Thursday, 31 March 2016

Athma - One and Many

Sanathana dharma i.e. Hinduism has six systems of philosophy based on Vedas, which are known as Shad-darsanas. Each is a way of looking into the Truth.  One of them is Uttara mimamsa, also known as Vedanta, as the philosophy is based on Upanishads, which constitute the latter part of Vedas, i.e. Veda anta bhaga. Vedanta has three main subsects Advaita, Visishatadvaita and Dvaita. They all base their philosophy not only on Upanishads, but on Brahma Sutras and Bhagavad Gita as well and all these three together are called “Prasthana Thriam”, three authoritative texts.  The difference between the systems arises due to the difference in their interpretation of the texts.  Before going into a brief discussion of the three Vedanta schools of philosophy and their treatment of Athma, let me  at the outset explain that I will be referring in this blog,  Athma, the sentient force behind the body-mind complex, as Jeevathma and Brahman, the Cosmic equivalent of Athma, as ParamatmaJeevathma is what is commonly referred to as soul in all religious literatures.


Dvaita is a Sanskrit word that means "duality, dualism”. The Dvaita or "dualist" school of philosophy originated with Sri Madhvacharya who was born in Karnataka state in 13th century. Madhvacharya called it Tattvavada and based his philosophy on Bhagavatha puranam as well along with Prasthana ThriamTo Madhvacharya Lord Vishnu is the Paramathma and Paramathma is saguna and is different from Jeevathmas, which are many, and from the insentient objects, Jada.  Paramatma is a real eternal entity that governs and controls the universe.  According to Madhvacharya there are two orders of reality: 1. svatantra, independent reality, which consists of Paramatma alone and 2. paratantra, dependent reality, which consists of jeevathmas and jada.  So as per Dvaita philosophy, there are three realities Paramathma, Jeevathma and jada, one independent and two dependant on the one independent.

I” is supposed to be the insentient body containing a sentient  jeevathma, which is different from the ever-powerful Paramathma, from other insentient objects that constitute the world and also from  other jeevathmas.  Madhvacharya outlines  pancabheda, the five-fold difference between
1.  Paramatma and Jeevathma
2.  Paramathma and Jada
3.  Jeevathma and jada
4. one jeevathma and another Jeevathma
5.  one jada and another jada

Jeevathma can never be one with Paramathma and Moksha, Liberation, is described as the realization that all finite reality is essentially dependent on the Supreme Paramathma.  Bhakthi yoga is the means for Liberation. Further Jeevathmas are divided into three grades.  One grade of Jeevathmas, mukthi-yogyas, only qualify for liberation, another, nithya-samsarins, are subject to the eternal  transmigration cycle of entry and exit in bodies while a third grade, tamo-yogyas, are condemned to eternal hell. 
So in a nutshell as per Dvaita philosophy, Jeevathmas are many and Jeevathma  is the servant of Paramatma and Jeevathma can never claim unity with Paramatma.


The Vishishtadvaitic thought is considered to have existed for a long time and Ramanujacharya who accepts the Prasthana Thriam as well as the works of Alwars as the source of authority for his philosophy is now revered as the main proponent of Visishtadvaita philosophy.  Visishtadvaita is so called because it inculcates Advaita, oneness with Visesha,  attributes.  Like Dvaita, it holds Lord Vishnu as Paramathma and He is supreme as creator and redeemer. He is saguna, with qualities of omnipotence, omniscience and infinite love. He has no base attributes like sorrow, mortality, and change in Him.  

Ramanujacharya introduces a new concept “aprathak-siddhi” meaning “inseparability” to define the relation between Paramathma, Jeevathmas and Jagat.  All the three are Real but they are not separate Realities, as Jagat and Jeevathmas form part of Paramathma as His body.  Paramathma is Angi and Jeevathmas and Jagat are His Angas.  So all the three are eternal and inseparable but not the same. The three forming one is the non-duality part and Jagat and Jeevathmas inhering in Paramathma as attributes to a substance is the qualification part of non-duality.

