Ignorance is Also Brahman

Rama:  Maharishi Vasishta!  Revered Teacher!  Kundadanta whom I met  on that day is here in this assembly.  He has been listening to your instructions for all these days.  That is why I have asked you if he has attained Self-Knowledge and if all his doubts have been clarified.

Sage Vasishta:  Where is the need for me to say anything?  Let us ask him directly.

(Addressing now Kundadanta):  What do you say, Kundadanta?  Could you understand the essence of Truth? Have you gained Self-Knowledge?  Have your doubts been cleared? 

Kundadanta:  Oh, Greatest of the Sages!  Maharishi!  My Salutations.  Yes, now I am totally free of doubt.  I have learnt what all has to be learnt.  I understood fully the nature of Consciousness.  I realize that even a tiny mustard seed can contain infinite universes within it.  I could also understand experientially that there are no worlds at all from an Absolute point of view.  I can see clearly that a question on how a large earth can fit into a small room has no locus.

What every creature experiences in the world is only The Supreme Brahman.  The ignorance they experience is also Brahman.  There is nothing whatsoever anywhere anytime beyond Supreme Brahman.  That is the last word!

Vasishta:  He is a Great Man Indeed!  Congratulations to you, Kundadanta!  

Kundadanta is in perfect peace having attained Self-Knowledge.  He perceives ignorance and the world thereof as none other than Brahman.  The Creation (Brahma or Brahman admixed with illusion) is not a contradiction to Pure Brahman.  It is so because even nescience is Brahman.  Brahman appears as the world owing to the past impressions of the individual (jIva).  Just because of this false appearance, duality cannot be the Truth.  The Supreme Brahman stays unaffected and immutable under all conditions.  It is thus obvious why the world has no beginning or end.

Rama:  We see that the dream world begins after the deep sleep and ends with wakeful state.  Logically therefore, the wakeful world too must have a beginning and an end.  Why do you deny this? 

Vasishta:  Who is it that establishes the beginning and an end to the dream world?  It is clearly the person who is in the wakeful state.  But the wakeful state is a part of the sleep state called ignorance.  We are now discussing the condition of the individual who has crossed ignorance.  There is no reality for deep sleep and wakefulness from his stance.  Hence they cannot be the limiting end points for the dream world.  In the same way from his position no beginning or end point can exist for the wakeful world.

As already enunciated by Kundadanta, there is, in fact, no difference between Brahman and ignorance.  Ignorance is similar to your sleep for the Supreme Brahman.  Sleep is not different from you.  So also ignorance is not different from Brahman.

Ignorance has the power of veiling and projecting from the stand point of an ignorant person.  Projecting power produces the mind.  The mind then becomes the limiting adjunct to the Supreme Brahman.

Examine closely your dream state.  There is an entity claiming to be the “I”.  He is one of the creatures in the dream.  He has a mind of his own.  He has a body.  But what or who constitutes all these?  It is none other than “you”.  But you call him to be an individual (jIva) based on the consciousness part of him.  You call his subtle limiting adjunct as mind and the gross liming adjunct as the body.  Depending on his other attributes, you christen him in the dream as God, demon, man etc.  But in truth, all those forms are you, yourself!  It is your mind that engenders so many forms.  It is your mind again that wakes you up and frees you from these forms!

Similarly, the wakeful state mind produced by ignorance shows the wakeful state world and the multitude of beings in it.  Once again it will be the mind only that receives the Knowledge of Truth, purges itself of the sleep called ignorance, eliminates the dreamlike wakeful world and grants you Nirvana.  No, ‘grant’ is an incorrect word.  That itself is Nirvana.

Rama: Revered Teacher!  What are the dimensions of the mind when it appears?  How long does the world survive in it?  

Vasishta:  It is not possible to define the dimensions of the mind.  It can assume any size from that of an atom to that of wide outer space.  Therefore, the Vedas declare: 

बालाग्रशतभागस्य शतधा कल्पितस्य च ।

भागो जीवः स विज्ञेयः स चानन्त्याय कल्पते ॥  —  swetA. upa. V-9 

vAlAgra shata bhAgasya shatadhA kalpitasya ca

bhAgo jIvaH sa vijneyaH sa cAnantyAya kalpate.

