And then he seems to negate them. “Neither by Yoga, nor by Sankhya, nor by work, nor by learning, but by the realization of one’s identity with Brahman is Liberation possible, and by no other means.” (verse 56).
Krsna in Gita specifically says one can attain self realization by either approaches. (I understand that self realization, by some definitions is but a stage on the way to Unity.) This might be another conversation.
Is not realization of Brahman the final result of Yoga and Knowledge? If we understand Yoga to be Samadhi, which purifies deep rooted vasanas resulting in calmness. And Knowledge arrived at, on one hand, through direct experience in meditation and on the hand through scriptural study, finally resulting in discrimination between self and non self…
Then further on he extols Niddhyasana (long unbroken meditation/Nirvakalpa Samadhi) as the last step after hearing and contemplating the teachings. Patanjali defines Samadhi as Yoga. So Yoga seems to enter the picture again.
How do we reconcile these apparent contradictions?
Tom: Hi, this is a great question and thankfully is easily resolved in the context of the text Vivekachudamani.
Some modern Vedanta teachers insist that in Vedanta words are used in a very precise way, but for anyone who has read the scriptures in Sanskrit for themselves, nothing could be further from the truth. In the original Sanskrit language, the same words are used in a variety of different ways depending on the context, and it is up to the reader to discern this. eg. words such as Atman, Jnana, etc are used in a variety of ways, and traditional commentaries such as Shankara’s commentaries acknowledge this too.
It is usually quite easy to discern the meaning of the words you when you look at the context – usually this simply means to look at the verses either side of the verse in question. In most Vedanta texts, as with most texts in general, a single point is often made across a series of thematically related verses (or sentences). In Vedanta texts, the beginning and end of a section is not clearly marked, but they are easy to spot if you are looking for them:
Now with this in mind, lets look at Vivekachudamani verse 56, which you raise:
56. Neither by Yoga, nor by Sankhya, nor by work, nor by learning, but by the realisation of one’s identity with Brahman is Liberation possible, and by no other means.
Firstly, note the preceding verses that are in this section, starting at verse 51:
51. A father has got his sons and others to free him from his debts, but he has got none but himself to remove his bondage.
52. Trouble such as that caused by a load on the head can be removed by others, but none but one’s own self can put a stop to the pain which is caused by hunger and the like.
53. The patient who takes (the proper) diet and medicine is alone seen to recover completely – not through work done by others.
54. The true nature of things is to be known personally, through the eye of clear illumination, and not through a sage: what the moon exactly is, is to be known with one’s own eyes; can others make him know it?
55. Who but one’s own self can get rid of the bondage caused by the fetters of Ignorance, desire, action and the like, aye even in a hundred crore of cycles?
The theme is clearly that one has to do the work for oneself in order to attain liberation, and that no other, sage or otherwise, can do this work for you.
Now lets look at the verses that follow verse 56 in the same section:
57. The beauty of a guitar’s form and the skill of playing on its chords serve merely to please a few persons; they do not suffice to confer sovereignty.
58. Loud speech consisting of a shower of words, the skill in expounding the Scriptures, and likewise erudition – these merely bring on a little personal enjoyment to the scholar, but are no good for Liberation.
59. The study of the Scriptures is useless so long as the highest Truth is unknown, and it is equally useless when the highest Truth has already been known.
60. The Scriptures consisting of many words are a dense forest which merely causes the mind to ramble. Hence men of wisdom should earnestly set about knowing the true nature of the Self.
61. For one who has been bitten by the serpent of Ignorance, the only remedy is the knowledge of Brahman. Of what avail are the Vedas and (other) Scriptures, Mantras (sacred formulae) and medicines to such a one?
62. A disease does not leave off if one simply utter the name of the medicine, without taking it; (similarly) without direct realisation one cannot be liberated by the mere utterance of the word Brahman.
63. Without causing the objective universe to vanish and without knowing the truth of the Self, how is one to achieve Liberation by the mere utterance of the word Brahman? — It would result merely in an effort of speech.
64. Without killing one’s enemies, and possessing oneself of the splendour of the entire surrounding region, one cannot claim to be an emperor by merely saying, ‘I am an emperor’.
