25.6 BLISS OF EQUANIMITY IN PRACTICE
“Where is this bliss coming from?” is the question. Unmitigated bliss is the real definitive characterisitic of Reality. Coldness is the definitive characteristic (svarUpa-lakshhaNa) of water. When we come into contact with water that is hot, we always ask “Why is the water hot?”. We never ask this question of normal water which is cold. The very question “why?” indicates that hotness is an acquired characteristic of water and coldness is its natural characteristic. To make it hot we have to use some extraneous energy. When the fish is out of water it struggles; but when it is put back into water, it is happy. Whenever we search for happiness, it means we are not in our natural state. When somebody is crying everybody asks him why he is sorrowful; but when somebody is happy nobody goes out and asks him why he is happy. Happiness, pleasure, joy, bliss --all these are our natural characteristics. Sorrow is not our natural state. Like fish out of water we keep searching for the happiness from which we have been thrown out; and the moment we get back that happiness we regain our peace.
The innate characteristic (svarUpa-lakshhaNa) of Absolute Reality can be described in three ways. Existence in all three phases of Time, the word in Sanskrit being ‘sat’; ‘cit’ or Knowledge, also translated as Consciousness; and ‘Ananda’ meaning unmixed happiness or bliss. That is why it is usually referred to as ‘sat-cid-AnandaM’. In Tamil this body is called ‘mey’ (pronunciation to rhyme with the first three letters of ‘wait’). But ‘mey’ in Tamil also means Truth. Why is this unreal body called as something which also means ‘Truth’? The reason according to the great Tamil saints is that it is in this false body the Reality of God is present. When we sleep we forget all the reality of the outside world and we rest in peace closeted and immersed in the Reality of the Core of our Core, namely, the ‘sat-cid-Ananda’ - Existence-Knowledge-Bliss. When we wake up all the memories of our wakeful world come back to us, our mind and senses resume their usual state and we have no memory of what happened during our sleep. But however we say: “I slept happily”. Where did this happiness come from? The mind was not present to enjoy that happiness, if ever there was one. What happens is that the mind clinging to the Jiva has rested in the Ananda Fountain that is of infinite nature inside, and when the mind reverts to its egoistic naturality after the sleep, the jIva also resumes its usual mistaken identification with the mind. So the jIva’s sojourn with happiness is spoken of by the mind as if it were its own and it says : “I slept happily”. The Vedantic lesson from this daily event that every one of us goes through is remarkable. The Infinite Blissful Consciousness is what we are; during sleep also we are that. It is that Bliss which one enjoys quite consciously in the samAdhi stage, say all the great saints of our tradition.
Question: Let it be Infinite Bliss. So what? After all, it is one man’s happiness, if at all. What good is it to the rest of the world? Is the Gita saying all this for just that isolated single person’s happiness?
The answer to this question is the punchline of Hinduism. Through that yogi whose happiness we are trying to discover, the entire world gets benefited. It is not just one person’s happiness. Of course one can say naively that the world itself is nothing but an aggregate of single persons. But that is not the complete answer to this legitimate question. To give the complete answer one has to go to the fundamentals of Vedanta. In fact many questions in Hinduism have their complete answers only when you bring in the fundamental philosophy of the Upanishads. That is why Krishna Himself had to start with Vedanta in answering Arjuna’s initial question about his participation in the War.
First let us see how Krishna describes in eloquent poetry this single man’s equanimous vision of the entire world. These lines should be enjoyed in their original Sanskrit.
“sarva-bhUtastham AtmAnam sarvabhUtAni cAtmani”
“Ikshhate yoga-yuktAtmA sarvatra sama-darshanaH...”// VI-29
With the mind harmonised by yoga, he sees the self as abiding in all beings and all beings as abiding in the self; he sees the same everywhere.
“yo mAm pashyati sarvatra sarvam ca mayi pashyati...”
“tasyAhaM na praNashyAmi sa ca me na praNashyati ...”// VI – 30
He who sees Me everywhere and sees all in Me, from him I do not get separated, nor does he get lost to Me.
“sarva-bhUtasthitam yo mAM bhajaty-ekatvam-AsthitaH /...”