(Meaning:  If you make hundred parts of the tip of a thin strand of hair, and make a hundred parts of that one part again, that will be the size of a jIva.  But he can be of infinite size too).

The world will appear in the mind as long as ignorance persists. Anything perceived in the world, whether it is a dream, a boon, or a curse is a form of the Supreme Brahman because what the mind shows is only an illusory appearance.  There is, in fact, no difference between those multiple objects and Brahman.  The difference is as much as that which exists between a water drop and a puddle, a pond, a river or an ocean.

Rama:  Sir, I have a small doubt here.  Sometimes we see suddenly an effect arising out of the boons or curses.   For example King Nahusha was turned into a serpent by the curse of the Seven Sages.  How did the serpent generate?  We do not see any material cause like an egg behind it.  How does such an effect take place?  

Vasishta:  Rama!  We established that the world was nothing but the brilliance of the Pure Consciousness-Space.  The Vedas discussed the sudden appearance of the world in Consciousness-Space and described it in statements like “Sah akaamayata”, “tadaikshata” etc.  They called it as the desire of Hiranyagarbha, will, good thoughts, observation etc.  Whatever is conceived in those thoughts takes place.  Is there any material cause there?  Embedded within those concepts is an idea that the boons, curses etc. of some of the people should get fulfilled.  The boons and curses given by the Self-Knowing people, accomplished meditators and such others fructify accordingly. Hence they do not need any specific material cause.

That is the reason why I said that the boons, curses etc. are also a form of Pure Consciousness.  If you follow this logic, it is a waste of time to categorize things as inert and conscious or to talk of creation and dissolution.  No such differences will be visible if one understands the Truth wholly and completely.

[Note:  Here ends the Sarga 186.

Sage Vasishta begins to wind up his sermon after The Story of Kundadanta.  So he devotes four Sargas (186 to 189, both included) for a brief review of his theory.  He talks about the inexorable Law of nature (niyati) in this sum up and declares the law to be another form of the Supreme Brahman.  He holds that the Supreme Brahman forgets Its true form and assumes the form of a world.  He adds that the world lacks true beingness for this reason.  The origination and dissolution of the world are mere imagination, he avers.  When the subtle illusion becomes dense, it will take the appearance of the world.  He declares at the end:

भ्रान्तिरेवेदं अखिलम्

         ब्रह्मैवाभातमेव वा …।  —  Uttara sarga 189, shloka 20

bhrAntirevedaM akhilam

brhmaivAbhAtameva vA …

(Meaning:  The entire world is a phantasm.  Or the Supreme Brahman radiates as the world and its creatures).

The Sage established unequivocally that mentation is bondage and realization of the True Original form is liberation.  He emphasizes the point in the first sloka of the 190th Sarga with the following words:

ज्ञानस्य ज्ञेयतापत्तिः बन्ध इत्यभिधीयते

        तस्यैव ज्ञेयता शान्तिः मोक्ष इत्यभिधीयते    uttara sarga 190, shloka 1.

jnAnasya jneyatApattiH bandha ityabhidhIyate

tasyaiva jneyatA shAntiH moksha ityabhidhIyate.

(Meaning:  It is bondage if Knowledge becomes the knowable.  Liberation is attenuation of knowability.)….]

[ Adopted from Yogavaasishta, Part VI: Nirvana Book II, by Kuppa V. Krishna Murthy, (English Rendering: Dr. Vemuri Ramesam), Avadhoota Datta Peetham, Mysore 570025, India, 2013, pp: 356 ]

12 thoughts on “Ignorance is Also Brahman

  1. Dear Ramesam,

    “Mentation is bondage . . . liberation is attenuation of knowability”

    Compare to Sri Ramana in Guru Vachaka Kovai, v382:
    “Supreme jnanis who do not see any bondage other than the mental movements [chitta vrittis] that arise in profusion, also do not see any liberation other than a mind in which all chitta vrittis have died without leaving any trace.”