Moksha is through Bakthi and Grace of Paramathma, that is attained through Prapatti or saranagathi  to Lord.  Karma and Jnana are only means to Bhakthi.  Moksha means giving up the worldly existence and passage to Vaikuntha to remain forever in presence of Lord Vishnu. The liberated Jeevathma attains to the nature of Lord but does not become identical with it. The Jeevathmas are classified in three groups :
  1.   Nityas, or the eternally free Jeevathmas  who were never in Samsara
  2.    Muktas, or the Jeevathmas that were once in Samsara but are now free
  3. Baddhas, or the Jeevathmas  which are still in Samsara

So in a nutshell Jeevathmas are many and part of Paramathma but not Paramathma itself like a seed in the jackfruit which is not jackfruit itself. 


Though there had been earlier exponents of Advaita philosophy it is Sri Adi Sankara who perfected it and gave a finishing touch to it.  The Advaita philosophy enunciated by him is beautifully summed up in one line “Brahma Satyam Jagan Mithya Jivo Brahmaiva Na AparahParmathma (Brahman) alone is Real; this world is apparently Real and the Jeevatma is not different from Paramatma”   Here Mithya is the word used to describe the world.  Mithya is not false but something which appears true but on investigation revealed as not true.  For instance the blueness of sky that you can perceive ordinarily but on investigation is revealed as not true. Same way with sunrise and sunset for sun does not really rise or set.  As Swami Paramathmananda states "Mithya object can have experienceability, transactability and utility but has no Reality"  

In my blogs on Athma and Jeeva-Iswara Ikyam, advaitic view of Athma and its identity with Brahman have been discussed.  To sum them up, Reality is Paramathma only and everything else is manifestation of Paramathma with form and name and that Paramathma is same as Jeevathma, in terms of the idiom used in this blog. 

To revert back to the terms used in the earlier blogs; as per Dvaita, Athmas are many and Athma is different from Brahman that is Saguna; as per Visishtadvaita, Athmas are many and different from Brahman that is Saguna, but they have a special relationship of Angi and Anga with the Saguna Brahman;  and  as per Advaita,  Athma is one and identical with Brahman that is Nirguna, and is defined as “Existence, Consciousness, Bliss” which is its intrinsic nature.  Swami Jitadmananda while describing Swami Vivekanananda’s practical Vedanta says “By Vedanta Vivekananda always meant all the three schools of Vedanta; dualism ( Dvaita) leads by the process of reason to qualified monism (Visishtadvaita) and qualified monism culminating in the same way in Advaita.  Dualism, qualified monism and non-dualism (Advaita) are only three gradually ascending stages of vision which unfolds themselves as one develops finer and finer intelligence”.  A jnani with advaitic vision experiences Brahman as “isness” of his thoughts in the inner mind in meditation and as “isness” behind the many in the outer world when interacting with the outer world involving duality.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Law of Karma and Videha Mukthi

Tattva Bodha - 8
Law of Karma states that every deliberate action one does, produces two types of results; one that  flows from the visible action called dhrishta phala, visible result and another that flows from the invisible motive behind the action called  adrishta phala. invisible result. The positive invisible result is called Punyam, with a pleasurable impact and the negative invisible result is called Papam with a painful impact. While the dhrishta phala fructifies soon after the action, the adrishta phala takes its time to fructify, maybe now or later in this janma or in next or in one of the subsequent janmas.  This uncertainty of the gestation period gives rise to three categories called, Agami Karma, Sanchitha Karma, and  Prarabhdha Karma

The actions wilfully performed by a Jeeva in human form with a sense of doership result in Punyas and Papas which come under Agami karma. Living beings other than humans have no sense of doership and no judgemental capacity to discriminate actions as good and bad and so they all have no Agami Karma.  Some of the Agami Karma may fructify during jeeva’s current lifetime.  The unfructified Agami Karma at death gets added to the unexhausted, accumulated stockpile of Karma called Sanchitha Karma. Sanchitha Karma is the unexhausted accumulated punyas and papas over the countless births in the past.   Cycle of birth and death continues until Sanchitha Karma is reduced to nil balance with no unfructified Agami Karma to add at the time of the death of Jeeva. 

