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.
Those who consider the Body or Prana (Vital Force) or Sense Organs or the Changing Mind or the Void (Total non-existence) as the “I”, are Like the emotionally sensitive women or Naive Innocent Girl Child, or Blind, or a Dull-Headed. They are deluded but they vehemently assert their points. The Inner Guru destroys this great delusion created by the play of the power of Maya. Salutations to Him, the personification of Our Inner Guru who awakens this Knowledge through His profound Silence; Salutation to Sri Dakṣiṇāmurty.
Understanding the Sloka:
देहं प्राणमपीन्द्रियाण्यपि चलां बुद्धिं च शून्यं विदुःDeham Praannam-Api-Indriyaanny-Api Calaam Buddhim Ca Shuunyam Viduh – The various types of false identifications of Ātman that we discussed above viz., deham, pranam, indriyani, calam buddhim and shunyam
स्त्रीबालान्धजडोपमास्त्वहमिति Strii-Baala-Andha-Jaddo(a-U)pamaastv[u-]Aham-Iti – Now let us come to the comparison that Adi Śankarā makes while describing these misconceived people. स्रीबालान्धजडोपमा (strī bāla andha jaḍo pamā). These words should be taken as symbolic of four types of defective intellect, which alone can commit these mistakes:
Stri – an intellect which is suppressed by emotions, which is a hostage of emotions, Emotional thralldom; very typical of womanfolk.
Bāla;- is undeveloped intellect, because a bāla, a child is not capable of thinking; it is not trained; therefore bāla represents undeveloped or untrained intellect. Training through tarka, logical reasoning, he has not gone through;
Andhah – represents unaided intellect; literally the word andhā means blind, and what do you mean by the word blindness here; not using the śāstra pramāṇam, makes a person partially blind. If we have to know the spiritual truth; we require two eyes – external & internal. śāstra cakṣuḥ; buddhi cakṣuḥ, These two should combine for knowledge to take place; If one of them is not there, this person becomes what? partially blind; If both are not there, i.e., no buddhi and no śāstram, totally blind;
The fourth one is jadaḥ; jadaḥa means a retarded intellect, an unintelligent intellect.
भ्रान्ता भृशं वादिनः Bhraantaa Bhrsham Vaadinah. – All these people with the misconceptions have one thing in common; “braandhaaha”- delusion is the only common feature. And not only they are confused and they have got wrong conclusion, the tragic part of this conclusion is they are not available for correction. Therefore Śankarācārya says that these people are not available for reconsideration. This is what the Upanisahads also have said:
They are steeped in ignorance, and also because of their arrogance and adamancy, “svayam dhīrāḥ paṇḍitam manyante”; they think we are omniscient. Therefore Śankarācārya says that even Bhagavan’s compassion becomes useless, in front of them. They always say “I am always right, the other person is always wrong”, These people are called “bhṛśaṃ vādinaḥ”. Śankarācārya says never waste your time, talking to them; talking to such people, is misplaced compassion. bhṛśaṃ means intensely; not ordinarily argumentators, intensely vādinaḥ;
मायाशक्तिविलासकल्पितमहाव्यामोहसंहारिणे – Maayaa-Shakti-Vilaasa-Kalpita-Mahaa-Vyaamoha-Samhaarinne. Then Śankarācārya looks at himself; Oh my God, somehow I am not in that group of confusion; I have got an intellect, which is free from all these four-fold defects, I have got an intelligent intellect, intelligent enough to understand Brahman, and also I have got shraddha in vedānta śāstram m, and therefore I have rescued myself and if I could get out of this confusion, it is only because of the external aid I got; and what is that external aid, śāstram pramāṇam. And therefore I am indebted to śāstram; And if śāstram could be meaningful to me, I am indebted to another person; it is purely because of guru; In fact, śāstram is made a pramāṇam by guru alone; And therefore Śankarācārya says I am indebted to śāstram and more indebted to the guru, and that guru who destroyed all my confusions. That confusion-destroyer-guru, I offer my prostrations and therefore Guru. Adi Śankarācārya now defines a Guru and has a new title for Guru; what is the title given to guru? māyāśakti vilāsakalpita mahāvyāmoha saṃhāri; to that guru, who is none other than dakṣiṇāmūrti, my namaskaram. That is said in the third line. Now let us see the meaning of this long Sanskrit Word.
saṃhāriṇi – (my guru) is a destroyer; destroyer of what?
vyāmoha – (destroys) confusion, Delusion with regard to one self; self-delusion is called vyāmoha; how did this confusion come? he says;
kalpitam - created by/caused by - caused by whom?
vilāsa - ; vilāsa has two meanings, one meaning is the sport or play; so vilāsaha means play; Play of what? maya shakthi, the power of māya; play or operation or sport of māya shakthi.
So thus, what will be final translation; the guru who is the destroyer of the great delusion caused by the play of the power of māya.