    Also, Ulladu Narpadu, v13:
    “The Self, the very form of Awareness, is the sole verity and nothing else is real. All else, the so-called ‘knowledge’ that appears as manifold, is but ignorance. This ignorance too, which is unreal having no existence of its own, is not other than the Self – the very form of Chaitanya – Consciousness. Know that this is just like the unreal ornaments of different shapes made of gold that cannot be other than the truth of gold – the real.”

  2. Thank you Venkat for the very apt observations.

    Yea, one often finds the reverberations of Yogavasishta in Ramana’s writings. Swami Vidyaranya also frequently quotes from Yogavasishta in many of his works. But have you noticed that these stalwarts usually refer, for some reason, to the shorter version (laghu yogavasishta) of the9th – 10th CE period rather than the brihat version? It could be because either the shorter version is more easily accessible to the general public or, as some scholars think, the bigger version is dated to a later period which, perhaps, is a mistake. Whatever it maybe, IMHO, a sincere seeker never fails to ingest the core message of Advaita by the time he/she completes a study of the original larger text — may be because of the recursive and repetitive style in its presentation, illustrative stories, convincing metaphors etc.


  3. I have a copy of Sw Venkatesananda’s translation, which to be honest, I found hard going since you need to work your way through the various stories in order to get the nuggets. Perhaps that is the result of my impatience – wanting to get to the bottom line quicker.

    Have you come across “The Vision & the way of Vasishta” by Atreya? This brings out the key philosophical verses in a thematic way.

    I am enjoying “Musings on Yogavaasistha”, as the guiding commentary helps clarify the context of the stories. Thank you for pointing at this.

    Best wishes

  4. I think we must always keep in mind that both teachings and commentaries supposedly come from those who were/are firmly established in Truth. For the serious enquirer, this can become a mine-field of distraction since there are many ways of explaining the way things are. The teachings are given from a point of view where mind is not. For those who take up this enquiry, as pointed out by sages like Ramana and Nisargadatta, one must keep the attention on this sense of I, self, to the exclusion of the content of mind. This habit of constant conceptualization is antithetical to these teachings. Nothing can be gained by engaging the conceptual mind. The whole idea of ‘gaining’ begins to dissolve in this contemplation along with the idea of there being a separate entity. Mind can never understand these teachings from their experiential point of view. It is the absence of mind which allows the radiation of ‘what is’ to shine and clarify.

    I draw your attention to Venkat’s most excellent quote and what true practice really is from:
    Bhagavan’s Aksharamanamalai poem, v.44 and Murugunar’s commentary on it (from Robert Butler’s translation):

    Paraphrase of v.44

    ‘Turning towards the Heart and away from external phenomena through detachment (vairagya), ceaselessly and one-pointedly examine and know the Self through the self, with the inward-turned vision which is of the form of the enquiry “Who am I? ” Then shall you (yourself) clearly know (as your very own nature , the truth of the words ,“You yourself, You alone, are the essence of the Real .”).’ Thus did you instruct me, [Arunachala! ] What a wonder is this!

    Murugunar’s Commentary

    akam tirumpal – turning within means ceasing to pay attention to external objects. The elimination of thoughts [about them] in the mind is also implied here. Through observing oneself with the inner eye, the veil of illusion is destroyed and the perception (darśana) of the knowledge of the Real arises. When we speak of ‘the self’ as the scope (viṣaya) of enquiry, we are referring only to the jiva , which is of the form of the ego, not to the Self, the true nature of the ‘I’. How so? Because the suffering of birth, which arises from ignorance, and the consequent need for enquiry as a means to remove that suffering, appertain to the jiva only, which is bound by delusion and bewildered, not to the supreme Self, which is eternally present, pure, aware and free, and because that Self can never, in any way, shape or form whatsoever, be (or become) the object of the jiva’s practice of enquiry, except in the sense that when the ego, which is the obstacle to the realisation of the Self (ātma-sākṣātkāra), is destroyed through the means of enquiry, that Self will remain simply as the jiva’s own Self, and will be known and experienced by it as the nature of That (tanmaya) through [abidance in] perfect peace (śānta vṛtti). Since the world with its cycles of birth and death (saṁsāra) does not actually exist in the supreme Reality, but arises through a lack of awareness (pramāda), which is the true death, unremitting enquiry is indispensable until such time as the ego-knot, which lies at the root of it, is permanently severed. Therefore Arunachala through his grace instructed, ‘Constantly observe [the “I”] with the inner eye.’ [The meaning of] akamukam – inward turned [is] ‘to establish the mind in the Heart, its source, without letting it stray amongst external phenomena.’

