View Full Version : Sri Adi Shankaracharyas Atma Bodha [Self Knowledge]

23 July 2014, 04:49 AM

I have had the good fortune of meeting some great saints who have shaped my understanding about my self. This is an attempt to share the vision of Truth as explained in our scriptures. Sharing the understanding in this way, serves two purposes:
a) It aids me in meditating on the teaching
b) It has the potential to convey the vision to someone who reads it with an open mind.

Due to limitations of my Sanskrit knowledge, I use Swami Chinmayananda ji's translation of the text.

This text called Atma Bodha is a prakarana grantha [a treatise that summarizes the teaching of our vedanta - a specific aspect of it] written by Sri Adi Shankaracharya.


23 July 2014, 05:03 AM
What Do We Seek In Our Lives?

For the time being, lets put aside all our ideas and notions about spirituality and inquire into our lives. As a child we have all been interested in toys. Whenever a new toy came our way, we were impressed and we loved it and whenever we were not given a toy, we felt as if our world is ruined. And then as we grew up, those toys no more remained all that important! Somehow, its seems to have happened "slowly" and eventually ... we just grew out of them.

Perhaps at that time we did not have the maturity to question ourselves : "These toys which made me happy earlier, how is it that they no more make me happy ?" . We never thought on those lines then. But perhaps we should have done that. Instead of inquiring into it, we started playing with new toys: company of friends, movies, parties etc. The old toys have been replaced with these newer toys. of course we did not call these "toys" as we felt that only children play with toys and we were not children any more http://www.arunachala-ramana.org/forum/Smileys/default/smiley.gif.

And then our job , our family ... these became important.

lets now ask this fundamental question: why do we we want ? http://www.arunachala-ramana.org/forum/Smileys/default/smiley.gif. Right now , we might be mumukshus(Spiritual seekers) seeking liberation or Moksha. But why do we want that ? Lets get to the fundamentals and inquire into all this.

As we inquire into our lives, there is something absolutely clear: We have been "seeking". As a child I felt I was empty without my toys. As I grew up , I felt I was empty without certain relationships ! The fact that we "Seek" means we see ourselves as a lacking individual who gets fulfilled by gaining something . A person who thinks that he would be fulfilled by getting more money is termed materialist while the person who thinks that he will be fulfilled through religious activities is said to be a spiritual person. Both are seekers. All seeking is an attempt to remove the sense of incompleteness within.

Our spiritual search also starts as an attempt to get rid of the sense of emptiness that's lurking in our hearts. Vedanta does not give us a new object to fill this emptiness with. Vedanta says "You are already fulfilled. There is no emptiness". When we hear this, we feel "How can that be ? I feel empty, I am unfulfilled" and hence there is a tendency to do something to get rid of this emptiness. If this sense of being empty is true, then we have to do something to get rid of it. But if this sense of emptiness is false ... like a ghost imagined upon a post... then what we need is clarity of vision and not an "Activity" to remove emptiness. Its exactly like a person who imagined a ghost in a post and is now trying to get rid of it. Someone says that you can get rid of it by doing japa. Another person says do prayer. Yet another person would say do meditation, observe the breath. Now don't get me wrong ... all these are upasanas [practises] that are definitely useful. But long before putting person through any of these practices, its very important that he understands that : There is no ghost, its only a post. Having known this, if the person still has some "fear" lurking in his heart, he might be suggested some spiritual sadhanas(spiritual practices). Without telling this, what ever sadhana a person is given , its really not going to help.

This example of a ghost imagined on a post or a shadow (not necessarily our own) taken to be ghost is very important. As we study this text, we will clearly see how all our suffering is only a shadow imagined to be a ghost. This text is about "Atma" - Atma means "Me" or I. But then, why do I need to learn about myself from Shankracharya ? The reason is , I see myself as haunted by a ghost. The aim of this teaching is to aid us "See" that its only a shadow and that we are never haunted! This is the teaching. The teaching is about a "Me" which is never haunted by any sense of lacking or emptiness.

