Gist of Vedanta
Sri Swami Sivananda
Message from the book Lectures on Yoga and Vedanta.
It is in the nature of man to strive for happiness but all the happiness which he can gain by his actions is only of limited duration. The enjoyments of the senses are transient and the senses themselves are worn out by too much enjoyment; further, sin generally accompanies these enjoyments and makes man unhappy beyond comparison. Even if the pleasures of the world are enjoyed as much as their nature permits, if they are as intense, as various and as uninterrupted as possible, yet old age approaches and with it death. And the enjoyments of heaven are in reality not more enviable than these pleasures of senses; they are of the same nature, although more unmixed and durable. Moreover they come to an end; for they are gained by actions and as these latter are finite, their effect must also be finite. In one word there is necessarily an end to all those enjoyments and what avails us to strive for pleasure which we know cannot sustain us beyond the moment of enjoyment. It is therefore in the nature of man to look out for an unchangeable, infinite happiness (Ananta Sukha) which must come from a ‘being’ in which there is no change–if such a ‘being’ can be found, it is only from Him that man attains an unalterable happiness and if this be so, this ‘being’ must become the sole object of all his aspirations and actions. This ‘being’ is not very far. He resides in your heart. He is the Sakshi Chaitanya who witnesses the activities of your Buddhi (intellect). He is the Nirguna (attributeless) Brahman of the Upanishads who is highly eulogised in a variety of ways by the Rishis and seers of the Upanishads.
Whatever it be, it is in reality one. There truly exists only one universal Being called Brahman or Paramatman, the Highest Self. This Being is of an absolutely homogeneous nature (Ekarasa). It is a pure Being or pure Intelligence (Chaitanya Jnana).
Intelligence is not to be predicated of Brahman as its attributes but it constitutes its substance. It is its Svarupa or essence. Brahman is not a thinking being, but thought itself. He is not all-knowing but knowledge itself (self-knowledge). He is not all-powerful but power itself. He is not all-beautiful but beauty itself. He is Bliss itself. Do you see the difference now? That is termed Svarupa or essence of everything. He is absolutely destitute of qualities; whatever qualities or attributes are conceivable, can only be denied of it. But if nothing exists but one absolutely simple Being, whence the appearance of the world by which we ourselves are surrounded and in which we ourselves exist as individual beings? Brahman is associated with certain power called Maya or Avidya to which the appearance of this world is due.
Oh how deep, unfathomable and marvellous is this Maya, the inscrutable (Anirvachaniya) power of Brahman! Every human being, though in essence he is really Brahman, does not–though instructed–grasp the truth “I am Brahman” but feels convinced, without any instruction, that he is such a person’s son mistaking for the Atman and is only perceived like a stone or pot. Indeed, these worldly-minded persons wander in this miserable Samsara repeatedly deluded by the Maya of Brahman alone.
The idea of Brahman, when judged from the viewpoint of intellect, is an abstraction, but it is concretely real for those who have the direct vision to see it (Aparoksha Anubhuti or Sakshatkara). Therefore, the consciousness of the reality of Brahman has boldly been described to be as real as the consciousness of an Amalaka fruit held in one’s palm.
Even intellect can grasp only a little of the Truth. Brahman has positive attributes such as Sat-Chit-Ananda, purity, perfection, Satyam, Jnanam, Anantam, etc., They are not really attributes. They are all synonymous terms for Truth or Brahman. Sat-Chit-Ananda also is a mental Kalpana (imagination). These are the highest qualifications of Brahman which the human intellect can grasp. Generally Brahman is described by negation of qualities such as Nirakara (formless), Nirguna, Nirvikalpa (without modification of mind), etc. Are we not driven to take the same course ourselves when a blind man asks for a description of light? Have we not to say in such a case that light has neither sound, nor taste, nor form, nor weight, nor resistance, nor can it be known through the process of analysis? Of course it can be seen but what is the use of saying this to one who has no eyes? He may take the statement on trust without understanding in the least what it means, or may altogether disbelieve it, even suspecting in us some abnormality. Does the truth of the fact that a blind man has missed the perfect development of what should be normal about his eye-sight depend for its proof upon the fact that a large number of men are not blind? The very first creature which suddenly groped into the possession of its eye-sight had the right to assert that the light was reality. In the human world there may be very few who have their spiritual eyes open, but in spite of the numerical preponderance of those who cannot see, their want of vision must not be cited as an evidence of the negation of the light. In the Upanishads we find the note of certainty about the spiritual meaning of existence. In the very paradoxical nature of the assertion that we can never know Brahman–but can realise Him–there lies the strength of conviction that comes from personal experience (Anubhava).