And therefore, Hey Guro, who is the destroyer of ignorance and consequent delusion permanently, I offer my namaskaram to you.
திருக்குறள், நிலையாமை அதிகாரத்தில் இக்கருத்தினையே இவ்வாறு பிரதிபலிக்கிறது.
In Vedanta one of the word which is used quite often is “saṃsāraḥ”.There is also a wonderful Question and Answer in Sanskrit.
Q: सम्सारे किम् सारं ?
A: सदा अनुचिन्थनेमेव सारं
Q: What is the essence of worldly life ?
A: The very fact that you always keep thinking about it is the essence.
Swami Dayananda Saraswathi used to say in his lectures that the word “samsara” has different connotations. Birth-death is samsara; Sukha dukha is samsara ; Household choir is samsara; Wife is called samasaram in Tamil Nadu; “Becoming” is samsara; Subject-object division is samsara ; Doership enjoyership is samasara; The division of “I” and “not I” is samsara; Atma anatma divide is samsara. All these imply a demarcation line between the two. Where does this line run? Not outside . It runs upto and including where “I” sees to feel “I am”.
Therefore when it comes to identification of the Atma (Self) there are many misconceptions (“adyāsahaḥ”) that people have. Adi Śankarācārya identifies the many misconceptions, when it comes to identification of the Atma (Self). These errors in perception are:
1. error of a non-thinking person; the layman like us making erroneous conclusion. This is understandable and correctable
2. error of the so-called thinker, who makes thoughtful errors and comes to wrong conclusion. This kind of people are difficult to correct.
The wrong conclusions that thinker following different philosophies make are as under:
1. Ātma identified with physical body (deha ātmā vādaḥ): The first category of people, misunderstand or conclude that the body (deham) is Ātma. They do not accept anything surviving after the death of the body. For them death is the total destruction of the individual, they do not believe in a mind which can survive; because for them, mind is nothing but functioning brain and emotions are neurological disturbances etc. Thirumoolar, one of the sixty-three Nayanmars and one of the 18 Siddhars, in his main work the Thirumandhiram cautions against this conlusion and states that one can’t avoid rebirth if one adopts this policy as this will result in “attachment” from which one cannot come out.
மலமென் றுடம்பை மதியாத ஊமர்
தலமென்று வேறு தரித்தமை கண்டீர்
நலமென் றிதனையே நாடி யிருக்கின்
பலமுள்ள காயத்தில் பற்றுமிவ் வண்டத்தே.
“இந்த உடல் மலத்தால் ஆனது!” என்று எண்ணி அதை ஒதுக்கிவிட வேண்டும். அவ்வாறு செய்யாமல் அதையே நல்ல தலம் என்று எண்ணி இன்பத்துடன் உடலைத் தரித்துக் கொண்டால், மேலும் உடலில் விளையும் நன்மைகளையே நாடிக்கொண்டு இருந்தால், அந்தப் பற்றின் காரணமாக மீண்டும் மீண்டும் ஒருவனுக்குப் பிறவிகள் தொடர்ந்து கொண்டே இருக்கும்.
Half a century ago, my father a common man like most of us and was the Head Master of a Government run High School gave me this advice when I entered the “Teens”. He used to say in Tamil “கண்டதே காட்சி, கொண்டதே கோலம் என்று இருக்காதே”. At that time I didn’t understand the real meaning. But being with him and watching his “simple living-noble thinking” lifestyle taught me lessons which were definitely not part of the curriculum in my Masters and MBA courses subsequently. I can now visualise and get as to what was he hinting at.
A Tamil scholar and poet Keeran (புலவர் கீரன்) in a discourse on “Thiruvasagam” brings out two interesting observations and ask us to ponder the these two facts which will reinforce my dad’s statement.
Among all the living beings, only humans have the capacity to introspect and look at SELF. மனித இனம் ஒன்றே மன சாட்சியை நோக்க முடியும். விலங்கினங்களால் முடியாது.
After death, bodies of animals are more valuable than the human body. இறந்தபின் விலங்கினங்களின் உடலுக்கு மதிப்பு அதிகம்;மனித உடலுக்கு அல்ல;
2. Ātma identified with Prana: Then comes another group of people who say that anatomy is not individual, but the physiology is the individual; physiology, the functions of the body; so, for them, prana is I, the ātmā; I breathe, I am alive, I feel hungry, I feel thirsty: on the strength of these and other notions of the sort, some conclude that Prâna is Ātman. Finding that the dead body which is to all appearance quite of the same nature as the living is yet not self-conscious and does not breathe or perform other functions of a living being, they hold that Ātman must be the Prana, the vital principle, whose presence in the body makes it alive and whose departure reduces it to a corpse.