65. As a treasure hidden underground requires (for its extraction) competent instruction, excavation, the removal of stones and other such things lying above it and (finally) grasping, but never comes out by being (merely) called out by name, so the transparent Truth of the self, which is hidden by Maya and its effects, is to be attained through the instructions of a knower of Brahman, followed by reflection, meditation and so forth, but not through perverted arguments.
66. Therefore the wise should, as in the case of disease and the like, personally strive by all the means in their power to be free from the bondage of repeated births and deaths.
The theme here is a warning against superficial teachings and the lack of true spiritual practice. This is a warning about teachings that do not recommend meditation and deep spiritual practice and a warning against teachings of no-effort, such as what is sometimes nowaday called neo-advaita. Let us see:
Merely repeating the words (verse 58) and intellectual study of the scriptures (verses 59-61) is not enough. Just proclaiming ‘I am Brahman’ or ‘I am That’ (verse 62 and 64) is not enough. We have not only to read the teachings but put them into practice (‘take the medicine’ cf. verse 62).
Verse 63 lays it out more clearly – what is the practice we have to do? What is the medicine we have to not only read about but actually swallow? We have to efface the body, mind and world and enter into Samadhi (’cause the objective world to vanish’).
This is emphasised in verse 65 where Shankara once again recommends the path of sravana – hearing the teachings, manana – reflecting upon the teachings and nididhyasana – meditation as described in verse 63.
Verse 66 then encourages the seeker to make effort to strive along this path, and not to fall short, not to follow paths that are mere verbal talk without ‘causing the objective world to vanish’ (verse 63).
So in conclusion, it is clear, from the context, that Shankara is admonishing superficial teachings only, and not the true path that he subsequently goes on to explain and recommend.
Lastly, let us look to someone who always preached the true Vedantic teachings, from their heart, but also as found in the scriptures, our Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. What does he write in ‘Who am I?’, questions 4 and 5?
Question 4. When will the realization of the Self be gained?
Ramana Maharshi: When the world which is what-is-seen has been removed, there will be realization of the Self which is the seer.
Question 5. Will there not be realization of the Self even while the world is there?
Ramana Maharshi: There will not be.
Traditionally there are two paths to liberation according to Advaita Vedanta (Nondual Vedanta). In Panchadasi, a traditional advaita vedanta text, Vidyaranya Swami refers to them as the path of Meditation and that of Self-Enquiry.
Panchadasi was written by Vidraranya Swami (1380-1386) over 600 years ago and contains the essence of the vedanta scriptures over 15 chapters (‘pancha’ means 5 and ‘dasi’ means 10, so together they refer to 15 chapters).
- This following excerpt from chapter 1 gives an overview of the vedantic path to moksha.
- The next excerpt from chapter 9 shows how the 2 vedantic paths in the title are in fact the same.
- I have then chosen a few more excerpts from subsequent chapters aimed at encourging the seeker in their sadhana (spiritual practice) and extolling the virtues of meditation.
My comments are interspersed in red and bold type has been also added by myself for emphasis.
Overview of the path – from Chapter 1:
1.40. By discrimination of the subtle body (and recognition of its variable, transient character), the sheaths of the mind, intellect, and vital airs are understood to be different from the Self, for the sheaths are conditions of the three gunas, and differ from each other (qualitatively and quantitatively).
This indicates that the mind is able to discriminate (viveka – ie. to differentiate the unchanging self from the changing gross and subtle objects experienced) between the self and the gross and subtle bodies – ie. the body and mind. However the mind cannot so easily discriminate the self from the causal body in which the latent tendencies remain dormant. For this meditation is helpful, as follows:
1.41. Avidya (manifested as the causal body of bliss sheath) is negated in the state of deep meditation (in which neither subject nor object is experienced), but the Self persists in that state; so it is the invariable factor. But the causal body is a variable factor, for though the Self persists, it does not.
This is referring to samadhi, in which the subject-object duality has been removed. Also see Chapter 9 verse 126 of Panchadasi:
‘When meditation on the attributeless Brahman is mature it leads to Samadhi. This state of intense concentration at case leads on to the Nirodha state in which the distinction between subject and object is eliminated.’
This experience in meditation allows one to realise that the causal body also is not the Self:
1.42. As the slender, internal pith of munja grass can be detached from its coarse external covering, so the Self can be distinguished through reasoning from the three bodies (or the five sheaths). Then the Self is recognised as the supreme consciousness.