  5. I just came across a discussion on the yahoo advaita forum, and this posting by Srt S N Sastri, which also points to fact that Truth can only arise in an empty, non-conceptualising mind:

    “Below is the extract from Jivanmuktiviveka

    The mahAvAkya gives rise to Self-knowledge by making the mind take the ‘form’ of brahman. This is known as akhaNDAkAra vRitti. The question arises– since brahman has no form, what is meant by saying that the mind takes the form of brahman? This is explained by SvAmi VidyAraNya in Jivanmuktiviveka, chapter 3 by taking an example. (In the first place, the word ‘AkAra’ in these contexts should be taken as meaning ‘nature’. Otherwise the terms ‘the form of pleasure, pain’, etc., will also be illogical). A pot made of clay is full of the all-pervading space as soon as it is made. Filling it afterwards with water, rice or any other substance is due to human effort. Though the water, etc, in the pot can be removed, the space inside can never be removed. It continues to be there even if the mouth of the pot is hermetically sealed. In the same manner, the mind, in the act of being born, comes into existence full of the consciousness of the Self. It takes on, after its birth, due to the influence of virtue and vice, the form of pots, cloths, colour, taste, pleasure, pain, and other transformations, just like melted copper cast into moulds. Of these, the transformations such as colour, taste and the like, which are not-Self, can be removed from the mind, but the form of the Self, which does not depend on any external cause, cannot be removed at all. Thus, when all other ideas are removed from the mind, the Self is realized without any impediment. It has been said-“One should cause the mind which, by its very nature, is ever prone to assume either of the two forms of the Self and the not-Self, to throw into the background the perception of the not-Self, by taking on the form of the Self alone”. And also—“The mind takes on the form of pleasure, pain and the like, because of the influence of virtue and vice, whereas the form of the mind, in its native aspect, is not conditioned by any extraneous cause. To the mind devoid of all transformations is revealed the supreme Bliss”. Thus, when the mind is emptied of all other thoughts Self-knowledge arises.”

  6. Would you consider line to be a form?… It is something between a form and no form, not quite one or the other? Line can be used to draw a form..
    This line, the midline of every body is the doorway to mystery we just overlook and never ever mention.
    And line is implied, like what you have in case of your body: there are obviously two parts, identically looking, left and right and an imaginary axis coinciding with the spine.
    We look at it with mundane anatomical perspective and leave it at that. This is a gross miscarriage of inquiry.
    So this midline of the body -is it the connector or a separator of these left and right parts of the body we see when we look straight at our reflection?
    This axis appears as protrusions(nose) and indentations and lines, then as spine and separation line down below at the level of buttocks, etc. And if we drew it starting from any point of its position between two identical parts reflecting each other-we will find out that it is one unending line that connects with itself without deviation.
    Body symmetry is one prominent feature in all bodies in Nature.
    If there is some sort of delayed development in neurology, impediment of some sort symmetry gets distorted, deformed body appears. In the milieu of perfect symmetry and nothing else if something is indented here, symmetry will reassert itself by protruding over there, as it is not empty hollow symmetry, it is filled in. It is solid. Whatever is taken away is added immediately somewhere else. But we don’t see it yet. We don’t witness it going on.
    Because we are a local equipment with certain neurology that is NOT being attentively developed( and developing neurological system is not the same as sharpening intellect)in majority of cases we do not have an opportunity to see this process of how the balance of non-created dreamworld we are in is maintained. And BECAUSE evolution of neurology has to first take place in the individual -and by evolution of neurology I mean when neurology overcomes limitation of subjective experience, which is equivalent to self-realization-until that point no microscope and no telescope is of help. If the brain only has gotten to a certain level of just intellectual material development, it still is possessed by a vacillating limited neurology of a subject, and it is not going to be able to see perfect absolute symmetry asserting itself everywhere.
    In fact this moment when mind stops vibrating with vritties and subject’s mental contractions and contradictions dissolve and he/she becomes transparent-there comes in changed feel of all the objects and happenings around, they come live in their own way, subtle way and it then dawnes on someone that it is the object that is prominent, and not the subject, and the midline of body is right on the meridian equally parting all things into “left” and “right”, that is is a “para” creation we are in.
    With vritties gone, subject gone, body finds itself sharing same line of symmetry with objects around it, with happenings around it, with words and any other aspect we can imagine-constituting nothing but perfect symmetry.
    And if this symmetry goes undetected at the moment-and we perceive “randomness” in our little corner of observation -it is just like the middle line on the body-in some parts it is not seen but is implied.
    The perception belongs to the supreme object. Subject fulfills its potential by self-dissolution, after which it is seen that there is only object. This is the immovable and all pervading thing that lets out stumbling subject into a dream worlds through a line of particular thinking. And it is the same line to be used to climb back. One line connects all.
    Subject gets created and dissolves, but only object remains. When neurology advances to a point of dissolution of vritties object may decide to reveal itself in its symmetrical ways, using living body as conductor-body that poses no more obstacle that is-either mental, emotional, intellectual or neurological barrier to symmetry that is always there. If body is a good transmitter-there is a possibility that symmetry becomes visible, coming to surface frequently like a whale from deep waters, and the statement of non-creation declared by Advaita proves itself thus. The only difference that I see is that it is the object that is prominent, and not a subject.

