In the 7th verse, Śankarācārya pointed out that aham or “I am” alone is inherent in and through all the states of experience and therefore that I am or sat chit ātma alone must be taken as the real I. And since all the other states are subject to arrival and departure, he should be taken as my real nature; I am Satcidātma. And relevant to every particular state, I take the attribute to myself; like the youthful-I, youth-I; old-I, waker-I, etc.; even those attributes should not be taken as an integral part of I; because even the attributes are subject to arrival and departure, which means the attributeless-I alone is the ātma and this attributeless-I alone is called Sakshi. On the other hand, if I take the incidental attributes also as my intrinsic nature, then I mistake myself as an attributed-I, which is called ahaṃkāra. So, because of ignorance when I add attributes to myself it is called ahaṃkāra; through wisdom when I see the attribute as distinct from me, then I am called Sakshi. So, the difference between ahaṃkāra and साक्षि sākṣi is caused by ignorance and wisdom; in ignorance attributes are added; I am ahaṃkāra. In wisdom attributes are not added; I am sākṣi. This was the content of the teaching of the 7th verse
Maya – ஒப்பனை – An overview
Now in the 8th verse; Adi Śankarācārya says unfortunately most people are in a state of ignorance; and therefore they do not own up the sākṣi-I, and therefore they remain the empirical ahaṃkāra-I.
Two questions arises immediately –
1. “How come? Why are most of us ignorant?”.
2. The moment I become empirical ahaṃkāra, what happens?
For this we should try and understand the concept of Maya (Illusion). The subject of “Maya” is Vedantic Student’s delight. So much literature is available on the subject. However for our study, we will take the verses given in Sureshwaracharya’s Mānasollāsa (text and translated by Alladi Mahadeva Sastry first in 1899).
The excerpts reproduced here are from Mānasollāsa.
(** – Ref: Introduction to Sloka 6 for the story about Rahu & Ketu from the Puranas).
கண்ணன், மமமாயா என்றும் தைவீமாயா என்றும் இந்த மாயையைப் பற்றிக் குறிப்பிடுகிறான். மம என்றால் என்னுடைய என்றும் தைவீ என்றால் தெய்வீகமான என்றும் பொருள்படும்.
ஏஷா என்றும் மாயைக்கு ஒரு அடைமொழி கொடுக்கிறான். அதாவது புலன்களால் உணரக் கூடியது. கண்களால் காணவும், செவிகளால் கேட்கவும், சருமத்தால் உணரவும், மனதால் புரிந்துகொள்ளக் கூடியதுமான மாயை. ஆக, மாயையின் வடிவில் உனக்கு எந்நேரமும் நான் காட்சியளித்துக் கொண்டுதான் இருக்கிறேன் என்று கண்ணன் நமக்கு உறுதி கூறுவதாக இதைப் புரிந்துகொள்ள வேண்டும்.என்னை வெளிப்படுத்திக்கொள்ளாத பிரம்மமாக இருக்கையில், நானே மாயையாக இருக்கிறேன் என்றும் கண்ணன் கீதையில் தெளிவாகவே குறிப்பிடுகிறான். அவனே மாயையாய் நம்மை மருள வைக்கிறான்.
என்று திருக்குறளில், மெய் உணர்தல் அதிகாரத்தில், திருவள்ளுவர் கூறியது என் நினைவிற்கு வருகிறது.
So the answer to the first question is clear. We are ignorant thanks to Maya. Now the second question.
Relations and Transactions – உறவுகளும் பரிமாற்றங்களும்
The moment I become empirical ahaṃkāra, I cannot avoid relationships with the relevant world. So the “relationless” Atma becomes “related” or “relationed”. It is a never ending story of relationships.
அந்த உறவுகள் ஒரு தொடர் கதை; அந்த ஒப்பனை கலந்த உறவுகள் எத்துனை எத்துனை ! இவ்வுறவெனும் உலகத்தில் வரவொன்றும் இல்லாததால் வறுமையின் வாரிசாகி வாசலோடு துரத்தபடுகிறோம். ஒப்பனையைக் கலைத்து உள்ளிருக்கும் மெய்ப்பொருளை உணர்ந்தால் நிலையான வீடுபேறு. இதுவே இப்பண்ணின் சாரம்.
