Sri Swami Sivananda
Message from the book Lectures on Yoga and Vedanta.
O FRIEND! Why dost thou weep? Thou hast neither birth nor old age nor death. Thou hast neither passion nor craving. Thou hast neither gross nor subtle body. Thou hast neither mind nor Prana. Thou art the eternal, unchanging, all-pervading Self. Feel this and be free.
O friend! Why dost thou grieve? Thou hast neither name nor form. Thou hast neither caste nor age. Thou hast neither sex nor Indriyas. Thou art neither strong nor weak. Thou hast neither father nor mother. Thou art ever free, pure, eternal immortal. Realise this and be free.
Find out the real inner man. The real man is bodiless and formless. Do not identify the man with the outer food-sheath–Annamaya Kosha–or the physical body. The gross physical body is like the shell of a cocoanut. The real man is the Immortal Spirit, which cannot be annihilated. Man in essence is the Imperishable Atman. He is the silent witness of the three states, viz., Jagrat, Svapna and Sushupti (waking, dreaming and deep-sleep states).
Just as a rope is mistaken for a snake in the darkness, a post for a man, so also this impure body is mistaken for the pure Self through Avidya or ignorance. If you bring a light, the illusory snake in the rope will disappear. Even so, if you attain knowledge of the Self, the illusory identification with the body will vanish. The essential qualities of the man are not actually transferred to the post, nor the essential qualities of the post actually transferred to the man. Even so, consciousness does not belong to the body and the attributes of the body, such as decay and death, pleasure and pain, do not belong to the Self or Consciousness.
If you have direct knowledge of the Supreme Self or Brahman through meditation, you will attain Immortality. There is no other way to reach the goal. If you know the Self you have gained the true end of life. You will be afraid of nothing.
That Vastu or something which has neither beginning nor end is the Imperishable Brahman (Akshara). Akshara only is unchanging, infinite, eternal, self-luminous, indivisible, pure, perfect, ever free and independent. Akshara is your Immortal Soul.
The fields or bodies are different but the knower of the field is one. Jivatmas are different but Paramatman is one. Wherever there is mind, there are Prana, egoism and Jiva-Chaitanya or reflected intelligence or Abhasa Chaitanya side by side. He who has the sense of duality (Dvaita Bhava) will take births again and again. This delusion of duality (Bheda Bhranti) can only be removed by the knowledge of identity of Jiva and Brahman. ‘Aham Sukhi–I am happy’, ‘Aham Duhkhi–I am miserable’, ‘Aham Karta–I am the doer’, ‘Aham Bhokta–I am the enjoyer’ is the experience of all human beings. Therefore the Jivatma is a Samsarin and is subject to pleasure and pain. Jivatmas are different in different bodies, whereas Paramatman is free from pleasure and pain. He is Asamsarin. He is eternally free. He is one.
If there is only one Jivatma in all bodies, all should have similar experiences at the same time. If Rama suffers from abdominal colic, Krishna also should experience the pain at the same time. If John experiences joy, Jacob also should have a similar experience. If Choudhury is stung by a scorpion, Bannerjee also should suffer from the sting. But this is not the case. When Rama suffers, Krishna rejoices. When John is jubilant, Jacob is depressed. When Choudhury suffers from the sting of a scorpion, Bannerjee is enjoying his breakfast. Jivatma in essence is identical with Para-Brahman. Fields are different, bodies are different, minds are different and Jivatmas or individual souls are different. But the knower or Paramatman in all these fields or bodies is one.
The Self is not affected by pleasure and pain, virtue and vice. He is the silent witness only. Pleasure and pain are the Dharmas of the mind only. They are ascribed to the Self through Avidya or ignorance. The ignorant man only regards the physical body as the Self. He is swayed by the two currents of Raga Dvesha and does virtuous and vicious actions, reaps the fruits of these actions, viz., pleasure and pain and takes births again and again. But the sage who knows that the Self is distinct from the body is not swayed by Raga Dvesha. He identifies himself with the pure eternal Brahman and is always happy and actionless, though he performs actions for the welfare of the humanity.
The disease Timira which causes perception of what is contrary to truth pertains to the eye but not to the man who perceives. If the Timira is removed by proper treatment, he perceives things in their true light. Even so, ignorance, doubt, pleasure and pain, virtue and vice, Raga Dvesha, false perception, non-perception of truth as well as their cause belong to the instrument, viz., mind, but not to the silent witness.
The wheel of Samsara or the world’s process rotates on account of Avidya. It exists only for the ignorant man who perceives the world as it appears to him. There is no Samsara for a liberated sage. Any disease of the eye cannot in any way affect the sun. The breaking of the pot will not in any way affect the pot-ether. The water in the mirage cannot render the earth moist. Even so, Avidya and its effects cannot in the least affect the pure, subtle, attributeless, formless, limbless, partless and self-luminous Self. Avidya can do nothing to the Self.
Avidya or ignorance born of Tamas acts as a veil and prevents man from knowing his essential Sat-Chit-Ananda Brahmic nature. It causes perception of what is quite the contrary of truth, or causes doubt or non-perception of truth. As soon as knowledge of the Self dawns, the three forms of Avidya vanish in toto. Therefore the three forms of Avidya are not attributes of the Self. They belong to the mind, the organ or the instrument. Mind is only an effect or product of Avidya.
In the state of liberation wherein there is annihilation of mind (Manonasa) there is no Avidya, there is no play of the two currents, Raga Dvesha. If false perception, ignorance, pleasure, pain, doubt, bondage, delusion, sorrow, etc., were essential properties of the Self, just as heat is an essential property of fire, they cannot be got rid of at any time. But there had been liberated sages in the past like Sankara, Dattatreya, Jada Bharata, Yajnavalkya, who possessed extraordinary super-sensual or intuitional knowledge, who were free from false perception, doubt, fear, delusion, sorrow, etc. They were not conscious of Samsara but they had perfect awareness of their own Svaroopa or essential Sat-Chit-Ananda Brahmic nature.
Therefore we will have to conclude that the Self is free, pure, perfect, eternal and the Avidya inheres in the mind-instrument but not in the Self.
The liberated sage who is freed from selfishness, egoism, anger and fear roams about happily. He has shaken off everything. Avidya and its modifications cannot affect him. He is the Yati. He is the Sannyasin. He is the Yogi. He is the Paramahamsa. He is the Avadhuta. He is Brahman himself. He is the Lord of lords. He is the Emperor of emperors. He is fit to be worshipped.
May his blessings be upon you all! May you all attain liberation in this very birth!