The Real Vision

A misconception that is spread around in many a Non-dual fora is that whether I know It or not, I am always perceiving God (or brahman). In order to corroborate this belief an easy analogy is given – whether we are aware or not we see only the screen when we watch a movie. As though watching the screen and watching the movie are the same! 🙂

While explaining a verse from the Gita, the fallacy of the above concept was brought out clearly with a forceful illustration by a Swami Ji. (The Commentary of the Swami in three volumes is yet to be published and hence, the details are embargoed for now). The verse says,

समं सर्वेषु भूतेषु तिष्ठन्तं परमेश्वरम् ।
विनश्यत्स्वविनश्यन्तं यः पश्यति स पश्यति ॥
— verse 27, Ch 13, Bhagavad-Gita

Meaning (Not word to word): The Supreme Self, the brahman to be known, is present in the same manner in all beings – from microbes to the Creator Brahma, transcending their body, organs and senses. Whereas the body, organs, mind etc. of the creatures undergo various changes over time, He Himself is not subject to any alteration. He is in control of all of them (therefore only, He is the Lord of All – परमेश्वर (parameshwara). Whosoever is able to “see” the Supreme Self in that way, only that one is the true seer. Such a seeing only is the “real” seeing.

The Interlocutor (raising a question): It is amply clear from the verse that the bodies of the creatures are vulnerable to change but brahman Itself does not. That shows the difference between the created objects and various creatures on one hand and brahman on the other. The bodies are the effects of creation. Therefore, they are illusory. In other words, they are like the silver in the nacre. I have a question here.

When I see the silver, after all, I am seeing the nacre only. Therefore, whether it is real seeing or not, what is visible to me is the Supreme Self only. How can then one say that one man sees the Self and another does not? How can such a differentiation be reasonable?

Swami Ji: Let us say that a person had a problem in his vision. When he looked up in the sky at night, he saw multiple moons. He feels very elated and specially blessed to be able to see many moons. He calls his friend in excitement and tells him that he saw several moons in the sky. His friend checks up and denies the existence of multiple moons. Neither of those two friends are aware of the problem of the defective vision. They get into an argument and, say, they approach you to resolve their dispute. What will be your answer?

Interlocutor: What you say, Swami Ji, is true. The vision of the first man is not correct vision at all. Even though his eye is seeing, it is as good as not seeing. He is unable to assess the true position that there is only one moon. That is the reason why Lord Krishna says in this verse that only the true seer is able to see the Supreme Self and not others.

Swami Ji: That is correct. Seeing the multiplicity is not seeing the Truth. The Truth is covered up and remains invisible to the eye.

***

The muNDaka upanishad also tells us:

यत्तदद्रेश्यमग्राह्यमगोत्रमवर्णमचक्षुःश्रोत्रं तदपाणिपादम् ।
नित्यं विभुं सर्वगतं सुसूक्ष्मं तदव्ययं यद्भूतयोनिं परिपश्यन्ति धीराः ॥
— 1.1.6, muNDaka.

Meaning: That [brahman] which is unperceivable, ungraspable, unborn and formless, devoid of senses or organs – that which is eternal yet of manifold expressions, all-pervading, extremely subtle and undecaying, the source of all creation – the wise behold everywhere.

While commenting on this mantra, Shankara pens a memorable sentence. He says: “The word by itself illuminates what the Self is and the mind has to abide as That to the exclusion of all other thoughts. Nothing further needs to be done after that. In that understanding, mind becomes a mere witness. All That-IS is witnessed as the Self only.” It is the same thing that the prashna Upanishad indicated when it talked about having the “spherical vision.”

Manifesting Brahman – Vivekananda

An interesting, (occasionally side-tracked!) talk on Swami Vivekananda by the ever-ebullient Swami Sarvapriyananda:

His punchline – Vedanta is about manifesting the divinity within. Recall Sankara – neti neti and renunciation, with any action not for selfish ends but for the good of the whole.

Dennis and Shishya – I commend this to you both, for entirely different reasons.

Q.447 Realizing Brahman

Q: I know that Brahman is not an object I can find; I think of it more like the realization that I am the tenth man (you know this story I assume). But when I have this sort of realization (I have a lot of them), I can’t tell whether I am realizing Brahman or something else.

One set of realizations involves a sort of inner presence that reveals itself like existence-consciousness-limitless, and I feel it as present in my heart region. It’s very deep and real and it does not come and go like an experience. It gets covered up by my thoughts and emotions, but it’s always there.