3. Ātma identified with Sense Organs: The third category of people believe that “indrīẏāṇi” – sense organs are the ātmā; I hear, I see, I smell, I cause motion: from an experience of this sort, some rise higher and look upon the indriyas, the sense-organs, as Ātman. As self-consciousness arises only when the sense-organs are active, Ātman must be identical with the sense-organs. There is no evidence of the existence of Prana distinct from the senses; for no motion is observed during sleep when the senses are quiescent: and breathing, &c., visible during sleep are a mere illusion. As the sense-organs do not perceive objects simultaneously, i.e., as the scope of each sense-organ is restricted to one kind of objects and as there are several sense-organs occupying the body, each of them is an Ātman by itself.
4. Ātman identified with Intellect (buddhim): And then the next one” calāṃ buddhiṃ” – calāṃ buddhiṃ means buddhi means consciousness in this context, vijnānam; they say consciousness is ātmā; but calāṃ buddhiṃ, that consciousness is subject to fluctuations; fluctuating, fleeting, flow of consciousness like the water fall, you see the water, but the second-second, the next second, the water fall you see, is not the same waterfall, it has been replaced by another and another. So, you have a seeming continuous water fall, but there is no continuous water fall and continuous existence is only a changing entity. Similarly, that flowing consciousness is the ātmā, is the philosophy of ẏogācāra Buddhist; On the strength of the notion “I understand,” others regard Buddhi (Intellect) as the Ātman.
5. Ātma identified with Emptiness (śūnyam): Another sect argues that if consciousness is subject to arrival and departure: between the two consciousnesses, what should be there? There should be emptiness alone and therefore śūnyam, blankness, emptiness is the ultimate truth in which emptiness the consciousness comes and goes. Because arriving and departing consciousness cannot be permanent; What is the only permanent thing; vacuum; shoonyam; they are called śūnya vāda buddhisam; previous one is ẏogācāra; last one is śūnyam
Adi Śankarācārya discounts all the above false identification of the Ātman in this sloka. We will see the Sloka in the next blog in the coming week.
We are used to a “question paper based exam followed by practicals” – Aren’t we? Exactly; that is what we are going to do now in our study of Dakshinamurthy Stothram, Sloka 4.
In the previous introductory blog, we saw through sets of questions and answers, as to how the Self (ātmā) is comparable to the “maha deepam” the great light source. Let us continue the conceptual exploration through two experiments.
Experiment 1 – Sun, Dark Room & Mirror Experiment:
Place some objects inside a pitch-dark room. On a bright & sunny day, position a mirror outside at an angle; open the window of the dark room and try reflecting the sunlight through the window into the dark room by adjusting the angle of the mirror. What do you observe? You see that the objects which are otherwise invisible are illumined by the patch of sun light entering the dark room via the mirror and the window.
The question is: who or what illumines the dark room? The mirror or the Sun?
Suppose we say mirror, can we try the same experiment during midnight; keep the mirror at the same angle or at any other angle and try to illumine. The mirror is not able to provide light. So, we cannot say mirror is the illuminator.
If we say that the Sun alone illumines the dark room and not the mirror, then, what will happen if we remove the mirror? Again, the room will continue to be dark, because if the mirror is not there, with a roof over the room, the sunlight can not directly penetrate in the room and illumine. Therefore, mere Sun alone cannot illumine like mere mirror cannot illumine. Therefore, a combination of both the Sun and the mirror together illumine the objects of the dark room.
Pictorially the above experiment can be summarised as under
So, what are we trying to get out of this experiment. What is the illation here?
Experiment 2 – The “holi” pot and lamp Experiment
Light and place a bright lamp (wick lamp with burning oil) on the surface of the earth within a room which is densely dark. Place a pot having five holes with its mouth down over the lamp. Outside of that pot place (in front of each of the hole), an amala (நெல்லிக்காய்) fruit, veena, musk, good gem and a fan.
Now the question is about the perception of the collection of separate objects. Is it attributed to any of the following viz. Lamp or Oil or Wick or Pot or the objects themselves? What is the significance of the 5 holes and the five objects ? Why only these objects ?
The lamp is not able to directly illumine the objects, because it is covered by a pot with five holes; Therefore cooperation of pot is required in the sense that we need a pot with holes and not just the pot. In a lighter vein, therefore we require a ‘holi pot’.
The pot with holes alone can’t illumine and we require the lamp. The holes without the lamp within, cannot also illumine the ibject.
Same arguments go for the oil, the wick and the objects. None of them are self-illumine too and only those objects which fall within the range of the beam of light that comes out of the holes are perceived.
So, what are we trying to get out of this experiment. What is the illation here?
Well, “Practicals” are over. What did we learn?
Let us get into the details in the blog next week.
We saw in the previous Sloka 3, the vedantic concept of conjoined existence and light in perception of objects and understood that both “being” and “knowing” are nothing but the same (tat tvam asi). In Sloka 4, Adi Sankara throws more light on the “Light”.
Before we venture into the Sloka, I am going to start this blog with three sets of questions.