இப் பண்ணில் எடுத்துக் காட்டாக ஓரிரு உறவுகளை ஆதி சங்கரர் விவரிக்கிறார். அவைதனை அடுத்த பதிவில் காண்போம்.
What all relationships? Plenty.
A few examples are discussed in the Sloka which we will see subsequently. What essentially happens is that this “jivatma” which was “relation less” and who is otherwise a witness “Saakshi” becomes related and the misery starts with transactions and continues till we know our true self through “atma gnanam”.
With this understanding let us get into the Sloka in the next blog.
We saw in the introductory blog that the experience of the self is not a simple act of knowing but it is a complex act of re-knowing. When recognition of self occurs, the limited consciousness merges with the supreme consciousness. Tirumūlar compares this to space merging with space and light merging with light. Let us now see in this Sloka about this recognition – when, where and how do we re-cognise this Self.
बाल्यादिष्वपि जाग्रदादिषु तथा सर्वास्ववस्थास्वपि व्यावृत्तास्वनुवर्तमानमहमित्यन्तः स्फुरन्तं सदा । स्वात्मानं प्रकटीकरोति भजतां यो मुद्रयाभद्रया तस्मै श्रीगुरुमूर्तये नम इदं श्रीदक्षिणामूर्तये ॥७॥
Meaning in Tamil
இடைநிலையாய் பாலன் இளையன் விருத்தனென உடலிருந்தும்
அடையும் அறுபாதி அவத்தையும்* தொடர்விலாதெனினும் – அதனுள்
இடையிலா தொடராய் சுயநேருணர்வாய் அனைத்து நிலைதனிலும் உள்ளுறை
ஆதியும் அந்தமும் அருட்பரம்பொருளெனும் ஆன்மாவை அறியும் ஆற்றல்தனை
அமைதியின் வடிவாய் கரவழி மோனமுத்திரை காட்டி நாடுவோர்கு கற்பிக்கும்
ஆதிஅந்தமிலா மோனநிலை ஆசானாம் அந்த அருள்மிகு
தக்ஷிணாமூர்த்தி பொற்பாதம் பணிந்திடுவோம்
(*அறுபாதி அவத்தை – ஆன்மாவின் மூன்று நிலைகள் –
விழிப்பு, கனவு, ஆழ் உறக்கம்)
Meaning in English:
During boyhood and other stages of life (Youth, Old age etc), during waking and other states (Dreaming, Deep Sleep, Turiya etc) and similarly in all conditions the Ātman always shines as the “I” within, free from all conditions but at the same time present in all conditions. The Inner Guru awakens this Knowledge of One’s Own Ātman to those who surrender to Him; this Knowledge is represented by the auspicious Cin-Mudra. Salutations to Him, the Personification of Our Inner Guru Who Awakens This Knowledge through His Profound Silence; Salutation to Sri Dakṣiṇāmurty.
Where is Ātma experienced? Self is experienced by me. ātma, the real Self, is always experienced by me. It is ever-evident to myself; And when is the self-experienced? Sada spurantaṃ. It is ever-experienced. And where is it experienced? अन्तः स्फुरन्तं antaḥ spurantaṃ. Within the body-mind-complex, within the enclosure of body-mind-complex, it is ever-experienced. (आत्मानुभवः ātmānubhavaḥ is a सदा अन्तः स्फुरन्तं sada antaḥ sphurantaṃ; sada – always; antah – inside/internal; spurantaṃ meaning shining, experienced, evident, accessible, recognisable, is spurantaṃ).
And how do we refer to that experience? Every experience is identified through an expression. When I experience an object let us say a clock, I invent an expression to refer that experience; I say that it is a clock. What is that expression for ātma? This ever-experienced ātma, is referred to me by me as Aham – Aham iti. It is ever experienced in the form of I-am; I-am; I-am;
When do we experience? “I-am’ experience is there continuously. Throughout the waking state, “I-am” continues; the ātma is experienced as I am, during the dream state; even during the sleep state, “I am” continues. You do not verbalise during sleep; but that experience is verbalised after waking; “I am” experience is present in sleep, but it is verbalised, vocalised only in the waking state; verbalisation is later, but the experience is there; even during sleep. Therefore I-am, I-am, I-am, this continuously experienced I am is ātma.
