Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Summary and Conclusion:

Hari OM,

By bowing down to that unlimited absolute consciousness which is but the Self manifested as all names and forms, and by prostrating to the Guru by whose grace the ever present Blissful Self is realized as the substratum of all forms, lets conclude learning of Vakya vritti in the group by summarizing the work.

Acharya Sankara explains the Mahavakya “Tat Tvam Asi” in Vakya Vritti through the dialogue between a student and the teacher. After realizing the futility of trying to find happiness in the world, and endowed with self control and other virtues, a student approaches the Sadguru and asks about the easiest way to be freed from the miseries. The teacher then in the work answers to the question which is what every one wants to know. “What is it that liberates one from all the misery and How can one get eternal happiness without much trouble?” The guru replies as “The knowledge of the identity of the individual Self and the universal Self, originating from the vedic sentences such as ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ etc. is the means of liberation.”

The disciple then asks who that individual Self is and who is the Universal Self the Guru mentioned and how can they be identical and how can the sentences like ‘Tat Tvam Asi prove their identity? To this, the Guru patiently replies as the questioner who is asking “Who am I “ by this question itself is the individual Self and also the universal Self.

Still confused, the student confesses that the meaning of the sentence is not clear as the words that make it up itself are not clear. Hence the guru, with compassion starts explaining in detail the meaning of ‘Tat’ and ‘Tvam’ of the Mahavakyas and how the vakya explains their identity. Thus starts the work “Vakya Vritti” where Acharya Sankara, beautifully explains the meaning of the Mahavakya in detail.

The teacher first starts explaining about the nature of the Self indicated by word ‘Tvam’ and asks the student to give up the misconception of identifying self with the gross and the subtle bodies and to know Self as only the witness. The ever present atman is here explained as only a witness. The gross body which is so misunderstood as Self is nothing but also a modification of ether and the other elements just like a mud jar or any other form. The Guru hence explains that the perishable body which is made of the five elements can never be the ever present Self.

But is not easy for a seeker who still has the ego of the body and a active mind, to be convinced of the nature of Self as distinct from the body, senses and the inner organs. So to explain this more clearly, like the embolic palm on ones palm, the guru further explains the nature of Self as distinct from the gross and the subtle bodies through logic and experience.

“Just as the seer of the jar is different from the jar itself, just as the witness of the actions is different from the doer and the actions itself, the Self which is described as the ‘sarva sakshin’ in the scriptures has to be known clearly as the witness which is distinct from all the objects of the world including the physical body, the mind intellect, senses and other internal organs. It has to be known as that which is always present only as the witness and hence untainted by all the actions. It is only due to ignorance and the ego that the gross body and subtle bodies are mistaken as the Self and hence arises all the miseries.” Thus the Guru asks the student to ascertain the Self as that distinct from all the senses, vital airs, inner organs and the gross body made of five elements.

After explaining by logic, the guru explains about the Self illumining nature of the Atman by showing through experience. Atman is self illumining and needs no external help to prove its existence nor is there need of any logic since it is verily consciousness and existence. It is always present only as an illuminator. Hence the Guru explains that it is only the consciousness because of which the causal and the subtle bodies appear as sentient. The Atman pointed out by ‘Tvam’ is explained as that which illumines the modifications of the mind, i.e. the thoughts. By experience we know that there must be a immovable illuminating witness to all the thoughts also that thoughts such as “My mind went somewhere and came back” etc. can be acknowledged. It is only because of this sentient Self that the all the thoughts and the three states of waking dream and sleep are illumined.

Hence the Guru thus by logic, experience and scriptures proves to the student that the Self which is the illuminator and the witness is distinct from the objects illumined.

The guru also instructs the student to know that dearest of all, the Atman, by removing the wrong notion of attachment to all objects and to renounce the desires which lead to all the miseries. Consciousness which is of the nature of a witness is what is meant by the word ‘thou’. Thus the Guru explains about the illusory and insentient nature of the objects of the world, and explains the real meaning of Self or ‘Tvam’ as that consciousness which is the substratum of all the objects.

After this, the Acharya starts the explanation for ‘TAT’ i.e. ‘That’ in the mahavakya. Brahman is then explained by both the positive and the negative methods as explained in the Upanishads. To know that ultimate reality, the Upanishads have used two ways to ascertain the nature of Brahman. This is what the guru mentions here. One is the positive method and other, the negative method. The positive method is directly pointing out to the very nature as SAT-CHIT-ANANDA i.e. existence-Consciousness-Bliss, which would also invariably also lead to the conclusion that Brahman is one with out the second.