23 July 2014, 05:16 AM

Lets start with the text! Shankara starts the text by listing out a set of prerequisites :

Verse 1:

तपोभिः क्षीणपापानाँ शान्तानाँ वीतरागिणाम्।
मुमुक्षूणाम्-अपेक्ष्योऽयमात्मबोधो विधीयते।

tapobih : by austerities
Ksheena paapaanam : having purified themselves.
shaantaanam : who are calm [without mental conflicts]
veetaraaginaam : (who are)without Attachment
mumukshuunaam : who have desire for liberation.
aapekshyah : with such people in view , for them
ayam: this
atma bodhah : Self Knowledge
Vidheyate : is composed.

For such people who by austerities have become pure and calm and who have a longing to find liberation, this text called Atma Bodha or Self Knowledge is being taught or composed.
Such a long list of qualifications often frighten people. Let me first of all tell you that these are not to disqualify people from reading this text. For a spiritual sadhaka[Seeker], the situation is like that of a person who has nausea due to empty stomach. Until something is eaten, the nausea cannot be cured and until nausea is cured, one cannot eat anything. The situation of a spiritual sadhaka is often similar to this. Unless mind is pure, this Knowledge does not settle in and unless this knowledge settles in, one cannot get the mind totally purified. Jnana is also seen as the best purifier of the mind.

So somewhere this cycle has to be broken. If a person says "I'll not study this text until I gain all these qualifications" , then the chances are that he is waiting for the waves of the ocean to subside so that he can cross it. The reason mind is impure is because of ignorance and the reason knowledge does not settle is mind is impure.

Thats why Jivan Mukthi Viveka suggests that one should practice this Bodha or teaching along with manonasha [meditation and practice of samadhi] and vasanakshaya . We will see all this in more detail as we proceed with the text.

Perhaps the best way to state these qualifications is how Yoga Vasishta states it :[I] A person who has longing and who is neither extremely ignorant nor totally liberated is qualified to read it. Which means anyone who has a desire to know the Truth can follow this.

Then why are these qualifications mentioned so explicitly ? Well, these qualifications are to be developed as we learn about this Truth so that we can become best qualified. In our university, we have a professor who often mentions the prerequisites of a course and then adds "or anyone who is ready to develop these as the course progresses" ! Thats the idea. We need to have these qualifications if this knowledge has to settle [if we have to own it up]. However if we have a strong desire for liberation, we can pick these up as we study this text. So Mumukshatvam, or the desire to free oneself is a very important quality... if this is not there, the person would not take the trouble to read this also. So mumukshatvam is absolutely necessary. The very fact that mumukshatvam is there means that attachment is a little thin, because this person has understood that the world cannot make him fulfilled. So if mumukshatvam is there then ragam is not very strong. With some effort and with the aid of this knowledge one can develop detachment better. When the detachment becomes strong the person naturally becomes calm and satisfied. So these are all interlinked.

So the very fact that there is desire to find liberation means one is qualified for this knowledge. However this mumukshatvam should not be emotional kind http://www.arunachala-ramana.org/forum/Smileys/default/smiley.gif, it should be of inquiring kind... where the mind is ready to inquire and find out this truth. As the teaching proceeds this person should have the intellectual availability to "listen" and "Follow" whats taught and "See" whats "Shown". This much is required for the student. Sometimes people have what is known as intellectual laziness. They brilliantly cover it up by saying "All this intellectualization is useless" but actual fact is they want to just believe and get emotional but don't have the intellectual availability to inquire into this Truth . They do not have a mind that's ready to remain with the subject as it is taught and see the truth that's shown. That's why Zen religion says that the most important prerequisite is whats called "Beginner's Mind"... This is a mind that's open and "Seeing" whats "Shown". This is also what our sages have called "Sraddha". Sraddha is often translated as faith, and I think that's not the correct translation. Let me try to explain it with the aid of an example:
Suppose I tell you, I have an idol of lord Krishna in my bag. There will be a few who believe it and a few who disbelieve it.
Neither the person who believes in it, nor the one who disbelieves in it knows whether or not i have the idol. The right attitude to know whether or not I have the idol is to say "OK, let me see and verify". This attitude which allows a person to conditionally accept the statement and verify its validity is called Sraddha. Sraddha is earnestness about Truth.