The variety of experience is not real, nay even experience itself is nowhere from the point of view of the Absolute. To lead the life wherein the variety of experience does not affect, either our weal or woe, is the highest practical rule of conduct in accordance with the proper aim of existence. The variety of experience creates distinction and sets up false limits where there exists none. Pain and pleasure, good and evil, virtue and vice, merit and sin, are all conventions based on this variety of experience. But in the Absolute (Brahman) no such distinctions are possible and the Highest Bliss, which cannot be described in words other than those employing negation of everything positive known to us, consists in forgetting this source of separateness and realising that unity which is the very being and the nature of the cosmos. When the sense of separateness is killed out by intense and incessant spiritual Sadhana, you will become one with Brahman.
There are seven links in the chain of bondage. Misery is the final link in the chain of cause and effect. Every link depends for its existence upon the previous link. The seven links are:–(1) Misery, (2) Embodiment, (3) Karma, (4) Raga (attachment), (5) Dvesha (repulsion), (6) Aviveka (non-discrimination), and (7) Ajnana.
If the root cause Ajnana (ignorance of the Self) is removed by Atma-jnana or knowledge of the Self, the other links will be broken by themselves. From ignorance, non-discrimination is born; from non-discrimination, Abhimana (egoism); from Abhimana, Raga-Dvesha; from Raga-Dvesha, Karma; from Karma, this physical body; from the physical body, misery. If you want to annihilate misery, you must get rid of embodiment. If you want to get rid of embodiment, you must not perform actions. If you wish to cease to act, you must abandon Raga-Dvesha. If you want to free yourself from Abhimana, you must destroy Aviveka and develop Viveka (discrimination) or discrimination between the Self and non-self. If you want to get rid of Aviveka, you must annihilate Ajnana. If you want to get rid of Ajnana, you must get knowledge of the Self. There is no other way of escaping this chain.
Brahman is otherwise known as ‘Svarupa’. “Then by what should he see whom?” (Bri. Up: 11-4-13). This passage intimates that there is neither an agent nor an object of action, nor an instrument. There is neither enjoyment, nor enjoyer, nor enjoyable, (Bhoga, Bhokta, Bhogya) in Brahman. There is neither seer, sight, seen (Drashta, Drik and Drishya) also in Brahman. There is neither knower, knowledge or knowable, (Jnata, Jnana, Jneya). Brahman is free from Triputi or these triads which pertain to sense-universe and sense-knowledge only. Svarupa is all pure consciousness, all knowledge, all-bliss itself. Brahman is self-existent (Svayambhu), self-contained (Paripurna), self-luminous (Svayam Jyoti), self-knowledge (Chit Svarupa), self-delight and independent. That is Svarupa. There are neither Indriyas nor instruments in Svarupa. Sat-Chit-Ananda is not the quality of Brahman. That is its essence or embodiment.
An infinite Vastu (article)–Brahma Sarva Vastu–must be Nirakara (formless) and Vyapaka (all-pervading). It must be beyond time, space and causation also. It must be unchanging and beginningless. It must be causeless also. A thing that is beyond time, space and causation must be immortal. This infinite Vastu having no sound, etc., does not decay or suffer diminution. Therefore it is eternal, for what decays is ephemeral, but this Vastu does not decay. Being eternal, it is beginningless; that being an effect is not eternal and is absorbed into its cause as earth, etc. But this being the cause of all is not an effect and not being an effect it is eternal. It has no cause into which it could be absorbed. It is endless; therefore it is eternal.
