‘sAdhana in Advaita’ – 3/6:

[Part – 2]

Our mind is accustomed to get the impression of an object which has a finite shape (form). It is easy for the mind to think of finite forms. But AtmA is formless. Further, if AtmA were to be located at a particular place, the mind can see in that direction to find the AtmA. But AtmA is everywhere. It exists in all directions, at all points; there is no specific locus for It. The mind cannot look for It in all directions at the same time. The doctrine also says that AtmA is not an object to be seen but is “my own real nature.” How do I see my own nature? Therefore, it feels like a big effort to get a thought that corresponds to the AtmA.

As a result, we find the practice (sAdhana) in Advaita to be difficult. However,  the very problems could be the cues which help us to have AtmAnubhava. We have from Bhagavad-Gita,

प्रत्यक्षावगमं धर्म्यं सुसुखं कर्तुमव्ययम्    —   9.2, Bhagavad-Gita.

[Meaning:  Immediately comprehensible, unopposed to dharma, very easy to perform, imperishable.]

Krishna says that the Self is seen directly and easily at every locus. We need to understand carefully the implication of this statement.

Our mind is accustomed to seeing concrete forms, so finds it difficult to perceive the formless. But the mind is also capable of noticing formless things. For example, we are able to see empty spaces outside; we see feelings like happiness, fear, courage etc. inside. To ‘see’ here means to be able to experience. We experience being ‘comfortable’ though ‘comfort’ does not have a form.

Or take, for example, the food served on a plate. Food has a form. We can see it and feel it. As we take it into the mouth and chew, we can experience its physical form. But once it goes into the stomach and is digested, it is not noticeable by the mind. It is assimilated and supplied to all the bodily parts in the form of ‘energy.’ The food which is a concretely visible matter has become invisible energy. Matter has a form and exists confined to a particular locus. Energy, on the other hand, does not have a form and can pervade everywhere. An electric bulb or a fan exists at a specific location, but the electrical energy is not confined to one location.

The Self is like supreme energy. It engulfs all energies within Itself. There is no locus where It is not. It “IS” in the ‘form’ of beingness (sat). Self is ‘Beingness.’ When we see an object, say, a chair, we refer to the matter instead of the primary ‘Beingness’ which is the very nature of the Self. We perceive the ‘Beingness’ in the form of the chair or whatever the object is.

No form can ever be present if ‘Beingness’ were not to be there to it. When we try to see the all-pervading “Self,” It appears in the form of objects in the external world and in the form of ‘thoughts’ within (us). The form of the external objects distracts us from noticing the ‘Beingness.’ We may say that the form effectively ‘hides’ in a sense the Beingness.  The movement related to the thought covers up the Self inside. The Self is veiled by ideas inside and by the objects outside.  Though the ideas and objects may obstruct the Self from our vision, they cannot in any way affect It. For example, a cloud will never be able to affect the Sun, though it may block the Sun from appearing. The clouds which are born in space and move within the space cannot alter or modify the space.

Similarly, the nAma and rUpa may cover the Self but cannot affect It. Hence the Self is available and can be experienced anywhere. But our mind, being busy with the thoughts and forms (ideas and objects), misses experiencing the Self.

One may take recourse to the methods of karma, bhakti and samAdhi (action, devotion and contemplative meditation) to inculcate discipline to the mind. Undoubtedly, those techniques can aid in training and sharpening the mind though they are not useful to grasp the Self. The Upanishad for instance says:

तदेव ब्रह्म त्वं विद्धि नेदं यदिदमुपासते   —  1.5 to 1.9, kena Upanishad.

[Meaning:  Know that alone as brahman and not this they worship here.]

The Self is that which is being spoken about, but not that which one worships. The shruti repeatedly exhorts us to follow shravaNa, manana and nididhyAsana (listening to or studying the scripture, reflecting on what is heard till the message is ingested without an iota of doubt, and then deeply contemplating on the Self for abidance).

We may also note that even though a cloud may veil the Sun, it cannot cover the Sun’s brilliance. Sometimes we observe the Sun rays piercing through the gaps in the clouds. The objects of the world and our relationships (like the spouse and family) may cover the Self. Animate and inanimate things, our bodies of different texture like gross and subtle, the Five Fundamental Elements (earth, water, fire etc.) etc. may conceal the Self because our vision gets focused on to the form instead of noticing the Self. Suppose a man is lying on the bed covering himself with a sheet. We may not be able to see the person, but the body contours and shapes of the limbs can still be deciphered. We must be similarly able to discern the Self piercing the veils.

All the objects or thoughts that cover the Self are particulars. Even the entire world is also a ‘particular’ object only covering up the Self. However, no object or thought can exist without the Universal being present at its core. The Universal is the Self, the factors contributing to the particulars are of the world. We have from dRig dRishya viveka,

अस्ति भाति प्रियं रूपं नाम चेत्यंशपञ्चकम् |

आद्यत्रयं ब्रह्मरूपं जगद्रूपं ततो द्वयम् ||  — 20,  dRig dRishya viveka.

[Meanng: Beingness, Shine, Attractiveness, name and form are the five components (of any object). The first three represent brahman and the last two pertain to the world.]

Consider four of the above five, leaving the ‘attractiveness’ for the present – Beingness and Shine (Knowingness); name and form. The form has covered up the Beingness (‘sat’) in the outside world and the thoughts covered up the Knowingness (cit) inside. My thoughts obstruct the vision of my Knowingness from myself. When I try to see the Knowingness which is ‘Me,’ It appears as the thoughts. Therefore, ‘I’ am in my thoughts as well as in my experiences, since I am completely identified with them. ‘I’ am exhausted within those appearances. As a result, the pure ‘Me’ is not available to be seen at all. ‘I’ always, appear in relation to an object or person – as my partner, my job, the society and so on. That relative appearance is the ‘ego’ (ahamkAra).

AtmA is ever present. Like the Sun’s brilliance which no cloud could block, the intrinsic ‘Knowingness’ shines forever unobstructed. Whatever is observed, it is perceived because of the primary Knowingness, the ‘spark’ of Knowing. But normally, we don’t stop with the spark of knowing (sphuraNa). Our mind runs to the ‘object’ of the spark, because the object is more solidly visible and the mind has a tendency to go towards the objects. The mind judges the object’s usefulness or otherwise for its own survival. Consequently, we are attracted to cognize the object, but miss to notice ‘That’ which is at its base. We see the superstructure and not the foundation. We miss the substrate on which the object stands.

मायावीव विजृम्भयत्यपि महायोगीव यः स्वेच्छया | —  verse 2, shri DakShiNAmUrti stotra.

[Meaning:  … by whose magic this was transformed (manifested) in various forms, by His own will similar to a yogi’s  …. ]

(To Continue ….  Part – 4/6)