Prarabhdha karma is that portion of Sanchitha Karma that comes to fruition at the time of Jeeva’s birth.  Prarabhdha Karma determines जातिः आयुः भोगाः (Jathihi, aayuh,bhoghah),  as per sutra 13 of Sadhana pada of Patanjali Yoga Sutra.   जातिः stands for environments of birth like birth in a particular country, society, family and other characteristics at birth like sex, defects or peculiarities. आयुः  stands for the life span. When Prarabhdha is totally exhausted death of the body occurs.  भोगाः stands for experiences of life pleasant, painful and mixed. Prarabhdha is commonly called fate or destiny.

So in a nutshell,  Agami Karma is the freshly acquired punya, papa in the current janmaSanchitha Karma the stockpile of unexhausted  Agami Karma  accumulated  over countless births and  Prarabhdha Karma  the portion of Sanchita Karma that matures at  jeeva’s birth to be exhausted in jeeva’s  lifetime.

Law of karma is not fatalism. Rightly understood it can be an antidote for fatalism.  From the study of Prarabhdha Karma we understand that past "I" as kartha is responsible for the present  "I".  Extending this logic we can say future "I" can be shaped by the present "I" as kartha by managing the circumstances intelligently in this janma.  So the responsibility for our future lies in our hands only and  that is why Sri Krishna says in Gita(6-5) “उद्धरेदात्मनात्मानं (uddhareth athmanaathmanam)”- one should lift oneself by one’s own efforts. 

Every experience we undergo in our life is because of Prarabhdha Karma and Agami Karma i.e. our own actions in the present and past janmas.  So we cannot blame the world or any other beings for our experiences. When we understand this we will stop blaming the world or others for our sufferings; and accepting responsibility as a past or present karta, will improve our mental health.  So right understanding of the law will help us to stop blaming others or the world including God for our ills and sufferings.

We are experiencing in the present janma not only the Agami phalam (action done as current kartha) but also the Prarabhdha Phalam (action done as previous kartha).   That is the reason why some good people appear to suffer and some not so good people appear to prosper.  If the reason is rightly understood that it may be the effect of past karma, this understanding will help us retain our faith in the Lord and not turn cynical. 

Swami Paramatmananda talks of the availability of Prayaschitha Karma to mitigate the effects of Prarabhdha in his talk on Law of Karma.  Prarabhdham is adrishtam, not visible.  So this cannot be dealt with normally. Planetary positions as revealed in the horoscope give an indication of the Prarabhdha in store, but they themselves do not cause joy or sufferings.  Through the clock we see the time of sunrise and sunset but clock itself does not cause sunrise or sunset. By knowing what is in store for us, we can create an Agami, to counter or mitigate the Prarabhdha effects to come. This is called Prayaschitha Karma which like medicine can cure the disease or help to manage the disease or only be just a temporary palliative. In the case of weak Prarabhdha it can relieve the suffering, in intermediate case it can help to manage the suffering and in a strong case give the mental strength to accept it.  When the Prayaschitha is general it is called prayer, when it is specific, it is called parihara.

Before going into Videha mukthi let us see what happens to the bodies at the time of death. The gross body of ajnani as well as Jnani  disintegrates to merge with the Pancha bhuthas at death.  The subtle body and causal body of the ajnani along with the reflection of Chaithanyam in Sukshma Sareera, Chidabasa, leave the gross body to take up a new body according to the fructified portion of Sanchitha Karma, Prarabhdha Karma; and continues in the new body accumulating Agami Karma until the Prarabhdha Karma is exhausted when again it continues the journey in another new body with fresh Prarabhdha Karma.  Liberation from this cycle of journey from body to body is called Mukthi. What happens in Mukthi we can see from the life of Jnani.