Another set of realizations involve a sense that the world of objects is not actually there because the objects are made of consciousness rather than matter.

So my question is: Is Self-realization something you discover in your heart like a presence of happiness or of a consciousness that doesn’t ever come and go but only seems to be obscured by thoughts? Or is self-realization the knowledge that all the objects in the world and mind are made of only consciousness, in the way that dream objects are made of dream-consciousness?

I believe that Advaita Vedanta is saying that somehow nothing exists other than consciousness and thus the objects that appear (including the mind and subtle realm) are not made of matter but rather are ‘made of’ consciousness. Is this correct?

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Pravishtha and apravishtha (Does Brahman actually enter an object?)

Pravishtha and apravishtha (Does Brahman actually enter an object?)

This is a dialog between guru ParAshara and shishya Maitreya from Swami VishudhAnanda’s book “PakshapAta-rahita Anubhava”. (Parashara says to Maitreya):

Hey shishya remember that you are Self-illuminated Atma. When objects in this world are formed from five elements one can say that these elements actually enter (pravishtha) in the objects and one can also say they are do not enter (apravishtha) in the objects – like gold in ornaments is pravishtha or also apravishtha; mud is pravishtha in the pot or also apravishtha; the rope is pravishtha in the illusive snake or also aprvishtha; the witness of the dream is pravishtha in the dream world or aprvishtha. Similarly, you the name & forms based substratum on which the world is superimposed (namrupatmak vivarta-upadan-karana), Existence-Consciousness-Bliss Atma is pravishtha in the imaginary, names & forms based objects and also apravishtha.

I will explain how it is pravishtha. There is not a single element of any ornament in this names & forms based world that is not occupied, pervaded or apart from the gold that is Brahman. In other words, you the Existence-Consciouness-Bliss (Asti-Bhati-Priyam) Atma is the gold that is pervaded in objects or the ornaments in such a manner that there is nothing apart from gold (that is you). You can say that for the wise ones there is total elimination of of names & forms (atyantabhAva) in ornaments; all they see is gold. Without Brahman the gold, you will not be able to find any ornaments. But in every ornament you will find gold only. That is why we say that gold the Brahman is pravishtha in the ornaments.

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Q.495 ahiMsA

Q: Lord krishna advises Arjuna that Anatma alone is killed. Can meat eaters extend the argument to their killing for food?

A: Matter is anAtma and is inert. It depends for its existence on Brahman.

All life forms manifest Consciousness to some degree. Man is unique in having an intellect that ‘reflects’ Consciousness, enabling self-awareness.

Everything is brahman, being just name and form. Nothing is ever born in reality. Nothing can be ‘killed’ in the sense of destroying Consciousness, which is eternal and unchanging. It is only anAtma that can change its form but it cannot be destroyed either (c.f. conservation of mass-energy).

Within the context of that understanding, therefore, it is a question of ethics, custom, upbringing and so on that dictates one’s attitude to the ‘right to life’ of the various species. Man has to eat to maintain the body and everything that is eaten for that purpose either is or has been alive.

The topic of ahiMsA is key to Jain and Buddhist philosophies. It is not a particular issue in Advaita. Its mention in the Gita is probably rather due to its significance for Yoga philosophy.

Q.494 Brahman and the World

Q: There is potential confusion between ‘knowing about it’ and actually ‘being it’; between ‘self-realization’ and ‘self-actualization’. ‘Knowing about it’ is in the mind, whereas ‘being it’ has nothing to do with the mind. Along these lines is why Nisargadatta always said that who-we-really are is prior to the body-mind and Consciousness and to leave them alone.

What are your thoughts about all this?

A: Basically, we are already Brahman. The problem is that we do not know it. Remove the ignorance and we realize the truth. You cannot ‘experience’ or ‘perceive’ Brahman. You can only realize that we are it. Hence, the term ‘anubhava’ is misunderstood and modern teachers have been propagating a misunderstanding of the teaching. The term ‘self-actualization’ is definitely a modern one, I think, and can mean nothing. How can you ‘make actual’ what is already the case? Continue reading

Kubera’s Search for The Self:

 [The world and everything in it are imaginary (mithya) ‘names and forms’! Therefore, tradition depicts Ishwara as a pauper because he does not possess any worldly wealth. However, he transcends the worldly objects and is said to be an embodiment of the Self. In contrast, Kubera possessed a lot of worldly treasures, a collection of mere names and forms, but lacked the real wealth of Self-knowledge. So, he sought guidance from Ishwara.]

