Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Sadhana Chathushtayam - Four disciplines

Tattva Bodha-1

Tattva Bodha is an introductory text for the study of Vedanta that explains in simple prose style the technical terms of Vedanta. It is a preliminary text for the study of Prasthana thraya viz. Upanishads, Bhagavat Gita and Brahma Sutra.  Sri Sankara who has written commentaries for 10 key Upanishads and the other two of Prasthana thraya has also authored Tattva Bodha.  Tattva Bodha means Self-knowledge, knowledge of our Real nature.  Tattva Bodha opens with a prayer and after prayer comes the first topic “Sadhana Chathushtayam” the four means of practice to be cultivated by a serious student of Self-enquiry to facilitate the absorption of Athma Jnanam, knowledge of Self, at the time of Sravanam, Mananam and Nidhidhyasanam. The four means include also six virtues for disciplining the mind and bringing it under one’s control. Even if one does not have total control over mind initially one should try to cultivate these virtues in full to claim Athma Jnanam as one’s own and become a Jivanmuktha. The four means are:
  1.     Viveka – Discrimination
  2.    Vairagya – Dispassion
  3.    Mumukhsutvam – Desire for Moksha,
  4.    Shad Sampath – six virtues for mind-discipline

Swami Paramarthananda refers to them as four D’s – Discrimination, Dispassion, Desire and Discipline.  Now we shall see them one by one in detail.

Viveka – Discrimination.  Viveka is qualified as Nithya Anithya vasthu viveka i.e. the differentiation between the Real and the unreal, between the permanent and the impermanent.   The whole universe exists in space-time frame and anything subject to time cannot be permanent as it has an origin and exit.  Everything in the universe including universe itself is subject to change..  What is permanent is only the changeless substratum of the changing universe i.e. Brahman, which is beyond time and space. This firm knowledge of what is ephemeral and what is eternal is Viveka.

Vairagya – Dispassion.  From the above Viveka, follows Vairagya, dispassion for worldly objects and even for heavenly pleasures.  He does not hate them or run away from them; only he does not crave for them in their absence or get attached to them in their presence. The world and its objects need not be rejected as they have their own limited use.  No slavish addiction even to ethical pleasures is the end-aim of Vairagya.  No person, situation, object, relationship can be depended on for eternal happiness and security.  Dependence on them is like leaning on a cardboard chair.  A cardboard chair can be treasured in the showcase, admired as an ornamental piece but cannot be leaned upon.  This applies to other worldly pleasure as well as they can be enjoyed only so long as one’s punya allows. So the priority is only for attaining Brahman, the eternal one, and for things that will take him to his goal and all other things rank low in priority.  He has only disinterested detachment towards all the pleasures and objects of this world or the other.

Mumukshutvam – intense desire for Moksha. This desire for Moksha, Swami Tejomayananda classifies into four categories
1.     Very dull (ati manda) – “It is Okay if I get it this life, otherwise there is always next life” attitude.  This is not true mumukshutvam
2.     Dull (manda) – “I will start seeking liberation after discharging all my responsibilities” attitude.
3.     Middle (madhyama) – “I must get liberation soon.  The earlier the better” attitude
4.     Strong (theevra) – “I want liberation here and now” attitude.  This person’s intensity is comparable to the intensity of a drowning person for air.

It is the theevra mumukshuthvam  that enables one to reach the goal of Self-knowledge. To him all other qualities accrue easily

4. Shad Sampath – the six virtues. They are:
1.     Sama – Mind control. वृत्तयो मनः(vrrattayo manaha) – mind is thought forms says Ramana Maharishi in Upadesa Saar. So mind control amounts to thought control. The purity of the thoughts can be maintained by good practices like Dhyana, japa, satsang and prayer.  Mind cannot be allowed to have a freedom of its own and it has to follow the direction of the intellect.  This goes hand in hand with Vairagya and Dama, the sense-control.
2.     Dama – Sense control. The sense organs are gateways of the mind to the outer world.  So they determine what enters the mind.  Senses are extrovert by nature and run after their sense objects without any discrimination. It is only through sound intellect and good habits they can be kept on track under control.  Kathopanishad compares sense organs to horses, sensory objects to the path it traverses on, mind to reins and intellect to the charioteer.  Neither reins nor horses should be allowed to determine the direction of the chariot. Only the charioteer should.  Same way mind and Indriyas must be under the control of the intellect and the intellect properly developed through satsang,  and study of scriptures and moral and ethical literature.
3.     Uparama or Uparati – Withdrawl.  It is achieved  through reduction of extrovert activities and turning the mind away from sensual objects and from worldly longings. This comes naturally when one practices Sama and Dama with Viveka and Vairagya and attains inner tranquillity. This is described in Sthitha prajna lakshana in Gita thus:
यदा संहरते चायं कूर्मोऽङ्गानीव सर्वशः। Yadha samharate chayam kurmanganeeva  sarvasaha I
इन्द्रियाणीन्द्रियार्थेभ्यस्तस्य प्रज्ञा प्रतिष्ठिता।।2.58।।Indriyani Indriyrbhyah tasya prajna prathisgtatha II
When, like the tortoise which withdraws on all sides its limbs, he withdraws his senses from the sense-objects, then his wisdom becomes steady.
4..     Tithiksha – forbearance. The ability to bear without reacting, complaining, or blaming oneself or others for contrary experiences at the physical level like heat and cold, at the emotional level like joy and  sorrow , and at the intellectual level like praise and censure, whether conducive or non-conducive. Tithiksha is tolerance of conditions outside one’s control, natural social or physical without losing one’s cool. This gives one a tension-free calm mind that is suitable for reflection on scriptural teachings regarding Self, Athma.
5..     Sraddha – Faith or conviction. Non-critical acceptance of the words of Guru and scriptures.  Sraddha enables one to listen to the words of Guru and scriptures with an open, alert mind and work with determination towards the chosen goal to realize it.   The importance of Sraddha can be seen from these words of Lord Krishna in Gita:
श्रद्धावाँल्लभते ज्ञानं तत्परः संयतेन्द्रियः। Sraddhavan labhate Jnanam tatparah sayatendriyaha I
ज्ञानं लब्ध्वा परां शान्तिमचिरेणाधिगच्छति।।4.39।।Jnanam labdhva param santhim achirenadhigacchathi II
The man with shraddha and devotion, who has subdued the senses, attains Jnanam; and having got this Jnanam he attains at once the Supreme peace.
6..     SamadhanaChitha Ekagratha, single-pointedness of mind. This is the ability to have the goal in one’s sights always and be constantly focussed in one’s efforts to reach it.  As a bowman has an eye only for the target so must be the concentration of efforts to attain the goal.

Controlling the mind and senses through Sama and Dama, withdrawing from worldly pursuits through Uparama, meeting internal and external challenges through Titiksha and pursuing the goal with Sraddha and Samadhana, a sadhaka attains with Vairagya the goal of Self-knowledge chosen through Viveka and strengthened by Mumukshutvam.  Thus the four fold qualification of Viveka, Vairagya, Mumukshutvam and Shad Sampath leads a sadhaka to Self- knowledge


  1. Great exposition on a difficult subject. Congrats and thanks.

  2. After viveka vairagya follows is optional. Sadhak has to make it compulsory. If not, one can not complain for manda mumuksha. Also dama is far improved stand from vairagya. No comparison between them can be entertained. Good one.