Before we start exploring Nirvana Shatakam and look at the answers to the vital question of “ Who am I?”, it is essential for us to understand what am I made of, what do I do and what is beyond me. To my limited knowledge, there cannot be a more deeper analysis to these questions than by the Saints & Philosophers of Hindu Religion. One needs a lifetime to understand the material available in the religion. I will definitely restate again and again that I am a novice in this field of philosophy (“Vedanta”) and can only skim at the surface without any deep understanding. Yet from this ocean of information and knowledge I will venture out and reproduce one approach advocated by the legendary Swami Chinmayananda (http://www.chinmayamission.com) which helps me in the process of understanding myself.
Interpretation of Symbols :
The Symbol of Truth
viewed through the veil of
Expresses through the instruments of:
the Body (B), Mind (M), Intellect (I)
As the individual entity or ego:
the Perceiver (P), Feeler (F), Thinker (T)
In the world of:
Objects (O), Emotions (E), and Thoughts (T).
I – The person
Here is how the Swamiji helps us in Understanding Ourselves (Our Personality). When we say “experience” we are looking at three fundamental factors:
1. the experiencer (the subject)
2. the object of experience (the object)
3. the relationship between the two, the experiencing (the act)
The Individual as an experiencer (PFT) is the subject who gains experiences of the world (OET) through the instruments of experiencing (BMI). Through the body, the person experiences the world of objects; through the mind, one experiences the world of emotions, and through the intellect, the world of ideas.
When the subject identifies with the intellect, he becomes the thinker, experiencing the world of thoughts and ideas; when identified with the mind he becomes the feeler, experiencing the world of emotions and feelings; and when identified with the body, he becomes the perceiver, experiencing the world of objects.
Therefore each individual acts out the various roles of a perceiver, feeler, and thinker as he seeks his happiness in the world of objects, emotions, and thoughts.
In every experience in life, man contacts the world through the media of four constituent entities in him. They are his body, mind, intellect, and the Consciousness, symbolized by the symbol Om, which is the Life Principle in him.
Now let us have an idea of what these elements are as explained by the Swamiji.
Body, Mind, Intellect:
“ The physical body (பிண்டம்) is solid matter, the densest aspect of the human personality. It contains five organs of perception (ஞானேந்திரியம்) and the five organs of action (கர்மேந்திரியம்). The size and shape of the body differ from individual to individual, but the essential ingredients and the functions of the organs are common to all.
The variable factor in man is the mind and intellect equipment. The mind is the seat of impulses and feelings, and it is common to all living creatures. Animals also possess a mind. It all boils down to how one applies the mind.
Human being alone has the capacity to discriminate and analyze his/her feelings as and when they arise. He/She alone can allow his/her actions to be guided and directed by his/her power of discrimination instead of being driven and carried away by momentary impulses and feelings. This faculty of discrimination, this power of judgment, this capacity to discern what is to be done and what is to be avoided, is the function of the intellect.
The quality and textures of the mind and intellect equipment differ from one individual to another, depending upon one’s inherent and innate tendencies or inclinations, which are called vasanas.
Vasanas create desires in the intellect; desires produce thoughts in the mind, and thoughts manifest in the form of actions at the level of the physical body. Desires, thoughts and actions are, therefore, only manifestation of vasanas in the respective individual. Each one of us thus becomes a helpless statement of our past though this impulse of vasanas.
(Note: How did we get these Vasanas in oneself? This is a separate subject by itself. For this particular blog I would just compare Vasanas to the Residual Magnetism in a material.)
Om, the Symbol of Truth:
In the ultimate analysis, the whole aim of living for a human being is to condition the body, mind and intellect to ensure that the vasanas are transcended in order for us to regain our true nature. At this individual level, when the vasanas are completely transcended, the Self manifests of its own accord. Only then does man know his true birthright. At the Individual level, this Self is called an Atman and at the level of the cosmic totality, this Divine Self called Om, the Life Principle, is called the Brahman.
The Ground Reality:
Due to our vasanas and the consequent desires, agitations, and actions, we are ignorant of this Divine Self. Therefore, we identify with our body, mind, and intellect and their limitations. An individual is the Self as though contaminated by this ignorance. The only method for regaining one’s true nature is to vigilantly and ceaselessly divert one’s mind and intellect away from preoccupation with objects, emotions, and thoughts and direct it to an awareness of the divine Self”. (Material Courtesy – Chinmaya Mission).
How do I proceed?
This is the essence of Spirituality. The paths that we take to get rid of this ignorance are the path of knowledge (Gnana) , the path of devotion (Bhakthi) and the path of action (Karma). These three paths are not independent and are seamlessly integrated. At this point I will quote the blog I wrote on May 17, 2019, about Knowledge and Devotion as part of my attempt to write in Tamil, Adi Sankara’s Sivananda Lahari. In that blog I quoted the eminent Indian Scholar C. Rajagopalachari. He brings out the integration of the three yogas beautifully by saying “ When intelligence matures and lodges securely in the mind, it becomes wisdom. When wisdom is integrated with life and issues out in action, it becomes bhakti. Knowledge, when it becomes fully mature, is bhakti. If it does not get transformed into bhakti, such knowledge is useless tinsel. To believe that gnyaana and bhakti, knowledge and devotion, are different from each other, is ignorance”.
Nearly a year later I am fortunate to attempt to write in Tamil, the philosophical treatise in Vedhanta by Adi Sankara called Nirvana Shatakam. Understanding the simple concepts outlined by the Swamiji will help us unravel the truths brought out by Adi Sankara
Verses will start from the next blog.