The verse also says that "The one whose papam or sins have dissolved"! What is paapam ? Paapam literally means sin. When a person is not able to have a desire for liberation and is not able to follow the teacher with a beginner's mind ... that means there is something thats blocking him ! His own mental disposition is such as a result of what he has done before and how he has lived or may be how he had been thinking. This blocks his vision , perhaps makes him intellectually lazy. So he needs to practise some discipline to develop intellectual alertness and readiness. This discipline is the tapas. One has to do this tapas to eliminate intellectual laziness and also to develop detachment and desire to know the Truth. Only when one has done this tapas will one become eligible for knowing this truth.

A sadhaka should continuously strive to gain these qualifications.

Swami Chinmayananda ji says regarding sin : "Sin is not an action in itself but it is the tendency (vasana) to live and think negatively, which is left over in our mind as a result of our own wrong actions".

The following are examples of such wrong thinking patterns : the tendency to intellectual laziness, inability to have love of God, over emotions, hallucinations, inability to see things impartially, taking sides and not being worried about the Truth etc.

These kind of blocking tendencies of mind which do not allow a person to lead a spiritual life and which do not allow this knowledge to take place have to be countered through proper sadhanas. Through tapas / austerities like japa, dhyana, fasting etc one tries to weaken these vasanas that cause such wrong actions. That is why Tapas is required.

Thus if we have a deep desire to liberate ourselves of find moksham then we can quickly acquire these qualities and gain this knowledge which liberates us.

23 July 2014, 05:27 AM

So either we already have these qualifications or we quickly acquire them as we study this text. The qualifications are not to disqualify anyone but to suggest what kind of attitudes one should develop.
I would like to give some references to support this view.

Firstly, Ramana Maharshi used to tell everyone "You are not the body, you are the Self", even when they could not immediately appreciate it. Once he was found telling some monkeys "You are not the body, you are the self"... and when one of his devotees laughed at it saying "They are animals Bhagavan, what do they understand", Ramana replied sarcastically "I have told you the same thing, have you understood"! Ramana would often say this even when people did not understand because he was of the opinion that when they develop the maturity, they will remember these sayings and appreciate them!

We also have a clear explanation on this in Panchadasi :

chapter 9, 41-42:
"There is the popular saying that a monk could not realize the truth the impediment being his past attachment to his queen. "

"His teacher instructed him of Brahman knowing his attachment for her. When the impediment was removed, the monk realized the truth properly"

This clearly tells us that this truth may be explained to people with some attachments but only when they give up those attachments and get over those weaknesses can they find liberation. In fact the teaching itself aids them to reduce their attachments.

23 July 2014, 06:51 AM
Without Self Knowledge Moksha Is Not Possible:

Having described the prerequisites, Shankara proceeds to explain why this text is needed. Why is Self Knowledge important ? The next verse explains this :

Verse 2:
bodho.anyasaadhanebhyo hi saaxaanmoxaikasaadhanam|
paakasya vihinvat jhaanam vinaa moxo na sidhyati ||
बोधोऽन्यसाधनेभ्यो हि साक्षान्मोक्षैकसाधनम्।
पाकस्य विहिन्वत् झानम् विना मोक्षो न सिध्यति॥

BodaH : knowledge (which is explained in this text)
anyasadhanebhyah : in comparision with other means (other sadhanas)
hi : indeed
sakshaat : direct
mokshaikasadhanam: the only means for liberation.
paakasya : for cooking
vhinvat : like the fire
vinaa : without
jnanam: Knowledge
mokshah : Liberation
na : not
sidhyati : achieved/ possible.

Just as cooking is not possible without fire, Liberation is not possible without Jnanam(Knowledge).
Amongst the various means of liberation, Knowledge alone is the direct means.

What is moksha ? We have started the discussion on this text by defining a seeker as someone who is trying to escape from some sense of incompleteness. Moksha is the liberation from sense of incompleteness. Equivalently Moksha is to discover inner fulfillment. Vedanta claims that we are ever Fulfilled, Complete. The Vedantic teaching is that our nature is that of pure Bliss. However the very fact that we are seeking means that we do not see how we are fulfilled. We seem to suffer. Buddha starts his search by saying "There is suffering". Vedanta takes the inverted stand and says "Suffering is a myth" -- "A shadow imagined to be a ghost" . We have to see this. This is Self Knowledge. But somehow our experience seems to contradict this. We suffer in life. There can be two kinds of obstacles to realizing this truth:

a) Samshaya or doubt. I am not ready to inquire into it also. This kind of mental block would not allow us to see this truth.

b) Viparitha Bhavana : opposite experience. I have already described this above. Vedanta says that Suffering is no more than a shadow imagined to be a ghost, but we see it as real. Our experience seems to contradict the vedantic statement.

