‘adhyAropa’ to ‘adhiSThAna’ – 3/4

Part – 2

It is said that brahman Itself gets deluded by Its own magic. Does it not then imply that there is really creation and a (created) world out there?

Shankara is never tired of pointing out that there is actually no creation at all and the purpose of all the scriptures, when they talk of creation, is NOT to establish creation as a fact. For example:

1. न चेयं परमार्थविषया सृष्टिश्रुतिः ; अविद्याकल्पितनामरूपव्यवहारगोचरत्वात् , ब्रह्मात्मभावप्रतिपादनपरत्वाच्च — इत्येतदपि नैव विस्मर्तव्यम् — 2.1.33, BSB.

Meaning: “The Vedic statement of creation does not relate to any reality, for it must not be forgotten that such a text is valid within the range of activities concerned with name and form called up by ignorance, and it is meant for propounding the fact that everything has brahman as its Self.”

2. It has been shown more than once that Existence Itself comes to be called indirectly a ‘separate self,’ because of the intervention of limiting adjuncts – 3.2.9, BSB.

3. Opponent: The Upanishads show brahman to be the cause of the origin, continuance, and dissolution of the universe (paraphrased).

Vedantin: Not so. The purpose of the Upanishads is to establish “Unity.” The scripture that propounds the reality of brahman, existing alone without a second, and that proves the unreality of all modifications.

Further, when one has realized that the Self is one, eternal, pure, and so on, one cannot have any more curiosity to be satisfied as a result of the rise in him of the conviction that the highest human goal has been reached. “The enlightened man is not afraid of anything. Him indeed this remorse does not afflict, ‘Why did I not perform good deeds, and why did I perform bad deeds?’ (2.9.1, tai.U).” —  4.3.14, BSB.

4. “The mention in all Vedanta texts of the origin, continuity and dissolution of the universe is only to strengthen our idea of brahman being a homogeneous unity, and not to make us believe in the origin etc. as an actuality.” (Trans: Swami Madhavananda). —  2.1.20, BUB.

5. मृल्लोहविस्फुलिङ्गाद्यैः सृष्टिर्या चोदितान्यथा 
उपायः सोऽवताराय नास्ति भेदः कथञ्चन                        —  3.15, GK

Meaning: (The scriptural statements regarding) the creation that has been multifariously set forth with the help of the examples of clay, iron, sparks etc., is merely by way of generating the idea (of Oneness of (jIva and brahman)). But there is no multiplicity in any way.

Shankara writes:

उत्पत्त्यादिश्रुतय आत्मैकत्वबुद्ध्यवतारायैव, नान्यार्थाः कल्पयितुं युक्ताः अतो नास्त्युत्पत्त्यादिकृतो भेदः कथञ्चन ॥   —  3.15, GKB.

Meaning: The Upanishadic texts expressing creation etc. are meant simply for generating the idea of the Oneness of the Self, and they cannot be fancied to bear other interpretations. There is no multiplicity caused by creation etc. in any way.

Does it then mean that the apparent creation is no more than an ‘imagination’ like Alice’s ‘Wonderland’ with its Red Queens, Mad Hatters and Cheshire Cats?

We have to agree.

In fact, Shankara often uses in his commentaries words like “avidyA-kalpita (imagined in avidyA), avidyA-pratyupasthApita (brought forth by avidyA), avidyA-krita (made by avidyA), avidyA-kArya (the work or effect of avidyA), avidyA-lakshaNA (that which is indicated by avidyA), avidyAdhyasta (superimposed due to avidyA)” to describe the perceived world.

avidyA” (ignorance) here refers to “Not knowing the really real Reality.” “Ignorance” is not used in a pejorative sense. One may be a world-class expert in her/his specialized field of knowledge like Rocket science or Robotics; Cosmology or Carpentry etc. Still, s/he is regarded to be “ignorant,” if the said expert has no Knowledge of the Self (Reality) – this is exemplified by Sage Narada’s problem (See here).

Am I one of those helpless ‘pawns’ in the story, a mad Hatter or …?

“You are That,” i.e., the very nameless Sentience, which imagines the story, avers the chAndogya Upanishad.

Please humor me, Sir.

Well, the Upanishad narrates a little parable at its mantras 6.14.1-2.

A thief robbed a man of all his possessions and left him blindfolded and hands tied at his back in a solitary forest. The gentleman didn’t know how to get back to his home in Gandhara. He shouted in all directions seeking help.

Freed from bondage by a compassionate and knowledgeable passerby, the man from Gandhara received instructions on how to get back home. Being an intelligent man, he was able to understand the path and return home.

Likewise, asserts the Upanishad, “A man, having a teacher,  acquires Knowledge in this world. For him the delay is for that long only so long as he does not become freed. Then he becomes merged in Existence.”  — 6.14.2, chAn. U.

Shankara amplifies:

“When a person is stolen from Existence which is the real Self of the universe, by thieves such as merit and demerit, he is made to enter into this forest of a body constituted of fire, water and food; air, bile, phlegm, blood, fat, flesh, bone, marrow, semen, worms, urine, and stool; subject to various types of miseries arising from opposites like heat, cold, etc.