1.52. The Self is untouched by doubts about the presence or absence of associates, connotations and other adventitious relationships, because they are superimposed on it phenomenally.
Like a mirror is untouched by the contents of the reflection, like the cinema screen is untouched by the scenes in the movie, the Self remains untouched and unaffected by life.
Now Vidyaranya tells us of the advaitic path, consisting of sravana, manana, nididhyasana and samadhi. Shankara does the same here.
1.53. The finding out or discovery of the true significance of the identity of the individual self and the Supreme with the aid of the great sayings (like Tat Tvam Asi) is what is known as sravana. And to arrive at the possibility of its validity through logical reasoning is what is called manana.
Sravana, literally meaning hearing, means to hear or listen to the teachings. To thereafter think about the teachings and their logic is called manana.
1.54. And, when by sravana and manana the mind develops a firm and undoubted conviction, and dwells constantly on the thus ascertained Self alone, it is called unbroken meditation (nididhyasana).
Sravana and manana naturally lead to unbroken meditation, or nididhyasana. This eventually leads to removal of the subject-object duality and culminates in samadhi:
1.55. When the mind gradually leaves off the ideas of the meditator and the act of meditation and is merged in the sole object of meditation. (ie. the Self), and is steady like the flame of a lamp in a breezeless spot, it is called the super-conscious state (samadhi).
1.56. Though in samadhi there is no subjective cognition of the mental function having the Self as its object, its continued existence in that state is inferred from the recollection after coming out of samadhi.
There is no experience as such in samadhi, as the mind (and memory) does not temporarily exist, so the state is not known as such at the time. The next verse tells us that it persists dependent upon ‘effort and will made prior to its achievement’ and through ‘constant efforts’:
1.57. The mind continues to be fixed in Paramatman in the state of samadhi as a result of the effort of will made prior to its achievement and helped by the merits of previous births and the strong impression created through constant efforts (at getting into samadhi).
1.58. The same idea Sri Krishna pointed out to Arjuna in various ways e.g., when he compares the steady mind to the flame of a lamp in a breezeless spot.
He is referring to Krishna’s teaching to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 6 verse 19:
‘Just as a lamp in a windless place does not flicker, so the disciplined mind of a yogi remains steady in meditation on the self.’
1.59. As a result of this (nirvikalpa) samadhi millions of results of actions, accumulated in this beginningless world over past and present births, are destroyed, and pure dharma (helpful to the realisation of Truth) grows.
1.60. The experts in Yoga call this samadhi ‘a rain cloud of dharma’ because it pours forth countless showers of the bliss of dharma.
1.61. The entire network of desires is fully destroyed and the accumulated actions known as merits and demerits are fully rooted out by this samadhi.
1.62. Then the great dictum, freed from the obstacles (of doubt and ambiguity), gives rise to a direct realisation of the Truth, as a fruit in one’s palm – Truth which was earlier comprehended indirectly.
The above 4 verses indicate how powerfully purifying nirvikalpa samadhi is in rooting out the habitual tendencies to identify with the body-mind, when gives rise to direct realisation of the Truth or Liberation.
1.63. The knowledge of Brahman obtained indirectly from the Guru, teaching the meaning of the great dictum, burns up like fire all sins, committed up to that attainment of knowledge.
1.64. The direct realisation of the knowledge of the Self obtained from the Guru’s teaching of the great dictum, is like the scorching sun, that dispels the very darkness of Avidya, the root of all transmigratory existence.
1.65. Thus a man distinguishes the Self from the five sheaths, concentrates the mind on It according to the scriptural injunctions, becomes free from the bonds of repeated births and deaths and immediately attains the supreme bliss.
In summary, the path is viveka (differentiating the unchanging self from the changing objects experienced) plus unbroken meditation on the self.
We see a similar reasoning given in Chapter 9:
The unity of meditation and self-enquiry – From Chapter 9:
9.126. When meditation on the attributeless Brahman is mature it leads to Samadhi. This state of intense concentration leads on to the Nirodha state in which the distinction between subject and object is eliminated.