So the purpose of teaching is to aid the seeker getting rid of these two. Solid reasoning is provided to undo doubts and then the scriptures reveal the truth to show how our experiences do not contradict the reality !

This is a very important verse. This same thing was also told in Vivekachudamani as follows:

Verse 58 :
na yogena na saNkhyena karmaNaa no na vidyayaa|
brahmaatma-ekatva bhodena mokshasya sidyati nanyathaa ||

not by yoga, not by samkhya, not by karma nor by upasana is liberation achieved.
Its only by understanding of the oneness of Brahman and the atma. Not otherwise.

When such a strong statement is made by someone like Sri Adi Shankaracharya , we need to give it proper consideration. When we said that our suffering is like a shadow imagined to be a ghost, its quite literally like that. We have to see that its indeed a shadow taken to be a ghost. Without seeing this, without getting this vision... its not possible to free ourselves from suffering.
All sadhanas (Upasanas and karmas) act as aids to gain this vision. They themselves cannot lead to liberation because they do not negate the ignorance that suffering is real. They perpetuate the ignorance that suffering is real. For example, a person goes to a guru and asks "How to solve my suffering" and the guru suggests that he should try a specific yogic practice. That suggestion helps him, but the notion that suffering is real is not eliminated. But when he temporarily lulls the mind to calmness, he can reflect on this teaching and see how the suffering he experienced earlier was his own creation. In this sense, the yogic practices aid us see this Truth. Otherwise, with an agitated mind, we cannot see the truth even when its presented in such clear way.

So these practices (meditation) and karmas(Prayers, japa etc) aid in purification of mind, but they do not remove the ignorance that suffering is real. The understanding that I am ever fulfilled cannot settle in unless we appreciate that all incompleteness is self created and unreal. So all practices have their place, but they sub-serve this knowledge. So study of scripture with the help of a guru is not optional. without it self knowledge does not arise. Practices are optional if the person already has a well prepared mind !

Why Is This Understanding So Important ?

Why is it so important to recognize that Karma, Upasanas and Yoga cannot lead us to Mukti ? This is not the only place where this point is stressed. Shankaracharya makes it a point to elaborate on this in all his bhasyas and also in prakarana granthas like vivekachudamani. Infact this is explained in advanced vedantic texts like sri Rama Gita also. We can understand this clearly if we look at our example again... There is a person who is afraid of some shadows. He thinks they are ghosts. Any karma, upasana (meditations) , yoga he does to get rid of the ghost is futile without this understanding. First of all he needs to be taught that its not a ghost but only a shadow.

In our lives too, various events / objects seem to haunt us. If I am physically sick, its something that haunts me. Without money , I feel haunted. If the family members are fighting, I feel haunted. So these are all shadows imagined to be ghosts ! And in meditation what do we do ? We get into an altered state of mind ... where all these are not there. Obviously we feel peaceful. And when we come out, all these are waiting to catch up with us. In fact this is what happens in a bhajan session. For some time the mind is lulled into a state of peace. But if that were real liberation, one should have come out of the bhajan session liberated. Immediately after the bhajan one gets irritated or angry , how does one explain that ? The point is, temporary lulling of mind is not going to help.

The story of Gautama Buddha is very illustrative in this context. He was searching for a way out of suffering and one of the teachers taught him a way to get into nirvikalpa samadhi. But having come out he says "This cannot be nirvana" and leaves it there. This is "Citta - Samadhi" which is gained through yogic practises. Pathanjali was not a Advaita Vedantin. Though the methods of Pathanjali are accepted for purification of mind... his essential philosophy that once one empties the mind one would find liberation is contradicted. Such a person would come out of samadhi and say "I went in and came out of samadhi"... which clearly means that he has not yet detached himself from mind. Vedantic samadhi is to see the mind as "the other" ... which is why we see statements in panchadasi and ashtavakra gita saying "samadhi is of the mind and you are not the mind" http://www.arunachala-ramana.org/forum/Smileys/default/smiley.gif.

