The shrutisAra samuddharaNam
An Overview by C.S.Baskaran
A rare and much less known secondary scripture shrutisAra samuddharaNam is a composition by Shri Totakacharya, one of the four disciples of Shri Adi Sankara Bhagavatpada. Though most of the secondary Scriptures are on the same subject of oneness of jIva and brahman, ideas basic to Advaita Vedanta, this work is unique in certain ways. Firstly, it is composed in a meter that is named after the AchArya as toTaka meter. These verses are melodious when sung with their breath-taking rhythm, they remind us of Sri Sankara’s famous bhaja govinda stotram. He elucidated the nature of Brahman as one and non-dual, real, knowledge and bliss through a number of scriptural texts. Secondly he does not refer to the mAyA concept that is important to Advaita Vedanta nor discuss the tenability of the reflection theory (bimba pratibimba vAda) nor the limitation theory (avachCheda vAda ). The reasons are the possibility of his explaining the oneness of inner self (jIva ) and supreme self ( brahman ) of Advaita Vedanta without resorting to those concepts. He later became the Pontiff of the Sankara Matt established by his Guru at Badari, North India. With the blessings of my Guru, I shall try to give a short overview of this text.
A person ( karma yogI ) having analyzed the Vedas well, gains vairagyam (dispassion) through nitya anitya vastu vichAra (investigation into the distinction between, eternal and transient) that leads to a commitment of sanyAsa. He then approaches and surrenders to a Guru who is a realized soul (Atma j~nAnI ) and has the skill to communicate the knowledge of the self. He pleads with him to teach the knowledge that frees one from the travails of saMsAra. What the Guru teaches forms the essence of the Scriptural teaching in the text.
A person wrongly identifies himself with the body, mind, and senses, and is not aware of the true nature of self. This erroneous notion is caused by the ignorance of the self, that is the cause of all evils (Shankara explains this elaborately in his brahmasUtra bhAShya ). This ignorance can be removed only by the knowledge of the self (Atman ), which is existence, consciousness and bliss ( sat, cit, and Ananda ). One has to remove the terrible attachment to the body, mind, and senses, and abide in the true nature of himself that is Brahman. It is necessary to cast off the impressions in the form “I am this and this is mine” etc. That is give up the attachment (abhimAna) of the five sheaths of food etc (pa~ncha kosha-s ) and ascertain constantly, “ I am brahman and not the body, mind, and intellect complex”. The first step in Vedanta is the indwelling self- Non self analysis and the second indwelling self -Brahman analysis.
The entire worldly transactions in anyone’s life is known through the mind and sense organs. All events at all times, all thoughts and emotions are known through them. At the same time one also knows that mind can recognize only one part at a time like the line by line reading of a text even though the whole book is seen by the eye, which means that the mind’s nature is to cognize every object sequentially. All these experiences, thoughts and emotions moving however fast is known as modifications (vikAram ). We also know that mind belongs to the subtle body that is formed of inert materials. Hence the mind being inert, how these experiences are known?. One is aware of all these experiences when one says “I am aware of it”, the “I” in that statement is the witness of these experiences (sAkSin/ Atman ) that is changeless. Everything is known simultaneously by the Atman like the sun illumining the world or the light in a hall where all the objects inside the hall is known. Also all the minds have a common status, are all known and perceived. Therefore a witness is required to observe the minds. The mind cannot know by itself and is made sentient in the presence of a conscious entity, the self. Hence the mind is different from the self-Atman. The basic Vedantic Principle is, 1) “I” the observer am different from everything that is observed. 2) All the observed attributes belong to the object and not to the observer.
Indwelling self – I analysis (Atman – aham vichAra) : Mental state is of two kinds. The state as “this” (idam vRRitti) and the state as “I” (aham vRRitti) are attributes of mind and not the self-consciousness/ Atman that illumines all the mental states. One experiences the image of the world mounted on the frame called mind. But due to false identification of the self it appears as though it is the property of the self. Indiscriminate persons ignorant of the self, take this “I am” thought as the property of the real Atman.
However this “I am” thought (aham vRRitti) is required for all worldly transactions, even for the knowledge of the self. If this “I” thought is not there which is capable of deluding people, then beings cannot experience the world. All the sensory experiences will become futile and meaningless in that case. This is proved in our day to day experiences in all the three states of waking, dream and deep sleep. A j~nAnI is aware of this and deals with the world as play. In the absence of “I” thought one cannot say: “I am aware of the emotions” and even a discussion on this very subject not possible. It is a matter of common experience that a person often resolves (saMkalpa) to find out what he would like to know and then directs the sense organs towards the sense objects. Even before that one is aware of the resolve with the mind as the object. Then use the mind as an observer, experience the external world! At the same time of resolve the “I” thought refers to the witness, consciousness-self. Therefore it is logical that “I” thought is the cause for entering into worldly transactions.
Is the Ego/ “I” thought/ ahaMkAra the distinctive mark of the Atman/self or of the intellect (inner organs) or both? The question arises since it is difficult to discriminate the ego from the self. Persons seeking self knowledge will have to work hard to ascertain the true nature of the self by discriminating it from various aspects of non- self through proper reasoning/ logic. The Atman/self is attribute-less, hence it cannot have a property of ego/ahaMkAra. If the ego/ahaMkAra is the property, then ahaMkara can never become an object of one’s experience and cannot exist separately from Atman. In that case Atman cannot objectify ahaMAkAra. There will be no subject-object relationship and there will be a need for another subject to objectify resulting in infinite regress, for there is neither a space wise distance nor a difference in nature. Therefore it is not a property of Atman. Moreover, one attribute cannot objectify another attribute of the same substance. For example in the case of fire, heat cannot burn the light or, vice versa, light cannot reveal heat. The fire never objectifies its attribute of heat which is located in itself with the help of its own attribute light.
A possible objection may arise based on the Vaisheshika Theory that the above law is faulty. For space is eternal, as its birth is never experienced, and has an attribute (sound) that is inert. This analogy cannot be drawn between self and space because Shruti-s many a time declare the creation of space (e.g. Taittiriya Upanishad II.1, Prashna Upanishad VI. Iv, Rig Veda X.90.14) and any creation as non-eternal, subject to modifications. Also there can never be a relationship between a part-less substance and parts of another substance. Therefore Atman, the indwelling self, cannot be combined with mind or, vice versa, mind with indwelling self.
Another suggestion that is refuted is that they may not have real parts but why not imaginary parts? A merely imagined substance is only illusory and cannot establish any true relation whatsoever with anything. Such a combination, even if imagined, does not affect the intrinsicality of part-less substance. The Upanishads declare that the nature of the supreme Self is non-dual and is the cause of the entire Universe including space. Therefore Brahman, the supreme self alone is real, and all other things unreal. Also, other than space there are no such examples in support of Vaisheshika theory. Hence the eternal indwelling self – Atman – cannot have an unreal, non-eternal quality. The ego/ahaMkAra cannot become an attribute of indwelling self because it is experience-able, inert, subject to modification, resolves in deep sleep etc. Therefore ego/ahaMkAra is anAtman/ non-self only.
(To be continued….)