[Part – 3]
If the world is the superstructure, like what is seen in a magic show, the Magician is the Knower, the Substratum! A seeker on the Knowledge Path pierces through the multiple layers of the superstructure to discover the base. He finds what is at the core. He knows that the ‘Universal’ has to be present wherever a ‘particular’ manifests. For example, if there is a bubble or foam or spray or a wave, he knows that water is the substance inside them all. Even an eddy can “be,” only if there is water.
The Advaitic seeker, hence, goes behind the apparent form to find the ‘Reality.’ He is aware that the world is merely an appearance of The Supreme Self and that the Universal and the particular exist woven together as the warp and the weft. Therefore, he understands that there is no occasion to be overwhelmed by the ‘appearance.’
The world appears to be scary and troublesome because we transact with the particulars. We look at the objects and relationships, imputing differences to them. Friends are different from family; spouse is different from the kids; and so on. We see the particulars as per the ideas in our mind.
The sum of all engagements and transactions among the different particulars constitutes the samsAra (the world). Freedom from samsAra does not lie in karma, ritual, worship, yoga etc. They are all more of the same – particulars. It is useless to run to forests to escape from the world; nor is it necessary to hide in seclusion. Renunciation which is no more than a change in appearance does not also offer a remedy from samsAra.
The remedy from samsAra lies in true renunciation. It has to happen in the mind. Bhagavad-Gita does not ask for physical renunciation – changing to ocher robes or shaving off the head. It repeatedly teaches:
सर्वकर्माणि मनसा संन्यस्यास्ते सुखं वशी । — 5.13
[Meaning: Renouncing all actions by thought, and Self-controlled, …]
मयि सर्वाणि कर्माणि संन्यस्याध्यात्मचेतसा । — 3.30
[Meaning: Renouncing all action in Me, with your thoughts resting in the Self …]
स निश्चयेन योक्तव्यो योगोऽनिर्विण्णचेतसा ॥ — 6.23
[Meaning: That Yoga must be practiced with determination and without being dejected in the heart.]
चेतसा सर्वकर्माणि मयि संन्यस्य मत्परः । — 18.57
[Meaning: Mentally resigning all deeds to Me, regarding Me as the Supreme, …]
The Gita tells us again and again that the renunciation has to be at the level of the mind and intellect (buddhi). Just changing the physical appearance or deserting the home does not lead one anywhere. Shankara called the routine renunciations as Ashrama renunciations. Renunciation at the level of the mind is called by him as the Supreme samnyAsa.
यं सर्वकर्मतत्फलपरित्यागलक्षणं परमार्थसंन्यासं संन्यासम् इति प्राहुः | — Shankara’s commentary at 6.2, BG.
[Meaning: The paramArtha renunciation is that which consists in the abandonment of all action as well as its fruit.]
Hence the true renunciation comprises giving up that which covers the Self. How should we go about it is answered below.
We are habituated to look at all things from the stance of particulars. The mind is the seer of the particulars. The particular that is seen is the matter. As long as our thoughts are particular and specific, the world that is seen will also be particular and specific. In order to see the world as the Self, we have to change our stance to that of Universal.
The Self appears as the world from the stance of the particular. If we change our vision to the stance of the Universal, the world will appear as the Self. We do not have to specially search for the Universal stance because wherever the particular exists, right there is the Universal.
Wherever we have pots, pans, cups, plates etc. made of clay, there necessarily is ‘clay’. But we pay attention to the form and function. We don’t see the substance clay. That is the crux of the problem. The form and function overshadow the substance. Consequently, we fail to notice the substance.
We do not require any practice or effort to see the pot or the pan or the other forms and the function that goes with each shape. The form is useful for our transaction – we can get water with the pot or heat things in the pan. The substance clay by itself cannot be put to use in the transaction. We have a vested interest in the transaction. Hence, we are unable to give up our attachment to the form. Our spouse, our kids, family, assets, properties, expertise are ‘forms’ similar to the pots and pans. We stay attached to them because of their functional value. All of this is in way of illustration. Let us extend this analysis to that which is actually being talked about.
True relinquishment is to abandon the thought associated with the form. This ‘giving up’ has to happen in the mind. It demands that we have to keep our sight focused only on the Universal (the substrate / substance) and not the form. That is the supreme practice we have to get into. Instead of mentally abandoning what has to be abandoned, some people desert their house, family and responsibilities and take up renunciation in an Ashram.
One does not need to run away from the house or family nor should we be attached to them. What we have to drop is the ‘particular’ component in them. We should be focused only on the Universal component within them. Know the Universal component, sat and cit, in all. Realize that the Beingness appears as different forms. Then our mind begins to notice the Beingness. One can still see the particulars also once this clear understanding firms up.
If one notices only the particulars without being aware of the Universal, what appears will be the samsAra. samsAra binds us. We will be continuously seeing the forms alone and get entrapped in our dealings with them. We have to learn to notice the Universal. One need not be overanxious or overambitious to do so. It has to be cultivated slowly.
For example, we may consider the Universal to be space-like, spread all over, permeating all. With that understanding, we may practice seeing the stars, the moon, the earth, various countries on the earth as wide spread space. Each and every one of them may be seen as a form of space. We should learn to view in the same way the cities, houses, traffic and even the body. Once we see that all are space-like and are in space, we will obtain the Knowledge of the space. It is called as the “Knowledge of the Substratum.”
We know the Substratum, but we have forgotten It. Remembering It back again is called ‘pratyabhijna’ (recognition). When we start looking at things from the position of pratyabhijna, we see the expansive space being present inside as well as outside. Our thoughts will arise from the stance of the Beingness, the Knowledge of the Substratum (jnAnastithi). The life-force, the body, the mind, the senses etc. will appear to be the reflections in the ‘thoughts’ arising out of the Knowledge of the Substratum. When the particulars are viewed while holding on to the position of Beingness, the particulars will begin to fade out.
For example, the illumination from the lamp is falling on every one of us in this room. We are all effectively immersed in the light of the lamp. What is appearing to us is the light of the lamp everywhere and not the individuals. Likewise, when we look at the spouse, family, children, properties, attachments from the stance of Beingness, all these particulars fade out. We notice Beingness in everyone and everything. It is the way to end the gauNAtmA.
Knowingness illuminates the thoughts and concepts inside. Viewed from the stance of Knowingness, all the thoughts and concepts of a ‘me’ fade out. With that ends the ‘mithyAtmA.’
[mithyAtmA is the sense of ‘me-ness.’ gauNAtmA is the sense of ‘mine-ness.’ These terms predate Shankara. They appear in the shloka-s quoted by Shankara himself at the end of his commentary on 1.1.4, brahmasutrA-s.]
The name given to the ‘dissolution’ of both the mithyAtmA and gauNAtmA is “pravilApana” (melting). [Shankara uses this term, for example, at 1.3.14, kaTha when he writes: एवं पुरुषे आत्मनि सर्वं प्रविलाप्य नामरूपकर्मत्रयं … meaning “Having thus melted (pravilApya) into the puruSha, the Atman, all the three, i.e. name, form and karma, …]
(To Continue …. Part – 5/6)