Can you see yourselves in broad day light ?
Can you see your friend in a crowd in the park in the day light ?
Can you see yourselves in a pitch dark room ?
Can you see your friend in the same pitch dark room?
Do you need a torch to see Sun in the daytime.
Can you see the stars and constellations on a clear night?
These are very simple and innocuous questions. Answering these shouldn’t pose difficulties.
Yes. I can see myself in broad light.
Yes. I searched and can see my friend in a crowd in the park.
No. I cant see myself physically but I know that I am there.
No. I can’t see my friend in the pitch dark room. I need light.
I don’t need a torch to see the Sun in daylight. It is all powerful.
Yes. I am able to see stars and constellations on a clear night.
Explanatory Notes for the answers
Now let us amplify the answers given.
Suppose if I ask whether you have seen your friend in the crowd, you will have to look around to see whether he has come or not; which means that a process is required. But when I ask you the question, are you there, you do not take any time, or even thinking. Even before the process of thinking starts, “I am here” is an evident fact.
I don’t need a light to say that I am inside a dark room since I know that I am there. It is self evident as indicated above. But I need a process and a light to see anyone else.
I don’t need an external light to see the Sun in daylight. It is the most powerful light source. It is a “maha deepam”. But the strange fact is I can see the stars which are millions of miles away in the sky on a clear night. Perhaps I have a powerful source of light inside me (a maha deepam) that helps me to see the stars. Maybe ! I don’t know.
Preamble to the Vedic Philosophy behind the “Light”
Apparently in these three sets of questions and answers, the underlying focus is on light and sight. Let us now throw some light on this light.
An object in the world becomes known at a particular time by our special effort. If I have to see my friend in a crowd at the park, it is an event in space and time. I have to turn in that direction and my mind should be behind the eye. Or the eyes will not see. And the light should fall on the crowd; and then a thought should take place in the mind; and that is called vritti pariṇāma, and when that takes place alone, the knowledge of my friend takes place; as an event, in the mind, because of the operation of the sense organ called eye. So, the steps involved in this light throwing process called mano vritti is as under:
1. Some object is there.
2. Light falls on it.
3. You see it through your effort with your eyes.
4. It translates that it is other than you
5. You recognize it through something.
6. It forms a wave thought
7. That gets reflected in a medium to lend existence
The process is nothing complicated. Simple. Isn’t it? But then how do you say “I am here” when you are in a pitch dark room and someone asks you “Where are you?” You even say sometimes “Don’t switch on the light. I am relaxing”. Strange ! Are you self luminous? Exactly. This is called svayam prakāśatvam of ātmā; self-evidence of ātmā; this is a very important concept in vedānta. In India we have people named as Swayam Prakash.
The core of an Individual known as ātmā is not only svayam prakāś but also a “maha deepam” – a great light.
In a lighter vein that is why if we see several Indian movies particularly the historical/mythological ones, you will see in death scenes, a light moves up from the body towards the heaven. We see obituary statements like “The light in our life has merged with the Almighty” even today.
With this introductory understanding that core of all of us viz., the inner consciousness known as the ātmā is compared to a maha deepam (the light like Sun) in, let us proceed toward our goal of understanding the Sloka 4 where Adi Sankara again comes out with simple experiments to drive home the Vedantic Concepts.
சிறுவித்தினில் அடங்கும் வருபெருந்தரு ஒப்ப, இவ்வுலகை – தன்
இச்சையுடன் மந்திரச்சித்தனும் வித்தக ஞானியும் போல் விரித்து – பின்
இலை கிளை கொடி மலர் காய் கனி வித்தென கணக்கிலா வகையுடன்
வெளி நொடி வரையிலா மாயையால் வேறுபட க் காட்டி பின் மறைத்திடும்
ஆதிஅந்தமிலா மோனநிலை ஆசானாம் அருள்மிகு
தக்ஷிணாமூர்த்தி பொற்பாதம் பணிந்திடுவோம்
Meaning in English:
To Him who, like unto a magician, or even like unto a mighty Yogin, displays by His own will this universe, undifferentiated in the beginning like the plant within the seed, but made afterwards picturesque in all its variety in combination with space and time created by Mâyâ, to Him who is incarnate in the Teacher, to Him in the Effulgent Form Facing the South, to Him (Siva) be this bow!
In the first Sloka, we dealt with the nature of the Ultimate Reality/ the Supreme Self/the Brahman/God by analysing two states of the Individual Self/Consciousness viz., dream and awake states. In other words, by analysing the dreaming jīvātma and waking jīvātma we learnt about our jīvātma svarūpam. Therefore, first verse is dealing with an important word “tvam”. And now in the second verse, Śankarācārya wants to deal with the word “tat” – tat padārthaḥ, the meaning of the word: tat, i.e., paramātma or Brahman. We saw in the previous blogs, that in all the śāstrās, it is stated that Brahman is the cause of the universe; using the spider as an example, we saw that Brahman is the intelligent and material cause for the universe. We will see now how he “creates” the universe.