A Jnani is one who is  firmly established in Athma Jnanam.  Whatever Sanchitha Karma was to his credit along with the unexhausted  Agami Karma in his account , they all get totally destroyed  on the date of his firm realization that he is neither the doer nor the enjoyer but only the witness Consciousness. This Sri Krishna points out in Bhagavat Gita (4-37) 
यथैधांसि समिद्धोऽग्निर्भस्मसात्कुरुतेऽर्जुन।(yathaidhamsi samiddhognih bhasmasath kuruthe Arjuna)
ज्ञानाग्निः सर्वकर्माणि भस्मसात्कुरुते तथा (Jnangnih sarvakarmani bhasmasath kuruthe tatha)
As a blazing fire reduces all fuel to ashes, O Arjuna, so does the fire of Self-knowledge reduces all karma to ashes.

But this applies only to Sanchitha and Agami KarmaPrarabhdha Karma has to be exhausted by living it through.  That is why we have seen Jnanis like Ramakrisna Paramahamsa and Ramana Maharishi suffering from body afflictions before death.  Their illness only brought grief to others but they remained indifferent to it with the firm conviction that it is only the body that is affected and they are not the affected body. Because of this Jnanam the Jnani lives as Muktha Purusha until death and is called Jeevanmuktha and his state is called Jeevanmukthi, liberation while living.  Agami karma does not accrue to him after he attains Jeevanmukthi as he has no sense of doership.  At death Jeevanmuktha’s  subtle body merges with the subtle bhuthas and the casual body gets liquidated as there is no residual karma to give rise to gross body or to sustain subtle body. Since the subtle body is dissolved,  Chithabasa, the reflected Consciousness, also gets dissolved  and the witness consciousness becomes one with the total Consciousness like pot space becoming one with the total space when pot is broken.  This is called Videha Mukthi, liberation at death.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Jeeva Iswara Aikyam – A startling equation

Tattva Bodha – 7

Aikyam  is a Sanskrit word meaning identity or sameness.  Jeeva Iswara Ikyam means Jeeva and Iswara are identical.  Expressed as an equation it is Jeeva=Iswara.  The equation will startle any individual who knows from knowledge of oneself  that Jeeva is finite, of limited knowledge (alpajna), having only limited strength (alpasakthiman), occupying even less than a mini micro-dot space in the universe (alpavyapi), a slave of maya (mayadasa),  full of sorrows and problems (samsara); while on the other hand Iswara is known  from the study of scriptures to be infinite, omniscient (sarvajna), all powerful (sarva sakthiman), all-pervading (sarvavyapi), master of maya (mayapathi), and is all bliss untouched by sorrows (asamsari).  But this Ikyam is the central theme of Advaita Vedanta.  So let us see how the seeming difference is reconciled and the identity established, in a simple manner.

An equation is possible between two entities only when they appear to be different but on analysis reveal identity as in the case of “9-4” and “3+2”.  Equating both sides is not possible if they not only appear different but are also really different for then any amount of analysis cannot establish identity as in the case of “9-4” and “4+3”.  And an equation is not necessary between same two entities like”9” and “9”.

On the face of it the omniscient, omnipotent, all-pervading, mayapathi, infinite, asamsari Iswara cannot be the same as alpasakthiman, alpajna, alpavyapi, mayadasa, finite, samsari Jeeva as both appear totally different.   So to explore the identity let us analyse and find the essential nature of each of them.

We had seen earlier in the blog on Avastha thriam that a human being has three states of experience, waking state, dream state and deep sleep state. In waking state all three bodies gross, subtle and causal are active and he is called Viswa. In dream state only subtle and causal bodies are active and he has the name Taijasa. In causal state only causal body is active and he has the name Prajna.  We can say Viswa, Taijasa and Prajna are three dimensions of human personality.  Mandukya Upanishad states that besides these three dimensions, there is a fourth dimension to human personality which it simply calls as fourth and says that is the Athma.   
चतुर्थं मन्यन्ते स आत्मा स विज्ञेयः॥ (chathurtham manyanthe sa Athma sa vijvijneyaha) - Considered the fourth this is Athma and this is to be realised”.      
In the Mandukya Karika,  Gaudapada calls it Turiya.  This Turiya is not a name for a separate state as this is the Athma only, which is present in all three states blessing Viswa, Taijasa and Prajna.  Jeeva is this Athma but in Self-ignorance, he considers himself as Viswa, Taijasa and Prajna depending upon the state he is in. This Athma is the essential nature of Jeeva. And Athma is the infinite, all-pervading, omniscient, eternal Consciousness principle.  So in a nutshell the essential nature of Jeeva is the Consciousness principle.