As discussed earlier, there are events in life which seem to haunt us. These events which seem to haunt us have to be seen as unreal .... as shadows and not ghosts. This requires a proper teacher first. Thats why Jnana is said to be the only direct means to liberation.


I would like to add a few words of caution for the more advanced readers:

Here, Jnana should not be interpreted as "Mano-Nasha or no mind-ness" (A very tricky usage http://www.arunachala-ramana.org/forum/Smileys/default/smiley.gif). People often think that Self Knowledge is dissolving the mind or remaining thoughtless. This is not the context of this usage here.

Its rare to find someone who understands what Mano-nashanam means, but if we set that aside (we will delve deeper into this later) ... in the present context Jnana is definitely not mano-nashanam. The next few verses talk about "Jnana-Abhyasa" [Practise of this knowledge] etc. Infact in verse 5 it says that having removed ignorance this knowledge itself dies ! So it cannot be "Self Abidance".

Within this context , Jnana only means Self Knowledge as is going to be "Taught" by the acharya. Its something that takes place in our Buddhi (Intellect) . A little logic (logic too is important as we will see in a later verse), would convince us as to see why this knowledge has to be intellectual only. The body being inert does not need any knowledge. Infact its not capable of "Knowing" [again discussed later]. The Self or Awareness is totally unconcerned ... Simple Presence that does not need any knowledge. So if at all knowledge is needed its of the mind alone. We will return to this when we reach an appropriate verse.

So this knowledge, of the intellect, destroys ignorance and itself falls. Leaving us as what we are. What we are is not presented by this knowledge because what we are is beyond description. Infact what we are need not be described. All this we will study in greater detail later. But the fact of the matter is, this knowledge serves to negate the ignorance and there ends its purpose.

23 July 2014, 07:09 AM
Why Karmas Cannot Lead to Moksha :

Having said that Moksha is possible only through Knowledge and not via Karmas or even meditation, Shankara continues to explain why karma cannot cause liberation:

Verse 3:

avirodhitayaa karma naavidyaa.N vinivartayet |
vidyaavidyaa.N nihantyeva tejastimirasa~Naghvat ||

अविरोधितया कर्म नाविद्याँ विनिवर्तयेत्।
विद्याविद्याँ निहन्त्येव तेजस्तिमिरसङघ्वत्॥

karma: actions
avirodhitaya : being non-opposing
avidyam : (with ) ignorance
na vinivartayet : do not cause its destruction.

vidhya : Knowledge
avidhyam: ignorance
nihanti : destroys
eva: only
tejah : light
timirasanghavat: as deep darkness

Karma being non-opposing to ignorance does not destroy it. Knowledge alone destroys ignorance, just as deep darkness is destroyed by light alone.

The person who is afraid of shadows is an ignorant person. Ignorance is the notion that those shadows are ghosts and can affect him. And no matter which karma he does , without negating this notion --- its a total waste of time.
Even as light alone destroys darkness, knowledge alone destroys ignorance. And we have already said that the term "Knowledge" is used in this context not as some "Meditative State" : as the 5th verse clearly says that after removing the ignorance it gets dropped. To remove ignorance, it has to be at the same level as the ignorance. Just as if a physical object has to be hit, I need a physical stone. An object of mental level cannot hit a physical object. similarly if mental ignorance has to be removed, knowledge also has to be at that level alone. Swami Vivekananda says like a thorn thats used to remove another thorn http://www.arunachala-ramana.org/forum/Smileys/default/smiley.gif.

Karma is avirodhi ... not at conflict and is not against ignorance. Karma basically produces results. But then, when a result is produced, I have to interpret it. We all know that Newton saw an apple falling and then he said "There is Gravitational force". But then we have all seen apples (or some objects) falling. The event of apple falling is available for all. But we have not got anything out of it, why is this so ? Because we do not know the galilio's findings and Newton was looking at the world from the standpoint of those findings. He was looking at the world with the interpretation: "a body at rest remains at rest unless an external force compels it to move" ! The falling of apple , when its seen with this interpretation gives wonderful insights.

