8. Self is never in Bondage (Contd.):
Shankara is very categorical in his observation that “Very rare is the person who attains discriminating wisdom. The ignorant don’t follow the man of Wisdom, because of their attachments and evil passions which necessarily lead to action.” He regrets that such people resort to even black magic. He adds that “Therefore, samsAra is only based on avidyA and exists only for the ignorant man who sees the world as it appears to him. Neither avidyA nor its effect pertains to Kshetrajna, pure and simple.”
9. A Man of Erudition (paNDita) vs. A Scholar:
Shankara says that, not only many of the common people, even some of the scholars (Experts in shAstra-s) fail to understand the essential message of the scripture. Proud of their knowledge in the Vedic rituals, they think that they are the doers (with a strong sense of a “me”) and believe they will attain great merit (as “mine”) in this life-time so that they can reap the fruits of their meritorious actions in the next world. They perceive their body, life-force, senses, and mind, but are unable to grasp their innermost Self (pratyagAtmA) which is the actual witness to all that they perceive. If they are able to recognize their inner Self, they will easily cognize the Supreme Self (paramAtmA) that is present everywhere and in everything. They will come to realize that their inner Self is not different from the Supreme Self. As the Gita says,
विद्याविनयसम्पन्ने ब्राह्मणे गवि हस्तिनि |
शुनि चैव श्वपाके च पण्डिता: समदर्शिन: || — 5.18, Bhagavad-Gita.
[Meaning: The truly learned, with the eyes of divine knowledge, see with equal vision a brahmin, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater.]
Shankara explains at 2.11, Bhagavad-Gita that the word paNDita is derived from the root word “paNDa,” which means the Knowledge of the Self. A real paNDita, a man of erudition, is one who has developed a divine vision that sees only the Universal in everything. Such an individual would not care for the ephemeral results obtained through activities like yoga, rituals, worship etc. He will have no interest in such activities because a sense of “I am separate,” “I am the doer” lies behind them. A paNDita will not hoard things. He sees a seamless Oneness and all things as a manifestation (vibhUti) of his own Self.
In contrast to the paNDita, the scholar sees multiplicity in the One. Instead of grasping the Supreme Self as the Consciousness that permeates the entire universe at the micro- and the macro- levels, he holds everything as a ‘particular’ (viShesha) entity. Like a person who chases after castles in the air in vain, the ignorant one runs after particulars trying to find the Supreme Self. Only the one who realizes that there is no space in the entire universe where the Supreme Self doesn’t exist, stops running after particulars. He becomes still. That stillness is sahaja samAdhi. His entire being — body, mind and senses included — will be totally attuned to and in alignment with the Supreme Self. When his body/mind are still, he sees them as the Self, and when they move to perform bodily functions, he sees those movements as a manifestation of the Self. He feels that his Self is flowing from stillness to movement and from movement back to stillness.
Some people grieve that they are stuck in samsAra. They think they should perform spiritual practices, such as chanting (japa) and meditation (dhyAna) in order to appease the paramAtmA, the Supreme Self, who, they hope, pleased by their practices, will bestow upon them liberation. Such people not only deceive themselves, but they also deceive others. They put the Supreme Lord (Ishwara) on a pedestal at a distance from themselves. They conceive the Lord to have a specific form and to be present in a particular place. They do not see Him as the Supreme Self that permeates everything. Being ignorant themselves, they promote ignorance in others. Such people are heretics and must be ignored, says Shankara.
आत्महा स्वयं मूढः अन्यांश्च व्यामोहयति शास्त्रार्थसम्प्रदायरहितत्वात् , श्रुतहानिम् अश्रुतकल्पनां च कुर्वन् । तस्मात् असम्प्रदायवित् सर्वशास्त्रविदपि मूर्खवदेव उपेक्षणीयः ॥ — Shankara writes at 13.2, Bhagavad-Gita.
[Meaning: He is the slayer of the Self. Ignorant in himself, he confounds others, devoid as he is of the traditional key (sampradAya) to the teaching of the shAstra-s. Ignoring what is directly taught, he suggests what is not taught. Therefore, not being acquainted with the traditional interpretation, he is to be neglected as an ignorant man, though learned in all shAstra-s. (Translation: A. Mahadeva Sastri, 1923)]
10. Knowledge (vidyA) vs. Ignorance (avidyA):
vidyA and avidyA are like light and darkness. What appears as a snake in the dark is not a snake at all. It is just an illusion. Similarly, jIva is only an appearance, an illusion created by ignorance. Just like a house built in a dream that disappears upon waking up, the notion of a separate jIva disappears when the Knowledge of the Self arises. Like the waves and foam that merge into the sea and lose their separate existence, the separate self (jIva) and the separate world (jagat) must be melted into pure Existence and Consciousness by the practitioner (sAdhaka).
Karmas will produce corresponding results, but will not lead to Self-Knowledge. Like the water in the mirage that cannot wet the sun rays, actions performed in ignorance do not touch the Supreme Self in anyway. Shankara assures that since it is ignorance that propels the jIva to perform shAstra-vihita karma-s, it is ignorance (avidyA) that is the problem, and not the jIva. Only a scientific approach (inquiry) can lead one to Self-Knowledge and not ritualistic karma. Repeated shravaNa, manana, and nididhyAsana will culminate in the realization that “I am brahman.”
11. Ignorance is not in the jIva:
Shankara normally follows the technique of first describing things as commonly understood by people. He reveals the actual truth later on, establishing that the popularly held notions are false. The line of argument pursued thus far by him has been that the locus of ignorance is with the individual jIva. But now, he explains that to be not the case. He declares:
न ; ज्ञेयस्य क्षेत्रधर्मत्वात् , ज्ञातुः क्षेत्रज्ञस्य तत्कृतदोषानुपपत्तेः| यावत् किञ्चित् क्षेत्रज्ञस्य दोषजातम् अविद्यमानम् आसञ्जयसि, तस्य ज्ञेयत्वोपपत्तेः क्षेत्रधर्मत्वमेव, न क्षेत्रज्ञधर्मत्वम् । न च तेन क्षेत्रज्ञः दुष्यति, ज्ञेयेन ज्ञातुः संसर्गानुपपत्तेः । यदि हि संसर्गः स्यात् , ज्ञेयत्वमेव नोपपद्येत । यदि आत्मनः धर्मः अविद्यावत्त्वं दुःखित्वादि च कथं भोः प्रत्यक्षम् उपलभ्यते, कथं वा क्षेत्रज्ञधर्मः ॥ — Shankara bhAShya at 13.2, Bhagavad-Gita.
[Meaning: No! For, what is perceived is an attribute of kShetra (matter); and kShetrajna, the Cognizer, cannot be vitiated by the blemish due to it. To explain: whatever, blemish — not inhering in kShetrajna — you ascribe to Him, it comes under the cognized, and therefore forms a property of kShetra, and not a property of kShetrajna. Nor is kShetrajna affected by it, since such intimate association of the Cognizer and the cognized is impossible. If there should be such an association, then that blemish could not be cognized. That is to say, if misery and nescience were properties of the Self, how could they be objects of immediate perception? (Translation: A. Mahadeva Sastri, 1923)]
Therefore, Shankara holds that ignorance is in the object (anAtma) that is perceived and not in the subject (Atma) that perceives the object.
(To Continue …. Part – 6/8)