Is it Creation or Manifestation?
Śankarācārya brings forth the philosophy that Creation is not there; everything is in potential form. Brahman is the material and intelligent cause to bring it out as His manifestation. This is the core Vedanta Principle that Śankarācārya brings out by citing two examples which we saw in the two videos of the previous blog; the giant Sequoia tree and PC Sorcar, the magician.
The Tree and the Material Cause:
And where did this big tree come from? From a very small seed. This is the example that Śankarācārya brings out in Sloka 2 – The seed and tree; He says; the tree is already existent in the seed, before its origination; in dormant condition; potential condition. He uses the expression “nirvikalpa rūpeṇa”; in an undifferentiated form, the tree exists. And why do you use the word undifferentiated? Because in the seed, even though the tree exists, you will not be able to see where the flowers are, which are the branches etc.; the branches, thousands of leaves etc. are going to come; they are all there in the seed.
இதையே அவ்வைப் பாட்டி ‘வெற்றிவேர்க்கையில் ’ குறிப்பிடுகிறார்.
“தெள்ளிய ஆலின் சிறுபழத் தொரு விதை
தெண்ணீர்க் கயத்துச் சிறுமீன் சினையினும்
நுண்ணிதே யாயினும் அண்ணல் யானை
அணிதேர் புரவி ஆட்பெரும் படையொடு
மன்னக் கிருக்க நிழலாகும்மே’’
சிறுமீனின் கண்ணைகாட்டிலும் சிறிய முட்டையில் அரசன் தன் நாற்படை பரிவாரங்களுடன் வந்து தங்க நிழல் தரும் பெரிய ஆலமரம் உள்ளது’ என்பது (தெள்ளிய ஆலின் ) தமிழ்ப்பாட்டியின் வாக்கு. இந்தச் சிறிய விதைக்குள் தன்னைப் பிற மரங்களிலிருந்து வேறுபடுத்திக் கொள்ளாமலும் வேர், கிளை கொப்பு விழுதுகள் போன்ற உறுப்புகள் காணப்படாமலும் சத்தியாக ஆலமரம் மறைந்துள்ளது. இதனை வடமொழியில் ‘நிர்விகல்ப ரூபம்’, அவ்வியக்தம் (un manifested, undifferentiated form ) என்பர். அதாவது, காணப்படும் பிரபஞ்சம் தோன்றுவதற்கு முன் அது ‘ஜகத் காரணமாக’ சூக்கும சத்தியாகப் பிரமத்தில் இருந்தது. அதனால் பிரமம் பிரபஞ்சத்திற்கு வித்து. எனவே, இவ்வுலகம் பிரமத்தினால் படைக்கப்பட்டதன்று. பிரபஞ்சம் படைக்கப்பட்ட தன்று. ஏற்கெனவே உள்ளது. ஏற்கெனவே உள்ள சூக்குமப் பிரபஞ்சம் நம்முடைய கண்ணுக்குக் காட்சிப் படவில்லை. எனவே காட்சிப்பட்ட பிரபஞ்சத்தினை இறைவன் படைப்பு எனக் கருதுகிறோம். பிரமமே முதற்காரணம்.
The world was there in potential form, in Brahman, the kāraṇam, material cause. And therefore Śankarācārya says; बीजस्याऽन्तरिवाङ्कुरो जगदिदं प्राङ्गनिर्विकल्पं Bijasya antha nirvikalpaha ankura asthi. Within the seed, ankuraha, the tree is there; nirvikalpaha, in an undifferentiated, unrecognizable form (unmanifest, undifferentiated, potential form); In the same way, the whole universe, existed in potential form; in whom? Brahmani, the world was existing in Brahman in potential form; therefore, Brahman is the seed of the universe. Bhagavan did not create this world; why? because the world was already there; He didn’t. It was already available inside Him in undifferentiated form.
Now let us come to the second line. मायाकल्पितदेशकालकलना वैचित्र्यचित्रीकृतम् – māyā kalpita deśa kāla kalanā vai citri citrikritam. That unmanifest world was made manifest. The undifferentiated world got differentiated. – citrikritam made to manifest, magnified, multiplied or differentiated. Just as from the undifferentiated seed, gradually differentiation comes; this sprout comes; then you can see the branches, the leaves, the twig, flowers, the fruit, they are all differentiation from the past condition where these differences were not there. And therefore, creation can be called a manifestation or a differentiation or a form of multiplication. Thus, citrikritam means it was diversified, magnified; multiplied.