Similarly, suppose I go to a chemistry lab and then I mix up two elements ... and something happens. Did I gain any new knowledge ? I did not because I have not got the understanding to appreciate that event. When a chemistry student goes to the same lab and then he does this same experiment ... what has happened now ? His understanding got cemented. What a vast difference it is ? Of course the entire chemistry was developed over the years from experiments and analysis alone. However do we suggest that for a student these days ? We suggest that they should study the subject and then cement it by practicals. Same thing within. Going into meditation is like getting into an internal laboratory and observing things there. The chances are very very low that we will come up with something outside our knowledge from such observation. May be a Buddha / Ramana did it and those are very unique special cases. As such the process should be to gain the knowledge and them probably upasanas etc may be used as aids to live that knowledge out.

Any experience we have, it is as good as our interpretation of it. Suppose a person goes into samadhi and comes out to say "I was in samadhi and came out", does it not mean that the person has now taken himself to be the mind ? Because scriptures clearly state that you are not the mind ! So whats the chance that he comes out of samadhi and says "Hey! I am not the mind, I am now what I was earlier " ? http://www.arunachala-ramana.org/forum/Smileys/default/smiley.gif ! Of course, if this knowledge is already there ... the same samadhi experience could be interpreted this way. So knowledge alone removes ignorance. Infact if this knowledge is clearly appreciated one will be able to be the Self even now without a samadhi experience at all! Coz this samadhi is not absence of perception but a recognition of Self in and through all perceptions. So once this understanding gets stable and clear, one is able to revel as Self even when there is perception of objects. There is non-duality even in the apparent world of duality. The duality is not "Rejected" or "Removed" but its "Negated" even when seen ... like in the case of a mirage. When I know a mirage is not real water body , the mirage does not vanish, its not rejected but then its negated ... it no more has that influence or power to make us run after it. This is samadhi too ... and this samadhi is called Cit Samadhi ... coz its abidance as Self. It Awarefully being here and now. Its being as Presence effortlessly.

Ignorance is our current interpretation of the shadows as ghosts and suppose I remove all those shadows from my vision ... does it give me any new interpretation taht there are no ghosts ? I would always be trying to get rid of those shadows and remain in meditative states... but that does not destroy the ignorance. Thats why karma does not oppose ignorance. Infact Karma perpetuates ignorance: the person going into meditation says "I was calm when those ghosts were not there and now when they are there i am unhappy so they are indeed ghosts and have to be got rid of"! This is how a person interprets the world when he does not have Self knowledge. Thats why people get into all sorts of wierd practises and still keep on perpetuating their ignorance!

This knowlege alone removes ignorance and its absolutely necessary to learn it from a guru. So lets summarize... whats the role of karma ?
1. If a student is not in a position to grasp this knowledge owing to lack of mental ability or interest, some japa etc can be useful.

2. However these karmas themselves cannot lead to mukti. Their purpose is only to make the student eligible to grasp this knowledge and remain established in it. They perpetuate ignorance that I am the doer!

Self Realization Is not an Experience:

Let me here stress that Self Realization is not an Experience. Often , people keep waiting for an exotic experience called "The Experience of Realization" which would free them from the shadow ghost that is haunting them :)!

This wont work. Any experience is as good as our interpretation of it. I have already explained this fact in the previous sections. I want to substantiate this with some quotations from Annamalai Swami [direct disciple of Ramana] and Ramana Maharshi.

Why should you imagine that it is some new experience to be discovered or found ? You are the Self right now, and you are aware of it right now. Do you need a new experience to prove that you exist? The feeling "I am existing" is the Self. You pretend that you are not experiencing it, or cover it up with all kinds of false ideas, and then you run around looking for it as if it were something external to be reached or found.
This is a very profound statement http://www.arunachala-ramana.org/forum/Smileys/default/smiley.gif

Similarly, its important to note that when Ramana spoke of Samadhi he was not speaking of elimination of thoughts ! That is called "Citta Samadhi". The vedantic Samadhi is called "Cit Samadhi" [Swami Tattvavidanananda Saraswati ji]. This fact is very well explained in a conversation between Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi and Sri Annamalai Swami.

