Samsāra, this life of limitations, this life of transmigration, is because of the lack of discriminative knowledge of what Self is and what it is not. That ignorance is caused by the covering power of māyā, which covers internally and externally: internally it covers the discrimination between the seer and the seen, and externally it covers discrimination between the Reality and the creation.
Internally, delusion causes error such as: ‘I am insecure, dependent, unhappy, limited, etc.’ These wrong notions are caused by lack of discriminative knowledge at the individual level. Externally it takes the form: ‘this universe is the source of happiness, it is responsible for my unhappiness, I am dependent on the universe, the universe will give me security, etc.’ (The universe includes friends, relatives, property etc).
One’s notion about the self (internal) is wrong and notion about the universe (external) is also wrong. Every human being makes this common error. These erroneous notions are caused by lack of discriminative knowledge. We do not have discrimination regarding what is absolutely true and what is ‘as though’ true in the universe, hence we have a wrong notion about the universe.
Lack of discriminative knowledge at the internal level results in the notion: ‘I do not know what Self is and what non-self is, what I am and what I am not.’ This is caused by the veiling power of māyā at the internal level and I have a wrong notion about the self: I am small, I am insecure, I am limited, I am dependent, I am insignificant, I am inadequate, I am unhappy. The notions one has about the Self are erroneous and the notions one has about the world are also erroneous. If the wrong notion about the Self is corrected, the wrong notion about the world is also corrected. There is no way of correcting the error about the universe without correcting the error about the Self.
How does the inability to discriminate between the seer and the seen causes saṃsāra? The veiling power of māyā covers the difference between Self and non-self, thereby there is lack of discriminative knowledge, because of which there is erroneous self-perception and we mistake Self for non-self, and thereby there is superimposition of all the limitations of non-self upon Self. There is no real superimposition – it is ‘as though’, just as a colourless crystal seems to have become red having borrowed the colour from the flower placed near it. Really speaking it is not possible for Self to borrow the limitations of non-self but, because of the close proximity, it seems that the attributes of non-self have become attributes of Self. That superimposition alone, the false transference of limitations and problems of non-self onto the Self, results in wrong notion about the Self.
Therefore the wrong notion causes a constant pressure in the mind that one wants to become free from limitations. If the notion ‘I am small’ is not there, then the notion ‘I want to be free from smallness’ is not possible. The wrong notion is because of false transference caused by lack of discriminative knowledge – there is no real transference. If the transference is real then it will impossible to change, you will have to be free for the rest of the life. Ahaṅkāra is the erroneous notion about the Self: I am small and inadequate. Ahaṅkara alone results in pressure to become bigger than what one is and, thereby, the fundamental desire rises: ‘I want to live long happily’. That fundamental desire alone results in all other desires.
In the third chapter of the Gītā, Bhagavān says: ‘As long as ignorance is there you will never be free from the hold of desires.’ Instead of trying to undo desire, try to understand what desire is, why desire exists. That is the only way you can free yourself from the hold of desire. Any desire is a symptom of the fundamental desire and when those desires impel you to action, you accumulate merit and demerit and there will be anger and jealousy and hatred and all other thoughts which results in another birth which involves further action with further fruit of action, which require another birth for their exhaustion. Like this it goes on and on. This is how lack of discriminative knowledge, caused by the veiling power of māyā, causes saṃsāra for an individual.
Externally, lack of discriminative knowledge covers the Brahman / mithyā difference. Therefore we mistake the mithyā universe for Reality and we look to the universe for security. Then we are disappointed and experience pain, which results in saṃsāra. The saṃsara caused by internal and external error will go with the ending of false transference of all the qualities of the satyam on the mithyā jagat and one’s dependence on the mithyā jagat ends. The pain of saṃsāra will go when you have can discriminate between Self and non-self and between Brahma and the universe.
How to see the difference between brahman and universe? The whole universe is Brahman – name and form + Brahman = universe. Like water + name and form ‘ocean’ = ocean. How to see that? We want to ‘realise’ Brahman, we want to experience Brahman: we can never experience pure Brahman without name and form. We are always experiencing Brahman with name and form. We can recognise Brahman without name and form as ātmā, not as the object of knowledge but as the subject of knowledge, as the knower. If you are experiencing the whole universe, you are experiencing Brahman with name and form, which means we only see name and form, we don’t see Brahman. We do not know how we are experiencing Brahman. This is explained in verse 20 of dṛg dṛśya viveka:
asti bhāti priyaṃ rūpaṃ nāma cety-aṃsa-pañcakam
ādya-trayam brahma-rūpaṃ jagad-rūpaṃ tato dvayam
Existence (sat), cognisability (cit), desirability (ānanda), form and name are the five-fold characteristic (of things). The first three are the nature of Brahman, the next two are the nature of the world. (18:50)
When you see any opaque object, when you know the name and the form of the object, when there is cognition of the object, what you are invariably seeing at the same time is the light because, if there is no light, the object cannot be experienced. You are able to experience the object because you are experiencing light. There are two entities – light and the object – experienced together. When we ask, ‘How many objects are here?’ we count the number of objects and always miss out the light, without which the very coming to light of the objects is not possible. This is not because you are not experiencing light, but because you do not give adequate attention to the light. In fact you do not pay attention to the light at all: you only count the opaque objects, but minus this one thing, the light, whatever is there it would be as good as nonexistent as it is dependent on the light.
What is an opaque object? It is name and form + light. Light minus opaque object is pure light. Light + opaque object is experience of opaque object. It is impossible to separate the object from the light as the opaque object is covered by, pervaded through and through, by light: physically you can’t separate them. Where do you do the separation? Mentally: it is a mental sum. This is what is called drawing the attention of the mind to the light that remains unnoticed. The Vedāntik teaching draws your attention to something that is known but not noticed. The whole universe is name and form + Brahman. In all experiences gross or subtle, waking or sleep or deep sleep, we are experiencing Brahman with name and form. Without Brahman, name and form cannot exist.
So how do we know how Brahman is? ….(To be continued)
All acknowledgement to my teacher Swamini Atmaprakashananda
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