    • Thank you Stanzas8 for the observations.

      It is clear that you are speaking from a transparency that is rarely realized. You put it well, when you say:

      “The perception belongs to the supreme object. Subject fulfills its potential by self-dissolution, after which it is seen that there is only object.”

      “Subject gets created and dissolves, but only object remains.”

      ” If body is a good transmitter-there is a possibility that symmetry becomes visible, coming to surface frequently like a whale from deep waters, and the statement of non-creation declared by Advaita proves itself thus. The only difference that I see is that it is the object that is prominent, and not a subject.”

      The only thing I may say is that, from the angle of the usual conventional way of expression, you seem to have reversed the words “subject” and “object” in your usage above. We generally mean by the word “subject” the unchanging Oneness or the ultimate Consciousness and “objects” are the changing things that are perceived. Anyway, what does it matter what pointers are used, if one is able to look towards what is being pointed to?!


      • Thank you, Ramesam!

        yes, I see it in reverse!
        objects everywhere just stand, sit and lay around, and it is subjects who are chasing and trying to possess and revolve around these objects. If it was not for object, then subject would have decidedly no business to appear at all. What would subject do with himself here if he was not chasing objects? We call them objects of desire.
        Even when subject “falls in love” this means that one of the partners assumed a quality of an object to appear more desirable to another-this is seen everywhere. If both are being subjects or both are being objects it makes it impossible to come together as a couple even. Upon closer look all couples will reveal the same object/subject dynamic when one who is the subject is pursuing another who is playing an object, at least in the initial stages. Mind makes these “games” more severe than it is seen in animals.
        After they have been together for a while the roles sometimes reverse. Or one of them may find other “better” object(s) to pursue. Also it is a possibility one of them that is playing an object may get tired of being adored and will reverse back into a subject to go pursue others as objects, etc. The point is subject always and everywhere appears to act and look overreaching towards an object , whereas all objects, down to broken pencil look serene and not in need or expectation of anything. Broken pencil looks hips more independent to me than a man. We may say immediately that they are “dead”, but I would disagree: they are more subtle in their animation and they don’t need prana.
        The whole flow of a subject is towards an object, then maybe it is so because the “ocean” we say is consciousness is divine object.
        Even “job” or “career” is a game for us of becoming an object. Subject just tries to bridge this gap of subject-object always, he is equipped with brain, intellect, mind to try and do it; when he realizes that there is no bridging the gap for him subject disappears and object only remains.
        Object does not mind or care to be put together or torn apart-it accepts everything, it does not vibrate, vacillate, emits fear, etc. This and many other features point to me that it is the object that creates a subject.

  7. From a conversation with UG:

    UG: It appears silly to me to talk on the observer and the observed—too elementary. That is not the way it is. The object is the subject; the object is not separate from the subject.

