August is the month for Lord Krishna. The Gokulashtami this year is on 31st August. Last year we celebrated with a series of Blogs on the Dance of the Yuga, the “Kalinga Narthanam”. This year it is time for a month of Bhakti Yoga.
The Shikshashtakam is a prayer of eight verses. They were written by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486 – 1534). The name of the prayer comes from the Sanskrit words Śikṣā, meaning ‘instruction’, and aṣṭaka, meaning ‘consisting of eight parts’, i.e., stanzas. The teachings contained within the eight verses are believed to contain the essence of all teachings on Bhakti yoga within the Gaudiya tradition. With two verses in each week, we will cover the Shikshashtakam in this month of Aug 2021 starting from August 3rd.
Every week, the blog will be accompanied by the divine rendering of Shikshashtakam by the legendary MS Subbulakshmi.
To Him in the Effulgent Form Facing the South, whose light, which is Existence itself, shines forth entering the objects which are almost non-existent—to Him incarnate in the Guru who instructs the disciples in the Vedic text “That thou art;”—to Him who being realized there will be no more return to the ocean of samsâra, to Him (Siva) be this bow!
From the previous blogs, it is clear that the integration or Aikyam happens as the Paramātma gets into an instrument as “Existence” & “Light” (Paramātma/Isvara & Jiva/Consciousness/Self respectively) or otherwise as “being” and “knowing”.
திருமூலர், திருமந்திரத்தில் சிவன் ஒளி வடிவானவன் சீவனும் ஒளி வடிவானவன். சீவ ஒளி சிவ ஒளியில் கலந்தால் பிறவி நீங்கும் என்பதை, #2681 பதியில்
ஒளியை அறியில் உருவும் ஒளியும்
ஒளியும் உருவம் அறியில் உருவாம்
ஒளியின் உருவம் அறியில் ஒளியே
ஒளியும் உருக உடனிருந் தானே.
சீவன் ஆன்மஒளியை அறிந்து கொண்டால், சீவனின் உருவம் ஆகிய உடல் ஒளிந்து கொள்ளும். சீவன் ஒளிந்து நிற்கும் தன் உடலை அறிந்து கொண்டால், சீவனின் பிறவிகள் தொடரும். ஆன்மஒளியின் உருவம் சீவன் அறிந்து கொண்டால், சீவன் உருவம் ஒளிமயம் ஆகிவிடும்.சீவன் ஆன்ம ஒளியில் தோய்ந்து நின்றால், சீவனுக்குச் சிவன் அங்கு விளங்குவான் என விளக்குகிறார்.
Now let us see the meaning of the Sloka in detail
First Line: यस्यैवस्फुरणंसदात्मकमसत्कल्पार्थकंभासते साक्षात्तत्त्वमसीति
यस्यैव स्फुरणं (Yasya-Eva sphuraṇaṃ):
Here it means the throbbing/pulsating/vibrations of THAT alone, implying that of the pure Consciousness (Eternal Awareness) which is nothing but paramātmā’s sphuraṇaṃ (Recollect the vibrations from the emptiness when we explore matter as per modern science as explained in the previous introductory blogs)
सदात्मकम: manifestation in the world is sadātmakam is in the form of Existence, in every object. paramātmā‘s manifestion in the world is in the form of ISness in everything. ISness part is paramātmā – the formless; pure, all-pervading ISness is the manifestation of paramātmā.
असत्कल्पार्थकं: asat means non-existence & kalpa means as good as or almost; artha means object of desire. And where is this manifestation available? – located in/manifested in the medium of artha; artha means every object; And what type of object? असत कल्प asat kalpa; Asat Kalpa means Mithya; an unreal thing is called asat kalpa.
bhāsate means is experienceable for all (appear in the mind). It is exactly like the sunlight is experienceable for all of us and upon every object as reflected sunlight; manifest sunlight is experienceable on every body. Similarly, vedāntaḥ says when you say table IS; we are experiencing the formed chair, which is soaked in formless existence.
We just saw यस्यैव स्फुरणं सदात्मकमसत्कल्पार्थकं भासते – that paramātmā’s vibe is always experienced by all in every “otherwise as good as non-existent” object of desire as a reflection of the all-pervading pure ISness, the eternal formless Existence
Now the question is: How can I experience that existence in its pure form? I am experiencing the Existence; along with object, adulterated existence; I am enjoying, but I want to appreciate or experience unadulterated pure ISness; the formless, eternal, all pervading existence.
