The Non-dual message of the Advaita doctrine is so deceptively simple that one feels tempted to say “I got It,” though in reality s/he has not. Fortunately for us, various scriptures and authorities like Shankara offer a number of means to test ourselves on our progress on the Knowledge Path so that we do not foreclose our sAdhana (practice) too soon. All through this Series of posts, we have been trying to provide many hints and markers that may help a committed seeker in protecting himself/herself from deluding prematurely that s/he is “Self-realized or Enlightened.” It has been our endeavor to present reliable self-appraisal mechanisms based on authentic sources and we shall continue below with a few more easily doable means of verifying the state of our “Realization.”
Shankara does not mince his words when he says at both 1.4.7 and again at 1.4.10, brihadAraNyaka:
अविद्याशोकमोहभयादिदोषनिवृत्तेः प्रत्यक्षत्वादिति चोक्तः | — Shankara at 1.4.10, brihadAraNyaka.
Meaning: “We have said that (true) Knowledge produces palpable results, viz. the cessation of such evils as ignorance, grief, delusion and fear.” The so-called claimants of Enlightenment or Self-realization should ask themselves and introspect honestly within, if they have really transcended “ignorance, grief, delusion and fear.”
Shankara also makes it clear at 1.4.10 that it is the “result of past work which led to the formation of the present body” and also that “false notions do not arise in a man of realization, for, there is then no object for them.” His statement makes it very clear that “prArabdha” (the kArmic load that has already begun to show its effects) pertains to ‘the body’ only, and not to the Consciousness component of the individual (jIva).
Providing further clarity on the above point, he adds, “Whenever a false notion arises, it does so on account of a certain similarity of something to another, without ascertaining the particular nature of that thing, as when a mother-of-pearl is mistaken for a piece of silver. And this can no more happen to one who has ascertained the particular nature of that thing, for the source of all false notions (that cursory resemblance) has been destroyed; as they no more appear when a right perception of the mother-of-pearl, for instance, has taken place.”
Therefore, there is no scope for the continued appearance of a fake snake after Self-realization, and the attitude that “it’s all business as usual post-realization” cannot hold.
There is yet another line of query that may be useful for a quick check on the truth of our assimilation of the Non-dual message. Shankara writes at 4.3.20, brihadAraNyaka, that “when ignorance is eliminated and knowledge reaches its perfection, the state of identity with all, which is another name for liberation, is attained. That is to say, just as the self-effulgence of the Atman is directly perceived in the dream state, so is this result of Knowledge.” Thus the purity of the mind which has successfully shed its impurities like rAga and dweSha (attractions and aversions) gets reflected in the themes of the nightly dreams. In contrast, if the mind is still burdened with the limitation of being a separate self, the content of the dreams will be different. For example, Shankara says that “when a man has the false notion called ignorance based on past impressions, [he dreams] that some people – enemies or robbers – have come and are going to kill him.” Hence, one may profit himself by taking a look into the types of dreams one gets to know how much purity his mind has achieved and if his ‘ignorance’ has really decimated! 😊
In the Canto 17, Chapter 4: Sustenance, Yogavasishta, there is an interesting dialog between Rama and his teacher, Revered Sage Vasishta regarding the “Fructification of Thoughts.”
Rama: “Sukra was really great. He could follow an Apsarasa (Celestial damsel) right into the Heaven. He desired to enjoy the Heavenly comforts
and he did. He desired to rule over countries and he could. He could even perform austerities and liberate himself when he wanted that. Whatever he thought, that took place. Why is it that everyone’s desires do not fructify like that?”
Sage Vasishta: “Rama!
सर्वैषणानां संशान्तौ शुद्धचित्तस्य या स्थितिः । — 4.17.3, Yogavasishta.
Meaning: Pure mind is that where all desires have attenuated.
मनोनिर्मलसत्त्वात्म यद्भावयति यादृशम् ।
तत्तथाशु भवत्येव यथावर्तो भवेत्पयः ।। — 4.17.4, Yogavasishta.
Meaning: In whatever way such a pure mind conceives, that materializes like the vortices in a river.
This is also referred to as ‘The Power of Truthful Attainment of Thoughts’.”