    Subbarao:The subject-object relationship is not there.

    UG:There is no relationship at all.

    Subbarao: But can it come afterwards?

    UG: They come afterwards, when there is a need. If somebody asks me, ‘What time is it?’, it comes immediately, it is there for me. So the object is the subject.

    There is no difference. The perceived is the perceiver at that particular moment. I am looking at that and that is the subject there. So if I turn this way, you are me. You are the subject for me, and again when I look at it, that is the subject for me.

    Questioner: You mean to say that the subject is a void in you that is filled up totally by……………

    UG: The object

    Questioner: Any object that you see becomes a subject filling this void.

    UG: Yes. All objects—whatever I am looking at, at that particular moment. It is the complete opposite of what that chap is talking.

    ME: That chap seems to be J. Krishnamurti that he is referring to. This is all part of UG’s description of what happens when one is in ‘the natural state’, a physiological change in body/mind that does not allow for the sense of division (duality) that normally appears ‘I’ and ‘other’.

  8. The Doctrine of ‘Changeless change’ (vivarta vAda) explains the basic stance of Advaita as “Nothing has ever happened’ meaning thereby that “no real subject – object differentiation has ever happened.” The appearance of multiple objects (the seen – Seer difference) is compared to the appearance of pot-space in open Infinite Space (called “The Delimitation theory”) or the one Sun getting reflected in many puddles (“The Reflection theory).

    munDaka upanishad compares the individual subject to an arrow and the “object” to be hit to the target. The ‘Realization” comes with the union of the arrow and the target.

    प्रणवो धनुः शरो ह्यात्मा ब्रह्म तल्लक्ष्यमुच्यते । 
    अप्रमत्तेन वेद्धव्यं शरवत्तन्मयो भवेत् ॥
    muNDaka II-ii-4

    Om is the bow; the individual is the arrow; and Brahman is called its target. It is to be hit by an unerring man. One should become one with It just like an arrow.”

    Vide the Slide # 51 in “dhyAna and samAdhi” (download) at: http://www.advaita.org.uk/discourses/downloads/dhyAna_samAdhi.pdf

    samAdhi is the internalization by the mind of the Truth (Knowledge)
    that the observer (drasTa) and the observed (drisya) are non-different.

    No sooner than this Truth is realized, the mind becomes tranquil within the Self. Such tranquility is possible only for one who discarded the desires. This Knowledge comes naturally to him.
    — YogavAsisShta, Ch: VI, Book II, sarga 45. Verse 38″

    Slide # 55 shows how Ramana expresses:

    “(From: Mahayoga by Who)
    There are two types – kevala and sahaja [samAdhi-s]
    He that has won the Natural state is the true Sage.
    He is free once for all, and cannot be bound again.
    Difference between sahaja and kevala:
    sahaja is like a river that has joined the Ocean – cannot come back again.
    kevala is like a bucket immersed into a water well.
    It can be hauled up again by the rope (mind).
    The mind of the yogi can get pulled back into the world.”


    • Thank you Ramesam for this state of the art explanation above.
      I shall read and watch with much interest the sources you referring to.

      And to anonymous graciously reminding us UG’s subject/object statements that come straight from real experience in the body is very instrumental.

      Subject/object share one contour. When we speak of subject we tend to automatically assign to ourselves being a subject and to everything else being an object surrounding us. But the non-difference implies we are as much an object as a house or a chair is, and the bucket is as much a subject as you and I. Who or what is the filler and who or what is fulfilled?
      The non-difference goes both ways.
      We think that because we have eyes, voice,body etc we are “alive” more than a chair is. I say us and a chair are on different animation level apparently, but the contour line is one; just cannot be split.

      • “The non-difference goes both ways.
        We think that because we have eyes, voice,body etc we are “alive” more than a chair is. I say us and a chair are on different animation level apparently, but the contour line is one; just cannot be split.”

        Very well said, Stanzas8, thank you very much.
        What you speak is the wisdom of true Non-dual (Advaita) understanding. Rare is one who knows that “everything that IS is brahman.”
        My humble Salutations.


Comments are closed.