Iswara is Brahman with maya sakthi, that functions through prapancha thriam; sthula, sukshma, karana prapanchas which are also matter only.  So the essential nature of Iswara is Brahman which is also the infinite, all-pervading, omniscient eternal Consciousness principle only.  So the essential nature of Jeeva as well as Iswara is Consciousness principle only and on that basis their identity is established.

We can illustrate it with an example. Waves rise and fall in the ocean. Some waves are big, some small, some are short-lived and some comparatively long-lived. Compared to the waves ocean is vast and it is also the srishti, sthithi, laya karanam for waves as they rise in it, are sustained by it and perish in it.  So superficially looking they cannot be equated.  But if you take their essence, wave in essence is water defined by the chemical formula H2O and essence of ocean is also water with the same chemical formula of H2O.  So looking from the angle of their essence we can pronounce the wave –ocean-identity.

Now a doubt may arise that if Jeeva’s essential nature is omniscient all-powerful ever-in-bliss Brahman why one is not aware of it anytime during one’s life.  It is because of maya’s powers that one is not only aware of one’s blissful Brahmatvam  but also in Self-ignorance mistakenly considers oneself as a miserable samsari  jeeva Maya has two powers; avarana sakthi, the veiling power and vikshepa sakthi, projecting power.  Under the spell of the avarana sakthi Jeeva is ignorant of his true nature as Brahman and under the influence of the vikshepa sakthi  Jeeva mistakenly considers that he is the body-mind complex with a particular name and form.  Because of this mistake of identifying himself with the body-mind complex, he suffers from all the ills and woes that body and mind are prone to. When he realizes through self-knowledge, his own Real nature as Athma, he becomes a Jeevanmuktha, and is unaffected mentally by the ills and woes of the body and mind.

This identity translates into Jeeva-Brahma Ikyam, when we consider jeeva shorn of upadhi, limiting adjunct, of bodies, which is Athma and Athma is the name for Brahman in microcosm.  Brahman and Athma are only two names for the same entity one in the context of macrocosm and the other in the context of microcosm, as one who is referred to as C.E.O in office is called Beta, son, by his father at home.  The statements in the Vedas that spell out this Ikyam are called Mahavakhyas, important statements.  Other Vedic statements that talk about Brahman without referring to Ikyam are called avanthara vakhya, ordinary statement.  One famous Mahavakhya which is often quoted is  “तत् त्वं असि (Tat tvam asi), - you are That, you standing for jeeva and That for Brahman, which occurs nine times in chapter six of Chandogya Upanishad of Sama Veda. This Mahavakhya is discussed in detail in my earlier blog titled "Mahavakhya"

This knowledge of Ikyam is called Athma Jnanam and is the end goal in the quest for Self-knowledge or the quest for knowledge of “Who am I’.  This is achieved through the sadhanas of Jnana Yoga; Sravanam, Mananam and Nidhidyasanam.  Let us see briefly the benefits that this knowledge confers on one who is firmly established in the knowledge that he is not any of the three bodies but the Pure Consciousness behind them all.   
1)    He enjoys emotional independence as he is not emotionally disturbed by the presence of problems or absence of comforts in the life’s set-up and  accepts with a sense of detachment all that life has to offer in pairs of opposites like loss and gain, pain and pleasure, union and separation, heat and cold etc.   
2)    He develops  emotional strength to face undisturbed  all life’s challenges.
3)    He enjoys a sense of fullness, purnatvam, that gives complete peace and tranquillity as he has no compelling wants  or desires
4)    He attains Videha Mukthi on death, liberated from the cycle of birth and death.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Panchikarana – Process of Creation