“sarvathA vartamAnopi sa yogI mayi vartate //...” VI-31
The Yogi who has taken his stand upon Oneness and worships Me as abiding in all beings, in whatever manner he lives and acts, lives and acts in Me.
“Atmaupamyena sarvatra samaM pashyati yorjuna /..”
“sukhaM vA yadi vA dukhaM sa yogI paramo mataH //...” VI-32
He who sees with equality everything in the image of the self, whether it be grief or happiness, him I hold to be the supreme Yogi.
It is this equanimous vision that cures the world of all its ills. This equanimous vision is what Real Knowledge means. It is the perception of Oneness in one’s bones. We are told by the great seers that once we experience the state of samAdhi, thereafter the perception of oneness will come more naturally to us. The Vedas do declare this Oneness many times in many different words. But that is only parokshha jnAna (Indirect knowledge) for us. It becomes direct knowledge only when there is a direct experience. It is the experience of seeing the right thing, that is brahman, behind the negated universe and the negated individuality of the Atman. This brahma-bhAva, being in brahman, automatically implies an equanimous view of every being in the world as the same self as the one that dwells in the seer.
“vidyA-vinaya-sampanne brAhmaNe gavi hastini /...”
“shuni caiva shvapAke ca paNditAH samadarshinaH // V -18
Sages see with an equal eye the learned and cultured brahmin, the cow the elephant, the dog and the outcaste.
This balanced view of everything as One, everything as the Self, is a blissful experience, called brahma-Ananda. This was the continuous experience of a Ramana Maharishi, a Sadasiva brahman, a Ramakrishna and sages of that kind. It is naturally a state to be experienced internally, not by any external apparatus. It is a super-fortitude, an equal-mindedness so unfaltering that it results in feelings of deep happiness. At that ultimate level there is really neither good nor bad. The qualities of poise, perspective, peace of mind and patience all go with it. These are not just nice traits; they are the basic components of happiness. This after all is IT. This is the peace so sought by every one. This is the ultimate aim of it all.
God, the Reality Absolute, is not only transcendent – in the sense that He (or It) is beyond all finite conceptions – but He is also immanent in everything, animate and inanimate. This immanence aspect is a speciality of Hindu Vedanta. Whatever we see, hear, smell, taste or touch – everything is the Almighty.
The taste of water, the light of the Sun, the sound in space, the smell of the Earth, the glow of Fire, the lives of living beings – all these are nothing but that Absolute Itself. I am only quoting the Gita here.
“rasoham apsu kaunteya prabhAsmi shashi-sUryayoH;
praNavas-sarva-vedeshhu shabdaH khe paurushhaM nRshhu;
jIvanaM sarva-bhUteshhu ...(VII-8, 9)
It all looks like poetry, music. Yes, the music of the moving, the melody of poetry, the delicacy of dance -- all this is the song of the Absolute!
We are told by great saints that one obtains this kind of Realisation in the samAdhi state. Listen to one such statement from Kripananda Variyar:
The sages of antiquity who have been in that state revel in their equanimous vision and their Bliss of Equanimity and Compassion; they are conscious of nothing else but the fullness of that Consciousness. The vision knows no ‘I’ or ‘Mine’. The little self is merged in the Supreme Self. Knowledge and Ignorance both get consumed in that oneness of the knower, the known and knowledge. There is no seer, no vision, nothing to be seen. For such a brahma-jnAni, neither time, nor action, neither merit nor demerit, neither pleasure nor pain, matters the least. In that state of Enlightenment, there is no distinction between one self and the other self. It is full of Grace and Light – no darkness, no confusion. It is the massive Light of Consciousness. No up, no down, no peak, no valley. It is a state that transcends speech and mind, a state that has no goings-on, no action, noreaction. Who can describe such a state? Only a confirmed brahma-jnAni like Sankara can vocalise it into poetry thus. “No merit, no demerit, no happiness, no misery, no chants, no holy water, no scriptures, no rituals. I am neither the experiencer, nor the experienced, nor also the experience. I am Consciousness, I am Bliss, I am Siva”. This is the acme of Enlightenment.