‘Nirodha’ is the term used in yoga to indicate what in vedanta is known as nirvikalpa samadhi. Ceaseless meditation on the Self leads to the knowledge ‘I am Brahman’:
9.127. When such complete cessation of mental activity is achieved, only the association-less entity (Atman) remains in his heart. By ceaseless meditation on It based on the great Sayings, arises the knowledge ‘I am Brahman’.
9.128. There is then a perfect realisation of Brahman as the immutable, association-less, eternal, self-revealed, secondless whole, as indicated in the scriptures.
The author backs up his above statements by showing how the same ideas are present in the Holy Upanishads which are the most important texts in Vedanta teachings and hold the highest authority:
9.129. The Amritabindu and other Upanishads recommend Yoga for the same object. It is clear therefore that meditation on the attributeless Brahman is superior to other types of worship.
A warning for those who give up their meditation:
9.130. Those who give up meditation on the attributeless Brahman and undertake pilgrimages, recitations of the holy formulas and other methods, may be compared to ‘those who drop the sweets and lick the hand’.
Here the questioner points out the 2 main vedantic paths to liberation, one being meditation or yoga, the other being self-enquiry. The following verses indicate that the higher and quicker path is self-enquiry, but both paths are actually the same in the end:
9.131. (Doubt): This applies also to those who meditate on the attributeless Brahman giving up enquiry into Its nature. (Reply): True, therefore only those who are not able to practise enquiry have been asked to meditate on the attributeless Brahman.
9.132. Those who are very fickle-minded and agitated do not have the knowledge of Brahman by the practice of enquiry. Therefore control of the mind is the chief means for them. By it their mind becomes free from distractions.
9.133. For those whose intellects are no longer distracted nor restless but are merely covered by a veil of ignorance, the analytical system called Sankhya (intellectual enquiry) is prescribed. It will quickly lead them to spiritual illumination.
The above verse indicates that for enquiry to work, the mind must already be pure and stable and with only a small amount (‘a veil’) of ignorance. If not, then a calming practice, such as meditation, karma yoga or surrender/bhakti are required.
9.134. ‘The state of spiritual balance is obtainable by both the Sankhyas (those who follow the path of enquiry) and the Yogis (those who practise meditation). He really knows the meaning of the scriptures who knows that the paths of enquiry and meditation are the same’.
The path of meditation
Continuing with Chapter 9, here follows several statements from Shruti (ie. the Upanishads), the most authoritative Vedanta texts, extolling the virtues and efficacy of the path of meditation
9.138. So the future life of a man is determined by the nature of his thoughts at the time of death. Then as a devotee of the Personal God is absorbed in Him, so a meditator on the attributeless Brahman is absorbed in It and obtains Liberation.
9.140. As by meditation on the Personal God knowledge of the nature of Ishvara arises, so by meditation on the attributeless Brahman, knowledge of Its nature arises and destroys the ignorance which is the root of rebirth.
9.141. A meditator becomes Brahman who is ‘unattached, desireless, free from body and organs and fearless’. Thus the Tapaniya Upanishad speaks of liberation as the result of meditation on the attributeless Brahman.
9.142. By the strength of meditation on the attributeless Brahman knowledge arises. So the scriptural verse, ‘Verily there is no other path to liberation (except knowledge)’ does not conflict with this.
9.143. So the Tapaniya Upanishad points out that liberation comes from desireless meditation. The Prasna Upanishad also says that by meditation with desire one enters into the region of Brahma.
9.146. Such a worshipper, by virtue of his meditation on the attributeless Brahman, enters the world of Brahma and there obtains direct knowledge of Brahman. He is not born again, he gets ultimate release at the end of the four Yugas.
9.147. In the Vedas meditation on the holy syllable Aum in most places means meditation on the attributeless Brahman, though in some places it means meditation on Brahman with attributes.
9.148. Pippalada being asked by his pupil Satyakama says that Aum means Brahman both with and without attributes.
9.149. Yama too, questioned by his pupil Nachiketas, replied that he who meditates on Aum knowing it as the attributeless Brahman obtains the fulfilment of his desires.
9.150. He who meditates properly on the attributeless Brahman gets direct knowledge of Brahman either in this life or at the time of death or in the world of Brahma.
9.151. The Atma Gita also clearly says that those who cannot practise discrimination should always meditate on the Self.
9.152. (The Self as if says): ‘Even if direct knowledge of Me does not seem to be possible, a man should still meditate on the Self. In the course of time, he doubtlessly realises the Self and is freed’.