From this Adi Śankarācārya conveys a very important thing, ātmā experience or ātmānubhavaḥ is continuously present; ātmānubhavaḥ is continuously present for everyone, all the time. And therefore, we should remember ātmānubhavaḥ is not a particular experience happening at a particular time. You cannot say I had ātmānubhavaḥ in meditation. Then you are making ātmānubhavaḥ an event in time. Adi Śankarācārya negates that by using the word सदा sadā. So ātmānubhavaḥ is not an event in time and therefore it does not require a process to make it an event in time. An event in time happens because of an effort, because of a process. Śankarā says ātmānubhavaḥ is not an event; which happens in time through a process or through an effort of any individual or individuals. Therefore, we should never say; I am working for ātmānubhavaḥ. This is one explanation of ātma.
This ever-experienced ātma is anuvartamānam, is continuously-present, anuvartha means to continuously present, to inhere, to permeate, to inform, anuvarthamānam; this ātma is continuously-present. When? In and through. In and through what? vyāvṛttāsu avāstāsu, vyāvṛttām means discontinuous, anuvartham means continuous, and avāstā means states/stages, So ātma is continuously present in and through the discontinuous-avāstās.
The word avāstā, if you take the life as a whole, the word avāstā means the stages of life and they are classified as four in our śātrās. There are four avāstās or stages of life, if you take life as a whole. And what are those avāstās? bālyam, kaumāram, yauvanam, vārdakyam; bālyam is childhood state, kaumāram means boyhood state; or stage; and yauvanam is youth stage; and vārdakyam means old-age stage. Thus, four avāstās are there. bālyadishu avāstāshu, in and through the four discontinous stages of life, like childhood etc. ātma is continuously present. How? I am a child, I am a boy, I am a youth; I am old; When child word is used, boy word is not there; when I say boy, youth word is not there; When I say old, youth, boy is not there. Child, boy, youth, old, there are anuvartam or vyāvṛttam, these four; they are vyāvṛttam means, mutually-exclusive-discontinous stages-of-life; but even though these stages are mutually exclusive; even though these stages are discontinuous, what is continuous? I am, I am, I am. That “I am” refers to the ātma.
And not only these four stages of life. If you take a particular day of your life, instead of taking the whole life, if you take a particular day, in the context of a day, avāstās are called states of experience, and they are classified into three. If you take life; four stages; if you take day; three states; four stages are called avāstās; three states are also called avāstās. One is taking a segment of life called a day, another taking the whole life. And what are the three states of experience? Adi Śankarācārya says जाग्रदाददषु jāgradādiṣu when we say jāgradādiṣu avāstāsu, we should translate as states of experience. And there also “I am waker”, “I am dreamer” and “I am sleeper”; wakerhood-state, dreamerhood and sleeperhood; They are vyāvṛttam or anuvrutham? They are vyāvṛttam, which means they are mutually exclusive, and they are discontinuous states. But in and through the discontinous states, what is common, “I am”, “I am”, that “I am”, and that continuous”I am” experience is ātmanubhavaha;
3. प्रकटीकरोति भजतां – Prakattii-Karoti Bhajataam
Here Śankarā talks about the knowledge that the Guru is teaching – the knowledge about the attributeless ever present and ever experienced ātma. Because they are floating and march pasting, this exclusion of attributes, and seeing the ever experienced continuous I-am as ātma is called ātma jnanam. Seeing the attributeless I-am as the ātma is called ātmajnanam. And therefore, ātma jnanam is not a new experience; but it is a new perception of the ever experienced I, excluding the attributes. And this ātma, the ātma, which is separated from attributes, प्रकटीकरोशत prakaṭīkaroti, is taught by the guru. Guru does not give a new experience. Guru does not ask the disciple to work for a new experience, Guru teaches the student to reshuffle; reclassify the available experience. You say “I am”, but do not include any attribute.
