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A new Advaita forum has been opened exclusively to discuss Advaita Vedanta in terms of questions and answers. The purpose of the discussion is to arrive at clear understanding of Advaita using scriptures as pramaaNa or means of knowledge.  From time to time questions will be raised and answered to stimulate the discussion. In addition, some on going talks will be posted for listening and for contemplation.

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Hari Om!

Sadananda

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: Who am I inquiry: Surrender of the ego...by Acharya Sadanandaji  ( 2639 )
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« : December 29, 2009, 07:09:51 PM »

by Acharya Sadanandaji

Who am I inquiry

tat tvam asi - VI (Part 1 of 2)


Here is the perspective based on the scriptural understanding. We have to be clear about the nature of the self and the nature of the world and the nature of the self-realization without any confusion in the terms and the approach.  Two major problems arise by not having the correct understanding; one common error is getting confused between paaramaarthika and vyaavahaarika (i.e. essentially put one leg there and one leg here), and the second more pervasive error is habitual mental objectification of the self in the very realization process.  The root cause of the problem stems predominately by not having the teaching from a teacher, who himself trained from a proper teacher - essentially a teacher that has sampradaaya or traditional teaching to back him-up. The reason for traditional teaching is obvious since every possible pit fall has been worked out and every conceivable doubt has been raised and answered methodically.  Possible objections (puurvapaksha) and how to address those correctly (siddhaanta) are provided traditionally not for intellectual arguments but for establishing clarity in understanding. That is why scripture itself insists in having a proper teacher. In the same token we need to understand clearly that this list serve is not a meant for learning or replacement of a teacher, but the list serve can provide a very good means for discussion for the clarification of the concepts, that is for mananam, provided it is used effectively. The discussion is not a debate but a means for clarification only. We cannot decide the truth by debate, but only recognize by knowledge and conviction.  

The following topic keeps coming: Is scriptural study necessary or is "who am I" inquiry not sufficient for self-realization? The answer depends clearly on what is involved in the "who am I" inquiry.  Major problem lies in not understanding the full implication of Bhagavaan Ramana's teachings. For those who are deeply interested, the video of the teaching of the SAT DARSHANAM text of Bhagavaan is available in www.advaitaforum.org, where the first two introductory slokas provide the depth of his teaching.  Here is the problem. If the "who am I" inquiry leads only in understanding the saakshii chaitanyam or Witnessing Consciousness aspect of I am, then the inquiry is incomplete and does not lead to realization of the SELF. In separating the subject I from object this, we end up dvaita or duality, with I am which is not this, and this is which is not I am. In addition we will have multiple jiivas with each jiiva realizing who he is.

The self realization should include the recognition of the mithyaatma aspect of the world or  unreality of the world with clear understanding that the self that I am pervades the world of objects too, then only that inquiry of "who am I" leads to SELF realization. How does the "who am I" leads to the understanding that I am the substantive of the world too.  For that only Vedas provide the ultimate pramANa or means of knowledge since the direct perceptual knowledge confirms only the duality while the logic rests on perception for validation.  Self realization does not involve dismissing the world but sublimating the world by understanding its substantive is the self that I am.  That is what mithyaa aspect of the world means. Hence Krishna clearly states "sarva bhuutastam aatmaanam sarva bhuutanica aatmani" one who realizes that I am the self in all and also recognizes that all (starting from creator to the blade of grass, says Shankara) in myself - He alone realizes. Hence Krishna declares:

maya tatam idam sarvam jagat avyakta muurtinaa|
masthaani sarva bhuutaani na ca aham teshu avasthitaH| -9:4
na ca masthaani bhuutaani psyam me yogam aiswaram|
bhutabRinna ca bhuutastho mamaatmaa bhuutabhaavanaH| 9:5

I pervade this entire universe in an unmanifested form as the very existence-consciousness itself. All being are in Me, but I am not involved in their individual sufferings. In reality there is no beings in Me since I am pure undifferentiated existence-consciousness yet appearing as many - look at my glory Arjuna. Without the principle of existence nothing can exist - Any existence of any being or object is only attributive name and form which is only superimposition on the existence principle. Existence principle is never affected by the changing attributive beings or objects. It is similar to gold being unaffected by the changing names and forms.

Essentially who am I inquiry should involve understanding of three things. 1. Who is that I am or tvam pada vichaara - inquiry into the subject, I am, by rejecting subject is different from the object using neti neti - not this, not this. 2) what is the nature of tat or that "that" -standing for the entire universe - essentially understanding that "I am" is the substantive or essence of the whole world of objects - aitat aatmyam idam sarvam and 3) finally understanding or equating oneness of the subject and the object as one as stated by "asi" in the tat tvam asi statement. This is stated as the fundamental advaitic principle: 1. brahma satyam, Brahman alone is real 2) jagat mithyaa, the world is just apparent names and forms with Brahman as substantive and 3) jiivaH brahma eva na aparaH, I am none other than Brahman. This essence of advaita has to be clearly understood using scripture as a basis. Exhaustive analysis of the scriptural statements is provided by aachaaryaas in terms of bhaashyaas and prakaraNa books; hence the need for the study.  Hence scripture itself advises two things - one is to approach a teacher to gain the knowledge of the truth and second is shravana, mananam and nidhidhyaasana, that is study of the scriptures for a prolonged length of time until one has clear understanding (shravana), discussion of the contents until no more doubts exist in the mind of the seeker, mananam and finally contemplation on the truth expounded by the scriptures, nidhidhyaasana. This is well established and well trodden path and aside from this there are no other direct paths or short cuts for this. Any other claims to the contrary cannot be verified as there are no other pramANa for verification too.