Tattva Bodha – 6

In the opening Mantra of Brahmandavalli of Taittreya Upanishad comes a statement सत्यं ज्ञानं अनन्तं ब्रह्म।(Sathyam, Jnanam, Anantham Brahma) – Brahman is Satyam, Jnanam, Infinity. This has the same meaning as Sat, Chit, Anand that describes Athma. What is called Athma in Vyeshti, microcosm, i.e. individual, is referred to as Brahman in samashti, macrocosm, i.e. Cosmos. So Brahman is eternal, devoid of attributes (Nirguna) and not subject to modification (Nirvikara).  The Upanishad goes on to say that from this Brahman, Akasa was born and later from Akasa other elements were born one after the other and one from the other, naming them without going into details. These details are given in Tattva Bodha, which we shall be seeing now.

Before we go into the process of Creation, let us see about karanam, cause and karyam, product in general. In the case of a product like gold ornament, gold is the material cause, upadhana karanam as gold is made into ornament. Gold, upadhana karanam, is the srishti, sthithi, laya karanam for the ornament, as the ornament form is sustained by gold and when ornament is destroyed through melting it goes back to its gold status.   The  intelligent cause, nimitta karanam, here is the goldsmith who makes the ornament.  Further we notice the karyam, ornament, has the property of the karanam, gold.  In the case of a spider web, both the intelligent cause and material cause are the same as the material for the web, spider draws out from itself which it later draws back into itself when threatened.  

Brahman by itself is nirvikara  and is not subject to any modifications.  But  Brahman has Maya sakthi and this Maya, which is also called prakrithi, undergoes modifications in the presence of Brahman to evolve into Cosmos. So Brahman with Maya is the material cause of Universe and it is also the srishti, sthithi, laya karanam for the Universe as Universe goes back into Maya in seed form in pralaya.  Brahman in the form of Consciousness with infinite intelligence is the intelligent cause as well for the Universe.

When describing Maya, the text says ब्रह्माश्रया सत्वरजस्तमोगुणात्मिका माया (Brahmasraya satva rajas tamo gunathmika Maya) - Maya is dependent on Brahman and is of nature of the three qualities Satva, Rajas and Tamas.  Maya is the sakthi of Brahman and so as power of Brahman it has only dependant existence. Further it is of the nature of the three qualities, Satva guna, representing the faculty of knowledge, jnana sakthi; Rajo guna, the power of action, kriya sakthi; and Tamo guna, the power of inertia, dravya sakthi.  Brahman without Maya is called Nirguna Brahman and associated with Maya is called Saguna Brahman.  The Saguna Brahman, called Iswara, has form and assumes different forms and names in its various manifestations. 

From this Maya sakthi of Saguna Brahman only, space, Akasa tattvam, was born first and from Akasa tattvam, air, Vayu tattvam; from Vayu tattvam, fire, Agni tattvam; from Agni tattvam, water, Jala tattvam: and finally from Jala tattvam, earth, Prithvi tattvam. Thus the sukshma Pancha bhuthas were created first. These subtle elements of pancha bhuthas are called Tanmatras. Of these subtlest is space which has one property only, sound. Human ears are not sensitive enough to pick up this sound and so we are not conscious of the sound in subtle space but we know sound waves travel through space. Grosser than space is air, which has two properties, sound and touch and so this can be heard and felt. Grosser than air is fire, which has three properties, sound, touch and form; and so this can be heard, felt and seen. Grosser than fire is water which has four properties, sound, touch, form and taste; so it can be tasted as well.  The grossest is the earth and it has the special quality of smell, besides the other four and so it can be also smelt.  These tanmatras of five elements space, air, fire, water and earth with their special properties of sound, touch, sight, taste and smell form the first stage of Creation.