In Nirvana Satakam, Śankarā Says ,
नमे द्वेष रागौ, नमे लोभः मोहौः
मदौ नैव मे नैव मात्सर्य भावः
न धमॊ नचाथॊ, न कामॊ न मॊक्षः
शचदानन्दरूप शिवॊहम् शिवॊहम
Include the attribute; I am the empirical-ahaṃkāra; exclude the attribute, I am absolute-ātma. And therefore, the difference between ahaṃkāra and ātma is only in my reclassified-perception. That is why we say ātma-jnanam is a cognitive-change; a perspective-change, with regard to myself. And what is that change? Earlier when I was saying “I am” it was along with anger; along with desire; I included them; now I have learnt to exclude them. And the moment l learn how to exclude them; I can happily claim I am Brahman. Inclusive of attributes, as ahaṃkāra, I cannot claim I am Brahman. Exclusive of atttributes, as Aham, I can claim I am Brahman; I have not become Brahman; but I have claimed the Brahman that I was, I am, and I ever will be. And it is this new perspective which is the teaching of the guru.
Therefore, Adi Adi Śankarācāryacharya says: स्वात्मानं svātmānaṃ; this attributeless-I, this reclassified-I, the guru प्रकटीकरोशत; prakaṭīkaroti means reveals, teaches, instructs; to whom? भजतां bhajatāṃ, to the seekers who are willing for the new-look “I”. Who are willing for the new-look “I”; there is no change in the eye; in the look or perspective there is a new perspective; that I prakaṭīkaroti bhajatāṃ; bhajatāṃ means śiṣyānām (the seekers).
4. यो मुद्रयाभद्रया – Yo Mudrayaa Bhadrayaa
Now, Śankarā explains as to how the Guru transfers this knowledge to the Seekers. And how does he reveal? Two methods, by verbal and non-verbal communication. So, all the body gestures are non-verbal communication. That non-verbal communication is called badraya mudraya; bhadraḥ means auspicious, mudraḥ means hand gestures. The blessed symbol here referred to is variously named as follows:
Cinmudra, the symbol of consciousness;
Vyakhya-mudra, the symbol of exposition;
Tarka-mudra, the symbol of investigation;
Jnana-mudra, the symbol of wisdom.
It consists of a circle formed by joining the thumb and the index-finger at their tips. Through the auspicious hand gesture, called cinmudraḥ – karakalita cinmudra ānandarūpam.
We saw in the dhyāna slokaḥ; the index finger (let us call it the I – am-finger). With this I-am-finger only we attach attributes and point out “you are different, I am different ” meaning that we attach sthula, sukshma and karana sareera attributes through this finger.
And once I separate the “I am” from the attributes, then it can touch the thumb which refers absolute Brahmanhood; separate from the attributes, “I acquire”, I accomplish the status of absolute-brahmanhood. The relative I itself is the absolute-I, when it is freed from attributes. I plus attributes is relative-I, ahaṃkāra; I minus attributes am the absolute-I; ātma. This is what Dakshinamurthy conveys.
The CinMudra is also extensively quoted in several Tamil “Saiva Siddhanta” works. Here is one from Kanda Puranam and Tiruvanaika Puranam
சைவத்தில் சின்முத்திரை கந்தபுராணத்தில் விளக்கப்பட்டுள்ளது. உமையம்மை இமய அரசன் வேண்டுகோளுக் கிரங்கி அவனுக்கு மகளாக இறைவன் அனுப்பப் பிரிந்தவுடன் , இறைவன் தனியே இருந்தனன். அப்பொழுது வேதம் முழுதும் கற்றுணர்ந்த சனகாதி முனிவர் இறைவனிடம் வந்து,” ஐயனே!கடல் போல விரிந்த பொருட்பரப்புள்ள வேதங்களைக் கற்றும் மனம் அடங்காமல், நள்ளிரவில்சூறாவளிக் காற்றடிக்க எழும் அலைகள் மோதித் தாக்க அலைப்புண்ட கப்பல் போல மனம் ஒருநிலைப்படாமல் கலங்கினோம். இந்தக் கலக்கம் நீங்க அருளுவாயாக” என்று இரந்தனர். இறைவன் அந்தமில் ஆகமத்தின் அரும்பொருள் மூன்றும் (சரியை, கிரியை, யோகம்) கூறினன். முனிவரர்கள் மனம் அடங்கும் ‘ஞானபோதகம்’ போதி என்றனர். இறைவன் அது சொல்லத்தக்கதன்று; இப்பரிசினால் இருத்தல் கண்டீர் எனக் கூறி,