Lord Ishwara was holding court in Kailasha. His consort and both his sons were also seated with him. There were several nobles and other gods in attendance. The gurgling flow of the Ganges from the matted hair of the Lord and the chirping of the birds and other creatures around were sounding like a background drone reciting the name of Shiva-Shiva-Shiva. The God of Riches, Kubera, famous for his wealth, came to meet Ishwara. He bowed to the Lord and worshiped him as per the tradition. Kubera had a deep philosophical question and posed the same to Ishawara requesting the Lord to relieve him from the doubt. Continue reading

Ahamkara

Another story from Swami Vishudhananda’s book “Pakshpata-rahit Anubhavpraksh” in Hindi. The book is written in Yoga-Vashishtha style where various stories are narrated using Shrimad Bhagwat [and other] Pauranic characters to bring home Advaita concepts. Following is the translation of “ahamkara” (pages 514-516).

 Once upon a time, ahamkara (the ego) assumed human form and entered a gathering of sages. He introduced himself:“I am ahamkara! Avidya (ignorance) also known as maya is my mother and Sat-Chit-Anand (Existence-Knowledge-Bliss) Brahman, the witness of the entire prapancha (the appearing universe) is my father. Per the rules of scriptures pure is always different than the vishishtha (specific). Based on this rule pure Brahman is my father and this prapancha which is nothing but names & forms made up of panchbhutas – five elements (akasa-sky, vayu-air, agni-fire, jala-water & prithvi-earth) is my family. I the ahamkara and the ones in my family are caught in between the cycles of birth & death resulting in eternal pain & suffering. I stay with my mother. I never stay with my father even though I have desire to live with him. I do try to do so but no matter what I do my father is always apart from me – he is asanga (without any attachments), nirvikar (unchangeable), nirvikalpa (without any doubts). And by the way, I do not have any grandparents (my parents do not have any parents). My birth is a mystery as my father does not touch or even get closer to my mother. My death is another story – every time me and my family rest on my mother’s lap we enjoy blissful deep sleep where we lose ourselves and become one with her. And when we come out of this deep sleep it is like a rebirth for us. This goes on all the time like waves in an ocean.

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Me, “The Seer” and World, “The Seen”

Dhruva was an adorable little boy. He saw his half-brother, Uttama, sitting and playing on the lap of their father, King Uttanapada. He too desired to climb on to the lap of Uttanapada. But his step-mother could hardly tolerate that. She gave a tight slap to him declaring that he was unfit to sit on the lap of the King as he was not born to her but to another queen. Crest-fallen and deeply hurt, the little kid, with his eyes full of tears, ran to his mother. His mother, a highly noble lady, consoled him and advised that he should achieve something so that people look at him with awe. The little Dhruva left the royal palace and went away to a distant forest. He met with a group of Sages in the forest and narrated to them his soulful story. They advised him to meditate on Vishnu. So, he embarked on a very austere and rigorous course of meditation. Regretting heavily the developments, the King and all his retinue, his mother, the queen and all his family implored that he should give up his askesis and return home. The King was even ready to abdicate the throne and promised to coronate him. But Dhruva was unrelenting. He did not succumb to the temptations and was uncompromising in his resolve. He pursued his meditation with greater vigor. He meditated on Vishnu, the Ultimate. Continue reading

Jadabharatha, Vamdeva & king Rahuganaka

Swami Vishudhananda, a contemporary [a little earlier) of Swami Sivananda, lived in Rishikesh around 1900 -20. He wrote the book “Pakshpata-rahit Anubhavpraksh” in Hindi. The book is written in Yoga-Vashishtha style where various stories are narrated using Shrimad Bhagwat [and other] Pauranic characters to bring home Advaita concepts.

Here is an excerpt – my translation from the Hindi text:

Story of Jadabharatha, Vamdeva & King Rahuganaka

King Rahuganaka was travelling to his hilltop vacation destination along with his royal contingent. He was being carried in a luxurious palanquin (palki) by four palanquin bearers. During this journey two of the palanquin bearers got sick and king’s soldiers started looking for replacements. They found two weird looking goons wandering in the forest. King’s soldiers grabbed them and forced them to carry palanquin on their shoulders while the royal journey continued. But then everyone including the king noticed how weird these two men were. Both of them were not big or strong but the heavy load did not seem to bother them. They were not very aggressive but then they weren’t lethargic either. Their faces did not look bright and cheerful but they looked relaxed. They were often whipped by the soldiers to make them move faster but that did not perturb them. In fact, both of them were taking their steps as if they were in a trance. Continue reading