Then the Upanishad says, साक्षात्तत्त्वमसीति (Saakssaat-Tat-Tvam-Asi-Iti): that pure Existence you will never experience. You can experience only adulterated existence; the pure existence cannot be experienced;
त्तत्त्वमसी: Why cant Pure Existence be experienced? ? tat tvam asi; pure existence is none other than you; What type of You? The formless consciousness principle; “You” means not the body, body is also not pure existence; body is adulterated existence with body nama rupa; When I say You, you cannot take the mind also; mind is also not pure existence; it is existence associated with mind nama rupa. You cannot even take the thought because thought is also not pure existence; but it is existence associated with thought form. Then what type of You? You, the pure consciousness, which is the experiencer of the thought, which is witness of the body; witness of the mind; witness of the thought. That I, is the sākṣi caitanyam, am the pure existence; And the sākṣi caitanyam is called jīvātma; and Aham, the sākṣi caitanyam jīvātma eva suddha satta rupa paramātma asmi. This is called Aham Brahma Asmi.
साक्षात्त: And how will it be? the pure existence and consciousness without any nama rupa; how will it look like? I am not able to conceive at all. Better you do not conceive. If we conceive, again it will become an object, associated with some nama rupa. If you need some examples which are nearest to the pure existence-consciousness, we have only two examples:
one is the space; space is not pure existence-consciousness; but it is the nearest example for pure sat chit ātma; that is one example.
The second example is: You in the deep sleep state is the nearest example for pure existence-consciousness without name and form.
And therefore, try to conceive of space; try to conceive of yourselves in deep sleep; And similar to that is I; the pure existence-consciousness. And what is the significance of the word, sākṣāt? It has a very important technical significance, normally when we describe something, the words give only the indirect knowledge; that is called verbal knowledge; indirect knowledge and has to be converted into direct experience later; the book knowledge is converted into experiential knowledge; that experiential knowledge is अपरॊक्ष ज्ञानम् aparokṣa jñānam. Normally, words give indirect knowledge which has to be converted into direct knowledge, by effort. This is our general experience. Here Śankarācārya says in the case of Brahman, these two divisions are not there; because paramātmā is Existence; Existence is consciousness is all the time self-evidently experinced;
वेदवचसा यो बोधयत्याश्रितान् : And Śankarācārya says that this is what is the Guru told through Veda “Veda-Vacasaa Yo Bodhayaty”. The Guru directly reveals to you with the help of Vedas that paramārtha which is nothing but “You”. Guru has the knowledge, he did not get through intuition, वेद वचसा veda vachasa; He got it through the vedas, taught by his guru; And how did he get the knowledge? Not thru intuitution; by śabda pramāṇa handed down by the guru; when did the whole thing start? it started when the creation started; and when did creation start; अनाश्रधः anādi; and therefore as anadi as the creation, is the parampara of teaching. This teaching tradition is also anādi; with the help of this tradition, the guru reveals; that is why in our tradition, always the śāstra or parampara is given more importance than the person; in our tradition, no single आचार्यः ācāryaḥ is given more importance;
So far in the first two lines we have learnt what Adi Śankarācārya was saying. Now what do I get out of this knowledge? Till now I thought that I am the physical body, the formed body, now I have learned that I am not the body with consciousness, but I am the consciousness, temporarily functioning through the body. Not only I am the consciousness, lending sentiency to the body, I am the existence lending existence to the world also. Now where am I? I alone give two things; caitanyam to the body; existence to the world; And having given these two, the body becomes subject, world becomes object, all the transactions takes place, All the transactions are possible because I lend Sat to the world, and I lend Cit to the body; you imagine dream. In the dream individual, I alone lend consciousness to the dream individual. I alone lend existence to the dream world; Lending Sat and Cit I allow the dream-drama to go on. Similarly, by lending Sat and Cit, I allow the world drama to go on. Remember the first Sloka viśvandarpaṇa dṛśyamāna nagarī tulyaṃ nijāntargataṃ.
The next question that automatically comes to or mind is What is the advantage of this vision? To answer this question, let us see the third line and understand what the Acharya is trying to convey.
यत्साक्षात्करणात: Śankarācārya says; yassākṣātkaraṇāt; Yath again means paramātmā, paramātma sākṣātkaraṇāt, by this अपरोक्ष ज्ञानम aparokṣa jñānam, this direct knowledge of paramātmā, that I am the सत्त्चदात्माः satcidātmāḥ, the advantage is:
पुनरावृत्तिर्भवाम्भोनिधौ Punaraavrttir-Bhavaam-Bho-Nidhau): No more Reappearance in the Ocean of Wordly Existence
(Punaraavrtti) = Return, Reappearance, Re-Birth
पुनरावृत्ति न भवेत punarāvrittīḥ na bhavet . There is no question of punar janma itself for that jnani. punarāvrittīḥ is not there for that jnani. Where?