His eyes are bound with the cloth of delusion, he being tied with many thirsts for various kinds of seen and unseen things like spouse, son, friend, animals, kinsmen, etc. Being enmeshed by thousands of snares of misery, he goes on shouting, ‘I am his son, these are my friends, I am happy, I am in misery, I am deluded, I am wise, I have friends, I am born, I am dead, I am emaciated, I am a sinner, my son has died, my wealth is lost; alas!  how shall I live, what will be my lot, what relief is there for me’?

A seeker who is lost like that, but has help from a knowledgeable teacher, achieves freedom from the bondage of ignorance. The delay for him in the matter of attaining the true nature of his own Self, which is Existence, is for that long only, till the body falls after completion of the experiencing the fruits of the past actions because of which it was born.

Indeed, for one who has realized the identity of Existence with his own Self and who seeks (only) Reality, it is not logical that there should be any false hankering for results dependent on time, space and causation. For a man who has attained the purpose of his life, all desires vanish completely here itself’ (3.2.8, muNDaka).

Thus, the Sentience, the subtle Essence, the Self, which Alone is, seems, as though lost in Its own imaginary adventure. Being reminded of Its True nature by the scripture (1.1.4, BSB; 1.4.10, BUB; 2.1.20, BUB), It remains peaceful as Its Pure Self like a man who awakes from a nightmarish dream.

What is the Self?

The Self, by remaining steadfast in which, or by not being so, one gets release or bondage respectively, IS That which is:

  •  The root of the universe;
  •  The abode and basis of all creatures;
  •  The quintessence of all; and,
  •   Is birthless, immortal, fearless, auspicious, and Non-dual.

It is satyam, That is Truth; sah Atma, That is your Self.

Thus does the Sage Uddalaka Aruni teach his son, Svetaketu.

Who is that Svetaketu, denoted by the word ‘You’?

  • It is he who knows himself as, ‘I am Svetaketu.’
  • It is he who asked his father for knowing what has not been heard of and thought of, and remains unknown;
  • It is he who has become entitled to be the hearer, the thinker, and the knower.

But he is none other than the Supreme Deity himself,

  • who, in the form of a reflection has entered into the aggregate of body and organs made up of fire, water, and food;
  • Like a ‘person in the mirror or like the Sun etc. in water pools,’ for the sake of manifesting name (ideas) and form (objects).

What has been the result as regards the Self (in this teaching of Sage Uddalaka Aruni)?

Firstly, “Before hearing from his father, the statement, “You are That,” he did not know himself as completely distinct from the aggregate of body and organs. After he was taught by his father, he understood that he is, by nature, the all-pervasive “Existence” Itself.

Secondly, and importantly, the idea that “I am a separate individual competent to do things (‘agentship’) and reap the fruits of the actions (‘experiencership’)” has ceased after hearing the teaching from his father.

In other words, “when the true “Knowledge” of the Non-dual Self as Existence is realized, then, the false, mutable ‘knowledge’ of the Self as the individual ‘separate self’ (a ‘you’) ends.”

If one is the Self that is Existence, then why should one not be aware of It?

“It’s because one does not instinctively have the idea, ‘I, as an individual separate Self, am distinct from the body and the organs.” bhagavatpAda Shankara observes:

तस्मात् विकारानृताधिकृतजीवात्मविज्ञाननिवर्तकमेव इदं वाक्यम् ‘तत्त्वमसि’ इति सिद्धमिति ॥   —  Shankara at 6.16.3, chAn.U.B.

Therefore, the sentence, ‘You are That’, removes the identification of the Self with the individual ‘separate self’ which is involved in change and unreality.

[To put it differently, one may infer that “So long as pramAtRtvam/shiShyatvam is ‘active’ within oneself, the message of the mahAvAkyatattvamasi” has not been grokked!]

Should one meditate on ‘tattvamasi’ as a mantra?

The upAsana (meditation) mantras such as, ‘Adityo brahma iti upAsita, the Sun (is to be meditated on) as brahman’, come with the intervening word “iti” ( = as) (between ‘Sun’ and ‘brahman’). That means that Sun is not directly “identical” with brahman. Besides, the Sun and others have forms. But here, after showing the ‘entry’ of Existence into the body, the instruction is given in the form, ‘You are That’, where “identity” of one’s Self and Existence is stated in the absolute sense. Hence, it is not to be meditated upon but the meaning has to be “grasped.”

Is it not that, what is enjoined here is the duty of having the idea ‘I am Existence’, but not that something unknown is pointed out by saying, ‘You are Existence’?

No. The entertainment of the idea, ‘I am Existence’, is not enjoined as a duty. The purpose of the teaching is that the object denoted by the word ‘you’ (tvam) is identical with Existence Itself. That is the reason why the instruction about the means of Knowledge has been clearly mentioned by saying, ‘An individual having a teacher knows.’

When the declaration ‘You are That’ (Existence) is made by a competent teacher, then the Knowledge that arises from this valid text cannot be set aside by (the wrong notion) ‘I am not Existence.’ Nor is it possible to say that such a Knowledge doesn’t arise, because all Upanishads exhaust themselves pointing to this one conclusion.

(Contd. … Part – 4)