SELF-KNOWLEDGE FROM ANCIENT INDIAN WISDOM
Key topics: Self, Consciousness, Karma, Vedas, Upanishads, Meditation, Brahman, Knowledge, Wisdom, Moksha, Karma, Samskaras
When Gautam Buddha was asked what is really nirvana (liberation), instead of listing out qualities at the risk of missing out some in all probabilities, he merely uttered thus: END OF SUFFERING. Although Buddha had immense knowledge on the subject of liberation, he used wisdom to give an apt answer. Supreme intelligence!
Know that by which all else is known – Upanishad
Yama tells Nachiketa:
Consider the body to be the chariot
And the Self – the master of the chariot
Consider the intellect as the charioteer
And mind – the reins
Sense organs are the horses
And pleasures – their path.
Sense objects are superior to sense organs
Mind is superior to objects
Intellect is superior to mind and..
… Self is superior to the intellect
THE ONE WHO KNOWS THIS SELF GOES BEYOND DEATH.
The 3 realities of the Self:
Ø Apparent (dream) – The experience of existence in dream state.
Ø Transactional – The experience of existence in the conduct of daily affairs after waking up.
Ø Absolute – the I AM knowledge that exists constantly from life to death as the fundamental state of consciousness.
Apparent and transactional realities are subject to change but not absolute reality. That is to say, a thief in his dream may be a king; in the conduct of daily affairs may be a father, a debtor or a rebel; but in all situations, his fundamental I AM consciousness remains unchanged from birth to death.
The 4 obstacles on the path of meditation:
1) Nidra (Sleep)
2) Vikshepa (wandering of the mind)
3) Kashaaya (neither total sleep nor total wandering of the mind, but a balance. There is still the seed of vaasana (desire) that has not yet ended).
4) Rasasvaada – when one starts enjoying the state of meditation and is unable to move ahead.
Mahavaakya – The ultimate statements of wisdom / proclamation from Vedas:
Each of the 4 vedas contains one such declaration that represents the essence of ultimate experiential wisdom; hence 4 mahavaakya:
Ø It is a Lakshana Vaakya as it indicates the characteristics of the Supreme as consciousness.
Ø From Aitreya Upanishad of Rig Veda.
Ø This is what some philosophers would state as ALL FORMS OF KNOWLEDGE POINTS TO SELF-KNOWLEDGE.
Ø It is classified as Anubhava Vaakya because it reveals YOUR experience of being one with Brahman.
Ø From Brihadaranyaka Upanishad of Yajur veda.
Ø This is what philosophers refer to as I AM BRAHMAN – everything past/ present/ future – manifestation and pure potential.
Tat Tvam Asi:
Ø It is categorised as Upadesha Vaakya because a Guru bestows this grace of wisdom upon the disciple.
Ø From Chandogya Upanishad of Sama veda.
Ø This is what great masters state; merely pointing out for self-exploration – THAT YOU ARE.
Ayam Atma Brahma:
Ø It is referred to as Anusandhaan Vaakya because a seeker has to keep researching and investigating through it.
Ø From Mandukya Upanishad of Atharva veda.
Ø SELF = COLLECTIVE SELF / INDIVIDUAL CONSCIOUSNESS = COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS.
The journey of self-discovery is taken via two routes that often merge and diverge:
1) Inductive method: By gaining knowledge through facts- Take guidance from scriptures and teachers on established truth; KNOW ALL TO KNOW THE ULTIMATE.
2) Deductive method: By using wisdom to subtract ignorance – The maxim of Neti-Neti (Not this-Not this) – start from where you are and negate all that you are not to reveal what your ultimate self is. Discover the noumenon to understand the phenomenon. As Socrates stated, ‘Know yourself and you shall know the world.’ FROM THE ULTIMATE - KNOW ALL ELSE.’
In the apt words of Capt. Ajit Vadakayil, “Knowledge comes from learning. Wisdom comes from living with consciousness – the five senses are used to observe. Wisdom is gleaned and filtered. In knowledge you learn something every day, while in wisdom you unlearn something every day (in modern computer parlance: delete / format). Yet, wisdom grows while knowledge shrinks... with knowledge you can make a living, with wisdom you get a life – deep happiness. Wisdom has perfect timing unlike knowledge – like gleaning a fogged up and dirty car windscreen during night driving. Knowledge minus ego = wisdom.”
A seeker thus delves upon:
A] Find out WHO AM I? AND HOW DID I MANIFEST?
B] HOW DO I GO BACK WITHOUT ANYTHING COMPELLING MY RETURN EVER AGAIN? (MOKSHA)
To know [A], the I AM consciousness comes into being with the formation of body and birth. It is the first sensory experience we all have. How does form manifest as mentioned in the vedas?
“The unified existence as the ultimate truth without duality desired to become many… from ether/space originated air; from air was created fire; from fire came water and from water came earth” – the five elements that constitute creation of life from subtle element to gross element as we know.
To know [B], the process of dissolution or death involves perceiving the above in reverse (gross to subtle): the last breath exhaled merges with the wind element; body loses heat to the fire element; dehydration sets in to merge moisture from the body with the water element and finally bones and tissues shrivel and merge with the earth. So what about the ether element? It retains all the mental remnants (samskaras) of the once living body… all the thoughts, unfulfilled desires and the individual’s karmic baggage.
Quantum physics has revealed that there is no distinction between matter and energy. Visible matter is condensed energy and subtle energy is the scattered version of the same. Energy cannot be created or destroyed but transforms into various forms as we have studied in our schools. Every thought is a subtle energy and the very source it appears from, also is the very source it returns to – ether – and becomes a part of the akashic records. Here, the samskaras propel rebirth for achieving completion. As long as samskaras exist, rebirth is inevitable, thus creating bondage to the seemingly endless cycle of birth and death. Moksha thus is subject to neutralising karmic accounts of every individual.
“All actions performed before enlightenment hold on to the body and the body does not get liberation until they are exhausted.” – Adi Shankaracharya (Vivekachoodamani)
Types of karma:
1) Sanchita karma (accumulated debt of past lives karma awaiting manifestation)
2) Prarabhda karma (sanchita karma + present life’s karma balancing out in present life)
3) Agami karma (unsettled present life karma awaiting balancing out in future birth)
Upon enlightenment (realisation of Brahma through personal experience), sanchita and prarabhda karma get nullified (as attachments of mind) because the individual experiences the fruits of these karmas passively i.e. it becomes an impersonal experience for the realized to undergo the fruits of karma, for he/she remains neutral and unaffected knowing oneself to be neither the doer nor the deed… but simply pure awareness (the original I AM consciousness / Aham Brahmasmi). In the final stage of samadhi, the shift is beyond this pure awareness – Para Brahma!
A crude analogy that comes closest to exemplifying the aforementioned would be that of dream-filled sleep and dreamless sleep. In your dream, you would play out myriad events and experience the emotions thereof, only to wake up and realise that your SELF was the only constant and is the same subject that observes upon waking up too. There is no dream without dreamer and no dreamer without the Self.
But when you wake up from a deep dreamless sleep, where was the dreamer? During that sleep your ‘I AM consciousness’ was absent (you didn’t know you existed) but after waking up… you’d definitely realize that something in you was aware all the while that you were sleeping – that consciousness which is infinitely aware – even after you recover from a state of coma. It is a very subtle identity that is beyond ‘I AM consciousness’. What is that?
That infinite field of pure potential without beginning or end, the primordial existence (Shiva) prior to manifestation (Shakti), the nothingness, yet containing everything -> the eternal truth as it always was, always is and always will be… without the experience of time or space… the truly indescribable Before-I-AM !