भवाम्भोतनधौ bhavāmbhonidhau. – भव (Bhava) = Worldly Existence; भोस् (Bhos) = A particle of sorrow; निधि (Nidhi) = Sea. It means the ocean of becoming, the ocean of change, the ocean of अत्स्र्, जार्ते, वधयर्े, द्धवपररणमते, अपक्षक्षर्ते, द्धवनिर्तत asthi, jāyate, vardhathe, vipariṇamate, apakṣiyate, vinaśayati; in that ocean of change, this person is not born;
Thus, this Sloka brings out the Maha Vakya Tat Tvam Asi clearly.
From the previous blogs we understood the concepts behind the word Existence and Light viz., “Being & Knowing” – The Tat and the Tvam parts; the Paramatma and Jivatma. We saw with examples of an existing Table and analysis that both are two kinds of emptiness. We can say that there are two kinds of emptiness; one called being and the other called knowing. What is the difference between the substance of vibration (being) and the substance of knowing? Where is the line between these two emptiness.
Initially, we may think that the line between the two emptiness is just outside us. As we contemplate and meditate with the help of a Guru, we will experience that there is no dividing line: It is not there. This is the great discovery of the nondual (advaita) understanding. The reality i.e, the emptiness of the knowledge of pure consciousness (I) called time and the reality of emptiness of the matter as the substance of vibration (you the object) called as space are empty and identical. These are two different shades of water colors on the same paper (like the two parts of the faces in the art work done by my 8 year old grandson in the image shown above). This is an experiential recognition as we meditate on the subject. This is called the Jivatma-Paramatma Aikyam.
So jīvātma is pure Consciousness, paramātma is pure Existence. Then vedāntaḥ says this pure Existence which lends existence to the world, this pure Consciousness which lends consciousness to the body, both this pure Existence and pure Consciousness are one and the same. So, Existence is Consciousness; Consciousness is Existence. And it is this Existence-Consciousness which makes the body sentient; and which makes the world existent. And this recognition of the oneness of the existence and consciousness is jīvātma paramātma êkya jnānam, and Śankarācārya says, whichever Guru manages to successfully communicate, this identity of this pure Existence and Pure consciousness, to that Guru, who is Dakṣiṇāmurty., My namaskarams. This is going to be the essence of this third Sloka which we will see in the next blog.
Here are the pictorial representations of our learning on Sat & Cit (Existence and Consciouness) (Courtesy: vedantastudents.com)
In the previous blog we saw that there are two ways of perceiving an object like the example of the table. “ I see it and therefore the table exists” and “the table exists and therefore I see it”. According to Adi Sankaracharya’ Advaita philosophy, knowledge of the world is knowledge of the thoughts of the objects of the world, or viṣayākāravṛittijñana. When knowledge is thus based on the modification of the mind, the objects will definitely be external to you. The knowledge of the world, being viṣayākāra vṛitti, is therefore obtained through the senses. Therefore He also advocates that yad-dṛśyam tat naśyam—that which is perceivable is perishable. I was reminded by my “Twitter Friends” of a wonderful Tamil proverbs that reflect this: விண்டவர் கண்டிலார்….கண்டவர் விண்டிலார்; கண்ணால் காண்பதும் பொய் காதால் கேட்பதும் பொய் தீர விசாரிப்பதே மெய்
Nevertheless we also understood that we need both “Existence” and “Light” for our knowledge of the objects and hence the world.
From the scientific perspective, we know that light is an energy radiation. No single answer to the question “What is light?” satisfies the many contexts in which light is experienced, explored, and exploited. The physicist is interested in the physical properties of light, the artist in an aesthetic appreciation of the visual world. Through the sense of sight, light is a primary tool for perceiving the world and communicating within it. Light from the Sun warms the Earth, drives global weather patterns, and initiates the life-sustaining process of photosynthesis. On the grandest scale, light’s interactions with matter have helped shape the structure of the Universe.
Vedantic Treatise on Light
Imagine a situation where you are just entering a room and the light goes off. Do you need light to identify the objects in the room? Yes, surely. Remember you are an object too. Do you need light to identify yourselves? No. Why?
When we discuss this topic, one important Eka Sloki (Single Sloka) of Adi Śankarā is to be understood. Adi Śankarā answers these two questions by a single sloka. The Sloka is presented as a dialogue between a teacher (Guru) and student (Sishya), in response to a question by the student on realization of self. The Sloka, its Tamil & English Translations are given below:
Guru: How do you see (What is that light/power which helps you see?) Sishya: I see with the help of sunlight
Guru: How do you see in the night? Sishya: I see with the help of a lamp
Guru: Let that be so. How do you see the light? Sishya: With my eyes.