"Does Samadhi mean that one is unaware of everything ?" , I asked.
"No," said Bhagavan. "Mediation will go on without our effort. That is Samadhi"
"Then what is Sahaja Samadhi ?", I asked.
Bhagavan answered by saying , " In that state meditation will always be going on. In that State the thought , 'I am meditating' or 'I am not meditating' will not occur".

I then asked Bhagavan about periods in meditation when I was only aware of an all-pervasive blankness.
"Sometimes nothing is seen", I said. "Is this good?"
Bhagavan did not seem to approve of all these states, "In the beginning", he said, "It is good if meditators meditate with Self Awareness".

The state of Sahaja Samadhi contined to intrigue me. A few weeks later I asked him another question about it, "Can one practise sahaja samadhi right from the beginning?"
Bhagavan replied by saying that one could.
"But how to practise it ", I asked. "And how does one practise nirvikalpa samadhi ? How many different kinds of samadhi are there ?"
"There is only one kind of Samadhi", Said Bhagavan , "not many kinds. To remain temporarily subsided in the reality without any thought is nirvikalpa Samadhi. Permanently abiding in the Self without forgetting it is Sahaja Samadhi. Both will give the same happiness"
--> Page 234 of Living by the words of Bhagavan.

In Living by the words of Bhagavan , Annamalai Swamiji says:

Spiritual seekers have a very strange habit: they are always looking for a way to reach, attain,discover,experience, or realize the Self. They try many things because they cannot comprehend that they are already the Self. This is like running around looking for one's eyes with one's own eyes. Why should you imagine that it is some new experience to be discovered or found ? You are the Self right now, and you are aware of it right now. Do you need a new experience to prove that you exist? The feeling "I am existing" is the Self. You pretend that you are not experiencing it, or cover it up with all kinds of false ideas, and then you run around looking for it as if it were something external to be reached or found.

There is a story about someone like this.
Once a king imagined that he was a poverty-striken peasant. He thought , "if I go and meet the king he may be able to help me by giving some money"
He searched for the king in many places but he could not find him anywhere. Ultimately he became very depressed because his search was not yeilding any results. One day he met a man on the road who asked him why he was so depressed.

He answered, " I am searching for the king. I think that he can solve all my problems and make me happy but I cant find him anywhere".
The man, who already recognized him, said with some astonishment, "But you yourself as the king!"
The king came to his senses and remembered who he was. His problems all ended the moment he remembered his real identity.
You may think that the king was fairly stupid but he had at least enough sense to recognize the truth when it was told to him.
The guru may tell his disciples a thousand times "You are the self, you are not what you imagine youself ot be", they all keep asking the guru for methods and routes to reach the place they are already are.
--> Page 292, Final Talks.

The above quote is very useful. It summarizes the entire vedantic thinking. Most of this text will make its meaning absolutely clear and aid us appreciate how suffering is a myth and we are ever liberated : here and now !

05 August 2014, 11:23 PM
Shankara has briefly explained how Karma(Rituals) and Upasanas (Meditations,prayers,japa) cannot by themselves lead to liberation. Why is this so ? In verse 3 we learn that Karma can not remove ignorance. Karma, being finite, can only give a finite result, which is itself limited in time and space.

Suppose I am not rich and want to be rich, I have to earn money and for that there is only one way: put in the required effort. Suppose I do not know a subject and want to learn it , I have to put in effort to learn that. To generalize , if I lack something, I can eliminate the gap by procuring that which I lack.

But the fundamental assertion of vedanta is "You are not a lacking individual". We are yet to see how this is so. But if this is what is the assertion, then any attempt to eliminate the sense of "Lack" perpetuates the notion that i am a lacking individual! Hence it would not help. This notion that "I am a lacking individual" needs to be eliminated through knowledge. We have already seen that "Knowledge" in this context is not calmness of mind.