9.153. ‘To reach treasures deeply hidden in the earth, there is nothing for it but to dig. So to have direct knowledge of Me, the Self, there is no other means than meditation on one’s Self’.
9.155. Even if there is no realisation, think ‘I am Brahman’. Through meditation a man achieves even other things (like the Deities), why not Brahman who is ever-achieved?
A stark warning not to stop meditating before the goal is reached:
9.156. If a man, who is convinced by his experience that meditation, practised day by day, destroys the idea that the not-Self is the Self, nevertheless becomes idle and neglects meditation, what difference, tell us, is there between him and a brute ?
9.157. Destroying his idea that the body is the Self, through meditation a man sees the secondless Self, becomes immortal and realises Brahman in this body itself.
9.158. The meditator who studies this Chapter called the ‘Lamp of Meditation’, is freed from all his doubts and meditates constantly on Brahman.
From Chapter 11:
Chapter 11 further focuses upon the role of meditation as opposed to inquiry:
11.110. In the Maitrayani Upanishad of the Yajur Veda, sage Sakayanya spoke of the great bliss experienced in Samadhi to the royal sage Brihadratha while discoursing on Samadhi.
11.111. ‘As fire without fuel dies down and becomes latent in its cause, so the mind, when its modifications have been silenced, merges in its cause’.
11.112. ‘To the mind fixed on Reality, merged in its cause and impervious to the sensations arising from the sense-objects, the joys and sorrows (together with their occasions and materials) experienced as a result of the fructifying Karma seem unreal’.
11.114. ‘Through the purification of his mind a man destroys the impressions of his good and evil Karma and the purified mind abiding in Atman enjoys undiminishing bliss’.
11.115. ‘If a man were to focus his mind on Brahman, as he commonly does on the objects of senses, what bondage would he not be free from ?’
11.116. ‘Mind has been described as of two types, pure and impure. The impure is that which is tainted by desires, the pure is that which is free from desires’.
11.117. ‘The mind alone is the cause of bondage and release. Attachment to objects leads to bondage and freedom from attachment to them leads to release’.
11.118. ‘The bliss arising from absorption in the contemplation of the Self, when all sins and taints are washed off through the practice of Samadhi, cannot be described in words. One must feel it in one’s own heart’.
11.119. Though it is rare for men to keep their minds long in the state of absorption (Samadhi), still even a glimpse of it confers conviction about the bliss of Brahman.
11.121. Such a man ignores the bliss experienced in the state of mental quiescence and is ever devoted to the supreme bliss and meditates on it.
11.122. A woman devoted to a paramour, though engaged in household duties, with all the time be dwelling in mind on the pleasures with him.
11.123. Similarly the wise one who has found peace in the supreme Reality will be ever enjoying within the bliss of Brahman even when engaged in worldly matters.
11.124. Wisdom (Jnana) consists in subjugating the desires for sense-pleasure, even when the passions are strong and in engaging the mind in meditation on Brahman with the desire to enjoy the bliss.
In Ramana’ Maharshi’s ‘Who am I?’, the question as to the nature of Jnana arises and is simply answered:
Questioner: What is wisdom-insight (jnana-drsti)?
Ramana Maharshi: Remaining quiet is what is called wisdom-insight.
See here for more
11.125. A man carrying a burden on his head feels relief when he removes the load; similarly a man freed from worldly entanglements feels he is in rest.
11.126. Thus relieved of burden and enjoying rest, he fixes his mind on the contemplation of the bliss of Brahman, whether in the state of detachment or experiencing pain or pleasure according to fructifying Karma.
11.130. Enjoying both the bliss of Brahman taught in the scriptures and the worldly bliss unopposed to it, the Jnani of truth knows them both in the same way as one who knows two languages.
11.131. When the Jnani experiences sufferings, he is not disturbed by them as he would have been before. Just as a man half-immersed in the cool water of the Ganges feels both the heat of the sun and the coolness of the water, so he feels the misery of the world and the bliss of Brahman at the same time.
And to finish, one of my favourite verses here:
From Chapter 13:
13.3. The world is born of bliss, it abides in bliss and is merged in bliss. How then can it be anything other than this bliss?