கட்டைவிரல் சிவபரம்பொருளைக் குறிக்கும் . சுட்டுவிரல் உயிரைக் குறிக்கும் சுட்டுவிரலுடன் ஒட்டிய நடுவிரல் உயிருடன் இணைந்த ஆணவமலத்தையும் மோதிரவிரல் மாயாமலத்தையும் சுண்டுவிரல் கன்மமலத்தையும் குறிக்கும். சுட்டுவிரல் மற்றைய மூன்று விரல்களையும் விட்டு விலகிப் பெருவிரலின் அடியினைப் பொருந்தி நிற்றல், உயிர் , மும்மலங்களையும் நீத்துச் சிவனின் தாளிணையில் படிந்து நிற்றல் முத்தி என்பதைக் குறிக்கும். இதனை,
5. तस्मैश्रीगुरुमूर्तयेनमइदंश्रीदक्षिणामूर्तये – Tasmai Shrii-Guru-Muurtaye Nama Idam Shrii-Dakssinnaamuurtaye
To that Guru, who gives me the knowledge of the attributeless-I, who teaches me to have a new perspective, without looking for a new experience, that teacher I prostrate; Tasmai. Gurumurthaye; śrī dakṣiṇāmūrtaye; who is none other than dakṣiṇāmūrti idaṃ namaha; my prostrations.
The name Krishna means all attractive. He is also God and possesses the opulence of beauty in full. Physical bodies always have faults not least of which the fact that they will age, get sick and die. Sri Krishna has a body full of eternality (sat), knowledge (cid) and bliss (ananda). He is incomparable.
Oh Vishnu, Oh Lord, who in this world would not be enchanted by your form, which is superior to, what is considered to be the greatest in all the three worlds, more charming than the most charming, more brilliant than the most brilliant even, sweeter than the sweetest even, more beautiful than even the most beautiful and which is the wonder of wonders in this world.
Meaning of the Sanskrit Words
यत्-त्रैलोक्य-महीयसः अपि महितम् = that which is superior to (what is considered to be) the greatest in all the three worlds
मोहनात् सम्मोहनम् – more charming than the most charming
कान्ति-निधानतः अपि कान्तम् = more brilliant than the most brilliant even
माधुर्य-धुर्यात् अपि मधुरम् = sweeter than the sweetest even
सौन्दर्य-उत्तरतः अपि सुन्दरतरम् = more beautiful than even the most beautiful
त्वत्-रूपम् = Thy form,
आश्चर्यतः अपि आश्चर्यम् = (which is) the wonder of wonders
भुवने = in this world
न कस्य कुतुकं पुष्णाति = (is there any one) whose desire/entrancement (to Thee) is not aroused(enhanced/flourished)
Couple of years ago, I was keen to learn Vedic Chants. At 66, it was not the right age to start definitely; but “desires” do not respect age and I started learning to chant a few Shuktams thanks to my good friend Sri.Viswanatha Raju. Durga Shuktam was one of them. That efforts got stalled due to my travel abroad and getting stuck there due to the pandemic. However my efforts to understand the essence of these Vedic chants continue and hopefully I will make some progress.
There is an argument that goes on inside me that there should be no attempt to translate these Vedic Chants into any other language as it is impossible to get the exact equivalent and the consciousness behind the original words and syllables. There is also a counter that we must go ahead and do even at the risk of breaking tradition and purity of thoughts for the benefit of the “Vedic illiterates and ignorant persons” like me.
So here I am, with my maiden attempt at Durga Shuktam. Please feel free to criticise and offer your perspective on this experiment of mine.
Caution : The chanting is my maiden attempt. The chanting may not be as per the QR (quality requirement). Pl take it as a toddler’s walk and bear with me.