Moksha or release from Samsara is not something to be achieved. If it is a thing to be achieved by Karma it cannot be eternal. It is already there. Every thing is one with the Absolute and in fact the Absolute itself. What is to be achieved is destruction of the sense of separateness, which being accomplished, Moksha is easily attained. All Sadhanas (spiritual practices) aim at Avidya Nivritti (removal of ignorance) and the idea of separateness. When the veil is removed Brahman shines in His own glory (Niralamba state).
The acquisition of Truth (Brahma Jnana) is independent of caste or any other distinction. The highest knowledge (Para Vidya) cannot be imparted by the Vedas (Apara Vidya). But a knowledge of the Vedas is necessary to prepare the mind for the highest knowledge.
Just as oil is hidden in seeds, butter in curd, mind in the brain, pith in munja grass, fire in smoke, sun behind clouds, water underneath the moss in a stagnant pool of water, fire in fuel, music in gramophone record, scent in buds, gold in quartz, this Atman or Brahman or Supreme Self is hidden in this body. Just as you take the butter by churning process, so also you will have to realise the Truth by the process of meditation.
When you are established in the Svarupa, where are Ishvara, Jiva and Jagat? Where is body? Where are the Prarabdha, Sanchita and Agami? Where are the Muladhara and Kundalini? Where are the heaven and the hell? Where are virtue and vice? Where are the Dvandva, good and bad, pleasure and pain, heat and cold, gain and loss, victory and defeat? Where is Shakti? Where are Maya and Avidya? Where are Guru and disciple? Where are Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi? Where are the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Brahma Sutras? Where are Sravana, Manana and Nididhyasana? Where are the three Gunas and five Koshas? Where are the Mahavakyas ‘Aham Brahma Asmi’ and ‘Tat Tvam Asi’? Where is Pranava? Where are Dharmas and Adharmas? Where are East and West, day and night, light and darkness?
Some close and open the nostrils 820 times daily to attain this state. Some stand upon the head for six hours. Some try to open the Gudachakra by Asvini Mudra by opening and shutting the anus. Some remain in water upto the neck for 12 hours in winter. Some expose themselves to the hot sun in summer amidst five fires (Panchagni Tapas). Some live on offal and Neem leaves. Some roam about from Badri to Cape Comorin on foot. Some roll the beads standing on one leg. Some take one meal every third day (Kricchra Vrata). These are egoistic practices of dull persons. These are the means to purify the mind and control the Indriyas. They are not the end itself. The end is the attainment of Brahma Jnana or they knowledge of the Self.
Jnana or knowledge of Brahman is purely a mental state. It is subjective. It is a state of spiritual illumination which dawns when the mind is absolutely calm, when it is free from all desires, passions, Vasanas and all sorts of thoughts. The Akhanda Brahmakara Vritti arises from the pure mind when it is perfectly Sattvic, when all the Sankalpas stop. Jnana is the fruit of pure Sattvic Vichara.
‘Chit’ is absolute consciousness. This is the substratum for the intellect. Intellect borrows its light and power from this pure Chit. In reality you are ‘Chit Svarupa’–an embodiment of intelligence. This has to be realised through constant meditation. This demands self-denial, self-renunciation, self-abnegation and self-forgetfulness. This little illusory ‘I’ must be thoroughly annihilated beyond resurrection. This is the teaching of Vedanta.
One should live in the spirit of Vedanta by destroying ‘I’-ness, ‘mine’-ness, selfishness and attachment. Then alone he can be really happy even while discharging the duties of his life by remaining in the world. Then the petty life of hurry, worry, excitement and competition will seem to you as nothing when compared to the everlasting life of eternal sunshine and bliss in the Atman within.
It is a great pity that almost all people have totally ignored the simpler happy inner life of introspection and have caught hold of false toys of Maya such as money, women, power, fame, name, position, etc. Sooner or later the experiences of the world, the knocks and blows of the mundane existence will force them to turn their minds inwards to realise the true everlasting happiness. Even if you live in the true spirit of a single Mantra of the Upanishads, you will attain the summum bonum of existence, viz., Immortality and Eternal Bliss of the Self!
May you all enjoy the Bliss of the Eternal by realising the Supreme Tattva!! May you lead the life of a practical Vedantin in the daily battle of life!!!