Thus, a seeker’s mind, which is pure, (i.e., free from the limitations of ‘me-mine’) after a clear and complete understanding of the Advaitc message, will find any thought within it materializing immediately.
The chAndogya Upanishad makes even more astounding series of proclamations or exclamations in Chapter 8, Section 2 onward about “the power of the intention of a man who attained Self-realization… Nothing is impossible for that man.” It says:
स यदि पितृलोककामो भवति सङ्कल्पादेवास्य पितरः समुत्तिष्ठन्ति तेन पितृलोकेन सम्पन्नो महीयते ॥ — 8.2.1, chAndogya Upanishad
Meaning: If he (the Realized man) be desirous of the Region of the Fathers, by his mere will, his fathers come up to him; and having become successful in obtaining the Region of the Fathers, he feels happy and great. (Translation: Dr. G.N. Jha, 1942.)
Swami Krishnananda of the Divine Life Society explains how such a thing is possible in the following words:
“If he wants to see someone, say a forefather in the other world, he can see him at once. There is no such thing as ‘other world’ for that person who has realized the Atman. Just as this world is not, the other world also is not. There is only one thing, which is commensurate with his own Being. We can see our own fingers even though they are a little distant from our eyes, say two feet away. This distance does not prevent us from seeing them. Distance is ruled out here on account of the identity of the object with our own Self. The forefathers in the other heavens also can be seen at once the moment his will projects itself in that fashion.”
The Swami adds at the end of a long list of such wishes, at mantra 8.2.10, “It means to say that everything that we can think of,—relatives, friends, fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, good things, great things, pleasant things, objects of desire present in this world or in the other world—whatever they be, they do not take time to manifest themselves if the will is exercised in the proper manner. What is the proper manner? The will has to be in tune with the law of the Atman. This is the only condition. It must be a universal wish coming from every corner of the world enfolding within itself every object. Then there will be an instantaneous manifestation of all things to the satisfaction of the universal will of this Self-realized sage. Whatever be his wish, that shall take place, but his wish will not contradict universality, because the wish itself is universal.”
Shankara laments at the end of 8.3.2, chAndogya that so many of us miss the treasure that exists right under our feet. He writes in his commentary, answering a question he himself asks, ” But how can this unreasonable thing happen?” Shankara provides the answer:
“Just as the golden treasure buried underground, [is not known to the people], though they walk over the place, and the treasure can be easily discovered; In the same manner, all these creatures, who are beset with nescience (ignorance), though daily going to the brahman-Region, during deep sleep, know It not, i. e. they do not realize that ‘I have today become merged in the brahman; as they are carried away by the untrue, as described above; that is, they become drawn from their real forms by ignorance and other defects. Hence it is that this calamity befalls all creatures that though brahman is quite within their reach, they do not reach it.”
Those who are truly Self-realized will see brahman wherever they are and in whatever they may be doing, for, they have attained truly formlessness. Shankara says:
अशरीरता हि आत्मनः स्वरूपम् । — Shankara at 8.3.4, chAndogya.
Meaning: Disembodiedness is the intrinsic nature of Atman.
To be embodied is to have a limiting body (sharIra). A body not only gives a form, but it also conceals. Even space is then a body (a form) and it conceals the primordial sat-cit (Beingness-Knowingness). Formlessness implies not being restricted to any particular locus or, in other words, being all-pervasive. All-pervasiveness in turn implies absence of any scope for movement. When there is no movement, there is no opportunity for action to take place. In short, then formlessness means functionlessness. When form (rUpa) and function (kriya or vyAvahAra) are absent, any arising of a thought (nAma) will not happen. Then one will abide as the Infinite Bliss because that is Liberation (mokSha) – freedom from all nAma-rUpa-kriya.
ब्रह्मभावश्च मोक्षः । — Shankara at 1.1.4, sUtra bhAShya.
Meaning: Liberation is the state of identity with brahman.
आत्मा च ब्रह्म । — Shankara at 1.1.3, taittirIya.
Meaning: The Self is brahman.
आत्मा हि नाम स्वरूपम् । — Shankara at 1.1.6, BSB.
Meaning: Self is the same as one’s very essence.
The Series ends here.