“na puNyaM na pApaM, na soukhyaM na dukhaM
na mantro na thIrtham na vedA na yajnAH /
ahaM bhojanaM naiva bhojyaM na bhoktA
cidAnanda-rUpaH shivoham shivoham //
Only such brahma-jnAnis can show the world where the path lies for salvation. They are the ones who can talk authentically from their own experience. In our own times we had Ramana Maharishi, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Kanchi Mahaswamigal and a few others. All of them with one voice say the same thing. This universe is nothing but the Almighty Himself. Recall ‘vishvam vishNuH ..’ in the very beginning of Vishnu sahasranAma.
We on the other hand see the Universe as a multifarious variety in view of the various names and forms. They all delude us by their colourful panorama, their charming forms and the varied names. A dreamer thinks that his varied experiences in the dream and the scenes that he witnessed (or even participated) in the dream are something other than himself. Once the dream is over he realises that they all came from himself. They were not distinct from him. The waves of the Ocean are not different from the ocean. If they appear to be different, different waves, it is only an appearance. The appearance disappears after a little time. If a particular wave thinks of itself as different from another wave, in no time it is falsified. Our life is also like this. The varied living beings that we see as distinct from us are only sparks from the same Absolute Reality. That is why the Gita emphasizes the equanimous vision and waxes eloquent about it:
“He sees, who sees the Supreme Lord existing equally in all beings, as the unperishing within the perishing.” (13-27):
“samaM sarveshhu bhUteshhu tishhTantam parameshvaraM /
vinashyatsu avinashyantaM yaH pashyati sa pashyati //
Perceiving the same Lord equally dwelling everywhere (in all forces, in all beings and in all things) he does not injure himself (by casting his being into the hands of the gang of thirteen) and thus he attains to the supreme status. (13-28).
“samaM pashyan hi sarvatra samavasthitam-IshvaraM /
na hinasti AtmanA AtmAnaM tato yAti parAm gatiM...” //
When a man sees the whole variety of beings as abiding in the One Eternal Being, and spreading forth from that alone, he then becomes brahman.
“yadA bhUta-pRtag-bhAvaM ekastham-anupashyati /
tata eva ca vistAro brahma sampadyate tadA // (13-30)
“brahmArpaNaM brahma haviH ...” (4-24)
Question: All this is only theoretical, isn’t it? What is the practical significance of all this?
Krishna repeats this idea many times, not as just a theoretical proposition but as maxims to be followed by us in our daily lives. And finally when he summarises everything in the eighteenth chapter it is this equanimity of vision that He calls sAtvic knowledge. (18-20)
sarva-bhUteshhu yenaikaM bhAvam avyayaM Ikshhate /
avibhaktam vibhakteshhu tajjnAnaM viddhi sAtvikaM //
That by which one sees the one indestructible reality in all beings, not separate in all that is separate, that knowledge is said to be sAtvic. Perception of difference is because of name and form. The enlightened man sees the tile, the brick and the stone the same way. When a wooden elephant is presented to a child the child is carried away by imaginations about the elephant. But we shall be only children spiritually if we cannot see the wood for the elephant. The average human being is distracted by the multiplicity of appearances. As if in a dream he refuses to believe that there is a real world outside of this worldly dream. He is not able to rise beyond the glamour of plurality that confronts him and does not recognize there is an essential unity in all that he sees. He sees only the effect not the cause.
It must not be forgotten that this kind of equanimous vision is only an attitude of mind. The fact that the spiritual content in you and me are identical should not mean that your property is mine. Instead what should follow is that your difficulties, your sorrow should be mine. Can I develop that attitude? This is the final single touchstone of all this equanimity. How shall we develop this?
It is very difficult of course. But we can begin in little ways.
This is where the first lesson of practical advaita starts. Normally when we think of another person, we tend to think of his negatives also. Very often only his negatives come to our mind rather than the good things about him. But the habit of seeing God in everybody should be practised in such a way that the first thing that we should attempt to do is to forget the negatives of the other person. When we think of ourselves we very often forget our own negatives. Even when another person points it out to us we tend to either ignore it or disbelieve it. The vedantic injunction of seeing ourselves in the other person, when translated into action, gives us the lever to ignore or forget his negatives just as we do with our own. Thus we can set up almost a supernatural empathy with the other person. If this happens to the majority of us, half the world’s problems are solved. This is the first great leap forward in spirituality .