And for this multiplication of one into the manifold world, what is required. Śankarācārya gives in a very technical form and says māya kalptita deśa kāla. Desa and kāla (space and time), are caused by the māya shakthi (veiling and projecting powers) which is in Brahman. Thus, when I look at through time and space, Ekam Brahma is perceived as anekam jagat. Now what is essence of this entire line? Brahman continues to be non-dual; when māyā shakthi is activated, called vikshepa shakthi, then the time and space comes into existence; and they are the goggles for the consciousness. When I look through the time space spectacle, a non-dual Brahman appears, or is modified into the pluralistic universe. And from the line, what is the main point we get. Brahman is the material cause of the universe.
The Magician, the Yogi and the Intelligent Cause:
Now in the third line, Śankarācārya wants to point out, that the Brahman itself is the intelligent cause also, which throws out the universe out of itself. Not only is the material cause, which becomes the universe, He is the intelligent cause also; which throws out the universe out of itself. And what is the example? svapna prapancha, I am the material cause of the dream world, and I myself am the intelligent cause also, who throw out the svapna world, out of myself. That is said here; yahaḥ vrijrimbayati. yahaḥ means the very same Brahman, the paramātma yahaḥ vrijrimbayati api विजृम्भयत्यपि; not only he is the material cause, he is the intelligent cause also. That अर्प api indicates he is creator also. He is the raw material also. vrijrimbayati api; Very same Brahman creates also. And for creating the world out of itself, what are the instruments used by Brahman. Because we require the creator, the raw material, then the instruments also. Carpenter is the creator, wood is the raw material, but those two are not sufficient, he requires the instrument; What are the instruments used by Brahman? Śankarācārya says Brahman is the instrument also. And therefore स्वेच्छयाsveccayāḥ. By mere sankalpa, without requiring any instrument, swa icchayāḥ, sva saṃkalpa mātreṇa. And this is also not impossible, because we do the same thing in creating the swapna; I am the creator, I am the raw material, I am the instrument also; and saṃkalpa mātreṇa, effortlessly I throw out this svapna prapanchaḥ; Similarly, Brahman throws out the jagat prapanchaḥ.
And he gives two examples here. Even though svapna example is the ideal example, Śankarācārya does not give that example here, because in the first verse already svapna driṣṭanta he has given and therefore he gives two other examples. What are they? मायावीवmāyāvi iva. Like a magician. So, Magician produces many things out of himself; he just waves the hand and you find a hat is there; or there is a dress; or there is a bird; he shows a empty hat, then from that he goes on taking many things; So what is the raw material? Without any raw material, with his own magical power, the magician materialises and we are all magicians in producing the dream world and Brahman is a magician in producing this world. He materialises like the magician. Or महायोगीवmahā yogi iva. Or like a great sidda puruṣaḥ, who can also materializes things. Visvāmitra materialised a world itself called triśanku svargaḥ, and we also read in the books of various sidda puruṣaḥ s, who materialise things. And Śankarācārya gives māyavi iva, mahayogi iva. A siddha puruṣaḥ can also materialise; a magician also can materialise. Thus Brahman is the Intelligent Cause.
Why “Create” at all ?
Adi Śankarāchayra answers one more question, which is often asked; How did this world come into being? Or why did Bhagavan create the world at all? Because he is a jnāni; he does not require anything to be happy. We are ajnānis, unhappy and therefore go on producing things, seeking happiness. But Paramātma need not seek happiness, by creating a world. He must be ātman eva ātmanā tuṣṭhāḥ. He cannot create anything out of desire; then why did bhagavan create the world, if he does not have a desire? This is one question we get often especially when problem comes.
And generally, śāstra gives the answer; the world has to be created, because we have invested in this world; invested in the form of karmas. We have got lot of karmās to be exhausted. Since we have got lot of punya pāpa karmās and the karmās have to be exhausted, and the exhaustion can take place only through experiences, and the experiences require a world.
How did we all get this karmā? Very simple. Because in the previous janma, previous shristhi, we have done lot of good and bad karmās. Some of the karmās got exhausted in the previous sṛśṣṭi; but some reminders were there; for that this sṛśṣṭi. Therefore, how did we get the karmā? Because of the previous sṛśṣṭi. This goes on and on and Adi Śankarācārya answers that question through one single word: bījasyāntati vāṅkuro jagaditaṃ prāṅnarvikalpaṃ punaḥ. That punaḥ, answers the questions. punaḥ means repeatedly, means again and again and again. Adi Shankaracharya puts one punaha; punaha indicates the cyclic nature of the creation;
Thus with two examples and three lines in Sanskrit, Adi Sankaracharya brings out the entire Vedantic Concepts about Brahman, the Creator. Amazing
It is an oft-quoted saying that philosophy begins in wonder. The mystery of the Universe with all its changes strikes the reflective temper of human beings. Through this reflective temper, human beings constantly question their experiences. The Vedic philosophy grew out of a demand for the explanation of actual experiences of an individual.
One of the fundamental laws of Vedanta is “ I am different from whatever I experience”. In general, this whole world that I experience therefore, comes under the Category – “The experienced” or in other words “The object” and I come under the category “The experiencer” or “The subject”.