Guru: How do you see when tour eyes are closed ? Sishya: It is with my intellect
Guru: What helps you see (know) that intellect? Sishya: This is me (me as pure consciousness)
Guru: (Indeed) You are that supreme light Sishya: I realize that I am (immediate experience for the disciple)
So, the following facts about the “Light” have to be understood:
1. “Light” is not a part, product or property of the object
2. “Light” is formless
3. “Light” is independent, enlivens the object and makes it sentient.
4. “Light” is beyond the object and is “Sarvaghataha”.
5. “Light” will be there even after the object is destroyed. Once object goes, “Light” is not recognizable as the recognizing medium is gone
Light is Cit, the Chaitanyam
Let us go back to the previous blog where we saw that an object in the ultimate analysis of matter, either through the inward looking Vedantic route or through the outward looking scientific route (as explained in the blogs that covered Sloka 2 on Creation) is nothing but emptiness which takes the shape of vibrations and comes into existence. If this vibration is not known then we will not know that it “is”. So there is also this knowing. To visualise this knowing we add a spatial reference to it. If we further contemplate on this existence of this vibration suspended as it were in the “knowing” spatial field, we learn that this spatial knowing field is also empty of objects. This is the second kind of emptiness: the emptiness of pure consciousness. This emptiness is “cit” चित् (chaitanyam) is pure (independent from body & mind) and is the Jivātma, the Self-awareness त्वम् (Tvam) and at the worldly level is known as visibility (bhaati भाति)
We saw “sat” Existence earlier. We now saw “cit” Light. In either of these two studies, there is a basic question that is not addressed yet and needs to be looked into. That question is “How have existence and light come to be conjoined with all existing things?”.
The answer to this question will come up in the next blog.
1. What is that ? That is a table. That table exists in that room.
2. How do we know that ? We know because we EXPERIENCE the table. Please note that a non existent table cannot be experienced by us. So the “IS” statement about the table is endowed with Existence which is proved by our experience.
3. How do we experience the table? By seeing.
4. How do we see ? We see through our eyes.
5. What happens when you see? Here are two possible explanations:
1. There exists a table and there is light available for us to see the table. The light is the manifest and the table is the manifesting medium for the light. Note that when the manifest, the light is removed, the table does not appear to exist. When we remove the table, the surviving light is not re-cognised, not because of its absence, but because of the lack of a manifesting medium. So, for an object to manifest, we need two basic inputs. The existence and light. when light rays fall on retina, light rays are carried via optical fibres and the image is projected on cerebral cortex. An inverted image is formed; this can be termed as sensation. Brain then tries to understand the image with the information it already has and tries to interpret the image by giving a meaningful suggestion. Here the suggestion given is ‘this is a table’. So, a sensation and a meaningful suggestion (together called as perception) defines that object called Table. This is one perspective.
2. Our shāshtra-s explain this in a slightly different way. Our shāshtras say, that mind travels through senses up to the object, touches it, feels it and then gives meaningful suggestion. The explanation is based on mental level.With this in mind, when mind senses anything via five senses, it immediately tries to find a meaningful explanation and tries to arrive at conclusion. When the object is not clearly perceived or seen, mind tries to correlate it with the nearest object that is stored in mind. Mind keeps imagining until it reaches an acceptable conclusion. It superimposes the nearest image on the unclear object. This is the second perspective.
Whichever perspective is followed, one thing is very clear and common to both viz., we need light and an existence to categorically say that an object exists.
Let us understand Existence first
Features of Existence
Existence is a mystery for philosophers; And vedāntaḥ has got a unique perception regarding the nature of existence.
Adi Sankara makes it clear that Existence of a sentient object (table in our example, a pot, a rope or the World) is nijaanthargatham. Remember the first Sloka (Viswam Darpana …). It has its being only in this atman alone. So when you see an object, the object consciousness is atma. An object (pot, chair, world etc) cannot reveal itself to me unless the object consciousness is present. So when I say table , it means the table consciousness is. This ISness is the satta, the sat Atma. The true Atma. This “IS” is different from the normal “is” which we always associate with time. When we say an object exists, the existence in our buddhi is in respect of time. Whereas in the case of ISness, the Consciousness IS (consciousness Existence) is fixed and objects are the variables (pot, chair, world etc). These variables does not exist in the absence of my consciousness Existence.
