ADVAITA SADHANA - PAGE 1
1. Essence of the philosophical schools
“There is a Supreme Entity as the Cause for all this universe. For us also there is the same Cause. That is what created us. We are only a finite JIvAtmA. But that is ParamAtmA, the infinite Supreme. This JIvAtmA has to go back to join that ParamAtmA. Only then this samsAra, the repetitive cycle of birth and death, the tortures to which this karma subjects us, and the unending turbulence in the mind will all end and we may reach the state of eternal happiness. It is that state which is called ‘Release’ or ‘moksha’. Once we have reached it then there is no more death and there is an eternal peace”.
So says Religion and it also shows us the way to reach that ParamAtmA. Each religious or philosophical school gives a name to that ParamAtmA. One school says it is ‘Shiva’. Another says it is ‘Vishnu’. Still another says it is ‘Shakti’. Do this and this, then you can go to Kailasa where Shiva resides and that is the world of moksha, says one school. Another says that world of moksha is only Vaikuntha, the residence of Lord Vishnu. In the same way the Shakti school says moksha-world is the world of Amba, called Shri-puram. ‘Moksha is the Ananda-Bhuvana where Ganesha lives’ says another. ‘No, it is Skanda-giri, where Subrahmanya resides’; ‘Even Rama and Lakshmana did not go to Vaikuntha after they left this world, they have their own separate loka called ‘Saketa’; ‘Krishna has his own world of bliss, called ‘Goloka’ – thus the different schools of thought wax eloquent. Each one gives a methodology of worship and also mentions that the goal of all that Upasana is to reach that world of Infinite Bliss, to which they give separate names.
What would be the relationship between JIvAtmA and ParamAtmA? This is an important question raised and answered by each of the schools in its own distinct way. One school says that the JIvAtmA will always be distinct from the ParamAtmA; and in that state of moksha, the JIvAtmA would enjoy infinite bliss by worshipping the ParamAtmA with Bhakti – that is the Dvaita conclusion. Another says: Even though the JIvAtmA will be a separate soul doing Bhakti towards ParamAtmA, it will have the feeling of the ParamAtmA immanent in it as its soul; this is Vishishtadvaita. Still another says: When the Sun rises the stars do not lose their existence; they just disappear from view, because of the luminosity of the Sun; so also in moksha, the JIvAtmA, though it does not lose its existence, will have its own little consciousness submerged in the Absolute Consciousness of the ParamAtmA – this is the doctrine of Shaiva-siddhanta. There are still other schools of thought.
2. Advaita is different from all these.
The school of philosophy propagated by Adi Shankara Bhagavat-pada is called Advaita. It says something totally different from all the above. It discards all that talk about the JIvAtmA escaping from this world, from this samsara, about the JIvAtmA going and joining with the ParamAtmA and all the consequent underlying assumptions about this world and the so-called world of moksha and the relationship between the two. There is no such thing as ‘this world’; it is only mAyA. Moksha is not a place or a world. When the Atma is released from the bondage of the mind, that is moksha. It may be right here and now. One can be ‘released’ even when alive, not necessarily only after death. He whom we call a JnAni may appear to be living in ‘this world’ but in reality he is in Moksha.
There is no such thing as the union of JIvAtmA and ParamAtmA. A union occurs only when there is more than one. Only when there are two any question of relationship between the two arises. In truth the JIvAtmA and ParamAtmA are not two distinct entities. Atma is one and one only. It is itself by itself; other than itself there is nothing. The Self being the Self as such is what it is. That is called by the name ‘nirguna-brahman’. However, with that Brahman as the support and at the same time hiding that very support, there appears a ‘mayic’ show, as if it is a magic show, in the form of this universe. The movie appears on the support of the white screen. There is no show without the screen. Still that very show hides the screen itself which is its support. The screen has in no way been affected; it is still the screen and it remains as the screen. In the case of Brahman there is an additional mystery. On one side Brahman remains as Brahman; but on the other hand, by its own MAyA shakti, it has become several individual JIvas each with a distinct inner organ (antaH-karanam). By a proper SAdhanA if we can dispose of this antaH-karana, the JIva itself turns out to be Brahman. In other words there is no ‘union’ of two things called JIvAtmA and ParamAtmA. The one knows himself as the other. The same entity that does not know its own real nature thinks of itself as a JIva, and knows of itself as Brahman when the real nature is known. There are no two entities. It is Brahman that has the name JIva when there is the bondage with the mind and when the bondage is thrown off, it remains by itself as itself; thus no one gets united with some one. There is no question of relationship here. Where is the question of ‘relation’ of ourselves with ourselves? It is the release from this bondage that is called moksha; so there is no place for calling it a different ‘world’ or ‘place’ of moksha. This is the bottomline of advaita.