Now, start the reflective temper by dismissing the object and the subject only remains. In this world I interact with persons and I clearly say that “I am not like this person; I am not like these group of persons; I am not this animal; I am not this; I am not that, I won’t be like that, I am different etc.”….and the list goes on. This way you go on dismissing everything that you experience as an object different from you and finally dismissing the world itself as an object. This is the first level of reflection. The next level is to look at yourselves, since you ruled out the world.
I am not the world that I experience ; but then who am I ? To my limited knowledge, there cannot be any other question other than this simple question which evoked such a vast, deep and wide analysis of the individual experiences by the Saints & Philosophers of Hinduism/Sanatana Dharma. One lifetime to understand the material available may not be adequate. Yet from this ocean of information and knowledge I will venture out and reproduce what is quoted in the basic source book on Vedanta “Tattva Bodha”.
‘I’ (addressed as Atma) am the one who is distinctly different from the gross, subtle and causal bodies; who is beyond the five layers (kośas); who abides as the self-evident witness to the three states of experience (of the nature of existence/awake-awareness/dream-fullness/deep sleep).
Vedanta identifies the features of a human body-mind-intellect complex with three types of bodies, 5 types of sheaths/layers, 5 sense organs 5 action organs , the mind the intellect and the three states of the consciousness (viz, wake, dream and deep sleep). This means that the “Atma (“I”) ” is beyond all these 21 seamlessly integrated features of body-mind-intellect complex.
“I” am not the world; “I” am not the body, “I” am not the mind/intellect. If “I” am different from all these three; then “I” must be a conscious principle, because I am experiencing them.
Thus the entire object or anātmā consists of three factors, the world, the body and the mind; and “I”, the ātmā, the observer consists of the consciousness principle called chaitanyam. This is the fundamental concept that we are trying to grapple with in Vedanta
At this stage I am again reminded of this excellent poem “Master Piece” by “Author Anonymous” which I posted in my blog on June 12, 2020 (Masterpiece – Prabhu’s Ponder (prabhusponder.com)). It simply moved me – what deep understanding of the subject and what an expression! The author wanted to remain Anonymous and clearly stated that “spirituality decreases when it is attributed to a person. I was but a scribe.”
This master piece is what “I” am and can only be experienced rather than be defined.
Now in the first Sloka, the subject matter is: What is the relationship between I, the consciousness principle, and the entire universe; the inert matter. What is the relationship between I the ātmā, the consciousness principle, and the world, the inert principle called anātmā.
So अत्म–अनात्मसम्भन्दः atma-anātma sambhandaḥ “ஆன்மாவும்அண்டமும்” “Jivatma and the Jagat” is the subject matter of the first verse; and Sankaracharya beautifully explains this with the help of two examples of mirror and dream, about which we will see in the coming blogs.
Throughout the blogs, you will see fair mix of words in Sanskrit and Tamil. Wherever possible, I will try to use the transliterated/ words with verbatim letters in English for easy understanding based on my elementary knowledge.
As each Sloka brings out the essence of Vedanta, it is necessary that some basic concepts of the Vedanta is discussed first before dwelling into the Sloka. As such there will be introductory blogs which will cover the concepts before taking up the Sloka and its meaning. With my limited understanding I will try and make these conceptual blogs simple through day to day examples. If you find them too elementary, please bear with my ignorance. It will turn out that we may need a minimum of 4-5 blogs to cover each Sloka. Get ready for a long haul.
Salutations to Dakṣiṇāmurty whose exposition through profound silence is awakening the knowledge of the Supreme Brahman in the hearts of His disciples; who is Himself youthful but is sitting surrounded by old and great sages who are devoted to Brahman. The hands of the Supreme Spiritual Teacher form the Cin-Mudra. His appearance is still and blissful and who rejoices in His own Self which is reflected on his blissful face
Sitting on the ground near the banyan tree (Vata) were all Munis (Sages), who were (sitting) near to the bestower of knowledge. They were (sitting) near to the Guru of the three worlds, the Lord Himself, personified as Dakshinamurthy Deva; near to the one, expert in severing the sorrows resulting from the cycles of births and deaths; I bow to that Dakshinamurthy.
It is indeed a strange picture to behold; At the root (i.e. base) of a banyan tree (Vata) are seated old disciples (i.e. aged disciples) in front of an young Guru, The Guru is silent, and silence is His exposition (of the highest knowledge); and that (silence) is severing the doubts (automatically) from the minds of the disciples.
Salutations to the embodiment of Pranava (Om), Salutations to the personification of the pure, non-dual knowledge, Salutations to the pure and stainless, and Salutations to the tranquil; Salutations to Sri Dakshinamurthy.