Each of these tanmatras being the karyam of Maya have the three qualities satvam, rajas, tamas, the gunas of the karanam, Maya.  From the satva guna of the tanmatras are born the five subtle Jnanendriyas; from their collective satva guna is born Anthakaranam with its four constituents of manas, buddhi, ahamkaram and chitham.  From satva guna of space, air, fire, water and earth, are born organ of hearing, the ear; organ of touch, skin; organ of seeing, eyes; organ of taste, tongue; and organ of smell, nose respectively.  These do not refer to the physical organs but their subtle power in Sukshma sareera.  From the rajo guna of tanmatras are born the five subtle Karmendriyas and from their collective rajo guna is born Prana with its five variations, prana, apana, samana, vyana and udhana.  From rajo guna of space, air, fire, water and earth, are born organ of speech( mouth),organ of grasping(hands), organ of locomotion(legs), genitals and anus respectively.  Thus the manifestations of the satvic and rajasic aspects of the five elements constitute the samashti subtle body or the subtle world and this forms the second stage of Creation.

From the Tamo guna of the tanmatras the grossified five elements are formed through the process of Panchikarana and the gross world is formed from these five gross elements. The process of Panchikarana is as follows:
1)    The Tamas aspect of each of the five elements divides into two halves
2)    One half of each remains intact.
3)    The other half of each element divides into four equal parts. That means the other half of each element becomes a group of four 1/8 portions.
4)    Then the intact half of each element combines with one eighth portion of the other four elements to form the new gross element. That means each gross element is a combination of all five elements, 50% of its own element and 12.5% of each of the other four elements.
For example after grossification, gross space contains 50% space, 12.5% air, 12.5% fire, 12.5% water and 12.5% earth.  Similarly other elements as well.  These elements being gross can be perceived by the senses.  The grossification of the elements through Panchikarana forms the third stage of Creation.

The permutation and combination of these gross elements forms the gross world including the gross body and forms the fourth and final stage of Creation of the Universe in its subtle and gross form.  Individual gross body is part of the total gross body and individual subtle body is part of total subtle body. The individual gross body, microcosm, is called Pindanda and total gross body macrocosm, is called Bramanda. And the original cause of both Pindanda and Bramanda is Brahman only.  

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Athma - One's Real Self

Tattva Bodha - 5
The sthula sareera of an individual is matter only as the Pancha Bhuthas, of whose gross matter it is made of, are matter only.  The sukshma sareera is also matter only as it is made of subtle matter of these material Pancha Bhuthas.  The karana sareera is also matter only as it is nothing but the seed of these two bodies.  So all the three bodies of an individual are matter only, and do not contain a sentient substance. But the human body is sentient, conscious of itself and the environs and is capable of intelligently reacting to the environs and not inert like a table or chair which are matter only and not sentient.  From this we infer that there must be an independent inner sentient entity, Consciousness principle, lending sentience to sukshma, stula sareeras. That invisible inner entity, the Consciousness principle, is called AthmaTattva Bhodha introduces Athma with these words:
स्थूलसूक्ष्मकारणशरीराद्व्यतिरिक्तः पञ्चकोशातीतः सन् अवस्थात्रयशाक्षी सच्चिदानन्दस्वरूपः सन् यस्तिष्ठति स आत्मा।(sthula sukshma karana sareerad vyathiriktaha panchakosatheethaha san avasthathraya sakshi sachidananda svarupaha san yas thishtathi sa Athma)
That which is other than the Sthula, Sukshma, Karana sareeras, beyond the five Kosas, the witness of the three Avasthas and of the nature of Sat, Chit and Anandha (Existence, Knowledge, Bliss) is Athma.

We had seen earlier that sentient Athma is different from three sareeras. Since five kosas are only the three sareeras seen from another angle Athma is beyond the five kosas as well. Avasthas relate to the sareeras, and Athma which is different from sareeras, exists only as a witness to the avasthas. These descriptions tell what Athma is not.  What is not Athma is referred to as anathma. So Sareera Thriam, Kosa Panchakam and Avastha Thriam all come under anathma. After describing Athma negatively by telling what it is not through the listing of the anathmas, the text proceeds to describe positively Athma as Sat, Chit, Anandha. They are not three separate attributes but the nature of this Consciousness principle, Athma, described in three different ways. 