In this context, all other requirements including karma anushTaanam or performing karmas or as well as their parityaaga or giving up karma, etc. are only aids in preparing the mind so that the above understanding can takes place. What is required is a mind that is conducive for the knowledge and that is stated by Shankara as possessing the saadhana chatuShTaya sampatti - the four fold qualifications involving Viveka, vairaagya, Shat sampatti and mumukshutvam - Discriminative intellect, Dispassion, Disciple and Desire for liberation - the four Ds.

Preparation of the mind is essential. It is easy to say I am the subject and not the object in the "who am I" enquiry. The logic is very simple. However this logic can be easily applied to a car or a dog or any external object that I perceive. I see the dog, the seer I is therefore different from the seen, and hence I am not the dog. The application of the logic is easy when it comes to all objects in the world.  Nobody in the world mistakes that I am the dog that I see, even though some people get so emotionally attached to their pets that they suffer intensely when something happens to the objects that they love. This was Arjuna's problem and this is everybody's problem, when "mine" includes my own close relatives that I love.

However, when in applying the logic of - I am not this - to the body, mind and intellect (BMI), the objects that I am so intimately associated with as "I am this", it becomes monumentally difficult to separate I am from this is, even though it is logically clear that I cannot be "this". What makes it so difficult is our attachments and aversions, first to the external body, next to the emotional mind and finally to the intellectual accomplishments and convictions. I am = this- is the essence of ego, where the I-ness associated with this BMI is the ego or ahankaara, and a notion that this is mine is mamakaara. Ego forms the basis for all our transactions in the world. One has to use the BMI for transacting with the world. In fact, the ego is involved in a subtle way even in self-realization. Atma or all pervading existence-consciousness does not have to realize and this BMI which is inert cannot realize. Hence realization as we discuss below occurs in a way with the identification with BMI only. The problem comes only when I do not know myself and hence take myself only as this BMI in an absolute sense, even though I know this is inert and I am a conscious entity. There will not be any problem if I know who I am and deliberately take this BMI as I am for the purpose of transactions - then I am jiivan muktaH, liberated while still operating within BMI. The intellect, mind and the body in that order "as though" borrow the light of consciousness that I am and act as sentient entities operating in this world. Hence the essence of the human problem rests in intense identification with the mind and intellect and through them with the senses, and physiological functions, and then with the gross body. In this operation of I am this, there are two components I am and this is, and the ego involves identification of I am this. Realization of my true nature involves intellectual discrimination or disassociation of I am from this, using the very ego. I have to recognize my true identity in the "I am this" as I am pure, I am without this. This switch in identification of my real nature or self-realization process requires in a way the same ego or the mind in recognizing that I am not this and my true nature is pure consciousness because of which I am conscious of the ego, mind and intellect and the rest of the world through them.  Hence when Vedanta says ego gets surrendered or annihilated or when Ramana says that mind gets destroyed (maanasantu kim maarganekRite naiva maanasam...), all that means is that the notional mind gets destroyed. Notions are due to ignorance and they can get destroyed only by knowledge. Knowledge takes place in the mind only. For knowledge to take place, a means of knowledge or pramANa is required. For this non-objectifyable entity (aloukikam), only Vedas form the required means of knowledge. The separation of I am from I am this (ego) using this very ego indeed requires a very subtle intellect that does not objectify the subject yet recognize the subject in the very inquirer or inquiry. Lack of appropriate pramaaNa or means of knowledge is one of the reasons why in the deep sleep state even though saakshii is there, there is no jnaana prakriya or process that helps in gaining the knowledge. For existence, which is all pervading, no medium is required for its manifestation. For ignorance also no medium is required. However for knowledge to take place a medium is required that involves a pramaaNa, prameya and pramaataa, the triad. This can be the knowledge of the self or any objective knowledge including the knowledge of the ignorance.

In the case of the knowledge of the self, the object of the knowledge, prameya, itself is the knower, pramaataa, and the veda pramaaNa acts in this case as a mirror or darshaNam for a seer, pramaataa, to see himself in and through the prameya. Hence as we discussed before it is like seeing the image of oneself, and using that image recognize the original self that is getting reflected as the image in the mirror of the mind. Otherwise I cannot see myself without the mirror. Similarly I need the mind to see my reflection and by seeing the reflection I recognize or realize my true nature.  I am currently misapprehending myself that I am the mind.  With the Vedantic teaching, I recognize my true nature using the same mind by seeing the light of illumination that is getting reflected in the mind and from that reflected light of consciousness realize that I am original the light of consciousness whose light is illumining the mind.