(Salutations to Sri Dakshinamurthy) Salutations to the one who is (as if) Consciousness solidified, Salutations to the Mahesha (the Great God), Salutations to the one who dwell at the root (i.e. base) of the banyan tree (Vata), Salutations to the embodiment of Sacchidananda (Existence, Consciousness, Bliss); Salutations to Sri Dakshinamurthy.
In Tamil, we use the word கடவுள் (kadavul) to indicate God. நம்மைக் கடந்தும் (kada) நமக்கு உள் (ul) இருப்பதுவே கடவுள் (Meaning that the one which is away from us and yet inside us is God). A very simple word with very deep meaning. One can keep contemplating on this word alone. Deeper introspection will drive us to the concept of Infinity. Talking about infinity from a philosophical perspective will take us directly to this very famous Sloka (Hymn). This śloka is from the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upanishad and forms the mangalācarana mantra (Shanthi Sloka) for the Īśāvāsya Upanishad.
“It is an oft-quoted saying that philosophy begins in wonder. The mystery of the world with all its changes strikes the reflective temper. The Vedic philosophy grew out of a demand for the explanation of actual experience. Philosophy bade men seek beneath all change, which is the law of life, unity and persistency. All things are passing; what remains? Anything or nothing? The Vedic age raised the problem of philosophy and offered a solution. It was then that attempts to reflect upon the world of experience were made for the first time. When we reflect upon the world of experience, the word illusion (“Maya”) comes to the foreground.
The doctrine of Maya is consideredby many thinkers,to be an integral part of the Vedanta philosophy. The Vedanta system is supposed to be an acosmic pantheism, holding that the Absolute called Brahman alone is real and the finite manifestations are illusory. There is one absolute undifferentiated reality, the nature of which is constitutedby knowledge. The entire empirical world, with its distinction of finite minds and the objects of their thought,is an illusion. Subjects and objects are like the fleeting images which encompass the dreaming soul and melt away into nothingness at the momentof waking.
The term Maya signifies the illusory character of the finite world.” ( Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, Eminent Indian Philosopher)
Wait a minute; does this statement strike a chord in us – in today’s COVID-19 environment?
It looks like it happened “just recently”. A year and a quarter has passed since the virus silently spread across the world. Millions of lives lost. Inter and intra relationships & transactions among and within individuals and society have been completely turned around leaving one to wonder whether it is all a dream and whether we all are waking up to a new state after a deep sleep. Yes, all the three basic states of our Consciousness (awake, dream and deep sleep) have come to play in this crucial time in each one of us thanks to Maya (She, The Big M,I call it).
Well, to me it appears like that; so I woke up after my second vaccination, with a new found determination to explore Maya and her origin, the Vedanta. True to its nature, the Big M treated me like a kid (which I am) and presented me with an exclusive giant Mall with infinite toy stores. No wonder I am lost. Not to disappoint me, the Big M presented me with three books titled Tattva Bodha, Isavasya Upanishad and Dakshinamurthy Stothram.
The last 2 weeks have been fairly severe in terms of the weather; temperatures dropping to single digits (deg F) and snow storms lashing cities forcing kids like me to seek the comfort of our cozy home – that means the Big M has given me an opportunity to deep dive into the books that I got from Her. Each Sloka (Verse) and each word in the three books, is sending me into “space walks” in search of the Self . Holding each Sloka as my life line, I venture into the space of contemplation. Whenever I return back to my home base, I stare through the window at the vast white carpet of snow all around and tried to relate my space walk with the “ground reality”.
In one such “stare” in the early morning after I went on my 18th space walk (corresponding to the 18th Sloka of the Isavasya Upanishad) , the day after the snow storm I did have a direct response from the principal character of that Sloka. Here is that Sloka, its meaning in English and Tamil and the response of the character .
A word of caution here – Millions of pages have been written over centuries by “Subject” – “Matter” – Specialists to provide commentaries for the Slokas in these books. Summing them up into few lines is absolutely immature and childish; yet as a child I have started by scribblings on Vedanta. Pardon me for that.
But Children have the right to enquire and ask questions. The child I am, I am asking questions to myself with the fond hope that someday I will find answers.
अग्ने नय सुपथा राये अस्मान्विश्वानि देव वयुनानि विद्वान् ।
युयोध्यस्मज्जुहुराणमेनो भूयिष्ठां ते नम उक्तिं विधेम ॥ १८ ॥
agne naya supathā rāye asmānviśvāni deva vayunāni vidvān |
yuyodhyasmajjuhurāṇameno bhūyiṣṭhāṃ te nama uktiṃ vidhema || 18 ||
Meaning in Tamil
அழல்தெய்வமே ! புரிவினையாவுமறிந்திட்டு – யாம்
Meaning in English
O god of fire, lead us by the good path
To eternal joy. You know all our deeds.
Deliver us from evil, we who bow
And pray again and again.
(From The Upanishads by Eknath Easwaran)
Music Courtesy: Jagruthi an awakening by Music India. (No commercial interests for me).