This article is a chapter from the book A Call To Liberation.
The supreme goal of life has been declared to be brahma-jnana, the ultimate spiritual knowledge that brings about enlightenment and illumination and liberates the individual soul from the necessity of once again coming into this plane of pain and death—putting an end to this unending wheel of transmigration.
Wisdom alone, Self-realisation, Self-knowledge, brahma-jnana, alone can liberate one, not ritualistic worship, outer ceremonials, not sacraments, not pilgrimage, nor vows, disciplines, charity or merits. These are good, but even if you engage in such meritorious, pious religious activity for a hundred births, nay a hundred thousand births, unless you have illumination or gnosis or jnana there is no liberation.
These good actions are to be engaged in so that you may avoid getting caught in the trap of bad actions. That is their value. They keep us going in the right and proper direction and thus become a means of preventing regression. But unless Self-realisation can take place, unless one is illumined with enlightenment—that knowledge which transcends all other knowledge, attaining which one does not come back into this world of pain and death, knowing which everything else is known—then one has not found the only and safe raft that can take one across the ocean of samsara.
Therefore, jnana has this supreme value. Vedanta means jnana. Jnana is the great purifier. Attaining jnana all seeds of past karmas are burnt to ashes. One becomes liberated then and there. And ultimately deep meditation is the one and only sadhana that can bring about illumination. In whatever way one describes illumination, meditation is the ultimate portal, gateway, to blessedness.
All yogas culminate in meditation, whether it is japa yoga, kirtan yoga, kundalini yoga, karma yoga, bhakti yoga, dhyana yoga or jnana yoga. Ultimately, all the angas (limbs) of these various yogas culminate in meditation, and in and through deep meditation alone illumination is attained. The word meditation as such may not be used, but it is deep meditation that is mentioned in the description of all yogas. In the nine modes of devotion, meditation does not seem to be mentioned, but atma-nivedanam (total self-surrender) means nothing but that—becoming a zero, totally losing oneself through concentrated devotion into a state of meditation. It means meditation.
Knowledge and meditation are, therefore, indispensable requirements for supreme attainment in the spiritual life. But then, as long as we are conscious of our body and we are in a state of identification with the body, the relative reality is a reality. Thus when we are living in this world of men, engaged in activity, having diverse human relationships—acting, interacting and reacting—we cannot help behaving in a manner as situations require. So, there is every risk of forgetting our main mission in life, what we are in reality and slipping into a state of unwisdom, of aviveka and avichara, and getting trapped in that state of unwisdom.
We cannot be in a state of meditation for twenty-four hours a day. We cannot keep up that awareness, that jnana, twenty-four hours a day, for forcibly the outer world and things in it will draw us out of our inner equipoise and get us involved in this outer phenomenal world. Even the avataras have to silently bow to their own law.
Knowing that it is not possible for us to be in a constant state of jnana or dhyana twenty-four hours a day and that we are faced with the situation of being forcefully made to engage in activity by prakriti, what do the scriptures have to say? Divinise your life! Spiritualise all your activities and live, move and have your being in this world in a state of God-consciousness. Identify yourself with your divya-atma-svarupa and live in the awareness that God resides in this body-temple of mine. And let all your actions bear witness to the supreme perfection of the indwelling God.
Divinity is the one key word. What is man’s concept of God? He is an ocean of compassion. Therefore, the one practice that ultimately makes jnana and dhyana fruitful is the divinising of one’s life—to be compassionate, merciful, forgiving, kind, to have consideration for others, to be good and to do good. Act not from your human level but act from your divine level, for your human personality is only temporary.
Your reality is Divinity. Let this be awakened. Make yourself a centre of all that is godly, all that is beautiful, sublime and divine. Have feeling for others. Identify with the joy and sorrow of others. In the presence of sorrow, immediately act to be an angel of mercy. Be an instrument of mercy, peace and joy. In and through your life, constantly be a channel for the expression of God’s perfection, of God’s love, compassion, kindness and consideration.
This is the one thing needful. This alone makes jnana and dhyana fruitful and capable of bestowing upon you liberation. Hinting at this in the latter half of the twelfth chapter of the Gita, Lord Krishna tells us who is dear to Him. You may read all the philosophical books and you may be able to sit for hours in dhyana, but if your heart is not filled with love, kindness and compassion for others, you may obtain everything, but to obtain illumination and liberation will not be possible.
Therefore, as we emerge into this new day, let us earnestly contemplate this great fact. It is not through wisdom and concentration alone that one becomes illumined and liberated, but through loving kindness, wishing good for all and engaging in action that is conducive to the good of all.
In this fertile field of spiritualised living, jnana and dhyana will bear the fruit of illumination and liberation. Not otherwise. May we all realise this truth and humbly strive to make ourselves centres of godliness and compassion, kindness and goodness. This is the one thing needful.