The sequence can be visualized in this way. When a thought rises in the mind, I am conscious of the thought because the wave of the thought is illumined by the reflected light of consciousness from the mind. That is what constitutes the knowledge of the thought. Hence first thing we need to know is every thought has two components; the contents of the thought which is related to the attributes of the object (idam vRitti) and reflected light of consciousness that illumining the thought because of which the contents of the thoughts become known. Currently we get carried away by the contents of the thought and do not recognize the light of illumination because of which the thought is known. The same thing happens when we see an object outside. The external light falls on the object and that light gets reflected and reaches eyes. An image is projected on the retina which the optical nervous system carries to the brain. This electrical signal has to be converted into thought. Lord has provided a programming language that converts the signal to vRitti in the mind (similar to the computer processer converting input data into a machine language that it can understand). We do not understand this programming language.  Thus what is projected is attributes of the object as measured by senses that provided an input signal that forms image in the mind. This image with attributive content is called vRitti. As the vRitti forms, it reflects the light of consciousness by which I become conscious of the thought or vRitti. Becoming conscious of the thought is the same as gaining the knowledge of the thought. That means I know the thought whose contents are nothing but the sense input arising from the vision of the object. The object out there is now imaged as the thought in the mind. We are conscious of the thought only because it is illumined by the reflected light of consciousness that I am.

Normally we get carried away with the sense input forgetting it is the reflected light image from the object. We rarely pay attention to the light that helps in the seeing process. Similarly, we rarely pay attention to the light of consciousness that is illumining the thought and get carried away with the contents of the thought. Without thought forming in the mind there is no reflection. Hence self-realization is not elimination of thoughts and make the mind empty which itself is a struggle, but pay attention to the light of consciousness that is illumining (because of which we are knowing the presence and the contents of the thoughts) rather than get carried away with the thought contents. Hence Kenopanishad says "it is not that what the eyes can see, but because of which the eyes have the capacity to see, it is not that what ears can hear, but that because of which the ears have the capacity to hear, it is not that which mind can think of, but that because of which the mind has the capacity to think of, is Brahman not this that one worships". Hence Veda as pramaaNa is directing the mind to shift the attention from the contents of the thoughts to that which makes the thoughts known - that light of consciousness that is getting reflected by the sequence of thought waves, and says know that alone is Brahman not any objectified concept that you worship.

Paying attention to the light of consciousness that is getting reflected in every thought, particularly in the very fundamental thought as I am this (notion of ego) is difficult only because I get carried away with the contents of the thoughts and do not pay attention to the reflected light of consciousness because of which that very thought is getting revealed. The most common problem of a Vedantic student is looking for self-realization as an event in time. In the very longing for Brahman, the mind is conceptualizing Brahman as an object to be known. Self is self-revealing all the time. There is no time I am not conscious of the thoughts that arise in mind, as mind cannot stop thinking unless one goes to deep-sleep state. Thoughts occur in sequence and are interconnected in terms of contents. When I pay attention to the contents, I forget the fact that the thought is an object that I am conscious of. I jump from one thought to the other since they occur in rapid sequence each somehow connected to the other. Like a monkey jumping from one branch to the other and one tree to the other, I jump from one thought to the other without any time to stand apart and look at how a thought is getting revealed. For me to know each thought that rises in my mind, existence-consciousness that I am has to provide the existence as well as illumination for the thought so that I am conscious of the existence of the thought and its contents.  For me to pay attention away from the thought contents without getting carried away by it involves complete detachment and vigilant observation. JK says just observe you mind or thoughts, without providing a means to achieve it.  It is difficult to get detached from the thoughts, to be an observer of the thoughts since these thoughts are centered on my likes and dislikes. Detachment from the thoughts require attaching my mind to something that remains constant without changing and examining the thoughts that arise as an impartial observer or a saakshii without getting carried away with the thoughts.  Vedanta says that can done only if I can surrender my likes and dislikes at the altar of my devotion that is stable, noble and ever inspiring for the mind to hold on to it.  That is the bhakti that saints and sages talk about. That surrender of all my likes and dislikes or raaga dveShaas at the altar of my devotion is what is called as sharaNaagati or prapatti. Krishna says that is not easy either but with constant practice and detachment one can achieve it- abhyaasenatu kounteya vairaagyena ca gRihnate. Since thoughts that are entertained are also about the nature of the reality it becomes easier to get detached from attachments other than to the truth which is never changing and eternal. Karma yoga also helps in purifying and neutralizing the intensity of these likes and dislikes.

As the intensity of the likes and dislikes are neutralized, I can detach myself from the flow of the thoughts and be a silent observer of the thoughts.  Becoming a saakshii,  I can witness how the light of consciousness illumines all the thoughts. Since thoughts are nothing but images of the world of objects, I begin to recognize that I lend the support to all the thoughts and indirectly to the world of objects, since independent of me their existence and awareness cannot be established.

« : April 06, 2015, 12:06:19 PM Dr. Sadananda »
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