One may wonder: ‘Dispose off the mind – we are ourselves Brahman. That is moksha’. This statement of advaita seems to make it all easy for us. All along, the other schools are saying that there is something higher than us, above our world, that is called a world of moksha; there is a ParamAtmA above us, we are only JIvAtmA, far below Him and we have to strive to reach His world. But advaita says there is no high, no low; we are ourselves that ParamAtmA and in order to reach this moksha we don’t have to ‘go’ anywhere; right here we can have that. One may think that this should then be very easy.
3. Appears to be easy – but really, difficult
Because that is a big ‘if’! ‘If only, we can dispose off the mind, ..’, then there is the advaita-siddhi. The difficulty is exactly there – to dispose off the mind. When our shirt loosely fits us we can take it off easily. But if the shirt is tight, the taking off might have to be made with some effort. And when we are required to take off our very outer skin, imagine how difficult it could be. Just as the skin is sticking to our body, our mind is sticking to us, but in deeper proximity! A dirty stinking sticky cloth becomes pure when the dirt, stink and stickiness are off the cloth. It is not necessary to look for another cloth. The same cloth, when the dirt, etc. are off, becomes the pure cloth. So also for our JIva we don’t have to look for a new entity called Brahman; if we can remove the present dirt and stink of the mind, that should be enough. The same person will emerge as the pure Brahman. But that is exactly the formidable task – to remove the dirt and stink that is so deeply adhering to mind!
Mind refuses to be disposed off. What exactly is this mind? It is the instrument which creates thoughts. If the creation of thoughts stops, mind will also not be there. But we are not able to stop the creation of thoughts. All the time it is galloping to go somewhere. We go through lots of experiences and enjoyments. We also keep seeing them; those of this birth that we know, and many more in the other births that we do not know. Each of them has left an impression in our mind. They keep running in our mind and sprout numberless thoughts. It is like the smell that persists in the bottle in which we kept spicy asafoetida. So also even after we have gone through experiences and enjoyments, their smell persists in our mind. This is what is called VAsanA, or JanmAntara VAsanA (VAsanA that comes from other births), or SamskAra VAsanA. What does it do? It keeps surfacing thoughts about that enjoyment and becomes the cause for further thoughts about how to have that experience again. These thoughts are the plans which the mind makes. This ‘smell’ of the past has to subside. That is what is called ‘VAsanA-kshhayam’ (Death of the VAsanA). And that is the ‘disposal of the mind’!
‘Disposal’ implies the ‘end’. What keeps running all the time has an end when it stops running. When a large flow of water is dammed, the flow stops. In the same way when the flow of the mind is stopped, it means that is the end of the mind.
When I say mind is stilled or stopped I do not mean the staying or resting of the mind on one object. That is something different. Here when I say the mind is stopped or stilled, I mean something else. When the mind stays on some one object, it means the mind is fully occupied with that object. No other object can have then a place in the mind. Even to keep the mind still like that is certainly a difficult process. This is actually the penultimate step to ‘dispose off’ the mind. When a wild animal is jumping and running all around, how do you shoot it? It is difficult. But when it is made to stay at one place, we can easily shoot it. Similarly the mind that is running in all directions should be made to stay at one place in one thought. It does not mean the mind has disappeared then. No, the mind is still there. Only instead of dwelling on various things it is now full of one and only one thought. This is the prerequisite to what I call the ‘disposal’ of the mind. After this the mind has to be vanquished totally. That is when Realisation takes place -- Realisation of the Atman. In other words the being as a JIva goes and the being as Brahman sprouts.
This process of stopping the mind at one single thought and then vanquishing even that thought in order to dispose off the mind along with its roots is a Himalayan achievement. Our scriptures very often refer to “anAdyavidyA-vAsanayA”, meaning “because of vAsanAs of ignorance going back to beginningless antiquity”. This is the reason for the dirt of the mind being so thick and dense. Removal of that dirt is no doubt a most difficult job.
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