Swami Paramatmananda lists the properties of Consciousness as follows:
1)    Consciousness is not a part, product or property of the body. It is not a part like hair, nails etc.; it is not a property like birth, growth etc., and it is not a product like enzymes, cells etc.
2)    Consciousness is an invisible, independent entity that pervades the body and makes it alive.  Kena Upanishad describes in Mantra 2 thus:
श्रोत्रस्यश्रोत्रं मनसो मनो यद् वाचोहवाचं प्राणस्यप्राणः। (strosya strotram manaso mano yad vachohavacham sa u pranasya pranaha)
चक्षुषश्चक्षुः (chakshushas chakshuhu)
Ear of the ear, mind of the mind, speech of speech, prana of prana and eye of eye.  
That  means Consciousness is the power behind all the faculties of the body that makes them carry out their respective functions.
3)    This Consciousness is not limited by the boundaries of the body. It is boundless or infinite.  When associated with the upadhi of body it is called Athma; when associated with the whole Universe it is called Brahman.   This concept of Athma as Brahman is something unique to Advaita Vedanta and from this flows property 4.
4)    Consciousness will continue to survive the body medium even after the body perishes.
5)    The surviving Consciousness is not recognisable by us because the medium through which it was recognised is absent.  Through its reflection in the anthakaranam, Chithabasa, Consciousness lends sentiency to the human body. At the time of death, as sukshma sareera with Chithabasa leaves the body, the medium that reflected Consciousness is not available and so the surviving Consciousness is not recognisable.

This can be illustrated with the analogy of electricity.   Electricity passing through filament of the bulb makes it glow, which in turns makes the bulb shine with light and illumine the environs. Electricity is one and it makes aglow bulbs of all sizes and shapes and powers. So we can say:
1)    Electricity is not part, product, property of the bulb.
2)    It is an invisible entity that pervades the filament and make the bulb shine.
3)    It is not limited to the boundaries of the bulb.  It is infinite.
4)  It will continue to survive the bulb medium even after the bulb is fused out.
5)    The surviving electricity is not recognisable as the medium for recognition is not there.

The text defines Sat, Chit and Ananda as the inherent nature of Athma.  “Sat” stands for Existence i.e. pure existence.  This existence principle is not bound by time and is valid for all the three periods of time, past, present and future. So it is eternal.  Athma being eternal and unchanged in the three periods of time is indicated by ‘Sat’.  “Chit” stands for Knowledge, not knowledge about anything but Absolute Knowledge that illuminates for one  the objects of experience in the outer and inner world.  The Consciousness principle illuminates all it comes across without any preference and irrespective of their nature and quality.  The Consciousness being boundless or infinite is complete, पू्र्णः purnahaPurnatvam is total bliss as nothing is lacking and no shortness or deficiency is felt.  This is theகுறையொன்றுமில்லைstate that Sri Andal attributes to Lord Govinda in Thiruppavai verse 28.

This Athma is our real self.  It makes the Anthakaranam  sentient through its manifestation in the Anthakaranam as its reflection, called Chithabasa. The sentient Anthakaranam in turn makes the whole body sentient. One mistakes the ego as the real self, not knowing about the invisible inner self that has lent sentiency to the ego itself  due to which the ego identifies with actions, pleasures sorrows, emotions etc. and claims doership and enjoyership.  We can say that Athma is the ego’s Ego on the analogy of Kenopanishad Mantra we saw earlier.  The ego is only the imposter “I” and the Real “I”, is Athma, that cannot be known directly as it is invisible and is not available for perception by the senses or for conceptualisation by intellect.  The goal of Self enquiry is to discover the Real “I”, Athma, rejecting  all anathmas and claim identification with it as one’s Self, disowning the imposter, ego, and through it  disclaim the body-mind  complex as “me”