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥ Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih
Meaning in English
(We offer our oblations to the Fire of Durga to cross over this very difficult ocean of worldly existence) 1.1: To that Jataveda (one from whom the Vedas are born) we press out the Soma (i.e. Invoke Her ardently); (We invoke that Jataveda) Who consumes by Her Fire of Knowledge (Veda) all the Adversities (within and without) (And frees us from the bondage of the world), 1.2: May that Agni (Fire of Durga) carry us over this Ocean of the World which is full of Great Difficulties and beset with great Perils; like a Boat (carrying one over a very rough Sea),
(We offer our oblations to the Fire of Durga to cross over this very difficult ocean of worldly existence) 2.1: To Her, Who is of the colour of Fire (Agni Varna) and blazing with Tapas (Tapasa Jwalantim); Who was born of that Fire (of Tapas) (Vairochinim), and Who is worshipped through Fruits of Actions (Karma Phalas) (offered to Her Fire as oblations), 2.2: To that Durga, to that Devi, I take Refuge (Sharanam Aham) by falling at Her Feet (Prapadye); (O Mother Durga, I Prostrate before You) Please ferry me mercifully (over this Ocean of the World full of great Difficulties and Perils),
(We offer our oblations to the Fire of Durga to cross over this very difficult ocean of worldly existence) 3.1: O Agni (Fire of Durga), You Who are eulogized (for carrying one across this Samsara); Please ferry us (too), by carrying us (i.e. our Souls) over Your Auspicious Nature, and make us cross this World full of Great Difficulties (Samsara), … 3.2: … (and also spread Your Auspicious Nature over the) Land and Earth, (so that the Earth) becomes abundantly Fertile and Green (and we feel Your presence in external Nature); And fill us, (We who are) Your Children with Your Bliss (so that we feel Your presence internally),
(We offer our oblations to the Fire of Durga to cross over this very difficult ocean of worldly existence) 4.1: O Jataveda (one from whom the Vedas are born), You remove (grave) difficulties in all the Worlds; Please carry us like a Boat in this very difficult Ocean of the World (Samsara), 4.2: O Agni (Fire of Durga), our Minds are invoking You (ardently) like sage Atri (who continuously chants the mantras), and our beings are (now) filled with Your Consciousness (by continuously invoking You),
(We offer our oblations to the Fire of Durga to cross over this very difficult ocean of worldly existence) 5.1: (She is) the (Great) Fire Who is Invincible in Battle, and charges ahead in a Terrible manner conquering (the Enemies); We invoke Her together from the Highest Assembly (i.e. ardently invoke Her together with the greatest reverence), 5.2: May that Agni (Fire of Durga) carry us over this World full of Great Difficulties, by (charging ahead and) Burning to ashes the very difficult Enemies (within us) with Her Divine Fire,
(We offer our oblations to the Fire of Durga to cross over this very difficult ocean of worldly existence) 6.1: You are lauded for spreading Bliss in the Sacrifice since ancient times (The Bliss resulting from killing the inner Enemies); You act as a Hota (Invoker of Bliss) by abiding as a New Maiden (Who is eternally young and free of decay) (in the Sacrificial Altar within the Hearts of the Devotees), 6.2: Your own Conscious Form, O Agni (Fire of Durga) is a source of Happiness (Bliss) for us, and a source of Welfare for our Sacrifice,
(We offer our oblations to the Fire of Durga to cross over this very difficult ocean of worldly existence) 7.1: With Senses (i.e. Mind and Heart) Pleased (by Your Blissful Presence) and becoming Unattached (to the external world), we are Infused with Your (Devotion), O the Highest One; May we Follow (i.e. Immerse ourselves in) Your All-Pervading (Blissful Consciousness) … 7.2: … within the Spiritual Sky (Chidakasha), and dwell here in this Vaishnavi Loka (World of Your All-Pervading Consciousness), being Intoxicated (by Your Blissful Nature),
Durga Gayatri: 1: Om, (Let our mind contemplate) on Devi Katyayani to know Her (Conscious Form); (And then) Meditate on that Kanyakumari deeply (Who is the Universal Mother), 2: May that (Fire of) Durga awaken (our Consciousness).
Om, (May there be) Peace, Peace, Peace (at the the three levels – Adidaivika, Adibhautika and Adhyatmika).
In this verse Adi Śankarācārya is restating the ātma svarupam. We have been told that ātma is not deha, prana, indriyani, buddhi and śūnyam. If ātma is not anyone of them, then what exactly is ātma? That is beautifully described here; Svātmānam. Svātma means my own self; my own essential nature; or the real self. What is this real self?
If it is concluded, on the strength of recognition or pratyabhijná of self-identity, that Ātman is a persistent entity, what is this pratyabhijná? And what its purpose? In Vedanta, Pratyabhijná is also not enumerated among the right sources of knowledge called pramánas along with pratyaksha, etc. Then how can it be a source of knowledge (pramâna)?
