We have from Bhagavad-Gita:
ब्रह्मार्पणं ब्रह्म हविर्ब्रह्माग्नौ ब्रह्मणा हुतम् ।
ब्रह्मैव तेन गन्तव्यं ब्रह्मकर्मसमाधिना ॥ — 4.24, Bhagavad-Gita.
Meaning: brahman is the offering, brahman the oblation; by brahman is the oblation poured into the fire of brahman; brahman verily shall be reached by him who always sees brahman in action.
Some people who delude themselves to be Self-realized cite the above verse and argue that they see each and every object to be brahman. It is blatantly an inadmissible argument because it would imply that the indivisible brahman has divided Itself into multiple bits and pieces.
The shruti is very categorical when it tells us:
एकधैवानुद्रष्टव्यमेतदप्रमयं ध्रुवम् । — 4.4.20, brihadAraNyaka:
Meaning: It should be realized in one form only, (for) It is unknowable and eternal.
Shankara comments at the above mantra: “Since It is such, It should be realized in one form only, viz. as homogeneous Pure Intelligence, without any break in it, like the space; for It, this brahman, is unknowable, owing to the unity of everything (in brahman).”
Further down, a little later, Shankara observes: “The knowledge of brahman too means only the cessation of the identification with extraneous things (such as the body). … The scriptures do not enjoin that identity with brahman should be established, but that the false identification with things other than That should stop. When the identification with other things is gone, that identity with one’s own Self which is natural, becomes isolated; this is expressed by the statement that the Self is known. In Itself It is unknowable – not comprehended through any means.”
Shankara in his long commentary at 4.24, BGB writes: “For him who has realized the supreme Reality, the instrument of offering and other accessories connected with the actual sacrifice are nothing but brahman, who is one with his own Self.” The important point is that the “Realized” one will not distinguish the offering, the ladle, the fire etc. and see them to be separate from himself.
If one examines the two preceding verses, i.e., at 4.22 and 4.23, one will know the characteristics of a “Realized” individual. The verses state:
“Satisfied with what comes to him by chance, rising above the pairs of opposites, free from envy, equanimous in success and failure, though acting he is not bound.” — 4.22, BG.
Of the man whose attachment is gone, who is liberated, whose mind is established in knowledge, who acts for the sake of sacrifice, his whole action melts a way.” — 4.23, BG.
Shankara writes at 4.22, BGB, giving no scope for confusion and guess about the actions of a Self-realized individual. He says:
“[B]egging or doing. any thing else for the bare existence of the body, thus realizing the non-agency of the Self, he really does no act at all, not even the act of begging. But as he appears to act like the generality of mankind, agency is imputed to him by people, and so far he is the agent in the act of begging and the like. From his own point of view, however, as based on the teaching of the scriptures which are the source of right knowledge, he is no agent at all.” It is NOT an action by him.”
Explaining the import of the mantra at 8.12.3, chAndogya, Swami Krishnananda writes very elaborately about the perception and actions of a Self-realized individual. He says:
“With our present state of (our) mind it is not possible to understand what the perception of Jivanmukta could be. We can only have comparisons,
illustrations and analogies. But what actually it is, it is not possible for us to understand. Some of us may be under the impression that he sees God, and does not see the world. This is the usual way of giving an opinion about the experiences of a Jivanmukta.
There is no such thing as seeing God and not seeing the world. Such differences, such contrasts do not find a place in a vision which sees what Truth is. There is a lot of controversy among the different schools of thought as to whether the world is seen by the Jivanmukta or not.
It all depends upon what is meant by the word ‘world’. He sees the world! Yes. Or he does not see the world. Both statements are correct. He sees the world as it really is, and he does not see the world as it appears to the senses which are distorted in their structure. Our relative values should not be carried to this realm of universal perfection. It would be unbecoming on our part to appraise the experiences of a Jivanmukta in the scales of our understanding.
There is no world even now and the question of seeing the world, or not seeing the world, does not actually arise. Whatever is there now, will be there even afterwards. Just because someone has changed his mind, the world is not going to be different. But his mind has undergone discipline to such an extent, and has changed and transformed in itself, that it will see the world in the way it has to be seen. The Upanishads are never tired of telling us that the correct way of perception is to perceive the Self in things and not to see the form in them. This is exactly what the Jivanmukta sees. To see the Self in a thing is not to see the thing or the object as such. Even these analogies are inadequate. We cannot understand as to what it is to see the Self in a thing.
Again we will be interpreting the Self as something outside us, to be seen with the eye of spiritual perception. It is nothing of the kind. With this cautious background we have to try to understand these very short portrayals of the grandeur of the Jivanmuktas given in these passages of the Upanishad. He may do exactly what you do and what I do. There is no difference in his conduct. He may speak the same language and he may eat the same food. Yet, he is not eating and he is not speaking. This is a difficult thing to understand, because these particular activities and particular modes of experience are generalized and universalized in his case, so that they no longer become obstacles to his unique experience. They become obstacles only when they are wrested out of their universal context and made one’s own, my own, your own, or made to stand on its own legs, independently of others.
Jivanmukta’s actions are not individual actions, but universal movements. And he does not think as I think or you think. His is just a thought which includes every thought. It is the general substance of every kind of mind and thought. So when the Upanishad says that he speaks, he laughs, he moves about and he enjoys, it does so from our point of view only. The question of enjoying or speaking or moving about does not arise for that which has no particularized consciousness, either of space, time, or movement. In the vision of other people, he will be practically speaking just like anyone else. You cannot identify a Jivanmukta by observing him. He will look like yourself only. But there will be a tremendous difference inside.”
(To Continue … Part – 5)