This consciousness Existence is presented by vedāntaḥ with features, which are exactly like the description of consciousness. Let us see them now:
1. An object exists because I experience its Existence. Hence Existence is not a part, a product or property of the world of objects. When I say the table is, the “IS”ness is not the property of the table. IS not part of the table. It is not even a product of the table. But it is something experienced by me; because I say it IS the table.
2. Existence is an independent reality. Existence pervades and makes every object existent.
3. Existence is not limited by the boundaries of the object. When you say table IS, vedāntaḥ says ISness is not only in the table, it extends beyond the table. It is all pervading sarvagatam; this is the third.
4. Existence exists even after the destruction of the objects which it enlivens; Which means what? ISness will continue to exist, even after the Table is destroyed. Table goes. ISness of the Table does not go. Existence is eternal nityam.
Existence is Sat ; Existence is Tat
Therefore, “IS”ness is not a property of any one particular object; all objects share this in common. It has no objective definable qualities. This is the first kind of emptiness as we meditate on isness. This emptiness takes the shape of vibrations and comes as “existence” within the time and space domain. Contemporary physics confirms this if you look into the nature of matter i.e., when we explore matter right upto sub atomic particles and below, right to the end (remember the introduction to the second Sloka where we started with the God Particle experiment).
Now the question is: how can I appreciate the pure existence and consciousness without association with any object or body ? I am able to appreciate them along with object and body. I am able to appreciate existence with object; I am able to appreciate consciousness with body. Once the object is removed, and the body is removed; pure formless existence consciousness survives, the sāstras say. How can I appreciate that pure existence consciousness?
The sāstra says: you will never be able to appreciate the existence-consciousness. Once you remove the world and body, you will never be able to appreciate, because your appreciation is invariably along with an object or body. Pure thing; you can never appreciate; You know what is the reason; the Upanisad says, it is because you yourselves are that pure existence-consciousness, it being the very subject itself, it is never available for objectification.
In vedantic parlance this is called “sat” – the self Existence feature of Paramatma (Brahman) or तत् (Tat) and at the worldy level is known as “asti” अस्ति – Existence.
This sustaining factor of cognition, the Satta, the ISness, that satta is responsible for everything that exists in space and time. Therefore the senses and the cognition and the objects of cognition all of them have their being in Consciousness which is self existent. Why is it self existent? Consciousness is self revealing and therefore self evident and what is self evident means self existent; means that it IS. Consciousness is self revealing or the revealer. Like sun is the revealer for objects. It does not do any action to reveal. Its by nature a revealer. It reamins revealing all the time.
This leads us to the second vital link – the revealing aspect – The light.
In a lighter vein “We will not take the Light lightly”. We will throw more light on this “Light” in our next blog.
Alan Wilson Watts, British Born American writer and speaker is considered as the foremost interpreter of Eastern disciplines for the contemporary West. He jovially calls a philosopher as “a sort of an intellectual yokel, who gawks at things that sensible people take for granted”.
“What is he talking about ? Us ! taking things for granted! He must be crazy” we must be wondering. No! Watts has not gone nuts. Let us see what Watts says.
“Philosophy starts with wonder, Aristotle said. During the trip between the maternity ward to the crematorium called otherwise as life, without awe/wonder, we take several things for granted and live our life as a routine. For example let us take the word “Existence”. Existence of an object, existence of a number, existence of the world, existence of life in the world etc. Existence is routinely taken for granted.
On the other hand if we think about it for a minute we will be absolutely amazed to discover ourself on the surface of a tiny rock-ball, rotating around a spherical fire in a tiny galaxy in an ever expanding galaxies – a very odd situation and the more we look at things, we cannot get rid of the feeling that existence is quite weird and it is very very strange.
But the so called insignificant little creature “We the humans” have inside our skulls, a neurological contraption that is able to center itself in the midst of this incredible expanse of galaxies and start measuring the whole thing. That is quite extraordinary. Isn’t it?
Furthermore, let us realise that for a world where there are no eyes, there is no light: in a world where there are no soft skin, there are no roughs and in a world where there are no muscles, there is nothing called heavy. It is all relational. Existence is relationship and we are smack in the middle of it”.
When we talk of Relationship what is that we are speaking about? Relationship between whom and whom ? Relationship on what basis ? This is what we will learn in Dakshinamurthy Sthothram Sloka 3 onwards.
Adi Sankara after revealing about the “Sathya” in the first Sloka and the “Creator” in the next Sloka, introduces gradually the “Jiva” by discussing the “Existence and the light” that the Jiva/SELF experience every moment first. This will be the focus of this Sloka.