Brahman can also be inferred by negation as “not this not this”, i.e. by the negation method. Upanishads hence describe Brahman as not that or nothing that is sensed or nothing that is grasped, or nothing that is expressed by words but that which is the subject. By eliminating all the objects that can be sensed, expressed, all those that are impermanent are negated and known only as superimpositions on the Self. Ultimately, thus by this method, only the negator remains after negating all the objects. The Guru thus instructs the student to know Brahman as that negator who is also known as the Atman, who is ever existence, sentient and ever blissful and hence verily Brahman.

Brahman is then explained in the work as that all pervading being, who is absolutely free from all impurities of trans migratory existence, and who is defined in the Upanishads as ‘Not Gross etc.’ having the qualities of not being seen and so on. Brahman is ever free from the taint of darkness, and has no greater bliss than Itself.

The Guru also explains Brahman as the efficient cause of the universe. The all knowingness, all pervading and Supremeness of all, which are the qualities of Ishvara is also explained as Brahman. Brahman is explained as the origin and substratum of all the creation and as both the material and efficient cause of the creation. It is but Brahman which is described as the all controller Ishwara through various forms in the puranaas also.

The guru instructs the student to ascertain that Brahman is the one which has been established in the Upanishads as the object of search for all those who desire liberation.

Thus after explaining the meaning of ‘Thou’ and ‘That’, the teacher next explains the meaning of the sentence ‘Thou art that’. The meaning of the Mahavakya is not to be misunderstood as indicating an association of the Brahman or Atman but as indicating their identity only. The Teacher instructs the student to be sure that by the sentence in no way conveys the meaning of the Brahman is qualified by the Atman or vice versa. What appears to be the individual conscious Self or the Atman is the nature of Bliss without a second i.e. Brahman and Brahman is none other than the Atman. Hence the Guru is asking the student to remove all misconceptions of “Thou” meaning something other than Brahman. Once the identity of these is known then the Self alone stands as the all pervading bliss without second.

The Guru then proceeds to explain the right way of interpreting the Mahavakya. Sentences such as "Tat Tvam Asi" etc. establish the identity of what are indirectly expressed by the two words "thou" and "that". In sentences such as these, when there is an inconsistency when the direct meaning of the words is resorted to, then the indirect meaning has to be taken. The taking of an explanation by implication, or what is called an indirectly expressed meaning is called as ‘Lakshana’.

And the Guru explains that the only kind of explanation by implication that may be employed in interpreting sentences like ‘Thou art That’ is by using such a lakshana in which one part of the direct meaning of each of the two words ‘Thou’ and ‘That’ is left out while the other is retained. The Guru also explains the same using examples such as “He is this” etc. When the indirect meaning of the words is taken then the inconsistencies of time etc. are all removed and the true meaning of the sentence which is the indivisible, non dual Brahman alone is understood.

After explaining these, the Guru next explains about the kind of sadhana to be done. The Guru instructs the student that such a one desiring such eternal bliss should go on studying the shrutis and thinking over their meanings as well as practicing the control of the internal organ and other virtues, until the right understanding of the meaning of the sentence ‘I am Brahman’ becomes quite firm. When this knowledge becomes firm by the grace of shruti and the teacher then, the ignorance, which is the cause of the whole of this trans migratory existence absolutely negated forever. This indirect knowledge gained from the sruthis leads to direct knowledge. such a seeker with, the gross and subtle bodies dissolved, freed from the subtle elements and released from the chain of actions, gets immediately liberated.

Ultimately, the import of the work is that it is this knowledge of the identity of Brahman and Atman alone which is ever present but covered by the ignorance, which is known again by such statements as ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ is that alone that removes all the illusory bonds of the world and hence its miseries.

It is the aim of every life, goal of every seeker to gain this direct knowledge which removes all duality. Thus, for a seeker there is never the end of learning till there is no learning at all, i.e. till that is known knowing which everything else becomes known. Hence let’s continue learning in the group through another work of Acharya Sankara “Atma Bodha’ very soon. May the Grace of guru lead us to this knowledge.

Hari OM


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