The answers to these questions are enlightened in this seventh stanza of the Sloka/Hymn.
The Concept of Re cognition of an object/thing:
Recognition which is essentially a re- cognition (Pratyabhijnána) consists in re-cognising an object/thing—in the form ‘this is the same as that’—which, having once before presented itself to consciousness, again becomes an object of consciousness at present. Semantics in English can give different names for this – recollection, episodic memory, self awareness, Autonoetic consciousness etc. The basic fact is the transaction between consciousness and an object. Let us see an example – a black colored box with golden handle.
First let us see cognition. In the case of external objects, whenever we experience an object, let us say a box, we invent/use an expression to refer to that experience – a box. Let us say that as a kid I have seen a black colored box with a golden handle.
Now after several years later as an adult I see an identical black box with a golden handle, then what do I say “Wow; it is exactly the same or like the same that I saw/experienced several years earlier as a kid”. All the accidental circumstances of place, time and form are left out of account when I recall and say “wow…”.
In this recollection (Recollection here means consciousness of something as having been experienced before), “I” remain the same; there has been no change to that “I”. In other words, in this recollection, Ātman remains the same through all the varying states of wake, dream and deep sleep (jagrat, svapna, and suṣupti), unchanging though the body changes in infancy, childhood, youth, manhood, and old age of an individual. This Black colored box with golden handle is recognized as that Black colored box with golden handle in all the above states. Present both before and after, both at the time of experience and at the time of recollection, Ātman recollects the thing which has persisted in Himself in the form of a samskára or latent impression. So, in the whole process of initial cognition, re-cognition and recall, the Ātman remains the same irrespective of the states of the individual.
The Concept of Re cognition of an Ātman:
Similarly, the pratyabhijnána of Ātman consists in His becoming conscious that He is omniscient, etc., after casting aside the notion that He is of limited knowledge and so on, a notion engendered by His association with Mâyâ. That is to say, the recognition of Ātman’s self-identity consists in the intuitive realisation of His essential nature as the infinite Consciousness and infinite Bliss, after eliminating all limitations of Maya and its effects ascribed to Him by the ignorant.
And how do I refer to that experience? As said earlier, every experience is identified through an “wow” expression. What is that expression for ātma? This ever-experienced ātma, is referred to me by me as Aham – Aham iti. It is ever experienced in the form of I-am; I-am; I-am; “I-am’ experience is there continuously. Throughout the waking state, “I-am” continues; the ātma is experienced as I am, during the dream state; even during the sleep state, “I am” continues. You do not verbalise during sleep; but that experience is verbalised after waking; “I am” experience is present in sleep, but it is verbalised, vocalised only in the waking state; verbalisation is later, but the experience is there; even during sleep. Therefore I-am, I-am, I-am, this continuously experienced I am is ātma.
This “I am” or “aham” is present silently without verbalisation. That is why silence is golden and has no price tage attached to it. That is why we don’t understand it also.
When and where do I have this experience of “I am” or aham ? The answer to this question is provided by Adi Śankarācārya in this Sloka. Let us see the meaning of the Sloka in the blog scheduled on 24th October 2021.
When I was trying to understand this Sloka, I was reminded of the introduction that Dr S. Radhakrishnan provided to his commentary on Bhagwad Gita.
“Before the rise of knowledge, duality is misleading but when our understanding is enlightened, we perceive that duality is more beautiful than even non-duality and is conceived so that there might be worship”.
Narayana Bhattathri, an enlightened soul “looked at the Eternal one not so much as the God of philosophical speculation but as the God of Grace such as the heart and the soul need and seek; a God who inspires personal trust, love, reverence and loyal self-surrender”. No wonder he comes out with this poetic description of the Lord’s beauty. Let us enjoy his description.
I take refuge in Your form with ornaments such as) Keyur (epaulets) Angada (armlets) Kankana (bracelets)and finger rings, studded with gems adorning the sacred four arms, holding the mace, the conch, the discus and the lotus, wearing a yellow resplendent silk cloth, fastened by a golden waist band with pure lotuses like lustrous feet. Oh Lord I take refuge in Your indescribable form that removes the woes of the devotees.