Now Shankara proceeds to explain further what kind of knowledge this is and how it works:

paricChinna ivaaGYaanaattannaasho sati kevalaH |
svaya.N prakaashaate hyaatmaa meghaapaaye.N.ashumaanivaa||

परिच्छिन्न इवाज्ञानात्तन्नाशो सति केवलः।
स्वयँ प्रकाशाते ह्यात्मा मेघापायेँऽशुमानिवा॥

paricchinnaH - finite or limited.
iva - as if
ajnanat - because of ignorance

tat nasho sati - that (ignorance) when destroyed
kevalah svayam prakaashate - Alone By Itself (Self) shines
hi - verily
Atma - Self.
meghaapaye - (just as) when clouds pass away
anshumaan eva: like the sun

The Self appears limited due to ignorance. When ignorance is destroyed, it shines by Itself (sans the limitations) - even as when the clouds pass away, the Sun IS.

Though the scriptures say that I am ever fulfilled, I see myself as a lacking individual. Shankara has already explained that this is due to ignorance. And we have seen that ignorance cannot be removed through Karma. Ignorance can only be removed through knowledge.
What happens when ignorance is removed ?

When the clouds pass away the sun Shines ... Sun was always shining, but clouds have created an illusion that there is no shine. When the clouds pass away, the shine of the sun becomes self evident.

Even so, when the clouds of ignorance pass away, I see myself as ever fulfilled. This is the claim. Lets try to understand this. We pass through these three states everyday: the waking state, the dream state and the deep sleep state.
Lets analyze these three states to appreciate this better.

In the waking state , I see an individual with a body and a certain environment. and then I feel the limitations etc corresponding to this setting. For example , in my waking state I see a student , lets say. This student has some limitations : he has limited knowledge in certain areas and has very good knowledge in certain other areas. This is a "waking individual".

And then when i pass into deep sleep ... this entire waking state gets dissolved there. There, I see "Nothing" .

Again, in dream state, I see another individual. The student dreams that he is a professor, lets say. And so this professor has sound knowledge...

now... "I" pass through all these three states.... and "I" see three difference scenes in each state. In the waking state "I" see a "waking individual" with certain limitations. In dream state "I" see a "Dream individual" with certain limitations of the dream world and in the deep sleep state there is , lets assume for now ... a "Deep sleep individual" who is ignorant, does not know.

let me pause here and make a claim ... "In all three states, what is "Seen" is dragged onto the "Seer" "

09 August 2014, 07:08 AM
Suppose i see a moving ball. The fact that I see motion means two things:
a) The ball has a velocity with reference to me. If I am also moving at the same speed as the ball, I would not see the motion of the ball.

b) I see not the ball itself, but its image in my retina.

Lets take (b) for now. When I say , I see the image of the ball in my retina, what does that mean ? Who sees it ? When the light falls on my retina, it excites certain neurons. When these neurons are excited, they further excite some other neurons. This goes on ... until the entire network of neurons converges to a certain stable state. And that is when i see the ball.

But then , how is the physical neural activity responsible for the "Experience of Ball" ? The scientists call the logical experience of the ball as "Qualia". Obviously the physical neural activity cannot be equated to the logical experience of the ball or for example, the logical experience of love.
Neuro scientists have achieved great success in simulating the neural activity. If I can artificially simulate certain portions of the brain, I can create certain feelings. This is well known. In future it may be possible to record memories and replay them ! The best that can be achieved is perhaps the ability to emulate the entire neural network itself on a computer !

Lets pause here and ask "Does the computer that mimics neural dynamics have emotions" ? There seems to be a gap somewhere ... and that gap is named qualia.

Now science has no answer as to what this is. Much less do they understand consciousness.

From our perspective, lets start with the logical perspective alone. Logically if there is an experience of motion.... it means there is a "moving something" and a motionless awareness that recognizes it. Every motion is with respect to a motionless Presence. This presence is called Self in vedantic terms.

So in waking state ... there is a world i see, "I" remain changeless.
In dream state... there is a world i see, "I" remain changeless.
In deep sleep state ?

Suppose i say that "I do not see anything" , that means "I" am there.
If I say "I was not there and there was nothing " , that is a logical contradiction.

In deep sleep "I" am not there ... is a logically invalid statement.

This "I AM" changelessly present ( as the presence ) in all three states.
The body undergoes various changes, "I" remain, changeless ... with reference to the bodily changes, "I" may be referred to as witness. But its still a relative way of defining it.

So that Witness Awareness ... the Presence ... Changeless Being ... is called Self or Atma in Vedanta.