The next step is to see the same God in all Gods and Divinities. The dogmatism that is inherent in the fanatical love of one’s own religion or in such love of one’s own school of philosophy or one’s own favourite God should give way to look at all paths to God as valid and of value.
The third and final step is what is described in the 6th and 7th verses of the IshAvAsyopanishhad (which is also echoed in the Gita)
‘yastu sarvANi bhUtAni Atmany-evAnupaSyati;
sarva-bhUteshu cAtmAnaM tato na vijugupsate //
yasmin sarvANi bhUtAni AtmaivAbhUd-vijAnataH;
tatra ko mohaH kaH SokaH ekatvaM anupaSyataH //’
meaning: He who sees all beings in the Self and the Self in all beings, hates none; to the illumined soul, who sees everything as a manifestation of his own Self, how can there be delusion or grief since he sees only oneness?
These two verses of the Isopanishad are also echoed by the Gita They give a stepwise formula or working rule for our identification with the vision of God. The first approximationfor this conceptual identification is a sense of unity with other existences. “IshA-vAsyam-idam-sarvam”. This unity makes you give respect to everything that you see since everything is seen as God. The next step is to identify it with the Self. The respect shown to other beings widens now into compassion and love to the things in which we see our own Self. But this oneness is only an artificial oneness, a pluralistic unity. Real knowledge begins with a perception, not just an understanding at the intellectual level, of this oneness. The concept of pluralistic unity must give place or lead to, a total comprehension or perception at the experiential level.
To do this one has to first to retreat from the outside world – nivRtti. Then see everything in Oneself. The opposite of this is a narrow I-feeling; that is what causes attachment and hate. By a proper enquiry into Reality, (this is the Atma-vicAra that every great seer talks about) the ignorance arising out of absence of enquiry slowly begins to melt. The spiritual disciplines purify one’s mind and this coupled with the association of the sAtvic type of people lead to an illumination which unfolds the harmony of oneness. This is the vision. After this vision, the world from which we have retreated is drawn into the Self. Ethically the formula is: Detach yourself attitudinally, and then Love. Live in that dynamic unity. No more separate self, no more likes and dislikes, no more hopes and fears. This is the only way of serving society, says Swami Vivekananda. Nobody can be of any real use to society if he does not have an element of sacrifice, renunciation and a vision of oneness in all that he sees. That is the first verse of Ishopanishad says: tena tyaktena bhunjIthAH: Enjoy, by renouncing!
These two verses thus serve to underscore the harmony of sama-dRshhTi which is the hard core message of the entire gita. It is the Lord who is the Master of the past, present and future. – bhUta-bhavya-bhavat-prabhuH. This is where the equanimity of vision translates as Bhakti. For one who has given himself up to the Lord of the past, present and future, there is no grief, no delusion, no fear. Such a one is a vijAnat, the one who knows, who sees with a distinguished vision, whose understanding is not just at an academic level, but is of personal experience born out of inner conviction. For such a one there is only the Self – no non-Self. For such a one,
Whatever is seen is only the Lord’s presence ,
Whatever is heard is the melody of Krishna’s flute;
Whatever is tasted is the sweetness of the nectar flowing from Shiva’s Grace,
Whatever is smelt is the fragrance of the dust of the divine feet of The Mother.
Whatever is touched is the divine hand of the abhaya-hasta of Shri Ram.
It is not enough to just appreciate all that has been said. One has to think about them, turn it over in one’s mind repeatedly, converse with others about it and thus keep the mind always occupied with such thoughts. Such practice is what is called ‘brahma-abhyAsaM’ in panchadashi, and in laghu-vakyavRtti :
“tac-cintanaM tat-kathanaM anyonyam tat-prabodhanaM /
etad-eka-paratvaM ca brahmAbhyAsaM vidur-budhAH //